Don’t you long for a faith like that?
Moses, Abraham, Noah…The people listed in the book of Hebrews 11 are people of radical, breath-taking faith.
They braved death, left their homes, gave up great wealth, ‘shut the mouths of lions and quenched the fury of flames’ (Hebrews 11:33-34) – and God ‘commends’ them, declaring that he ‘is not ashamed to be called their God’ (Hebrews 11:16).
Don’t you long for a faith like that?
By God’s grace, I’ve forever pleased him by putting simple, childlike faith in Jesus. But that faith won’t remain as it is. It will grow, pleasing God as each part of my life is brought into line with his will.
But I often feel nothing like the risk-taking Rahab, or the comfort-leaving Abraham. It sometimes seems so hard.
What’s their secret?
They could see.
They saw God, they saw ‘a better country – a heavenly one’ (Hebrews 11:16), they saw a ‘reward ahead’ (Hebrews 11:26). In other words, they saw ‘the things not seen’ ( Hebrews 11:1).
The people in Hebrews 11 saw the invisible things.
Our invisible reality
The draw of TV. The grumble of our bellies. The deadlines. The jump of red on Facebook.
We’re visibly driven creatures. And we become absorbed with the physical goings on of our day-to-day.
Our attention is snatched by the visible things and we easily forget that reality isn’t just the physical world we move about in.
There is a spiritual reality.
There is a spiritual, invisible world: a God who made us and loves us as a Father, a saviour King who sacrificed himself to rescue us from our ingrained evil, and a Spirit who is working in us to make us ready for when that King returns to take us home to him.
That’s real. It’s just as real as the rain on our face, or the voice of our friend, or the smell of food in the oven.
But from the moment we open our eyes in the morning, from that first ‘ping’ of our phone, we’re all too easily captured by visible things. All too quickly the spiritual reality fades in our head, and then our heart.
Open our invisible eyes
So, how do we see like the people in Hebrews 11? How do we fix our eyes on the invisible and have faith that brings God pleasure?
Well, the King of both the visible and the invisible worlds told us (Colossians 1:16).
Jesus knew the temptation that our physical world would bring; how overwhelming it would be. And he urges us to look up, to ‘seek first the kingdom of God’ (Matthew 6:31) and store up for ourselves ‘treasures in heaven’ (Matthew 6:20).
There’s the answer: Seek first the heavenly kingdom.
‘Seeking first’ is our weapon in the fight of faith; it’s the way we throw the punches.
There are two types of ‘seek first.’ The first is simply to seek the invisible world first thing in the morning, before our hearts and minds can be tempted.
After we open our visible eyes, let’s open our invisible ones. Let’s meet God in his word and listen to his voice explain the truth, before we do anything else: ‘I love you (1 John 3:1). I’ve saved you (Romans 5:8), and one day I’m coming to get you (Matthew 24:30-31).’
Like a plant angled towards sunlight, our hearts will be positioned, and we can live the rest of that physical day warmed by the light of those invisible truths.
The second ‘seek first’ is to put the invisible things on the podium of our lives.
If we honour the heavenly kingdom as most valuable, if our love for God is our strongest desire, then we’ll see more clearly the requirements of that kingdom and following them will be more natural.
To help us find true faith, our visible and invisible King Jesus calls us to open our spiritual eyes. He wants us to seek the invisible kingdom first, to go to it before anything else, and to value it above all else.
Use the invisible light
But don’t hear me wrong.
Jesus didn’t say seek ‘only’ the kingdom of God, he said seek it ‘first’. The answer isn’t to ignore the physical world, but to live in it with spiritual eyes.
Stumble into a day without your spiritual eyes, and you’ll have a day in the dark; you’ll feel the nausea of a life tossed to and fro by the wind, like a wave of the sea (James 1:6).
And at the end of it you might wonder: did I use that day for God’s glory? Or did I let the day use me?
Stride in with open eyes, and you’ll not be used. Instead, you’ll be able to enjoy the visible world, and use it as a way to remind yourself about God’s invisible kingdom – to prepare for it, to love it, to long for it.
Having a faith like Enoch, Abraham, Joseph, Rahab and the other heroes of Hebrews 11 means seeking out the invisible until we see it clearly. It means opening our spiritual eyes and fixing them on our spiritual reality (Ephesians 1:17). It means ‘gazing upon the beauty of the Lord’ (Psalm 27:4).
Only then will we be able to make the same sort of courageous choices for God’s kingdom. Only then will we keep bringing Him pleasure.
Only then will the longing of our soul be answered as we one day hear our Father say: ‘well done, good and faithful servant’ (Matthew 25:23).