Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

Seeing Beyond the Horizon!

By Richard Niell Donovan

Walt Disney died before Disneyworld was completed in Florida. Mike Vance tells about being at Disneyworld soon after its completion. Someone commented, “Isn’t it too bad Walt Disney didn’t live to see this?” Vance responded, “He did see it —that’s why it’s here!”

The next time you visit Disneyland or Disneyworld, I want you to think about that story.

• Before the first draftsman began to make the first engineering drawing of Disneyland or Disneyworld, Walt Disney saw them in his mind.

• Before the first carpenter began to drive the first nail at Disneyland or Disneyworld, those places existed in Walt Disney’s mind.

• Before the first customer entered the first turnstile, Walt Disney had enjoyed a thousand rides on monorails and steamboats and canoes and spacecraft—in his imagination.

• If we had been in Anaheim before Walt built Disneyland, we would have seen only orange groves. But Walt would have pointed his finger and said, “That’s Frontierland over there! And Adventureland over there! And Tomorrowland over there! Can’t you see them?” Whether we could see them or not, they were there—in his dream and in his vision.

• If we had visited Orlando before he built Disneyworld, we would have seen only fields and orchards and swamps. But Walt saw boats and trains and planes and children.

Not only did Walt see Disneyland and Disneyworld. They exist because he saw them. They are real to us today only because they were first real to Walt Disney in that wonderful imagination of his!

Now hear again these words from Hebrews:

“Now faith is assurance of things hoped for,
proof of things not seen” (11:1).

Some people have scoffed at Christians because we live by faith—because we believe that which we cannot see—because we are assured of things for which we can now only hope—and are convinced of that which we cannot yet see. They have called us other-worldly, and laughed at our “pie-in-the-sky” outlook. They say, “You only go around once. Can’t you see that! Grab all the gusto you can get!”

And we reply, “No! We don’t just go around once! There is something more, and we have seen it! God has revealed to us. It abides in our minds and our hearts! The best is yet to come!”

Some people say, “I believe only what I see!”

• They mean that they believe only that which they can test with their five senses—which they can see, hear, taste, touch and smell.

• They mean that they will accept only that which they can examine in a test-tube—or measure—or dissect—or verify by experiment.

How shortsighted! All the great scientists have been people of great vision—people who saw in their minds that which they could only hope someday to verify in the laboratory. Einstein predicted many strange and wonderful things that scientists are still verifying a half century later.

The question is, “What is real?” Is the God in whom we believe real? Or is only the world which we can touch real?

You could ask the same question of Disney. Were his dreams and visions real, or did they become real only after the carpenters and plumbers had completed their work? The truth is that Disney’s dreams and visions were not only real, but they made the reality possible. Without the dreams and visions, the fields and orange groves would now be tract housing instead of a playland for the world.

Again, the author of Hebrews says:

“Now faith is assurance of things hoped for,
proof of things not seen”

Four thousand years ago, God called Abraham to leave his hometown and go a place that God would show him. God did not show him a brochure with pictures of the Promised Land. Abraham was not like the American settlers who dreamed of free land and abundant gold. Abraham left his home and departed on a lifetime journey, not because he believed in gold, but because he believed in God.

God promised Abraham that he would make a great nation of him, but the fulfillment of the promise was a long time in coming. When Abraham and Sarah arrived in the Promised Land, they did not even have a permanent house. They could buy only a burial plot in that foreign land. They could only look forward to the great city, “Whose maker and builder is God.”

Abraham and Sarah became older and older. Not only had God not made of them a great nation, but he had not even given them a son. The time for childbearing had passed for them, and they did not even have a child.

God is like that sometimes. We wait, and we pray, and we wonder. Where is God? Has he heard? Will he answer? Why hasn’t he answered by now?

J. Harry Cotton was reflecting on this story of Abraham when he wrote, “This seeming tardiness of God is the most severe test of faith.” And so it is. We are not used to waiting! We turn on a light switch and get light. We turn on the television and get entertainment. We insert a plastic card into a slot and get money. With so much instant gratification at our fingertips, it is not easy to accept God’s delays.

But God keeps his promises—even if less quickly than we might like. Sarah did become pregnant—both Abraham and Sarah had laughed when they first heard the idea—it was so preposterous, because they were so old! But Sarah bore a son, and they named him Isaac. The name means laughter. Abraham was one hundred years old. Then Sarah said something beautiful. She said:

“God has made me laugh.
Everyone who hears will laugh with me”
(Genesis 21:6).

Can’t you just imagine her joy! Sarah was convinced that, not only was she filled with joy, but that the whole world rejoiced with her!

What is real? Was Abraham’s faith real? Were his dreams real? Were God’s promises real? Or did all that become real only on the day that Isaac was born?

For Abraham, it was all real early on! God had said it, and Abraham believed it. Even though the years made the fulfillment of the promise less and less likely, Abraham never stopped believing and obeying God. Abraham was convinced that nothing was so real as God. Because of his faith, Abraham was certain of that for which he had hoped and convinced of that which he had only dreamed. And finally, the dream became reality—not because Abraham had dreamed it, but because God had promised it.

As I was thinking about this scripture, I could not help but remember the Thornton Wilder play, “Our Town.” In the play, Rebecca tells about a letter that her minister had sent to Jane Crofut when Jane was sick. She doesn’t describe the letter, but she describes the envelope. The envelope had such a strange address. It said:

“Jane Crofut
The Crofut Farm
Grover’s Corners
Sutton County
New Hampshire
United States of America
Continent of North America
Western Hemisphere
The Earth
The Solar System
The Universe
The Mind of God”

That traces it all the way back doesn’t it! Jane Crofut was real because—and only because—she first existed in God’s mind.

What is real? Abraham’s faith was real! God’s promises are real! And, because Abraham’s faith and God’s promises are real:

• Isaac, the son of Abraham and Sarah, was real.

• Israel, the great nation that God promised to make of the seed of Abraham and Sarah, was real and is real. The people of Abraham became the people of God. For more than three thousand years, they have watched empires come and go, but they are still with us today.

I can’t prove to you that God is real. But you can know that he is real in the same way that Abraham did.

• We can believe in him.
• We can trust him.
• We can experience him.

Once we have done that, we will know that he is real too. Give him a chance to show you how real he really is.

Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.

Copyright 2006 Richard Niell Donovan