We Walk By Faith

2 Corinthians 4:16–5:10 – Walk by Faith Not By Sight

4:16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.

17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure,

18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

5:1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

2 For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling —

3 if indeed, when we have taken it off we will not be found naked.

4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

6 So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord—

7 for we walk by faith, not by sight.

8 Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

10 For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.

 

We walk by faith, not by sight. Easier said than done, right?

In her book “Learning to Walk in the Dark” Barbara Brown Taylor, one of my favorite theologians and writers, did a lot of research around the idea of darkness, also addressing the power that sight has in informing our lives. Listen to what she says about the power of seeing:

“By most estimates, 70 percent of our sense receptors are located in our eyes. when they are working, they can take over most of the duties of all other senses. On a night with no moon, it is not only possible to see the distant glow of the nearest town on the horizon; if you lived on a prairie with no trees, you could also see a single candle in a window ten miles away. Astronauts can see the rainforests of Brazil burning from outer space. They can find Paris by the brightness of its lights. There is so much more visual information available to most of us than we really want to see that we close our eyes to think, to kiss, or to listen.

Vision requires very little intimacy. In the age of radio waves and fiber optics, sound does not require much more. Thanks to Skype, I can see and hear someone halfway around the world if I want to, though a handwritten letter with a foreign stamp still means more. Sight and sound both come at me with such velocity every day that I have learned to defend myself against them. If I do not limit their access to me, I will grow such thick calluses that I am no longer capable of seeing or hearing things that really matter.” (92-93)

Wanting to learn through experience in writing this book about darkness, she and a few friends purchased tickets to an experience called “Dialogue with the Dark.” It is during this experience that she, along with a group of people, were blindfolded and led through exhibits that replicated a grocery story, an outdoor park, getting into a boat to cross a lake, and a busy city intersection complete with car horns and noise of the street. As they were nearing the end of the experience, Barbara reflected:

“I had lost my friends. I was tired of feeling incompetent. I was ready for my dialogue with the dark to be over. But I was also aware of how blindness had split the distance between me and all these other people. Touching was inevitable; apologies were redundant. We were not embarrassed to be dependent on each other. Since none of us could be sure who was black or white, young or old, our exchanges were free of any ideas we had about those identity markers. maybe someone should start an Opaque Church, where we could learn to give up one kind of vision in hope of another. Instead of wearing name tags, we would touch each other’s faces. Instead of looking around to see who’s there, we could learn to listen for each other’s voices. (p.100)

We walk by faith and not by sight, says Paul in his letter to the church in the city of Corinth. Yet before he tells them that, he tells them that their stumbling in the dark, their suffering is temporary. That these tents, our bodies, we live in are temporary. That what awaits us is not a building built by human hands but an eternal home in the heavens. It’s verse 18 that gets me: because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. 

I wonder, what does the view of your life look like when you are only dependent upon what you can see? Is it chaotic and overwhelming? Are you always straining your neck to see if you can possibly see farther while missing right where you actually are?

I think walking by faith does not make us blind to the realities and pain and suffering of today. I think walking by faith does not set our mind on heaven so much that we are no earthly good. I think walking by faith risks us walking into walls and stumbling over things we never would have seen before. I think walking by faith then sees us learning from those bangs and then stops us to see where we tripped and there we discover new life and new ways forward or sideways. Walking by faith is perilous and draws us deeper and closer to God, who we can trust is not far from us but is with us in the midst of all of it.

And yet it is so easy to get distracted by the flash of the temporary, isn’t it?

The relentless and never-ending nature of this presidential election season; the outcry of a lenient verdict for a man who raped a woman; we walk by faith and not by sight might begin to sound like a platitude, an internet meme, or some kind of divine excuse.

But Paul is not writing from a place of extreme comfort and power. He has been jailed and shipwrecked thanks to following Jesus. And, in this letter to the Corinthians, is also embroiled in the controversy of his leadership: should they listen to him? Is he trustworthy? Should they follow him?

So, it is not as if Paul has achieved some higher, holy state to then dole out advice. He is writing from a place of conviction. He is writing from his life of faith. And it hasn’t been easy.

If you were around at River of Hope 6 years ago, what did you imagine River of Hope would look like by now? Did you imagine we would be in the event center? Did you imagine worship would look and feel and sound the way it does? Did you imagine a building? Or did you imagine us staying small?

I think making a strategic plan is very much a human impulse to try and plan outcomes, see results, to feel in control. But strategic plans are not found in the Bible. Prayer and faithfulness are strategies you’ll find all over in scripture. It’s where you’ll find the Holy Spirit doing its thing, leading us to new places, inviting us to new people. That is faith and not sight. I wonder where our continued walk by faith will lead us? What new voices will we hear not because we see who is speaking but because we hear a new thing from them? What new terrain will we stumble over and into, like Barbara did in her blindfolded experience, that will make us reach for each other and listen for new voices and pay close attention to our foot falls and the sounds around us?

I want to close this sermon today with a prayer by a Trappist monk called Thomas Merton. It is a prayer I have posted around my home and in my office. Will you pray it with me now:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” Amen.  

We walk by faith, not by sight. Let this be your prayer.

 

 

 

 

 

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