I am beginning to understand why reporters ask people this question, “How did you feel?” It has always annoyed me because the answer usually is obvious. However I’m thinking about when we say, “You had to be there” as we try to describe something we experienced. In our mind, words are insufficient if the incident deeply affected our emotions. That is, when involved in a newsworthy event, the full story is not just the cold, hard facts of ‘what, when, who, why, and where.’ Most news items have an emotional impact on those who were there and reporters want more. Besides, emotions generate human interest.
Beyond that, most of us would rather get a story from an eye witness than getting it second or third-hand. Like that old telephone game, the more something is passed along, the more we suspect its credibility.
The Bible book of Acts has an intriguing feature. A careful reading shows that Luke, the author, was a companion of Paul and an eyewitness to many of the events about which he writes. This evidence appears in the ‘we’ sections of the text where Luke includes himself by the use of the first-person plural pronoun.
And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16:10)
Immediately I sense credibility in the story. Luke was there. This was not a second or third-hand account. He was also there when Paul and his friends went to Philippi:
So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. (Acts 16:11–15)
Luke also saw first-hand the demon-controlled slave girl who practiced fortune-telling:
As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. (Acts 16:16–18)
Luke stayed with Paul and sailed with him to Troas (Acts 20:5-7) and then to Assos and Mitylene (Acts 20:13-21:18) hearing Paul preach in those places. Perhaps the most exciting trip for Luke was their trip to Rome. They were ship-wrecked and nearly perished, but finally made it (Acts 27:1 to 28:16) where Paul was put in a Roman prison.
Over the years, every Christian has experiences that show the grace and power of God in their lives. These are the stories that can capture the ears of those who are seeking spiritual truth. When those “only God” events occur, they need to be told. I can tell the stories I’ve heard from others, perhaps stories with more drama, yet those told first-hand are the most convincing, the most credible.
Jesus, in our Bible study groups, prayer groups, and even during our meals together, You encourage all of Your people to tell one another about what You are doing in our lives. Luke’s stories are faith-builders. He was there! May I be alert and willing to share all the wonderful times You are at work in my life, and not just the data but the emotional impact of sorrows and joys, and the deep peace from knowing that You love and take care of us.