Sight, the Enemy of Faith
The apostle Paul was, apart from Christ, possibly the greatest New Testament example of a man of faith that we have been given. His faith in the character of God allowed him to walk in many dangerous places, and to suffer many things for the name of Christ, and yet remain confident in God’s love for him. Through shipwrecks, beatings, stoning, nakedness, peril, hunger, the treachery of false brethren, the jealousy and hatred of the Jews, and many other such things, Paul remained confident in the love of Christ and declared with assurance that nothing could separate him from it.
It has been the tendency of the church to picture a man of faith as someone who performs many miracles, and believes God for awesome things. Such things are not to be discounted, but the greater man of faith is the one who remains steadfast in his confidence in God’s just, holy and loving character when he is subjected to one heartache and suffering after another.
In this regard, Paul was not unlike Job who suffered so much. In his suffering Job refused to curse God, maintaining his trust in Him. Even when Job suffered the loss of all things, his children, his great possessions, and even his health, and though he did not understand the reason that God had brought such devastation upon him, Job did not fulfill Satan’s expectation by failing to trust in God. His words and example are an amazement when one considers the depth of his grief. Upon hearing the news of all the calamity that befell him in a moment of time, we read:
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said,
"Naked I came from my mother's womb,
And naked I shall return there.
Yahweh gave and Yahweh has taken away.
Blessed be the name of Yahweh."
Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.
Job’s wife was overcome by her own grief, and she asked her husband why he yet maintained his integrity, his confidence and trust in God. She urged her husband to curse God and then die. Job’s response is recorded:
But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
The man or woman of faith is one who maintains their confidence in the character of God, and His love for them, when all around them seems to be testifying very different things. Such men and women are not walking by sight, but by faith. Paul practiced this in the same way as Job, and he wrote these words for us:
II Corinthians 5:7
For we walk by faith, not by sight.
Our faith in the character of God stands apart from what our senses report to us. Faith comes to us by the Spirit of God, as Paul also wrote:
For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.
I Corinthians 12:7-9
But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit...
Faith is a gift of God, as Paul further confirmed to the Ephesian believers.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that (referring to faith) not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
The understanding that man’s faith is a gift from God is manifested throughout Scripture. When Yahshua asked His disciples who they thought He was, Peter confessed that He was the Christ, the Son of God. Yahshua told Peter that this understanding of his did not come through his natural senses, but from God.
And Yahshua said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”
How does the Father cause this faith to appear in His children? He does a divine work in their hearts. When Luke penned the book of Acts he gave some insight into this.
A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.
Even as God opened Peter’s heart to discern who Yahshua was, in similar fashion we read that He opened Lydia’s heart to respond to the gospel that Paul preached. This faith is a free gift, and it comes through an act of the Spirit. We don’t really know how the Spirit imparts faith to men and women, but we can clearly see the effects of it, for where we formerly were in darkness and unbelief, our souls are suddenly filled with light and faith. Yahshua described the work of the Spirit to Nicodemus in the following manner:
"The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."
We cannot see the wind, but we can see the effect of the wind as it blows through the trees and across the grass, and as it passes by us. We see the wind’s effect, but we cannot tell where it originated or where it will end up. In the same way the Spirit comes and produces faith in our hearts, and it is hard to discern how He came, or how He accomplished His work in us, but we can see the effect upon us as we are given spiritual sight that we formerly lacked. This spiritual sight is often at odds with our physical sight. What God reveals to our spirit is often unseen to our natural senses. This is why Paul wrote:
Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].
The man or woman who walks in faith must often turn away from the things that their natural senses report, or they will be led into unbelief. In the examples already given in this book, we see with great consistency that those who failed in faith were focused upon the witness of their natural senses. This focus on natural sight led to unbelief, and the unbelief gave birth to sinful actions. We see this in each case. Look at the key words in the following passages.
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.
Eve believed the report of her senses, rather than trusting in the word of God, and this opened the door to sin. We see the same pattern in King Saul.
I Samuel 13:11-12
But Samuel said, "What have you done?" And Saul said, "Because I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the appointed days, and that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash, therefore I said, "Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not asked the favor of Yahweh.' So I forced myself and offered the burnt offering."
Saul “saw” several things with his eyes. He saw his people scattering. He saw the Philistines gathering. And he saw that Samuel was delayed. What Saul witnessed by natural sight failed to confirm God’s instruction to him. The man or woman of faith cannot walk by natural sight. They must lean completely upon the word of God that they receive by the Spirit of God.
We are told in another place that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word (rhema) of God” (Romans 10:17). As saints, we only truly know something when we have received it from God’s Spirit. Our natural senses and carnal mind are incapable of leading us to truth. We dare not rely upon natural faculties, but must learn to discern the voice of the Spirit.
The Scriptures state that we are being conformed to the image of Christ, and knowing this we can gain understanding by studying an Old Testament prophecy of Christ.
The Spirit of Yahweh will rest on Him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of Yahweh.
And He will delight in the fear of Yahweh,
And He will not judge by what His eyes see,
Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;
But with righteousness He will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth...
In our lives as Christians we are continually brought to make judgments. Should we marry this person? Should we take employment with a particular company? What fellowship of believers should we participate with? Should we buy a certain item? Where should we live? How should we respond to a crisis in our life? Such decisions, and a host of others, are a part of our everyday lives. How are we to decide?
