The teachings of Jesus we looked at in the last blog spoke of being filled with light or darkness depending on the condition of our eyes, whether healthy or diseased. This suggests there are two ways of seeing things, either in a healthy or an unhealthy way which, in turn, has a great deal to do with what we look at and seek after. The fact is what we look at affects us profoundly because the objects of our attention indicate the condition of our will to habitually see certain things.
Now, consider these two passages:
3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. (Hebrews 11:3 NKJV
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18 NKJV)
These verses show us that, to the natural eye, nothing is what it appears to be; it is always far more or far less than we think. We simply don’t have the perceptual apparatus to see everything we’re looking at; something is always left out, or added depending on our predispositions. (See my blog “Running Into Trees”) Once we acknowledge our extraordinary limitations at seeing anything for what it really is then these verses make sense even though prima facie counter intuitive and seemingly irrational.
These passages are also foundational for learning to ‘see’ properly because they are ‘reality’ verses encompassing ontology, cosmology, epistemology and anthropology. That all things seen are made by things unseen (cosmology), that the visible is temporal while the unseen eternal (ontology), that we have both an inner and outer man, one visible the other not (anthropology), and that we understand all this by faith (epistemology) show the two dimensions that correspond to natural and spiritual ‘seeing’. By itself natural seeing is bound to fill us with darkness whereas spiritual seeing fills us with light. We need both to get around this side of heaven but only spiritual sight illuminates the way we must go.
At any rate, the point here is that faith opens our eyes to see what is really real and what we really are (2 Kings 6:15-17 is a great example). What ‘catches our eye’ now is wholly different from before; where once God was absent He now appears everywhere and we begin understanding that “in Him we live and move and have our being….” (Acts 17:28)
One axiomatic idea we learn from Hebrews 11:3 is the actuality and functionality of “the word of God”. By actuality I mean that the Word of God IS and by functionality I mean what His Word DOES, namely create. This has special significance to all of us whose outer man is daily perishing as Paul describes in his second Corinthian correspondence noted above. By looking at the unseen, which can only be done by faith, we know that at the same time we are perishing we are being renewed. This is what His Word says (its ‘isness’, it cannot be any other way) and what it does, namely re-create (renew) the inner man even though we ‘see’ the outer man disintegrating.
Of course, we know Paul isn’t speaking of just old age here but the effects on the physical/natural man through ministering the gospel without regard to what he calls “light affliction” which we know from other passages entailed floggings, stoning’s, shipwrecks, prison time, various and sundry beatings and the Lord only knows what else. The “eternal weight of glory” in contrast to the perishing natural body is what we see ‘when we look at what is ‘unseen’ which is one example of what Hebrews 11:3 suggests.
The word ‘look’ Paul uses is therefore worth considering and will occupy our next installment.
© W.G. Ryzek 2013