Miracles. From time to time, all of us consider them. What is a miracle? How is it accomplished? Why is it done? When facing desperate situations, we reach for a miracle. It does not matter that we do not understand the nature of miracles. All we know is that we need the Power of God to touch our lives in a supernatural way. By "supernatural," I mean that sometimes miracles defy the Laws of Nature, sometimes they expedite the Laws of Nature. It does not matter to us in our desperation. All we know is: we need God to intervene!
Many times in recent weeks people have proclaimed their confidence that God is/has done a miracle in my body with regards to this cancer. I have found myself considering the matter of miracles, and here is a summary of my conclusions.
1. We must decide on a definition of "miracle." Some people refer to any amazing thing as a miracle, like the landing of the airplane on the Hudson River. But to my way of thinking a miracle is not simply human skill or unusual expertise. Nor is it a phenomenal natural occurrence. In order to be a miracle, it must be a focused, supernatural, God-directed turn of events, such that witnesses are left knowing that only God Himself could have done this.
This does not mean that all miracles are outside the Laws of Nature. For example, I consider the parting of the Red Sea to be a miracle. It is a focused, supernatural, God-directed turn of events. But God used a strong easterly wind to effect the miracle. I have been in California and in Israel when strong easterly winds came. In a very short time, everything dries up! This is according to the Laws of Nature that affect water: H2O will move so that there is an equal distribution. The Red Sea miracle is also according to the Laws of Motion. A strong motion will overcome a weaker motion. Hence, the strong wind overcame the flowing water of the Red Sea, and the dry air sucked up the moisture of the seabed. The end result was a large dry area over which the millions of Israelites could easily walk.
And then the east wind stopped, and the motion of the waters again gained the upper hand, flowing back into their channel, thus destroying Pharaoh's proud army.
All of this was according to the Laws of Nature, but because of its timing...at the precise moment of need, at the command of Moses as he raised his staff...it qualifies as a miracle. It was focused, supernatural, God-directed.
So my definition of "Miracle" is this: a turn of events that is focused, supernatural and God-directed, such that witnesses are left knowing that only God Himself could have done this.
2. When considering the matter of miracles, the issue is not so much "Can God?" but "Will God?" God is not God if He cannot do miracles. And if He chooses to do a miracle, the purpose for His miracle is not our agenda and our comfort, but rather it is His glory. Although God has in the past "humored" complainers (like the Israelites in the wilderness) thru miracles, the New Testament repeatedly references that the miracles of Jesus and the apostles were for the purpose of pointing attention to God and His Kingdom. In other words, the occasion of focused, supernatural, God-directed events is to bring glory to God, to capture the attention of men for the purposes of God
The ultimate question, therefore, is this: In what way can God bring Himself the greatest glory...to do a miracle or not to do a miracle? Sometimes His glory shines the greatest when the miracle is done before a large crowd of people, where there are many, many people as first-hand witnesses. Examples in Scripture are when Jesus fed 5,000 people at once, or when several million people crossed the Red Sea on dry land, or when the sun stopped its journey for several hours so that a battle could continue to full victory.
Sometimes His glory shines the greatest, not when a large quantity of people witness the miracle, but when a few of special spiritual quality witness the miracle. Examples in Scripture are when the widow's oil and flour was renewed daily during a time of great famine in Israel, or when Peter's mother-in-law was raised from the dead, or when a military leader's daughter was healed.
Since the purpose of miracles is to showcase His glory, I think there must be some consideration given by the Lord to the faithfulness of those who are touched by Him, a faithfulness to give Him glory and to tell the truth of His working.
3. The Lord's desire is to use a miracle as a stepping stone to greater usefulness in His Kingdom. The miracle should produce greater worship, which should pour forth greater service to God and man. In this way, the greatest amount of glory is "squeezed" out of a miracle.
Look at the healing of the 10 lepers. How many were moved to worship & service? Only one. Look at the crossing of the Red Sea. Their songs of worship & joyful obedience to the Lord were short-lived; they quickly devolved into complaints and belly-aching. Look at Peter's mother-in-law. The woman got up and served a huge number of guests in her home; she didn't sit around drawing attention to herself. And perhaps the observation of Peter laid the groundwork for his declaration of faith: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Look at the widow's flour and oil. She served the prophet of God first. Her son lived thru the famine and I wonder what was the spiritual effect upon his life. Look at the feeding of the 5,000. Initially they praised God, but then they wanted to make Jesus their King in order to receive free food the rest of their lives. They turned the miracle to their own selfish goals and became angry when Jesus warned them of sacrifice in His Kingdom.
So, considering the Lord's goal of bringing glory to Himself, I suspect He chooses carefully the receiver of a miracle, preferring to choose a setting where the more glory (Kingdom-usefulness) can be "squeezed' out of the miracle.
4. Not all miracles are "good." Some miracles are judgment. For example, the King's hand suddenly turned leprous....a focused, super-natural, God-directed event...to judge him for his pride and exaltation against God. And consider the sudden death of Ananias and Sapphira. Their lying was judged by a miracle. Or how about the donkey's speech to the prophet, chastising him for his ill-feelings and evil intent towards the people of God.
