Miracles

My friend Tim moved his beautiful wife Nancy to hospice care yesterday. They are the parents of two terrific teenagers. Their daughter had to have surgery to remove a tumor in her brain this year. Nancy has battled cancer for two years.

She is much more than a simple reminder of my mortality. She is a valiant warrior in the faith, an extraordinary mother, a beloved wife, a cherished sister in Christ. She is still the lovely girl Tim introduced me to more than twenty years ago, and when I saw them together, I couldn’t help but think, “What a lucky stiff to find someone like her!”

So last night I prayed for a miracle.

My family prayed for a miracle when my dad died and was revived by EMTs, only to remain in an unresponsive coma for a few weeks before slipping away again.

Yet I believe in miracles. That’s why I pray for them. I believe that God can, should, would, and does bless His children in supernatural ways (as Dallas Willard phrases it in Hearing God).

Many people don’t, because they do not believe those things. – Or, at least, they believe that He can’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t, and/or doesn’t bless His children in supernatural ways anymore.

And they know that there’s no point in asking Him, because they don’t believe.

In fact, some are so certain of their unbelief that they teach it as doctrine. An article in a fairly recent publication even puts it in boldface: “there were no more miracles needed.” (Because putting something in boldface or repeating it to extinction automatically makes it true, so that no logic nor citation of scripture is needed.)

Sounds like Nazareth to me.

Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith. ~ Mark 6:4-6

I don’t think this means that their lack of faith prevented Jesus from being capable of doing miracles – because it clearly says that He could still “lay His hands on a few sick people and heal them.” I think it means that they could see the miracles and their unbelief prevented them from seeing them for what they were: God’s compassion toward His children in a sin-sick and dying world, expressed in a supernatural way.

I think they wrote them off. Coincidence. Illusion. Fakery.

Of such people of unremitting unbelief, Jesus tells the story of the conversation between Lazarus and Abraham in the next life:

“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'” ~ Luke 16:30-31

Some will quote this and John 10:25 and :38 and John 14:11 and conclude that the purpose of miracles was only to verify the Word, or more accurately, Jesus’ relationship to the Father. But that is inserting an unwarranted “only” into the conclusion. It’s going beyond the Word. In fact, it’s contradicting the Word.

The Word says:

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” ~ Matthew 15:32

Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. ~ Matthew 20:34

Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” ~ Mark 1:41

Has God run out of compassion? Can He only answer prayers in the ways to which we limit Him? Is it possible we do not have, because we do not ask? Or we’re asking for the wrong things for the wrong motives? (James 4:1-3) Or because we ask, but don’t believe God can, would, should or does? (James 1:6)

I’m not advocating all-out gullibility. I’m not saying that I believe (or that you should believe) that every faith-healing televangelist who takes up a collection after the same people have been slain in the Spirit to be healed of their infirmities for the dozenth time in the dozenth city on their tour actually manifest the indisputable power of God.

But there’s a vast difference between that gullibility and the kind of unbelief that says, “I don’t believe it happens because I’ve never seen it.”

Really?

I have never been a first-hand eyewitness to nuclear fission, human birth, or the moment that someone decides to believe in God. But I see the incredible results of those things happening all around me all the time and – in spite of the fact that to a reactor technician … to an obstetric nurse … to a minister of the gospel … to them, these things may become quite mundane and natural and ordinary – to me, they are quite extraordinary and supernatural and miraculous. God designed them. They were created at His word. The very faith that I have in Him is His gift to me. (Ephesians 2:8)

Maybe you’ve never seen a miracle because you never believed you would or could or should or did.

But to say “there were no more miracles needed” and to boldface it as if were God’s own truth …?

Try telling that to my friend Tim.

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14 thoughts on “Miracles

  1. absolutely fabulous words of encouragement and i thank you for them.
    i still believe. i think of the story of the paralytic who gets lowered through the roof and i note that when Jesus saw THEIR faith he forgave and healed. not HIS faith (that of the paralytic) but THEIR faith (that of the paralytic and his friends). the faith of a few friends can still accomplish much and that is what i pray for when i think of the hellish year of health my dear one has had to endure this year.
    i still believe. i still pray and i will continue to believe and pray. healing may mean something completely different than what i want it to mean but this journey is changing me and healing me too.
    miracles do happen, it just depends on how open one’s eyes are to the veil between us and God.

  2. Keith, I have held back from commenting on this subject, because it is so sensitive. When we have a friend hurting, no matter the reason, and our advise to them is pray for a miracle from God to fix it, and tell them their faith has to be strong in receiving that miracle through the grace of God, and nothing changes, then we have to explain why it didn’t. Was their belief in God weak ? Was it against God’s plans? was it really my fault? and so on.
    Many more questions are created that we don’t know the answer to.
    When the answer to the first question, (why is this happening )
    is “God only knows”

  3. Today Nancy is laid to rest.

    We’ll all have questions whether we pray for miracles or not.

    We have nothing to lose by asking God in faith.

  4. “We have nothing to lose by asking God in faith.”

    Keith, I disagree, if we are told to pray, with expectations that God will intercede on our behalf, and over and over again we fail to see where he did, our faith is at risk. Little by little our faith might be whittled away by great expectations, with little result.
    I know some who have lost all faith in God even existing, because of unanswered prayer. I have come to believe prayer should be more of “thank you Lord” instead of “help me Lord” “Thank you Lord for giving me the time with my loved ones”

  5. Believe what you will, bro.

    Jesus’ faith did not flag when God’s answer was “no” in the garden. Nor did Paul’s when left to serve with a thorn in his flesh. Nor did hundreds of martyrs who went to their deaths for the sake of the Name.

    “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened” does not prmote timidity before the throne of God. What it should prepare us for is to receive an answer from God’s wisdom, far far beyond our own.

  6. Well Keith, lets bring this a little closer to home, what would you tell your friend if he came to you with the questions of why didn’t it work?
    I don’t know your friend, but I know many others who have gone through this terrible experience of losing their mate. and I would guess your friend was not that different, they cried they begged and believed, and cried and begged some more, and still lost. I am not questioning the purposes of what happens, I don’t know why. I do question the advice, ask and you shall receive applies to all things.

  7. Thanks for the good words. Why do we try to limit God? Why would we try to make God fit our prospective of how God ought to be. If I need a miracle I will continue to ask. God bless and continue the good work.

  8. Laymond, I wonder if it’s possible to pray for miracles over and over again without ever seeing God work as a result? I really mean that as a question, not a condescending way to say I know the answer…

    As for what I would tell someone if they prayed for a miracle they never received, I’ll have to go with the truth: I’m not sure, I don’t know, something like that. I might give them some guesses, but nothing wrong with not knowing for sure.

    We’d never refuse to teach our children truths, in fear that we might have to answer (or not know the answer to) difficult questions somewhere down the line…

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