“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”Hebrews 12:2
I can read, watch videos, and learn about the Grand Canyon from the comfort of my living room. Based on my knowledge I can tell others about its wonders. And maybe that would be some cool information to have and to share. But this past May my friend Evan actually ran across the Grand Canyon! Yep. He ran a 38-mile-long trail across the Canyon! Amazing. (Evan runs Ultra marathons [100 miles] and other crazily concocted races designed to push the body’s limit!) While I can read about the canyon, Evan experienced it! He has a perspective I could never have.
Experiencing something is far different than reading about something.
The same is true in the Lord. I can read and study about God all day long but to experience Him is something altogether different! To come into contact with the Creator of the Universe creates intense reactions, by necessity. And what we see biblically is that those who enthusiastically run God’s race do so because they encounter His presence. To have an encounter, some kind of personal contact, with your Creator changes life trajectories. Not Bible study. Not watching videos. Not listening to sermons. Those things can be great, but they cannot substitute for experiencing His presence. Experiencing His presence rocks paradigms and creates new passions with new energy!
Consider the encounters the 17 people had who are listed in Hebrews 11 as examples of running God’s race. God appeared to Noah in Genesis 6:13 and changed his life. Abram encountered Yahweh in Genesis 12:1-2 and received a vision. Moses met with God in a burning bush in Exodus 3. Gideon experienced the presence of an angel in Judges 6 and his entire life was upended.
The Hebrews 11 stories go on.
These trajectories were radically changed because they had an encounter with the LORD. Encounter is essential to effective running. But each of these did not simply encounter the LORD in the beginning of their race, their lives were marked by ongoing experiences of God’s presence.
Encounter is essential.
The same pattern happens in the life of the disciples. Every one of them, the Apostle Paul included, experienced Jesus. Their races were changed. And their lives were marked by ongoing encounters.
Paul brags on the same “encounter” story happening to the believers in the church at Thessalonica. The people experienced the Holy Spirit in Paul’s preaching with such power that they turned to our Father from idols “to serve a living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9).
The impact of encounter on engaging our Father’s race is hard to miss.
So, when is the last time you experienced the presence of your Father?
For those of us who came to faith later in life, I was 26, answering the encounter question can be easier than those who came to faith in their childhood. I was in a bar when I heard our Father’s voice the first time. My salvation was somewhat dramatic. The trajectory of my race was ridiculously, radically changed. And my relationship for the past twenty-five years has been full of ongoing encounters.
For those who came to faith when you were young, encountering our Father is absolutely, richly possible. First, He wants you to experience Him! I have no idea what you were taught by your denomination with respect to experiencing God, but it is readily possible. Second, the most common way to experience God’s presence today is through the Holy Spirit. We saw the work of the Holy Spirit in the Thessalonian story. The Holy Spirit is the Person of the Trinity most active in our lives today.
So, how is your intimacy, your nearness, with the Holy Spirit? What kind of history do you have with Him? He is active and working. In John 3, Jesus teaches that no one can enter Heaven apart from being born by the Spirit (John 3:1-21). Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 that he preached as a “demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).
Because the Holy Spirit is in you, because He is actively working to make His Father known through Jesus, you can experience His presence. HOPEFULLY He is at work in your church. When you go to church, do you expect to experience His presence? When you sing songs are you just singing songs or are you allowing the Holy Spirit to bring you into your Father’s presence? When you hear preaching, do you listen with an open heart, to experience the Holy Spirit? When you read Scripture by yourself, do you just read as if the Bible is a self-help book, or do you read expecting to encounter the Holy Spirit who co-authored the words you read?
Because the Holy Spirit is active in creation, you can learn to experience Him daily, fluidly. He is far more active than you may know.
Trying to run God’s race because you feel like you should or ought to will be dry, mechanical, and lifeless. Running God’s race because you encounter Him will be FULL of LIFE and ABUNDANCE.
How long has it been since you have encountered the ONE who loves you? You can do so now. Pause what you are doing. Breathe. Relax back into the truth that the Spirit of God is in you and with you. He sees you, hears you, and knows you. Jesus has made it possible for the Spirit to be in you. Relax back into Him.
May you run, and run full, because your Father fills you through His Spirit with His presence through Jesus!
Thanks Jim – really good.