What‘s the cure for or at least the best help toward stabilizing a wavering faith? Whatever others might think, whatever others might major in, in their teaching, the Hebrew writer in 11:6 says a faith-filled vision of GOD is what’s needed.
What led Abel to please God in sacrifice? What took Enoch straight to heaven, what drove the ark-building Noah to build and save a human family, what sent Abraham off in search of a land only God knew where, what led Joseph to say no to a possible pyramid in his honor and Moses to say no to possible kingship? Faith in God. (In this letter, I’m satisfied that the trust aspect of faith is in the writer’s mind.)
And how does such faith in God begin and deepen? By faith Moses saw the invisible, by faith Abraham saw a city not built by man, by faith Israel shouted and saw God’s invisible hand dismantle Jericho. Faith is the substance of things not seen! Without faith in God the heart becomes blind and while it’s true that the mind still functions well enough in various areas, without heart it gathers mountains of raw material but doesn’t know what to build with it. And who will help us to gain a faith-filled vision? And how will they help us—by gathering massive amounts of biblical or theological “information”?
Mark 14:5 has this phrase, “It might have been sold…” That complaint came from Judas. That was all he could find to say about the precious ointment poured out of its alabaster flask in the service of love. A meal was served in the house of Simon the leper. The Master’s in the place of honor. Mary must have carried something wrapped from home to Simon’s. Then a hush, Mary’s behind the Master, a broken flask, a lovely aroma filling the room. The complaint breaks the silence and suddenly the room is invaded by the noises of the market and they overwhelm a love-laden, life-laden moment. Judas glared and vulgarizes something Jesus, all admiring, says will never be forgotten as long as the world stands.
Judas stood among priceless things that evening in Simon’s house and saw nothing. He saw a dramatic scene, but he missed an eternal truth. His fault here wasn’t that he did nothing but that he saw nothing; he was heart-blind. “The fact that he put a price on the gift proves that he never saw the gift. If he had seen it he would have known it was priceless.” It’s obvious he hadn’t learned to see as His Master saw. Jesus saw more glory in a field of wild flowers than in Solomon and all his grandeur, Jesus said that. A poor widow’s two nickels were worth more than the hefty contribution of the rich and God in heaven wrote an I.O.U. every time a cup of cold water was given by a loving heart. Jesus said that too. All of that Judas must have heard but he hadn’t learned that there are things too beautiful to be sold. He saw love and thought it was waste! He didn’t know what he was dealing with. “But he wasn’t dealing with alabaster and ointment.” And in thousands of moments like this one we never are.
There in front of us, right there, faith-filled and loving hearts are doing things that God is keeping a record of; there, right there in front of us are people whose glory isn’t seen in some specific act, it can only be seen by someone who sees the life lived out over years.
We can’t be God and He doesn’t hold us responsible for not being Him but we profoundly need help if we are to gain a rich vision of God and His Holy Son in whose image we’ve been made. We honor prominent leaders and salaried preachers and teachers—a godly and lovely thing under the right circumstances—but there’s a day coming, I like to imagine, in a better world, when God will bring out a host of unknown, a host of never mentioned people and He will honor them and there won’t be a prominent figure among them. Paul and Peter and Moses and others have their share of praise and glory. And God sees that too and takes note of it.
A man told me of a visit he enjoyed with a charming lady and during a brief lull in their talk about God and life she saw him glancing at a lovely picture on the table beside her. “That’s my daughter and her daughters,” she said. They were pretty and all dressed in white—it was a wedding picture. With joy she began to tell him, he said, about her daughter, her love for God and her mission work in foreign lands. Understandably thrilled she told him about it all. The man told me, “I said to her, if God walked into this room, sat down beside you, put His arm around you and whispered in your ear, I really love that girl,” you’d say, “I know you do.” Then He’d say, “Oh? Why do you think that is?” Then you’d say, “She reminds you of someone.” Then He’d say, “And who would that be?” Then you’d say, “She reminds you of you.” Then God would smile and say, “You’re absolutely center of the target.”
He said, “This woman who didn’t need to be told about her daughter’s loveliness, smiled big and made it clear that she now saw her daughter as even more beautiful than before.”
Life is made up of things that defy all valuation and it’s missing these things that reduces and vulgarizes life. Part of the fullness of life that God even now brings through Christ is to be able to see through new eyes—it’s a new way of seeing life and that only comes via a new and better vision of God to whom to know, said Jesus, is life eternal.
(In this piece I’ve leaned a bit on something George Matheson said many years ago. F.D. Maurice took a different and useful direction on the Judas incident that (God enabling) I’ll make use of some time.).