The Real World
We went on a Netflix binge and watched season 2 of Anne with an E… in two nights. If you haven’t seen this re-imagining of Anne of Green Gables, it’s worth your time. Anne, the orphan girl in terrible circumstances, survived a very difficult life by retreating into her imagination where everything was always “romantical.” She sometimes has a hard time keeping her two worlds straight — the real world and the world of her imagination. It struck me that some believers see faith basically in the same way. We live in the real world (the material), but we imagine another and better world (the world of the spiritual). These two realities can exist at the same time only as long as we keep imagining hard enough. But there are times, especially when life gets very hard, that our material world seems more real than our doe sour hold on the spiritual. Sometimes we have a hard time with “faith.”
The writer of Hebrews wrote to people who struggled to see faith as the real world. They allowed their struggles to give them “feeble arms and weak knees” (Heb 12:12). The writer gives them and us that classic definition (or description) of faith, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” (Heb 11:1, NLT). But this definition of faith is one of dissonance. Faith is “reality” and “evidence,” but it is also about what we hope for and cannot see. Faith is ultimately deciding that the real world is the unseen world. Later in the chapter, he says this—
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth… They were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Heb 11:13,16)
What made the “giants of the faith” giants was not their lack of doubt, their perfect obedience, or their other-worldly spirituality. Just go back and read the stories of Noah (who hit the bottle a bit too hard), Abraham (who believed God’s promise but lied to save his life twice) and Moses (whose lame excuses seemed out of place at the burning bush). What made them giants of the faith was that, despite their flaws and occasional doubts, they saw the unseen world as the real world and did their best to live that way. The real world was God and His truth, and so they pressed on through their fears and doubts.
Sometimes it is very hard for us to see past this world and its hardships and focus on the real world… and it’s OK to admit that. Being faithful is not being correct on a survey or doctrinal issues. Being faithful is not having a powerful imagination where everything is romantical. Being faithful is keeping focused on the real world of faith… and living your life that way!