Thought of the Week

"If God performed a miracle in front of my eyes, then I would believe that He exists." As a young Christian, that phrase was a stinging rebuke. It made me squirm with discomfort at my inability to call down fire from heaven, to consume the people asking me difficult questions (and incinerate my embarrassment in the process). So, I settled for testifying to 'miraculously' passing tripos despite my lack of effort during the year, or 'miraculously' finding a bicycle lot at market square on a Saturday. Perhaps not the most biblical, but at the very least uncontroversial. However, I believe God paints a radical picture of miracles being worked for the good of those around us, and for the restoration of creation. In other words, we are always blessed, to be a blessing. The problem with my first paragraph is the premise that as humans, we are convinced by supernatural activity. In Matthew 11, Jesus performs miracles that would "make Tyre and Sidon repent", yet the inhabitants of Bethsaida, Capernaum, and other towns stubbornly refuse to repent. If there are people (even those lacking faith: see Matthew 13) who see Jesus heal the sick before their eyes, but still refuse to turn to God, then what hope do we have of convincing people of their need for Jesus through signs and wonders? Not everyone is called to work miracles (1 Corinthians 12), and that's okay. Whilst I firmly believe that God is at work in our lives today; and that we are called to "do the works I [Jesus] have been doing," and "even greater things" (John 14:12), Paul exhorts us to "earnestly seek the greater gifts" and shows us a "more excellent way" (1 Corinthians 12), in the form of 1 Corinthians 13 (the "love is..." chapter). We should eagerly seek after God, to be immersed (in the original Greek: baptizo) in His love so that we can be a blessing to others. This is also the precedent that we see in the Bible, when miracles do occur. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to indulge King Nebuchadnezzar's narcissistic tendencies, they are thrown into a furnace -- God instead uses them to reconcile an entire nation to Himself (Daniel 3). When a poor widow comes to Elijah, God restores her hope and her relationship with her once dead son (1 Kings 17). When Jesus works miracles, he goes about restoring brokenness to a state of normalcy. I believe that by raising the dead, feeding the hungry, and healing the sick, Jesus fulfilled his intentions of both bringing glory to the Father (John 14), as well as giving us a foretaste of a redeemed world. Supernatural miracles are but a small part of God's plan, for all of creation to be reconciled to him and restored to glory (2 Corinthians 5:19). After all, if God's creation is good, then there is little need to constantly usurp the laws of nature that He dictated. Christ, our Living Hope, is central to this biblical theme of restoration. Through his death and resurrection, we are empowered by the spirit, and inspired by the hope of a future where the life-giving power of God flows out of his temple and into the nations, for "provision and healing" (Ezekiel 47). And as temples of God's Holy Spirit, we are called to be a living hope to those around us who need it most; when we work to restore hope to the hopeless, heal the broken, and lift up the least in society, the gospel is preached louder than us calling fire down from heaven. The latter may scare some into submission, but the former more closely resembles the 'good news' that is prophesied about in Isaiah 61, and fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus declared, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29) This is more than just a consolation for those who didn't get to meet our Messiah face to face. It is a reminder that, among other things, supernatural miracles pale in comparison to our identity as children of God. While we may not have seen Jesus or his miracles with our earthly eyes, we are still able to freely receive the gift of faith through the finished work of the cross – and that makes us blessed indeed. I pray that our faith may be rooted in the greatest miracle of all: our adoption into God's family, and our right to be called citizens of heaven! --- TL;DR: Miracles are great, but the biblical precedent for their use is in restoration and reconciliation; and we don't all need to be miracle-workers to bring about God's reconciliation and restoration on this earth!

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