And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone around them, and they were terribly frightened.
This morning as I was paging through the Bible the word suddenly stood out to me. I did a little research and discovered that it occurs 87 times in the Bible! It’s fun to think that I could be minding my own business and then, suddenly, an angel appears! Or, like the shepherds who were tending their sheep in the field, suddenly, an angel appeared and then many appeared, whoa! I’d be terribly frightened at first too. There’s no gradual process when angels appear, they just seem to pop up out of nowhere, you know, suddenly. As amazing and fascinating as it is, I am left to ponder the method.
I’ve had times in my life when it felt as if God was moving very slow. I might be praying for something for months or even years and nothing happens, and then suddenly life is different. Sometimes I didn’t see it coming. Then there are the times that I recognize the gradual process of change within my heart.
When I think about that night with the angels and the shepherds I wonder if it was both suddenly and gradual for them too. Suddenly, angels were there proclaiming great news to them. They ran to see the newborn babe. I’m guessing they were never the same from that day on. There was a sudden change and also a lifelong gradual change.
When I encountered Jesus for the first time, I felt a “suddenly” too. Suddenly, I knew I was loved. Suddenly, I knew He wanted to have relationship with me and suddenly I knew He was speaking directly to me. Suddenly, I knew that His glory was all around me and that the presence I felt was nothing short of miraculous. Since that day, I have gradually grown in many areas, and continue to do so. I have become aware of Who He is and all that He says I am. I have learned to recognize His voice, and follow Him. My desires, thoughts, and life have surrendered more and more to Him. Grace has covered me through the many mistakes and falls.
Encounters with Jesus are mysterious in that once you’ve had one your life is never the same. Suddenly, your entire world is different. Your heart is different. The thoughts and desires you may have had before your encounter are suddenly gone. Jesus has replaced them with love.
Isn’t this what He did throughout His ministry on earth? The sick and wounded would come to Him for help, he would touch them, heal them and suddenly their lives were different. They could walk, see, talk, and live again. He confronted evil, and suddenly there was peace. He befriended men and women and suddenly they spread the Word to others about the mystery of Christ. He surrendered His very own life, was taken to a tomb, and then on the third day He suddenly was alive! Hearts and minds were suddenly changed as they spread out across the nations to tell of the miraculous happenings.
The men that walked with Him, suddenly became powerful carriers of His message, they were filled with His Spirit. They were so changed that they were willing to suffer and die for Him.
Saul was intent on destroying all of the followers of Jesus, then suddenly, He heard Jesus speak and was changed.
The woman at the well was buried in shame. She was stuck in a lifestyle that only brought condemnation and pain, then she met Jesus. He lovingly talked to her and saw inside her heart. Suddenly, she was changed and went out to tell others of the amazing man that knew all about her.
Suddenly, they all encountered the love of Jesus, and they couldn’t wait to share it. The mystery of His love pursues us and inspires us to be like Him.
Suddenly, I knew that He loved and favored me. I knew that He chose me. What is your “suddenly”? How has it changed your life?