10 Ways to Experience More of God’s Presence
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2014 7 Jul
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Alec Rowland’s upcoming book The Presence: Experiencing More of God (Tyndale House Publishers, 2014).
God has promised always to be with us, but often we’re not aware of his constant presence in our lives. It’s easy to get so caught up in dealing with the demands of daily life that we don’t notice God at all, and we wonder when – if ever – we may experience the thrill of encountering him again.
The good news is that God loves to be close to us and wants us to know him better. If you long to experience more of God’s presence, you can take steps that will lead you closer to him, inviting him to make his presence known more strongly in your life. Here’s how:
Choose adventure over safety. Accept the fact that there’s nothing safe about pursuing God and decide to take whatever risks you need to take in order to experience the blessing of getting closer to God. Be willing to have God turn your life upside down, reshape your values and redirect your energy. Rather than trying to stay inside your comfort zones, be open to saying “yes” to God whenever he calls you to follow him on adventures. Expect encounters with God that inspire awe and wonder in you.
Pursue revival. The definition of revival is: “the overwhelming sense of God’s presence that falls powerfully on a Christian people who have become dead and lethargic in their spiritual lives, reviving those elements of the Christian life that God intends to be normal for his church.” You may have heard about revivals in history or on the news that affect whole churches or entire geographic areas. Keep in mind that large-scale revivals start when individual people pursue fresh encounters with God. The signs of revival include: repenting of sin, worshiping and obeying God with joy, experiencing a new love for fellow believers that restores broken relationships, using ministry gifts both inside and outside of the church, and witnessing about God to unbelievers who then come to faith in God themselves.
Instead of trying to make a tangible encounter with God happen, prepare yourself for when God decides manifest his presence to you. The constant presence of God around you (and within you, in the form of the Holy Spirit, if you’re a believer) that you may or may not sense is his essential presence, while the tangible encounters with God that capture your attention are his manifest presence. You can’t convince God to show you his manifest presence whenever and however you’d like, no matter how hard you may try or how faithful you may be. God shows up on his terms only, according to his own wisdom and purposes. But you can prepare yourself for encountering God’s presence in the future by making your relationship with God your top priority in life and investing it in regularly (such as through prayer, Bible reading, and service), so you’ll grow closer to God and invite him to reach out to you more. Cultivating your life for God’s presence isn’t about your own effort as much as it is about responding to God’s initiatives of love and grace so you’ll be in the right place at the right time, and in the right soul condition, when God shows up.
Expect to encounter God. Supernatural encounters with God aren’t actually rare; God manifests his presence through the Holy Spirit in tangible ways every day to various people on Earth. So expect to encounter God through his Spirit in a way that you can powerfully sense, whenever God decides that it’s the right time and place to show up in your life that way.
Remember, repent, and return. Remember the passion you felt for God when you first began a relationship with him, and let that motivate you to repent of your sins afresh and return your relationship with God to first place in your heart.
Draw near to God with confidence, yet never be flippant about approaching him. Keep in mind that God invites you to come close to him and welcomes you with great love, but he is also completely holy and all-powerful, so you should always approach God with the reverence and respect that he deserves.
Let go of whatever is distracting you from giving God your full attention. Remove distractions from your life so you can experience God to the fullest. Confess and repent of sin in your life regularly, since sin interferes with your ability to perceive God’s presence and grow closer to him. Turn your worries into prayers, so anxiety won’t crowd a focus on God out of your mind.
Open both your head and your heart to the Holy Spirit’s work. Pursue getting to know God better through the Holy Spirit’s work in both your mind (such as guiding you when you’re studying the Bible) and in your personal experiences (such as touching your emotions through a tangible encounter that makes you more hungry for God).
Test your experiences to discern whether or not they’re truly encounters with God. It’s important to ask the Holy Spirit to help you evaluate personal experiences that you think may be bringing you into contact with God’s manifest presence, rather than simply assuming that a thrilling spiritual experience really originates with God – because the evil side of the spiritual realm sometimes tries to deceive believers into thinking that God is communicating with them in ways that are dramatic but ultimately lead to confusion. To discern if a specific experience is truly from God, ask: “Does it have clear, telltale marks of being from the God whose nature the Bible reveals?”, “Is it in line with biblical principles?”, “Does it make me want more of God, or simply more of the experience?”, “Does it make me more selfless, or more selfish?” and “Am I teachable and open to correction as I consider the meaning of this experience?”
Let God’s presence transform you. Always remember that God’s presence isn’t simply for you to enjoy; it’s meant to inspire you to open yourself up in deeper ways to the Holy Spirit’s ongoing work of transforming you into the person God wants you to become.
Alec Rowlands is currently the senior pastor of Westgate Chapel, in Edmonds, Washington, a non-denominational, multi-ethnic congregation of more than 2,000 members that has experienced spiritual renewal since 1992. Alec, and his wife, Rita, have been married for 44 years and have two married daughters who live in Edmonds and are active in Westgate Chapel with their husbands and children. Alec's academic interests are discipleship and historical revivals. He has a bachelor's degree from Wittenberg University in geography and education, a master's in urban studies from Miami University of Ohio, and a master's in biblical literature from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. Alec completed his doctorate of ministry at Carey Theological College, University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, BC.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Follow her on Twitter @WhitneyHopler.
Publication date: July 29, 2014