"Faith Verses Sight"  (March 2010)

I was listening to a song the other day by the group Casting Crowns.  The name of the song is entitled, “Praise You In This Storm”.  The first verse caught my attention- “I was sure by now, God, You would have reached down and wiped our tears away.  Stepped in and saved the day.  But once again, I say "Amen", and it's still raining.”  It caught my attention because often that’s how the trials of life are.  We pray for the Lord to intervene and believe Him to do so, yet we don’t see His hand moving on our behalf.  Nothing has changed; it all remains the same.  The rain is still pouring, the storm is still raging, the fire is still burning, the situation stays the same.  In those times we wonder where He is and why doesn’t He do something.  What we fail to remember is that God is doing something.  He is moving all the while.  Just because we don’t see any change doesn’t mean that He isn’t working things together for our good.  

Do you remember when the children of Israel were on their way out of Egypt?  They had just started their journey out of Egypt heading to the promised land when they found themselves facing the Red Sea.  Not only were they standing on the banks of the sea unable to go forward, but Pharaoh had had a change of heart about letting them go and decided to pursue after them and take them back as slaves to Egypt.  What a picture of hopelessness.  Hemmed in with no where to go.  They couldn’t go forward or they would drown in the sea.  They couldn't go backwards because they would be either killed or taken back into captivity.  “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in. And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord. And they did so. And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us? And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him:  And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them. And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand. But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baalzephon. And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the Lord.” (Exodus 14:1-10)

Where was God?  Why wasn’t He doing something?  Why wasn’t He changing their situation?  Listen to this verse, it is the point I want to bring out in this story.  “And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.” (Exodus 14:21)  “All that night”.  God sent a strong east wind to blow all night and push the sea back and dry up the ground.  Could they see the wind blowing?  Could they see the sea rolling back?  Could they see the sea bed drying up?  Could they see anything because of the darkness of the night?  The point is- just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean that God isn’t moving or working on your behalf.  We can't always see what God is doing, the darkness of the trial often covers His hand from our view and blinds us to what He is doing.  But just because it is removed from view doesn’t mean that nothing is happening.  Though they didn’t see God fighting on their behalf when they were standing before the sea with Pharaoh’s army behind them, He was there in the situation making a way.  “And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians.  Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.” (Exodus 14:22,23,25,30) 

This story is a reminder that we walk by faith not by sight.  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)  “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)  Faith believes and is assured that God is working all things together for our good and on our behalf even when we don’t see Him doing it- even when there is no visible sign as proof that He is even there.  It also reminds us that faith believes God’s promises in spite of what we do see. 

I felt lead to talk about faith this month because of all the things that are happening in the world.  We live in distressing times.  We live in a time when things don’t appear to be going very well.  There is uncertainty about what the future holds, the economy is unstable, there is no such thing as job security any more and no one seems to have the answer.  When you turn on the news, it doesn’t give much hope of things getting any better.  If you aren’t careful you can become fearful because of the reports you hear and what you see happening around you.  Even many Christians are becoming fearful and discouraged because of the events that are taking place.  We seem to have forgotten that our whole Christian walk is a walk of faith, not sight.  In four different scriptures we are told that “the just shall live by faith”.  “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” (Hebrews 10:38)- Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11. 

There is a faith that steps up to the plate and believes God even when it doesn’t see anything happening and even if it appears that God is not in control.  But as I said earlier there is also a faith that believes God’s promises “in spite of what we do see”.  As an example of what I am talking about I want us to look at the story of David and Goliath.  “Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Shochoh, which belongeth to Judah, and pitched between Shochoh and Azekah, in Ephesdammim. And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines. And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them. And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us. And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together. When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.“ (1 Samuel 17:1-4,8-11)  What did the Israelite army see each day when they woke up?  They saw a giant around ten feet tall.  They saw the champion of the Philistines.  They saw a man who was skilled in fighting.  They saw someone that they could not defeat.  They saw someone who was stronger and more powerful than they were.  They saw someone who wanted to destroy them and turn their whole nation into their servants.  What was the result?  They were “dismayed and greatly afraid”.  One translation says they were “terrified and deeply shaken”.  Why did their situation have such an affect on them?  It’s because of what they saw.  The same thing happened to their ancestors many years earlier when God had delivered them out of Egypt and was taking them into the promised land.  Before they went into the land of Caana they sent spies to see what the land was like.  “And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them, Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain:  And see the land, what it is, and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many; and they returned from searching of the land after forty days. And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:17,18,25,27,28,31-33)  Eight of the spies brought back and “evil” report.  They told Moses and the congregation that they were unable to take the land.  Why?  Because of what they “saw”.  They saw giants in the land and were afraid.  They believed what they saw rather than what the Lord had said.  So because of their unbelief in God’s word and their belief in what their eyes showed them, they did not enter in but died in the wilderness.  “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” (Hebrews 3;19)

Let’s go back to the story of the Israelite army and Goliath.  King Saul and his army was doing nothing to confront Goliath or the Philistine army because they were gripped by fear.  Their fear was based on what they saw.  Fear will cripple you.  Fear will defeat you.  Fear and faith are the opposite.  Fear is a faith killer.  Let me share an acronym for fear with you:  False Evidence Appearing Real.  This is why the Israelites were so fearful.  What they saw appeared to be reality- the way it was.  But not everything you see is true evidence of the way things really are. 

