We live in an experiential society. One in which we must have all of our senses catered to in order to be happy. Any sort of business model these days speaks not only of numbers and ratios and bottom lines but of the experience of the consumer.
We’re a coffee culture to be sure. A
good gross ol’ tin of Nabob simply doesn’t cut it anymore. (Hey, I’m a product of my environment. What can I say?) But in this culture we’re not just drawn to a place that serves the best coffee. We’re drawn to the experience of it. I, for one, am unashamed to admit that I love this. I love my Starbucks experience. I love walking in and smelling the smells and hearing the chatter of friends catching up or business colleagues making plans. I love the smiles of the baristas and especially when they already know my name and my drink. I love the festive holiday and seasonal displays. I’m a sucker for wanting a new mug every time a modern design comes out. I totally dig the tunes that are intentionally chosen for such an environment and I’m happy to sit and savour all of it.
The experience of it. Where all of my senses have been tapped into. The sight is appealing, the sounds draw me in, the smell is enticing, even my sense of touch is catered to through product displays, old wooden tables and the warmth or chill of my drink, day depending. And my sense of taste? Well, that goes without saying. They had me at hello.
I wonder though, in this culture that is all about experience, what it does to our spiritual lives. What it does to our faith.
I hear time and time again people saying that their are times when Christ feels so close and times when He just seems distant, far away. That there are times when we are so enamoured that we can practically taste His goodness and times when we just can’t. I question the dangers of our society, it’s pitfalls, changing our faith.
The brilliant Edith Schaeffer said this,
“By whose definition has the word faith come to have a mystical twist, so that it conjures up a hushed atmostphere with sights, sounds, and feelings enveloping the fortunate ones and driving out ordinary thought forms and logical understanding. Who has spread the idea that faith is separated from reason and mind – to be ‘experienced’ even as people experience a light show with rock music or a drifting ‘spiritual’ floating by means of some sort of chemical or plant substance which is swallowed or smoked? What definition opens the way to faith for an elite who have had some sort of an experience which others must either duplicate or be left in the cold outside a shut door?”
She raises such a valid point. When did we come to equate faith with our own personal experiences? And when did we start having a ‘faith scale’ that measures where we are at each day? The scripture speaks nothing of this kind of faith.
Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
End of story. Not hearing plus feeling warm and fuzzy inside. Not hearing plus the audible voice of God the Almighty himself. Not hearing plus knowing everything there possibly is to know. Not hearing plus….well, anything!
Faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ. This means that our faith does not waiver depending on our moods. Faith is not shaken by the amount of sleep we got last night. Though sometimes it feels like it is.
It’s so important for me to realize that God doesn’t change with the moons. His word does not fluctuate with the tides. Truth is not shaken by an earthquake or a tsunami or a cyclone. His word stands through all of this. It’s me that changes, fluctuates and is shaken. My pithy self who follows whims and emotions and acts on feelings of God.
This is not faith. Faith comes from hearing the word of God.
In Paul’s message to the Corinthians he explained that it was not him who was coming to them with lofty speech or great wisdom. He told of his weakness and his fear. Why? He answers it in 1 Corinthians 2:5 which says, “that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
I admit that when I read “men” in that passage I think of other men. But I too am “man”. So not only can my faith not lie in the wisdom of those around me, of humans great or small, but it may also not lay in myself. My thoughts. What I think is right. What I feel. Because I know that my personal feelings have the power to deceive, to twist and to stir up responses that pander to my selfish desires. Our faith must rest in the power of God.
We’re quick to seek out the things that make us feel good. Powerful. Spiritual, even. But how much are we hearers? Seeking the word of God which is so easily available to us. This challenge is for me and you both.
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Where does this lead us? Right back to the beginning. Genesis 1:1. Do we believe in faith that the word of God is true? That God created heavens and earth? That God spoke the earth into being? That He made man after His own likeness? The pages of scripture are there for us to read, to hear, to believe. Are we? This is where our faith is found. Where our faith is grounded. And where our faith will soar.
**Edith Schaeffer quote taken from her book A Way of Seeing which is sadly out of print and going for up to $250 on amazon otherwise I’d tell you to pick it up. I got mine for $1.99 at a used book store.
**Thoughts on the experiential economy influenced by Jim Gilmore’s books The Experice Economy: Work is theatre and every business a stage and Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want