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Some things have to be believed to be seen

January 12, 2014

I’m sure you have heard the phrase, “Some things have to be seen to be believed”. Well, I recently heard a a similar phrase that has haunted me – “Some things have to believed to be seen” (Madeleine L’Engle) – “Some things have to be believed to be seen”.

I am more familiar with, “Some things have to be seen to be believed” but that just leads to disappointment.

It’s like the Woody Allan joke, “If only God would give me some clear sign. Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank!” I demand what God must do for me to see and believe – I demand and I’m disappointed.

When I demand that extra ordinary things have to be seen to be believed, then I’m in trouble. That way I demand hard evidence before I will even look properly. Phrases like, “seeing is believing” are so well known that we don’t often question them, at least I haven’t, not until now. “Seeing is believing” gives the impression of being the no nonsense approach to faith. It seems so obvious, so scientific, that I must see before I can accept and perhaps believe. It is so obvious, yet so wrong, and it isn’t even that scientific!

I’ll explain what I mean: sometimes in science a discovery follows an observation. For example, an apple falls and Newton discovers the nature of gravity. But scientific discoveries are very often the other way around. The Higgs Boson was discovered because scientists believed in the results of their mathematics so much that they were willing to raise billions to be able to look for this elusive particle.

Last week the BBC had a series of programmes called ‘Stargazing Live’. During those programmes viewers were asked to look at thousands of pictures of the night sky for tell-tale signs of a very distant galaxy. The maths and experience made the astronomers believe that there were more galaxies to discover, and believing, they were willing to ask thousands and thousands of people to look. As a result of that belief new scientific discoveries were made and hopefully new galaxies found.

Sorry to go on about it but I hope I have made the point that it is perfectly reasonable that “some things have to believed to be seen” – That without belief we don’t even know to look.

This is true of science and it is true of faith. I read my Bible and I read about Peter in Acts describing how he came to believe in Jesus and how he was then able to see how God’s mission went way beyond his own Jewish people (Acts 10.34-43). Peter believed and so he was able to see God at work. Peter believed and so he was able to see what God wanted him to do. Peter believed in Jesus and so he was able to see that God was doing something radically new.

So what about me?

I believe so I can look and see something of what God sees. My faith is not that great so my sight is still a little dim. But still, I can see a little of the love that Jesus has for each person that I meet. I can look at a person, and sometimes, just sometimes, I can see something of the potential that God sees in that person. It is often more feeling something of the love of God for a person, but ‘seeing’ or ‘feeling’ it took belief for it to happen.

I believe so I can look at my little local congregation and I can see something of the power that is there in us to change us, to make us more loving and more powerful for God.

I believe so I can look at this town or thatvillage and hope to see the great things that God plans to do.

I can  invite others to do the same – If you have faith, if you believe even a little bit, it is perfectly possible for you to see new divine possibilities.

The amazing thing is that I don’t need much faith either. There is something else that is amazing. I believe so I can see, and seeing strengthens my belief. So I believe more and so I can see more. That is the way that it is. Believing enables me to see more clearly. Believing allows me to look for the potential, for the wonders all around me; and each time that I see God at work, the stronger my belief that God can act, and the more I am able to see.

I remember Jesus saying that with faith the size of a mustard seed his followers would be able to move mountains (Matthew 17.20). I always struggled with that saying. I always thought it was way beyond me. But now I now that, “some things have to believed to be seen”.

I think I’m beginning to get a glimpse of what Jesus was saying. I’m not to look at the mountain and say, “how is it possible for that to move?”, or to look and say, “Lord if I see you move that mountain, then I will believe that it’s possible”. That is the wrong way around. I now know that I am to believe, look out and see what I see. I now know that believing is seeing that all things are possible for God. Believing is seeing that all things are possible for those who know Jesus.

Again I invite anyone to do the same; If you have faith, if you believe even a little bit, be prepared to see great things.

“Some things have to believed to be seen”…

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