Faith is seldom developed in comfortable surroundings. As long as we maintain the familiar, predictable routines of life and ministry, we only maintain our faith. But when we choose to step outside our comfort zone—in obedience to the call of God—God increases our faith. And the further out we step, the more He increases it.
I have observed that some of the most faith-building times in my life have been when I’ve taken that step off the cliff of my comfort zone and watched as God works in ways I couldn’t have—in ways I couldn’t have even dreamed.
One of my favorite quotes is Dr. Tom Malone’s statement, “When God is going to do something wonderful, He starts with the difficult; when God is going to do something miraculous, He starts with the impossible.”
It’s true. Look at the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11. In this single chapter we read story after story of men and women who faced the impossible, believed the incredible, and saw God perform the miraculous.
Hebrews 11:2 introduces this “hall of faith” with the statement, “For by it [faith] the elders obtained a good report.” The Old Testament saints obtained a good report not because they had supernatural abilities, but because they were men and women of faith. Faith defined their relationship with God.
By faith Enoch saw Heaven, Noah saw an ark, Abraham saw a heavenly city, and Joshua saw the Promised Land. And by faith, they obeyed God, following Him to the fulfillment of their God-given impossibilities.
The result? Their faith became sight. They believed God against all odds, and God used them to see great works accomplished.
When I read the accounts of these faith-filled men and women of the Bible—people whose faith wasn’t just something they checked off a list of growing virtues in their lives, but something that actually made a God-glorifying difference through their lives—I am inspired likewise to exercise faith. I want to, like them, obtain “a good report” (Hebrews 11:2). I desire that my God-pleasing faith will become sight. How is that done? What is the process by which faith becomes sight?
It’s less complicated than we might be inclined to believe. In fact, it’s simply a matter of hearing God’s promise, obeying God’s Word, and watching God work.
But sometimes we need to see examples, and God has provided many for us. Let’s look into the lives of three faith-filled men who saw God do the impossible. And as we look at each, let’s answer the question, “When does faith become sight?”
1. When We Believe Like Moses
Talk about an impossible situation! Moses was tasked with leading hundreds of thousands of uncooperative people across the desert (conservative Bible scholars estimate the number at two million). And if that weren’t enough, he was instructed to lead this group to build the tabernacle—a project that in today’s currency would run between ten and fifteen million dollars.
It was at Mount Sinai that God revealed to Moses the detailed instructions for building this centerpiece of Israel’s worship. I picture Moses listening to God’s instructions in awe (this truly would be a magnificent tabernacle) and then gulping in disbelief when he realized he—Moses—had to go ask them—these laid-off brick workers—to give to build the tabernacle!
And yet, Exodus 35:5 records Moses gathering the people together to reveal God’s message: “Take ye from among you an offering unto the Lord: whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the Lord….”
It’s not always easy to declare God’s message. It requires faith. Moses received God’s Word, revealed God’s message, and let the people respond to God’s command.
Although we face impossible situations, God never commands us to do what we cannot do. Such was the case for the Israelites. They were in the middle of the wilderness, yes. They had no means for their food and water outside God’s miraculous provision, yes. But God had already placed in their hands what would be needed for this project.
As the Israelites left Egypt, they “spoiled” the Egyptians as God allowed them to receive four hundred years worth of back wages they had been withheld. Exodus 12:36 records: “And the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians.”
When God directs His people to do something, He also makes a way to do it. But that way is seldom seen until we step out in faith. Moses believed God enough to deliver His message, and the people believed God enough to give in response to it.
And respond they did! Exodus 35:21 tells us “…they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the Lord’s offering to the work of the tabernacle….” The people were receptive to the Lord’s request, and they gave by faith.
The very willingness of their gifts revealed their hearts for God. Indeed, God is concerned with the heart because “…where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). As a pastor, I have observed that the happiest people on earth are the people who have discovered the joy of giving. God is still looking for people who have hearts that can be stirred from seeing the work of God go forward.
We can learn from Moses by centering our lives on the promises of God and being willing to declare the Word of God. It was by faith that Moses oversaw the construction of the tabernacle in the wilderness.
Who would have dreamed that two million people with no home, no sustenance, and no economic security could or would erect a ten million dollar centerpiece of worship? Moses’ faith to declare God’s Word opened the opportunity for the Israelites to respond to God’s Word. Faith became sight in the completed tabernacle.
2. When We Prepare Like David
The tabernacle that Moses constructed was magnificent indeed, but it wasn’t a permanent structure. In fact, it was a portable tent. This portability was needed during the time of Moses as Israel was journeying through the wilderness; but to King David, leaving the furniture for the worship of God in a tent seemed disrespectful. In 1 Chronicles 17:1 he explained the burden of his heart to the prophet Nathan: “Lo, I dwell in an house of cedars, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord remaineth under curtains.” It disturbed David that his house was a palace, and the house of God was just a tent.
Nathan caught David’s vision and encouraged him to build. But later that night, God revealed to Nathan that David should not build the temple, but that his son, Solomon, would build it.
Upon receiving this news from Nathan, David made a choice: he would by faith prepare building materials for Solomon. First Chronicles 29:1–5 details his elaborate and expensive preparations of gold, silver, brass, iron, and precious stones.
Knowing that he would not be the one to actually construct the temple and that it wouldn’t even be completed in his lifetime, David could have sat back and waited for Solomon to do the work. But David’s faith compelled him to prepare in a way that gave honor to God. He told the congregation, “For the palace is not for man, but for the Lord God.” David’s faith called him to the involvement of personal preparations.
How many Christians are willing to have great “faith” that God’s work will be accomplished, but they are not willing to roll up their sleeves and become personally involved? The faith that becomes sight isn’t abstract; it’s applied. It’s not theory; it’s labor.
