A mate of mine loves to refer to things as “life-changing”. If I ask him what he thinks of a concert he went to, he’ll say, “man, it was life-changing!”. The best albums that come out are branded “life-changing”, as are good holidays and even, on a couple of occasions, particularly good blends of coffee! I don’t mean to pick on him, because I know what he means, and in a way everything that we do or experience is “life-changing” to some degree. But real change – lasting change – comes about when we encounter that which is bigger than ourselves. Much of the growth that we experience is gradual and daily, but those moments where we make a 180-degree turn require something pretty special. For me, the change is only permanent when I have an encounter with God.
There are moments when He is so obviously with us that everything else changes. Our hopes are restored, our troubles diminish, and we are filled with courage. This is meant to be something that makes us different – as Moses said, “What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”. As believers, we know that the Spirit of God lives in us, and that His Presence never leaves us, and this is an essential truth to stand on, but we don’t need to just ‘know’ it intellectually. So many people in the church have made a decision to follow Jesus but struggle to ever change, because they’ve not encountered Him. It’s never become real to them. He has made it that we could experience Him personally, and it’s not at the mercy of an argument. People can argue with you all they like (and it is essential to discuss and defend our faith), but if you’ve met God, you’re never the same, and your life shows it. That’s the best proof.
Paul, Mary, Elizabeth, Moses, David, Elijah and many others encountered God, and these were turning points in their lives. We need to encounter Him too. This can be in worship, in prayer, in miraculous circumstances, but we can’t put a formula on it. God can show up how He likes. If you’ve never encountered God, I encourage you to ask Him to open your eyes and to reveal Himself to you. He probably won’t come in the way you expect. I’ve encountered God in the bush, on the train, and while jogging! Elijah went up on a mountain to meet with God (in 1 Kings 19:9-13), and there was a great windstorm. He thought God must’ve been in the wind, but He wasn’t. There was an earthquake after that, but God wasn’t in the earthquake either. After this there was a fire, but God still hadn’t shown up. Finally there was a gentle whisper (or gentle breeze), and God spoke to Him in the breeze. The point is that God doesn’t always make Himself known to you in dramatic and attention-grabbing ways. Sometimes it’s just a whisper. He loves to know that we’re listening and that we’re hungry. If He showed up in physical form in front of us, our following Him wouldn’t take any faith – it would be involuntary! He speaks softly so we come close. Ask Him to meet with you today. As Kim Walker-Smith cried out in the Jesus Culture version of ‘How He Loves’, “if you’ve never encountered the love of God, you better just brace yourself!”. He is faithful to pour out His Spirit when we ask Him to, and you’ll never be the same.
Scriptures to check out: Exodus 33:11-23, 1 Kings 19:9-13, Psalm 84.