Last week was a time of seclusion for me in the hill country of North Carolina. While taking a hiatus from all of my responsibility, I had asked God to turn six days into a deep and profitable time of personal encounter with Him. The opportunity to receive edifying instruction in a seminar there had been scheduled months ahead. I had registered to be a part of a small group of people who would sit under the biblical teaching of a man approaching eighty years old. God had led me months ago to secure my spot in this group and I was so refreshed by the teaching of His word, the company of Christian friends whom I had never met before and the ability to listen and pray with no distractions. I went there to meet with God in a very special way and He did not leave me unfulfilled. This is what I mean when I speak of encountering God. Truthfully, this is pretty much all I think of in recent months, and what fills my heart usually spills into my blog.
God desires for you to encounter Him – no matter who you are, no matter what you have done, no matter where you find yourself today. Your God is pursuing you for your good and for His glory. Personal encounter with Him is the greatest potential gift for any human being to experience.
Many of us quickly dismiss the idea of a personal encounter with God. It sounds far too subjective for our enlightened thinking. Frankly, weirdos seem to do the most talking about meeting with the invisible God. While we all would acknowledge the Christian faith to be rooted in the spiritual – the supernatural – there seems to be a reluctance in us to welcome that kind of reality into our day to day lives. It is much safer to talk about the God of the past encountering Adam, Abraham, Moses and Isaiah than it does for us to expect the God of the present to approach Bob, Andre, Sheila or Sue. Those ancient accounts of biblical encounters make for a spectacular sense of spiritual nostalgia but very few of us expect the God who never changes to approach modern believers today in His determined self-presentation. We have a theology which allows for the possibility of personal encounter but few of us are convinced that we are to expect encounter with God for ourselves. I have been wondering so much lately if we are not accurate in our views in one sense. Maybe it is true that God does not meet with us anymore. Maybe He no longer meets with us because we no longer expect Him to do so. it might very well be a self-fulfilling assumption. I hope that He will change your thinking if you fall into this camp.
God is deeply pleased with those who long for His company. The Scriptures are crucial in our personal interaction with God but I want to make a risky statement: the Scriptures are not the only means by which He offers you personal encounter with Him. Before any of you protest let me remind you that you have often sensed His nearness when your bible was not opened in your hand. This is encounter. He has moved upon your heart at times when you did not expect it. This is encounter. He has quickened an edifying thought in your mind when two seconds before you were not thinking of anything necessarily spiritual. This is encounter. When you wrestled through a dark night you were inwardly convinced of His mercy, love and compassion. Again, this is encounter. Who among us has not been stirred deeply by some harmonious song, some majestic view of nature or some beauty in the face of a child? Are we biblical enough to equate some of these deep stirrings with the movement of God within us? I’m not saying this is always the case but I am certainly not saying it is never the case. We have been entrenched for so long in an allegiance to rationality that we attribute such inward moving as mere emotion and we often bypass the reality that some of these things are evidence of our encountering God. I would call these types of occurrences subtle encounters. They are valid, they are edifying, they are important and they are gifts from Him. Let’s not relegate them to something less than God touching His elect so that we may be gently reminded that He is near. We should long equally for these experiences to the degree that they are spiritually edifying.
Some of you reading are reluctant to explore this. Some of you are salivating to do so. I was once in the former group and am now in the latter. In an upcoming post I am hoping to go beyond the subtle encounters that I have described above and address the possibility that, to the degree that God desires to work in our lives, we should expect an intensifying of personal encounter with Him. The beautiful thing is that we may also petition Him for this very thing. He told us to experience Him – taste and see. He told us to desire Him – hunger and thirst. He offers us to be convinced – Behold! Friend, you and I can draw near to Him and know confidently that He will also draw near to us. Drawing near…you and God…what is this if it is not personal encounter?