Have you ever realised just how supernatural it is to believe in Jesus Christ? We do not see him, but we know him; we cannot touch him and yet we hold him; we are utterly incapable of ourselves to live for him, but we do so every day. Of course, we owe all this to the Holy Spirit, who enables us to lay hold of God’s truths by faith.
People of our generation generally look only at the things that are seen, the things that are perceptible through the data coming through our five senses. For them, faith is irrational – a leap into the unknown, a clutching after the straws of wishful thinking. But for us, faith is far more than that. It is reaching out into the invisible realm of God’s revealed truths and holding onto them as the substance of our faith, until them become a reality in our lives. Hebrews chapter 11 verse one says that faith is ‘the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.’
The apostle Peter declares that we have ‘obtained a like precious faith’ along with the apostles of the first century (2 Peter 1:1). This means we share the same confidence in what we believe that the early apostles had who were eyewitnesses to the events of the Gospels. Peter is very clear about the historical reality of the Christian faith:
“ We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” 2 Peter 1:16
The foundation of apostolic faith is the testimony of the power of God manifested in history and evident in our lives as modern day disciples of Jesus. But do we really connect with the truths of the Gospel? It is one thing to hold fast to the faith ‘entrusted once for all to the God’s holy people’ (Jude 1:3). Evangelical and Charismatic believers are good at declaring what they believe. However, we need to see this historic faith take apostolic shape in our lives and in our society today.
“Our faith is not make-believe but connects to spiritual realities proven in the world of time and space.”
Abraham is the great Old Testament prototype of apostolic faith. We call him the ‘father of those that believe’ and walk in the footsteps of the faith he exercised 2,000 years before Christ (Romans 4:11-12). God’s plans have been a long time in the making and the astounding thing is how relevant Abraham’s life of faith is to God’s call upon our lives today. God’s plan in raising up Abraham as a man of faith was that he should bring the blessing of apostolic faith to all the nations of the world.
“God chose one man to reach all humanity, one nation to reach all nations. That is our spiritual inheritance.”
God called Abraham (he was called Abram at the time) when he was living in the Mesopotamian city of Ur. The book of Acts records the encounter like this: ‘The God of glory appeared to Abraham’ (Acts 7:2). I think that is remarkable, to say the least. Here is this man, totally without the knowledge of the One True God, probably sharing the same lifestyle and belief system as his contemporaries in that society – when suddenly, God appears to him. The God who created the heavens and the earth reveals himself and makes himself known to this unsuspecting individual.
That is exactly how God works – he begins with a revelation of himself. Without that, we would know nothing because we could never see the invisible God unless he first showed himself to us. Two thousand years later, God showed himself again, this time fully and definitively, not in a vision, but in a living, breathing human being – Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. This revelation continues today as we see Jesus through the revelation that comes to our hearts by the Holy Spirit through faith.
The revelation does not stop there. It is important to encounter the living God, but it is also crucial that we hear what he has to say. God reveals himself in order to place his call upon our lives. For Abraham it was a call to leave his country and his father’s house and go to a certain far away country, that God would eventually show him. The migratory journey from Ur in Southern Mesopotamia, to Haran on its borders in the north, and finally south into Canaan, was both epic and universally significant.
“The blessing of God is always linked with the call of God. As you obey the call, he will bless you and, like Abraham you will be blessed in all things.”
God called Abraham to be the ‘Father of many nations.’ God’s plan was to reach the world’s multitudes through him. Abraham and Sarah were to have a son (Isaac) through whom all the nations of the world would be blessed. In being an instrument of blessing to the world, Abraham was himself to be blessed in all things. In Genesis 24:1, we see the realisation of this blessing in Abraham’s life, and it also points to God’s best purposes for us who follow in Abraham’s footsteps of faith: to be blessed in all things!
It is hard to take all this in, but it is nevertheless a clear revelation of Scripture. It begins with the original Great Command of God to Adam and Eve: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). God makes his purpose clear – he wants to see the earth full of people in loving fellowship with him. That always has been and always will be his purpose. Following the fall and disobedience of the human race, God sets up his plan of redemption. Abraham is called to bring the promised seed of Isaac who is a picture of Christ, the means of salvation for all the world. This same Jesus, crucified and now resurrected repeated the Great Command of Genesis in the terms of the New Testament Great Commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), and with this commission came the all-encompassing promise of blessing: “I am with you unto the end of the age.” This is the New Testament equivalent of the blessing of Abraham. It is the absolute assurance that God is with you in all circumstances, that he will come through for you in every situation and that his blessing will be with you in everything.
