I personally don’t trust online reviews. I don’t know the people giving the reviews. I have read some pretty scathing reviews about restaurants that I actually enjoyed. For all I know, the people giving the scathing review are just bitter people wanting to ruin the reputation of a perfectly decent establishment. But I do trust my good friends who know me well to let me know what places they recommend.
My mother, who has been gone a few years now, used to have a little green book. It was filled with her own personal reviews of hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions from places we visited driving all over the country through the years. That way we knew what places to visit again or not visit again whenever we were back in the area. My mother recorded her own experiences and reviews as who would know her tastes better than herself? After all didn’t David tell us to taste and see for ourselves what we think about the Lord?
Taste and see that the Lord is good. Psalm 34:8 NLT
I like to try new restaurants out for myself. Now during the quarantine I have been doing a lot more cooking at home. I have to say I have impressed myself with some healthy and tasty recipes I have tried or come up with myself. However I am a bachelor, and eating out with friends is part of my social life. So when my friends and I can’t decide where to go eat on a particular occasion, we often decide to try a new place. That way it’s great if we love it but no big deal if we don’t. We decide for ourselves what we like by experiencing it ourselves. That’s what David is telling us – experience the Lord for yourself. Don’t just take his word for it. “Taste and see” for yourself. To me that is a transparent and confident referral. When I walk by the food court at the mall the Asian restaurant has free samples on a stick set out for people to try before they order. By giving out free samples, they are pretty confident about their product. David is being transparent and confident when he tells us to taste for ourselves and see that the Lord is good.
So while I don’t trust recommendations from strangers, I do trust my own personal experiences. Next I trust the recommendation of a trusted friend. In Mark 5:1-20 a demoniac meets Jesus, who changes His life. Now if you read the story you will see that the demoniac had done some pretty embarrassing things. I am sure once he was in his right mind he shuddered to think about the things he had done. After being healed, he asks Jesus if he can go with Him. I imagine he needed a new place to start over, preferably a place where no one had seen all his embarrassing behavior. Instead, Jesus sends Him straight home to his family and friends to tell them that Jesus really changed his life. After all, who could recommend Jesus better than a close friend who was demon possessed but was now in his right mind? He could let them see exactly how Jesus had changed his life. This would be better than Jesus’ disciples going into his neighborhood and preaching.
Peter gave a great sermon at Pentacost. Philip gave a tremendous Bible study that led to an immediate baptism, but their dynamic preaching and teaching would be no match for the personal recommendation of a familiar neighbor and family member who had a life-changing experience with Jesus. Jesus knew that, more than dynamic speakers, the demoniac’s family and neighbors needed a personal demonstration that they could see for themselves.
I mentioned my late mother earlier. I was 50 when she passed away, so I lived 50 years before losing anyone in my immediate family. I always pictured myself rolling up in a little ball to die myself once anyone in my immediate family died. I used to ask my Christian friends how they found strength to go on after their parent died. Early in my ministry I would be comforting someone who had just lost their parent, but I was actually observing them to learn how to survive whenever it happened to me. Sure I knew all the Bible promises and heard dynamic sermons about the second coming and resurrection. I even preached about it myself to people who told me they were blessed by it, but I was looking to my common everyday friends to see how they carried on after losing someone so close and precious to them. Even though I felt like I would just roll up in a little ball and die too, I knew by watching them carry on that God would help me carry on as well. One particular friend told me something very helpful when she lost her mother many years earlier. When I asked her how she carries on, she cheerfully smiled and replied, “My mother was able to live and enjoy her life without me before I was born, and I am able to live and enjoy my life without her now that she is gone.” It was so simple and made so much sense. When my mother did die, of course I grieved, and I was okay with that. My greatest fear was not the grieving, my greatest fear was rolling up in a little ball and dying with her. But I did not roll up in a little ball and die. Just like my mother had a purpose for living before I was born, I have a purpose for living after she died. After all, as much as I loved my mother and love my family, I live for Jesus!
My life and my ministry have flourished since my mother’s death due to the personal experience I have with Jesus – an experience which has been greatly encouraged by the testimony and referrals of personal trusted friends. in the same way, you are to be a living testimony to your family, friends and neighbors. Dynamic sermons by strangers have their place, but they are still just referrals given by strangers. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to let people see what God’s grace brought you from and where you are now. Seeing Jesus in the lives of my friends gave my hope. You can give your friends hope by letting them see all the changes Jesus has made in your life.
This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:15-16 NLT
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.