What does durable faith mean in times like these?
The Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 7, “we walk by faith, not by sight,” come to mind. I find myself asking: “When leaders feel compelled by the times to ‘rethink church,’ what does it mean to walk by faith, not by sight? When questions of diversity and inclusiveness mean asking if the church is truly committed to following Jesus’ commandment to love God and our neighbors as we love ourselves, what does it mean to walk by faith, not by sight?”
I am reminded that words such as lasting, reliable, stable, tenacious, and persistent are associated with the concept of durable. Words such as belief, confidence, conviction, and hope refer to faith. Durable faith must be all of this -- and more -- if it is to survive and thrive in times like these.
If faith is to be durable we must learn to see with our spiritual, not just our physical, eyes. Jesus is our best example of what it means to walk by faith, to see with spiritual eyes. In every encounter, whether friend or foe, he challenged people to see with spiritual eyes. How did Jesus see the world?
- Jesus looked at a broken world and saw the kingdom of God.
- Jesus looked at sickness and saw health.
- Jesus looked at blindness and beheld sight.
- Jesus looked at death and saw life.
- Jesus looked at a raging storm and saw peace.
- Jesus looked at lunch for one and saw a banquet for 5,000 men plus too many women and children to count.
- Jesus looked at a mustard seed and saw mountain-moving faith.
- Jesus looked at fishermen and saw evangelists who would change the world.
- Jesus looked at a woman alone at a well, and saw the first evangelist.
- Jesus looked at a woman grieving alone at his tomb and saw the first to share the news of the resurrection with the disciples.
- Jesus looked at Saul and saw Paul, one of the bestselling writers of all time.
Faith is the difference between what is and what can be. Can you imagine what life would be like if we continually, consistently operated on the basis of what we see with our spiritual eyes, not just what we see with our physical eyes?
Too often our lives are limited by what we can see with our physical eyes. Yet, we operate with a certain level of faith every day. In fact, we can’t get along without it.
- Every time we turn the key in the ignition
- Every time we flip a light switch
- Every time we sit down at a computer
- Every time we reach for a cell phone
- Every time we listen to an mp3 player, or look something up on a tablet
- Every time we go out to eat
- Every time we depend on our GPS to get us where we’re going
We operate by faith -- faith in the creators, the inventors, the manufacturers, in the preparers – and we place our faith in people we never see, whose names we’ll never know, whose faces we will never see. Yet, somehow, when it comes to putting our faith in the One who started it all, we hold back, we wait and see ...
If you want to see faith in action, ask a child.
- When you ask, “How old are you?” the child will say, “Three going on four,” because she’s anticipating her next birthday.
- When you ask, “What do you want for Christmas?” starting December 26, he’ll tell you what he wants next year because he’s already anticipating next year
- If you ask, “What grade are you in?” (especially in the summer time), they’ll tell you, “Fifth grade going to sixth,” or perhaps, “I’ll be a junior or senior next year.”
Dallas Willard got it right. In his book, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God, he says we live in a “God-bathed” world, one that has been blessed by God -- a God who created the world to be good. The goodness God created is inherent in all creation -- and in all humanity. If one is to have durable faith, to walk by faith, one must never lose sight of this goodness -- even in the midst of the issues, problems, and challenges of life.
Jesus understood that his mission was to enable people to have life abundantly and that abundance meant having faith to embrace life’s possibilities. Willard asserts that it was Jesus’ understanding of and confidence in God and God’s creation that enabled him to embrace life’s possibilities, to envision not only what is and what can be, but also to help people see it for themselves and do their part to make it a reality. After all, 10 lepers were healed as they went, a man who could not walk was healed as he took up his bed and walked, a woman with an issue of blood was healed as she reached out to touch his garment.
Paul wrote that God in Christ has blessed us with every spiritual blessing that heaven has to offer and that God’s power working in us can do more than we can ask or imagine. In the same way that God asked Jeremiah, “What do you see?” God asks preachers today “What do you see?” If preachers envision the world as Jesus did, it will help leaders rethink church and make inclusiveness and diversity a reality in every aspect of life -- individual, communal, and systemic.
The walk of faith comprises blessings and challenges all along the way. In times like these, preachers can best help their congregations have durable faith when we enable listeners to think, engage in difficult conversation, and face painful truths. Seeing the world as Jesus did will enable preachers to help congregations have durable faith; to walk by faith, not by sight. If we are to help our congregations see with spiritual eyes, first we ourselves must learn to see the world with spiritual eyes. Only then will we be able to help our congregations do the same.
 Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God (New York: Harper Collins, 1998), 61.