Look at what happened when David got to the battle.  “And Jesse said unto David his son, Take now for thy brethren an ephah of this parched corn, and these ten loaves, and run to the camp of thy brethren; and carry these ten cheeses unto the captain of their thousand, and look how thy brethren fare, and take their pledge. And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the trench, as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle. And David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren. And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them. And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid. And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? And when the words were heard which David spake, they rehearsed them before Saul: and he sent for him. And David said to Saul, Let no man's heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:17,18,20,22-24,26,31,32)  What was the difference?  None of the soldiers, not even the king, wanted to go out against Goliath.  But here was David without any hesitation- even after seeing Goliath’s size- didn’t give a second thought to going out and fighting him.  David wasn’t moved by what he saw.  He was moved by his faith in God.  God had proven Himself faithful to David many times in the past and David knew that God wouldn’t change now.  “And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:  And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the Lord be with thee.” (vv 34-37)  David’s trust was in the unchanging faithfulness of God.  “For I am the Lord, I change not.” (Malachi 3:6a)  Faith remembers what God did for you in the past and counts Him just as faithful to do the same for you in the present and the future.  Faith says, “If He did it for me before, He’ll do it for me again.”  If God has met your need in the past, don’t get fearful by what you see in the present.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  He doesn’t cease to be your Provider just because times get hard.  He doesn’t stop meeting your need just because the visible means in which He has been doing it is no longer there.  “For we walk by faith, not by sight”.  He still gives us each day our daily bread.  He can still put money in a fish’s mouth if He needs to.  He can still send water from a rock or supernaturally drop bread from heaven each morning.  He is not limited.  If He created the world and the fulness thereof, if He created you, if He created the day, then He is certainly able to take care of all that it entails.  Besides, He has been taking care of everything since day one so why would He stop now. 

“And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail. And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him.” (vv 38,39)  The king tried to dress David in his armor in order to face the giant.  Man’s solution and man’s attempts to provide what we need doesn’t always work.  Sometimes it’s more of a hindrance than a help.  We can’t put our hope in flesh.  People can’t always help us.  Government doesn’t always have the solution.  No matter how “well meaning” they may be, they are still in the same boat and need help also.  If Saul’s armor was the solution, if it was able to give David some great advantage against Goliath, then why didn’t Saul put it on himself and go out against Goliath?  David knew that just because the armor looked substantial enough to offer some protection when facing this giant, man’s attempts were still faulty.

“And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came, and drew nigh to meet David, that David hastened, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.” (v. 48)  You know, it’s one thing when you see the things we discussed earlier happening from a distance but it’s another thing when you begin to see them “up close and personal”.  Anyone can still maintain a level of faith when things aren’t affecting them directly.  When you hear about the shape of the economy, it doesn’t seem as big or devastating as long as you still have a job.  When you are on the outside looking in, the situation doesn’t appear to be that bad.  But it’s different when you are right in the middle of it- when you lose your job, can’t find another one, the bank is about to foreclose on your home, there is no money for bills, etc.  I am sure Goliath looked pretty big even at a distance, but when David got to him and was standing in his shadow, the reality of how big he actually was hit home.  At that moment David could have cowed down and given into what he saw.  He could have let fear take over.  He could have laid his faith down, but he didn’t.  His faith in the Lord stayed in tact up the the very end of the battle. 

The result of David’s belief in God, instead of allowing what he saw to produce fear in his heart, was victory over Goliath.  “And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David. Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled.” (vv 49-51)  When we hold fast our faith in God, regardless of the way things may look, we will have the same outcome-- victory, joy, peace.

David and the Israelite army saw the same thing- they each saw the giant who was threatening them.  One allowed fear to grip them because they were moved by what they saw.  The other, David, destroyed the giant and was victorious in the battle because he chose to not look at the hopeless way things appeared.  He chose not to let the size of the giant overshadow his faith in God.  He knew his God was bigger and more powerful, and that with Him there is nothing that is impossible.  “Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hands.” (vv 45-47)

The things that we see taking place are all signs that the return of the Lord is drawing near.  “Giant” situations and problems that we will face are arising.  There is so much happening in our world because it is set on a course to meet an appointment that has been prophesied in the Bible.  So are we going to be moved by what we see happening and become fearful?  Or are we going to look to the truth of God’s word and be moved by what He says instead? 

There is one last point I want to bring out from this story.  “Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled. And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, and the children of Israel returned from chasing after the Philistines, and they spoiled their tents.” (vv 51-53)  Not only did David’s faith save him, it brought encouragement and helped to strengthen the faith of the Israelite army as well.  The faith that we exhibit, especially in trying times, is not only for us but it will be a source of strength for those around us.  When they see it, it will help them to hold on to their faith in God so that they may be victorious too. 

Don’t let what you see cause you to wavier from what you know.  And what you know is that God is faithful, powerful, in control and still working on your behalf.  “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)” (Hebrews 10:23)