Thursday, February 28, 2019

Faith and Perseverance

We continue our exploration of faith, so let’s begin with what should be a very familiar defining verse from the King James Version.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Last week we talked about faith and things not seen.  We discussed nailing our old, worldly self to the cross and saying goodbye to that person forever.  We affirmed that by faith in Jesus we have truly become a new creation. 

We live untethered to who we were.  That doesn’t mean that you are void of those life lessons and experiences.  It means that old person is not who you are now.  You are made new.

Your identity is wholly, completely in God.  Christ lives in us. Hence the name, Christian.  I belong to the Christ.  I not only follow him, but he lives in me.

This new creation comes through faith in Christ Jesus.  And we must receive the Son by faith

We can’t make ourselves new by what we do.  Salvation is a gift of God so we can’t boast.  He did it all.  The only way we receive this gift is by faith-- the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Once we have received this gift, we spend most of our time doing 3 things.  Trusting God.  Obeying God.  Loving God and each other.  At least we try to do well at these things.

It sounds simple.  Sometimes it is.  Sometimes our faith is tested.  

Sometimes the circumstances of the world deny what we believe and they test us.  Sometimes, seeing is believing is so much more tempting that believing is seeing

Sometimes we just want to go with the flow.

Sometimes we don’t want to be a stranger anymore. 

Sometimes we just want to fit into this world to which we have been admonished not to conform

But always we are called to faith.  Last week, we discussed repentance.  I asked you to consider both the Hebrew and Greek root words. 

Repent is an interesting word.  In the Hebrew, it most often means to turn away from or to return to.  In the Greek, the word that we translate as repent is to change your mind or to change your inner self.

What should we know about repentance?  We are to turn away from the world and return to God.  That sounds like what I have heard all of my life, but that alone denies that what we turned away from isn’t following us everywhere we go.

When we turn away, we are to leave our old thinking, old paradigms, old models behind and receive and embrace the new.  We receive the mind of Christ and we live as a new creation.

I challenged all to remain untethered from who we used to be.  The challenge is to make a wholesale exchange of old for new.  And everyone says Amen, Hallelujah, and Praise the Lord!

Then life happens.  Then we are tested in our faith.  We try to be optimistic.  We try to see the good wherever we can, but there are days when our faith is tested.

There are days when our faith is put to the test.  We can’t explain why the child died and just hearing that we live in a broken world doesn’t help.  We don’t understand cancer.  We work hard and still have bills to pay.  Why are people mean to my kids?  Why can’t I sleep.  I memorized the right verse, be anxious for nothing…but I am having a hard time living it.

How do I get through this—whatever this is—and maintain my faith?
How do I get through this and maintain my faith?  The answer is:  You don’t!  By that, I don’t mean that you don’t get through it.  You do but you don’t maintain, you grow.

James tells us to consider it pure joy when the world throws all sort of trouble at us.  When I think of pure joy, I’m thinking weddings and OSU victories and ribeye steaks and grandkids.

All sorts of trials and troubles just don’t seem to fit together with pure joy, great joy, nothing but joy to reach into the translation range.  There should be some sort of oxymoron or incompatibility here.

But James tells us to count it as joy when we face trials.  If he left it there, I might think that he missed the mark, but he goes on to say that the testing of our faith produces perseverance and we need to let the whole process do its thing.

In the process of honing our perseverance, we must press on, stay the course, and not give in or give up.    When we do this, we grow.  When we continue in faith we grow.  When we let perseverance do its thing, we grow.

We would say that we grow in God’s grace.  We are not working for our salvation.  We are working out our salvation.  The blood of Jesus took care of our salvation but living out that salvation sometimes comes with trials and obstacles and even persecution. 

But when we persevere in our faith, we grow.  We continue in faithful obedience to God and we grow.

These all sound good, at least conceptually, right?  How about something more tangible?  Let’s look at three areas where we can practice faith that produces perseverance and perseverance causes us to grow.

The first is the tithe.  Nobody is shooting at you.  Nobody is dying.  Nobody is in jail.  It’s the tithe, not combat.

How many have been tested in continuing in the tithe?  You think that I know tithe means tenth, but I don’t know how we are going to make it on 90% of what we receive.  Surely, the Lord knows that I need at least 95% just to make ends meet.

