I grew up in the Christian Reformed Church. We didn’t talk a lot about miracles, although we appreciated the reported miracles during Jesus’ time on earth. While we prayed for healing and maybe some prayed for miracles in that regard, I don’t remember a feeling of expectation that it would actually happen. I also don’t remember recognition of a miracle taking place if healing did happen. People would thank God, but not say it was a miracle.
At least, that was my recollection. Miracles were not a big part of our theology. But admittedly, I don’t have the best memory in the world, so I could be recalling things incorrectly.
Living and working in Africa, I encountered more charismatic Christians who prayed for and expected miracles regularly. They saw God being much more active in day-to-day life, and over time I grew to appreciate that. One could say that the pendulum swung from one side to the other for me.
But now I believe I’m getting closer to the middle of those two extremes. As I mentioned in last week’s blog, I believe that “Christ IS come” means that He is with us today, and we are His hands and feet – we continue to bring the gift of Christ to the world through our time, talent, and treasure. Being His hands and feet, and being made in His image, means that we need to problem solve most issues ourselves. That would be the norm. So if someone has cancer, the miracle is that there are people that are discovering new treatments, medicines, and providing care that can cure it! If someone’s car breaks down, there are people who know how to fix it! If there is an emergency across the country, we can get on a plane and fly there – or we can send instant messages or have video calls! People end up being the miracle that God intended and created them to be!
So what is the purpose of miracles? I don’t have any solid answers – I’m just wrestling with this and struggling through how to fit this into my current paradigm of God at work in us, to work with Him, in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. But here are some thoughts.
I believe miracles are the exception, not the rule.
I believe that the purpose of miracles is for God to show His glory – to be a witness to those who do not know Him. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me” (John 11:41b-42). God desires to draw all people to Himself.
A miracle is something that is done that people observing would say it could “only be God.” Miracles often break the laws of science. The goal is that it would lead people to a belief in God. Evidence of miracles would be in the presence of witnesses.
So then, are miracles a result of faith? What is God’s process in deciding a miracle? Certainly He would choose to do miracles that would draw the biggest amount of people or have a big impact, as opposed to one sick person in a private hospital room, no?
Maybe what I’m really struggling with is how we pray. I am finding that my prayers are often met with God saying, “I concur. Go do it! I’ve equipped you! I am with you! You are blessed to be a blessing!” There is an affirmation, an encouragement, an accompaniment of God. Yet I hear in many prayers, that there is an expectation that God alone will do it. That the answer will come through miracles.
When I teach, I often tell the story of the man who died and went to heaven and lamented to God that he never saw a miracle, yet he had prayed for them his whole life. God said to him, “Do you remember that tree outside your kitchen window?” The man replied, “Yes.” God said, “That’s a miracle.” The man said, “How is that a miracle? That’s just a tree!” God said, “Let’s see you make one out of nothing. And also, you liked looking in the mirror every day.” The man said, “Well, yes, that is important for being respectable.” God said, “What you saw in the mirror as well is a miracle.”
The point is that we are surrounded by miracles. Most of these miracles follow the laws of science and nature, which God put in place. Those are the norms which are still incredible! Thanks be to God!