A 1st grade Sunday school teacher once asked the class to think about something important and draw a picture of it. Each child began working on their special picture.
The teacher then noticed one little boy who seemed to be more focused than the rest. The others had finished, but he was still working. She walked over to his desk and said, “Jimmy, what are you drawing?”
He looked up and said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.”
The teacher said, “Jimmy, nobody knows what God looks like.”
Jimmy thought for a minute and replied, “Well, they will when I finish this picture.”
Sometimes I wish I could see God. I wish that with my physical eyes that I could catch a glimpse of God. Of course, it’s only a wish. The gospel writer John said, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (John 1:18, NIV).
So even though we can’t see God, we can know God. There’s a way to know who God is through scripture, through walking in the natural world, and especially through God’s Son, Jesus Christ — who is in the closest relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Even though Jesus was not mentioned in the Old Testament, Romans 11:36 (NLT) says, “For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory.” He was there at the beginning of creation — part of the magnificent Trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit.
Colossians 1:15-16 (NLT) says, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.”
So when God spoke to Abraham, telling him to leave his homeland and go to Canaan, Jesus Christ was also present. He would also be the fulfillment of the promise that Abraham received — that Abraham and his family would be a blessing to all nations of the earth (this is why it’s called the “Promised Land,” not the “Promise Land”).
Interestingly, Genesis 12:7 (NIV) says that “The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.”
In some way Abraham must have “seen” God. What was that like? I wonder if was similar to the way that we “see” God — with spiritual eyes. Perhaps we see God in the eyes of those we serve, or we see God in moments of wonder and awe. In a moment of transcendence, it’s like our hearts and minds are opened to a greater reality.
Why does this matter?
It’s important because the Bible teaches us to trust more in what is unseen than what is seen. “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 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 4:7-18, NIV).
Our challenge is to believe in what we can’t see more than what we can see.
Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) was an American theologian, philosopher, and pastor. He taught that according to the Biblical view, there are two parts to reality: the natural world (that which we see, normally) and the supernatural world (that which we don’t always see).
He often illustrated this idea with two chairs, saying, “The men who sit in these chairs look at the universe in two different ways. We are all sitting in one or other of these chairs at every single moment of our lives. The first man sits in his chair and faces the total reality of the universe, the seen part and the normally unseen part, and sees truth against this background. The Christian is a man who has said, ‘I sit in this chair.’”
Schaffer continued, “The unbeliever, however, is the man who sits in the other chair. He sees only the natural part of the universe, and interprets truth against that background.”
The theologian rightly argues that these two positions cannot both be true. One is true. One is false.
“If indeed there is only the natural portion of the universe,” Schaffer says, “with a uniformity of natural causes in a closed system, then to sit in the other chair is to delude oneself. If, however, there are the two halves of reality, then to sit in the naturalist’s chair is to be extremely naïve and to misunderstand the universe completely…However, to be a true Bible-believing Christian, we must understand that it is not enough simply to acknowledge that the universe has these two halves. The Christian life means living in the two halves of reality: the supernatural and the natural parts.”
In Genesis 12:1-9, Abraham sits in the chair of faith. He trusts the voice of God and follows. However, he seems to shift chairs the longer the chapter goes. He doesn’t build altars, tells a half-truth to save his own skin, and moves his family into a world of trouble. It’s a temporary problem, but still, he acted in “unfaith” more than “by faith” in Egypt.
I personally would not say that reality has “two halves.” I would argue that there is a oneness in the seen and unseen world, whether we have the capacity to see it or not. Still, Schaffer makes a good point. We have a choice as to how we view the world, for how we see the world will determine how we act.
So let me pose a few questions to you as the week begins.
Which chair are you sitting in?
Have you begun the week by looking to the unseen God to guide your days ahead? Are you attuned to His voice through scripture, worship, prayer, and fellowship with other Christians?
Are you focusing more on what is unseen — God, love, kindness, peace, joy, and hope — than on the material world?
Are you walking by faith?
And if the unseen God called you to step out and do something radical, would you be willing to go?
Church, let’s look to the eternal. Let’s focus beyond the temporary. Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus. Let’s be His hands and feet and voice. Because if Jesus now abides in us, someone may just get a glimpse of God through you.
That would be something amazing to see.
Pastor Brent McDougal