As I shared in my last post, one of the unexpected blessings I received while worshiping by waving flags is that God often lets me have visions of heaven as I wave. Often the pictures I get include a hand reaching down and pulling me into heaven. Usually I will at least see Jesus seated on his throne, with me worshiping before him. Sometimes I only see me in the picture with Jesus, sometimes it’s me with others who are worshiping and waving flags, and sometimes I see the whole multitude of heaven worshiping. It’s very cool to have this picture as I worship — it makes my worship seem so much more real and relevant.
While I have used the term “vision”, I am somewhat hesitant to use that term or to declare that they are from God. I often wonder if they are just my own imagination. I don’t feel like my mind or my eyes are “taken over” by God, so I feel like I could choose to shut down what I see — to will it to stop — and it would. What I see certainly seems spiritual and seems to have spiritual content, and what I see usually has a very positive impact on my faith, and seems to line up with the Word of God. But the imagery doesn’t seem as strong as ones I read about in the Bible, so I don’t really know with 100 percent certainty they are from God. But by faith I receive them and in faith I have come to believe they are from God.
I know this much: I don’t want to go back to the time when I wasn’t seeing anything! But I also know that I don’t want people to think that I’m somehow special or that I think I am better than them because I sometimes get to see pictures of heaven.
I do know that there are those who are much more gifted than I in this area, people who might be legitimately called “seers” who can see angels and heaven and glory and all sorts of things. I think most of these folks can see visions with their eyes open. For me, I see better with my eyes closed (though lately I’m not sure I have been closing my eyes). For me, to see spiritual things, I often find it helpful to block out natural things.
I would like to suggest to people who have sought this gift but haven’t obtained it, that maybe you need to open yourself up a little bit in the area of imagination. A gift is a gift and requires the giver to actually give it (so you need to begin by asking God for it), but it also requires the one receiving to be open to it and learn to use it. Sometimes we get tech gadgets that just sit there, because we don’t know how to use them. But if we devote ourselves to figuring out the gadgets, we usually can. And I bet if you ask God for the gift of being able to see spiritual things or heaven and then devote yourself to try to figure out how to use the gift, I bet you could, too.
I know I love truth, and only want to have true interactions with God, not made up ones. Yet it turns out that God is pretty subtle in his interactions with us. Think back to Elijah’s “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19) when he was seeking God in the cave. Because of our desire for truth combined with our doubting ourselves, we can get so worried about creating false visions that we can actually block real visions by not allowing the Holy Spirit access to the part that we see with.
So if you have been having difficulty seeing in the Spirit, why not open yourself up a little more? A starting point might be something like asking God to give you an ability to see spiritual things, and then begin by imagining what heaven looks like. Don’t work too hard at it, just “prime the pump”. See if once you open up the part of you that sees vision — your imagination — that the Holy Spirit won’t open the door so you can see a picture He creates, where he takes the starting point of you trying to imagine heaven, and then he fills in the details and puts action in the vision.
After you have seen things, you can still take time to discern what you saw — whether it was from God, or from your imagination. For me, the hardest part of seeing things is faith — believing that what I saw was actually from God. But as long as you are guided by the Bible and are in relationship with mature, discerning believers whom you are willing to listen to, even if what you saw was not from God, you can figure that out, and not have your faith diminished at all nor fall into deception. Even if you are not sure, you can always clarify with others like I do that it might just be yourself, but it might just be God. Yet if you do receive from God, think of what that opens your faith-walk to, and how that will help you build up the Kingdom of God here on earth!
You might do a similar exercise with speaking in tongues, if that is something you have desired and asked for, but haven’t received. You have to actually move your lips and make sounds to speak in tongues — yet it is God doing it, if you are truly speaking in tongues. You prime the pump by starting to open your mouth to make a sound. You might start by saying out loud “Hallelujah”, though it didn’t work for me (it felt too much like a complete idea rather than the start of something that we were inviting the Holy Spirit to take over). But when I started with a simple “Ho!”, then I could roll right into speaking in tongues. As with visions, don’t evaluate whether what is coming out of your mouth is from God. Just let it happen. After you are done, you can try to evaluate. Tongues (and visions) get easier as you develop experience (and also as you aren’t constantly evaluating it as it happens).
Let us all continue to grow in faith, seeking God for greater things (1 Corinthians 12:31; 14:1) so that we might bless Him and the Church which He loves!