That error in the title—did it make you wince? Take a minute to focus on it in all its awfulness, that apostrophe that shouldn’t be there.
That’s the way I felt the entire time I was reading this book over the Thanksgiving break I spent at a friend’s house when I was 19. Here is the exact cover.
It was so bad I wanted to put a brown paper grocery-bag cover over it. I cringed every time I looked at it.
But in spite of that, I kept reading . . .
It was a book of sermons on faith by Charles Spurgeon, and I sure needed to learn a thing or two about faith.
Most of the sermons for one reason or another didn’t stick with me. But there was one sermon that made such a profound impact on me that I’m writing about it over 40 years later.
You can read the exact same sermon here (and you don’t need to wince through holding a book with an error in the title on the cover in order to do so). It’s called “Seeing Jesus,” and it’s every bit as pertinent now as it ever was.
At that time in my life, I had never heard faith compared and contrasted with physical sight the way Spurgeon did it. But the truth sank deep into my soul. Faith sees what the physical eyes cannot see.
That isn’t to say that faith is the same thing as imagination—it’s not. It also isn’t the “visionary” thinking of many these days that tells you to think something like, “By the time I’m 40 I’ll have the largest ministry in the entire Southeast. I believe it, and so it will be!”
Or even what some refer to as magical thinking. . . . “I’m envisioning my husband becoming empathetic and caring. According to my faith be it unto me.”
Or even, “I’m going to imagine Jesus here beside me in my pain.”
No, that isn’t what faith really is. True Biblical Christian faith doesn’t cause things to come to be by imagining or “envisioning” them.
Rather, true Biblical Christian faith sees what is already there, but in the spiritual realm. Biblical faith always has an object of spiritual focus, always. Just like physical sight always has an object of focus in the physical realm.
The difference is that faith sees what the physical eyes cannot see.
For one thing, faith sees the spiritual realm.
Now I can’t see the spiritual realm the way some of my friends can, especially some who, for example, have experienced satanic ritual abuse. But faith knows that the spiritual realm is there and doesn’t discount it when encountering great evil or great mystery or when listening to the visions and perceptions and discernments of others.*
Rather, Biblical faith acknowledges that in the spirit realm there is a life-and-death battle going on at all times, and spirit beings are actively engaged in using people in that war. (Especially if you’re involved in abuse recovery or abuse advocacy, this is a very important truth to be aware of.)
For another thing, faith sees Jesus Christ as the Savior every moment instead of simply at one moment, the moment of “salvation.” Faith sees salvation as more than simply a change of destination, but as an ongoing change of heart and life, as we continually look to Him. (I’ve written about that more in many blog posts.)
And also, faith looks beyond the immediate, beyond the crisis, to see that God is bigger and God is good. Faith sees that this crisis is not out of God’s control, and He is still working for good in the lives of His children, no matter what it appears. Faith knows that He is completely capable of defeating evil in His time, and even working miracles.
That looking beyond the immediate? You might say faith has the ability to look beyond one’s life, even. By faith Abraham SAW the city that was to come, that is, the heavenly Jerusalem, which came only with the New Covenant, over two thousand years after Abraham lived. By faith Abraham saw this. That is some pretty impressive faith. (And he didn’t start out like that, by the way. He grew into it.)
Why does the Bible say without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6)? Because when we “come to Jesus for salvation” and then proceed to live life in our own strength, perhaps according to a really awesome list of rules, we are no longer truly looking to Him.
We no longer see Him as He really is—in fact, living according to a list of rules (no matter how awesome) almost always carries with it the side effect of seeing our Savior as a fearsome overlord, checking up on us to see if we’re doing it right.
But when we look to Him, see who He is, and trust Him for each step of the way, that is a life lived in fellowship with Him. This is a life that’s pleasing to Him. This is the life of faith.
These days I sometimes feel overwhelmed. When I go to pray my “prayer armor” prayer (which I compiled into a book here), and I come to that list of ways I feel as though I’m being attacked by the enemy, “overwhelm” is one of the ones I circle pretty much every time.
Recently a kind friend expressed concern for me about this—okay, maybe I was freaking out just a little—but in my desire to “give a cup of cold water in Jesus’ Name” I told her I was pretty sure I knew the reason I was experiencing overwhelm.
I saw the “more than I can handle” aspect of ministry as a gift from God to build my faith.
We had to hash that one out a bit, because she saw that statement as too similar to abusive statements along the lines of “God is sending you this suffering for your own good, to sanctify you.” But no, I don’t believe that. I believe that suffering comes as a result of living in a fallen world, or more directly, and perhaps more deeply wounding, at the hands of evildoers. God, in contrast, is good and can bring good even out of the darkest evil, beauty out of ashes and the oil of joy out of mourning. (And it doesn’t sanctify us, since all our sanctification is through Jesus Christ.)
But being overwhelmed in ministry is different. When I experience it, even though it can be seen as an attack from the enemy, it can also serve as a reminder to me, You can’t do this on your own. You can’t say “I’ve got this for now Lord, so no worries, and You can go do something else.” You need Him every moment.
I need Him every single moment.
This is the life of faith. As I sit in the field at The Evangelical Institute for Biblical Training and scan the spring-green leaves shimmering against the blue-blue sky, I remember.
He has got this. Our Lord Jesus will win the battle against evil, no matter how fiercely it rages. I get to do my part, bringing water to the soldiers and waging battle through prayer. But He will defeat the enemy.
