Thursday, March 27, 2014

WALK BY SIGHT / WALK BY FAITH


…For we walk by faith, not by sight--(2 Corinthians 5:7)
These are the words of the Apostle Paul in describing the Christian life. We often hear about “living a life of faith” and “walking by faith.” These are very pious sounding words, but sometimes we do not really understand what it means to walk by faith.
     On the other hand, walking by faith is often misrepresented and ridiculed. Christians are sometimes accused of having a “blind faith” and placing hope on something that, deep down, they fear does not really exist. Mark Twain, for all his whit and writing ability, did great damage in mischaracterizing the life of faith with the much quoted statement of one of his characters: “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”
          A few weeks ago, I wrote some blog posts about another act of ridicule against the life of faith when I spoke of the “pie in the sky” parody.  (link: Pie in the Sky Faith). Both of these references are humorous, and if we do not take them too seriously, we can laugh. But unfortunately, they have also mischaracterized what really is a walk of faith.

But if these things are not true, then what does it mean to walk by faith in contrast to walking by sight? Is it true that those of us who practice walking by faith, walk in blind trust, without any evidence whatsoever?
          If it might help in your understanding, here is how I would compare a life of walking by faith in contrast with a life of walking by sight alone:

Walking by sight can be likened to standing in a doorway of a room, not entering, but only standing so that we can see all that the room on the other side contains. We are able to stand in the doorway without making any real commitment to enter. Finally, when we are satisfied that we know sufficiently what is in the room, we may choose whether or not to enter. Our commitment only follows our sight. It does not go before.
          This is walking by sight. In this world, this seems to be a reasonable way of conducting ourselves, but it is not the walk that God tells us we should be doing. The reason, of course, is that there are many things with which we must deal that are not of this world. These things we cannot perceive with our senses. This is why God tells us that we should learn to walk by faith.

Walking by faith is a little different than walking by sight. It is better explained using a different metaphor than standing in a door of a room. Walking by faith is better illustrated when we think of ascending a staircase that we must climb before we enter a room that is at the top of the stairs.
          Standing at the bottom of the stairs, we are able to see very little of what is in the room above. It is not as if we do not see anything of the room before we begin to climb, it is just that we are not able to see things plainly. In addition to this of course, there also are many other items in the room that we cannot see at all. In order for us to be able to see more, we must make a commitment. We must step up on the first riser.
          This is how walking by faith is different than walking by sight. When we walk by sight, we do not make any commitment beyond what we can see with our eyes. When we walk by faith, we find that we must make a commitment of sorts in order to be able to get a better vision to that place where we are going.
          When we step up on the first riser, we learn that indeed, we can see just a bit more of what is in the room above. But in order to gain the next improvement of our vision, we find that we must again make another commitment. We step up on the next stair riser.
          With each consecutive step, we may see a little more, but each one requires a step of faith on our part. In fact, our entire understanding depends more upon faith in the promise that we have about the room, than it does based on a decision about what we can see. As we continue to ascend the staircase, some of the questions that we had on the first step are answered, but many are not.
          What we have is a promise, and the faith that is calling for our commitment is based on that promise. Our own perceptions remain a part of our walk, but faith requires that our walk takes action because of the promise of what we have been told.
          We can see of course, that walking by faith in this way can be a dangerous act. If the object of our faith is not trustworthy, we fall into deception.  As we ascend the steps, we are further committing ourselves to enter into the room.  It is possible that one ascends a staircase only to find that in the end, he had been deceived.
          That is why I said that the life of faith is mainly based on a promise, but that our own perceptions nevertheless remain in play. Since our ascent of the stairs is motivated by faith in what we have been told, it is reasonable for us to assume that as we gain a clearer perspective of the contents in the room above, we should be able to assess the validity of those things that we have been told about the room.
          Each step should further confirm the promise about the room. If it does not, then we know that we may be ascending the wrong staircase.

Each person has his or her own experience. My own experience is that I have sought to walk by faith based on the promises of the God of the Bible, the God of all creation. My walk of faith has been far from perfect, but I will say that I have been very slowly ascending the consecutive risers of the stairway. My vision is also far from perfect, but I will also say that it is much clearer now than it has ever been in the past.
          All of this has required of me, consecutive acts of commitment to a promise. Sometimes I have been asked to make this commitment based on agonizingly little physical evidence. In retrospect of those moments of commitment (some of them still very clear to me), I can say that in every case, the promise of God has proven valid. This has given me courage to step up onto the next riser.

I continue to climb. My faith is ever stronger. I know that the God who has shown Himself worthy of my faith as I have trusted Him in the past, will be worthy of my faith in the future. His promise does not fail.