Believe and see is universal, a principle of living by faith for every believer. In practical terms, it means putting the glory of God first and desiring to see it revealed in every situation. Kingdom faith is fixed on Jesus, not the circumstances, and on the truth that those who believe will see His glory.
Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40)
How difficult it must have been for Mary and Martha to reconcile themselves to what seemed inconceivable. The death of their beloved brother, whom Jesus also loved, must have been devastating. Their certainty that Jesus could have saved him was a bitter cup, especially since they would surely have heard that He received word in time but then still ‘tarried’ before making the journey. They would undoubtedly have questioned everything they had thought and believed up until that point. In their overwhelming and very understandable grief and confusion, they challenge Jesus who then responds with this verse. Like Mary and Martha, the raising of Lazarus confronts us on a very basic but intense level – our faith. It’s an eternal challenge to believe and see rather than see and believe. As close to Him as the siblings were, they had yet to learn the reality of faith despite the circumstances.
Believe and see is the foundation of kingdom faith.
In our busy lives with all their problems and distractions, we have to continually remind ourselves that we’re citizens of heaven. We live, first and foremost, in the kingdom of God where things do not work according to natural laws or expectations. To do this, we are required to live by faith, that seemingly crazy something that says what is real is not real at all. Kingdom faith requires that we look beyond to circumstances to the absolute glory and power of God. The world teaches us that to see is to believe. We must have the physical, tangible evidence before we believe. In the kingdom, however, this is reversed. To see, we must first believe. We must accept that the real problem exists but believe that in the supernatural, it does not because God has already dealt with it. It’s a stretch, even on a good day.
When the proverbial hits the fan and we’re backed up against a wall, believe and see can seem like an impossible demand. These are the Mary and Martha times when the natural overwhelms us and seems to steal the little faith we had. How often have we challenged Jesus, asking where He was when we needed Him most? It’s a very human response and one we can all identify with. We could realistically expect Jesus, who truly loved this little family, to have offered eloquent comfort or words of love. But He responds with a challenge of His own, one which looks beyond the death of Lazarus to the real issue – the glory of God. The injunction to believe and see goes far beyond our immediate situation, no matter how devastating it may be. It’s about kingdom faith, and that is about the kingdom and the glory of God.
Believe and see is universal.
Mary and Martha had their eyes fixed on their personal loss and grief. They lost sight of the reality that Jesus always has a particular purpose in any situation. He also lived entirely and completely to do the work of God. Even the death of His friend would have had a bigger purpose, but like all of us, they couldn’t see past the immediate hurt and loss. Christ’s simple prayer hereafter reveals the bigger perspective very clearly. All He does is thank the Father that He has heard Him and always hears Him. What this reveals is that Jesus may have been absent in the flesh, but He was already at work in the situation. Even before He set out, He had already communed with the Father and knew exactly what had to be done. He would not have deliberately tarried if He wasn’t certain of God’s will.
In this, Christ is our living example of believe and see. He had absolute faith that He could not be ‘too late’ for the purposes of God. He ‘saw’ in His spirit and believed Lazarus raised from the dead and the glory of God revealed. Not only that, He believed and thanked Him for it. That’s kingdom faith, the kind expected from every believer, even the simple Marys and Marthas like us. What’s important here is that this wasn’t an entirely private moment. The family were there along with the disciples, but others had gathered as well – no doubt to see how Jesus responded to His apparent ‘failure’ to save Lazarus. His actions and His reply leave no doubt that the lesson was for all present. To believe and see is universal. This is what it means to live by faith, no matter what life may throw at us.
The greater purpose of believe and see.
As it was in this situation, the glory of God is always at the heart of faith. Jesus did not say that if they believed they would see Lazarus return to life. He didn’t say that if they believed they would be comforted, or would understand the situation. What He said was that if they believed, they would see the glory of God. This is the greater purpose behind every single act of faith. We do not believe only for ourselves and the resolution of our own problems. We believe so that the glory of God can be revealed in and through our situation. This doesn’t mean that He doesn’t have compassion on us or love us and want to help us. He does and nothing will change that. But we are created to bring Him glory. To believe and see is to look for the glory of God revealed.
The lesson Jesus is teaching us all is that His glory must always be our first desire. As citizens of the kingdom, we are servants of the kingdom. Our lives and everything in them belong wholly to Him. Our commitment to Christ is to no longer live for ourselves but for His glory – our original purpose lost in the fall. Kingdom faith is putting the glory of God first in any and every situation. This is believing. It’s having the faith that His glory and power are greater than the problem and will work all things to our good, no matter how terrible they might be. When we believe, we commit ourselves to this higher purpose. His promise is that we will see His glory revealed. He will bring all His power to bear on the situation and resolve it in a way that glorifies Him and establishes His kingdom.
The practical outworking of believe and see.
This sounds terribly spiritual, doesn’t it? Yet Mary and Martha are a case in point. They knew Jesus intimately. He stayed with them, ate with them, taught them, and loved them, but in crisis their doubts and questions rose up to defeat them. This was because they saw Him largely as Son of Man, not Son of God. They had no knowledge of the cross or the great victory over sin, self, sickness, and death. We may not have the advantage of face-to-face intimacy, but we have the truth of the cross. We know He is the risen, resurrected, glorified Son of God with authority over all. This is the very practical starting point of kingdom faith. If we believe this, we can believe that all things will work to our good. If we seek His glory despite our suffering, we can be sure we will see His glory.
The difficulty lies in what we believe. Most of us conjure up our own expectations of how we think He should intervene and then proceed to believe those. We may hold fast to the general meaning of believe and see His glory, but the actual what we believe on a definitive level may not be God’s purpose for His glory. It’s one thing believing He is Lord of All and has authority over all. This is a real truth but a general one. When it comes down to believing for specifics, believe and see requires us to believe according to His will and purpose. This means that to believe and see in real and practical ways, we must seek Him first. He has graciously said He will reveal His will to His servants. We must first, however, humble ourselves and accept that His will may not match our expectation.
Believe and see begins in small things.
It seems contrary and almost blasphemous to say that the glory of God is revealed in little ways. But God’s wisdom is perfect. We’re all ‘under construction’ and could not handle the revelation of His full glory. The Bible reminds us of this when it talks of being transformed ‘from glory to glory’ and ever-increasing glory. Like anything else we undertake in life, to believe and see requires us to start small. Those who are faithful with little will receive bigger and better. Few of us can step out in faith for the truly impossible first off. Kingdom faith is established and built in us through the small moments of believing. When we see His glory through our small act of faith, we begin to believe bigger and see bigger. We are to live by faith, which means always and in everything, large or little.
Thank You, Jesus, for reminding us that our lives are to be lived for Your glory and for the promise that if we believe, we will see it manifest in every situation. Give us the courage and faith to seek Your glory first in all things. Teach us daily through our small moments of faith to live and to serve You as You desire. Help to remember that our expectations are not always Your purpose, and to hold fast in faith to the truth that Your ways are perfect and Your glory beyond question.