Why Belief is a Poor Substitute for Experience

Holy Bible

“Belief is a poor substitute for experience.”

~ Tony Robbins

When I first heard this quote from Tony Robbins it sort of rubbed me the wrong way. For me faith is primary in my life. What I believe impacts every aspect of my life and matters more than anything else. But really taking it in and mulling it over I have come to understand what he meant.

Knowing About vs. Knowing God

When this is the case, our belief in Him must be taken seriously enough to enter into relationship with Him. For the Christian cannot just believe in God as He believes that the world is round. To believe in God is to live in relationship with Him, to know Him intimately, to experience all that He is—mercy, love, peace, joy.

I know the world is round because I’ve read it in text books. I’ve seen photos. It makes sense to me logically. That’s enough for me to make the rational choice to believe that it is true. I could say the same for any historical figure, say Lincoln. What I know or have learned about Lincoln is good and important and influences me in a certain way, but I cannot say that I know Lincoln because I have never met him.

With God, I could say the same. I have read about Him in books. I’ve seen many pictures of Jesus. It makes sense to me logically and I have also made the rational decision to believe in Him. But this belief is backed up by something more than just logic—the experience of Him. I know God. Personally. Intimately. How? I’ve experienced Him, His mercy, His grace, His love. I’ve heard His voice speaking in the silence of my heart. I’ve seen Him in the “least of these my brethren”.

Living in Relationship with God

Unfortunately, many Catholics still find themselves in the first category. They have been catechized. They understand some of the teachings of the Church. They know about God. But they don’t know God. They have never truly experienced Him in a personal way. Until that happens it is highly unlikely that our faith will ever fully develop into the life-changing force that drives us to continually strive to walk in His ways.

Following Jesus loses its appeal when we are so far behind that we no longer see Him. Being a Christian, living as a disciple of Jesus Christ means to live in relationship with Jesus as the disciples did. They were intimate friends, sharing everything, being open to each other. They heard Him speak and listened. They saw the miracles He performed in each others’ lives and in the people He healed. The experienced the power of His presence. They suffered and most of them died for Him.

This is why it is so important for us as leaders to help facilitate these encounters with Christ in order that more of our brothers and sisters experience all that Jesus is and enter into this intimate relationship with Him. Whether that means putting on retreats, joining prayer groups, or attending Bible studies, the more important point is that we allow them to first see Jesus in us.

“A Catholic is one who believes that this Jesus remains alive, active, and accessible in and through His Church.”

~ Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan

In what ways have you experienced Jesus? How can you help to bring that experience of encounter to others?