David’s preparations were zealous (“I have prepared with all my might”), affectionate (“I have set my affection to”), and sacrificial (“I have given to the house of my God, over and above”). These are the preparations of God-honoring faith.
Consider the vision God has placed on your heart. Are you engaging your faith with these types of actions?
Zealous Preparations—Are you pouring your strength and ability into what God has given you the opportunity to do? Colossians 3:23 admonishes, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul described the zealous giving of the Macedonian Christians: “For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:3–5). The Macedonians, though they were in a great trial of affliction and in deep poverty, still expressed passionate faith through passionate action.
The world considers zeal toward God a waste. But missionary Jim Elliot, who died as a martyr in South America, had a better perspective: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Affectionate Preparations—You do not have to be around a person very long to know where their affections lie. People who love sports talk about their team. People who love technology discuss the latest gadgets. What has our affections generally has our tongues.
For David, God captivated his affections. As a king, he enjoyed luxury and comfort, but his real affection was set on the temple of God. He was consumed with the desire to see this temple adequately prepared and completed.
Colossians 3:2 instructs Christians, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” When our affections are thus set, we will have no choice but to personally engage in faithfilled action.
Sacrificial Preparations—The natural outflow of whole-hearted preparations will be sacrifice. We never mind sacrificing for that which we love. In fact, as we saw in the example of the Macedonian Christians, we desire to sacrifice for that which captivates our hearts.
What is the result of the personal investments of faith? In David’s case, the result was others following his faith with their own zealous, affectionate, sacrificial giving: “Then the chief of the fathers and princes of the tribes of Israel, and the captains of thousands and of hundreds, with the rulers of the king’s work, offered willingly” (1 Chronicles 29:6). Faith became sight as Solomon used these materials to construct the temple.
When does faith become sight? It is when our faith is passionate enough that we become personally involved in preparing for the work of God.
3. When We Build Like Nehemiah
Without a doubt, Nehemiah is one of the greatest leaders of history. Scripture records that he was a high official—the king’s cupbearer—in the Persian court of King Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 1:11).
Nehemiah heard of the distressing state of affairs in Judah, including the wall of Jerusalem lying in waste. After obtaining permission to return to his homeland and rebuild the walls, he made a survey trip of the city to see the damage firsthand.
For Nehemiah, the sights of the burnt, charred rubbish of the city walls stirred his faith. But how would that faith become sight? By building. By seeing the need and taking the lead.
The book of Nehemiah takes time to spell out this survey expedition because it reveals the deep compassion of Nehemiah’s heart. His faith to build wasn’t a frenzied, disorganized rush to completion. It was methodical and deliberate, and it was compelled by compassion.
Nehemiah was an exceptional leader who had many godly attributes, but at his core, he was a man who loved God and loved people. He cared about the needs of others, and he did something about it. If we care deeply, we, too, will pray fervently, give sacrificially, and act decisively.
Someone once said, “Compassion is feeling your hurt in my heart.” This is the kind of leadership that makes a lasting difference because this is the kind of leadership that communicates the heart of God.
Has God put a burden in your heart to build something that has been broken down? Is there a ministry or a need in your city for which you feel burdened? Do you weep over lost souls or grieve for those bound by sin? When we allow God to break our hearts for the things that break His, we too will be stirred to follow God’s leadership by faith.
By the time Nehemiah declared his intentions to organize the rebuilding of the wall, he had spent significant time alone with God. His motives were pure, his calling was certain, and his faith was fixed on God. It was this kind of faith-filled leadership that God used to challenge a sluggish nation into action. Nehemiah 2:18 records, “Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.”
And so, Nehemiah coordinated the efforts of a willing team. The dream that God had planted in his heart back in the court of Artaxerxes became a reality through faith.
Were there obstacles to Nehemiah’s faith? You bet! In fact the obstacles were so significant that the book of Nehemiah is the go-to passage in the Old Testament for learning how to overcome obstacles. Nehemiah faced both criticism and threats. Among those he led, he dealt with compromise, fear, and discouragement. But through it all, he persisted in faith and kept building.
When God calls you to accomplish a task, He does not promise it will be easy. In fact, it is often just the opposite. You can expect resistance and criticism as you endeavor to follow God’s will. Sometimes resistance will come from the people closest to us. Sometimes it will come from people we don’t even know. In any case, we must keep in mind that our battle is not of this world. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Nehemiah saw the potential and experienced the opposition. But he chose to build on the faith God had given him. And in a miraculous work of God, the people completed the walls and the city gates in just fifty-two days. That is faith turned into sight.
Do you see the pattern? God lays a need on a leader’s heart, giving him a vision for what could be accomplished for the glory of God. That leader, in obedience to the Word of God, steps out in passionate faith with personal involvement and calls others to follow. And then God intervenes and accomplishes the miraculous.
Faith never becomes sight in our comfort zones. It never becomes sight in our wishful thinking. It becomes sight through prayer, belief, preparation, and action.
Faith becomes sight when we believe like Moses and take God at His Word. It becomes sight when we prepare like David and set our affection on things above. It becomes sight when we build like Nehemiah with compassion and determination.
How about you? What vision has God placed on your heart that seems impossible? How is He stirring you to make a difference for Him? What is He calling you to build for His glory? The place of insufficiency and impossibility is a good place to be. You stand in good company. Every single person in Scripture who saw God do the miraculous had to first face the impossible.
But they also had to step out in faith in obedience to God. For it is faith that pleases God, and it is faith that God rewards. I challenge you, if you’ve heard the clear direction of God, step out in faith and watch your faith become sight.