I think that the Lord knew our struggles and weaknesses in this area.  That’s why he said that he would reward us so generously for our faithfulness.  He even challenged us to continue in the tithe.  He double dog dared us—test me in this is what he said.  See if I won’t open the floodgates of heaven. 

I use the example of the tithe because it tangible.  It is count and measure.  The struggle might be one that you have not conquered yet.  It is a test of faith.

One a little less tangible is prayer.  We pray and somebody dies anyway.  We pray but it doesn’t rain, or the rain comes with hail.  We sure didn’t need that.  We pray and get exactly what we asked for and wonder what I did differently this time?

Sometimes that’s even tougher.  Let me copy that formula.  Let me make prayer a transactional thing.  OK, what did I do differently with this prayer?

We pray and sometimes wait and wait and wait for an answer.  We would like our prayers to be like the tithe—count and measure—something more tangible.  We would like to get our minds around prayer much more than we have now. 

The test of our faith is will we keep on praying?  We don’t always know or see or understand what’s happening but our faithfulness in prayer causes us to grow.  It produces perseverance and perseverance brings us to maturity and completeness.  We grow.

We are taught to pray continually.  When we pray even though we can’t always see the results, we grow.  We persevere.  We grow.

The third area that I ask everyone to consider as we explore testing our faith is the reading and internalizing God’s Holy Word.  I am talking Bible reading, memorizing scripture, discussing scripture and reaching the point where his word does dwell richly within us

You might think, well, that’s an easy one.  There are no laws against reading the Bible in this country, at least not yet.  The things that might test your faith here are not laws but logistics.  If you could stand back and observe your own life for 6 months or a couple years, would you see the important things getting squeezed out?

Might you see yourself going from reading a chapter a day to being content with the verse of the day and staying awake for most of the sermon on Sunday morning?  Are we holding on to what’s important?  Do we persevere when the world keeps demanding more and more of our time and attention?

Would you see a workman approved ready to put the Master’s words into practice or a timid soul who is still waiting to get around to it when it comes to living out what we are called to do as a new creation?

Do you see growth or atrophy when it comes to internalizing and manifesting God’s word into your character?

These three things are areas to start with as we examine having our faith tested.  Spend a little time and consider your tithe, your prayers, and your Bible reading.

What do you see?  Are you faithful in all circumstances and growing as you persevere?  Are you shrinking back when it comes to matters of faith?

We haven’t even stepped into the realms of evangelism and witnessing and loving our neighbor.  These three areas that we look at briefly are those where we don’t have to venture far from home.

But what if I don’t know what to do?

James tells us that’s an easy one.  Ask God for wisdom and he will give it to you generously. 

But there is a stipulation.  When you ask, you must believe.  Faith leads to more faith and blessings.  When you seek God’s wisdom, you must have faith that he will provide it.  Faith must win out over doubt if you want to receive his wisdom.

If doubt is ruling instead of faith, don’t expect God to do great things in your life.  Your trials and tribulations will be just that—tribulation.  But when faith governs, trials of all sorts are just grist for the mill in your education and growth.  You will persevere.    You grow in grace.

Sometimes we discount perseverance.  We think, and rightly so, that Christ did everything needed for my salvation.  He did, but this life continues and often with trials and struggles and all manner of problems thrown at us.
Our faith is tested.  Part of the problem is that we sometimes see this as a problem.  James says otherwise.

Imagine if you will practicing football or basketball or baseball some other sport where you were mentally and physically challenged for 40-60 hours a week to get ready for the game.  Now imagine that you never played the game or any games.  Would you grow?

Maybe a little, but not nearly like you would in live competition—in a game—in a test.  We are made to be overcomers.  We are designed to put our gifts and talents to work.  We are designed to grow and blessed to grow in God’s grace.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

It’s game time.  The testing of our faith produces perseverance.  Perseverance lets us grow into completeness. 

You have crucified the old self.  Christ lives in you.  Now let’s be faithful in our trials and grow in God’s grace.  We are overcomers.  Because of our faith, we will persevere whatever the world throws at us.  We will grow in his grace, mature, and become complete.


Sunday, February 24, 2019

Crucified with Christ

We continue our exploration of faith, so let’s begin with what should be a very familiar defining verse from the King James Version.