The way that the world makes decisions is to examine the things that their eyes see and their ears hear and choose a course based upon the physical evidence before them. The decision making process remains totally in the realm of natural observation and rational thought. As Christians, however, we are called to walk differently.
Consider this prophecy of Christ. He never made a judgment or decision based upon what His eyes saw or His ears heard. How then did He decide? We are told plainly in the gospels. He received instruction from His Father in heaven and did only what His Father directed Him to do. Yahshua walked in spiritual life. He was always beholding the Father, and He lived to do the will of the Father. He was so perfect in this that He did not even speak a word of His own initiative, but only spoke the things that the Father gave Him to speak.
So Yahshua said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.”
"For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me."
Yahshua did not get up in the morning and think to Himself, “What do I want to teach the people today? What do these people need to hear?” He began His ministry only after the Spirit descended upon Him at the Jordan, and He was led of the Spirit in all things. The Spirit taught Him what to speak and led Him in every encounter. Yahshua practiced every day that which He gave as an instruction to the saints:
“When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.”
If the Spirit is capable of giving us the very words we need to speak in the moment that such words are necessary, then how will He not also give us guidance in every decision and in every judgment? Yahshua is instructing the saints to not try to decide for themselves what they will say. They are not to apply their human reasoning to such matters and judge what would be appropriate. He is instead telling them to yield themselves to the Spirit in that moment. We are to practice such yielded lives moment by moment.
Our senses and our rational mind will not lead us to the will of God for us. They stand as an obstacle to a true walk of faith in most instances. Some years back I attended a church where a pastor had been called to shepherd the body and lead them into the things of God. The Lord allowed me to have a close relationship with this man, and, after he had been at this church for about a year, he asked me to accompany him on an overnight stay to some type of teaching event. We shared a room together and were able to share things that were on our hearts.
This man had a wife and three children and they were all living in small rented quarters. He shared with me that he had a desire to purchase a house in a town closer to the church, but that he had been holding off because he was unsure of his future and the future of the church. His decision to remain in his small rented quarters was arrived at by examining things with his senses and making a rational decision.
The Spirit strongly convicted me that the decision of this pastor was a carnal decision, and that if he did not have faith for God to do a work through this body of believers, that as a shepherd of the people he would be unable to lead them into the plans God had for them. The Spirit showed me that the issue of the house that this man desired was something God had brought him to in order to reveal the unbelief in his heart. If he could not trust God to work through this people, and this lack of trust was keeping him from purchasing the home he desired, then his unbelief would have a disastrous effect upon the body. The Spirit led me to share with this man concerning these things, and he felt the conviction of the Spirit.
Not long afterwards this pastor came to me and shared that the Spirit had convicted him in this matter, and that he had decided, as an act of faith in God’s desire and willingness to work through this people, to buy a house in the community. He was excited about this decision because it was a desire of his heart to have a home, and he knew the witness of the Spirit in it.
The Spirit led him to a beautiful house in a nice neighborhood. The house was a dream home to him, far beyond what he had expected to find, and I was myself amazed at the house and the yard, for it was all very beautiful. As he spoke to the realtor, the owners, and the bank, he found that he had just enough money to close on the house and take possession of it. However, God had a test for him before he was able to do so.
On the day before he was to meet with the bank and close on the house the realtor called him and told him that a mistake had been made on the paperwork, and he would have to come up with several thousand more dollars than he had been told. He did not have the money, having already pledged all that he had available. He was brought to a crisis of faith. Would he be daunted by the obstacle that his senses were reporting to him, or would he believe the witness of the Spirit, that God had called him to purchase a house and had provided this one for him?
This man was not accustomed to walking by faith, and his confidence in God’s love and character were weak. He shared with me that he drove out to the church parking lot, which was out in the countryside, and he parked there and got out of his car and began to rail against God. He accused God of deceiving him, of bringing him to a place of having his hopes built up only to dash them at the end. He shouted out many words of unbelief and shook his fist at the heavens. He shared that he was tempted to get in his car and drive away and leave behind the church, his calling as a pastor, and his confession of God.
The next day this man went to the closing at the appointed time, expecting to be given the news that he could not take possession of the house. However, God worked it out where the owners and realtor absorbed part of the extra cost, and this pastor was able to sign the papers on the house and move in. God had already determined how He would work things out and fulfill His words to this pastor, yet this man failed to trust God.
When I heard the account of what had happened I was reminded of the Israelites at the Red Sea, and how they had brought a reproach to God’s love and compassion toward them by asking, “Did you bring us out here to kill us because there were not enough graves in Egypt.” Great was God’s displeasure over this pastor’s lack of faith in His character. The Spirit spoke to me and told me that He had rejected this man as the one to lead His people into the plans He had for them, and it was not long afterwards that God removed him.
Without faith it is impossible to please God. Those who come to God must believe that He exists, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. What an important matter is faith.
Father, we confess that our natural senses and reasoning are an unstable foundation upon which to make decisions. Teach us to subject these things to Your Spirit that we might walk according to Your judgment. May we be guided by spiritual sight, and led by the voice of Your Spirit. When we hear a voice behind us saying, “This is the way. Walk in it.” may we respond with trusting hearts and quick obedience that You might be honored.
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