The Value of Experience

“Then they said to the woman, ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world'” (John 4:42).
I never believed in jet lag. Oh, I understood the concept and intellectually accepted that for some people at least there must be some physical effect of flying long distances, crossing several time zones quickly. But I just couldn’t believe there was much to it. I had flown some and crossed three or four zones ?- no big deal. Then I started flying to South Asia. Halfway around the world. Twelve time zones. Two days in an airplane. Guess what ?- I now believe fervently in jet lag. It is real, and I have learned to prepare and to allow for its effects.
On some levels there is no real substitute for personal experience. It does not apply in every case. There are too many things for us to learn for anyone to insist on personally experiencing everything before accepting it. We must accept the work and testimony of others. Consider scientific knowledge for example. If every generation started from zero, we would still be inventing fire and the wheel. Technology, medicine, space exploration and countless other fields would never have opened. We have learned to build on the knowledge of others and to proceed from what they have obtained.
There are areas of life, however, where personal experience is not only valuable but essential. One cannot truly appreciate a classic work of art through an oral description from someone else. One must see it for oneself. No one develops muscle tone by reading a book about someone else’s workouts. Each one must do one’s own exercises.
Faith is an aspect of life that demands personal encounter. The Samaritan villagers listened to Jesus because of the testimony of their neighbor. But they believed in Jesus because they heard and saw him themselves. We are brought to Jesus by the example and words of believers. But we commit our lives to him because we examine their testimony, study our Bibles and learn Jesus for ourselves.
On his second missionary journey Paul came to the city of Berea in Macedonia.
“These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed” (Acts 17:11,12a).
They were open-minded, willing to listen to the words of Paul. But they insisted on proving their truth by studying their Bibles for themselves. This led to individual and genuine faith in Jesus Christ.
Note that this is not the same as “experiential religion.” We cannot expect a special visitation from Jesus or the Holy Spirit. The Bible is the source of God’s Truth -? it is what we must “experience” for ourselves, studying and learning it and allowing Jesus to speak to us and reveal himself to us through it. This is what the Bereans did, and they believed and were saved from their sins by their obedience.

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