Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe,
not just because of what you told us,
but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed
the Savior of the world.” –John 4:42
The dispatcher calls out, “Clear” as the ones chosen to make sure you are strapped in correctly make their final adjustments to your safety harness. They step back with the loud “clank” of the brake releasing. You’re on your way. The vehicle you are in slowly pulls away from the station making a curve to the left. No big deal. Then you see the track in front of you begin its ascent. The “click-click-click” of the chain that is holding you, pulling you up toward the heavens, either excites you or scares the bejeezus out of you. Higher and higher it goes. Just when you think it can’t go any higher, it does. You see the people get smaller and smaller and your view of the rest of the park grows….look ma I can see our house from here!! A few more clicks, then silence….you know what’s coming….the world levels out for a brief second. The next thing you know you are plummeting toward the lagoon below. Whoops and spine chilling screams ensue. You hit the bottom and you try and breathe again, but you left that ability back at the top of the drop. Up and down the ride continues. It tries to trick you with a couple of level areas only to throw you down again, pushing your stomach into your throat. Every wave crest you fear being tossed out of the car if you don’t hold on tightly to the bar across your lap. Finally comes the straight away, leading you to the station. But the car doesn’t seem like it wants to slow down…almost speeding up…then with a shuddering “clack-clack-clack-clack” it abruptly comes to a stop….then a slow roll back to the depot. It comes to a stop and the lap bar is released and you try and stand to get out but your legs give way and you almost fall over. You thank God you are still alive and make your way through the exit….Hey, that was fun…..let’s do it again!!
Word of mouth is one thing. It’s quite different to have a direct experience with something. I have explained the exhilaration of riding a roller coaster. But unless you yourself experience the stomach churning, all the words I could use to explain it pale in comparison to the real deal. I somewhat dealt with experience in my last blog, “The Same, But Different.” (I also realize that I must have a thing for roller coasters…) I explained that each of us has different experiences that make us who we are. Each of us is unique because of them. And it can be difficult trying to ‘show’ your personal experience to someone.
This passage from John speaks directly to conveying your experience to another, and what happens after you do. Jesus was talking with the Samaritan woman at the well. (John 4:1-26). She leaves to tell the town about her encounter with Jesus. The people from the town are in awe of her testimony. They urge Jesus to stay with them and he does, for two days. He teaches them. They all come to believe, at first by the woman’s testimony, then by experiencing it for themselves.
Isn’t that how most of us came to know Christ? Someone invited us somewhere. Whether it was a church, or concert, or some other event where Christ is preached, someone explained an experience well enough to pique our interest. We go, listen, and are changed by what we hear. Our understanding goes from hearing to seeing. We, like Thomas (John 20:24-29), believe because we saw.
We can have an experience like the woman at the well. Like Thomas. Like countless others; Moses got a burning bush, Jacob wrestled with God, Jonah was swallowed by a fish, and Paul received a blinding light from heaven. All had a direct, and different, experience with God. Ours may not be as dramatic, but in our own way, it will be unique.
Where was yours? At an altar in a small church you grew up in? At a youth camp a friend invited you to go to? At a concert or crusade where the speaker was speaking only to you? Or has yours yet to happen? Have you read all the come-to-Jesus stories, but yet never had a direct experience with the Lord?
It’s not too late. You’re not too old. You haven’t sinned too much. No one is ever too far gone. You may have been a hearing-believer your entire life, or you may have just signed up to this Jesus thing. Your personal experience is out there. Your moment of seeing God work first hand is waiting. One thing that may be hindering it? Action. Once you hear and initially believe, you must act.
“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.”(bold emphasis mine)
The Samaritans heard, believed, and acted. The words spoken by the woman took hold of the others. They wanted to see for themselves. And when the acted on that belief in hearing, they gained their own personal belief with seeing. Words show direction. Action takes you where you need to go. I can believe that directions to Dallas will take me there, but unless I get in my car and start driving there, I will not reach my destination. I can hear about God and what he can do for me, but unless I take action to come to him, I will never reach my destination in Him.
There is a line from a movie I saw long ago. While the context is contrary to what I am saying, the meaning behind it is the same. The essence of the quote, I will spare you the reference, says that words are only words. The reality behind the words is much greater. We can share the word of God. We can share our experience with Him, but unless people come for themselves to share in the reality of those words, then what we say will always remain simply words on a screen.