And the Red Sea....it was a "positive" miracle for the Israelites, but a "judgment" miracle for Pharaoh's proud, stubborn army. Again, the goal of a miracle is to show forth the glory, the exaltation, the honor of God. And sometimes that showing forth is done by judging wickedness in a supernatural way. In such miracles, the glory of His righteousness and justice is shown to all the witnesses of the miracle.
5. There are those in our midst who say "God is going to heal you. All you have to do is believe that He has healed you." These imply that somehow the miracle is taking place in the mind, and to seek practical proof of the miracle is an evidence of disbelief.
But I am hard-pressed to find in Scripture where a miracle occurred, and there was no practical, visible proof of God's focused, super-natural, directed activity. A true miracle will stand up in the court of examination. Family, friends, neighbors...medical tests...are invited by God to examine His work, and in that examination to affirm His work and give Him praise.
It is the observation of others that separates true miracles from mental delusion. The lepers' skin cleared up and limbs long rotten away were restored. The woman's neighbors saw that she was no longer washing soiled under-rags. The King and his guards saw Daniel come out of the lion's den whole; they checked Shadrack, Mishach, and Abednego closely for fire damage and could not even smell smoke on their clothes or hair! The chief guest at the wedding tasted the water-turned-to-wine and publicly praised its quality.
Today we have people who want to believe in miracles, but they are afraid. Their "faith" is a false faith if it is not open to the scrutiny of others, even non-believers. Miracles are for non-believers, as well as for believers....to show the glory of the Living God.
6. It is for God and God alone to decide what situations yield the greatest glory to Himself through miracles. He is looking not only to the glory of the moment of the miracle (i.e., immediate witnesses), but also to the glory yielded thru a life of great service (i.e., faithful response of those witnesses).
Have you ever wondered why God saved Paul from the poisonous snake, but refused to remove his "thorn"?
Or what about Daniel....He saved him from the death by lions, but refused to heal him at his last deathly illness.
Peter was miraculously released from prison, but not from suffering a martyr's death.
God miraculously healed the demon-possessed girl (through Paul), but refused to spare Paul the subsequent mob attack and beating.
So we must remember that one miracle does not guarantee subsequent miracles. God evaluates each situation. Sometimes He gets greater glory through God-centered suffering than through God-restored ease of life.
7. A miracle is supernatural, God-power touching human life, in order to bring Himself glory and increase our service to Him. His power is not only brute strength (as in stopping the sun or healing instantly). His power is also in the quiet, inner things of life.
His power is spiritual, emotional, psychological strength...as in the ability of a victim to forgive, or a person to have patience in a trying situation that extends for years, or a person offering kindness and love to someone who slanders them. These are great miracles that get little press or public recognition.
8. Sometimes His power is in the realm of knowledge. As humans, we are very limited in knowledge. Many things are poorly understood. God, however, as Creator, knows all things. And often His miracles are matters of knowledge...knowing what needs to be brought together to produce the desired result. In medicine, drug companies do many, many years of testing to try to find combinations that work. In homeopathic and "natural" treatments, there is also much uncertainty. But with God's knowledge base, there is no uncertainty. I sometimes wonder if the miracles that required action were not miracles of knowledge. For example, Jesus knew the clay in his hand was a special clay with the exact property needed for the eyes of the blind man. We know today a little of the healing properties of certain types of clay, but Jesus knew everything there is to know about clay and eyes, and He knew how to bring the two together to facilitate healing.
Here's another example: God showed the prophet that some characteristic of the Jordan River was a match for the leprous condition of the King. Was it magnetism? Was it ions? Was it a chemistry combination coming from the dirt? Only God knew what was in the river, and only He knew it was needed to heal the leprosy.
Lacking God's knowledge, we spiritualize these requirements as only matters of faith. But I wonder if they are not more than that. hey may be miracles (focused, super-natural, God-directed events) that are rooted in His knowledge base of His creation.
(In modern times, I parallel medical treatments with this. God's healing through medicine is no less His work than instant healing apart from medicine. Yet, we rarely give Him credit and glory unless it defies the medical community. In rural areas of undeveloped countries, the people have a greater appreciation of God's role in medical healing; they have not become hardened to His work through medicine as we have become here in America.)
9. Finally, there is ALWAYS proof of a miracle. Nothing is hidden. He is not glorified if His work is hidden from view. Our light is to shine before men. His work in our hearts, attitudes, and perspectives is to be openly shown to others, so that He gets the glory. In the same manner, His work at the miraculous level is also to be shown.
If I say "I am healed" yet refuse the CT scan proving the healing, by what right do I declare that He has healed me. And where is His glory? The "healing" has become only "proven" in my mind.
In every miracle I can find in the Scriptures, there was clear evidence of the healing....from release of demon possession to resurrection from the dead to healing from a dreaded illness.
Whether the supernatural, focused, God-directed event is "on the outside" or "on the inside," there is always proof of His work. It is in the proof that His glory is magnified. And it is the recitation of the proof that composes the testimony in subsequent settings and generations, so that His glory continues to be magnified.
So in conclusion, let me review the main points that God has impressed upon me about miracles.
December 30, 2010