Spiritual Encounters with God: A Witness, a Prophecy and a Parable
James R. Aist
“‘In the last days it shall be,’ says God, ‘that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” – Acts 2:17
This is the final article in a three-part series on “Spiritual Encounters with God.” You can read the first two articles HERE and HERE. They describe visions, voices, and dreams that I have experienced and understand to be direct communications from God to me. In this article, I describe three other personal encounters with God: the witness of the Holy Spirit, as mentioned in the Bible, a word of prophecy I received concerning my children, and a parable illustrating the sanctification process. Such spiritual encounters with God are probably uncommon among contemporary, born-again Christians, but they are certainly not unique to me by any means. In fact, I believe that, because the Holy Spirit is present in all true believers, all of us have spiritual encounters with God of one sort or another. We just don’t always perceive them as such. As you are reading, please keep in mind that God interacts with each of His born-again children however He chooses, and one’s lack of a corresponding spiritual encounter with God does not rule out the validity of another’s.
That said, let’s jump right into the remaining three of my spiritual encounters with God: a witness, a prophecy and a parable.
A Promised Witness
This encounter happened in the mid-1980s, when my first wife and I were struggling with an impending divorce. For me, these were times of incredible stress, anxiety and depression. I could see my most cherished dreams – dreams of a lifelong marriage, a stable and lasting family life, and three children brought up to know and love God – I could see all of that disintegrating before my very eyes. And there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I had already tried everything I could think of, to no avail.
It was when I was at my lowest point, crying out for relief from the stress and confusion, that Satan literally spoke to me one day, as if he were sitting on my left shoulder. He said “Jesus isn’t the son of God. You don’t really believe that he is, do you? Look at how much stress that’s causing you. Why don’t you give up on that and just go along with the flow? That will make things a lot easier for you.” And he kept repeating the same message, over and over. But, whenever he would say this to me, something interesting would happen inside of me. The Holy Spirit would simply say “You believe that Jesus is the son of God. Don’t ever let go of that; it’s the most important thing you have left.” When this spiritual battle between Satan and the Holy Spirit was over, I was still holding on to my faith in Jesus: Satan was defeated!
I found out later that this internal witness of the Holy Spirit was a direct fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy in John 15:26, “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, He will testify about me…” And Romans 8:16 says “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” That witness of the Holy Spirit was the only thing that got me through that dark and sinister time of testing. What’s more, that witness of the Holy Spirit helped me hold on to the only real friend I had at that time, Jesus Christ. I believe that Proverbs 18:24 is speaking of Jesus when it says “… there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
The lessons I learned from this encounter with God are these: When everything and everyone else has failed you, remember that you still have Jesus. He is all you need to see you through! And, the Holy Spirit in you will ensure that Jesus will remain your friend no matter what, or who, attacks your faith.
A Prophecy of Promise
In mid-June of 1992, I was at the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International Men’s Advance at Lake George in upstate New York. One day when they were baptizing some of the participants, in the lake, I stepped forward to be immersed by Pastor Don Yarborough. We had never met, and he knew nothing about me. As I approached him in the water, he just stared at me straight in the eye with a blank look, and kept staring. I thought to myself, “That’s strange; he doesn’t seem to even see me coming.” Finally, as I drew near to him, he reached out his hand to me, we shook hands and I introduced myself. Then he said that something very unusual had just happened; it had happened only once before in his ~20 years of baptizing people.
He said that as I was approaching him in the water, he received a prophecy for me, in the form of several Bible passages from both the Old Testament and the New Testament. They all had to do with the head of the household being saved and all of his family with him. He then proceeded to share with me all five of those Bible verses. When he had finished with that, he gave me the interpretation: God wants me to stand on and hold fast to these promises, which he is confirming to me and my children. Wow! Through this prophecy, God had just told me that all of my children will be saved! Needless to say, I was a “happy camper” the rest of that meeting.
Now, as it turns out, my daughter, Liesel, was visiting with me later that month. She knew nothing of the prophecy I had received just a few days earlier. The day before she left to go home, we were having a discussion about the things of God, and, to my utter amazement, she asked me if I had ever received any indication from God as to whether or not she would someday become a Christian! I was, for a moment, speechless. How in the world did she even know to ask me that? When I regained my composure, I told her about this prophecy. She was visibly pleased and very encouraged to find this out. God had arranged a “divine appointment” for sure!
About five years later, Liesel was, tragically, struck and killed by an automobile while crossing an intersection. In the days just before and after her death, I learned – from two, independent, reliable witnesses – that during the two weeks prior to the accident, she had given testimony of her faith in Jesus! God is good, and He is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).
A Parable of the Wood Chips
This encounter with God happened in the early 2000s, and is told in a bit more detail HERE. I had, for many, many years, stacked into two neat and straight rows, the pile of cut and split firewood left in my yard by the dump truck. Then I cleaned up the mess of firewood “trash” that remained on the lawn where the pile of wood had been, and nothing out of the ordinary had ever happened. True to form, I had developed a routine for the tedious, but necessary, task of cleaning up the “trash” after the firewood was stacked. I would begin with the largest pieces, those that were too small to stack with the normal firewood but very easy to spot and gather into a box to use as kindling whenever I needed to build a fire in my wood stove. With those larger pieces removed, I could then more easily spot fragments of a smaller size and gather them into the box. And so on and so forth, until there was nothing left but tiny bits and slivers that I was not even aware of until all of the larger pieces had been removed. I would then rake together as many of these minuscule remnants as possible and deposit them into the trash. Finally — applying the concept of “good enough” — I would declare the project finished, even though, if I looked closely enough, there were still left even tinier fragments that I had not noticed before. Oh well.
One cool, crisp, spring day I was busy cleaning up the trash after stacking the firewood for the next winter. First the larger pieces, those that were easiest to see, then the next-largest pieces that were now, themselves, the easiest to see, and then the still-smaller pieces which had seemingly appeared out of nowhere when all of the just-larger pieces had been removed. Then, I paused briefly to rest and catch my breath. I was standing there, looking out over the “debris field” and thinking about how I could see the next-smaller pieces only after the just-larger pieces had been removed, when it hit me: This is exactly how God cleans the sins out of our lives after we are born again! He begins by showing us the most conspicuous sins. These are the ones we are probably already painfully aware of, but have not yet dealt with for some reason. When these sins have been taken care of, it’s easier for Him to show us the less conspicuous sins, and we set about, together, to deal with those. And with those sins now out of the way too, it’s possible for us to see sins that we didn’t even know were there, and so on. Wow! I thought I was just was cleaning up the trash in my lawn, but God was showing me how He was cleaning up the trash in my life! We commonly refer to that process as “sanctification”, and the Holy Spirit is in charge of it.
With this article, my three-part account of spiritual encounters with God is complete. I hope you have found them interesting, edifying and encouraging. Perhaps you are eager to discover how God has arranged spiritual encounters with you as well. If you do, you will be blessed. I’m sure of it.
(For more of my articles with biblical themes, click HERE)