It didn't take long after I moved out to Minnesota for the "polar vortex" to land on the Midwest. Being from California originally, it took a little while to get used to walking outside to below-zero temperatures, and driving through snow and ice. By the grace of God, I haven't been in any dangerous situations out on the road. But that does not mean that everyone else has. I remember one night driving to work seeing a car that had flipped on its side in the middle of a freeway onramp, blocking the entire lane. Needless to say, I began driving slower for a while after that incident.
It didn't take long, however, before I was back to my normal routine, driving at (or maybe just a little above) the speed limit, and I was not the only one doing so. After such a large warning about how easy it can be to take a spill on the road, I had already forgotten about it almost entirely. Fortunately, I was never in any danger of a car accident that night, but it did get me thinking about some things.
I thought about how easy it is for us to forget epic experiences we encounter. As they fade from our memory, we quickly fall back into bad habits and live just as if it never happened. I would've had ample warning that the roads were slick after seeing that one accident, and it would have been my own careless fault if I had gotten into an accident of my own that night.
I thought about the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. Jesus tells this story of two men, one in the lap of luxury and the other begging right outside the gate. Then when the two men die, the roles are reversed: Lazarus now lives in the glory of the Lord, and the rich man is in anguish in hell. The rich man proceeds to plead with Abraham to send Lazarus back as a warning for his brothers. Anyone who has spent a fair number of time in church knows the end of this story. Abraham says to the man, "They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them." The rich man responds, "No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent." Abraham has the last word in the matter when he says, "If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead."
Faith is not based in big experiences, but in the everyday. We live out our faith in the way that we wake up, go to work or school, take care of menial tasks, and so on. If we cannot live out our faith in the little things, how can we expect to follow through with monumental decisions we make in the big experiences?
One of the major proponents of the "big, life-changing experience" is the conference. Be it Passion, Urbana, Hillsong, Resolved (now Anchored), these conferences tend to be big showcases where you are supposed to commit your life anew to some big task of reaching the world for the sake of the gospel. There is nothing wrong with that! The problem comes when the people who make those life-changing commitments haven't been living out their faith in everyday life. They anticipate the next year's conference as their jolt to spring them into some crazy-amazing thing for God. And then they go, and get fired up again for how they are going to impact the world, but within weeks they are already back to the same life they had been living before.
My generation is constantly pining after the next big experience, knowing that it will only last a little while and will turn into a desire for something even bigger and more life-changing. Outside of that, Christianity is a few cool buzzwords and a boring lifestyle to them. Yet I have found that the everyday minutia of living on this earth can be exciting if lived in the right mindset. Devoting time to serious prayer and reading Scripture, among other things, has given me a joy of living, even in the midst of the humdrum tedium of life. The Father has given me new life through the sacrifice of His Son, and it is my joy to give that life back to Him as a sacrifice of worship. So, I seek to live each day for His glory alone by His grace and to the best of my ability.
And if you need more proof that big experiences are futile, just look at Revelation 16. God is pouring out His final wrath on the earth at the end of the tribulation, the final judgment before Christ's return. Each of these judgments is huge! First, everyone is inflicted with painful sores; then the seas and rivers are turned into blood; scorching heat will come upon the world; darkness comes upon the kingdom of the beast. You would think that these big experiences would cause some people to turn and repent just like our big experiences, right? Yet there are two specific instances where John records that the people of the earth curse the name of God and do not repent of their sin. The battle will not be won through an emotional high; victory comes through grace in the everyday.
A simple servant of the Master.