by Andrew Palau
Did you start sweating a little when you read that title? This is one of the hardest questions we’re asked as we share the good news of Jesus with people in the modern age. It can stop us in our tracks, and sometimes the fear of it can keep us silent until we determine exactly how to answer. But if we’re honest, it’s a question we’ve all asked.
There it is again: “How do you know God exists?”
How do we begin to answer such a monumental question? We begin by unpacking what we mean by it (which may not be what we think we mean). This is a good question, but flawed. Not flawed in what it means, but flawed in what people mean by it.
Let me unpack that: we use it when we really want to ask, “What objective, empirical evidence can you produce to prove the Being you pray to?” This is a natural longing—after all, if we are going to put our faith in a Supreme Being who makes the kind of statements that the God of the Bible does, some evidence would sure be nice!
But this takes the whole idea of ‘knowing’ in the wrong direction. The biblical idea of knowing does not just reference mental comprehension, but relational connection. And when someone is teetering on the edge of faith, it’s that kind of testimony that makes all the difference. You see, while the person may think that he or she is asking for proof, what he or she is really asking for is persuasion—how our experience with God has convinced us of His reality and goodness.
“Has he really changed your life?” is usually the heart of this.
Think how it might catch someone off guard (in a good way!) to hear this reply to the question: “I know He exists because I spoke with Him this morning.”
Dramatic, perhaps, but the powerful hope of our faith is that we don’t just know our God with our brains, but with our whole persons—with our hearts. We don’t just know about God. We know Him, and He knows us, and we are together all day. Day in. Day out.
You see, the true power of this kind of ‘knowing’ is in the very fact that it is not simply based on evidence. This is no different from any relationship—with a spouse, or close friend, or family member.
How much does love weigh? How do you measure the depth or breadth of commitment? Where is the microscope you can use to examine someone’s affection for you? What kind of scalpel do you use to dispassionately examine someone’s care for your well-being?
These are all real things, but we cannot prove them the way we prove a physical force or reality. But that does not make them less real, or ‘knowing’ them less true. He calls to us; He knocks (Rev. 3:20) and waits for our answer. “Behold, here I am!” He says. It is such a personal appeal. He promises to come in and eat with us: not a religious chasing around, but day-to-day engagement.
This reminds me of a powerful moment in my past, which I write about in The Secret Life of a Fool (Worthy, 2012). Encountering God, as if for the first time, on a veranda overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains:
I came face-to-face with a God who was different from anything I had ever dreamt of or considered before. For having had the experience, I have no option. Above all else in life, I want other people to know that same feeling. I was made alive … I was cared for and loved, and all I wanted to do was tell people about this thing I had found in Jesus. In that moment, I was remade—pressed into this person who was being formed by love and mercy.
Someone can forget a fact, or choose to disregard clear scientific evidence. But no one can ignore that kind of gut-level, wrenching experience of being known and loved.
The power of knowing that God exists is the power of encounter, not of the scientific measurement we’re used to using to evaluate what is real. We know God exists through the many ways that we relationally connect with Him: the power of His word, through daily communion with Him in prayer. By experiencing His presence in worship or in fellowship.
If God had been primarily concerned with proof, He would have proved Himself to us. But because He asks us to come to Him in faith, not by sight, we have to meet Him on His terms, not on ours.
The powerful thing is, meeting Him with this kind of knowing is so much better than simple ‘proof’.Why? Because instead of “Examine and prove that the Lord is real,” we get to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”
And that tasting brings life to the soul in a way that all the cerebral evidence in the world cannot.
Andrew Palau (@andrew_palau) is an evangelist with the Luis Palau Association. He has shared the gospel with millions of people, and at every opportunity he demonstrates his father’s same passion and love for Christ and for evangelism.