Thursday, 4 June 2015

It is good for us to be here....

When Jesus went up onto a mountain peak to encounter God, Peter’s first response was to say, “It is good for us to be here.” (Matthew 17:4)  His next statement was, “Shall I build a tent (tabernacle/a tradition/temple) here?”  He never got an answer.  Being in the very presence of God stopped him from talking.  All he and his friends could do was fall to the ground knowing that they were in His Holy Presence.  All they could do was tremble. The experience was such that as they were coming down from this place, Jesus urged them not to talk about this for a while. 

This peak experience was not something they could have manufactured, planned or created. They certainly couldn’t re-schedule or make a revival or a tradition out of, in and again; heck they weren’t even able to talk about it.   However, it did happen and it was a formative piece in their discipleship journey.

Like many of us, I long for moments like this and I tell myself that I long to stay and live there in these experiences.   It is interesting that when Peter went to speak and share his excitement, he was silenced by God’s Presence. All he was able to do was throw himself onto the ground, facedown.  Often the challenge with peak experiences is that they are your experience and are very hard to explain to others. It reinforces the fact that each of us must have our own. There is a danger when we endeavour to make a formula out of our experience.   We have been known to create a service, a prayer sequence, a space where God is moving, that people can attend and get the same experience we had there.  I wonder what Jesus would say about that? Remember when Peter was about to do the same he was silenced! I can just hear him thinking, “If we put up a tent/shrine here then others can come, touch this space and they will sense God like we have.  This will help others know God is real. This will validate our ministry and all that Jesus has been saying.”  BUT he was silenced and asked not to speak about it again for a while.  We need to be careful that our peak personal experiences don’t become a formula that gives us validation to lead others.

Very quickly they knew it wasn’t about them and their depth of spirituality because when they got to the bottom of the mountain they weren’t even able to help someone in need. When they asked Jesus why not he answered them, “How long will I put up with you? You have so little faith!”  The peak experience was all about God revealing who He was and so little about them.   They must have found it very sobering to come down from a PEAK experience very quickly.....or did they?

Peter said, “It is good for us to be here”, and it makes sense that we would want to manufacture, re-visit of create spaces where we have peak experiences with God all the time. But another question could be are we seeking the wrong experiences? I hear so many people talk about not “feeling God” or not feeling like God is not there. We long for the amazing, the “wow” factor that makes us feel all gooey inside. We comprehend  this passage as Jesus and the disciples having to come down from the mountain, implying that we can’t stay up on the mountain. But do we fail to see that it was at the bottom of the mountain, in the real world that Jesus was able to heal the boy before their eyes. Is this not also a peak experience?  Is this not just as “formative” in their faith formation?   Seeing that Jesus has the power to heal and being confronted with the fact that their faith was lacking. At this low time is where reality hits.  It’s not about them it is about God. Is this not a peak experience? Seeing someone healed, seeing Jesus changing lives, realising that is not about us and what we can and cannot do, but all about who God is and what He does! Can it even be a peak experience to be rebuked by Jesus?  It is said that “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and we know that when we are weak He is strong. These times might be low times personally, but they can be peaks when we learn that we are a part of a greater story.  We can’t do the impossible, but we serve a powerful God and He can!

As we follow Peter’s life through the Gospels it is one big rollercoaster of “highs” and “lows”.  But I would rather call them ALL peak experiences, moments where God was revealed for who He is, where Peter’s faith was formed and grew in preparation for him to become the “rock” that God built His church upon.

We must be careful of seeking out “peak” experiences.  God wants to meet us anywhere, anyhow, anytime.  Often we can’t plan them and find them difficult to describe or explain to others. I believe God longs for EVERYONE to have their own experience.  I believe they are life changing, personally formative and necessary for the lifelong journey with God. I believe we must keep our eyes open, hearts soft and seek FIRST the kingdom of God and peak experiences will be all around you.

Q: Are you open and expectant for God to reveal himself daily? Q: Are you teaching and leading others to be open and expectant for God to walk with them daily?
For more reading on Encounters with Jesus and Peak experience's go