Experiencing the Reality of God

EXPERIENCING THE REALITY OF GOD

Where is God? Do you hear Him? Do you see Him? How can we know He is real?

Job 42:1-6 Then Job answered the LORD and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

About God, Job said, “I had heard of you…” Here are some things we have heard:

1. We have heard that God created the heavens and the Earth.

2. We have heard that God caused a flood to come upon the Earth.

3. We have heard that God delivered slaves out of Egypt.

4. We have heard that God used a lanky teenager to conquer a giant man.

5. We have heard that God healed a man of blindness, cured another man of leprosy, stopped a woman’s twelve year bleeding disease, and brought the brother of two sisters back to life from the dead.

6. We have heard that God calmed a storm.

7. We have heard that God cast out demons and made a man sane again.

8. We have heard that God used a couple of loaves and a few fish to feed thousands of people.

We have heard a lot about God, but do we really know Him? Have we experienced His reality and His presence?

Job knew a lot about God. He had heard who God was and what God was like from the oral accounts of previous generations. This limited knowledge governed his life. He lived in fear of a god that brought judgment on the wicked and blessing on the righteous. According to his faith, if Job wanted to stay within the favor of God, he had to be righteous. So he was very careful to do right.

Then God allowed the devil to test Job, but not take his life. The devil did his worst and Job suffered greatly. The death of his children, the boils all over his body, and the loss of all his wealth rocked his faith. For the first time, Job could not understand God. His religion would not answer all the questions he had. Nevertheless, instead of forsaking God, Job sat in sackcloth and ashes and sought God for an answer. God was silent for many days, but Job persevered in seeking God.

Job’s grieving wife couldn’t stand watching him suffer. She encouraged him to curse God and die. Job’s friends told him he must have done something wrong and therefore, he must repent. Job defended his righteousness and cried out to God to explain why these things happened to him.

Job’s friends and wife finally became silent. Then Job became silent. The storm of Job’s trial continued, but Job finally heard God. However, God did not vindicate Job, nor did He explain what happened. Instead, God revealed His Sovereignty to Job.

Job experienced the reality of God. Now he knew that nothing was out of the control of God! And now Job knew that God really did care. He cared enough to break through the silence and answer Job. He cared enough about Job’s friends to ask Job to intercede on their behalf. Job declared, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” God continued to show Job that He cares by restoring everything that was lost.

Instead of a head knowledge about God, Job experienced the reality and the sovereignty of God. “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” His faith was no longer based on what he was told about God. Now it was based on the reality of God, who is present everywhere and knows all things.

If Job had not been tested and broken, then He would have been content to stay right where he was and continue to fit God into his religion. Without this crisis, Job would never sought God so earnestly. In the sackcloth and ashes, Job discovered the reality of God and began to talk and listen to God. Yes, there is a huge difference between knowing about God and intimately knowing Him and relating to Him.

For example, you can read the words about babies being knit in their mothers’ wombs, but then you actually feel the child in your arms who was created in your body. That difference between knowledge and reality is close to what Job experienced.

It’s nice to hear about how God speaks to people, but when God speaks to you, then you understand Job’s words and his reaction! You have experienced God’s reality and love!

You can read about God’s ability to heal, and believe He does it, but when you experience that healing – then you will declare, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.”

You can hear about how God moves in power, but when you are with a group of believers and God moves in such a way that the power of God (the Holy Spirit) falls on people and they are never the same – or he uses you to share a message with someone and you don’t know where the words came from, that is when a 2 dimensional God in the Bible becomes a 3 dimensional God who is real and alive!

Many of God’s people don’t live with this confidence because they haven’t “experienced God first hand”. In fact, most Christians today seem to perceive God rather like the person who said: “God is a lot like my preacher. I don’t see him all week long, and then on Sunday, I don’t understand him.”

Is that your experience with God? If so, maybe it’s because you’ve only heard about Him. Just hearing really isn’t enough. It’s rather like a person from New York City who’s read about farming and assumes he knows what it’s like. Or someone who once watched a rodeo and figures he knows how to ride a Brahma bull. That’s just not how it works. To experience God, we must seek Him with all our heart. Have you done that?

If not, God promises in Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

We don’t have to wait for a crisis to seek God but unfortunately, we often don’t seek God until then. From our pain, we seek God’s grace; and from our sorrow, we turn to Him for His comfort. From the depths of our sin and depravity, we learn of God’s mercy and love.

When we experience God first hand, as Job did, we begin to understand Him as the loving and omnipotent God who can do whatever He desires. And what God desires most is a genuine intimate relationship with each of us!

When we experience God, we also understand life. If there’s one thing certain today, it’s that too many people, including many Christians, don’t understand the meaning of life.

Job said, “Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”

Job’s life was about accumulating wealth and being a good person. That sounds like a lot of Christians today. They are trying to make more money, make more friends, and make less mistakes. Many are trying to succeed at school, at work, as parents, at living better, looking better, eating better, praying better, serving better, loving better.

Some people are just trying to make it through the day, one day at a time. They fit the character of Charlie Brown when it comes to understanding life. In one “Peanuts” comic strip, there was a conversation between Lucy and Charlie Brown. Lucy said, “Life is like a deck chair on a ship. Some place it so they can see where they are going; some place it so they can see where they have been; and some place it so they can see where they are at present. Charlie Brown replied, “I can’t even get mine unfolded.”