One thing is absolutely clear from this: the blessing accompanies those who follow the plan of God. If Abraham had not obeyed the call of God, he would have stayed in Ur and never have inherited the blessing. But he did obey, he did live the life of faith and he did receive the promise.
You must obey the call of God upon your life if you want to enjoy the blessing that comes with the call. God told Abraham, “I will bless you and make you a blessing.” This is the purpose of apostolic faith – to be blessed and to be a blessing. Charismatic Christians are renowned the world over for being blessing-chasers. You can fill the largest auditoria of the world with eager charismatics just as long as you focus on the blessings of God – healing, deliverance, prosperity, and so on.
There is nothing wrong with seeking the blessings of God – he is a loving heavenly Father who delights in giving good things to his children. But we must realise how and why the blessings come. The promises come to us by revelation and we experience them so that we can live out God’s plan every day of our lives. There is no shortcut to enjoying the blessing. We have already been ‘blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ’ (Ephesians 1:3). But in order to enjoy these blessings, we must first see them accomplished in Christ and we must also see how they apply to us in our day to day lives.
Vision connects you to the promises of God
The apostle Paul often spoke of his vision of Christ on the Damascus Road when he met the living Christ and received his call to serve God through the Gospel. But he always stressed the need to obey the call. He said, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19). He saw and he obeyed. It is impossible to obey without seeing. It is true that we walk by faith and not by sight. That is, we are not led by the visible circumstances or the physical evidences of the world. We follow the Spirit of God as we are enlightened by the revelation of God. In other words, we follow the vision God gives us.
This is one of the most important principles of the spiritual realm. We connect to the promises of God through vision. We can see this principle at work even in the natural realm. Advertisers know this all too well. They get us to buy their products through the power of enticing vision.
Holiday brochures are timed to arrive through your letterbox in the dead of winter when the days are dark and the weather is miserable. The sunny picture of a sandy beach with palm trees and turquoise ocean water soon has your imagination running wild. You see yourself bronzing on the beach, swimming in the sea and sipping fruit cocktails by the pool. Straight away, you connect with the promise of an amazing summer holiday and you book it online without delay!
The same applies to your spiritual life. You will never connect with the amazing promises of God until you see these promises come to life before your very eyes. I have never seen the fulfilment of a single promise of God in my life until I have first seen that promise appear in living form before my eyes of faith. You have to first see the promises by faith before you experience them in fact. That is how God’s spiritual truths become physical facts.
Dreams and visions are the language of the Holy Spirit
We have to learn to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. He speaks to us in dreams and visions. This is at the heart of what he does when he brings God’s promises to us. He shows us what the promises look like. We get to live in them by faith before we enjoy them in actuality. This is not as difficult as it sounds. After all, in virtually every discipline of life our brain responds to concepts and ideas in picture form. We see before we act. When we plan a course of action – it may be a business plan or a holiday plan – we first picture the outcome we desire. Then we work towards that picture in our minds. No plan can succeed without a clear picture of what it is we are going for.
We do this naturally, even unconsciously. However, we must learn to do it consciously and deliberately when it comes to spiritual matters. Otherwise, we will never connect with the promises of God. God helped Abraham who was finding it difficult to connect his faith to the promise of God. The promise of an heir had not been fulfilled, time was running out and Abraham was frustrated. His faith was weak. But God gave him a powerful visual aid which connected him with the promise and launched him to a new level of faith.
God told Abraham to look up at the stars and count them if he could. Then he said, “So shall your offspring be!” (Genesis 15:5). As Abraham gazed up at the heavens, he saw the promise, he understood what it looked like, and this concrete vision of the promise fulfilled enabled him to connect with God’s word – he believed God! In the same way, the promises of God must become real to you. You must have a clear vision in your spirit of God’s word to you. As Paul puts it, ‘the eyes of your heart must be enlightened’ (Ephesians 1:18).
“You must see in order to believe. You must see in order to know. You must see in order to obey.”
Never underestimate the revelatory power of spiritual vision. By faith you see the invisible. That enables you to believe the unusual and to do the impossible. Living for God in today’s world brings its own unique challenges. Society, ever more tolerant of faith in general, is becoming increasingly more intolerant of Christian faith. To meet this challenge God is raising up a new generation of apostolic believers who know how to lay hold of the vision of God. Those who know how to believe God and obey his call. Who know how to walk in his promises and do mighty exploits for him.
It is time for you to see with the eyes of faith. What has God told you to believe him for? What promises are you holding onto? How have you responded to his call to be fruitful and to multiply? What exploits do you dream of achieving for him before you die? For all these things God has a specific vision to give you – a vision of the promise fulfilled. Allow him to open the eyes of your heart and energise you to lay hold of his promise.