Perception is a funny thing. Every day our senses aid us in the task of gathering information and then assimilating those things we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch into a basic understanding of life. You’d think since most of us use the same five senses to collect data from our environment, that we’d share a similar view of the world. But that’s not the case—far from it. Therein lies a clue as to why the Bible instructs us to walk by faith, not by sight.
The gift of sight was given to most of us at birth so that we could visually experience the world around us. But God never intended for our sight, or any of our other senses, to become the sole means to discern the truth. In fact, He masterfully and mysteriously created our vision to function in a way that defies the whole idea of seeing is believing.
God created our eyes so that when we view an object, the image we see is initially upside-down. After that image hits our retina, the image is then translated into neural impulses and carried along millions of optic nerve fibers to the brain. “This means that our brains receive a picture of the world flipped on its head. But being so brilliantly designed, our brains figure out very early and very quickly that the upside-down images are not the way things really are and learn the ability to interpret them as right-side up,” says Jon Bloom, in Our Eyes Are a Parable About Faith.
As brilliant as our brains are, they were never meant to be an independent source of enlightenment either. Adam and Eve discovered this quickly after they relied on their own understanding, forfeited their sacred communion with God, and thrust all of mankind into the curse of sin. So what’s a Christian to do? In a world full of competing ideas, information, and philosophies—even within Christian circles—how can believers gain the insight that enables us to walk in truth?
What Does 'Walk by Faith, Not by Sight' Mean in the Bible?
In (2 Corinthians 5:7), Paul explains to the Corinthians that even though this temporary realm we live in may seem like a physical barrier between us and God—through Christ we are able to have fellowship with God via the invisible realm of faith. Or as Bill Combs puts it in Walk by Faith: A Misused Verse? “For now believers “live in the realm of faith,” trusting in the Lord whom they have not seen, but one day they will “live in the realm of sight.”
Similarly, in (John 20:29) and (1 Pet 1:8) we see the same evidence that there is more to Truth than meets the eye. Though none of us has physically seen God, we can know that He is real, we can know that His words and ways are good, and we can know that He’s trustworthy. How? Through the mechanism of faith.
When we use faith as an interpretive filter, it changes the way we see things, which changes the way we live. No longer are we bound to a finite understanding of life, dependent on our senses and intellect. Through faith, we tap into the infinite insight only God can provide. Armed with this new perspective, a believer can live out their God-given calling through Christ’s strength and power, rather than their natural understanding.
What Is True Faith and How Does it Differ from Blind Faith?
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 KJV). True faith is a sacred substance. This substance—a combo of knowledge, belief, and trust in the Almighty—is a gift that is planted in the core of all believers by the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:2).
There’s an old truism that says, “faith and its object cannot be separated.” Blind faith is an object-less faith. When someone operates out of blind faith, they make life decisions based on their own unfounded beliefs. Yes, those beliefs can be based on a certain system, deity, or philosophy—but blind faith is not substantiated by any object—it’s based solely on how the person feels or thinks about their belief. This statement may seem like silly semantics. But when our faith is directed by our own fickle feelings and thoughts, it’s destined to fail and is blind faith.
“What directs your decisions, actions, words, and thoughts?” asks Lara d’Entremont in How to Walk by Faith and Not by Your Feelings. Unlike blind faith, true faith isn’t dependent on what we think, feel, or believe at any given moment. True faith relies on who God is. True faith is formed inside each believer and nurtured to maturity through Christ—the object of our faith.
Christ grows our faith by revealing the truth to our hearts through the power of His Holy Spirit, and by providing concrete evidence of God’s power and goodness. Circumstances may go from bad to worse, we may endure suffering, and there may be times when the trials of life tempt to overtake us. But true faith not only perseveres through testing, but it also gains strength and makes us stronger during the process (James 1:3,4).
