Beyond Earthly Experience


“Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”

When touring Israel, Brad loves to teach Peter’s testimony of Christ’s divinity in its context —in Cæsarea Philippi, at the base of Mount Hermon, the tallest mountain in the country. This massive rock cliff with spring water gushing out makes vivid Christ’s symbols of rocks and flowing water. These symbols, like Peter’s declaration of what he had learned beyond earthly experience, are foundational to Christian experience.

Some of Christ’s followers were finding His doctrine difficult to understand and accept, and they no longer followed Him. In private, the Savior asked some of his disciples, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” When they mentioned some of the prophets, He pressed further, “But whom say ye that I am?”

Not a hesitant man, Peter spoke up boldly, “Thou are the Christ, Son of the living God”— a testimony beyond earthly observation or reasoning. Only the Father could give that unquestioning certainty. Peter’s name designated “rock,” and he was a firm rock of a man. Christ’s use of “rock” in this context has been interpreted differently among Christians. As Peter was receiving the keys of the kingdom, revelation would flow as naturally as the water.

Beyond Earthly Knowledge Through Scriptures

Gérald Caussé, a Christian leader from France with worldwide audiences, spoke of insight during a family move after 22 years in Paris. “I still remember . . . when my children came to me and said, “Dad, it’s absolutely shameful! We’ve lived here all our lives, and we have never been to the Eiffel Tower!” He concluded that when something is always with us, we may see or hear without actually understanding, appreciating or internalizing its beauty or its meaning. He quoted Christ’s words to his disciples: “Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see,” taking us beyond earthly experience. Mr. Caussé explained that as many during Christ’s lifetime did not see “that the very Son of God was living among them,” we might not see or hear what His actions and His words offer us.

Do you remember the first time you read a verse of scripture and felt as if the Lord was speaking to you personally? Can you recall the first time you felt the sweet influence of the Holy [Spirit] come over you, perhaps before you even realized it was the Holy [Spirit]? Weren’t these sacred, special moments? . . . There is always something new to learn and feel . . . in every verse of scripture. 1

A perspective was expressed by Robert D. Hales, a worldwide Christian leader. “When we want to speak to God, we pray. And when we want Him to speak to us, we search the scriptures; for His words are spoken through His prophets.” Like Mr. Caussé, he emphasized the Holy Spirit as it brings us new vision and understanding. “If you have not heard His voice speaking to you lately, return with new eyes and new ears to the scriptures.” 2

Significance was stressed by Thomas A. Tarrants, president emeritus of the C. S. Lewis Institute, which studies Christianity in spiritual and emotional depth. “Communication is essential for knowing anyone, including God; and it is primarily through the words of Scripture that God speaks to us.” Scripture is “God-breathed words that the Holy Spirit inspired Holy men of old to record over the centuries.”

Words that are our . . . sources of knowledge about who God is; what He is like; what His will is; what His plans and purposes are; what He has done in the past; what He will do in the future; who we are . . . [and] how we can know, love, and serve Him.

Dr. Tarrants wrote of the importance of the Holy Spirit to help us understand “our lifeline in this fallen world,” 3 a lifeline that must take us beyond earthly knowledge, experience, and hasty conclusions.

Christians sharing faith with family members and friends may be guided by the Holy Spirit to share a particular scripture, with thoughts and interpretations. The Holy Spirit can engage us in helping those we love. Leighann McCoy, motivational speaker and author of books and online courses on Christian faith, wrote,

God puts a Bible verse or a thought into the mind of one of His followers during his or her quiet time. Immediately that person knows the message is for another. So, in obedience to the sense of urgency that person gets from God, they share what was received . . . [with] a phone call, e-mail, or in person.

She had recently been blessed with a scripture and a couple of sentences of encouragement from a friend. Christian friends share “what they’ve learned from their own walks with God . . . talk about Scripture and share how God’s kept His promises in [their] lives.”

