In January of this year, I was invited by a friend to perform some poetry and participate in a panel discussion for his church’s youth convention.
The theme for the convention was in the form of a question. The more I mulled it over, the more determined I was to not answer it.
“How to have an encounter with God”
First, the phrasing of the theme implies that we control or direct the process of having an encounter with God. That’s not entirely true. God does not need our permission or consent. If He wants to have an encounter with us, He will do so in His own way and timing, whether we are prepared or even desire one.
Second, the theme implies that an encounter is something we work for and eventually earn the right to have. If this were so, then we would never get saved; the Father draws us to Himself (John chapter 6 verse 44), not the other way around. God revealing to us our sinful condition and need for a Saviour is an act of mercy, love, and compassion received through grace, not by our willpower or intellect (Ephesians chapter 2 verses 8-9).
Bringing Sand to the Beach
Third, we don’t need to teach people to get something they already have. We already have encounters with God. Multiple encounters. Multiple times a day.
That friend who calls from out of the blue to encourage you when you need it most.
That random thought that crosses your mind.
That prompting to forgive someone, to repent, to encourage a friend or serve a stranger.
That gut feeling about an issue you’ve been trying to decide on for weeks.
That verse of scripture that jumps off the page during your bible study.
That song that pops up on Spotify that brings you to tears.
All of those are examples of encounters we all have with God. All Christians experience at least one of those at some point. Trying to muster up an encounter with God is like bringing sand to the beach.
The issue is not how to have an encounter with God, but how to recognise these encounters and respond appropriately.
There are several reasons believers are blind to the encounters that we have with God in our daily lives. One of the more pervasive reasons is rooted in an idolatrous concept I dub as “Superstar Christianity”: On one hand, there are regular, ordinary folks like you and me. We pray, go to church, do Bible study, and then try our best to do what we think is God’s will based on what lines up with what we’ve gleaned from sermons and scripture. On the other hand, there are church pastors, international gospel artists, or social media influencers. They are ‘extra spiritual’, so they get to hear from God directly, and in cool flashy, supernatural ways, like dreams, prophecies, or a loud, ominous voice in the middle of the night. According to “Superstar Christianity”, only the latter hear from God clearly and on a regular basis.
Christians vary in a range of things, such as ministry, gifts of the Spirit, and the maturity and depth of their faith. However, we all have the same access to God through Christ’s atoning death on the cross. “God has no grandchildren” as the saying goes, which means we are all direct offspring, all sons and daughters who can talk to and hear from our Heavenly Father.
In Deuteronomy chapter 30 verse 14, God told the Israelites “The word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.” This was said to people who still needed to make sacrifices for sin every year. Only one man among them (the high priest) could enter the presence of God only once a year in only one physical location (the Most Holy Place in the Temple). If the word of God was very near them, how much nearer is it to us?
Moses was called a friend of God, but we have the right to become children of God.
David was a man after God’s own heart, but we are people with God living in our hearts.
It is painfully ironic when we long for the type of encounters and relationship with God that Old Testament superstars like Moses and David had.
We are under a better covenant (Hebrews chapter 7 verses 20-22).
We have a better High Priest (Hebrews chapter 4 verses 14-16).
We benefit from a better Sacrifice (Hebrews chapter 9 verses 24-26).
We worship in a better tabernacle (Hebrews chapter 9 verse 11).
We are all Stars
Philippians chapter 2 verse 15 tells us to “become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.”
We don’t need to believe the lie that only “superstars” can hear from God directly.
We don’t need to beg or work for what we already have access to.
Old Testament saints lived and died longing for what we can and do experience every day. Let’s not waste the gift of God speaking to us by not believing we can hear Him today.
Kacy Garvey is a Christian poet, speaker and activist. In 2011, she launched "Rahab", an outreach to prostitutes in Geneva, Switzerland. She is a USAID certified HIV Testing and Counselling Provider and has also successfully completed training in Trafficking in Persons conducted by the International Organisation on Migration (IOM). She performs original pieces of spoken word poetry to various audiences, and in 2014 and 2018, she launched “Undone” and “Water Jar”, the first and only Christian poetry albums published in Jamaica thus far. As a founding member of the Love March Movement (since 2012) and #MarriageMattersJA (since 2018), she is a regular presenter on the science, politics and biblical worldviews on sex and sexuality. In January 2021, Kacy launched Caribbean Christian Response, an online movement that reviews the news from a biblical worldview and gathers millennials across the region to pray together and seek God’s heart on these issues.