What does it mean to walk by faith and not by sight? 2 Corinthians 5:6-7 states, “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight.”
Many use this Bible verse as a license to be a poor planner. Some feel it is a command to “claim” what you don’t have but to walk in faith to receive it. Still others hate the idea of walking by faith and simply hold onto those Bible verses which commend planning.
So what’s the balance here? What does it really mean to walk by faith?
“To Walk By Faith” Means You Live Your Life By Following Jesus
In the context of 2 Corinthians 5, to walk by faith means you live your life on earth in obedience to the God who is in heaven. To put the phrase “walk by faith, not by sight into a bigger context, let’s read 2 Corinthians 5:6-9:
6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
What is faith? “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is not opposed to evidence. It is only opposed to sight. When you see something your opportunity to have faith has passed you bye. We must walk by faith because we can’t see Jesus right now. In the next chapter of God’s story we will not walk by faith in this way because we will actually be with God in his manifest presence. So living by faith is ultimately about living in such a way where you are following and obeying the Lord even though you can’t see him right now.
Walking By Faith and Not By Sight Means You Consider Eternal Things and Not Just Earthly Things
We can make two mistakes here. We can say only earthly things matter or only heavenly things matter. God cares about both. It is a mistake to think that God is a cold-hearted person who doesn’t care about the details of your life right now. God does care. But it is also a mistake to think everything we see on this earth is all there really is. For example, 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 states:
17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Walking by faith does not mean we disregard the things we can see and plan. Rather, it means we do not let these types of things outweigh the things we can’t see and plan. In fact, we are supposed to keep our thoughts and minds on heavenly things partly so that we can live better lives while on earth. Colossians 3:2-6 explains:
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
Notice the “therefore” in Colossians 3:5. Because we are keeping our minds on the heavenly things (Colossians 3:2-4) we are able to live a more glorifying life to God while on earth (Colossians 3:5-6).
Walking By Faith and Not By Sight Does Not Mean You Never Plan and Never Use Wisdom
The most common abuse I see of “walk by faith and not by sight” is when someone wants to do something unwise without any planning. They have an impulse, sometimes a good impulse, but they act on it right away. When you ask them why not plan better before following through on this desire, they say something like, “I’m walking in faith.”
God never will call us to do anything sinful, but he does sometimes call us to do unwise things. It was unwise to walk around Jericho with trumpets, it was unwise for Gideon to reduce his fighting men, and it was unwise for David to challenger a trained warrior with only a slingshot. But whenever God calls us to take “a step of faith” that goes against normal wisdom, he will confirm this clearly through his word, the Spirit, and through the circumstances. Many people have said, “I heard God tell me . . .” only to act on that and later realize they didn’t actually hear God say that.
While wisdom and practicality should not replace the Holy Spirit’s leading, most of the time the Holy Spirit will lead us through the practical wisdom he provides, not through the vagueness of things we think we hear which are probably just us forcing the outcome that we really want.
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”(Luke 14:28)
“Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” (Proverbs 19:2)
“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”(Proverbs 21:5)
“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”(Proverbs 15:22)
What Does Walk By Faith Mean?
In summary, biblical faith is not blind faith. Christian faith is ultimately about following Jesus even though you can’t see him right now with your physical eyes. Faith is about trusting God so deeply that it affects the way you live.
Walking by faith, therefore, is not the same thing as walking without planning. Sometimes God will lead you to take a risk and do something people think you are crazy for doing, but we must be careful we are not just doing what we want without hearing God and claiming this is “walking by faith.”
Walking by faith is not ultimately about walking when you don’t know where you are going. Walking by faith ultimately means you are walking with Jesus.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” -Galatians 2:20