Believing without Seeing—Our Greatest Challenge

Believing without Seeing—Our Greatest Challenge

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Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”  John 20:29  Friday of the 2nd Week of Pascha 

 

Good morning Prayer Team!

Christ is Risen!

I’ve never been to China, but I know people who have been there.  I’ve never flown in outer space, but I have had the opportunity to meet someone who has.

There are a lot of things I’ve never seen and places that I’ve never been.  Do I ever doubt there is a China?  Do I ever doubt that the world isn’t really round?  I’ve never seen either with my own eyes.  However, there is so much evidence from people who have done these things that they must be true.  And even though I haven’t personally experienced them, I accept them as truth.  I believe, even though I have not seen them.

Believing without seeing is what faith is all about.  When I got married, I didn’t have a crystal ball to tell me the future.  When we had a child, we didn’t have a crystal ball either.  Did we believe we could be successfully married?  Or successfully have a child?  We did, or we wouldn’t have done either.  Will we ultimately be successful?  Do I know that?  No, I don’t.  But I have faith in God, faith in the person I am married to, and faith in myself that what I can’t see are still things I can put my faith and my confidence in.

The most worthwhile things in the life require faith.  If one knows all the variables and never “risks” anything, then there is no real reward in life.  If no one takes a chance on anything, there is no success.  Perhaps there isn’t as much failure or pain, but for sure there is no success, and no success IS failure and is painful.

There are many things in life that we take on “faith.”  There is a difference between “knowing” and “believing.”  “Knowing” is based on scientific or exhaustive knowledge.  “Believing” is taking something on faith, with partial or sometimes virtually no knowledge.  Did you “know” that you went to the right college when you started college?  Unless you checked out every college in the world, the answer would have been “no.”  When I was checking out colleges, I checked out three of them and then picked the one I went to “believing” it was the right choice.  Do I know it was the right choice? I think so, because I had a good college experience.  But, perhaps I might have chosen differently and still had a good experience.  So, I “believe” I made the right choice.

When a person gets married, do they marry based on knowledge or faith?  The answer is both—people have some knowledge of the person they are marrying.  But no one has dated everyone in the world, or even many people, so the decision to marry someone is based in large part on faith.

The choice to follow the Lord is based on both knowledge and faith.  It is not based solely on faith.  Everyone has some knowledge of the Lord.  And that might come through reading the scriptures, through the experience of worship or prayer, through life experiences where God is present, and even through the experiences of others.  But we don’t follow the Lord based on knowledge alone.  There are many aspects to Christianity where one has to have faith and that faith has to be a personal faith—remember the parable of the Maidens?  We can talk to one another about the faith, but a person’s faith can’t be divided into parts and shared.  Faith is something that has to be personal to each individual.  I’ve never been to heaven, but I believe there is a heaven.  I believe that there will be a judgment before Christ when I die.  I believe that He will be merciful but also judging.  How much of each, I don’t know.  What I do know is that He has blessed me with some talents that He expects me to use and I will do my best to use them.  I know that God is “glorious” because I’ve seen His glory in ways large and small throughout my life.  I ask God, to “show me His glory in ways large and small” and then I keep my eyes open so that this prayer can be answered.

The other thing about faith is that it is a continuous action, not a destination or accomplishment.  Going back to the example of marriage, I was married at a finite moment in time, I am married now and hopefully I will still be married many years from now.  I took the first step of marriage at a finite moment in time.  But marriage is something that I have to work on every day.  It’s the same thing with faith.  We take our first steps of faith in a finite moment in time.  There was a finite moment of time when you realized that you believed “something” about God.  Each day, then, there should be work to build on that faith through acquiring knowledge and experience.  Thus, even what you can’t see, you still have confidence in because your faith is not a “blind faith” where you know nothing, but a knowledgeable faith, where you know something and crave to know more.

“O Thomas, according to your wish, handle Me,” said Christ to him.  “Put out your hand, and be cognizant that I have flesh and bones, and an earthen body.  Be not one who disbelieves.  But rather with the others be confident.” And he in turn cried out, “You, O Jesus, are my Lord and God, and my Savior.  Glory to Your resurrection.”  (From the Praises of Thomas Sunday, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)

Blessed are those who have “seen” and want to see more!

 

+Fr. Stavros

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Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0