There are three ways or modes through which we experience God: his presence, his voice, and his work.

  • God’s presence is about his nearness and how he affects us by being with us.
  • His voice refers to what he says and communicates.
  • His work is about his activity, ministry, and impact on the world around us.

The wonder of it is, any one of these three can deepen our experience of God in the other modes. They all play together!

Let’s say you’re married. Imagine three separate scenarios when you arrive home after a long day at work:

  • You walk through the front door and hear your spouse call out, “Welcome home, honey!” (you hear their voice). But watch: The voice of your spouse immediately makes you aware of their presence. The voice came from the kitchen, where you find them working on the stove. You reach over and give them a peck on the cheek.
  • You walk through the front door and no one calls your name, but you smell supper simmering on the stovetop (you become aware of their work). You immediately tune in to the fact that your spouse must be home (presence) and join them in the kitchen, where you give them a hug and start unpacking how your day went (voice).
  • You walk through the door and see your spouse standing there (presence). You both hug each other and say, “I missed you” (voice). Ten minutes later you enjoy the dinner they prepared (work).

This may sound basic, but it’s a powerful principle for growing intimacy with God, too. Consider how this plays out in John 21, after Jesus has died and risen from the dead. Not knowing what to do with themselves after this traumatic series of events, his disciples go fishing. And they get skunked. After a full night of net work, they haven’t caught a single fish. Now watch:

“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered.” (John 21:4,5). 

Jesus is manifesting both his presence and his voice, but his disciples aren’t clueing in. So what does Jesus do? He initiates a miracle (his work):

“He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” (John 21:6)

Watch what happens next:

“Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.” (John 21:7). 

Jesus’ work (the miracle) helped John wake up to his presence: “It’s the Lord!” He realizes, God is doing this! Right on the heels of that epiphany, the disciples also realize it was Jesus who had been speaking to them (his voice). Peter dives right in, and the rest paddle to shore.

When they draw near to Jesus, reaching the beach, they spend time in Christ’s presence, eat breakfast (receive more of his work), and enjoy life-changing conversations with him (hearing his voice).

It’s the very same with us. God’s voice can alert us to his presence. His presence can alert us to his voice (you don’t talk to someone if you’re not aware of their presence). His work can alert us to his voice. Or his presence can open us up to his work. They all work together!

Deeper experiences with God depend on us recognizing the first clues he’s sending through one or more of the three modes. The good news is, God tries to get our attention in all three ways, just like Jesus did with his disciples.

The key to experiencing more of God is to respond like the disciples did. Whether we hear his voice, become aware of his presence, or notice his work, we need to gasp with reverence and awe, “It’s the Lord!” and give him our full attention in that moment. We need dive right in to what happens next!

Put another way, when a friend calls you, you have to answer the phone to start a conversation.

Presence. Voice. Work. How might God be trying to get your attention today? Will you be too busy trying to catch fish (doing what you always do) or will you tune in to Christ’s invitations (through his presence, voice, and work) to dive into what he’s doing?

A beautiful breakfast and a chat on the beach may just await. 🙂

Does this make sense? I’d love to hear from you.