Summary: As the conclusion of a series on the "Experiencing God" discipleship course, and for Christ the King Sunday and a stewardship emphasis. The only way one can experience God is to obey Him and wait for the grace of fulfillment.
The time comes when it is no longer good enough to know about something; you want to experience it directly. The moment comes when it just does not satisfy to have only an arm’s length relationship to something. The only thing that will satisfy is a first-hand, up close and personal, immediate encounter. An experience.
Margaret and I had been married for a good many years, and during all those years she had talked about her native land. She described the beauties of England, she spoke with eloquence about its quaint little villages, she told me tales about its customs and its people. I thoroughly enjoyed every story she told. She got me into reading books about England. We subscribed to a magazine about England. When there was a television special about England, I watched it and enjoyed it and felt that I knew something about a place that had helped to make my wife who she is. It was lots of fun to learn about England. It sounded as though it might be almost as good as Kentucky!
But after a while that began to pale. After a while reading and talking and watching TV no longer satisfied. After a while I wanted to go there, to see it for myself. So we scraped together our pennies and off we flew, to see England. Guess what! It was far better to experience the place than just to read about it. It is always far better to experience something than just to have second-hand information.
That’s always true. If you don’t think so, then, young men, instead of asking that lovely young lady out for a date, just spend Saturday night staring at her picture. See if that satisfies you. Or ask her about it, because she’s been staring at your picture! If you don’t think first hand experience beats anything else, then I suggest that on Thursday, instead of eating that turkey dinner, you just pick up the food section of the newspaper and read about turkey! Would that be good enough? I don’t think so! Or I suggest that instead of singing a piece of music, just pick up the score and read it. Next Sunday, I’ll just say, "Now let’s all read silently Hymn No. 44." Would that work? No! By no means! Knowing about something is far, far from experiencing it. The day comes when we just do not get satisfaction from talking about something; we want to experience it.
We have been talking for six weeks about experiencing God. We have talked and listened. But the danger is that we may still be substituting talking about God for knowing God. We may be doing theology but not doing prayer. We may dream of evangelistic strategies, but that’s not sharing our faith personally. We may come to see videos about missions and study issues about ministry needs, but nothing beats actually going somewhere where we are needed. It’s much too easy to let second-hand stuff get in the way of the real thing. It’s much too easy to substitute mere theory for the experience of God’s presence.
I tell you, that won’t do for me anymore. That just won’t do. I want to feel something. I want to sense something. I want to go beyond playing church. I want to know God. I want something authentic.
It does happen, you know. How can it happen?
There is a clue in what Paul writes to the Colossians:
I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel. I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known.
Paul says he was rejoicing. That’s experience. That’s real. How did it happen? He says, first, it came from suffering. From sacrifice. From serving according to God’s commission. That’s called obedience. And he says he was doing this to complete what was lacking for the sake of the body of Christ, the church. Completing what needed to be done for the church. That’s fulfillment. Experience, obedience, and fulfillment.
Listen to the seventh and final principle of the Experiencing God discipline: "You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you.” “You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you."
In other words, knowing God is not just a feeling. It’s not just a buzz. It’s something you discover when you give yourself to God’s work in His church. What is it that God wants to accomplish in His church through you and me? We created a vision statement that expresses it well. Let’s review it together.