I don't like getting distracted or lost after asking for directions. Looking for direction or inspiration from Christian writers and speakers has the same potential to sidetrack or mislead me.

"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ."

I finished reading "Hope For The Troubled Heart," by Billy Graham. Anecdotes about angels lifted my faith like a cup of dark roast coffee. The spiritual boost enticed me to read another Graham book, "Angels."

I found a discounted copy, put other books aside and settled down to read. However, beyond the first chapter, all the anecdotes came from the Bible. I was disappointed. The book wasn't what I expected. I reproved myself for making a hasty purchase.

Hmmm. Not what I expected, but exactly what I needed. I had attributed greater value to people's experiences than to God's Word. Not because Graham emphasized or highlighted experiences but because "I had." Graham used experiences like accessories, much like those we request when buying a car. Air conditioning, chrome hubcaps and CD players don't run the car. They just heighten the pleasure of driving it.

Drawing our hope or building our faith from the experiences of other Christians is dangerous. And it's rarely where Christian writers intend to lead. Most long to open their readers' curiosity and draw them into God's Word.

"Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). Faith grows in proportion to the time we spend reading and meditating on God's Word. Sermons, books and conferences heighten our enjoyment of the Scriptures. But they are acessories. And accessories are optional.

. . . . . .

Jesus used stories to teach truths. Stories and experiences give our minds something of substance, a picture that aids our memory. And so, reading Christian books, sharing our experiences and prayer answers all have their place. Each provides important encouragement, especially needed as we see "the day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:25 NAS).

We just need to exercise caution. God's perfect Word is the meat of our faith. Experiences are merely seasoning. They're accessories. And . . . they're optional.

Excerpt from article published in "Evangel March 2011