A little boy was once asked by his Sunday School teacher what he thought the meaning of faith was. The little boy stopped for a while and thought to himself. Then finally, with an air of resolution, the little boy declared, “Faith is believing in something even when you know it’s not true”.
Sound familiar? I wonder how many of us have thought of our relationship to God in this way? How many of us have been confronted with our own doubts on whether God really exists or not? In our quietest moments, do we ever think of the futility of it all? Why read the Bible when it often seems so dry to me? Why pray when my prayers seem to just bounce off the ceiling and fall flat on the cold floor of reality? Is God really there?
I’ve been there and I dare say that all of us have. To be honest with you, I’m still there. It crops up once in a while. Sometimes, my faith soars on the wings of an eagle. At other times, it’s eating dirt along with the worms. So how can we find this God? Is He really out there?
I somehow think that the search for the invisible God has become a search for something abstract. In our search for God, we ask questions like “If God is so good, how can there be evil in the world”, or “If God is love, why is it then that my child was stillborn? If God is … <Insert God-like characteristic>, then why …<Insert your own grievance>?”. You get what I mean.
We begin our search with God by defining Him in terms of abstraction – love, goodness, holiness, and the like. However, the Bible introduces the search for God as a search for a personal Being. Perhaps, that’s where our search should begin. We begin with the personal being of God. God as a person. God… who is a person.
“[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation”
Colossians 1:15, NKJV
God has been revealed to us in the person of Jesus. God stepping out of His sphere of existence, to hang out with the downtrodden, the needy and the sick (if you missed that, that’s all of us). The big word for this is ‘Incarnation’. What it really means is, God has reached for us at our level. What it means for us is that we can seek God out at our level.
So what has all of this got to do with our search for a God whom we cannot see?
If God is a person, then I must deal with Him as a person. We know what it is like to be personal beings. Despite whatever exteriors we put on, there are things that all of us share. We share in our experiences of emotion, intellect and mind.
Now God has sought us out as a person. This person’s name is Jesus. What God has done is He’s made the abstract practical. Here now is a face to a name. Jesus, the image of the Invisible God. You want to know God, then know Jesus. You want to love God, then love Jesus.
Maybe that’s why Jesus asks us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” Mark 12:30. In order to love God, we cannot just sit back and hum or chant waiting for divine revelation to zap us from the heavens. God has made the abstract practical. He has asked us to do the same. Love. Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength. Maybe that’s the key.
Reaching out for another person involves ‘practical abstractions’. You say you love someone? Well, an occasional card or flowers would be nice. You say you respect or admire someone, then maybe a kind word from you would brighten up their day. We could even turn that around. That person says they love me? Well, some practical gesture would be nice.
You say you want to know and love God? Then maybe practical things that involve our heart, our mind, our soul and our strength would be the way to go.
Let’s make it more practical… For me, loving God with my heart involves my emotions. Love isn’t only mushy and squishy… but it is still mushy and squishy. When I sing worship songs, I try to sing them to God as I would to my loved ones. Admittedly, I do get a little mushy and squishy about it too. I love God with my mind… I will try not to put things in my mind that I know will disappoint Him, but I will also positively nurture my mind – taking it to the furthest it can go. Instead of devising how I’m going to climb the ladder of status and success by walking over dead bodies, I am going to try to devise ways in which my colleagues will feel better about their jobs because I am around (Christianese for this would be ‘Being a blessing to those around me’). I love God with my strength, therefore, I will put my time and energies into things that please God. Perhaps, I consider singing for charity or visiting needy homes to help them in whatever I can do.
You don’t get to know a person by having lengthy debates about their nature. You don’t fall in love by sitting next to someone and hoping for the almighty zap. You get to know a person when you spend time with that person, do things with that person, share things with that person. In doing these things, I believe God will be made known to us. The invisible God will cross over from being abstract to being practical… real. Maybe this is what it all hangs on.
For further exercise:
What are some of the ways in which you can love God with you heart, soul, mind and strength?
I preached this sermon with the title adapted from Philip Yancey’s book ‘Searching for the Invisible God’. Copyright © Wong Giok Leigh, 16 December 2001. All rights reserved.