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.”
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.