Charles Miley said of his walk with Christ in the garden, that “the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.” I have wondered about that and then realized that each person who lives by faith has a unique relationship with the Lord.
For example, when my father first became a Christian and overheard some discussion that maybe he was not really saved, he was surprised by a voice saying, “I believe you. I’ll help you.” The next morning was Sunday and when he awoke, the voice said, “You’re a Christian now. Christians go to church on Sunday.”
I have never heard the Lord’s voice in such an audible way as my father claimed. Nor have I had a dream of the kind that many former Muslims have had where they say the Lord Jesus speaks to them and directs them toward someone who will help them to faith. Does that mean that I don’t have faith or do not have access to the Lord? No. It means that each person’s faith journey is distinctive.
After a short time the voice that my father heard in his early Christian days was no longer there as it had been. Also, dreams of Jesus speaking personally to individuals do not continue as regular events when people find other Christians who help them along in the faith. Every Christian must learn that “the just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17b).
Christian experiences, even those which are notable and even euphoric, are just that: experiences. They are helpful at times, but not to be relied upon as normative nor to be used as templates for others. Wrongly used, testimonies of personal experiences can be a stumbling block to others. If they focus on what happened to another and try to copy it, they may be set up for disappointment or disillusionment. The following song is well-meaning, but it may not be helpful in the context of experience to emphasize “what the Lord has done for me, He can do for you.” Well, yes, if you mean He can give you grace for His great salvation and cleansing. But to confuse that with a certain kind of experience is another matter. That is why the phrase in Miles’ hymn is more appropriate. “The joy we share…none other has ever known.” In other words, enjoy the Lord in your own heart and know that in certain ways, because of your personality, background and needs, that joy is something that only you and the Lord experience together.
I have had my own experiences, and some have been significant. But they fade into the distant past as time goes on. The day-to-day living for Christ is by faith, not by dreams or euphoria.
How is it that we are to grow in faith and live out our belief in this very skeptical and often hostile present evil world? We must be people of the Word of God. “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven” (Ps. 119:89). Whether it is dreams or voices or experiences, we must always search out the truth by the standard of God’s revealed word. We have a good example in the Bereans, who “were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness and searched the scripture daily, whether these things were so. (Acts 17:11).
Living by faith and staying in the word is extremely important when facing temptation. The Bible says that every man is tempted. It is no use to deny it. Temptation is part of life. One day, as a young man, I learned that painful lesson. I was driving to a ministry appointment and worshiping with the hymns on my eight-track player. It was a precious and holy moment. Then I looked at the car next to me and there was a young woman with an alluring look. At that instant, I was “carried away and enticed” (Ja. 1:14 NAS). It was as though my spiritual reservoir was instantly drained. At that moment, I did what I have done countless times. I cried out to God. “Lord, I submit to You and resist the devil in the Name and through the blood of Jesus.” (see James 4:7; Rev. 12:11) The devil did flee, just as the Word of God promised. But I went on my way a bit more sober, realizing that this vile world is not a friend to grace, and that we must constantly be on guard against the enemy, who, “as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).
As one who subscribes to the Wesleyan doctrinal position, I do not believe that a Christian sins every day in word, thought, and deed. However, what do we do with those things in life that come on us, as one has said, as “sins of surprise”? What about those times when we do sin by saying too much, for, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin”? What about that too hasty rebuke? Or that unguarded moment when we judge another without really knowing all of the facts? How do I walk by faith and in the word in such times?
First, the word of God supersedes what I feel, or what my doctrine is. It does no good to deny when we have done wrong. So what do we do? Go to the word. “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). If we sin we go to the advocate. We do not excuse it, nor do we deny it, but we confess it and trust in our Savior. And we do not continue in the error. We “go and sin no more.” It is a mistake to deny it or to give up over it. Follow the word and walk in faith.
The true walk of faith has a firm foundation. It is in the excellent Word of God that we can trust. It is in the truth of the gospel of Christ our Savior that we have good hope not only in this world but in that which is to come. The power to live for our Lord is not of ourselves but through the Holy Spirit which is given to us at the promise of the Father.
I thank God for the testimonies of those who have gone before, whose lives have demonstrated the reality of the experiences with God they have related. I also thank God that He is no respecter of persons, and any who come to Him by faith can find that Jesus walks with them and talks with them too.
Are you in need of a personal encounter with the Savior? Find a quiet place, confess Him as Lord of your life, believe that God raised Him from the dead, and you will find that the joy you share with Him “none other has ever known.”