When I was in junior high (what’s now usually called middle school), I had told my parents what I wanted for Christmas – a chess set. And not just any chess set, mind you, but a very specific chess set: A chess set whose pieces represented various figures of the classical Roman Empire. The king was Augustus Caesar, the queen was his wife Livia, the bishop was Cicero, and so on. Chess was all the rage that year in school and in the neighborhood; five of us on our block asked for chess sets for Christmas and my school actually had a chess club.
Okay, so I was sort of a nerd.
I was fairly sure I would get what I asked for; at least, I hoped I would. Nothing was ever certain, though, and I worried that my mother might (a) place the order too late and it would be sold out or (2) pick another chess set since it was all the same game, right?
About a week before Christmas, I was home alone, and I sneaked a look into the hall closet where she “hid” Christmas presents. I found the dark blue box. It was marked “Roman Chess Set.” I should have happily placed it back in its hiding place but I couldn’t resist a peek. I opened the top of the box, and gazed upon plastic beauty. I was ecstatic. On Christmas Day, I faked enough surprise to hide my sneakiness, but I was truly delighted.
My sneakiness had nothing to do with faith that my mother would get the right chess set; but it had everything to do with a 13-year-old’s hope. Once I saw it, I was certain.
In The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer makes a rather startling statement about faith. One can find a definition of it in only one verse of the Bible, and it’s a rather “operational” definition. The verse is Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
As he points out, there’s not much there of what the essence of faith is. And so he offers a definition of the essence of faith: “Faith is the gaze of the soul upon a saving God.” Faith is not about the one having it, he notes; it’s about the one whom it gazes upon. We think faith is about us, when actually it’s not; it’s about God. He’s where our faith is focused.
I still have my Roman chess set all these years later. It was a hope, but it was first based upon something I could see (an advertisement), then something I beheld, and finally something I could hold in my hand.
Not so with faith.
The gaze of a soul,
the gaze of a heart,
upon a saving God.
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been discussing Tozer’s The Pursuit of God. To see more posts on this chapter, “The Gaze of the Soul,” please visit Sarah at Living Between the Lines. We’ll conclude out discussion of chapter 7 next week.