If the righteous live by faith, suggesting an intimate relationship with God, then what does this relationship look like? I have spent most of my life living in and learning about human-to-human relationships. I have been a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a member of a team, a leader of a team and a brother in Christ. I have read many books about relationships and sought to apply these lessons and when out of my depth I sought professional help. That is a huge investment in learning about relationships. Can I say I have put the same energy into developing my relationship with God?
God is supernatural, therefore, the relationship with Him is supernatural and human (my response). Now that must be completely different. While human-to-human relationships rely on our physical senses (hearing, touch, etc.) and we process what we learn in our minds and hearts, our relationship with God is somewhat different. God’s Spirit testifies to our spirit (Romans 8:16); I can experience God’s love because my heart has been transformed from a heart of stone (gravestone in Hebrew; Ezekiel 36:26) to a heart of flesh. Furthermore, my mind is being renewed day by day (see 2 Corinthians 4:16-18) suggesting a continuous and ever-increasing understanding and experience of God’s loving relationship as the Holy Spirit dwells in us and reveals truth. I believe this is faith.
I have expressed something of my understanding of this relationship with God in a previous post (Posted August 23, 2020). However, in my current trial/testing (undergoing treatment for blood cancer; lymphoma) I have experienced two ‘rhema’ experiences I would like to share. I had spent some time (about a month) examining my life for a besetting sin, studying the Word, confessing the Word for healing, reading books on healing, talking to God and praying for healing but I did not receive a ‘rhema’ during this journey. That is, I was trying to apply the lessons I had learned about faith and healing. Since God did not speak a ’rhema’ to me during this time I assumed He had another purpose in mind for me. In other words, God had not spoken to me so I concluded that this trial was not primarily about a besetting sin or healing.
However, I have received two ‘rhema’s’ when asking God about the testing of my faith. I believe God is testing my faith through this illness to draw me into a deeper relationship with Him (increase my faith so that I would be perfect lacking nothing – see James 1:). Let me take you through my journey chronologically.
THE FIRST ‘RHEMA‘
The vison (rhema) was associated with the testing of Peter the apostle when he denied Jesus three times (Luke 22:54 ff; John 21). Satan had asked Jesus to test Peter and Jesus agreed. Jesus told Peter this and told Peter that he had already prayed for Peter. Peter did not understand, denied Jesus three times and wept bitterly when he realised what he had done. Peter’s grief was so great that he gave up his mission and withdrew to hide in a safe place and became a fisherman again (my understanding). We are not told what happened during this time of grief (the period between Peter’s denial and his jumping off the boat when he saw Jesus) but I’m speculating that he was depressed but God did not leave him alone. I’m imagining that he had some ‘rhema’s’ during his withdrawal. When Peter was in his fishing boat approaching the shore, he saw the resurrected Jesus sitting on the bank (John 21). He was so overcome with love that he could not contain himself so he jumped overboard fully clothed (they were 300 feet from shore). Did he think he could swim to shore faster that the boat could be rowed? His love was so great for Jesus he did not even consider that. Something miraculous must have happened during his period of testing and grief.
In the vision I saw Peter jumping off the boat and I was standing on the shore not too far from where Jesus was sitting. When Peter jumped, I saw a golden halo around his whole body and I understood immediately that the love of Jesus had consumed his whole body, soul and spirit and was overflowing out of his body. Then I heard Jesus say to me “I am praying for you”. Note the ‘rhema’ came by vision and words spoken by Jesus with some understanding on my part.
I believe Jesus allowed Satan to test Peter because Jesus knew that Peter was not ready for the mission that God had chosen for him, to take the Gospel of the Kingdom to the world even unto death. When Peter jumped off the boat, he was ready for the mission because Jesus knew the testing and His prayers would bring about this necessary transformation. What happened to Peter during the time of his denial of Jesus until he jumped off the boat? What mystery and majesty had God done in his heart? Could God do the same in my heart?
