Experience is a good thing. We need experience in order to grow. But there is a downside of experience.
The more experience we get in using our God-given gifts/abilities, the more confidence we get in our abilities. (BTW, I believe I got this idea from a book by Bruce Wilkinson that I read several years ago, possibly in A Life God Rewards, but I couldn’t find the reference.)
Experience gives us confidence (in God and in God’s ability to use us), but at the same time, experience can cause us to trust ourselves (and our skills) rather than trust God. If we’re not careful and intentional, we can learn to rely on our abilities rather than God.
In the early days of my walk with God, especially as that walk led me to prepare for ministry leadership, it was easy to be dependent on God. I clearly knew that I desperately needed God to do what he was leading me to do.
The reality is that today, because I’ve done it long enough and have gained enough experience, that I could prepare a sermon, stand up in front of a group of people, deliver that sermon, and do it all without relying and depending on God.
Now that doesn’t mean it would be meaningful or that it would feed people’s souls or that it would lead to life transformation. I’m just saying that it would be doable!
That’s a sobering reminder to never lose sight of the fact that I desperately need God, not just when my gifts are untested and undeveloped, but even more so when have been under development for a while!
Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15.5). Well, we can do stuff without God, but we can do nothing of eternal value without God. Christ-followers must always be dependent on God. We must always see ourselves as the child with a few fish and loaves of bread that Christ used to feed thousands!
I love the song by Casting Crowns called “In Me,” which includes these lyrics (with emphasis added) …
If you ask me to leap
Out of my boat on the crashing waves
If You ask me to go
Preach to the lost world that Jesus saves
I’ll go, but I cannot go alone
Cause I know I’m nothing on my own
But the power of Christ in me makes me strong
Makes me strong
Are you still desperate for God? Or have you learned to rely on your own abilities apart from God?