Some things can only be known by experience. We’ll never understand the meaning of “peace” or “love” or “hope” until we personally encounter these realities ourselves. No amount of books or courses will ever suffice until such things are actually known by experience. While few people would challenge the truth of these claims, why is it that we tend to be so hesitant to speak of the need for an experiential faith? For many, it’s as terrifying as facing uncharted ocean waters.
Scripture, Faith, and Experience
I have personally seen the devastation that excessive reliance on spiritual experience can bring to Christian faith. But I have also seen great damage caused by a faith lacking experiential awareness of Christ’s presence. What does Scripture teach about the role of experience in faith?
It says that faith is not dependent on feelings and emotions. Rather we are told to trust even when we don’t feel or see. Hence, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Yet, the Bible also encourages an experiential faith. We are exhorted to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). And Paul regularly prayed that his readers would have a knowledge of Christ rooted in experience (Eph. 1:17-19). Even a cursory reading of the Book of Acts reveals an early Church convinced of the sufficiency of Christ. Yet, I often wonder if the same can be said of me . . . and of us.
Overcoming our Fear of Spiritual Experience
Today in the Church, we don’t often see a concerted effort to nurture a faith of knowledge and experience of Christ. Consequently, many Christians remain uncertain about the most fundamental question of their faith, “Is Christ really sufficient?” I believe this unrelenting question can serve us well if we are willing. The Holy Spirit is prompting us to become desperate for a deeper assurance than our intellectually lopsided approach to Christianity has yet been able to offer.
When we respond to the Spirit’s promptings, we’ll discover that, in return, God draws near to us (James 4:8). And as we abide in this place of divine nearness, we’ll soon find far greater treasures yet to be mined of the riches of God’s grace in Christ than ever before imagined. So, despite our fears and reservations of an experiential faith, this is one voyage we can’t afford to miss. For on the other side of these uncharted waters is a deeper understanding of Christ’s sufficiency. And once discovered, we’ll never be the same again! Next week we’ll see how such a holistic faith can provide stability in times of temptation.
What Do You Think?
Can you identify with the uncharted waters described? If so, what would it take for you to make the voyage?
♦ To see the poem this post is based on, click here.