We are going to talk about some things not seen.  How many have been nailed to a cross?  I am talking real nails and real holes in your body and real blood pouring out.

How many have experienced the whole shebang? I’m talking raised up on a cross and labored breathing on top of the bleeding?

How many have ever been present for a crucifixion? You weren’t the guy getting nailed to the cross, but you were present when it happened. 

I can only think of two guys who could say, I have been crucified with Christ.  And only one of those two might be able to say, Christ lives in me

We use these words from the Apostle Paul on a frequent basis.  I have been crucified with Christ.  Christ lives in me.  We think that Paul was not crucified.  He may have been beheaded but did not get nailed to a cross.  Roman citizens were exempt from crucifixion.

Paul was stoned before but that didn’t kill him.  So, Paul’s punitive death did not come via the cross or even according to Hebrew tradition.  How can Paul say, I have been crucified with Christ?

These words are about faith. 

Paul was explaining to the Galatians who had been taken off course by those Jews who were insisting on some aspects of the law being essential to salvation. Circumcision was chief among them. 

Paul noted that what these believers had received—the gospel of life in Jesus Christ—didn’t need anything to go with it as far as salvation was concerned. 

Paul noted that while he had visited Peter and James, they did not influence the gospel that he delivered.  In fact, on one occasion, he had to confront Peter for his treatment of Gentile believers.

Paul was teaching that there is no Jesus Plus gospel.  Plus what?  Plus anything else.  This applies to Jew and Gentile alike.  Nobody comes to salvation or justification or anything that restores the relationship with God other than Jesus the Son.

And we must receive the Son by faith

The man who persecuted those who lived by faith is preaching only faith.  No one will be justified by the law. 

Today, that’s not a sore subject in our daily discussions.  When you are dealing with First Century Christians who grew up their entire lives in the Jewish tradition, you have spit in their grits.

Paul does not discount the law.  The Law of Moses was big time to God’s Chosen People.  It was given to his people for their own good.  But understand Paul’s treatment of this law to the believer.

For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.  The life that I live in this body, I live by faith.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.

The language is figurative, but the message holds true.  It’s a bold way to express the new creation that we have become because of our faith in Christ Jesus.

We have died to the old self.  We have died a gruesome death in the manner of Christ Jesus.  We were not granted the Roman exemption.  The old self is gone.  It was a painful experience, but we now live only because of and for Christ Jesus.

He lives in me.  My life is not my own.

But I look in the mirror and the new person looks a whole bunch like the old person.  There are no holes in my hands.  I don’t look like I’m 5 quarts low on blood.  I don’t look like I have been crucified.

How can I be new?  How can Christ live in me?  How could I have died to the law through the law and not look differently?

The answer is that I do look different.  The word of Christ dwells richly in me.  Everything that I do, I do it in the name of Christ Jesus.  Every step I take is purposed to bring glory to God.

We are different.  We can’t see it outwardly, but we see it through faith.  We see what is unseen through faith!

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Because of our faith, we can say, We have been crucified with Christ. We can all say: I don’t live for myself.  Christ lives in me.

 We can’t see it but it is true.  It is real.  It comes through faith.

So do we ignore the law?  No.  It was given to God’s own people for their own good and remains a guide to good living.  But our lives are not justified by the law.  Christ alone has put us in right relationship with God the Father.

Let’s put some thoughts together and walk by faith by saying them aloud.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

I have been crucified with Christ, Christ lives in me.

If we believe, if we have faith, if we trust in the Lord, then these lives that we live are not our own.  Are we still trusted with a thousand decisions each day?  Yes.

Are we constrained to walk in fear of messing up?  No.

Are we restrained from sin?  No.

Are we counseled as how to live?  Yes!  Moment to moment God’s Spirit speaks to us.  God’s holy word dwells richly in us.  Christ lives in us.
And if we trust him with all of our heart.

And if we rely upon him over our own understanding.

And if we acknowledge him with our every step.

He will keep us on the right path.

We still make our own decisions, but they are truly his decisions because his word and his Spirit abide in us.

The old person has died.  The new person is indwelled by God’s Spirit and his word.  We can say in all truthfulness, Christ lives in me.

It is not our logic, not our intellect, and not our own understanding that enables us to speak these words.  It is not visible evidence as the world would demand.  It is the substance of things hoped for.  It is the evidence of things not seen.

