What makes faith real? Many things. Not least, actual encounters with the risen Christ. These below are a sample of the personal encounters I’ve had in the experienced Presence of God.
I don’t state them here for any kudos or to boast, merely to record what my mind knows for posterity.
Allow me to categorise them for structure-sake into the following sub-headings:
God’s Audible Voice
I’ve heard the audible voice of God more than once, but it’s the one time I’ve recorded it that lives in my memory. I say I recorded it, and I did. I played it back many times and played it to others too. But I have since misplaced the tape, and I think that’s good. I would prefer not to think that I captured God’s voice, but the sound I recorded was a supernatural voice of rebuke that aligned with the holy and wholly good character of God. During this season of my life, I’d taken to recording prayers and Scripture for playing back the following day as I worked. One night I prayed with vengeful abandon, a real prayer of imprecation not unlike some of the Psalms. It wasn’t until the next day, as I played it back, that I heard a loud ‘Uhmmm!’ in a dimension of sound that was unmistakably not from this world. Having discerned it, I immediately played it back. I’ll never forget where I was! On the second playing, I was immediately caught up in fear of God before His Presence. I heard His voice. I heard His rebuke. I felt chastised and in no mood to argue. It was a pivotal moment, for I could not continue thinking and speaking a particularly sinful way. The Spirit of God had wrested my attention. I was not to pray this kind of detestable prayer again.
The Face of God
Have I ever seen the face of Jesus? Yes and no. Like the voice of God, which is commonly inaudible, we hear from God in ways that are not audible words. But I saw in my mind a facial gesture in Jesus. It was a bemused look, again of rebuke. But as is of God at all times, this rebuke was revelatory and life-giving. Jesus was saying to me by his facial expression, ‘I went to cross to save you, and you continue to experience guilt and shame?!’ It was like, ‘Come on, no more of this!’
God’s Tap and Pat
This is a more routine way of experiencing God’s Presence through a prayer God prays to us. Recently I got His tap on the shoulder through what I said, having not delivered what He wanted me to say. Just as recently I got His pat on the back for hearing His simple advice and by preaching it simply. Both words of correction and commendation were received for the same sermon.
More on this kind of experiencing this Presence of God is in this article.
In the Arms of God
I have more than once experienced a Psalm 6:6 Presence of God, where a sodden pillow and saturated sheets exemplified the barrenness of my soul. Such a moment in time, with nothing left in me to struggle against God, just weak as I’d ever been, and possibly not able to be weaker, I experienced the palpable Presence of God in being abandoned by life. That dark night God met me, not by making my circumstances better, not by an instantaneous peace that I was praying for, and not even by hearing my prayers at all — which He certainly did — but by reminding me of His pity that was for me, and by allowing me to be so angry of soul as to give up trying. Even when I was against myself, God was for me, and even though I felt abandoned, I knew never more that the Lord would never abandon me. The time to be in God’s Presence, held in His arms, is when we feel life is utterly futile.