6 Different Ways That God Changes Lives
By Steve Long,
There are no two snowflakes alike. No two fingerprints are the same.
God is a creative God! Every encounter with Him is different from another. The Father wants to communicate with you. He likes to be in-your-face and He’s creative about how He gets your attention. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27 (NIV).
God wants to talk to you. Sometimes it’ll be in a booming voice, sometimes in a whisper.
I’ve heard God speak in an audible voice a couple of times. Most of the time I hear God through a dream, where I just know when I wake up that God has spoken to me. Sometimes I don’t remember what happened in my dream, but I wake up and my spirit just knows what God is speaking. I know what He’s wanting to communicate for somebody I’m going to meet or something for the schedule that day. I also regularly close my eyes and ask God, “What do you want to say right now?”
In the Bible, God speaks through dreams, visions, pictures, the scriptures, prophets, His audible voice, angels, miracles, and even a donkey! God is not limited in the ways He can communicate with us.
Here are some of my favourite Biblical examples.
The Prophetic Encounter: Saul
There are lots of prophetic passages in the Bible, but one of my favourites is before Saul becomes the first king of Israel. In 1 Samuel 9, Saul’s father has lost his donkeys, and Saul and his servant go looking for them. They aren’t finding them, so the servant says, “Let’s go and ask a nearby prophet because maybe he’ll know where the donkeys are.”
At the same time, Samuel, the prophet, is hearing from the Lord that he is going to meet the guy to be chosen as the new king of Israel.
After they meet, Samuel takes Saul aside and tells Saul his destiny, that he’s going to be king. Samuel gives Saul the most detailed prophetic word that is so circumstantial, that if it happens, it’s got to be God! All these circumstantial things take place to convince Saul that he’s God’s choice.
I’m guessing that Saul was freaking out that day, overwhelmed. But when it’s time for Saul to be anointed king, he’s hiding in the baggage. It’s amazing to me that he goes from having one of the clearest prophetic words to hiding! It’s like being called out by Shawn Bolz and getting ten people’s prophetic words, but just for you! Saul had big insecurities, and probably a lot of fear.
Saul didn’t listen to Samuel’s dramatic word. Are there prophetic words that you’ve received that you’re not listening to because of fear or insecurity?
When you receive a prophetic word, you might not have all the bells and whistles that Saul had, but you’ll know in your spirit, the part of you that is wired to hear God.
When I was in Bible college, I was attending a midweek meeting at my Baptist church. At the end of the sermon, the speaker said, “There are three men in the room today that are called to be full time in ministry for Jesus.” He was functioning in the prophetic. As soon as he said that, my body was like a tuning fork on the inside. I became very emotional because I knew in my spirit that God was calling me into the ministry that day.
From that prophetic word, I’ve never looked back. Of course, there have been days that I’ve been really frustrated but never days where I’ve wanted to quit. Part of it is that I know that I’m doing the right job, that God has called me to do what I’m doing.
The Power Encounter and the Direction Encounter: Saul and Ananias
Saul and Ananias both have encounters with God within the same story in Acts 9. They are two very different encounters. Ananias had a conversational encounter with God, whereas Saul’s was very in-your-face. But both of them got plans from God, to help with His Kingdom.
Saul was a Pharisee, the most orthodox of the orthodox. He didn’t like anything that didn’t fit into that. At the end of Acts chapter 7 it would appear that he is inciting people to stone Stephen to death. He was actively persecuting Christians. It seems to me that his attitude was, “let’s just kill them as quick as we can!” If you’re that kind of high-intensity person, you need an in-your-face encounter!
Saul’s encounter on the Damascus road was loud and dramatic, almost a Hollywood-like encounter. I’m sure some of you reading this have had encounters like this. God knows how to get your attention! I have heard God’s audible voice a few times, where I heard something, but nobody around me could hear it.
When Ananias encountered God, he was told what to do for Saul. I’m sure that was an overwhelming experience for Ananias too because Saul was a dangerous man.
Jesus has a clear path for every single person. He loves to speak to us, and He loves to give us plans for us and other people.
The Deliverance Encounter: Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene must have been quite a character. In Luke 8 it says that she was freed from seven demons. The Bible doesn’t say what she was like before she encountered Jesus, but you can assume that she must have been in a very bad place.
Modern tradition is that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, but that’s just a guess. And despite what you may have read or seen in The Da Vinci Code, she wasn’t Jesus’ wife!
She clearly has a past that we don’t know about, and has a breakthrough. Her encounter with Jesus was special. She got completely free and became one of the closest followers of Jesus. She was the first person that Jesus chose to talk to after His resurrection.
God knew who Mary Magdalene was and addressed some areas in her life that needed to change. She did a complete about-face.
Saul was another person who had a dramatic transformation. He turned his life around and the number one thing he went on to write about is transformation, also known as sanctification. It’s the same with you. God knows who you are, and will help you in your journey of transformation.
The Unseen Encounter: Barnabas
Barnabas was extremely generous! What kind of encounter did he have with God that made him that way? The Bible doesn’t tell us his background, but I would love to know.
I wonder if he was one of the people that got born again in Acts 2 in Jerusalem. Of course, I can’t prove it at all, but clearly, something happened to him that he was willing to sell a property and give 100% of the money away (Acts 4). It inspires me even though I don’t know Barnabas’s back story. He must have had a really profound encounter.
The Love Encounter: Mary of Bethany
There are four stories in the Bible that talk about Mary, a prostitute, who comes and pours perfume on Jesus’ feet at Simon the Leper’s house. Three of the stories identify her as the sister of Lazarus and Martha. She was a broken woman with a difficult past, but she must have encountered the love of Jesus in a profound way. She was so in love with Jesus that she ‘wasted’ the valuable jar of perfume on his feet.
Like Barnabas, we don’t see Mary’s initial encounter with Jesus, but clearly, knowing Jesus completely changed her life. She wanted to sit at his feet, to listen to him, and to serve him, above all else.
Friends, anything can happen when you encounter God. Pursue an encounter with God, a real experience with Him, because it will change your life in remarkable ways.
Perhaps, like King Saul, you’ll get direction that is designed to give you courage for your destiny.
Maybe you’ll get a change of heart to become generous like Barnabas.
You could receive complete freedom like Mary Magdalene.
God might encounter you dramatically like Saul on the Damascus road, and give you a 180. Or like Ananias, you could get plans for other people.
Like Mary of Bethany, Jesus might encounter you in such a way that you’ll fall completely in love with Him.
Steve and Sandra Long are the Senior Leaders of Catch The Fire Church in Toronto. For more of their story, read this interview.