Is God real?
I mean, is there actually a living, loving, personal and powerful God who really cares about you – a God that you can connect with, a God that makes a tangible difference in your life? Is there a God that you can trust to direct your steps and see you through?
Biblical faith is all about relationship. It’s not an abstract, theoretical faith. I am grateful for apologists who present a reasoned case for Christianity, but even intellectuals need more than logical arguments to sustain their faith. God has not designed us to be able to survive on an abstract faith that is never experienced. Our hearts are not meant to be able to operate that way. Only a God who makes a tangible difference in our lives will hold most people’s attention for long. The God of the Bible is a relational God – a God who speaks to people, who interacts with them. Our hearts long for His touch. As the Psalmist wrote, my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
I was raised in an atmosphere of skepticism about prayer, spiritual experiences and miracles. As a young man, although intellectual wrestling was an important part of my journey from unbelief to faith, rational arguments alone weren’t enough to bring me out of the pit of turmoil to the solid ground of confident assurance. It took a series of encounters with God’s supernatural power to get past my defences and convince me that the God of the Bible was real and alive. Probably the most pivotal single occurrence was a dream I had twenty-seven years ago that I have never forgotten. When I went to bed I was not yet convinced that God spoke through dreams, visions and prophecies. When I awoke, I knew that He had gotten my attention in a simple and unforgettable way about a major life decision. That dream changed the whole direction of my life, starting a chain of events that led to my salvation. Since then, there have been several key turning points in my life at which God has broken into my life with a fresh word, bringing hope, encouragement and new perspective. I am more grateful than words can say for such divine encounters.
The most recent of these encounters came during a recent two-week road trip with my bride in celebration of our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. I love road trips, and I had been looking forward to this one for a long time. After visiting with Simeon, Heather and Sophie (see Life Lessons from Sophie), we went on to spend a weekend at International House of Prayer in Kansas City. We had brought our daughter Bethany with us (she was a great travelling partner), and all three of us had the opportunity to receive personal prophetic ministry while we were there.
I know that God can speak to me without any human intermediary, and frequently does. I read my Bible regularly, and His written word provides a solid foundation for my life, and a lens through which I evaluate the many and varied other ways in which He speaks to me. Still, I count it a great privilege whenever praying, believing people set time aside to hear from God for my life and tell me what He has shown them. Although I’m no stranger to personal prophetic ministry, I had been looking forward greatly to this aspect of our visit to IHOP, and I was not disappointed. I found the prophetic ministry wonderfully refreshing, encouraging and confirming. It was also very simple, calm, and totally free of hype. Marion, Bethany and I sat down in three chairs, and the two women who were to minister to us sat down facing us. They prayed briefly and then, in a quiet but confident manner, they began sharing what they sensed the Holy Spirit showing them for each of us.
I won’t give details of what was spoken over my life, because I am still processing it, but let me simply say that it got my attention. There was nothing spectacular about it – no fireworks, no earthquakes – and yet I knew God was speaking to me powerfully through these two very gentle, unassuming servants. Marion and Bethany likewise found that the prophetic messages they received were very pertinent to their lives. Keep in mind that none of us had ever met these two women, and we had given them no information about ourselves, yet they accurately identified several key issues in each of our lives, and spoke truth into situations that they had no way of knowing anything about except through the Holy Spirit. As for me, they brought Biblically-grounded insight, encouragement, confirmation and clarity to four major areas – my work, my finances, my sense of identity, my relationship with my children. As I result, I have a fresh awareness of the goodness of God. I felt as though He were saying to me, “I see your ways – I have my eyes on you, and I have a purpose for every area of your life”. Of course as a believer in Jesus I already knew this was true, but I now know it in a different way – not only by conviction, but also by personal and recent experience. God has filled my cup with encouragement and fresh faith, and I am profoundly grateful.
In his instruction to the Corinthian church about the operation of spiritual gifts during their meetings, Paul says that visitors who come into a gathering where the people of God are prophesying will find the secrets of their hearts laid bare, and they will fall down in worship, declaring “God is really among you”. I didn’t literally fall down in worship, but I did give thanks to God for exposing areas of my heart that needed to be exposed, and speaking life-giving wisdom and truth into my life through loving, trustworthy, faithful servants. As a result I can say with fresh confidence that God is real and alive, and both speaks and acts on behalf of those who seek Him and trust Him. As the Psalmist wrote, Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. If you have been wondering whether God sees your pathway, and whether He cares enough to direct your steps, the answer is a resounding Yes. Yes, He does. Turn to Him and ask Him to speak to you, and – one way or another – He will.