What does it mean to walk by faith not by sight?

The phrase "walk by faith not by sight" comes from 2 Corinthians 5:6-7, which says, "So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight." This is the ESV translation; other versions use the word "live" instead of "walk". Either way, it means the same thing. "Walk" is a metaphor for the way a person lives his or her life. (Like how "all walks of life" refers to a variety of different lifestyles or cultures.)

The apostle Paul is telling us that we should live our lives by our faith in God and His Truth, both of which are unseen, both of which have eternal significance depending on what we do with them. Instead of chasing after the same things the world pursues, a Christian should focus on the unseen realities such as Jesus, Heaven, morality, purity, and the consequences of sin.

Paul continues to explain what walking by faith means in 2 Corinthians 5:9-10, which says, "So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please [God]. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil."

Before Paul said anything about this, Jesus was telling people to store up "treasures in Heaven" (Matthew 6:19-20; Luke 12:33). He promises eternal rewards to everyone who does His will (Matthew 16:27; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 22:12) and eternal punishment for those who reject Him (Matthew 25:24-46; John 3:16-18).

These are both concepts that we can't see until after we die, but then it will be too late to make a decision about it. To walk by faith means that you recognize these unseen things as reality and live your life with the belief in eternal consequences/rewards in mind. You have faith in their existence, so you live your life in a way that reflects your acceptance of these unseen things being a reality.

To walk by faith means that you fear God more than man. To walk by faith means that you believe and obey the Bible's commands before mankind's commands. To walk by faith means that you choose righteousness over sin, no matter what the cost. To walk by faith means that you trust God in every circumstance rather than going by your own wisdom. To walk by faith means that you believe God rewards those who seek Him, no matter what anyone else tells you (Hebrews 11:6).

Rather than loving the things of this world (1 John 2:15–16), Christians should spend their lives glorifying God in everything they do (1 Corinthians 10:31). The only way we can do this is to have faith in the things of God that we cannot see, hear, or touch--those spiritual things that can only be believed in your heart.

When we base our lives on the truth of God’s Word, rather than what the world is telling us to do, we are going against our natural desires and CHOOSING to believe in what we can't physically see—God and His Truth.

For example, let's say you were given $1,000 and had to decide what to do with it. The world would say that it is totally acceptable to keep it all to yourself because the world is naturally wicked (Romans 3:10-18). But if you were to "live by faith" in biblical truth, you would choose to give to those in need (Luke 11:41; Ephesians 4:28) and not horde the money to yourself. Though you never personally saw the Bible being written, you have faith that it is God's Truth.

Another example: The world may say that sex before marriage is perfectly fine, but those who walk by faith base their standards on the Bible, which says any sex outside of marriage is sin (1 Corinthians 6:18; Ephesians 5:3; Galatians 5:19). Walking by faith means that you CHOOSE to believe in what our unseen God says is best for our lives, rather than believing in what the world says.

Basically, to walk by faith requires that we get really good at listening (and obeying!) the voice of the Holy Spirit and following the truth of God's Word (John 10:27; 16:13). We choose to live according to what God reveals to us, rather than trusting our own understanding or what the world tells us (Proverbs 3:5–6).

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Catiana Nak Kheiyn is the webmaster and editor of 412teens.org and regularly teaches local young writers at her workshops. She also contributes at GotQuestions.org, Blogos.org, and GQkidz.org. When Catiana is not writing or hanging out with teens, she loves spending time with her two kids, three socially awkward cats, and one curly-tailed dog.