However, real life and its meaning is found in Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.

Life is more than paying the bills. Life is more than putting food on the table. Life is more than living for the weekends. Life is more than just trying to have the perfect body. Life is more than just trying to please people and avoid conflict. It’s more than trying to be what someone thinks you should be or fitting into the mold of society. Life is more than attending church once a week.

Life is about walking with God every moment of the day. Life is about delighting in God and living in the presence of God. Life is about the fullness of His Holy Spirit. Life is about letting God make you into His likeness. Life is about showing the rest of the world who God is and helping them to see Him.

In addition to understanding life—who we are and why we are here—we understand ourselves. When we experience God, the holiness and light of God exposes what is in our heart. It leads us into a deeper repentance.

For example, Job declared, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

When we experience God, realize that without God we are nothing, but God thinks we are worth everything—even His life. We realize that without Him we can do nothing, but with Him all things are possible. We realize that we constantly walk away from God, but He is constantly drawing us back to Him. We realize that we are not letting Him into some areas of our lives, but He constantly stands at the door knocking, waiting for us to let Him in. We realize the consequences of choosing to sin are our fault, not God’s fault, who disciplines those whom He loves and wants us to repent.

When we have experienced God, the experience causes us to want to know more about God. Therefore, we admit our sin and weakness so we can walk in His strength. We desire to be broken so we can receive God’s healing and restoration. We deny our will and in order to fulfill His will and to know Him more intimately.

Jesus said in John 15:5I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

To bear fruit as a Christian, we must be totally dependent on our connection with the vine—Jesus Christ. Then we will bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-24 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Only the Holy Spirit can change a person’s heart to produce His fruit. The most polished preacher in the world can’t win a single soul for God unless the Spirit is at work.

Acts 10:44-45 says: “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.”

And in 1 Corinthians 2:11, “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.”

It’s the Old Covenant Law that shows us how far we are separated from the Father. It’s the Spirit that brings us conviction, repentance, and faith to believe in Jesus Christ. It is by the Holy Spirit that we experience the reality of God. We cannot afford to forget that God’s will for us is to be filled with the Holy Spirit—with Himself—to experience Him!

A story is told of a Welsh woman who lived in a remote valley in Wales. She went to a great deal of trouble to have electrical power installed in her home. It wasn’t long, however, before the meter reader noticed she didn’t use much electricity at all. In fact, her usage was minuscule. The meter reader came to the door and said, “I’ve been watching your power meter. Don’t you use electricity?”

“Oh, yes,” she said. “We turn it on every night so we can find our lamps and light them, and then we switch it off again.”

This sounds like the way many Christians apply the power of God in their lives. They use just enough of the bright light to maintain the dim light. They know intellectually that God has promised to give them power over problems and temptations. They might even pray for God to intercede in those problems, but they don’t seek Him with all their heart.

Trials and suffering test our faith and present an opportunity to experience God. At times, God is waiting for us to step out “in faith” and do what He says. Sometimes, God is waiting for us to seek Him with all our heart and be filled with the Holy Spirit. When He comes, we experience His reality and have power to overcome our trials.

Repeatedly God called Job, “My servant.” Although he had weaknesses and failures, Job remained faithful to God during his time of suffering. By maintaining his faith in God – in spite of the most severe trials – Job unknowingly silenced the devil and revealed to his critics that God is worthy of our trust and worship, no matter how much we may suffer in this life. Likewise, as God’s servants, our suffering will accomplish more than we will ever know if we maintain our faith in God.

God also used the whole experience to teach Job that humility is required to experience God and receive His grace.

James 4:6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

You see, Job proudly considered himself righteous. God also considered Job righteous, but He allowed Job to be humbled and broken by his suffering. (He did the same thing with His Son Jesus.) And in his humility and brokenness, Job experienced God like never before. He experienced the reality of God and came to understand more about God, life, and himself.

Therefore, be encouraged if you are suffering. Humble yourself before God and allow Him to break you and restore you into the image of His Son, Jesus. Seek Him with all your heart and you will experience God’s reality. That will change your faith forever.

By God’s wisdom and grace, none of our life experiences are meaningless. It’s God who directs our every step after we give Him our life. Giving our life to God involves repentance and faith—faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who atoned for our sin on the cross.

However, to agree intellectually that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died on the cross for our sins is not enough. Nor is it enough to have an emotional experience. God is not as concerned with our words as He is with our hearts, and He knows our hearts. He knows if our hearts have really repented or if we’re just acting the way we think a Christian should act. Until, like Job, a person sees his depravity and is truly sorrowful, the heart is unchanged, and unrepentant. He is just saying words, and he remains the same person instead of becoming a new creation.

Therefore, humble yourself before God and confess your sin. Ask God to give you grace to have godly sorrow that works repentance in your life. Job saw himself and declared, “Therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Instead of repenting in dust and ashes, you can humble yourself in repentance by following Jesus in baptism. That is the first step of repentance and obedience to God that leads to being born again of the Holy Spirit, who continually humbles us and changes our heart. The result is we become a new creation in Christ and a child of Almighty God.