It is faith.

Faith brings us to where we can say these words:  I have been crucified with Christ.  Christ lives in me.

If there was any other way for us to be right with God, then Christ died for nothing!

We have received the definition of faith as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

We have been challenged to walk by, that is live by, faith not sight.

Now, we are challenged to say goodbye to our old self—let it be nailed to the cross, and receive by faith this new creation that is indwelled by God himself.  Christ lives in me.

It’s a crazy notion that the world rejects.  It’s not something that you accept intellectually.  It is a reality that comes only through faith.

But we who live in these jars of clay sometimes struggle with this affirmation.  When we came to Christ by repenting of our sins and worldly living, this should have been automatic.  We should have left the world and all of its trappings behind.  We should have repented completely.

Ash Wednesday isn’t too far off.  I will make a mess or your foreheads and say these words:  Repent and believe the good news.

You might wonder, why say this to a group of people who are saved, at least most are anyway?

Repent is an interesting word.  In the Hebrew, it most often means to turn away from or to return to.  In the Greek, the word that we translate as repent is to change your mind or to change your inner self.

What should we know about repentance?  We are to turn away from the world and return to God.

When we turn away, we are to leave our old thinking, old paradigms, old models behind and receive and embrace the new.  We receive the mind of Christ and we live as a new creation.

We don’t turn away but make a treasure map of how to get back one day.

We don’t turn away but do so on a tether so we can find our way back to where we once were.

Did you watch the Bird Cage?  It was unique with subplots and other twists.  I didn’t really like it.  Why?  At the end of the movie, someone or something needs to explain where the menacing force that killed everyone who saw it came from.  Was Donald Sutherland already booked?

In any case, there is one scene, maybe more where Sandra Bullock tethers herself to a boat that they are escaping in.  She wants to make it back to the boat where her kids are—are at least they are supposed to be.

She tethers herself because she wants to return.  When we turn away from the world, we must do so without this desire to return.  We must be untethered.   

If we are struggling with letting go of our past, of the world’s grip on us, of the blindness imposed by the Evil One, we need to truly repent.  We must let go, turn around, and return to God untethered to what we leave behind.

We need to say and believe and have faith that we can not only turn away from the ways of the world, but leave those ways in our past.  We exchange what was our old self for the new creation we have become.

We leave all the junk behind.  We don’t turn away from it but take a few things along just in case.

We don’t turn away yet remain anchored to who we were.

We don’t turn away but keep pleasant memories of who we were in the world.

It is a wholesale exchange.  True repentance—and there shouldn’t be any other kind—is a complete exchange of the old for the new.  That’s the way it should be, but, that old self wants his old status back.

I give a lot of my stuff to the Mission House and Christi’s, depending which way we are driving that day.  Both support good ministries.  I look at a shirt that I haven’t worn for 5 years and my human nature says, “You might need it next week. Better hold on to that.”

I don’t need the shirt—though it still looks pretty good.  I’m not going to wear it.  It needs to go.

We don’t list the number of items when we donate clothing to the thrift stores.  We note the number of cubic yards of clothing.  The stuff has got to go.  I don’t need it!

But the stuff still wants its place in my life.  It doesn’t give up.  I have to put it in my past and get it out the door.

The world does not want us to repent.  The world does not want us to turn away.  The world does not want to let go of us.  The world does not want to get the short end of the stick in a wholesale exchange of our hearts and minds, so it calls out to us.  “You might need that shirt next week.”

And here is the thing.  I might need it, but I have to have faith that I won’t or that I will have something better in its place.  I can’t do this except by faith.

Even though it’s going to a good cause, I have to discharge it from the things that I own or that own me.  I can have no more connection with it.

Understand that to repent is to completely let go of what was.  It is to say goodbye once and for all to what was.  It is to nail it to the cross.  It is to turn around and embrace the new, in this case the new creation that we are.

It is to say with a genuine voice that can only come from faith, I have been crucified with Christ.  Christ lives in me.


Friday, February 15, 2019

Liar! Liar!

We continue our exploration of faith, so let’s review the defining verse from the King James Version.

Today we take counsel from the Apostle John.  John’s letters give us a mix of truth and love, challenge and support, warnings against false teachings and encouragement for what is genuine.  This is the place where we hear that God is love.

