If we live life relying simply on our five senses, we will miss out on the invisible spiritual world which surrounds us but which can only be accessed by faith. Our senses are not to be despised (we are not Gnostics who think that the material world is sinful and we need secret knowledge to attain sinless perfection), but we cannot agree with the prevalent Western worldview that “this life is the only life we have, that the universe is a natural phenomenon with no supernatural side and that there is an absence of an afterlife and any discernible purpose to the universe.” (Humanist website)

When we read the Bible, we find a whole variety of teaching, from the historical through to the instructional, including poetry and laws. Some of what we read seems boring; some parts (the prophetic and apocalyptic) seem baffling and bewildering. But all Scripture is God-breathed and therefore vital to our understanding. We need the bizarre pictures of the prophets to expand our vision and help us to see the invisible world inhabited by God.

Elisha’s prayer for his servant at a time of great conflict and terror was “Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.” (2 Kings 6: 17) That has to be our prayer too, so that we can gain a better vision of all that God is and all He is doing.

Spiritual vision starts with seeing God as He is. Isaiah had a vision of God’s majesty and holiness (Is 6:1-3) which transformed his ministry and helped him to see beyond his circumstances (this all happened ‘in the year that King Uzziah died’, but Isaiah was not defined by his circumstances, any more than we have to be!) In the same way, John, exiled on the island of Patmos, received a vision of Christ which was more than enough to compensate for his circumstances! (Rev 1:10-19). Our vision of God determines how we live. We need to have that big picture of who God is and what He is like if we are to see beyond the visible world around us.

Spiritual vision involves faith and faith has to be forward-looking. When we read Hebrews 11, we gain an insight into how to please God and what faith looks like in the lives of ordinary people. Noah, when warned about ‘things not yet seen’, responded in obedient faith and built an ark. Moses could deal with the disgrace of the world because he was ‘looking ahead to his reward.’ The heroes of faith were still ‘looking ahead’ by faith at the end of their lives. Faith involves adopting God’s evaluation of a situation and understanding that His timescales are not the same as ours. Joseph could proclaim confidently ‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good’ (Gen 50:20) precisely because he had learned to see with God’s eyes. God has 50:20 vision that is better than foresight or hindsight!

This long-term perspective helps us to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor 4:18) Outwardly we may be wasting away, but inwardly we are being renewed (2 Cor 4:16). God is working in our everyday lives, giving them purpose and meaning. He is sovereign over all, working all things together for good. We need spiritual vision to see these truths and then can live by faith in obedience to Him.