So that familiar subject came up the other day: Miracles, and what should we do about them? Do we pray for them? Do we pray against them and those who claim to perform them, even in the name of Christ?
The answer wasn’t simple, and neither did I offer one like that. But it did bring to mind the fact that a lot of Christians today have what appears to be an unhealthy obsession with the manifestation of the supernatural – so much, that it often leads them to practically blasphemous attitudes towards the Lord and spiritual callousness to their fellow Christians.
So, it’s worth a little exploration here, or at least I can offer you some thoughts on the issue. And let me start by saying that today’s body of believers is still heavily influenced by “theologies” of the Prosperity Gospel, the “name it and claim it” prophets and the Charismatic movement (at least its more extreme branches). And there is no way you can have a discussion about the miraculous today without stepping on a pebble from one or all of the above.
Why do I start like this? Because, like most issues, the issue of the miraculous is essentially an issue of heart. And I daresay that in today’s world (at least the western part of it) our hearts more often than not beat for us first and for the Lord second. I’ve said it repeatedly in this blog, and I’ll keep saying it: The root of most “Christian” problems is a self-centred, rather than Christ-centred Christianity (cf. 2 Cor. 5:15). Deep down, even if we don’t admit it, we see Christ as our servant, not the other way around. And the legacy of the Prosperity Gospel in its various forms, and today’s new Christian fad, the Seeker-Sensitive/Emergent Church movement, have left us thinking that, somehow, God owes us – big time. And when the Bride of Christ approaches her future husband (Rev. 19:7) with prenuptial demands instead of loving submission, she is bound to be disappointed. Why? Let me answer with another question: What is the best way to spoil a child?
So, the Bible is clear that we are here to serve the Lord, Who gives us the privilege to participate in the work of His Kingdom in various capacities and positions (1 Cor. 12:18). But – having understood that, how do miracles fit into it, if at all?
First I think it’s important to define “miracles”. Are we talking about anything supernatural that comes from our Heavenly Father, or do we have in mind specifics like healings and the occasional raising of the dead? Well, I really can’t see how a “miracle” can be narrowed down to only include such “grand” events, and it must, by definition, include everything God does that is supernatural. So, I don’t see why the genuine repentance of a sinner shouldn’t amaze us more.
But let’s just focus on those “big” miracles for a moment. Should we praying and expecting those? Does their absence from our ministries and churches reflect a lack of faith on our part? Does our sovereign God want to do things but our cold cold hearts are somehow stopping Him?
I doubt it. And I doubt it because I see nothing in the Scripture assuring us that miracles will be the norm. Nowhere is the Church commanded to go and supernaturally heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out demons, so we can’t really exercise faith on this matter. How can I approach a sick man and pray for his physical healing when I don’t know whether that’s God’s will for him (1 John 5:14-15)? For example, the apostle Paul had a major physical issue and even prayed repeatedly for it to be removed to no effect. Why? Because God had a reason – a good reason – to leave him with it (2 Cor. 12:7-10). And – note this – God also told him why.
So what I’m saying here is that: 1) we often desire miracles for the wrong reasons (James 4:3) and 2) God never promised that miracles will be the norm.
So let me point out one more thing: In the Bible, and especially in the New Testament, miracles like healings, exorcisms and resurrections always have a reason. Jesus’ miracles demonstrated His divinity and Messiahship and gave a foretaste of the future-Kingdom of God (John 2:11; Acts 2:22); the apostles’ miracles established their genuineness and authority as messengers of God so that the Gospel would be kept pure (1 Cor. 2:1-5; Gal. 1:8). Nowhere else do we see miracles being performed, especially not by believers in the churches. None of Paul’s prayers for the Church (Eph. 1:15-21; Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9-12) ask for miracles, but focus on the deeper, spiritual and real needs of the believers – something that in today’s superficial Christianity we have neglected and ignored.
A final note: some will throw James 5:13-16 as an example of the Bible instructing us to pray for healing. I’d love to do a study on the passage later, but suffice to say that if you read the context, you’ll see two things: 1) that “the prayer” of the elders (verse 15) needs to be “of faith”, which we discussed above, and 2) one of the reasons for the illness (not always) is sin – physical sickness is a result of God’s judgement (verses 15b-16; see 1 Cor. 11:27-32).
I know that I haven’t covered everything here, but I hope that some things are clearer. I’m not saying that God is small, nor am I putting Him in a box. What I am saying is that God has different priorities than us and that our will is not always aligned with His “perfect and acceptable and good will” (Rom. 12:2). He is always the Great I AM, the LORD God, the Creator of the World, and nothing can diminish His power. But He will not do anything to encourage us in a wrong way, and that includes miracles.
Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass. – Psalm 37:4-5