Trust. Obey. Experience.
This little map from the Experiencing God Bible study has guided me over the years. The path starts with a trust in the word of God which leads to obedience, and obedience leads to an experience with God that encourages us to trust Him again for something new. So the journey continues as we get to know our Lord more and more, experiencing Him from faith to faith.
But if it’s so simple, then why aren’t more of us experiencing God in this way? Why does knowing God seem to be such a struggle and so confusing at times? Because trust is not easy. The things that God calls us to believe are not simple things. Every chance to trust is a chance to doubt, every opportunity to obey is an opportunity to rebel, and every choice we make will lead to an experience that confirms that choice.
This path is not a manicured loop through a tulip garden, but a rugged, circuitous accent up a mountain. The choice is always before us to trust God and step up in obedience, but we also have the choice to doubt God and step down in rebellion. The catch is that both obedience and rebellion lead to an experience that confirms our trust or doubt. Just like our obedience leads to an experience that encourages us to trust God again, so our rebellion leads to an experience that encourages us to doubt God again.
In John 11 we see Mary and Martha struggle with this very call from Jesus to trust Him beyond belief. They were given the chance to experience God when their prayers to Jesus for their brother’s healing went unanswered. Jesus didn’t even show up until Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days, and when He finally gets there He says things like, “Your brother will rise again. Roll away the stone.”
Could you believe Jesus for something like that? What if Martha’s faith had stopped at, “Yes, he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day”? The stone would have remained over the tomb, Lazarus would have remained in the grave, and Martha would have remained convinced that everything would have been OK if only Jesus had been there to heal her brother as she’d trusted Him to do. Except He wasn’t. So the next time Jesus asked her, “Do you believe this, Martha?” Her answer would be, “No, Lord.”
The truth of Jesus’s identity and His power over life and death would not change simply because Martha didn’t trust Him. Only her perception of who Jesus is would change. Instead of experiencing Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life, she would experience Him as an unreliable messiah, selective in His acts of love and confusing in His motives. Such a view of Jesus would do little to inspire faith the next time He asked her to trust Him.
Martha might have believed Jesus when He said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” but she trusted Him when she rolled the stone away from the tomb. That’s what faith is. It is trust put to work in obedience. And that’s where we encounter God. It was through obedience that Mary and Martha received their brother back again and encountered Jesus as Lord over life and death.
Trust. Obey. Experience.
What is God asking you to believe? In what area of your life is God asking you to lean into Him and trust Him through faithful obedience? Do not go your own way in doubt. Take that step. Roll that stone away and let God do the miraculous in your life. Trust Him to the point of obedience and He will meet you there. It may be an arduous climb, but take courage, for there is no greater reward than to encounter the living God.