"Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?" 2 Cor. 11:24-29
I have been around Christians and the Christian community most of my life. I have attended hundreds of conferences, Bible studies, Church sessions, over the years. I have heard my share of pontificating by those who considered themselves students of the Bible or teachers of it. I have certainly had my fill of 'Biblical Information'; I say that will all respect.
As a Christian, I have learned the importance of 'Experience'. Often, we do not understand the knowledge we have received until we have an experience that relates to the information we have stored in the brain. While knowledge is needed and necessary, experience, at some point, has to accompany it.
The people I listen to the most, and primarily, are the individuals who are able to back their knowledge with experience. I can remember, to this very day, some powerful experiences that were shared with me from believers who suffered some incredible things. The way in which they spoke of Christ, and the clear understanding they had gained from Scripture, confirmed for me that their walk with God was as real as it gets. They were authentic, and they empowered me in my faith journey. As a result, I kept trusting in God!
The Apostle Paul, went through some incredibly hard, and dangerous stuff all because he was living in obedience to God. Satan had a serious problem with Paul! He never saw it coming. He never would have imagined that Paul would ever be converted because he had him just where he wanted him. Paul was persecuting Christians and consenting to their deaths. He was the right hand man for the devil and he was doing a banging job at it.
Once Satan realized that Paul wasn't turning back from his conversion, he wanted to kill him! He feels the same way about all Christians! Given the opportunity, Satan would kill all Christians! He is doing so in many corners of the earth today! There are many martyrs for Christ and has been for eons, but only when God signed off on it for His own purposes.
When the Apostle Paul instructed Christians, in the early church age, to do something or not to do something, he knew what he was talking about. Not only did Paul have deep convictions concerning his faith, he had the experiences to back it up. From the very onset of his conversion, and how it all happened, was quite unusual. He heard the voice of the Lord God, literally, and became blind! What a powerful start to the ministry work God was calling him to.
I don't know about you, but as far as I am concerned, I am not interested in constant pontificating where biblical things are concerned. I'm looking to see what the person/s have to back it up. First and foremost, is their lifestyle and behavior consistent with what they say or preach? Secondly, what have they endured for the sake of Christ? What have they suffered? What price have they paid?
My life has been deeply impacted and enriched from the Christians who have endured and maintained consistency in their lives. Again, they have stories and rich experiences to back up Scripture, so when they have something to say or to pontificate about, I'm all ears. I'm all the way 'In' with them because their walk and journey with God is For Real!
The list of things that the Apostle Paul endured and suffered is beyond anything I can relate to, but it is real and it testifies to the level of faith and trust he place in the Lord God. He states that it was a privilege and an honor to suffer for Christ. Incredible! He gloried in his infirmities because of who it was he did it for! Now here's a man worth listening to. Many had no appreciation for him and wanted to get rid of him. He states that all of the opposition, and dangerous things that came against him, was because of his faith.
What have you or I endured and suffered because of our faith? What price have we paid because of it? How many stories can you tell? How many stories can I tell or are we just pontificating about things too wonderful for us to even enter into or remotely understand?
If you have vital and powerful experience with Christ, it is imperative that you share it. I believe in that! How could your faith or my faith be taken seriously or seen as real if we keep our mouths clamped shut about what we have learned by experience with God? It's yours and my testimony! It is confirmation to our faith! It's what authenticates us from merely having knowledge, but an understanding of God (not totally, but as much as He, God, would give us).
We have to be classified as 'Real Christians', not just professing ones. We need to have powerful stories to share with the world around us. People don't want to HEAR, "Come to my church", or "I'm a Christian", or "You need to get saved." They need to SEE the 'Why' come to my church, the 'Why' I'm a Christian, and they need to SEE the 'Why' they need to get saved! We could be a live, powerful, walking testimony that convinces them that God is indeed real! People are tired of hearing stuff, they need to see the stuff through our experiences and testimonies. The Christians in Paul's day knew the stuff he was suffering and the things that happened to him. He could tell them to be encouraged, because they saw how he was going through it.
The Apostle Paul has left us with a power house and living proof of his life and walk with God! He's didn't just pontificate! The false teachers of his day didn't even subject themselves to what he suffered, and that ought to tell us something!