“We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Many believers know this verse by heart. Some of us sing out these words on Sunday mornings in a popular worship chorus. But do we live it? Do we even know what this scripture means?
Part of walking by faith is expecting wonderful outcomes of impossible situations in our lives. It is praying impossible, even “ridiculous” prayers. Why do we walk by faith and not by sight? Because our sight – what is visible to our eyes – often mocks what God is stirring in our hearts to ask Him to do!
Recently, a group of us were in a healing prayer service and praying for a man who was in the final stages of cancer. Many prayers had already gone up for this man but he was only getting worse. As we prayed, one by one scripture kept coming to mind that affirmed that God was willing and able to heal this man. Indeed, the Holy Spirit was leading our prayers in such a way that it was unmistakable that we were to press in with all our might to see Heaven come to earth in this situation. In a single prayer service, we went from praying for this man’s smooth transition out of this life into and into Heaven, into bold, out-and-out cries for his complete healing and restoration here on earth, and the continuation of his ministry. The sick man’s brother was present at the service, and he told us at the end, “I came in here really wanting to ask for healing for him, but felt at this point even to state such a request was far-fetched.” Our pastor surmised that praying corporately, the Holy Spirit had spurred on our faith, sharpening and building it so that we might “come boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16).
In our heart of hearts we as believers can doubt the rational of walking by faith. Faith, we tend to think, as opposed to sight, is abstract, vague. Yet Hebrews 11:1 says that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (KJV – italics mine).
So faith is a substance. The original Greek word for substance in this passage is “that which has a foundation, firm” and “that which has actual being” (see blueletterbible.org). Therefore, by definition, faith is not abstract! Faith is concrete, tangible.
The second part of Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is “the evidence of things not seen.” The Greek word here for evidence is translated “a proof; that by which a thing is proved or tested.” Therefore faith is tested and proved, even though it is not visible.
Science teaches us that there are substances that can’t be seen by the eye. Yet when they come in contact with certain chemicals, they become visible. An example of this would be invisible ink. Unless certain elements are brought together, it will remain invisible, but it is there nevertheless. So it is with faith. The substance and size of our faith matters (see Matthew 17:20).
When we walk by faith and not by sight, we are obedient to the voice of God, even in the face of others not always understanding or appreciating the obedience. Some of the criticism can even come from the church, unfortunately – like giving up a promising career in response to a nudge to go into missions. Opening your wallet and giving a beggar a handout and receiving the scorn of a friend who’s with you. Choosing not to indulge in certain activities that others scoff as harmless, because the Holy Spirit has told you not to.
“Think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3). God gives us faith, and we exercise that portion which He has given us. Like a muscle, faith can be built up, strengthened, and tested for more endurance. At the same time, faith can atrophy by focusing on circumstances – on the visible. Disappointment with past circumstances or prayers, as well as wrong doctrine, can contribute to breaking down the substance of our faith. This is why we need to know the word of God, and constantly have in our hearts what God says to be true of us, of our circumstances, and most importantly, of Himself. Furthermore, God isn’t stingy. Romans 10:17 tells us that we can get more faith if we need it: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (NKJV).
Is there something that you want very much, yet hardly dare hope for because of the sheer impossibility of it? “Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Perhaps it is time to stop putting faith in what you see with your eyes above what God’s word says He can do. If your heart is surrendered to Him, there is nothing that you cannot ask Him in faith and expect to receive it!