Directly Into Hearts and Minds

Through the Holy Spirit, God may take our hearts and minds directly beyond earthly experience. On the Christian website, widely-published author Rebecca Jordan mentioned that if 10 people “hear” the same sermon, the ears of each one may hear something different—something personal. Some refer to this as “God’s whispers,” others use the term “still small voice.” Sometimes “the speaker never spoke what the people say they “heard”—perhaps a “result of God’s Spirit speaking . . . a living, breathing word of truth to our spirits.” He speaks to unique individuals in many ways: “He’s a creative God.” 5

Intervention from the Holy Spirit does not require reading or speaking. As school teachers at many different levels, we have had frequent experiences when something unexpected seemed to take us for moments beyond earthly competence. A few can illustrate.

• A kindergartener with serious emotional problems had a total meltdown in class. The teacher “knew” that calm expression of love was needed, and the rest of the class “knew” to be still and accepting.

• A deaf sixth grader, struggling with her first year in a neurotypical public school, asked her positive, enthusiastic teacher if he ever had problems. He “understood” that he needed to tell her that he did have problems, but he had learned something she did not yet know: she could be happy even when she had problems. 6

• A college student having a serious medical crisis didn’t understand what to do and whether to go to the hospital. She “felt” she should call her English teacher at home since it was early morning. The teacher “was taken back” to many years before when she had had the same crisis, hearing what her rescuer had told her. She used the same words.

• A student part way through college was indignant because after three week of instruction he still couldn’t speak Spanish. The teacher “recognized” the problem and knew that a reality check was needed. Explaining how slowly a child learns to speak didn’t help. “But don’t we believe in the gift of tongues?” was the reply. The teacher “was able” to slip naturally into an explanation of miracles for purposes. 7

Sometimes a very specific warning must be heeded immediately. God sends the the Holy Spirit to warn an individual in a way God knows he will receive. Religious leader and popular speaker Gary E. Stevenson recounted how his very spiritually sensitive father saved Gary’s life. The 11- year-old boy and his father were hiking on a steep mountain when Gary approached a large rock, planning to climb on it. His father seized the boy’s belt and pulled him back, telling him sternly not to leave the trail. “Minutes later, as we looked down from higher up the trail, we were stunned as we saw a big rattlesnake basking in the sun on top of the very rock I had intended to climb.” 8 God knew the rattlesnake was there, and the boy’s father was attuned to the unspoken warning.

A close friend associated with Gary Stevenson in Christian work, Ronald A. Rasband, explained, “My experience has been that the Spirit most often communicates as a feeling. You feel it in words that are familiar to you, that make sense to you, that prompt you.” 9

Most of us will not have a rattlesnake adventure. But in various times and with incalculable frequency, we need God to take us beyond earthly experience to deal with small and large decisions, opportunities, conditions, and crises in our lives. Don Grant, a Wesleyan pastor for almost 50 years, affirmed,

When we have the Holy Spirit in our lives, He will guide us in the direction we need to go. The Holy Spirit will not leave us in confusion but will reveal the truth to us. He illuminates the dark areas of our lives to give us a clear vision of God’s purpose for us. 10

The apostle Peter needed to understand who Christ was—beyond earthly comprehension; The Father revealed to Peter the true identity of His Beloved Son. As we go through our earthly experiences and challenges, at times we need help and guidance beyond earthly matters, perceptions, knowledge, experiences, or observations. In His great and perfect love, God sends us the Holy Spirit to take our minds and spirits beyond what flesh and blood—or anything on earth—could teach us.

7/21/2023 4:26:34 PM
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  • Brad Wilcox
    About Brad Wilcox
    Brad Wilcox has lived in Ethiopia, Chile, New Zealand, and Spain; he and his family now make their home amid the Rocky Mountains in the United States. Brad taught sixth grade before obtaining his PhD in education. His contributions as an author and teacher have been honored by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and his work has appeared in Guideposts magazine and Reader's Digest. He once served as a member of the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America and has addressed thousands of youth and adults across the globe. He and his wife Debi have four children and nine grandchildren.