In my last articles about 360 in 180, my mission to backpack 360° around the world in 180 days documenting Christian students’ experiences at secular universities, I’ve consistently mentioned the importance of founding our thinking on God’s word. Without God’s word as our authoritative source for truth, moral standards have no consistent foundation, human life has no objective value, and the gospel has no inherent meaning. That’s why defending Biblical authority is central to the ministry of Answers in Genesis. Biblical authority only matters, however, if God’s word is true in the first place. But how can we know that it is?
For starters, we can examine features of the Bible like its internal consistency, fulfilled prophecies, and historicity to conclude that God’s written word is true. Or, we can observe the world around us and conclude that biology, geology, genetics, astronomy, archeology and other disciplines all match what we’d expect to see if the Bible were true. These investigations belong to the study of apologetics—the intellectual defense of God’s word, in keeping with the apostle Peter’s instructions to believers:
“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”1
But beyond intellectual arguments, there’s also another great way we can strengthen and defend our faith: personal experience. When we read teachings from Scripture and see them play out in our own lives, we become living evidence that God’s word is true. That’s what being a witness is all about—we’re testifying from firsthand experience what God has done in our lives.
On that note, I’d like to share some stories from 360 in 180 where I personally witnessed God’s word to be true—particularly, passages like Jesus’s words in Matthew 6:25-26 (ESV):
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"
I’d encountered glimpses of this truth as a student, but the real fun started where my comfort zone stopped—when traveling solo left me nobody to rely on but God. Take, for instance, the series of events which began on a train in Australia.
Adventures in God’s provision:
“God is your provider,” said the lady in the seat next to me. We’d just begun a long-haul ride across eastern Australia, and—shortly into our conversation—discovered that we were both Christians. I hadn’t told her how just that morning, I’d whipped out a calculator in concern about financing the rest of my travels.
“Sorry, Ma’am,” a conductor said suddenly, stepping near to check our tickets, “you’re in the wrong seat.”
As she left, the woman turned back to look at me. “You know that verse about God providing for the sparrows? That’s for you.”
When I arrived in New Zealand a couple of Saturdays later and went searching for groceries, I began to understand what those words meant. Food prices seemed especially high, so as I walked to church the next day, I specifically prayed for ‘daily bread.’2 I meant that figuratively.
Soon after the service, I found a young woman to interview about her experiences at secular university. She’d just been volunteering at a church ladies’ lunch, so before we parted, she handed me a bag of leftovers. Looking inside, I saw just what I’d technically prayed for: two whole loaves of bread!
“Thanks, Lord,” I said, “I see what you did there!”
Happily, I lived on peanut butter and jam sandwiches for the next three days. Then on the fourth day, a man I’d been talking to randomly walked away, mumbling something about free coffee. When he returned, he handed me—of all things—another loaf of bread.
“Is that for me?” I asked.
When I went to put it in the freezer, I realized that the last of the other bread was gone. I don’t know whether someone took it or threw it away, but right when the first bread ran out, God provided more. So THAT, I thought, is what daily bread means!
But the lessons in God’s provision were only beginning.
See, food wasn’t the only necessity I found pricey at the time. Public transport was also so expensive that I sometimes walked three hours a day to meet Christian students. And while I’d acquired cheap accommodations at a local ministry base, the costs were still adding up. One memorable afternoon, however, God took care of both concerns at once.
It happened in a rainstorm. I’d already walked over 15 km that day and still had an hour left to go when the downpour began. With no umbrella, I soon transformed into a piteous creature resembling a waterlogged cat, except 5’7” and wearing soaked sneakers. As I plodded onwards, listening to only the rain and the squishing of my sneakers, I suddenly heard something else:
“Do you need a ride?”
I turned to see a metallic sedan beside me, its sole occupant a silver-haired woman.
She probably won’t kill me, I hoped, and slid into the passenger seat.
“Where are you heading?” she asked. When I mentioned the road, she named the ministry base where I’d been staying. “I’m a Christian too,” she shared, “You’d be welcome to stay with me, if you like.”
Later, I learned she’d felt God prompting her to offer me a ride when she first passed me on the road. So, she’d pulled onto a side street and waited for me. She ended up welcoming me into her home for two days!
When the two days were up, my host offered to drive me to the airport so I could catch my next flight. I’d booked a series of budget flights to the Philippines, which would require traveling for three days and sleeping in airports for two nights. Okay, trying to sleep. At least the price of accommodations would be right.
But what about food? I didn’t want to depend on overpriced airport food for three days, but—while my hostess didn’t know this—that very morning I’d also run out of the protein powder which I usually paired with oats for breakfast. What other cheap protein source could I buy, though, that would get through airport customs and last for three days?
I didn’t have long to wonder. Right after I’d finished that last breakfast, my hostess spontaneously gave me a whole box of high-protein energy balls—perfect for the next three days of airport life! Again, God had shown me that He knew exactly what I needed before I asked.3
The moral of the story:
While reason, logic and apologetics help us know intellectually that God’s word is true, moments when our own lives confirm Scripture’s truth can build our faith on a whole new level. Then, our stories themselves become a form of apologetics, because we are defending our faith based not only on impersonal arguments—but also on personal experience.
In my case, a few simple experiences of God’s faithfulness Downunder hinted at a great threefold secret which I would continue to glimpse throughout my travels: 1) God is greater than we imagine He is, and 2) life is simpler than we think it is, because 3) the Bible is truer than we live like it is.
The tricky thing about this incredible reality is that words and arguments hardly do it justice. No matter how much apologetics we know or how many personal stories we tell, we can’t experience the Bible’s truth for anyone else. We can, however, join the Psalmist’s plea, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good,”4 and encourage one another to affirm God’s word through experiencing its truth firsthand.