Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
To avoid being branded cliché and predictable, let me just say that I actually don’t mind visiting my dentist’s office (stay with me here). Everyone on the staff is fun and great at what they do. My dental hygienist wears cool, trendy glasses and sings along to the top 40s Sirius radio channel playing in the background while she chisels the plaque off my teeth. She also gives me my choice of flavors for the teeth-cleaning polish (citrus mint – always citrus mint). Even though I’m sure she’s thinking, “Do you ever floss?” she never gags or makes a face.
Plus, everything is so Star Trek-y now. When it comes time for x-rays, instead of sticking that Volkswagen-sized chunk of photographic film in my mouth like when I was a kid, I just stand amidst this stainless steel contraption with my chin resting on this – well, chin rest – and the x-ray emitter orbits my head like the moon, capturing a full 360° x-ray view of my mouth.
And now, there is no wait while film is developed – by the time I’m back in her chair, she’s got larger than life x-ray images of my teeth displayed on her computer monitor. Although, to me, my dental x-rays just look like a row of corn kernels in various shades of gray, obviously they hold much deeper meaning to my hygienist and my dentist. They huddle around the monitor and engage in a hushed, earnest discussion about the state of my teeth, thankfully using technical language I don’t understand like, “Hmm… looks like a splendiferous hyundai in that pekingese maxima kia lateral molehill.” (translation: “Does he ever floss?”)
The x-ray – physics own little tattletale.
So – in the category “19th Century Discoveries,” here’s the question: How was physics professor Wilhelm Röntgen, discoverer of x-rays, made aware that this invisible radiation existed? (Ooh, ooh – I know, I know!) While performing an electrical experiment, he noticed that a chemically coated screen sitting nearby began to glow unexplainably. No slacker he, Professor Röntgen realized he had stumbled on a new phenomenon – not because he could see what was causing the screen to glow, but because the glowing screen itself served as evidence of a force he could not see. (We know now, of course, that his electrical experiment was emitting x-rays which reacted with the chemicals on the nearby screen.)
As a result, I’m sitting in the dentist chair 118 years later looking at undeniable evidence that my paltry efforts toward the care and keeping of my corn kernels are just that – paltry – while my dentist is totaling up all the dental work he will soon be doing on my behalf and planning his next cruise to the Mediterranean. (cha-ching!)
Now here’s a little extra credit question: Since I am certain x-rays I can’t see exist because of their effects on something I can see, can I take that same logic and apply it to my spiritual life?
You betcha. Just like Prof. Röntgen I also have a glowing screen: me.
Even though neither I nor my two friends who led me to the Lord that morning in June 2010 could see anything physical happening to me – angels didn’t circle my head playing harps and the sun’s rays didn’t break through the clouds illuminating my visage with a beatific glow – it wasn’t long before there were noticeable, visible changes in me and how I conducted my life:
- That same day I drove home and immediately began ridding my cabinets, computer, and bookshelves of all the props I depended on to feed my sin habits: liquor, websites, books, magazines, DVDs. (That took a while…)
- I stopped talking like a potty-mouthed stand-up comedian.
- I began praying and studying my Bible diligently and regularly. (All the Bible verses here on “clay”? Memorized.)
- I started looking for ways to share what God had done – and was doing – in my life with others. (Like this blog, for example.)
- Right off the bat, I wanted to tell people what had happened: my family, my Facebook friends (Christian crowd: crazy happy; pagan pals: puzzled), and people at my church. (Yep – even though I was lost as a goose I was active in church in the worship ministry, I tithed, and had even joined a Sunday School class.) If I could have found a mountain top in Florida, I would have climbed it and shouted the good news from it.
In other words, my screen began to glow.
Now, maybe you’re looking at Hebrews 11:1…
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
…and thinking, “If you’re basing your proof of an invisible God at work in your life on visible evidence, then doesn’t that nullify any need for faith?”
Not at all – it strengthens it, actually. Faith drove the pre- “shouting from the mountain top and pouring vodka down the sink” step I had to choose to make in the first place. That initial decision to trust in God’s gift of salvation through the perfect, saving blood of His son, Jesus Christ, took nothing short of a pure-dee-old leap of faith (assisted by the intervention of the Holy Spirit, of course).
After all, I had never seen God’s power at work through any sort of observable miracle, had never had an out-of-body glimpse into eternity, or had even felt a pang of conscience after any of my slogging treks through the muck and the mire of sin. I would have never made any of those glowing screen changes on my own; the life of sin I was immersed in had blinded me to any evidence of God.
Once I took that leap, though, God began validating my faith with the ongoing realities of His presence in my life I mentioned earlier. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
I love how the NIV translation puts that exclamation point at the end. And now that God has made me into a new creation, I see all sorts of exclamation points punctuating what’s going on around me. As a result, I know with absolute certainty that:
- He is real!
- He is at work!
- His promises are true!
- He has a plan for my life!
So here I sit, certain, without the least bit of doubt, sure enough to stake my very life on it, that I will spend eternity in a place that not even the most creative, imaginative minds on earth could dream up, in the presence of an even more unimaginable God, one that no number of exclamation points could punctuate – not because I can see Him but because I can see the results of his saving grace…
…me – my salvation’s own little tattletale…
…glowing screen and all.