Of all the regularly appearing doubts in the human experience, one seems to surface more than any other in the various conversations that I have with Christians about God, spirituality, and the choices that affect the ultimate outcomes of our lives. And just what is that doubt? Well, to put it in the form of a question, here it is: What do you do when your eyes can’t see the promised good for which you wait?
An appropriate response to that question seems to me to be at the heart of what is essential for living a victorious Christian life. Come to think of it, that’s what faith really is, isn’t it? Faith is the continued grasping for that which God has promised is there before us, though the darkness of a thousand doubts hides it from view.
This is perhaps why God takes such pains in chronicling the lives of men and women over the span of a couple of thousand years who wrestled with that same perplexity.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients are commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what is visible” (Hebrew 11:1-2 NIV).
Faith, therefore, is all about acknowledgement of the reality of that which is unseen even if we cannot empirically discern either the substance of what God says is, or the manner in which He causes it to be.
In other words, whether we’re using merely the eyeballs God gave us, an electron microscope, or the Hubble Telescope, there yet comes a limit to that which we can observe and a something on the other side of that limit that is real though we can not see it.
This is true in the space and time in which we live today. God has created a spiritual reality that transcends our instruments to observe them. But it also applies chronologically. Men and women who place their faith in Jesus Christ live in a reality that overarches all of time from before the beginning of creation in which a Sovereign God set all the Cosmos in motion to the end of time as we can see it. Will all of creation end in a collapsing universe that cannot overcome its own gravitational pull? Not hardly. The reality of God continues, unfolding new chapters and new experiences between Creator and Created Being that will continue beyond the burning out of our sun or any earthly cataclysm that we fear may overtake our globe.
How can we know this? Do we have “proof”? Yes, in a sense. The proof isn’t in improved technology. It isn’t in a live feed transmitted across the internet via msNBC of footage from “the other side”.
The “proof” is in the assurance of those called by God who lived faithfully, trusting in God’s promises no matter what their circumstances may have screamed at them.
“By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family…. By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.... All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted they were aliens and strangers on earth…. Instead, they were looking for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:7a, 8-10 13, 16 NIV).
The biggest problem with much of so-called Christianity today is our tendency to live for the here-and-now, sacrificing the “prepared city” of joyful fellowship with God for the “earthly dwelling” of comfort and self-sufficiency that we erect for ourselves today. Instead of investing in eternal things, we settle for the “sure” things of what our eyes can see now, the ideas and philosophies that superficially satisfy our selfishness, and the comforts and pleasures that immediately gratify us. If we today, continue to bank on only what we can see benefiting us right now, we will continue to be a weak and ineffectual people. But it does not need to be that way.
“By faith Isaac… By faith Jacob… By faith Moses… By faith Joshua and Israel… By faith the prostitute Rahab… Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection” (from Hebrews 11:20-35 NIV).
These lived in such a profound power that their lives were not only changed but incredibly changed the world around them also. But what were these who are mentioned living for? Was it conquest? Was it justice? Was it safety? Was it comfort, pleasure or power? Nope. That’s the ironic thing about it. These “material benefits” were the fruit of eyes that weren’t looking at all upon their material circumstances or satisfied with material gain. They were fixed on the future yet before them that made all right whatever good or bad came their way in life.
“Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about… destitute, persecuted and mistreated – the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:38b-40 NIV).
So back to the original question. What do you do when your eyes can’t see the promised good for which you wait? Whenever your eyes are distracted by what you have, what you don’t have, what others have, or what hurts or disappointments have afflicted your life, remember that you’re not living for the “here-and-now”; you’re living for something held in reserve for you. And as you release all of your everyday worries, grief, ambitions, pride, and fear to God, you’ll find that the reality that something better awaits you will suddenly begin to give you victory in the present. There is no one so free as he who is chained to Christ Jesus in the bonds of loving faith.