By Faith

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1, New International Version) This well-known verse of Scripture beautifully defines faith. Faith is evidenced in our lives when we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that someone or something is real even when that person or thing is not visible to us.
Recently, I saw faith lived out in a powerful way. I had the opportunity to join a group of friends as we visited a man of incredible faith. This man spent his life loving and serving others. Senator Stanley Russ was a man of wit and wisdom. He effortlessly combined both qualities and made others feel special and at ease. Senator Russ served in the Arkansas State Senate for 26 years. Many people in Faulkner County counted him as a friend.
The day that we visited Senator Russ was no different than previous encounters. He told jokes and shared stories. He was animated and full of life. The only difference... Senator Russ was dying. He was in his bed and his family was gathered around him.
Our group of friends walked in and Senator Russ gave us a warm greeting. We were there to sing to him. He knew that we were coming and had requested that we sing hymns of the faith. With Baptist hymnals in hand, we set out to bless and serve him. Little did we know that he would bless and serve us.
You are probably familiar with the chorus of the first song that we sang. “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know, He holds the future. And life is worth the living, just because He lives!”
As we sang, Senator Russ closed his eyes and lifted his hands in praise. There was not a dry eye in the room. Why? The words to the song were more than just words. They provided truth that held meaning that would serve every person in that room during the days ahead.
After we sang the song, Senator Russ wiped the tears from his eyes and shared a powerful truth. He said, “I am not afraid to die. Please tell all of the people that. When I die, I get to leave this world behind and I get to see Jesus and God, my Father. After I see Jesus, I get to see my wife of 55 years. She (Nina) is already there (heaven) and is waiting for me.” The look of certainty in his eyes was nothing short of a man who was living by faith. He was certain of someone (Jesus) and something (heaven) even though he had not physically seen either of them.
In Hebrews 11, a list of faith-filled people is mentioned. These people lived by faith when their backs were against the wall and the call of God was big in their lives. As I read this well-known chapter, a verse jumped off the page and spoke to me. Hebrews 11:13 states, “All of these people were still living by faith when they died.”
Senator Russ left this world on January 5, 2017. I can’t help but think about the reality of Jesus and heaven for people like Senator Russ. What is it really like for our faith to finally become sight?
Faith is not developed in a one-time event. Rather, the development of our faith is a process that begins at salvation. Salvation occurs when we place our faith in Jesus by trusting His death, burial, and resurrection as the only way for us to have a relationship with God.
After salvation, we encounter opportunities for our faith to develop and grow. Maybe we are called to move to a new city or to change jobs. Maybe we are given a task that is too big for us to accomplish. For some, an unexpected diagnosis requires faith. Lots of moms and dads have faith that their wayward child will return home.
All of these moments provide an opportunity for us to live by faith. As we demonstrate faith in these moments, we deepen our trust in God and position ourselves to have this said of us, “they were still living by faith when they died.” I can assure you that Senator Stanley Russ was living by faith when he died. While his faith was not “seen” by the human eye, it was evident to all.