First, What’s a Miracle?
The boring dictionary definition is “an event that is contrary to the established laws of nature and attributed to a supernatural cause.” That’ll work. So when God steps in and does something truly impossible – that’s a miracle. I think sometimes we water-down important words by making them so commonplace. I got the job… it’s a miracle! My headache went away just in time for the movie… it’s a miracle! My 5-year old ate a green bean… it’s a miracle! Although there is a slight chance those examples were true miracles, most likely God did not make the green beans appear to be Mac and Cheese so my daughter would eat them. We just use the word “miracle” to describe improbable events that we are thankful for. The biblical authors go to great length in many of the miraculous accounts to set-up the impossibility of the situation. Bringing sight to someone born blind certainly reveals a miracle rather than someone who got a piece of dirt in their eye earlier that afternoon being able to see after using Visine. Stopping a storm immediately is more of a miracle than the weather being clear in time for the church potluck after church. Raising someone from the dead is a miracle; an anti-bacterial clearing up an infection is not. I’m not saying we shouldn’t pray for such things, and that it’s not God’s blessing when our prayers are answered, but the term “miracle” implies a supernatural intervention that defies human reason, logic, and capability.
Next, Why Do Miracles Happen?
In the Old Testament, there are a couple of recorded miracles basically revealing the power of God in the prophet’s life and the fact that they were truly messengers of God. Jesus performed miracles to prove He was the One True Creator of the Universe. Then there are the miracles that the apostles were a part of in the book of Acts. That’s the pertinent information for this discussion. Why did God perform miracles through the ministry of the Apostles? There are approximately 20 miracles recorded in the book of Acts. I’ll grab 5 random ones to prove my point.
In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit descends and everyone starts speaking in tongues. Specifically, people were speaking different languages, but everyone was hearing in their own native language. 3,000 people accepted Christ that day.
In Acts 9, God healed a man through Peter named Aeneas who had been bedridden for 8 years (obviously he was not faking.) He lived in a little small town named Lydda. Luke records that every single person in that town and the town next door, Sharon, turned to the Lord.
In Acts 13, a false prophet named Bar-Jesus was trying to confuse the Proconsul that Paul was witnessing to. Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit and told the false prophet that he wouldn’t see the sun for a time. Immediately Bar-Jesus went blind and the Proconsul trusted in the True Jesus.
In Acts 16, a demon-possessed fortuneteller was annoying Paul. He cast the demon out of her. Her employers were ticked that their moneymaker couldn’t tell fortunes any more. So they had Paul and Silas arrested for interrupting the economy (awesome). While in prison, God brought an earthquake that opened all the doors and knocked off all the prisoner’s chains. The guard was about to kill himself when Paul and Silas yelled “Stop.” The guard realizes they didn’t leave and he asks them about this Jesus they serve. He gets saved, brings Paul and Silas back to his house and his whole family gets saved.
In Acts 28, Paul was on his way to Rome for another trial when there was a great storm that caused his boat to shipwreck. When he gets on land he’s bitten by a deadly viper. All the tribes-folk thought he was cursed because he survived a shipwreck only to be killed by a snake. But Paul just brushed that snake off. He shared with them the true power of Jesus. They brought Paul to their leader whose father was sick with dysentery (I thought that was only an Oregon Trail disease.) Paul healed him and then many believed and started bringing their sick to Paul to be healed by the power of Christ.
So what’s the common denominator in these miracles and all the others? The Gospel. God moves heaven and earth to bring the Gospel to people who need to hear it. Whether for an individual or an entire town, God brings miracles so that people come to know Jesus as their Savior.
Finally, Do Miracles Happen Today?
Of course miracles happen today. The question is “why?” Well, I believe the same reason why miracles happened in Acts. God pulls out all the stops to save the souls of humanity. He proved that with sending Jesus to the cross. But those who know me, know that I’m skeptical of “healing” services you see in many “revivals” all across America. I’m not skeptical in the One who performs miracles, I’m skeptical of why the humans say they are performing these miracles. Miracles proclaim the greatness of God and reveal the nature of Jesus Christ, but they are incomplete if the sharing of the Gospel is not the purpose of the miracle. So often miracles are put in the context of someone wanting to be healed from an ailment, rescued from a problem, or reunited with a dying loved one. God knows that all such problems are fleeting. Souls are eternal. Heaven is forever. If the only purpose of the miracle is to heal someone for the next 30 years and yet their soul is still damned to Hell then what’s the point? A whole bunch of believers begging some preacher to heal them, do they not know who Jesus is? They can go directly to Jesus. Why are they wasting time with some human asking for money or adulation? I am kind of down on healers and miracle workers in America (not saying miracles don’t happen in America… I just don’t think there are people who get rich off of it.) There are 10 billion ways for people to hear the Gospel here in America – hotel room Bible, a book at Wal-mart, a Christian TV or radio station, a little invention known as the Internet, one of the 300,000 protestant church, or one of the 10’s of millions of Christians who are neighbors, coworkers, or family. Overseas, however, is a different story. In so many places around the world, there are people who have never heard the name of Jesus or have any simple way to find Him. So God will use visions or other messages; He will send a preacher to perform miracles and other signs of who Jesus is and that He is greater than their gods. In this setting, when the Gospel is proclaimed, people will hear it for the first time and come to Christ. This is why miracles occur – to bring people to salvation. Many missionaries go and do this for selfless gain. There is no notoriety awaiting them or monies to fund them. The only one who gets known through the miracle is Jesus. And that’s the way He wants it.
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