THE EVIDENCE of THINGS not SEEN
BY: JAN A. ANTONSSON
JANUARY 9, 2015
The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway
“Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).
Those of you who grew up reading the King James Version of the Bible will recognize this title as the second half of Hebrews 11:1, which reads, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The Phillips version is a little more reader friendly: “Now faith means that we have full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see.” Those of you who have been reading my writings for awhile know that I take seriously the Apostle Paul’s assertion found in Eph. 2:8-9, that we are saved by grace through faith, not of our own doing, because it is a GIFT from God. Sadly, most religions infer that this marvelous gift is something we have to produce on our own. Paul was eloquent, mystical, and very practical when he stated flatly, that God would deal with us this way so that no man can boast; no one can say he had earned God’s grace. The Pharisees were masters at taking credit for their good standing with God, and we all know what Jesus thought of that.
The Apostle illustrated this point using Abraham’s status with God as an example: “For what does the scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ Now to one who works, his wages are not reckoned as a gift but as his due. And to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Rom. 4:3-5 RSV). If you hire me to do a job, and agree to pay me a set amount for doing it, then the wages you pay me are my due. You owe them to me if I complete the job, but what does God need us to do for Him in order to grant us faith as our wages? On this subject, God said to Job: “Who has given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine” (Job 41:11, RSV).
Paul asked the Corinthians, “For who sees anything different in you? What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?” (I Cor. 4:7). The Apostle said of himself that the sublime revelation he had received did not come from man; no one taught it to him, “but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:12). This was true even in the Old Testament. Jeremiah, the passionate, much maligned prophet gave this message for errant Israel, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27).
That is our question today. Many of you have shared your troubles, your sorrows, your inability to stay on the straight and narrow with me, asking for advice and/or prayer. Some have cancer, some have marital messes which are so wide and so deep and so tall that no one can clean them up at all. (That’s a line from Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat, which always amused me when I was reading it to my young daughter). Some of you are facing financial ruin with all the shame and guilt that goes with it. Countless others are dealing with mental illness and all the baggage that accompanies this still misunderstood malady.
When faced with gigantic issues such as these, we ask, “Why me, Lord?” Who can save us? Who can deliver us? Who can take the wastrel in the pig pen of life and restore him to his father? Everything is possible with God and NOTHING is too hard for him.
When the burden of sorrows and pain press down upon us, we may actually feel forsaken by God, as Jesus did on the cross, and at such times, the great and precious promises seem like a shimmering oasis in the distance, unattainable and too far away to be of any comfort. Those situations, my friends, are what I have come to call “cactus patches,” which God put in our path with one hand, while the other hand stands ready to deliver us from them when they have done their refining work in us.
No one did more whining about misfortune than the children of Israel. It was enough to blow Moses’ mind. He was a reluctant hero in the first place, not really wanting to go down to Egypt and relay God’s message to Pharaoh: “Let my people go.” But he did go with some coaxing and with his brother Aaron acting as his “mouth piece.” He actually had to deliver the same demand at least 9 times, and only after the death of the first born of Egypt, did Pharaoh finally capitulate.
The wily monarch quickly realized, however, that without his slaves, his intention of building monuments to aggrandize his ego and his legacy was derailed, so he set out in hot pursuit of them. Now, if faith is something we have to drum up before God will act, the pitiful children of Israel were surely doomed.
Consider the scene when they arrived at the banks of the Red Sea with a watery grave before them, and the murderous Egyptians breathing out threatenings and slaughter behind them. The progeny of Jacob whined, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert” (Ex. 14:11-12, NIV).
Poor Moses, I’m fairly certain he was ready to tear out his hair and run screaming into the sea at this point, but he managed to rally himself and deliver a firm message to the teeming, terrified mass of Israelites: “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Ex. 14:13-14, NIV). Notice that Moses did NOT tell them to have faith, or suggest they make a contribution of “seed money” to his ministry in order to get God to bless them.
By this time, God had heard enough grumbling. His response was terse and to the point: “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them… The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen” (Ex. 14:15-18 NIV).
Notice that the subject of these sentences is God. It is the right hand of almighty God which delivers us, rescues us, heals us, and gains glory through us, no matter what it looks like. There is nothing of our own doing which will save us, lest any man (or woman) should boast.
I know only too well that it is difficult to stand on God’s personal word to us at times, especially if the fulfillment takes longer than we’re comfortable with. Who am I kidding? Any wait FEELS like too long to me, but now that I’m old, I look back over my life and realize that He was continuously working behind the scenes, beyond what I could see or hear or touch, His wonders to perform.
Jonathan Mitchell’s translation of Heb. 11:1, enhances and enriches our understanding of this verse: “Now faith continuously exists being a standing-under (a substructure; a basis; = the ground on which to build; that which underlies the apparent, and thus is the substance, essence or real nature) of things being habitually expected and anticipated…[that are] not presently seen or normally being observed.”
Please note that the gift of faith continuously exists being. It is a gift which never fails, because its giver is God Himself.
Father, we often cannot see You at work in our dilemmas, but Your gift of Faith to us holds our head above water when we think we’re going to drown. Your faith gives us hope that the work You are doing in us and through us cannot fail because You are the author and giver of our very lives. You are the foundation of our being, so that neither tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, or nakedness or peril or sword can defeat us. With all the Saints in the world today and those who now gather round Your throne, we raise our voices in praise saying, Alleluia: The Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Amen.