We must experience God daily
By John Wesley Taylor, V
It was after dinner and I was seated at the piano. In the spirit of true democracy, my mother had provided me with a choice. Either I could wash the dinner dishes, or I could practice the piano. The decision wasn’t too difficult.
But now I had played through all my pieces, one by one, culminating with the “Indian War Dance.” “I’m done, Mom!” I called out.
There was a clatter of dishes in the kitchen.
“That’s sounding fine, son. But you played them only once. To practice means to play a piece many times, only each time a little better.” Then to clinch the argument, she added, “And I’m not quite done with the dishes yet.”
I never did understand why it took her so long to do the dishes…. But I did grasp the message: Once is not enough.
Since that day at the piano, I’ve come to realize that in many aspects of life, once is simply insufficient. I remember seeing a leaf-carrying ant one morning, lugging a clipped leaf toward its nest. A leaf, in fact, that was about 10 times the size of the ant.
All was going quite well until the ant came to a branch that had fallen across his path. The ant tried to crawl under the branch, but the leaf was too big. He attempted to drag the leaf along beside the branch, but the branch was long and the grass was thick; and besides, the ant knew that he was headed in the wrong direction. So the ant tried to tug the leaf up and over the branch, but the leaf was heavy and just as the ant would almost succeed, he would lose his footing and topple back into the grass, still clinging tenaciously to the leaf. He tried again and again, to no avail. Until one time…. This time when he lost his balance and toppled into the grass, it was on the other side of the branch.
So it is with our achievements. In 1857 Cyrus Field attempted to lay a communications cable across the Atlantic Ocean, a distance of nearly 2,000 miles. Only 400 miles out, the cable broke. The next year, three more attempts were made, but each time the cable snapped. The fourth try seemed a success, and messages began to flow across the seafloor. In a matter of only a few weeks, however, the signals began to weaken until they faded out altogether. The insulation had been eaten away, and the cable was dead. Seven years later, Field tried again, loading the cable on the Great Eastern, the largest ship then afloat. Halfway across, the cable broke and sank irretrievably to the bottom. But the next year, with a new cable design, Cyrus Field finally succeeded and theAtlantic didn’t seem quite so vast anymore.
Similar resolve was evidenced by Beethoven, who wrote and rewrote almost every bar of his music at least a dozen times. By Michelangelo, who left more than 2,000 alternate drawings over his eight years of work on The Last Judgment. By Thomas Edison, the great inventor, who discovered from personal experience more than 6,000 ways in which the electric light bulb didn’t work. But he kept searching for two years until the light came on.
The Scriptures themselves illustrate that once is not enough. Noah preached for 120 years, sermon after sermon. The patriarch Isaac dug three wells in succession before his herdsmen were able to water their flocks without strife. The Israelites, following God’s command, marched around Jericho for seven days, then seven times on the seventh day, and the walls came tumbling down.
The child Samuel answered God’s call four times before God revealed His will. Elijah the prophet prayed seven times before his servant caught sight of a small cloud rising out of the sea. Elisha chided King Joash, telling him that he should have struck the ground with his arrows at least five or six times as a metaphor of vanquishing the Syrians.
In the New Testament, Jesus instructed His disciples to forgive seventy times seven. He told them to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). In His own teaching sessions, Jesus would repeat a single concept many times. The kingdom of heaven, He said, is like a pearl, a mustard seed, a sower, treasure hidden in a field, 10 virgins invited to a wedding. It seems that once through was not enough.
In the early Christian church, believers continued day by day in the temple praising God. The Bereans were commended for daily searching the Scriptures. On his missionary journeys, Paul visited many of the cities in Asia not only once, but two or even three times, and then he wrote them letters.
The “once is not enough” directive seems itself to be a dominant theme throughout the Bible. We are instructed to pray without ceasing and in everything give thanks (1 Thess. 5:17, 18). We are to die daily (1 Cor. 15:31). Day by day, we are to be renewed by the Spirit (2 Cor. 4:16). “If anyone desires to come after Me,” Jesus said, “let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).
It is true that we each need to meet the Saviour. We need to be born again. But having met Christ once upon a time is not enough. Having received God’s amazing grace, perhaps at baptism, is simply insufficient. Conversion is not an isolated event; it is an ongoing experience. Christianity is not merely a label; it is a warm, vibrant relationship with Jesus.
Recently I was chatting with a friend, and our conversation turned to food and inevitably to durian (known in Southeast Asia as “the king of fruits,” durian is a strong-smelling tropical fruit with prickly skin). Living here in Asia, what else is there to talk about? At the mention of the word, however, he recoiled.
“Durian? Ugh! I tried that once. And once is enough!”
I wanted to tell him that once is only the beginning. That like moss on a rock, durian is something that grows on you, until it becomes an all-consuming passion. Or so I am told by those who have spent their lives under its influence.
The relationship with Christ, once established, must be maintained. It is not a “once in a lifetime” experience. It is a lifetime experience, a day-by-day encounter. It is not a “once upon a time” story that we have to tell. It is the continued story of our lives, today and everyday, forever.
John Wesley Taylor, V, serves as associate dean of graduate studies at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS) in the Philippines.