Trusting Your Experience of God
Scripture: Acts 26:1-3, 13-18a, 24-29
Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived in a time where the Christian Church in Germany had capitulated to the Nazi political party. Many pastors, church members, and theologians either supported or failed to speak out against unjust policies, and immoral ideologies, and evil practices. Bonhoeffer eventually counted the cost of living from his deepest Christian convictions. It landed him in prison and ultimately cost him his life.
If our faith leans too heavy on the Christian bookstore bestseller list, radio personalities, or social media re-posts, then we may find ourselves unquestioningly marrying our theological convictions to a political party, Christian celebrity, or any of the dominant narratives of our culture. I once was part of a group of Christians where someone brought up a controversial topic for discussion. Before any discussion began, the person leading the conversation stated with certainty our agreement with the discussion leader. I wish I could say I spoke up that evening and shared my questions and uncertainties. Instead, I silently went along with a discussion that was raising all sorts of questions for me.
It’s hard to stand up against a prevailing tide or sentiment. What will it cost us in our relationships? What will be the cost to our career? Perhaps, in some circumstances, we even wonder about our safety?
Near the end of the Acts of the Apostles, Paul finds himself before a Roman governor and Jewish King. King Agrippa II is apparently very familiar with the Apostle’s message. It is clear King Agrippa II and Governor Festus oppose Paul, but they also seem open to cutting him some sort of a deal. It could have been easy for Paul to go along to get along and compromise the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his calling.
Paul was filled with God’s Spirit. He had experienced God’s Presence in his own mystical encounters. I believe these experiences, recorded earlier in the book of Acts, are a big part of what empowered Paul to stand his sacred ground. Paul does not rely on his sacred mystical encounters of God’s Presence alone. It is clear Paul knew the sacred texts of scripture. Nevertheless, he appeals not only to scripture, nor to his mere opinion, but to his direct experience of God.
Does our faith suffer when we have no direct experience of God?
Are we more prone to be carried away with what is easy, conventional, or popular?
When you read Dietrich Bonhoeffer, it becomes clear his life of community, and prayer undergirded his witness. He learned to experience and trust God.
How have you experienced God? How are you learning to discern and trust your own experience with God?