By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight.”—2 Corinthians 5:1-7 (NIV)
Our senses connect us with our surroundings. Through our senses, we experience what the world offers. And yet, we do not all experience the world identically. We do not all long for the exact same scents or sounds. Two of us can view the same painting and see different images, or attend the same concert and hear the music differently. Relying only on our senses limits us. As followers of Christ, we were made for more.
Paul reminds the Corinthians that they were made for an eternal house not built by human hands. As people of God, we are made for more than the limitations of what this world can offer. The life of faith is to be lived beyond simply what can be seen with our human eyes. God calls us to walk boldly with Christ as we live out God’s call on our lives, trusting, believing and knowing that God is with us, even when we can’t see the way ourselves. Trusting in what you can’t yet see pushes you to look beyond the present circumstances, recognizing that this one moment is part of a larger story.
Pilots learn in their training the importance of focus as the directives to aviate, navigate and communicate are ingrained in their reflexes. Over and over again they practice this, so that at every takeoff, they are ready to land, even though they can’t know what circumstances will meet them in the sky. They have to fly the plane; set their bearings and don’t lose sight; then, call home afterwards. There is no room for fear or doubt when the plane is in the air.
If you are not careful, fear and doubt will creep into your thoughts, and you’ll live your whole life in survival mode. You can fall into the trap of relying on yourself instead of trusting God. Then your life is lived only within the bounds of what you can see; you are captive to the limitations of your own imagination.
In survival mode, you have an inclination to catastrophize. To assume the worst will happen. To be so stuck in one moment, overestimating the potential danger and underestimating your ability to cope. Falling into the pattern of relying on yourself, terrified of what might happen if the outcome you hope for is not achieved, does not leave room for God to work. This mindset leads instead to fear, the opposite of faith.
Martin Luther King Jr. describes the life of faith this way, namely, “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Dare to rely on God so completely that you can begin without knowing with certainty exactly where the path might lead. This ultimate reliance on Christ is the beginning of faith. Trusting that the Lord knows when you will need strength to cope, and believing that God will supply you, just in time, for whatever lies ahead.
When you walk the life of faith, you thrive instead of just surviving. Walking by faith is to trust, believe and know that God is with you as you move forward in confidence. When we walk by faith and not by sight the Spirit begins to work through us. When we cast aside the fears that hold us hostage, God works within us to make us the people that we need and ought to be.
Walking and living by faith means moving ahead with confidence even when you can’t see around the next corner. It takes a great deal of courage to live a life of faith. Trusting in God is the ultimate testimony to our faith. When we dare greatly, it is the difference between thriving and surviving.
The first Christians didn’t worry about fear when the Holy Spirit entered them; they did what God called them to do. That’s exactly the example that we, the people called Methodist in South Carolina, need to follow in our own lives.
We don’t know what battles lie ahead, but we do know that God will provide. We don’t know what the future holds, but we know with blessed assurance who holds the future. Focusing on what we do know and entrusting our lives to the Savior we do know is to set our bearings, even when the flight is turbulent. With our hearts and minds focused on God, we seek the same level of faith and discipline shown by those early Christians: to stay calm, stay the course and stay connected. Listening for the Holy Spirit’s leading, following where that same Spirit leads us and telling the story of God at work in our lives.
If you knew where you are going; that’s not faith. Following where God leads requires enough humility to admit that you can’t get where you need to be on your own. Daring to follow God will lead you to more than you could ever ask or imagine. And afterwards, you tell the story, as someone who has lived and experienced life fully in Christ.
So dare to walk by faith and not by sight. And find the fullness of life that is available when you thrive instead of merely surviving.