With true faith, we can walk confidently into the future knowing that God is able to hold us, sustain us, empower us, heal us, and strengthen us, no matter what. Because He has done it before, and He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
Three Practical Ways to Walk by Faith
Before you can walk by faith, you must stop walking by any other means. Dena Johnson Martin sums up this challenge beautifully in What Does it Mean to Walk by Faith? “If you choose this path, you must be willing to get out of your comfort zone, to run from the Americanized brand of Christianity that so many of us have known our entire lives. You must be willing to let God take your world and turn it upside down, shake it up, and start all over again.”
Here are three practical ways to begin your faith walk journey:
Surrender—In today’s culture of self-reliance, the word surrender has been given a bad rap. But surrender is a must for any believer who wants to walk by faith. Galatians 2:20 describes surrender this way, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
When we cling to our own desires, dreams, and goals we leave no room for God’s transformative power to shape our lives. We also rob ourselves of the protection God has provided against the schemes of the enemy (James 4:7).
In Genesis 12, God asked Abram to leave his home and travel to a faraway place, where he would later receive as his inheritance. But what if instead of responding in faith, Abram had said, “That sounds great, God, but I have a young wife at home, and all her family and mine would be furious if we left Haran. Besides, I don’t like the idea of traveling too far in the desert. I’m getting older now—I was 75 on my last birthday. Maybe in my younger years, I could’ve pulled off an adventure like this, but the mission seems too complicated, too taxing, too risky. No, I’m afraid I’ll have to pass.”
Does Abram’s fictitious response sound absurd? How many times do we use worldly wisdom or inconvenience as an excuse to avoid surrender? Faith cannot thrive in the hostile environment of self-reliance. Only through surrender can we, like Abram, walk by faith.
Refocus—It’s easy to get so caught up in the circumstances of life that we feel consumed by them. But if we can take a step back, look at the bigger picture, and realize that this world is not our real home, it can change the way we view our temporary circumstances here on earth. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).
In the realm of faith, we are given eyes to see life as it truly is. Sure, we’ll still experience trials on this earth, but we can view those trials knowing that they are working an eternal purpose. By faith, we can trust that the same God who controls the winds and waves, also controls the circumstances in our lives. And He is good.
In the fourteenth chapter of Exodus, Moses reaches the Red Sea, with thousands of Israelites in his care, and hundreds of Egyptians in hot pursuit. What if instead of responding in faith, Moses had taken one look at the massive ocean ahead, the angry army behind, and allowed what he saw to determine the fate of Israel?
Our physical sight can often act as spiritual blindness. To walk by faith, we must refocus. When we begin to actively trust God more than we trust our own perceptions He will, “lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them” (Isaiah 42:16).
Stand on God’s Promises—The word of God provides the solid ground on which we can take our steps of faith. (Ephesians 2:20) The Bible is full of promises that are intended to help Christians guard and defend this precious deposit entrusted to us (2 Timothy 1:14). The more we apply these promises to our everyday battles, the more our faith will be strengthened.
In Luke 1:45 Elizabeth greets pregnant Mary with these prophetic words: “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!" Can you imagine how difficult it must have been for a 12-year-old girl to believe and accept these miraculous promises? What if Mary had succumbed to the inevitable ridicule, slander, and hate leveled at her by the unbelieving world and had refused the Holy calling to carry our Lord and Savior? But, Praise God, she didn’t. Instead, Mary was able to see her circumstances from the realm of faith and repeat God’s promises to her cousin (Luke 1:46-55).
Mary knew, just as the angel told her, that “no word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:37). She stood on His word and lived out her calling according to it. To walk by faith, it’s not enough to believe that God’s word and promises are true, we must act on our belief and stand on the Truth. When what we believe overflows into how we live then our faith is made complete—and is counted to us as righteousness (James 2:22).
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Annette Marie Griffin is an award-winning author and speaker who has managed and directed children’s and youth programs for more than 20 years. Her debut children’s book, What Is A Family? released through Familius Publishing in 2020. Annette has also written curriculum for character growth and development of elementary-age children and has developed parent training seminars to benefit the community. Her passion is to help wanderers find home. She and her husband have five children—three who have already flown the coop and two adopted teens still roosting at home—plus two adorable grands who add immeasurable joy and laughter to the whole flock.
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