By Liz Harden

Recently, I’ve experienced many leaders passionately and earnestly encouraging those gathered to pursue the presence of God, through meditation, solitude, scripture, worship and prayer. I caught myself cynically thinking – “Here we go again”.

It grieved me that this was my first thought and so I took it to prayer to understand what was going on inside my heart. I recalled a meeting with someone where they told me “I am who I am. This is me. I can’t and won’t change now”. I remembered leaving that encounter feeling so sad, for them and for what it communicated about their expectation of God.

Encounters with God are pivotal moments that shape the lives of those who experience them and alter the course of history. From Moses at the burning bush to Paul on the road to Damascus, these encounters inspire awe, fear, and profound transformation, challenging individuals to respond with faith, obedience, and courage.

Moses’ encounter with the burning bush, marks the beginning of his journey as a leader and prophet. Similarly, Isaiah’s vision of the Lord in Isaiah 6 leads to his commission as a prophet, demonstrating the transformative power of encountering God’s presence.

In the New Testament, Saul encounters Jesus on the road to Damascus, experiencing a radical transformation and becoming Paul, who spread the good news of Jesus everywhere he went. These encounters not only change the individuals involved but also have far-reaching implications for the spread of the Gospel and the growth of the Christian faith.

Jesus himself frequently retreated to the mountains to pray, seeking communion with the Father. After such encounters, he would emerge to perform miracles and teach the Gospel with authority.

In Acts 2, we see the disciples encounter God through the Holy Spirit. So emboldened they spill out onto the streets and proclaim the Gospel fearlessly. This encounter empowered them to carry out the Great Commission, spreading the message of Jesus to the ends of the earth.

These encounters with God’s presence challenge individuals to confront their limitations and preconceptions, calling them to a higher purpose. They are transformative. They are forever changed.

Beyond the personal impact, these encounters shape the course of history and demonstrate God’s saving power. Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt, Isaiah says “Send me”, Paul becomes a missionary to the Gentiles, and the disciples become witnesses to the ends of the earth.

Encounters with God in the Bible remind us of the transformative power of encountering Jesus ourselves. They challenge us to seek communion with God and inspire us to seek our own encounters with Holy Spirit. When we do, we can expect to be forever changed and empowered to respond with faith, obedience, and courage.

My cynicism was born out of a disappointment that the presence of God is only taught to experience his grace, his love and deep peace for ourselves. And this is what we need. However, if we truly encounter the presence of God, this is not just a soulish experience of wellbeing, but impacts how we journey through life. My prayer is that we may be open and willing to encountering God’s presence, inviting it to shape our lives, radically change us; and propel us into fulfilling our purpose in his kingdom.