By Brooke Holt
Two years after the world was shut down due to the pandemic, we can look back and thank God for his many provisions during a global trial. One of those blessings was the creation of Bible Study Media’s online teaching platform. While everyone was banned from coming together for in-person worship, Sunday School, and Bible studies, Bible Study Media found a way to provide much-needed biblical teachings and Christian fellowship. For the first few months of our national shutdown, I taught through the Gospel of Matthew in a study entitled "God with Us".
What could be more comforting through times of isolation than knowing that God is with us? The study’s title came to me as I read through Matthew’s Gospel. Chapter one begins with the genealogy of Jesus and ends with the birth of Jesus: “and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us)” (Matthew 1:23). At the end of the Gospel, Jesus gives the Great Commission and reminds his disciples: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
If this is true, that God is always with us, why do so many of us live unaware of his presence? How do we encounter God in our day-to-day lives? There is no clear-cut answer to this question, and people have encountered God in many ways throughout the centuries. Abraham heard the voice of the Lord instructing him to leave his land of Haran and travel to a land where the Lord would lead him. Moses had a one-time, powerful encounter with the Lord on Mount Sinai and a regular encounter with God in the tent of meeting. The disciples encountered God during three years of teaching, preaching, traveling, and communing with Jesus. Paul encountered the Lord in an unexpected way on the road to Damascus. John encountered God in a vision on the island of Patmos.
Yes, I know these are all biblical people, different from you and me. Or are they? The Lord revealed himself to them, and they encountered him in both ordinary and unexpected ways. Then the Lord used them to share his Gospel and build the kingdom of God. That is exactly what God wants for you. He longs to reveal himself to you so that you may encounter his love, grace, truth, and presence. The Lord wants you to abide with him in a relationship where you listen for his voice, seek to do his will in this world, and live in daily dialogue with him through his Holy Spirit.
Some people encounter God in times of corporate worship, and others tune their hearts to the Lord in private times of prayer. Others encounter God as they distribute food to the homeless or pray for the sick. I have had powerful encounters with God in conferences, as I heard the Scriptures taught and gathered in groups for prayer.
Other people say that they would believe in God if they could just see him, hear him, or touch him. But hundreds of people saw Jesus alive and did not believe. Physical sight is not a guarantee of spiritual sight—just ask Paul (Acts 9:1–19) and Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46–52).
For centuries after Jesus’s ascension, believers have loved God without ever seeing him with their eyes. “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8). So how do we see the Lord? Through God’s Word, especially the Gospels, we have the best view of the Lord—his humanity, his deity, his teaching, his wisdom, his humility, his power, and his glory.
We cannot see the Lord with our eyes, but we can see him with our hearts. To encounter the Lord often begins with a desire, a gift of the Holy Spirit to open our hearts. Lord, I long to see you, hear you, and know you. Reveal yourself to me. “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18).
Encountering God doesn’t have to happen on a mountaintop, in a lightning bolt, or in miraculous events. God is faithful. Open the Bible and read with expectation. Attend the small group Bible study and listen. Worship, pray, serve. All of these are opportunities to encounter the Lord. Every moment of every day is an opportunity to encounter the Lord as we abide with Christ. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
If you want to learn more about encountering God in your daily life, I invite you to join us on our online platform called Ignite. Every Tuesday morning, we offer a class entitled Encountering God. Leaders will take you through new ways of reading the Scripture, praying through that Scripture, and making space to hear from the Lord. The Lord longs to reveal himself to you!
May we pray today to have eyes to see him, ears to hear him, and a heart to receive him. The promise of Jesus to his disciples is for you today: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Join us to learn more: https://ignite.biblestudymedia.com/studies/encountering-god/
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