We only had 2 meetings confirmed for those first 2 months of deputation but decided that the timing was right to launch into full-time life on the road. We packed up our trailer and left for a 3 month tour. It was one of those times where things were very tight, causing me to hesitate; was this the right decision, was it faith, or was it foolishness? I had contacted a number of pastors and was praying that we could fill our schedule, but I wasn’t really sure if we would even be able to fill our gas tank!
On our way to our first conference in MD I received a call back from a pastor inviting us to come for their missions conference in DE… next week! We will always remember those first two conferences. Not only did the Lord amaze us far beyond our measure of faith but He would later enable both of those churches to join with us as supporting partners. The following open weeks ended up being filled as well, whether it was just a place to park, a chance to present our ministry, or a personal meeting that would turn into a future meeting.
Over those first 8 weeks we parked at 11 different churches of which 7 were deputation meetings, 4 more resulted in future meetings and now 6 of those are supporting churches!
The deputation road continues to be filled with steps of faith, mile markers of God’s goodness. Yet this is not unique to deputation or to missionaries. The Christian life by its very nature is a walk of faith.
For we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Cor. 5:7
This verse is well known and frequently used as an exhortation of how we are to live as Christians. Scripture does give us many examples of those who followed God as a result of their faith (mentioned 25 times in Heb. 11). The expression “walk by” is a metaphor that we readily understand in English; it means to live this way. In Rom. 1:17 Paul quotes from Habakuk 2:4 emphasizing that the just will live by faith. So yes, the Christian experience is to be a walk of faith, a way of living based on our belief in God. And we are even to pray that God will increase our faith and help our unbelief.
But when we come to 2 Cor. 5:7 the point about faith is not an exhortation but rather an encouragement, a reassurance because of what Paul is addressing. If we look closely at the context here we probably will discover that our interpretation has been off topic.
I think the main reason for our misunderstanding has been the use of the term “walk by sight.” Since we know that “walking by faith” is a repeated biblical theme we just naturally have come to assume that walking by sight is the opposite; not just opposite, but in opposition to a walk of faith. Is “sight” presented here as a negative characteristic?
The word translated as sight is used only 5 times in the NT. Luke 3:22 - The Holy Spirit descended on Christ in bodily form. Luke 9:29 - During the transfiguration as Christ was praying the appearance of his face was changed. John 5:37 - Christ talking about The Father states that His form you have never seen. 1 Th. 5:22 Paul uses this same word when he exhorts “Abstain from every appearance of evil. It’s use in 2 Cor. 5 then is not a negative quality, as if we are making decisions based only on what we can see, but simply contrasting our current physical life (in bodily form) with our future eternal life (by faith).
Look at verse 2: Paul says that we as believers are burdened and groan in our earthly bodies desiring to be clothed with our heavenly habitation. Verse 6 explains further that our bodily existence means we are absent from the Lord, an absence that can cause anxiety, separation and lack of fellowship.
Paul reminds us in verse 5 that God has given us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our heavenly, eternal relationship with God. But being in these earthly bodies means we are physically separated from our Lord so what confidence do we have that this spiritual relationship is real? Verse 7 interjects, that although we don’t relate to God in bodily form, by sight, it is just as real of a relationship because of belief, by faith. We do have a guarantee, a sure hope, a settled confidence of our spiritual relationship and eternal standing with Christ.
This assurance of God’s presence and care does still have application. Because the entirety of the Christian walk is founded on faith we must set our expectations accordingly. We must expect to always live dependent on God. That means we can’t live on past victories or acts of faith. Our tendency is to see the Lord provide after we hesitantly step out and immediately we pat ourselves on the back and secretly breath a sigh of relief that we hopefully won’t have to act in faith again for a long time!
The reality of our walk is not yet by sight which means that we must expect to encounter future decisions for which we won’t have the answers nor the level certainty that makes us comfortable. But rather than constantly being surprised and frustrated by this we must take Paul’s assurance and remind ourselves that although we don’t live in sight of Christ, we are blessed to be able to live by faith.