THE SECOND ‘RHEMA’
This post is all about the second ‘rhema’. Remember a ‘rhema’ is the spoken word of God for a particular individual in a particular situation. It was evening and I was trying to fall asleep after a day of chemotherapy. In the busyness of getting to hospital for treatment I had forgotten to say good morning to God, as is my habit. I was laying in bed at night and confessing that I had forgotten about God in the morning when God spoke to me, in words with understanding, through His Holy Spirit. It was an open dream because I was awake (one of the ways God’s Spirit testifies to my spirit). I was reminded of a scientific finding that happened in my career. Our research had uncovered a problem with a new medicine, we were elated with the finding because we knew it was true from our training and we understood the application of this finding would improve patient care lifting our excitement even more. The Holy Spirit used this natural memory to give me understanding of three principles: 1). We experienced the elation of discovering truth; 2) we had confidence in this truth because of our training/maturity and 3). the application of this truth in (clinical) practice, further embedded the experience in our minds. All this in words as God’s Spirit testified to my spirit.
Then the Holy Spirit connected this second ‘rhema’ to the first ‘rhema’ I had earlier when my illness was being diagnosed (10 weeks previously). I will explain. In the first ‘rhema’ God gave me a vision and Jesus spoke to me directly in the vision (another way God’s Spirit testifies to our spirit). I had part understanding of the first ‘rhema’ but in this second ‘rhema’ God gave me additional understanding. God showed me how that the first ‘rhema’ impacted me because of the three principles in the second ‘rhema’. This second ‘rhema’ added to my understanding of how God was relating to me personally and intimately in my first ‘rhema’. 1). God had revealed TRUTH through His spoken Word to me; 2). I experienced the elation of TRUTH as I saw the vision (God’s expression of His heart of truth as he was teaching me about this current trial; note it is relational and involves emotion); and 3). Applying this TRUTH (constantly thanking, praising and asking God for more; Psalm 116:12-14) renews the mind as I had more detailed understanding of the first ‘rhema’ and I understood in my mind what God’s plan was for me in this trial (at least in part). Remember TRUTH is a person, Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
My summary of the way God related to me in these ‘rhema’s’:
1. God is always in relationship with us. If we are in an intimate relationship with God we are always under the shadow of His wings and He deeply desires to inform us of this (Psalm 91:1ff)
2. We must learn the ways God relates to us or we may miss the endless expressions of His heart that strengthens our faith, hope and love for Him.
3. God testifies to our spirit in various ways; through His Holy Spirit in words, visions and He gives us understanding of these events.
4. There may be a time difference between multiple ‘rhema’s’ before you gain complete understanding of what God is doing in your life. We must be patient but I continue to ask Him, what are You doing? What do You want to me to know? and how do You want me to respond?
5. The ‘rhema’ reveals truth, engages our hearts, and gives us understanding of what God is doing. We are completely reassured that He is travelling with us and we are not alone in the testing. Faith grows as we are tested and pursue Him in prayer.
6. We must speak, exhort one another and correct in love by sharing our experiences to learn and study the ways God relates to us (Titus 2:15).
7. Yes, faith is trusting God but I also believe it is the single word that describes my intimate relationship with God. Remember in the first post the Father gives us a measure of faith when we are born again and Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith. This describes God’s commitment to the intimate relationship we enjoy with Him. It is a lifetime journey and an eternal journey.
How does this apply to my testing? At the moment I feel more like Peter when he denied Jesus, full of fear, uncertainty, not completely understanding God’s plan for me and at times feeling presumptuous about the things of God. I believe one day he will transform me to jump off the boat. I’m asking Him about the mission He is preparing for me and preparing me for. I have great comfort in His prayers. What an honour to know Jesus is praying for you, and I’m wondering if He will fill me with His love so that my body, soul and spirit is totally consumed with His love. I can’t wait! Teach me to value the presence of God. What would we do to know Him more in fullness? Would we be willing to sacrifice our healing to know Him fully through trial? Is that why Paul talks about the joy of suffering (Romans 5:3-5). I’m still asking Him to cure my cancer because of His abundant heart.
Written by John and Shirley Ray, edited and posted by Joel Ratcliffe