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The Importance of Firsthand Information (Part 1)

Relying on secondhand information can be disastrous. One of my high school teachers once used a class activity to illustrate this truth. On a certain afternoon, he walked down the platform and whispered in the ear of the first student sitting on the far right, on the first row. Back to his desk, he instructed my classmate to whisper what he had just heard to the student sitting next to him. He asked for the information to be whispered from one student to the next till it had reached the last student sitting on the classroom’s last row.

When we were done, he called both the first student (the one with the original information), and the last student (the one who heard it last) to come up to the platform. Then, he asked them to share what they had heard with the entire classroom. To our amazement, the latter information sounded nothing like the first. Not only were the words different but the tone and the clarity had been greatly diluted. Then our teacher, in his own words, revealed what he originally communicated. We then realized that even the intended urgency and impact of his message had been lost in transition.

I wonder what would have happened if he allowed us to complete our assignment without revealing his instructions firsthand to all of us. Without a doubt more than ¾ of the class would have been completely out of bounds and failed the assignment. Relying on secondhand information has the potential to derail us in matters as small as classroom projects. How much more detrimental could it be to our walk with the Lord if we make it our main source?

Do you know that your pastor’s sermons, or your favorite mentor’s teachings are all secondhand information by the time they reach your ears? Let us assume a pastor has a direct revelation from the Lord (hopefully). He has to spend time to process it, format it, and then deliver it to you as an information. Albeit new to you, the truth is, regardless of how much our beloved pastors care to feed us with authentic bread, we are not getting it fresh out the oven. On the other hand, firsthand revelation is experiential knowledge. In other words, it is information that is revealed to us by way of direct communication with Holy Spirit. If you ever tasted hot, crisp bread out the oven you would struggle settling for cold, tender ones off the counter.

Do not get me wrong: we should absolutely value and be excited to hear our friends, pastors, mentors, and fathers share their revelations. There is even great benefit to learn from them. However, there is a deeper sense of spiritual fulfillment when the word that we hear in public complements or confirms what has already been revealed or hinted to us by the Spirit of God in private.

Jesus pointed at this truth in Matthew 16:13-20 when He asked His disciples: “Who are people saying the Son of Man is?” Jesus knew who He was, and He did not depend on man’s opinion but the Father’s alone. He was after something else. He was looking to see whether His disciples had built their faith on secondhand information or from personal revelation. Sure enough, they (which means more than one) quickly replied: “Well, some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” They knew the word in the streets and there was nothing wrong with that. However, they seemed confused and unsettled on which opinion to believe. Worse, in their state of confusion, they didn’t even have the presence of mind to ask their Master who He was. How dangerous!

Then Jesus said to them: “But you, who do you say I am?”. I will paraphrase: “Very well. I see you are well informed on the chatter in the streets. But you are the closest to have been around me, and for a while now. So, what is your take on this?” Notice how multiple disciples chimed in the first time. But this time, you can almost sense the awkwardness of the moment until Peter alone finds the courage to say: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” I believe Peter’s notorious zeal for the Lord resided in this inner witness.

We know the rest of the story. Jesus declares that Peter could not have known this except the Father in heaven revealed it to him. He then said He will build His church on this revelation and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. This scene is a microcosm of the church today. Most of us primarily operate with information obtained from others’ experiences and opinions at the expense of personal revelation. This explains why many of us are easily tossed back and forth by the waves (Ephesians 4:14). Yet, Jesus seems to imply that direct revelation from the Spirit of the Lord himself has the power to help us withstand the assaults of the enemy.

Even more intriguing, He warned the disciples not to share this revelation with anyone else. There has been much speculation as to why He would do such a thing. The answer has always been in front of us. He was desiring people to come to a revelation of the truth, instead of relying on someone else's bit of information. Furthermore, revelation can easily be washed out in a sea of information. If the disciples paraded the news around town, that revelation too, would risk being treated as just another opinion among many others. It would have lost its peculiarity and Jesus wasn't having it.


Next, I will discuss the first benefit of walking with the Lord from a place of personal revelation (with firsthand information). Until then, I invite you to pray this with me: “Lord Jesus Christ, I desire You above all things. I ask You to make this desire a reality in my daily walk with You. Though I honor the knowledge that comes from my elders, brothers and sisters, I no longer want to heavily depend on their experiences. I want to experience Your Word firsthand. Grant me the hunger to be fed by Your whisper every day, and to be one in whom You confide. Amen.”

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