One year ago, Melissa and I had never been to the beautiful state of Oregon. It’s hard to believe we are actually living here now! We have friends and family members who had lived in Oregon, and we’d heard through the years that it is a great place to live. In April, I received an email from Oregon inviting me to consider taking a call to pastor the Sandy Seventh-day Adventist Church. I was told that Sandy is “the gateway to Mount Hood,” and as I did some research (we love the outdoors), I read accounts that the Hoodland area is indeed breathtakingly beautiful. I had no reason to doubt that everything everyone was saying was true, so I believed. But it wasn’t until I came and saw for myself that I was settled. Now I know Oregon is beautiful, and that Mount Hood is amazing.
In John 4, we read about a group of people from a Samaritan city named Sychar who believed Jesus was sent from God. This was very unusual, because Jesus was a Jew, and there was a great deal of prejudice between both groups. We read that they “believed in him because of the woman’s testimony” (Jn 4:39). This woman (known as the “Samaritan woman”) suggested to the people of Sychar that Jesus could be the Messiah because she experienced his divine power for herself (Jn 4:29). She knew who Jesus was because of her personal experience with him, and spoke with so much certainty, that these people couldn’t help but believe her testimony (Jn 4:30).
So they went, and they saw him for themselves. After having their own experience with Jesus, “They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.’” Notice how the words believe and know are used in this passage. First they believed the woman, without seeing. Because they believed, they went and saw. After seeing, they knew for themselves. No would be able to convince them otherwise that Jesus is the Christ. This pattern of believing because of a reliable witness, and then knowing based on personal experience, is common in the book of John.
I love parenting, and I’m especially loving this season of our children’s lives. They are five and seven, and seem to believe everything my wife and I tell them. We are the people with the greatest amount of influence in their lives. When we tell them that they were born in Virginia, they believe us. When we tell them that mom was born in Canada, and dad was born in Brazil, they don’t question these statements (though they haven’t seen proof), because they’ve come to rely on us as reliable sources of truth. The same is true for every statement we tell them about God. They just believe.
As good as this “child-like faith” may seem, we are not content with them just believing. We want them to know God for themselves. One day, there will be other “sources of truth” in their lives, and if they don’t know for themselves, they can easily change what they believe. In fact, most Christian young adults are walking away from their childhood faith for this very reason. Not to mention the fact that Religious wars have been waged by people who claimed they believed in God, but obviously did not know him, for “he that loves not knows not God” (1 Jn 4:8).
So what kept young people like Daniel, Joseph, the unnamed little maid and Esther true to God when they had to stand alone in the midst of adversity and hostility towards their faith? The workings of God in their own life. They knew God in an experiential way. At some point in their early years, they made a transition from merely believing what their parents had told them about God, to actually knowing him for themselves. Jesus said in his final prayer, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17:3). This is my goal for my children. How about you?