Encounters With God: Week 1
People go on vacation for multiple reasons. Some go to relax, not caring what they see or do. They just need to get away. Some go to see family, even if there is no major attraction anywhere near. Then there are those who plan a vacation solely for the intent of seeing and doing new things. They have seen the pictures of an exotic location, and now they want to see it for themselves. They want to experience that encounter. Cruises, vacation rentals, and resorts often have “encounters” that you can pay to attend. Why would anyone pay to do such a thing when pictures and documentaries exist? We all know what a jungle or mountain looks like. We all know what the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, and the Great Wall of China look like. So why pay so much money to go and see them ourselves? Because an encounter with the real thing always changes the way we look at it. It goes so much deeper than a picture or video. There is nothing like an encounter with the real thing.
All through the Bible, we see instances when God changes people’s lives. Whether it was with His chosen people in the Old Testament, or it was Jesus healing those in need in the New Testament, we see people who lives were completely changed by His touch. There is nothing like an encounter with God. The greatest of these encounters is when we give our lives to Christ. But what about our daily lives? Do we sometimes miss or ignore the times in our day to day activities where God works? Better yet, do we fail to trust Him enough to see Him work in our lives? Are we so self-reliant that God cannot do the great things he wants to do in our lives? Furthermore, when God works, do we learn the lessons we are supposed to learn? Do we grasp what is happening and become better Christians for it?
Read Judges chapter 13. What a wonderful story here of God working in the lives of Manoah and his wife. Many Christians may know the story of Samson, but not know much about his father and mother, or how Samson was a special gift to them from God. Some believe this Angel of the Lord was Jesus appearing in the Old Testament, as I do, while some believe this is simply an angel sent by God. Whatever the opinion, God is working greatly in their lives. Their reactions to this encounter with God is a perfect example of how we should react when he answers our prayers. 1. Belief. (Romans 8:28; Proverbs 3:6; Jeremiah 29:11) How often in my own life do I have trouble believing in what God can do? We often look at the children of Israel in the Old Testament and wonder why they would have trouble believing that God could part the Red Sea, after they had just seen Him bring the greatest country in the world to its knees through plagues. How could they have so little faith in God? Well let’s ask ourselves the same question. Why do we doubt God’s ability to guide our daily lives? I’m not talking about some crazy “I’ll sit at home and wait for God to speak to me directly, telling me what to do next” kind of faith. I’m talking about walking in the Spirit and asking God to guide your thoughts and mind. I’m talking about praying when you need direction, believing that He will help you make the right decision. I’m talking about seeing God work, and giving God the credit, instead of doubting that He did. Manoah’s wife would have been a great candidate for disbelief. I can see her thinking “Who in the world is going to believe that I saw an angel who told me, a barren woman, that I would have a son?”. She could have excused it away by all kinds of things. She could have chosen not to say anything to anyone. Furthermore, her husband believed in the encounter. He was excited about it. In fact, he trusted in the encounter so much that he asked God for round two. Do we have the kind of faith that God works daily in our lives? When He does work, do we believe it was His hand, or do we say it was just simple circumstances? 2. Desire. (Romans 12:2; Proverbs 3:5; Proverbs 40:8) Manoah wanted to know and see more from the angel. He wasn’t content to just hear it from someone else. He wanted to see it with his own eyes. He wanted that encounter with God. His desire was off the charts. We see him beg God to come back and give him more details. Ask yourself: Do I have a daily desire for God to work in my life? Do I ask God to show himself to me every day in some form or fashion? We often times get so used to our routine that we become unaware when God does work. We are diligent to try and teach our son how to say please and thank you. For the most part, he does decent, though he has room for improvement. However, if there is ever an instance when he is so busy thinking about a “make-believe” fight that he is enacting or he is preoccupied by an event going on around him, he will take what he is given or ask for something and totally forget his manners. In fact, if he is in that “zone” and you ask him why he didn’t use the proper manners, he doesn’t have an answer because he won’t remember you giving anything to him. He becomes totally oblivious. Christians can sometimes act the same way. When our lives become busy, God may work and we don’t even notice. When we are in desperate need and He provides, we receive without ever realizing His work. When we see a problem turn for the better, we fail to thank Him for the help he provided. We acquire such a case of tunnel-vision that we lose a true desire to see God work. We let life happen as it always has and never turn to God for help. Let’s get back to having a true and living desire to see God work. When He does work, ask Him to return. Beg for round two of His power in your life. 3. Learning. (Colossians 1:9-10; II Peter 3:18; Psalms 1:1-3) Manoah wanted to learn all he could from this experience. He saw the importance of the meeting. I remember the times in high school when we would conduct a science experiment. Maybe it was blowing up something in an effort to demonstrate a chemical reaction or dissecting a frog in order to teach anatomy. Whatever we were doing, I often times found myself sincerely enjoying the process and thinking how cool it was, but rarely learning something. Sure it was awesome to see the volcano spew out of the top of the paper mache mountain. But did I learn about the chemical reaction taking place? Not really. I was too busy enjoying the show. Manoah and his wife could have been so wonder struck that they failed to ask questions and learn. Instead, they soaked up everything the angel told them and were excited to do so. Are we learning from the times that God works in our lives? Maybe He works to teach us what He can do. Maybe He is working to teach us to stay away from a certain sin or action. Sometimes He may want nothing more than for us to learn to trust in Him more. Whatever the case, let’s not take what God gives, enjoying the experience, without ever becoming a better Christian. Let’s learn from God’s work in our lives. 4. Honor. (I Corinthians 6:20; I Corinthians 10:31) Manoah wanted to make sure that he knew the angel’s name so that when they had their son, he could give honor to whom honor was due. In our lives, do we take the time to honor God by spreading the news about what He has done for us? Sometimes I almost believe that my experiences with God are private for some reason. Maybe I think that no one really wants to hear about how God has worked in my life. However, when a friend or family member comes back from that once-in-a-lifetime experience, they can’t be quiet about it. It’s all they talk about. As Christians, we should desire to honor God’s work in our lives by talking about it with other Christians. I love testimony time in church. When we start to tell others about what God does for us, it encourages those around us, and it makes God happy as well. 5. Sacrifice. (I Samuel 12:24; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 6:20-24) Manoah constrained the angel so that he could offer to him because of the experience he had. He wanted to give of his own wealth to honor what was promised to him that day. Do we give to Him because of what He’s done for us? Are we willing to give up something precious for the one who gave what was most precious for our sin? Worship requires humility (the sacrifice of our own desire and pride). Are we truly worshipping God in all things?
Spend the rest of the time giving testimony about what God has done in your lives. How has He blessed you? How has He guided you? How has he shown himself to you? Let’s take some time to pray and give thanks to God for the many encounters that we have Had with God and how those encounters have changed our lives.