That said, today’s message could be a might prickly. 

Let’s start with a question or two or more.

Who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  Who believes that he really came to this world in the flesh, died for us, and was raised from the dead?  Who believes that he lives now?  Who believes that he is at the right hand of the Father?

Who believes that Jesus is your Savior?  Who believes that Jesus saved you from sin and death?  Who believes that when Jesus said, “It is finished,” his atoning sacrifice was complete?

So, you say that Jesus is your Savior.  Is he your Lord?  Is he your Master?  Are you his disciple?

When Jesus says, follow me, will you go?  Or do we have to see if we can work that in?  Do I have time for that?  Do I even want to do that?
What we are asking is have we taken on the yoke of Jesus?

So many wrestle with being able to proclaim Jesus as Savior—we love that part—and Jesus as Lord.  Think about Paul’s words for a moment.  He says that if we profess, declare, publicly state that JESUS IS LORD, and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, then we will be saved. 

We don’t profess that Jesus is Savior.  He is Savior and Redeemer and so much more, but what Paul commends us to do is profess Jesus as Lord.  If we profess him as Lord, we will be saved.

It’s one of those really great deals.  It’s cool beans.  Jesus did everything needed for me to be saved.  I receive this fantastic gift in professing him as Lord.  JESUS IS LORD!

But, do we know what we have professed.  Lord and Savior are not synonymous.  There is some overlap, but to be Lord is to govern, to rule, to lead, to own, to command, to be sovereign

Is Jesus sovereign in our lives?  How would I know?

We would do what he has taught us and it would not be a burden.  We respond to what Jesus calls us to do by doing it and not considering it as him asking too much.  It’s what we do now.

We listen to his words.  We know that he is the Son of God.  That is to know him as God and his words are our commands and we enjoy this relationship.  It’s not like, one day I’m going to have his job.  No, this relationship is eternal, and we are good with that.

It’s not like, when I get to be Lord, we are going to do things differently.  No.  That dog don’t hunt.  Jesus is our Lord and that’s eternal.

He may give us more gifts and talents and charge over many things, but he is and always will be Lord; and we are just fine with that.

Jesus is sovereign in our lives.  What he says goes.  We desire to put his words into practice.  We want to please him and our lives are aligned in such a way that we do please him.

Can we honestly say that?

Are we content with Jesus as Savior or will we embrace that he is Lord?

God himself testifies that Jesus is his Son and that Jesus is the name above all names and that Jesus came from heaven to earth to live in the flesh, die in the flesh, and take away our sin.

Here’s the thing.  We can’t believe that and not receive Jesus as Lord.  We can’t just say, “I’ll take the salvation part.  You can keep this Lord and Master stuff and sell it to someone else.”

When we do that, we are trying to make God out to be a liar.  We are contesting that which cannot be contested—the word and witness of God himself.

I can’t draw fresh water and salt water from the same well.  I am not going to harvest tomatoes from a thorn bush.  I can’t claim the salvation of God through Jesus Christ and deny him as Lord.

Well, I can do that but when I do, I am calling God a liar.  That’s not something that I want to do. 

And so, we come to faith.  Once again, we come to this intangible thing called faith. 

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

We are called to walk by faith and not by sight.  Now, we find that the Apostle John reveals more truth about faith.  We respond to the love and salvation and grace and favor of the Lord by living his way.  When we walk by faith we are walking in his ways, putting his words into practice, and doing this as our new way of life not as an obligation or duty or something that seems like a burden.

Obeying our Master is our new nature.

Following the ways of our Lord is just what we do now.

Living as a disciple of Jesus Christ is our new identity.  I am a Christian.  I follow my Lord.  Christ rules in my life. 

I don’t feel like I am going against the grain when I do things God’s way.  I am going against the grain of the world, but I am perfectly in sync with what my Lord has called me to do.

Sometimes, the ways of the world tempt me, but they do not overcome me.  I am an overcomer in Christ Jesus!

For me to live any other way is to deny that Christ lives in me.  God’s Spirit lives in me as a good deposit on what is to come.

God himself has embraced me as his own.  I am his.

How could I not want to please him in every way?  How could I do less than seek his Kingdom every day?  How could anything that he has called me to do be a burden?

