During the last school year, I huddled each Wednesday night with a group of fourth-grade girls from church. Our task was to discuss questions about a Scripture text, which the teacher would later unpack with the whole class. This particular evening we were in Luke 9.
[Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23–24)
“Girls, what in this passage causes you to worship or praise God?”
Surely, I thought, Peter’s confession of Christ would be the high point.
A hand shot up. But the child’s answer did not include Peter.
“When we take up our cross, we are like Jesus,” said the girl, wide-eyed. “We are on God’s team with him.”
Her simple, faith-filled answer stunned me. I had nearly missed this jewel in Luke 9: Identifying with Christ in his suffering should cause us to worship, because through such identification we join our Savior “on God’s team.”
Unseen and Unsaid
And what a host of fellow team members we have — many of them now past the finish line! They have modeled this very thing for us, to make us wise to salvation through faith in the “now-seen” revelation of Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15–17). Their stories in the pages of Scripture ought to cause our hearts to worship, for through their affliction, heartache, unanswered questions, ceaseless petitions, injustice, seemingly broken dreams — and even through their shame and poor choices — they kept the faith as they held onto God’s promises.
Scriptural narratives and the third-person snapshots in Hebrews 11leave much not only unseen, but unsaid. What could have been written about life-transforming conversations, disputes, thoughts, lessons, observations, and other life experiences of the saints who came before us — about the things that shaped them, their progeny, and those in their sphere of influence?
Jon Bloom takes up such musings in Things Not Seen: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Trusting God’s Promises. His collection of 35 reflections and imagined conversations, based on Scripture, encourage us, in our own circumstances, to treasure the not-yet-seen of our ultimate eternal reward.
- Extended dialogue between Reuben and his father, Jacob, after Reuben’s grace-filled encounter with his faith-filled brother Joseph in Egypt
- John the Baptist’s discussion with his potentially downcast disciples about role changes and “decreasing” at the appearance of Christ
- Wisdom from the latter years of the woman Jesus met at the well
- Easily imagined objections from Moses about his calling to lead a people — and God’s over-rulings
- Thoughts on Mark (and Demas) regarding failure and turnaround
- Expanded conversation between Abram and Sarah in their tent upon learning God’s promise to give them a son
- Isaac’s bedtime words to his young children, Jacob and Esau, about “when he was a boy” and why their grandfather almost made him a sacrifice
- Jonathan’s shining example of faith and “yielding,” through the lens of a discussion between David and his brother Abinadab
- Reflections on Samson’s “faithless faith” by two of his brothers as they go to collect his body in Gaza
- Words Abel might be speaking to us from the grave about God-pleasing faith
- Encouragement from Gideon to his bewildered servant on “the impossible”
- Reminiscences of a former solider to his son about the strong and courageous faith of Joshua
- A view of the scene at Mary’s home with Jesus — one of the most worshipful, faith-filled moments in Scripture
And these are just a sampling of ways that saints of old call to us from the sidelines: “Don’t give up!”
The Unseen for Those We Love
When we respond in faith to our own “unseen” — sickness and pain, the death of someone we love, dreams that collapse, situations where we are brought low or are maligned — others are watching.
As God spoke to saints of old, and as Jesus related to sinners in ways tailored to their personal experiences and unique understandings, so the Spirit speaks and moves through his children now. Our experiences and circumstances not only form the invisible fibers of our being, give feet to our faith, and conform us to the image of Christ; they equip us in as many different ways to be a means of grace for others as we point to our true and better home.
Like the characters of Things Not Seen, we too are living stones with faith stories that are in process. Though oftentimes rejected like our Savior, we are being built up as God’s people, his team of promise-receivers and promise-proclaimers, who will one day, at last, join the great cloud of witnesses for our ultimate reward — and truly see.