One of my favorite Bible verses is Hebrews 11:1 –

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

The phrase “things not seen” is oddly comforting to me. We believe in something that isn’t right in front of our face. We believe in something too big to hold, too big to put in one place.

God commanded the stars into place and He holds up the Universe. Would we want to relegate God to what we can see or feel?

If we thought about it for a moment, I don’t think we would. Believing in what we can touch and feel is our default zone though. We are doubtful of things unseen, stories that don’t leave a trail of proof. It feels too much like rumors, distrustful, lacking evidence.

The Galatian believers had the same problem. They had fallen in love with the one true God, a God that not only offered righteousness, but worked justice through grace and mercy. Why were they suddenly so easily deceived by a message of law, of must’s?

Read Galatians 3:1-6 and I think you’ll find some answers about the Galatians, but also about our belief and unbelief conundrum as well:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

Works of the law, as Paul calls them – acts we can do, rituals we can perform, sacrifices we can touch – have a certain seduction, a bewitching:

It’s just easier.

And so often in life we just want something, anything to be easier.

While “do more,” “follow through,” “act this way,” sound harder, in reality they’re the default, the don’t-have-to-think-about-it choice. At our core, our sinful selves want an easier way that’s touchable, seeable, and absolutely tangible.

Paul gives a double-edged argument to the Galatians. He refutes the idea that God is in this tangible law of flesh while presenting the Gospel reality that God, while outside of what we can see, gave Himself as One who can be seen, who can be touched, who can be felt.

“It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ…”
“Did you receive the Sprit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?”

Christ came as man into this world, a touchable Savior.

Christ performed miracles in the lives of those in the New Testament, and in our own lives, works that we can see.

Christ suffered and died on the cross and was laid in a tomb, as part of a written-in-ink, held-in-someone’s-hands, historic record.

Christ left His living and active Word, so that we can hold it, eat its hope, and breathe in its sweet life-giving breath –

tangible.

We haven’t even touched on the water that brings the Spirit alive in our hearts, flowing over our heads, the bread and wine that sustain our souls, or the people that hug us on any given day as part of His living tangible Body.

God in His grace is unseen -too big for our eyes and ears and hearts.

Paul’s point to the Galatians is the same as ours, “Why would you want it any other way?”

God in His grace is seen – giving us eyes to see His glory and ears to hear His mercy, firsthand.

Let us throw off the default, let it drown in our Baptism each day.

Read Galatians 3:2-6 again below, and answer Paul’s questions for yourself:

Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? When, where, and what stories and passages in the Scripture have had an impact on your faith walk?

 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? When has your flesh proved useless in this life, unable to do what you needed it to do and you needed to absolutely rely on God’s strength?

Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? When have you suffered in this life? How did or has God worked His grace in the midst of the struggle?

Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? What miracles, big or tiny, has God worked in your life? What passages of Scripture have you had the Spirit bring alive for you at a particular time?

God is at work, in the seen and the unseen. He’s not too big or too small for our restless, easily deceived hearts. He is so very faithful.

In our foolishness, He does some of His best work.

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Discussion questions:

Choose one or more of the questions below to ponder on a journal page or as a group…

When, where, and what stories and passages in the Scripture have had an impact on your faith walk?

When has your flesh proved useless in this life, unable to do what you needed it to do and you needed to absolutely rely on God’s strength?

When have you suffered in this life? How did or has God worked His grace in the midst of the struggle?

What miracles, big or tiny, has God worked in your life? What passages of Scripture have you had the Spirit bring alive for you at a particular time?

6 thoughts on “”

  1. The Scripture that impacted my faith walk is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It was a turning point for me to realize that I can rejoice and be thankful IN ALL circumstances. I was a few years ago when I read Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts” that this passage became clear to me. Perspective is a big part of it, a loosening of worries that bind and adopting the choice to give it to Jesus and focus on His promises; to remember all He has done and hope for tomorrow. And also the “pray continually” part – to realize that prayer isn’t reserved for one day a week, or one time a day. That I can have these little conversations and pick up where I left off in prayer throughout my day. Thanks for the study today!!

  2. Over and over again, I find that I am unable to do any good thing on my own, no matter how much I muster my strength and roll up my sleeves to “try hard.” Rather, praying that He would fill me with his fruit of the Spirit, I then find I can finally be patient with my children, kind to my husband, and show some self control.

  3. This week I am going to make an effort to be aware of the unseen blessings in my life. Just in thinking about it for a few minutes knowing I am loved by others because I know it in my heart, without them doing anything for me is wonderful; and knowing God is in every aspect of my life, seen or unseen, is such a comfort when I am having an “off” day.

  4. When have you suffered in this life? How did or has God worked His grace in the midst of the struggle?
    7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,[a] a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

    2016 was filled with both physical and mental pain…..and I remember these verse. Not sure if it the correct context but this is what helped me. I received a lot of help which must people don’t like it makes them feel that they are NOT independent. But God gives us community or a connection with others to point us back to him, HIS GRACE, and his Word too. I would never want to repeat the struggles in physical and emotions but seeing God’s grace is priceless and I hope I will never forget it!

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