The late John R. W. Stott, Anglican cleric and prolific Christian writer, stated that he mostly went around in a kind of fog but periodically the fog would lift and he would gain a clear insight into some truth. He observed that during those brief moments of clarity he needed to quickly jot down those bits of truth or they would escape him when the fog again descended. Stott has given us a helpful word picture of the life of faith.
Consider the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus joined them on their trek, but they did not recognize him. Even when he “expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke. 24:27) they were still in a kind of fog. Only when he sat with them “took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave to them,” were their eyes opened. For a brief moment they knew him and then he vanished out of their sight.
Similarly, Saul on the road to Damascus had a brief encounter with the Lord. Very shortly after he heard the words, “I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest,” and was convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead, Saul descended into a quiet blindness that was not alleviated for three days.
Though the glimpses of truth may be short, yet their appearances give rise to long lasting faith. The two retraced the Emmaus Road with great confidence as they reflected on how their hearts had burned within them as he had walked and talked with them. Saul never got over those few personal words from the Lord that directed him to a believer in Damascus and launched his great apostolic ministry.
It is true that faith must be currently active, but it is not true that those past glimpses of the truth of Christ that brought us to him in the first place are to be forgotten or belittled. Mark Twain said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” If the words of men have such enduring influence, what of the revelation of the truth of God? That can last a lifetime. Our enemy also understands this and works to undermine what God has given to encourage us to faith. Sometimes that devilish work is immediate.
He was college freshman young in years but old in experience when I met him. I had presented the gospel to him and endeavored to be his friend. Then I invited him to a camp meeting service. He went. The message was clear and appealing and he responded to the invitation with seeming earnestness. He prayed. He experienced something there at the altar. He felt he was saved. The next day I went to his room to check on him. One of his old drug buddies was there. He had convinced the young student that what had happened to him was nothing more than a reaction of drug withdrawal. In vain I tried to help him to recapture that moment of faith. It was as though the devil took the seed from the wayside before it could take root.
Even those who are not new to faith are not exempt from the attacks of the wicked one. John the Baptist had a brief but powerful encounter with Jesus. He heard a voice from heaven and “saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove.” Later in prison the questions mounted until he sent word to Jesus. “Art thou he that should come or look we for another?” Sometimes the mundane present is a weapon in the hand of the enemy to whisper doubtful thoughts about light from the past. If John, who had once boldly proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God,” could find himself saying, “Art thou he that should come?” we should not be surprised at similar questions rising in our hearts.
Inadvertently other believers can at times aid in the process of undermining one’s confidence. How often has it been said after a particularly moving piece of music has been performed or an emotional testimony or truth has been imparted, “If that doesn’t light your fire, your wood is wet.” Translation: “I’m really blessed by what just happened and if you aren’t then something is wrong with you spiritually.” But that may not be the case. Life can be hard and not everyone is uplifted in the same measure or at the same time or by the same things.
The psalmist was not in a blessed mood when he hung his harp on the willow. “How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a strange land?” (Ps. 137:4), he lamented. Times and seasons of life change and are not the same for every believer at the same time. Clichés and clever sayings have little value to one who is traveling a deep valley or facing a fierce struggle.
Jesus answered John by a recitation of how the scriptures were being fulfilled as the blind were seeing, the lame were walking, and the gospel was being preached to the poor. Peter understood the need for keeping the proper focus by contrasting the voice from heaven that he had heard, with “the more sure word of prophecy” that was still with them.
When our experiences of the past are brought into question, the place to go is to the same word of God. If the fog descends, remember where the light is.
That glimpse of truth that God gave in the past was to point you to the Savior who is and always has been our lively hope. The purpose for the burning hearts and the glimpse of the Lord was so that those disciples would join with the others in declaring, “The Lord is risen indeed.” Saul’s Damascus Road encounter was ordained to lead to his testimony that, “Now is Christ risen” (I Cor. 15:20).
Glimpses of truth are not an end in themselves. We cannot live in them for they are in the past, nor can we ignore them for God has an objective for them. They serve the purpose of pointing us to Christ and his word. They are rays that light for us the pathway of faith. So do not forget those moments of clarity. When the fog lifts and a clear view of truth breaks in on you, make a note.