Column: The Long Walk of Faith
By Drew Williams
How can we have confidence in the goodness of God in light of the many challenges in our own lives, let alone what we see going on in the world around us? How can we even begin to trust the love of God in the face of what we don’t see—the healing we have prayed long and hard for, the breakthrough we have crying out to God for? Only some kind of faith hero would hold out for God’s goodness in the most trying of circumstances, and even on my best days, I know that I myself am no hero.
The name Enoch does not immediately conjure up the image of a heroic figure. And yet the book of Hebrews, chapter 11, lists him as one of the great heroes of the faith alongside Abraham, Jacob, and Moses. So who is Enoch? According to the Biblical genealogy, he is related to Adam (seventh generation), is the father of Methuselah, and is the grandfather of Noah. “Methuselah” is an unusual choice to name a son. It means: “When he is dead, it will be sent.” Methuselah was, in fact, born into a very dark world. It was a violent, immoral and Godless age, and true to the meaning of his name, upon Methuselah’s death, the great flood of Genesis was unleashed—the same great flood that Noah would build the ark to ultimately save Enoch’s family line. But Enoch does not know about any of this.
So what did Enoch do to get his “Michelin star” hero rating in the book of Hebrews? At Genesis 5:21 we are told, “And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God.” It was a walk that lasted 300 years. What’s so heroic about taking a long walk? For all his obscurity, Enoch has some helpful things to say to us about the “long walk of faith”—about trusting God implicitly in spite of what we can see and what we don’t see.
1) Trusting God… despite what we can see: At Genesis 6:5 it says, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great upon the earth and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.” People were lying and cheating, taking what they wanted by violence, and life was cheap. These actions “…grieved [God] to His heart” (Genesis 6:6). But in spite of what Enoch could see of the moral decay all around him, he chose to stay close to God. In the 300 years that Enoch and God walked together, the world did not get any better. In fact, the Book of Genesis suggests that it got a lot worse. But Enoch remained confident in God’s goodness despite what he could see.
2) Trusting God… despite what we don’t see: I wonder how many times I allow my circumstances to determine how much I think God loves me. I seem to be up and down about God’s love depending upon my most recent experiences. Medical insurers come through for me at the eleventh hour: Yes, God loves me! A surgical procedure fails to bring healing: perhaps not so much… Enoch is a hero of the faith because he did not interpret the character of God on the basis of his immediate circumstances. Instead, he allowed the character of God to inform his circumstances. He could have said, “I have been walking with God for over 200 years now and still no sign of rescue. I therefore conclude that God is feckless and does not care for me.” But he did not. He chose to trust in the goodness of God and walk on.
Enoch did not have the sort of walk with God that Adam and Eve enjoyed. There are no Biblical stories about Enoch seeing God. Enoch could not physically feel God’s hand in his hand. But nevertheless, Enoch’s trust in the goodness of God did not waiver. He did not despair of God’s goodness. What made him a hero was not so much what he did, but whom he chose to believe and trust in. The longevity of his walk tells us that, despite what he could not see, Enoch’s heart and mind was made up—God is good and His love endures forever!
In Enoch’s 300th year, Hebrews 11:5 picks up the story: “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away.” The King James Version states that God “translated” him. “Translated” is an old word, an irregular verb that means “carried over” or “carried across.” God carried Enoch across. God transferred him. God picked him up, carried him over and put him on the other shore. One moment, by faith, Enoch is walking and trusting that God knows where he is and hears his prayers and has a plan – and in an instant, he is communing with God by sight in a whole new world (“and they shall walk with me…” Revelation 3:4).
And although Enoch was not around to see it, his grandson Noah built the ark that saved the family line that would ultimately be the family lineage to Jesus Christ—Jesus, whose death and resurrection saves all who put their trust in Him, that in an instant, we too would be carried over to the other shore to commune with God by sight and for all eternity. “…in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1Corinthians 15:52).
For Enoch, after 300 years of following and hoping and trusting, faith had finally turned into sight. Hope had turned into fruition, all in a single moment. The life of faith was crowned. The walk of faith was gloriously and spectacularly rewarded.
Enoch’s name also means “teacher”—and what the Father is teaching us through Enoch is that to walk with God is to never give up hope. Through Enoch, God is showing us how to walk today with hope in Christ that burns in us for tomorrow. And God did not disappoint Enoch’s faith. He exceeded it.
Notably, Enoch does not stand out in a crowd of heroes. And that is the very point. He is a sort of “everyman.” Read that great list of heroic names in the book of Hebrews and insert your own name when you get to Enoch: Abel, your name, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Moses, Rahab… You don’t have to conquer kingdoms or fight Philistines to impress God. You don’t have to be the best parent in the world; the brightest student; an Olympian athlete; the winner of a Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Peace Prize, or Academy Award; or the CEO of the biggest corporation. To be God’s hero, you simply have to trust Him.
The Rev’d Drew Williams, Senior Pastor of Trinity Church, has been living with severe, debilitating chronic pain for more than three years. After five surgeries and innumerable neurological procedures, he knows the desperation that comes with wondering if he would ever be pain free. At the same time, he shares, “By the grace of God, that desperation has also brought an increased intensity and honesty, as well as a deeper intimacy, in my relationship with God.” He now shares something of his struggle in a series of devotional writings for the Greenwich Sentinel. One of the more perplexing features of the past three-year saga around my health has been the ongoing battle between hope and disappointment.