An old hymn recites the certainty that Jesus lives. The writer of these much loved lyrics begins with saying: “I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today.” He goes on to say that he knows Jesus lives because he sees “His hand of mercy” and “hears His voice of cheer.” He speaks also of his personal experience with Christ and knows He lives within his heart.
In the teeter-totter of faith, this song is mostly about experience and less about objective evidence. While Christians enjoy and rely on their experience of Christ, some will find that is not enough. Jesus had healed the sick, fed the multitudes, and did many other miracles, but those who saw and experienced these things were still not convinced . . .
“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’” (John 6:66–69)
The group of disciples who turned back were in it for what He could do for them. When He described a commitment of faith that involved deeper intimacy, they turned away at this: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." (John 6:53)
Perhaps the turn-off was due to the practices of pagans who literally did these things. Perhaps it was due to the word He used for ‘knowing’ Him, a word the Bible commonly uses for intimate relations between husbands and wives. In any case, they didn’t understand what He was talking about and were offended and grumbling.
I understand what He said. He is talking about abiding in Him, about Him living in me so that all that I do and the person I am is dramatically and deeply affected. He is talking drawing all that I need from Him, and about a change of life that comes from knowing God and walking with Him. Later, one of the disciples who stayed wrote this:
“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” (1 John 2:12–14)
This is abiding. It knows Him, is strong and overcomes Satan. It is an aware life, a life that comes only from Christ — and I know it. I have nothing in myself, only Jesus.
But sometimes I feel like going away because abiding in Christ is both wonderfully easy and helplessly difficult. I like the wonderful part, but get weary of the helpless part. Jesus meets my needs, but not always when I feel needy. He knows best, but I have lots of ‘why’ questions and I want to be strong all the time.
Faith isn’t always about the evidence of personal experience. Jesus lives because the Word of God and historical evidence declares it, not just because I see or feel it. I’d be worried if the latter never happened, but do not worry because the former did happen and cannot change. Public opinion tries by declaring ‘God is dead’ and other such nonsense, but this cannot altar reality. Nor can it change the testimony of millions who do experience the grace of God. Putting the two together is powerful motivation.
Besides, where would I go? Nothing and no one else promises eternal life, or even the assurance of eternal life. Only the Living God does that through the intimacy of saving faith.
Jesus, I know that You are always the answer to every need. I also know I cannot go away. Besides the fact that You are all that the Word of God says about You, whatever else I might rely on has already proved itself useless and unable to do anything for me. Only You can satisfy my needs and make me whole. Only You speak the words of eternal life because only You are that life, risen from the dead to prove it. Objectivity aside, nothing else works. You have it all, all that I need and then some.