But how many poor, poor pitiful me Christians do we see day to day and week to week? How many Christians seem burdened by what God has called them to do? 

We will have trouble in the world.  We know that, but the one who has God living inside him or inside her knows that Christ Jesus has overcome the world.  He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world.

We might even be persecuted, but we know that we are in good company when the world doesn’t like us because we look too much like Jesus.

If we claim salvation in the blood of Jesus but don’t want him as Lord, then we are making God out to be a liar.

We know Jesus is the Son of God and died for our sins.  Our profession is not Jesus is Savior, but JESUS IS LORD!  He is Savior but our profession is that he is Lord.

To receive Jesus as Savior and reject him as Lord is the ultimate contradiction.  That dog don’t hunt!

Are there Christians in this boat?  Yes, far too many.  And they wonder why they don’t have peace.  Why do they not feel favored?  Where are all of these blessings that I was told came with the Christianity package?  And these people should not expect much improvement so long as they keep calling God a liar.

To know that Jesus is the Son of God and know that God raised him from the dead is the beginning of our salvation.  Salvation in its fulness demands discipleship.

If we follow Jesus out of compulsion or only a sense of duty, we leave out the most essential component—faith.

It is faith that takes what we know and turns it into what we do so naturally.  Faith takes us from our human nature to God’s divine nature.

Putting God’s words into practice out of faith is not a burden.  It is essential to our growth.  It is our new nature.

If we truly are a new creation, then we must embrace this new nature where Jesus is Lord and we do things his way because we have faith in him.

This new creature that we have become in Christ Jesus desires to do things his way because our faith tells us that this is the best way—he is the wayGod has good things in store for us.

To receive salvation through grace and reject the Lordship of Christ Jesus is to make God out to be a liar.  I have mentioned before that there are some words that I don’t want to hear from Jesus.  Woe unto you being at the top of the list.  Nothing that follows those words can be anything I want to hear.

You wicked, lazy servant ranks right up there as well, but I also don’t want to be caught calling God a liar.  Would I ever say those words out loud?  Of course not, and I do not want the way I live my life to say them either.

We must take what we believe—know for sure that it is true—and act in faith to live as if Jesus is the Lord of our lives, for that is exactly the relationship prescribed.

It is faith not sight that leads us to obey the commands of our Master and they are not burdensome.

It is faith that assures us that God’s way is better.

It is faith that takes us from salvation to discipleship.

It is faith that brings the words JESUS IS LORD from our hearts to our lips and into our response to his great love.

Jesus is Lord.  He is our Master.  We are his disciples.  There is no middle ground.


Monday, February 11, 2019

By Faith not Sight

We continue our exploration of faith, so let’s review the defining verse from the King James Version.

Today, we look to the Apostle Paul for more on this subject of faith.  This man who counseled men 2000 years ago as well as us that the old person doesn’t want to let go of us.  We are made new.  We are a new creation, but the old man, the old self, those old clothes just won’t go away.

In parallel analogy, he notes that there is some dissonance in our lives.  We want to be with the Lord.  We want to join him now in his heavenly estate, but we are hard wired to live.  We have a mission set before us.

We know that if we die or are killed in action—doing the Lord’s will—we will be with him.   This earthly tent, this jar of clay, this body will cease to function, but it won’t matter to us.  We will be with the Lord.

We sing I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back,  but we sometimes would like to add a verse that says, I’m catching up, I’m catching up.  We want to be with him now.

Sometimes, there is dissonance in our lives.  I really want to be with the Lord, but I have his work to do here.  I’m ready to be there and for him to wipe away every tear, but I want to stand before him knowing that I was faithful to the end.

That is the human condition for the believer.  We want to be there, but we have stuff to do here—purposeful things to do here.  Consider what the apostle had to say in the previous chapter.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

That sounds like a good time to consider our verse.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

We fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen.  What is seen is temporary.  What is unseen is eternal.

But we live among these things that we see.  We live in a world of tangible things and processes and events and rulings and schedules and broken bones and basketball games and the flu.  How do we not get wrapped up in these things?  They are very much parts of our lives.

But they are not central to our lives.  Our lives have a governing purpose—a God-given purpose.  These things and a thousand more like them each day are surely part of our lives, but they are not our life.

