Experiencing God: A Proposed Revision
by Robert J. Young

The history of this page goes back to my first reading of the popular book, Experiencing God, by Henry Blackaby and Claude King. My first impression was that the "steps" to experiencing God were in the wrong order. Also I was dismayed by the initial emphasis on knowing God by experience, although I suppose I should have expected such an emphasis given the title of the book. I was concerned that God's speaking was not in a more primary position. It was then (and still is) unclear to me how God invites involvement in his work prior to his speaking to us. Not only so, but the chapter which explains God's invitation to be involved in his work is titled "God invites you to join him." No doubt, many would be led to believe that we "join God" (would this be interpreted as salvation?) prior to hearing his word, prior to faith and action, prior to repentance, and prior to obedience.

While I also disagreed with the specific illustrations in other parts of book, my initial impression was that the book provided a helpful perspective, and that I needed to carefully think through the way God enters a person's life and how God is experienced by that person. This brief essay is the result of that analysis. As might be expected in an attempt to reorder certain points, with additions or deletions as deemed essential, some of the wording and ideas below grow directly out of the book. I believe all of the points below grow out of Scripture. This is not intended to be a full review of the book. I have provided links to reviews and resources the reader may find of interest at the top of the page. Rather, the purpose of this essay is to suggest a biblical understanding of God's work and way in this world as he intersects the human dilemma again and again, and ultimately, in the coming of Jesus Christ. These ideas are consecutively numbered under the larger rubric of the revelation, relationship, and response to God.

Revealing God

1. God has a PLAN, a purpose, a will. Whether we know it or not, whether we are aware of it or not, God is actively working in our world always to complete his purpose. God has always been at work and is at work today. God is always active. This is a description not only of God's plan but of God's POWER. God is orchestrating history, is working here and there, then and now, in the lives of Christians and in the lives of non-Christians. God was at work before he spoke the first words to a human being. Further, God involves people in his work at times before they are aware of him. God involves us in ways we may not know and see immediately.
Some of the work of God is available for our seeing outside of Scripture. David says the heavens declare the glory of God. Paul speaks of what may be known in nature. Natural revelation declares something about God for all to see who will. We are called upon to look and learn.

2. According to his plan and power, God in his Word reveals himself. He wants us to know his PERSON. The Bible may provide a selective narrative of history, but it is not primarily a historical narrative. At best, it is a selective narrative with the purpose of revealing God. It is a narrative of certain people to whom God revealed himself. Most often these people responded to God's revelation and honored God's claim on their lives. The Bible is not merely the record of people, but of the God of those people, and of God's activity in the world. Those who will listen to God can learn.
The revelation of God in Scripture is complete. One may understand Scripture better by observing life, or experiencing various aspects of life, but the revelation of God is not being increased. One may appreciate the experinece of prayer, may see God's PROTECTION and PROVIDENCE in the circumstances of life, may understand more clearly God's nature or purposes through sharing with God's people in the church, but none of these supercede God's revelation of himself by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the Bible.

Relating to God

2a. In his work, and in his revelation, God initiates a relationship with his creation, with humanity. This is properly described by Blackaby and King as God initiating a love relationship with all mankind. This relationship is according to his nature (person), his plan or purpose, and his power. This initiative on God's part is a first step in identifying a PEOPLE of God. God initiates for no reason other than his love for his creation. This is a first, and ultimate, expression of his grace. This makes visible his love.

2b. Based on his work and revelation, through the revealing of himself, God invites people to involvement. He wishes to involves us by our own will, and not only through his sovereignty. He will involve us if we wish, and when he involves us, he will assign us our work in his work, and he will equip us for that work. God will not initiate a relationship and then drop us. God will provide the resources for this work. When God initiates the relationship, he also provides the instruments. The power for the work we are discussing is not human. This is the first of many of God's PROMISES. This reflects that the proper response to the love of God which we know through his initiation of a loving relationship is our acceptance of his grace and commitment to his work, to his plan and purpose.

Responding to God

3. God's invitation for us to work with him inevitably leads us to a decision. We must make a choice. That choice is always based on faith, not on sight. We cannot see all of the paths down which that choice will lead us. The faith that this decision demands is properly described by Blackaby as belief and action. To join God, to accept God's will for our lives, to resolve to obey his call, to join him in his purposes, and to enjoy his PRESENCE begins in our PROFESSION of faith and continues in our PRACTICE of faith. This faith is a lively faith. This is a belief that motivates to action. Faith does not exist where one finds only belief or where one finds only actions. This livelyi faith is a characteristic of the people of God. This may be described as belief, but one must be cautious that we do not allow a mere mental process to replace a whole-hearted response to God's invitation.

4. Joining God in his work requires always for every person a major adjustment in life. This is in Scripture called repentance. Repentance cannot, and does not in Scripture, precede some understanding of God. That we "join" God merely reflects a necessary response on our part. Such is not a denial that God has initiated and that God will accept and bind us to him and his people.

5. We come to know God, through observing his world, through hearing his word, and through learning more and more about the Word, Jesus Christ, his ultimate communication to humanity. We come to know God, and in the depths of that word, to experience God, only as we obey him and he works his work in and through us.

This outline incorporates the same basic realities as that of Blackaby. I believe this order more accurately reflects God's work in this world and in our lives.


Note: For a related article, see my work on Understanding God, a brief alliterative description of God's nature and work in this world.

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Last updated March 24, 2010.