I once read an account about a young scholarly bachelor who was assigned to write a treatise on the theme, “What Is Love?”
His research was extensive. Numerous books were reviewed, and many months were spent in the organization and development of the material gathered.
When his work was ready for submission to a publisher, arrangements were made with a public stenographer to type the manuscript. Walking into her office for the first time, something unusual and unexpected happened. Eyes met! Pulses quickened! A strange feeling swept over both of them.
It was love at first sight!
The subject of the writer’s paper was no longer a mere theory to him; it became reality as he personally discovered its satisfying rewards. By this exciting contact he learned and understood more about his topic in a few seconds than he had gleaned through all his tedious studies.
For the first time, he “experienced” what he had been writing about.
Call it love if you will, or infatuation, lust, or any other of a number of terms, but when this young fellow walked into that office that day, that which had previously only been theory became a very definite and distinct reality.
We just celebrated Memorial Day, and almost in the same breath, the NFL announced a new policy regarding the National Anthem and players’ protests.
Could it be that one of the reasons the younger generation is not more patriotic, more industrious, more committed especially to the principles of national freedom is that they have not fully “experienced” the issues that result from a lack of what these things provide?
This leads me to the question for the moment: When was the last time you “experienced” God? Oh I know, you say you go to church, and you experience God there… well, sometimes anyway… maybe. But when was the last time you really experienced God?
No, I’m not talking about some ecstatic or otherwise phenomenal experience. To “experience” something or someone means to perceive, know, understand, or become increasingly better acquainted with” that individual.
What I am asking is simply: Is God a reality in your life? Or is He simply a once-a-week theory that you tolerate because you know you should?
When I think of experiencing God, many of the Old Testament saints come to mind. One cannot think about experiencing God without remembering Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah, or Moses and the burning bush on Mount Sinai, or Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, and, yes, Jonah in the belly of that great fish, somewhere in the depths of the Mediterranean Sea.
Even in the New Testament, we see people experiencing God in many different ways. Whether the disciples out in a boat in the middle of a violent storm, or Mary simply sitting at the feet of Jesus in worship and adoration, people throughout the pages of Scripture seemed to “experience” God.
What was the key to their experience? Is there a common theme or thread that ties all of these together?
Jesus said to His disciples, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5).
I am convinced that this verse shows us the very essence of what experiencing God is all about. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches!
Contrary to popular belief and opinion, WE ARE NOT THE VINE, Jesus is! Being only human, we want to think we are in control and that God is some mystical puppet to be manipulated into submission to our wills, and not the other way around.
But we are not the vine, Jesus is! That means He is the source for our very existence, not to mention our entire experience. He is the one to whom we must be tied in absolute dependence upon Him. We cannot, as branches, exist in and of ourselves without the Vine.
Some years ago, a fellow had a large limb on a cherry tree in his back yard that was wind-blown and broken during a springtime storm. Even though the branch was only connected to the trunk of the tree by a very slender strand of wood, the fellow left it attached, and was surprised when the branch began to blossom.
Later, when the tree began to bear its full course of fruit, this branch only bore a small and limited amount of fruit. The branches which were fully connected to the tree were the ones that really bore “much” fruit!
In the same way, you and I can experience God fully only as we are connected to the Vine, fully and completely dependent upon Him for our daily survival!
If we settle for even a small, incidental (once-a-week?) connection, our sustenance, our fruit will likewise be small and minimal.
The challenge for us then is to stay connected, fully in touch and in tune with the Lord!!!
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Hillsboro Times-Gazette and the Wilmington News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Faith Community Church in Hillsboro and Port William UMC.