[May 08]--Do Miracles Change People?

1 Kings 13:33-34

I guess I let the cat out of the bag with the reading. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the answer to the question above is “no.” Yesterday we read how the king saw the prophet denouncing the new worship altar, ordered his arrest, and quickly changed his mind when the hand with his pointing finger withered right on his arm. Then he watched as the altar split open on its own and spilled its ashes all over the place. And you can read the result of all this in today’s passage: He had a momentary change of heart when his health and life were threatened, but quickly turned back to his “make-it-up-as-you-go-along” worship.

Of course, we read about the same thing with the Israelites during the Exodus and in the wilderness. They'd seen all the plagues on Egypt, the miraculous parting of the Red Sea, the cloud that had separated them from the Egyptians while they crossed, and the drowning of the entire enemy army. They woke up every morning and collected their breakfast which had literally fallen out of the sky. They had a cloud over their head during the heat of the day and had a huge fire by night to provide comfort and security. But as a study Bible I read once put it, “There were few atheists but many rebels.” You can read chapter after depressing chapter about how they continually complained and blasphemously longed for the days of slavery in Egypt. It was their cowardly refusal to trust God one more time which caused them to wander in the desert for forty years instead of enjoying the Land of Milk and Honey. The desert holds the graves of millions of them.

So what's my point here? There's an entire branch of modern Christianity which is--quite frankly--obsessed with miracles. And by miracles I’m not talking about the “miracles” like watching a baby being born or seeing a beautiful sunset. By “miracles” I mean the real definition: a temporary suspension of the laws of nature caused by the direct intervention of a supernatural being, usually God. Sorry, but as awe-inspiring as a live birth is, it’s not a miracle. Turning water into wine with a word, that’s a miracle. Bringing a man back to life after being dead three days, that’s a miracle.

So we have a lot of Christians and churches which assume that miraculous events should be an everyday occurrence for every believer, at least those who are strong enough in their faith. Let me answer this trend first by acknowledging that I believe that true miracles still happen today. I believe that at certain times God does heal people in ways that go contrary to medical science. But does that mean that every Christian can expect to be healed like that? We’ll deal more in depth with that question next month, but the short answer is “no.” God normally works within the natural laws which he established during creation, and the exceptions to that are rare, not the rule.

One of the problems I have with this fixation on miracles is because they have somehow gotten the idea that signs and wonders can strengthen faith or even birth it within a person lacking it. Friend, if someone is not trusting God, then a miracle alone will not change him! I promise you, you’re not going to see anything more wondrous than what the ancient Israelites saw, and they never really trusted him. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead after four days in the grave in front of hundreds of witnesses, and what was the religious leaders’ reaction? Plot to murder Jesus and Lazarus!

We’ll talk more later about what does really change a person, but for now, we just need to understand that they’re not God’s normal modus operandi for bringing people to himself. If you’re waiting for a miracle to start trusting in the Lord, quit waiting. What you don’t need is more light, what you need is to quit running away from the light that he’s already provided.

Father God, I don’t need anything more than what you’ve given me. Please help me to trust you, and to listen to your voice.

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