(Sorry for the length, this was the full text of the message delivered at Antipolo Central Church earlier today.)
It is easy for you to say that to see is to believe until you have met a blind man.
One of the most memorable opportunities I ever had was when I worked with a child who was visually impaired. I cannot tell you about the details of this child but all I can share is that it was the toughest challenge of my career.
You see blind kids do not learn the same way we do. They needed to trust someone before they follow. They need to hear the voice of the person they are supposed to learn from constantly. They need to feel his or her hand – the texture, the warmth, the mannerisms before they would allow the person to touch any part of their body. Once you learn to break through their trust barrier, they will follow you to the dot. They needed a routine to follow not just in school or during therapy session but even at home. They needed a lot of sound stimulation. They learn by approximating what they hear. Their food is by the clock.
If there is someone who knows how faith works it is a blind man or woman. They know that it takes years to learn to have faith even on their walking sticks. It takes years to learn that the world is changing and they have to adjust and adapt. Such is the life of a blind person.
As Christians, we too are called to be blind. Not blind to the world but blind in following Christ. We are called to live the life of faith and love that Jesus Christ has set for us. His life was 100 percent faith to the Father in every thing that He does. He trusts God to provide Him the words to say, the people to heal and the disciples to teach. He has faith in God to lead Him where He ought to walk and lay His head.
That was Jesus Christ.
But you can surely say that is unfair, Jesus Christ is God. He and the Father are one. He is the Father. Paradoxical as it may seem, that is true. There is no contention to that. Yet the example of Jesus Christ with the way He prayed and the way He preached showed an uncanny trust to the heavenly Father that He is representing on earth. As human, He allowed His desires to be overridden by the will of the Father. He sacrificed Himself as the lamb that would save and cleanse us from sin so that we do not have to struggle with the see saw of sinning and not sinning just to make it right with God.
Isn’t that so amazing?
While it is amazing to realize these things, and while it is easy to say that we ought to live by faith and not by sight, how do we know that we are indeed living by faith and nor by sight? What characterizes a person who lives by faith? And in contrast, what characterizes someone who lives by sight?
Here are some comparisons.
- Anger vs, Peace
A man who lives by sight is always angry and always quick tempered. This is simply because a man who lives by sight is easily driven by his emotions and anger is his most effective mask. If he gets left out, he is angry. If he falls short of his goals, he is angry. If people are not following him, he is angry. If people do not conform to what he wanted and what he proposed to be right, he gets angry. “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” – Proverbs 16:32 NKJV
On the other hand, a man who lives by faith is a man who rests in the God who guides him. He does not allow his emotions to rule over him but instead rules over his emotions. He knows that God is with him so any slight against him or any disagreement with his views are considered and understood. He knows that peace instead of anger should rule in his heart. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” Romans 5:1 NKJV
One prime example is Cain and Abel. Cain was angry because his own efforts were ignored by God. He was angry because he was left out. He was even angrier when his brother Abel told him that he should trust in God. Their actual issue was not in the offering, it was with their heart. Cain’s heart was full of anger pride for what his hands have done, while Abel was full of praise and humility for the raising of the lamb was an act of God and not his.
- Fear and Worry vs. Assurance and Provision
A man who lives by sight is always worried. He is always anxious. He worries that he may not have enough food to eat or he may not have the right shelter to live in. He worries that he might live the rest of his life alone. He worries that he might not have enough money or possessions or power to influence people. He worries that he may not be able to measure up to the laws and commandments, thus he struggle to make it right with God. “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” Matthew 6:27, 31-32
Yet a man who lives by faith knows that his Father in heaven takes care of him more than the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. He understands that God has given him enough assurances each day not to fear for anything because the Lord has provided everything for him. He is well taken cared of and well protected by his Shepherd. He is not worried that he might not live up to God’s expectations and laws, because he knows that God understands his propensity to sin, all he does is submit his life daily to his Father and ask for forgiveness from his sins. He also knows that every good did that he did or could ever do was not his effort but the effort of Jesus Christ who has imputed or imparted upon him his righteousness “that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” – II Corinthians 5:19
An example of this is Martha and Mary. Martha worried about the food, about the shelter, about the ways and means, yet Mary only sat down at the feet of Jesus. Martha was anxious about so many cares she forgot about the one who cares for her. Mary was assured of provision and righteousness because she was at the feet of The Righteousness.
