As believers, we have understanding of the Christian life in the knowledge we acquire from messages, books and teaching of more mature Christians. We know that knowledge in the heads would not do us much good if it is not assimilated in our hearts. This is where we need to learn in and through experience.
Jesus “learned obedience from what He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). This does not mean that Jesus was not obedient to His Father before His sufferings. He learned what obedience requires, costs and involves through the experience of actually doing His Father’s will up to and in His passion at the cross.
As followers of the Lord Jesus, we must, and do, learn prayer from our struggles to pray, and learn holiness from our battles for purity of heart and righteousness of life. The Father’s call to Jesus required obedience all the way to the cross and He always did what was pleasing to the Father. For us, the major difference is that we cannot achieve what the Father desires for us in our lives consistently; we fail often and have to repent and come back to the Lord again and again, but if we depend on Him through the Holy Spirit in increasing measures, we would learn in and through experience to become more and more like the Lord Jesus.
Prayer and holiness are learned as commitments are made, habits are formed, and battles are fought against our enemy Satan who cunningly manipulate our weak spots. The enemy can play up our presumptuous self-reliance and confidence and trap us in our pride; he can equally cause us to be ‘paralysed’ in our timidity, our anger, lack of discipline, evasion of responsibility and lack of reverential fear for God. He may even persuade us to rationalise our failures and to indulge in what we know to be wrong in the eyes of the Lord God.
Remember that our enemy does not ‘sleep’ and he is expert in the art of spiritual warfare. Walking in the Spirit and relying completely on the Lord would mean learning in and through our experience in our Christian life. We must not forget that as the enemy attacks us, God is using the various circumstances of life at the same time, including our struggles, to teach us important lessons in our journey of transformation to become ready for the new heavens and new earth.
Our experience of pain, sufferings, persecution and even pleasant times may help us to learn from God the deeper lessons of spiritual life or they may cause us to be bitter, disillusioned and end up as casualties in the spiritual war. If the Lord Jesus, as the perfect man and as the Son, learned obedience from what He suffered, can we expect to do less? The call of the Lord Jesus “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, take up the cross and follow Me” makes complete sense in the Christian life. Head knowledge must go on to heart knowledge and through God’s sovereignty in our lives, we must necessarily learn this in and through our experience in life.