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Why your experience with Jesus matters
Ben asked us to share a story on Monday night about how we know Jesus is alive. These kind of stories can be hard for me since I grew up Christian, suffered little disillusionment, and often felt like my “coming to faith” story was not very inspired. I kind of compared myself to other people who had some miraculous story.
But really, when I found Circle of Hope, something changed. I was wondering whether I could be a Christian anymore with so many believers supporting the Iraq War in 2003 and Circle of Hope kind of randomly showed up in my life, as if an answer to prayer. If I go through my life and note all of these blessings that occur, I can demonstrably declare how Jesus is alive today.
Circle of Hope, in many ways, is at the top of my list for why I know Jesus is alive. Our local expression of the Body of Christ is quite definitively not just a reason that points to the living Christ, it is actually him living among us. We are the church, we are the Body of Christ. My evidence for Jesus being alive is all of the people of Circle of Hope, it’s my cell, it’s the Sunday meetings, it’s our mission. I actually think Circle of Hope creates an environment where Jesus can be known and experienced. We are creating a cultured place where Jesus is experienced. This is an important piece of theology, in fact. And it is the reason that we were talking about our own stories.
Your experience matters. No one can refute your experience and your reasons for knowing that Jesus is alive. People might criticize it—they might call it a coincidence, they might say it doesn’t work for them, that’s not a real reason, that they need empirical data. I just want to tell you again that your experience can’t be undone by someone else’s lack of one, their lack of faith, or even their meanness.
Think of your story and write it down. May it invigorate you to invite someone to have their own experience and story, too. I don’t think our stories, as motivating and inspiring as they are, are “data” that one can use to apologetically explain Christ’s resurrection or something, but I think we can use them to motivate ourselves, to give us more reason to believe and act, to remember how Jesus has shown up in our faith and our life.
Our experience, what the Daily Prayer called our “content” the other day, matters. When Jesus tells someone that he’s healed that it was their faith that healed them, he is talking about their content. Your story and your experience can continue to inspire you to follow Jesus, and I think your energy and your inspiration may cause someone else to have their own experience.
When I grew up, I was always comparing my experience to someone else’s. I wondered if I really knew Jesus because I couldn’t list a miracle. Sometimes I still wonder that. It’s a cost of being an experiential person who makes a lot of decisions with my gut. I suppose I know Jesus is alive because I know it. That’s not a very good reason. It makes sense to me, but not in a way where scientific evidence has demonstrated it, but because of what I have experienced. What I have known.
Above I said it was my experience in the Body of Christ that has made Jesus real to me. But it’s also the quiet experiences by myself. When I pray, and I feel heard (not always “answered”). When I walk down a path and I feel and know Jesus is next to me. When I am sad and hurt, and I know Jesus is with me in it. Quite honestly, my experience with Jesus is quite personal and quite intimate, and not really transferable, sellable, or even “billboardable.”
My invitation to you? Have an experience of your own. The best way I know how to do it is in community. Our community is safe enough for you to join and experience Jesus personally, but in common with the rest of it. If you are doing it alone, expecting a grand revelation, and you can’t find one, maybe someone at our Sunday meetings can help you see it. Maybe your cell member can. Maybe just worshipping will give you new eyes to see how Jesus is alive in your life, too.