Saint Augustine wrote: “Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe.”
The question I ask myself is … what will help us to have active faith in a scriptural truth or promise if it refers to something that we cannot yet see?
One very important way is to use our imagination. It is striking that “to imagine” can also be expressed as “to conceive” (the original meaning is “to take in and hold”). So we could say that as we imagine something we are actually planting a seed-thought in our mind. Then we water and nurture it by continuing to think and meditate upon it, helping it to grow.
So what does this look like in practice?
Let’s take one of the most prominent scriptural truths in the New Testament: that if we place our trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the position of our life is “in Christ” and “with Christ”. There are over 160 verses testifying to this truth, Colossians 3:3 being just one of them: “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God”.
The Bible makes it so clear that the life of a believer is firmly ensconced in Christ, irrespective of our feelings or what may be happening in our lives. It is a bedrock truth on which we can always depend; we can rely on Christ, moment by moment, to live His life through us. In fact, we absolutely need to, because Jesus has said “apart from Me [that is, cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing” (John 15:5b, Amplified Bible).
The question remains – how do we imagine such an awesome, and invisible, position?!
Well, Jesus Himself gave us a vivid metaphor to help us to imagine, or visualise, our relationship with Him. He said: “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5a). So as we ponder this image, we can reflect on the fact that the vine delivers to the branches – and to every single distant leaf and bud – everything needful for them to flourish.
Through this metaphor, we can also visualise the divine sap (the Blood of Jesus) coursing through the arteries, veins and capillaries of our own bodies. We can imagine His own DNA operating perfectly in every one of our cells; and we can know that there is never a time when He (the vine) will drop us or lop us off. No, the branches are precious indeed to the vine. The vine needs branches to bear fruit that will last. It is worth noting that we are called to bear fruit, not to produce it! The fruit grows and matures through us as we stay united with Jesus the vine.
Another metaphor I find very effective is to think of each of us as a cell in Christ’s Body. There is no specific scripture to support this, but we are “in Christ” – as we saw above – and are called “the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor. 12:12-27), so I believe that the metaphor is valid and helpful.
As a cell in Christ’s Body, I am constantly receiving all that a cell would need in terms of nutrition, conditions, defences and protection. As a dependent cell, I cannot go anywhere without the body. I am always united with Christ, our Head, and always united with every other cell or member in His body. He leads and directs us to live and to work together in harmony and with purpose.