Feeling God without knowing it is Him
Regular Network Norwich & Norfolk columnist James Knight writes about the possibility of benefiting from God's grace without ever realising it.
I am often amazed at the many atheists who claim that there is no evidence for God. One thing they cannot deny very easily is this; there is certainly much evidence for ‘belief’ in God, as much of the world’s population claim a belief in a Higher Power. Such is the greatness of God and His overspillings of beneficence that I believe many people are reaping the rewards of His grace without ever really realising it.
The old dictum about one not being able to pour out happiness on others without spilling a drop on oneself is of course very true - it is those who continually make others happy that seem to be happiest themselves. Yet I know some people who are genuinely so humble in their outreaching that they probably miss this point; that is, they may be so externally focused, casting their loving eyes on their caring for others, that they fail to see the good it does them too, and how much God wants them to receive His blessings too. And of course the inverse situation is also true, a very bad man often fails to realise how much his badness is harming not just others but his inner-self as well .
It is easy to see how so many people have created for themselves a relatively harmonious state of mind - living life as a series of ups and downs, settling for the varying emotions that seem to come their way; for it is these in-between states that often create the least progress and self-honesty. The same is true regarding our knowledge of God; it is easy to feel numinous feelings and ascribe them to the Divine (as many do) without actually knowing God – the cause of our happiness or joy or excitement may be seen as being caused by an intrinsic model of affection or focus or surprise, but it is likely only a by-product of a bigger hint of the One behind all pleasures.
For Christians, the Holy Spirit which begets Christ in us is not just a sensation, it is a real event, a real transference between God and man - it is the Spirit of God being placed in man, adding enriching contexts to virtually every daily situation if we allow them in. The gift of the Spirit that we receive is one that transforms us into a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), and it is this special knowledge which helps us locate the deeper truths behind all our pleasures.
When thinking about the concept of feeling God without really knowing it is Him, I think back to those who were anticipating the saviour of the world but had to piece together their conceptualisations very gradually – a bit like undertaking a jigsaw puzzle but with half the picture on the box missing. We see echoes of this in scripture; in the book of Isaiah, chapter 44, God reveals to Isaiah an imminent vanquisher who would sanction the rebuilding of Jerusalem after its destruction, despite the fact that in Isaiah's day Jerusalem was still standing. So here is a prophecy so ahead of its time that only forthcoming generations in Jerusalem would witness first the city's destruction and then its rebuilding. Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 BC by the Babylonians some one hundred years after Isaiah's day, and work to reconstruct it did not begin until 539 BC, when the prophesied king conquered Babylon and declared that the incarcerated Jews be released and allowed to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the temple. In Isaiah, God reveals the actual name of the coming conqueror, known in history as Cyrus the Great (Isaiah 44:24-28).
But the prophet Isaiah also spoke of a forthcoming child who would comfort the people of God in times of trouble – a saviour immeasurably greater than Cyrus. He had said in Isaiah 10:27 that the thrall and burden would be decimated because of the anointing; now here he declares that the anointing should rest on the person who would be seen a few centuries later as the One providing the answer to salvation - Jesus Christ. He said that the Messiah would emerge out of the house of David, and that that branch of the Lord will be excellent and glorious (Isaiah 4:2). Isaiah then prophesied that He would begin His estate of serving God’s creation, and the people around that time would come to know that His kingdom was not of this world – the living God will be with us (Isaiah 11:1). The Holy Spirit will come too, and He shall have the fullness of God without measure, the fullness of the Godhead dwelling in Him (Colossians 1:19; 2:9). In particular, the spirit of sovereignty, which is given to Him by the Father, so that He can execute judgement (John. 5:22, 27). Jesus will impart wisdom to His disciples, as the Father will apprise Him of what He is to make known to His followers (John 1:18).
The prophecy is telling us that Jesus will know how to regulate the concerns of His spiritual kingdom in all the divisions of it, so as to effectually make known the intentions of His time on earth glorifying the Father, as the glory of God is compressed into Christ’s being, so that none can say God hasn’t made Himself known. The terms of the agreement will be settled by Christ alone, and ordinances instituted in wisdom, because He shall be our counsellor with regards to knowledge (Colossians 2:3-4). With all this prophetic knowledge, there remained a condition under which only limited knowledge was permitted – those that were to see Him in the flesh would be the ones closest to Him, yet since His resurrection we find Him renewing His glory in millions of souls throughout the world. We see Jesus Christ surprising us with amazing acts of grace and revelation at times when we thought the situation was hopeless.
If, for many, He is there in times when they didn’t realise it was Him, imagine how awesome it is to receive His grave and know that it is Him. I have seen people on the brink of despair, and prayed for them with every last bit of hope I can muster, only to see an amazing reversal where His intervention saved the day. Our God is a God of surprises – He loves to come in right at the last moment, just at the point when it is Him and only Him that can make a difference. We do what we can; He does the rest for us.
All those who are willing to step inside for a better look will be amazed at what they discover. They will see that God became man so that we could know Him; they will see that Christ gave His life so that we could have ours. And with this knowledge, we have access to every part of beauty, every part of love, and every part of Divine grace.
For those that see Him, God is gradually moulding us into the type of creatures that He intended us to be. The analogy of the potter and the clay is used in Jeremiah 18. The fact that God cares so much about us is fantastic for us. When my father took me to the beach as a child I saw that when other fathers are on the beach with their children they might build a sandcastle, but they do not take as much pride in it or make as much effort with it as they do the house in which they live. It is of greater importance and it is more precious to them. The tide will come in and wash away the sandcastle - and even as a young boy watching the other disappointed children when the tide came in, I realised the potential of the message; do not put too much into temporary things, for they will not last forever - they are the sandcastles of life. The tide will eventually come in. God does not want us to spend our time building sandcastles, He wants us to start building a house for the future, a house fit for Heaven. When we wish things were more ‘as we want them’ and take the pleasures of life but forget the cause - we do not know what we ask or what we delight in, for in saying this, we are really asking God to suspend His own plan, and love us less. He loves us too much for our own meagre satisfactions. He wants the best for us, and the best is what we should desire too.
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James is a Norwich local government officer, author and Proclaimers church member in Norwich. You can access his current collections of columns here
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