Living to love God and love others and bring good news of God’s love that we know in Christ Jesus is our life, but we are still going to the basketball game and the doctor and Walmart and Sonic.

But we want to be with the Lord!  What a crazy composition our lives are.  Most of our lives would have confused Pablo Picasso.  Why would God leave us to contend with this mess called life?

Why would he die for us so we could live with him forever and then leave us all alone to figure out this life?  He didn’t.  He didn’t leave us alone, that is.

God gave us his Spirit as a good deposit on what is to come.  Let’s do our verse once more.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

We see and are right in the middle of all of this tangible stuff, but we navigate life according to God’s Spirit that lives within us.  This is God’s own Spirit that knows what is to come and knows how to get us there.

Paul’s words to describe this trust in the Lord, especially in his Spirit that is alive within us are:  We walk by faith not by sight.  We live by faith not by sight.

We see everything that goes on around us; yet, we trust our navigation to what is unseen.  We have the ultimate GPS.  It is God’s Spirit that lives within us and if we will listen, we can live outTrust in the Lord with all of you heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your path straight.

We will walk by faith not by sight and the Lord will direct our paths.  Faith lets us press on towards the goal as if we could see it directly in front of us.  We walk, we take steps, we do, we live by faith not by everything that we see around us.

The world doesn’t like this model.  The enemy doesn’t like this model.  Sometimes, our own selfish nature doesn’t like this model.

What model would they choose?  Fear.  You should look all around you and be afraid.  The model that the world wants to use to conform you to its pattern is fear.

The driving force with the Lord is trust, faith, and belief.  So much so that we can step out in faith.  We can walk in faith.  We can live in faith, knowing that what is unseen is what is eternal because the Lord told us so.
God said so.  I believe it.  I will live it.

Almost 30 years ago I went to driving school.  No, I didn’t get a DUI.  It wasn’t defensive driving school.  It was evasive driving school.  Why should you care?  If you were working 30 years ago, then your tax dollars paid for it. 

It was a school that taught me how to steal a car, drive really fast, make bootlegs and J-Turns, ram other vehicles, and all those things you hoped that I would use your tax dollars for—it was a blast.

Why do they have schools like this?  Because it is easier for the State Department to pay a couple hundred thousand in damages for what you did to get away in a place where they don’t like you and you are all alone than it is to negotiate to get you back.

So, all of us going through the course were not only having fun but paying close attention.  There was one drill that was essential to most of the other maneuvering that we did.  It was driving through cones.

Orange cones were set up at intervals in the center of the racetrack.  You would approach them head-on at about 50-60 miles per hour.  As you got close, the instructor would say right or left.  You veered and then started negotiating the cones by going back and forth in a high-speed serpentine fashion.

The cones were too close together to do this at 60 miles per hour, so you had to turn, brake, turn, and accelerate to successfully get through the cones.  It was a challenge.  Once you were into the body of the course, you maintained about a 35-40 mile per hour rate. 

It was impossible if you looked at the cones.  You had to know where they were, but you had to focus on the empty space in between.   If your focus shifted to a cone, you would hit it.  You had to aim at empty space—at something that wasn’t there.

I hit my share of cones before I got the hang of it, but you can get the hang of it.  You can trust what you were taught and successfully navigate the course, which was fundamental to doing the rest of the stuff.

We can get the hang of focusing on what we can’t see.  We can keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.  We can trust the urgings and promptings of God’s Spirit which lives within each of us.

We can walk by faith not by sight.  We are not blind to what is going on but we navigate according to the prompting of God’s own Spirit.

We live in these jars of clay but one day we will shed these mortal coils (that’s Shakespeare’s metaphor not biblical) and be with the Lord.  In the meantime, we walk by faith not by sight, trusting that the Spirit that is God’s good deposit given to us so we know with certainty that what he has in store for us is real.

This is believing is seeing.  Consider our faith verse once more.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

And because of this, we live by faith and not by sight.  We trust in what is not seen.

Think of the no-look pass in basketball.  You pass the ball to where you know your teammate will be without looking.  Why would you do something this crazy?  Because you know he will be there.

God calls us to trust him in the same way.  Know he will be there.  How can we do this?

We have his own Spirit within us as a good deposit as to what is to come.  

We know he will be there because he is already here living within us.

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

So let us live more and more by faith and not sight.