Seeing the Invisible
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” (Hebrews 11:1-3 New American Standard Bible)
People of faith see the invisible. They imagine the unfathomable. They accomplish the impossible. Those who live by faith see with Heaven’s optics and and are directed by a voice that speaks to the heart rather than the ear. They are driven inwardly by convictions born of information from outside this world. What seems fantastical to the unbelieving world is the everyday reality of the man or woman of faith.
All believers want to live a life pleasing to God, and yet, in this same chapter, we read that “without faith it is impossible to please Him…” (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is an inward conviction based on evidence not seen by mortal eyes or heard by mortal ears. We who believe live our lives by such convictions, which are based on the unseen reality of God’s word. However, those convictions, lived and walked out, bring into physical, material reality the very things for which we have believed.
For example, many years ago, while engaged in the traveling ministry, God spoke to me in the city of Norwich, Vermont to start a church in that state. I didn’t hear a voice per se. I just knew. God had been dealing with me for some months about a change that was coming to our ministry, and I had been seeking God for His direction. How can one explain that intuitive knowing that suddenly dawns on the believing heart of the man or woman of God who is committed to His purpose? I don’t know if one can adequately explain it to another, but for those who have lived that life of faith, no explanation is necessary. In a matter of months, we laid our plans, made arrangements, and changed our lives to accommodate the call of God. This has been my life for over thirty years. I really don’t know of any other way to live.
In the process of our walking out God’s plan, I visited a number of cities in the state and ultimately sensed in my heart that God would have us locate our church in Burlington, Vermont’s largest city. We started humbly in hotel conference rooms, sometimes doing midweek services in our home. It was some time later, years later actually, when we were remodeling the first building we rented for the church, that I was struck by the realization of what my eyes were seeing come to pass. Around me were members of our church, hammers, paint brushes, and cleaning supplies in hand, helping to put our facility together for our next service. I realized that what I was seeing was the invisible being made physical. What had started out as a mere conviction I would have struggled to explain, was now all around me with all the sounds and smells of the physical reality it had become. Over our ten years in that state, souls were saved, lives were changed, and other ministries were launched. The visible from the invisible.
If you are familiar with the eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews, you know that sometimes it is called the “Hall of Faith,” since it is filled with the accounts of those heroes who “gained approval” by their great deeds done in faith. It tells of Noah, Abraham, Moses, and others, who through their faith, changed the world. One verse, I believe, is of particular significance.
“By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” (Hebrews 11:3)
Most of the time we simply assume that this verse is referring to God speaking the material universe into existence through His words when He said “Let there be light” in the Genesis account of creation. Certainly He did that, but I believe there is more to this verse than that. Again, this entire chapter is about the elders and how they obtained a “good report” through their faith. The third verse, rather than diverging from the subject, is really shedding more light on what they did. The key is in the word translated “worlds.” It is the Greek word, aions, and would be better translated as “ages” or “spaces of time.” I believe that this verse is specifically referring to the respective times in which these men of faith lived. In that context, what would emerge is the idea that “the ages of our world were shaped, framed, formed, or fashioned by faith-filled men who heard from Heaven and did what God told them to do.” Thus, the invisible word of God became visible reality as they acted on what they believed, based on His word to them.
Noah’s faith in God’s word drove him to build an ark for the saving of his family, by which the human race was preserved. Abraham was driven by a conviction to seek out a homeland for a nation God would one day raise up from his loins. Moses believed God would use him to deliver a nation from bondage, and today, while all other ancient civilizations have become a footnote in the annals of history, Israel exists as a sovereign nation in the homeland into which he led them. On and on the stories go, revealing the tapestry God was weaving from one age to the next through those who would hear His voice and do His will.
The tale is not done. God still has a work to accomplish in the earth, and every ministry that is of His making is being carried out by faithful men and women of God who are still listening with an ear turned toward Heaven, making the invisible come to reality and shaping the world for His glory. Every believer is to have a part in that. Whether it’s through a local church that has a heavenly vision to change their community or through daily acts of obedience to reach those close at hand for Christ, each believer’s walk of faith is bringing Heaven to Earth and helping to shape this hour in which we live for the glory of God.