- Pride vs. Humility
A man who walks by sight is a proud man. He takes pride in the work of his hands and belittles those who did work but did not have the same quality of work as his. He prides himself in having no sin and being blameless according to the book of laws. He takes pride in observing the Sabbath, the health laws and having a longer prayer than other people. He sees himself as a better Christian because he is more religious than others. He sees himself as the better Christian because others could see him do good to the poor and give Bible studies. He sees himself the better Christian because he gives a higher tithe and is an officer in church. He forgets that pride is the worst sin. It is comparing and belittling against other people. He forgets that pride is putting all of his faith in himself and his capabilities. It is faith misplaced. “For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Galatians 6:3
A man who lives by faith understands that he is as sinful as the next man. He acknowledges that there is no difference between him and that man in prison that he is sharing Jesus to. He knows that he is no different than that man full of tattoos and drinking beer on the streets. He knows this and shows genuine compassion to them even when though no one praises him for doing so because he knows that God is the one urging him to help and to comfort. He shows them Christ not because he will look good but because people will have access to God and to forgiveness. He knows that he is doing the work not to show that he is better than others but that God is the best way. He makes himself as small as possible so that God will be the greatest of all.
David and Goliath shows us this picture well. Goliath is a tall guy who sees a small man. He sees a young boy who stands nothing against him. He lives by sight by belittling those who are smaller than him. Yet what he does not realize is that the more you look down on others, you neglect to see who is bigger than you. David keeps on looking up at Goliath and sees that there is a God in heaven who stands taller than this giant before him. In the end we all know who won the battle.
- Conventional vs. Unconventional
A man who lives by sight is rigid. He wants to make people to be like him. He wants people to emulate him and follow his example. He wants to be the authority and wants everyone to follow the due process that he has set up. A man who lives by sight also follows convention. He sees to it that what he is doing is acceptable to society whether it is the Christian society he is in or the secular society, he wants to belong so his actions are towards pleasing society. If he was fighting a war, he would get all the wisest tacticians and amass a huge army to fight. He does not understand that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. 1 Corinthians 3:19
A man who lives by faith does not follow convention. He believes that God is leading him and this means bringing him in the weirdest destinations to proclaim his word. He does not mind if it is in a coffee shop or in a side street as long as he brings Christ’s comfort to people. He believes in the mission and is open to changes in the program to accommodate any ailing heart or comfort any lost soul. He does not mind if what he is doing is weird in the sight of others as long as it is an avenue for people to know the love of God.
The best example is Gideon’s army and Joshua’s army during the siege of Jericho. Both armies were unconventional in strategy. Gideon’s army was outnumbered 1000:1 yet they won against the Medianites using only pitchers and torches. Joshua’s army was even weirder; they just circled the city of Jericho several times for a week and shouted on the seventh-day. After wards, the whole wall collapsed and they won the battle. These armies are armies of non-convention. They were unusual but what made the real difference was their faith in God. “It is necessary for God to disappoint their hopes and frustrate their plans, that they may learn to trust in him alone.” – EGW
- Indifference vs. Care
A man who lives by sight is indifferent to the needs of others. If he was running a church he would make sure that the programs are done as they have been planned with no changes. He prioritizes the church program to run smoothly without regard to the needs of the people who are listening or needing comfort. He wouldn’t bother adjusting his approach or treatment towards a person because he wanted to appear righteous before them. He does not want to be seen as an equal instead as a superior. He may not say it out loud but he shows it in the subtlest of ways.
The man who lives by faith cares for others. Not just the regular others like his family or friends. He genuinely and intentionally cares for the total stranger. He offers his help every time it is possible. He would stop what he is doing to listen to a friend with an aching heart. He believes that “if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?” Matthew 5:46-47
One example here is Paul and Peter. Paul had an argument with Peter when the former behaved judgmentally in Galatia. Peter was originally sitting beside the gentile Christians but changed seats and abandoned his seatmates when the Jews came in. He was totally discriminating. Paul pointed out Peter’s wrong and rebuked him for it. Paul was friend and brother to all because he wanted everyone to hear the word of the Lord.
As you can see, there is a world of difference between living by sight and living by faith. It is a broad difference that we cannot even fathom. I know most of you may say, I cannot do that or I cannot change myself. One final truth that you must learn is that living by faith is not something we do out of our own effort. We cannot will ourselves to have faith. Yet C.S. Lewis breaks the message to us that if you want to live by faith, we must accept that we cannot do it ourselves, only God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ could allow us to live by faith. Only through his grace could we discover the way. There is no other way.
So do you want to live by faith or by sight?
Like blind men, let us cultivate the faith in God that is brought by daily surrendering our lives to Him and discovering more about Him. Like blind men, let us grope and feel his arms that will lead us on the way. Let us learn to listen to His voice that we may discover His message of love to all of us. Let us be like blind men who know that this training takes years, or even an eternity to accomplish. Finally, Let us pray to God that all of us would learn how to live by faith and experience changed lives through the love that God has shown us in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. It is definitely a hard road, but with God’s guidance, it is my prayer that we can be changed.