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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Experience, then Explanation!



Have you ever tried selling an idea, or defending a notion when you yourself have never experienced what you are trying to defend with your words? In my experience, when we do this, we most often make ourselves look silly, and our words end up seeming hypocritical. People are most inclined to reject an idea, or a piece of advice, that has no experience to back it.  

A few months ago, I tried ice skating for the very first time. Since I had never done it before, I had almost no idea what I was getting myself into. I got into the skating ring, apprehensive of what was to follow. I fell a few times, clung to the railing, but ended up actually getting the hang of ice skating after a few times around the ring. I got just the hang of it, nothing more.
Now, suppose someone else like me were to enter the ring for the first time, wanting to learn to skate, I would not be the best person to teach them by demonstrating, would I? Suppose I told them, “This is how you ought to do it. Balance this way. Move your feet with this motion. Move your hands like this.” Would I be justified in trying to teach them, when I am only learning? Further, would I be justified in trying to explain things, when I have not experienced that which I am idealizing? How different it is when an experienced skater who knows what she is talking about comes on to the scene. How much more credence her words have, because they are backed by experience.

That is what it’s like with hope. The world, make no mistake, is a very hopeless place. People are hopeless. But also make no mistake, they are looking for hope. So think then, can hopeless people be given hope by people who themselves have not experienced hope, or who are not experiencing this hope presently? Though words of hope can be spoken, there is something empty about them, when they come from the mouths of people who have not experienced the fullness of hope found in an active and personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.      

I am talking about Christians here. Most of us are aware of the need to share our faith – the hope we have – with people. However, a very common mistake that we make as Christians is first wanting to explain our faith, and our hope, without having experienced it. We do a great injustice to the truth of the hope available to people, when we try to defend it without experiencing it. So Peter, the disciple of Jesus Christ, writing to believers, in the first century, as part of the first letter named for him (which I call “the letter of hope”), says this,

But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence1 Peter 3:15

How is it that as Christians, we can credibly explain, or defend, the hope within us to a hopeless world?

The first thing needed is a relationship with Jesus Christ. He is to be set apart as Lord in our hearts, for whoever, or whatever, is lord of our hearts, will be lord of the rest of our lives and will determine what we share and defend. In explaining hope, a relationship with Jesus is the wellspring from which our credibility flows. Only in experiencing a relationship with Him, can the hope in Him be truly explained.

The second thing that is needed is a constant readiness. Only a ready heart, readied by a relationship, can yield a ready mind and mouth. Once the heart is ready, the mind is made perceptive to the truth about reality and human existence. Only then, is the mind made keen to the truths of God’s Word and how it is relevant to our lives, and the lives of people looking for hope. There is an inextricable link between a hopeful heart, and a ready mind, a hopeful mind, and a ready heart. Only in being constantly ready through a constant, abiding relationship with the Lord, can a Christian credibly explain or defend the hope within.

When there’s this relationship and this readiness, then the hope that’s being experienced can be explained to everyone, everywhere. Notice from the text that they – ones who are hopeless and looking for hope – are the ones doing the asking. Hope being experienced is attractive, it is contagious, and it begs the question, “How can I have this hope too?” And then it opens the door for us to explain this hope within us – a hope which Peter explains elsewhere in this epistle of hope, is “a living hope” (1:3), “a grace based hope” (1:13), and “a validated hope” (1:21).

© Kenny Damara, 2014

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