Faith is “the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Surely this “realization” is not just an “aha” moment, but much more. Somehow it is a making real, giving something substance and life, here and now. In fact, another version says faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (KJV) But just what is this realization or substance? How can we allow it to work in and through us today? First, let’s look at the raising of Lazarus, then at a current example that reflects the real-ization or making real and present what is first seen by faith.
Question: When did Jesus have faith that his Father would raise Lazarus from the dead? At the last minute, when he arrived at the tomb? No, his faith rose up when he heard Lazarus was sick. He said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” And yet, Lazarus died, while his sisters waited for Jesus to come heal him. In fact, Jesus remained where he was for two days and only then began the journey to Bethany. The substance or realization wasn’t seen immediately after Jesus made that faith statement. By the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days. But Jesus’ faith that the sickness would not end in death was the realization, the substance and evidence that would soon be visible to all. (John 11)
How did Jesus get that faith, and how did He cooperate with it? First, as always, he saw what His Father was showing him—and He said what he heard His Father say—both to the disciples who were with him and later to Martha, Mary, and the crowd. And he did what His Father showed Him to do: first by waiting, then by going to Bethany, and finally by calling Lazarus forth. Now the substance or evidence was visible to all. What Jesus had already seen by faith, spoken out, and acted upon, the people could now see and experience. The spiritual substance of faith had become physical substance! But what if Jesus had not acted upon what he saw? Would the raising have occurred? No, He had to cooperate, to real-ize what He saw by faith.
Here’s a current example. One day back in April (2020), a dear friend told me about a friend of hers, Hugh Lee, a man who has done a lot of good for a lot of people, including helping to ensure clean well water in Third World countries. Several years ago, Hugh designed and built a machine to sanitize grocery carts, plus a system to sanitize whole offices and other large areas. Hugh paid to build prototypes and left them at several grocery stores, but the store managers all decided they didn’t need the machines. Hugh held onto the idea and the prototypes, and he developed a website—but with no traffic. Yet Hugh continued believing in the viability of his sanitizers, even as the years passed with no outward success. He had cooperated with the vision as far as he had seen it. Now he just waited.
One day, as the seriousness of COVID-19 was beginning to be understood, Hugh mentioned to a mentor and friend, a banker, that he’d built a sanitizer and maybe its time had come. The friend asked him to bring the machine and sanitize the bank. So he did, and the banker told a grocery manager, who called Hugh to sanitize his entire store. Within a few weeks, Hugh could barely keep up with the demand for his sanitizers. (You can see the product at his website, sanatizit.com.) What was dormant all those years is now a thriving business, giving more people work, and making potentially life-saving equipment!
You might say that wasn’t faith in God but in an idea, a product. Yet upon a closer look, Hugh’s faith involves several elements that recall Jesus’ faith. First, Hugh “saw” the outcome, the sanitizer. It existed. It was real, though only in his mind. But then he real-ized it. He acted on what he saw, built the prototype, and it worked! Then there was a holdup, a long period when nothing seemed to be happening. But he never gave up—he kept the faith—although my friend told me that just before the coronavirus outbreak, Hugh was wondering if the sanitizer he’d invented and tried to market all those years ago was going to end up just a high-priced boat anchor!
But even in that, perhaps Hugh was walking a path walked all those centuries ago by his Lord. We’re told in Scripture that Jesus was tempted in all ways, just as we are, so might He not have been tempted to wonder if the Father really was going to come through for Him and for Lazarus? What if all He’d been through—and done and taught others, and now said about Lazarus’ sickness not ending in death—was about to fall apart? If Hugh—and we—could be tempted with that last-minute doubt, then surely Jesus walked that way ahead of us. Don’t we so often have those moments of doubt, even as God is about to bring His word to completion? You might even say that’s the final letting go that God asks of us—surrendering everything, no matter the outcome.
And then suddenly—out walks Lazarus! And then suddenly—what Hugh saw all those years ago is now in such demand he’s struggling to meet it. Sort of reminds me of Peter and the huge catch of fish when Jesus told him where to cast the net.
How about you? How about me? All of us have been given talents and abilities. Jesus could heal, comfort people, challenge authorities, work miracles, forgive sins, and even raise the dead, and so much more. Hugh can invent, develop projects that improve lives, and run businesses, and more. But you and I and all of us are called to use our God-given abilities in ways that help and bless others.
What is God showing you? Can you think of something you could do that would improve someone’s life? If you can “see” the smile on someone’s face as she picks up the phone and it’s you calling to check on her—there’s the beginning of faith. As yet, it has only been, in a sense, “suggested” to you. When you act on it, the spiritual substance that is your faith becomes real-ized, brought into being in the material realm of time and space.
What are your talents, your hopes, your desires? Can you envision how something you might do could bring joy, comfort, and life to another person? Put that faith to work and let it live. After all, faith without works is dead, as the letter of James tells us. If we’ll just follow through on what we’ve seen with the eyes of faith and love, there’s no telling what God will do!
My prayer for all of us today is taken from the letter of Paul to the Ephesians:
I pray that God “may grant you in accord with the riches of His glory to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to accomplish far more than we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
~ Written by Carol Whately, Ed.D.
About the writer:
Carol Whatley, Ed.D., a retired communications director, credits her decision to become Catholic in 2004 largely to the influence of BTSR. She earned a Certificate in Spiritual Direction from Spring Hill College in 2015, and she blogs at resurrectionclothes.blogspot.com.