Sir Isaac Newton was a man of science. His list of discoveries is long and include the fundamental laws of motion, thermodynamics, and gravity. Yet Newton was also a man of faith and often wrote about the intersection between his discoveries and God. In an appendix to Principia Newton wrote of God, “He is not Eternity or Infinity, but Eternal and Infinite; he is not Duration or Space, but he endures and is present. He endures for ever and is every where present, and by existing always and every where he constitutes Duration and Space.” Using more modern language – God is both eternal in the sense of time and infinite in the sense of place. Newton understood this from his study of math, calculus, the ways of matter, and by faith.
The writer of Hebrews provides a succinct definition of faith and a long list of historical examples. Chapter eleven begins, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” (Hebrews 11:1–3, NASB95) The rest of the chapter is punctuated with “by faith…” examples.
If we consider the whole chapter there is a grand truth about faith. In the various examples, we see faith put into action. It’s almost like one of Newton’s laws of motion. Faith begets action. While the writer of Hebrews points out some of the immediate fulfillments of faith, there is also the understanding that the desire of faith was often unfulfilled or unseen during their lifetime. Abraham was promised the land and many descendants yet never saw the fulfillment with his eyes.
Long and Short
Faith leads to action and takes the long view. We act in faith today while we await Christ’s return and the complete fulfillment of the Kingdom. Faith is active in our day’s as we pray, follow after Jesus, and empower Christlike service to others with our time and resources. Yet, like Abraham, we are looking towards a promised land and eternity with God. Faith’s concern is both the possibility and challenge of each moment and our far off hopes.
Newton likened his achievements to a young lad walking the seashore finding beautiful sea shells but not able to explore the mysteries of the ocean at his feet. Yet, he knew that others would come along after him and explore what he couldn’t. So often we’re satisfied with the baubles of faith we stumble across but never look up to see the ocean calling us deeper into Jesus.
Take that step of faith and get your feet wet. Faith is believing and seeing something that isn’t yet evident, and it is a persistent motivator for action. If it’s not both, it’s not faith. Some act and never believe, others believe and fail to act. But some, like those listed in Hebrews 11 both believed and acted by faith– what about you?