A word was secretly brought to me, my ears caught a whisper of it. Amid disquieting dreams in the night, when deep sleep falls on men, fear and trembling seized me and made all my bones shake. A spirit glided past my face, and the hair on my body stood on end. Job 4:12 (NIV)
Religious experiences are powerful, because they are deeply personal. God can as easily speak to us through experiences as he does through churches, pastors, families, friends, and feelings. But if you build your faith on the foundation of experience, the cracks will soon begin to show.
There is a fascinating episode in the book of Job where one of Job’s friends, Eliphaz, speaks about a vision he had in the night. Something powerful happened to Eliphaz and he was quite sure it was God speaking to him. But at the end of the story, when God spoke, He said to Eliphaz, “I am angry with you and your two friends because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7).
His powerful experience misled him. A powerful spiritual experience is an inadequate foundation for faith. If faith cannot rest on churches, pastors, families, friends, feelings, or experiences, what should it rest on? Where is the foundation you can build on with confidence?
Believe it or not, the answer to that question can be found in the story of the disciple who is sometimes called “Doubting Thomas.” You may feel sorry for Thomas, because he is only remembered for one thing—his doubt—but Thomas is actually a model of faith. And if someone known for doubting can be a model of faith, there is hope for all who struggle with doubt.
Have you ever been misled by a powerful spiritual experience? What happened?