Each day we encounter a new set of circumstances. In our families, jobs, the marketplace, and countless other places, we face new situations that affect and test our beliefs, the decisions we make, and our relationships. In essence, the whole of our experiences impact and shape our view of the world.
Our default position is often to fall back on the things we have learned in life. Each of us carry life baggage from the good as well as the bad. Whether it was things we have been taught, how a certain situation impacted us in a big way, or the relationships we have had throughout our lives, our beliefs and the decisions we make are many times based on these prior lessons.
The Lord often uses circumstances in our lives to draw us nearer to Him and teach us the things that help transform our faith and character. It is through these times that we are challenged in both our beliefs and perspective. Either we take what the Lord has put before us head on or as one woman in our church always points out, “you go around again until you learn what God has to teach you”. And although it is important for us to learn from our experiences, they can never be understood correctly without knowing Scripture first.
What is so alarming today is that there are those in churches preaching and teaching based upon theirs and other’s experiences. Everyone loves to hear a good story. We are given stories from such a young age because a lot of times we can relate to the characters, their struggles, and their successes. So what pastors, teachers, and the like have done is take these experiences and formulate their “sermons” around them. But shouldn’t we focus on the pure preaching and teaching of the Bible rather than just telling “stories”??
The problem with peaching and teaching from experiences is that it leads people to become more self-centered and self-focused. Although it plays well with the masses, experiences are merely subjective and can only shed light on the fact that we can all relate to similar situations in life. But preaching and teaching from experience and peppering verses or even larger passages of Scripture to make sense of these experiences is backwards at best.
If we let our experiences dictate what we believe about God or even how we are to live in obedience to God, we will be left with a broad spectrum of beliefs about what each person believes to be true. We must peach, teach, read, study, and learn from the Bible as a whole if we are to ever make sense of the things we encounter in life. If we don’t learn from Scripture first, our experiences may seem like they lead us to God, but in actuality might lead us far away from Him.
For example, if someone grew up in a home that was loving, nurturing, and basically a great environment, but later went away doing everything contrary to the Lord, what they believe about God may greatly be changed because of these events. Another person might go through great struggles and issues with their health, but ultimately build their understanding of God based upon whether or not God heals them. Someone else might have all the riches of the world and have gone to church their whole life, but miss their real need to put their faith in Jesus; all the while believing their kindness and generosity, as well as being essentially an all-around “good” guy, will ultimately get them into heaven.
Because of how different these situations may be, we cannot let our experiences become the means in which we understand who God is and what it means to follow Him. Since the whole of our experiences do impact and shape who we are and what we believe, it is critical that we don’t allow our experiences to become the lens through which we view Scripture; but Scripture in which we view our experiences. In other words, if we are to have a correct understanding of God and what it means to follow Him, we must first understand and adjust ourselves to what the Lord has laid out in the Bible before we can ever understand and make sense out of the things we encounter in life; whether positive or negative.
Since we are all constantly bombarded by so many things seeking to influence our lives, it is no wonder why there is such a growing struggle for Truth in churches. People gravitate towards those people and things they can relate to and what makes sense to them. But since there are many who are masterful at twisting the Bible to appeal to people that can relate to their experiences, it is becoming much more difficult for the average Christian to discern the Truth.
Therefore, we must be willing to return to reading and studying all of God’s Word in order to know if what we are being taught is truly according to the Bible or if it is just another appeal to give people what they want to hear and validate their experiences and beliefs. Our experiences are important. God does use our circumstances to draw us nearer to Him and build our faith and character. But we must be careful not to put our experiences above Scripture and formulate our beliefs about God and what it means to follow Him around these subjective events.
May the Lord continue to lead and guide us into all Truth based firmly upon the foundation of His Word and that we humbly submit and adjust our lives to Him.