GOING DEEPER: Making Your Spiritual Experiences Count

Life-changing experiences. Life is peppered with them. Undoubtedly God has spoken to us, touched our hearts, encouraged our souls and challenged our lifestyles. Yet so very often we can fail to build on those experiences and they simply become part of our nostalgic past. As Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: ‘The wind blows out, the bubble dies; The spring entomb’d in autumn lies; The dew dries up; the star is shot; The flight is past–and man forgot.’

I want to suggest to you several ways – general principles that are helpful for any spiritual experience – that can help us go deeper in living the realities of God’s truth in our ordinary days.

WRITE IT DOWN: for some reason writing helps us remember things better and allows them to become more personal. Journal your experiences with God and the promises He makes to you – as well as the ones you make to Him. When things are put in writing it also shows that we are serious – it gives them weight. The other advantage is that later on in the years to come you can re-read those experiences and trace back the faithfulness of God.

TELL OTHERS: this often shows our courage in acknowledging the experience and provides great opportunity to become accountable to someone close or even the entire church family. In the process they will be encouraged and their faith will be built up too. As David puts it in Psalm 71:14-19: ‘But as for me, I shall always have hope; I will praise you more and more.  My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure.  I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone. Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and grey, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come. Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you who have done great things. Who, O God, is like you?’

ASK – sometimes it is so difficult to discern what we can/should do about what have just experienced. At times like that it is so important to be prepared to ask/enter in conversation with other believers around us. Paul paints the picture of the church (1 Corinthians 12:14-20) as body – made up of many different yet complementary parts – showing that we need one another in order to function in a healthy way. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, raise issues, express doubts – if that will make our experiences of God deeper.

DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT – this is probably the most important step. The God experiences we have are meant to bring change, they are meant to spill out in our everyday life and affect those around us. As James puts it (1:22-24): Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.’ Avoid the trap of simply building up your theology without any practical outworking. So very often our own transformation comes though obedient action. Just do it!

MOVING ON: Lessons on the Way

Last night we had a great time of re-evaluating attitudes, unity and communication @ Pulse (the Bible study group for older teens). I was really encouraged by their sincerity, wisdom and vulnerability in dealing with potential ‘cracks’ in the foundations of the group. Some of you might find it helpful to think of these issues when dealing with a similar situation. So here is what I have learned with them:

  • TRUTHFULNESS: we must have the courage to tell the truth about how we feel and what we think. It might even be just a matter of perception but it still is right to voice it.
  • HUMILITY: there is always helpful to voice things with a level of self-doubt (‘maybe it’s just me’) always leaving room for the fact that you could have got the ‘wrong end of the stick’
  • TRANSPARENCY: learning to open up and not be afraid to let people see you even either hurt, angry or very sad. Body language often conveys feelings much better than words
  • COMMUNICATION: learning to voice-up our questions, worries, desires and concerns. Avoiding gossiping or having ‘meetings after the meeting’.
  • COURAGE: it is almost always easier to avoid confrontation but taking cheap, selfish, safe shortcuts (gossip, whine). Courageous people express publicly their thought – with humility.
  • PRAYER: it was great to hear not just apologies to one another but asking forgiveness from God and a desire to ‘move on’ in His strength (true repentance).
  • BIBLE: one of the girls brought a fab passage from Ephesians talking about unity, service and love.

Much more could be added, I am sure, but that is good as a starter.