One of the most important things for every Christian to well understand and apply is faith. It is involved in the birth of the Christian life for we are saved by grace through faith. It is also involved in every aspect of the Christian life that follows for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Not only is faith an omnipresent requirement in the Christian life, it is also a varied spiritual grace. What I mean by that is faith, like the best of diamonds, has a multiplicity of facets, angles, and applications. For these reasons, I have long wanted to write about faith at some depth. Thus it is I have decided to spend the next thirteen weeks writing a blog series on faith.
To begin properly in any theological discussion we must carefully define the word under discussion. Today, I want to give you a working definition of faith that we can continue to draw upon as the series moves forward. It is this: faith is seeing with your heart.
The normal way you and I see is with our eyes. For the blind, they use their fingers and their ears. But in either case, seeing involves sensory input and a reasoned, logical response to that sensory input. For example, if I see snow when I glance out the window before walking out the door first thing in the morning I may well adjust my course of action. I may exchange my shoes for boots. I may exchange my driving gloves for a thicker pair. Etc. As I write this it is January in Dubuque, Iowa. If someone came along and told me it was going to be 100’ Fahrenheit at noon today I would not believe them. I would look at the snow. I would look at the calendar. I would call to mind my long experience with January weather at this latitude. Then I would compile all that I see and know into an evidence that calls such a prediction ridiculous and proceed to ignore it.
Christianity is, in a word, the exact opposite. We cannot, we dare not, we must not live our life based on what we see. While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal (II Corinthians 4.18). For we walk by faith, not by sight (II Corinthians 5.7). Which two passages immediately call to mind the classic definition of faith in Hebrews 11.1. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. The eyes of our logical human reason cannot adequately see the proper way to approach life. God is a spirit. The spiritual is unseen. God moves in mysterious ways, as William Cowper says, ways our minds cannot
comprehend. We must be willing, instead, to
embrace doctrine and practice that appears on the surface as illogical,
unreasonable, and even hard to pin down sometimes. We must step out on an
invisible bridge, one which we cannot see with our bodies or our minds. One we
can only see with our heart. One which we believe is there even though there is
no evidence of such to our senses.
by Lemuel Francis Abbott c 1792
For scriptural example I offer you Moses. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible (Hebrews 11.27). He chose to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. He left the best job in the most advanced civilization on Earth. He observed the Passover and sprinkled blood on his doorpost. He walked between walls of water in the Red Sea. All of these Hebrews mentions in the context of Moses’ faith. And not a single one of these decisions made any sense based on what Moses could see or could reasonably infer. They weren’t made by sight; they were made by faith. He didn’t use his eyes or his human reasoning to see as he made decisions. He saw with his heart.
Let us turn again to the very beginning of our Christianity, our salvation. It is no coincidence that God tells us the lost are blinded. He chose that word on purpose. Those who come to Christ are said to have the eyes of their understanding opened. Well, how do they get saved? By trusting Christ in their heart. Faith does not use eyes; it uses the heart. That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness (Romans 10.9-10). You and I have never laid eyes on Christ. It does not make sense to believe a man who lived and died two thousand years ago on a different continent can take us to Heaven. We ignore that. We believe anyway. We make a decision by what we see with our heart.
Doubt is often called the opposite of faith. I do not hold that position, as I will explain later in this series, but it is true that the most famous skeptic in human history just might be Doubting Thomas. Why is he called thus? Because he insisted on seeing with his eyes when he should have been looking with his heart. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe (John 20.25). But that would not be faith, would it, beloved? Not at all. It would be sight. And sight is not faith.
This is why the Christian science of apologetics, while helpful, will always be limited in its usefulness to the cause of Christ. That is why I do not and will not make it a major point of emphasis in my ministry. The battleground of belief is not sight or reason; it is the heart. Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved (Luke 8.12). I have read more philosophy than a man can shake a stick at. In fact, just last week I finished a history of the era of Bacon, Locke, Spinoza, and Leibniz. For dozens of pages Will Durant rambled on comparing this philosophy to that one, this argument about the existence of God with that one. The problem was not the writing; Durant is brilliant. The problem is not the thinking; Bacon, Locke, Spinoza, and Leibniz outclass me by a country mile. The problem was rebellion. They refused to humble themselves and believe God. Instead, they embraced the wisdom of their own minds, what their own reason and senses could perceive, and built a god in that image. They would not lay aside their own reason and in humility believe in their heart the simplicity of God’s revelation contained in Scripture.
What does all of this mean for you and me in a practical, everyday sense? Mature Christians learn to look beyond what their eyes/reason tell them and judge things through the eyes of faith. I do not mean to say that faith is always unreasonable. But faith is always invisible. Faith is not visual; it is presuppositional. It presupposes certain things to be true, whether they appear to be true or not, and then acts on those presuppositions. Faith says, “I know how it looks, but I do not care how it looks; I care what God told me.” This applies to societal and personal standards of right and wrong. It applies to our priorities. It applies to our fears. It applies to how we deal with past hurts. It applies to our relationships. It applies to my concept of what I am to be and do, about how to live the entirety of life.
Peter often gets a bad rap in our day, but say what you will we cannot get past one fact – he got out of the boat. His eyes, experience, and logic told him he could not walk on water. But when Jesus said, “Come”, he ignored the evidence before him and believed in what Jesus said anyway. And he did just fine. Well, until he started to squelch the faith in his heart with the evidence of his senses.
Beloved, when we are called to walk by faith let us keep looking squarely at the invisible Christ. See him with your heart. And make your decisions based on seeing with your heart rather than your eyes.