This is faith to explore and revel in. This is faith the object of which the depths of whom cannot be fathomed.
And yes, this is faith in all its splendor.
* The abusive use of “spiritual perception” and “words of knowledge” by those who want to exercise power and control is a perversion that I hope to write more about eventually.
I love reading your articles. You encourage and inspire me immensely. Everything you write! I am thankful for you! Thank you for writing!!!
Thank you so much for your encouragement, Kristine.
Oh Rebecca! How wonderful is the Holy Spirit within! Who speaks to us, and gently leads us. I praise the Lord for your faith and for your hearing Him. This is a teaching that comes at just the exact moment I needed it, a second witness to my sudden inspiration this morning to sing over and over again, the wonderful chorus of “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus…look into His wonderful face, and the things of Earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His Glory and Grace…” and then to read your exhortation and encouraging words, followed by a inspiring reading of Spurgeon’s sermon via the link you provided. Praise to His wonderful and mysterious ways!
I’m so thankful to hear that. I love the words of that old song, and years ago re-wrote it with a different (less ponderous) tune to sing in my private devotional time.
Thank you so much for those beautiful, inspiring thoughts. I think I’m going to have to do some reading of your older posts, as I only found you about a year ago.
I hope you find some of them helpful, TS00!
Good thoughts here.
To add to what you said, I’ll share William Tyndale translation Hebrews 11:1 — ” Faith is a sure confidence of things that are hoped for, and a certainty of things that are not seen.” That’s from the New Matthew Bible which you can find on BibleGateway.
You mentioned satanic ritual abuse. Just out of interest, roughly how many friends do you have that have experienced SRA?
Several, in different places in this country and/or the world.
Yes, I love that translation of Hebrews 11:1.
Even though I know, and have known since my early years as a Christian, how our God wants me to be dependent on Him, and how the only lasting fruit comes from utter dependence and reliance on Him, AND I have experienced it so many times that my extreme helplessness is the key to His supernatural answer, I still find myself at times being envious of those, who seem to have it all together by their own strength, abilities, and willpower… Who do not even seem to need God, but just go on living ‘a normal life’.
(How ‘normal’ that is in God’s eyes, and whether that is what He wants for His children, is another matter..)
In my struggles especially in the recent years, I find myself hoping I was more this and that. More together, stable etc.. although I know there have been moments of grace in my life, where His presence was evident, and that was entirely by His work alone. Even those times and situations, where it may have seemed like I was doing ‘my part’ and being responsible, stable and confident, it was all achieved by Him. (not making excuses for those times where I clearly failed to do my own part and obe Him – I know how that feels. ugh!)
In my country, Christians have been very much influenced by the mentality that there is the ‘spiritual life’ and ‘the other life’ – there is a lot of dichotomy when it comes to ‘God’s work’ and everything else.. It is commonly assumed that you need to seek God for any spiritual work and ministry, and things pertaining to salvation, but for all the rest, God expects you to use your brain, your gifts and talents and do your best… Which can be totally exhausting.
It may sound reasonable and like freedom , but can actually lead to complete burn-out. People often think for example they can just take any secular job without asking God if that was His specific will (if there isnät anything sinful in it per se), but I have learned how important it is to seek the Lord’s direction in everything. He is able to speak.
I, for one, want to serve and live for God, who sees and cares about everything, not only the so called ministry – there is no part in our life which is somehow disconnected from the spiritual realm, and can function independently of Him. Even so called secular things, or a secular job, are not ‘less spiritual’ which can be taken lightly.
In fact, often the very unspiritual seeming stuff can be very significant and have huge impact…
And there is no safety, protection or provision outside of Him.
Thank you so much for this, NGal. This is so true.
Good explanation of true Biblical faith versus fake versions of it: imagination, visionary thinking, magical thinking. I can check off having embraced all of those, or derivations thereof, in the past (sigh).
Of course, the preachers, teachers, counselors, authors, seminaries promoting these false ideas use different, spiritual sounding terms for them, ‘supported’ by lots of twisted Bible verses.
Thank you for this post!
I’m thankful it was helpful.
This is so rich and important: we need close connection with Jesus every minute, not just a major, one-time, salvation encounter. “…faith sees Jesus Christ as the Savior every moment instead of at one moment, the moment of “salvation.” That WHOLE paragraph. Umm.
And, “…faith looks beyond the immediate, beyond the crisis…” Okay, THOSE next two paragraphs, too. 🙂
I saved this one for last. “…faith sees the spiritual realm.”
The Bible sure talks a LOT about the believer’s spiritual battle. All of Eternity, be it in Heaven or Hell, is in the spiritual realm. Clearly, it is a significant component of our faith.
Would you care to elaborate on what you mean by satanic ritual abuse?
It’s a term that’s readily available on the internet for further clarification. This website is one that (though I haven’t read everything on it) from what I can tell appears to be well-thought-through and accurate. https://ritualabuse.us
Thanks for that link Rebecca. I have scanned the list of materials there and it looks pretty comprehensive. It cites material from many therapists and advocates that I respect, including Anna Salter and Ellen Lacter.
It also correctly names Doug Mesner (who uses various aliases) as a man who has spent years trying to discredit and silence those who say that ritual abuse exists.
I watched the short (2:42) video by Neil Brick which is listed on the website. I recommend it as a very brief intro for those who want to start learning about ritual abuse.
It is not a triggering video — by that I mean it does not go into vivid descriptions of what the abusers do to their victims.