When it comes to miracles, signs, and wonders, I would classify myself as a skeptic. Is it a miracle when you get a front parking spot at the mall? Is it a miracle when you get a dose of medicine to clear your infection? What is a miracle anyway? I admit that there is a lot of subjectivity when it comes to what we classify as a miracle.
God moved in the early church through miracles, signs, and wonders.
“12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people…14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by..” Acts 5:12-15
How crazy is that? Peter’s shadow passing over someone brought them healing. That is awesome. But let’s pause for a minute and ask the deeper question. What are miracles and what purposes do they serve?
A miracle must be inexplicable to the laws of nature and therefore must have supernatural origins. The reality is that it’s absolutely imperative that we examine Scripture to understand what a miracle is and what their purpose is. First, what does the Bible teach about miracles?
Three central terms are used in the Bible to designate a supernatural event: (1) “miracle” (2) “sign” and (3) “wonder.” A miracle is not merely an event that was astonishing, incredible, extraordinary, or unusual. Miracles are not explainable by the laws of nature but that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t use natural things in a supernatural way. In Luke 5 Jesus told Peter to put down his fishing nets after a night of catching nothing. Within minutes the nets were so full they were about to break. The miraculous part of this event is that the fisherman were casting their nets in an area not known to have any fish at the wrong time of day and somehow there was a multitude of fish exactly where Jesus told them to cast their nets. This miracle didn’t break any laws of nature but it certainly isn’t explainable by natural laws.
In John 2 Jesus turned water into wine, that was supernatural. When Moses raised his hands and the Red Sea parted, that was a supernatural miracle that broke the laws of nature. Water just doesn’t part like that. The bible clearly reveals that some miracles seem to work with the laws of nature while others seem to completely oppose them.
Now that we understand what a miracle is, what purposes do they serve? There are three clear purposes for miracles. Miracles glorify God. Whenever God performed a miracle the beneficiaries and observers of the miracles generally responded by glorifying God. The second purpose is miracles validate Jesus message. Jesus performed signs and miracles to prove His divine identity and thereby authenticate His message. The third purpose of miracles is miracles make your faith stronger. Here is the consistent sequence represented in Scripture: Jesus would perform a miracle, teach about the kingdom of God, then people would believe because their faith was strengthened.
Does God still do miracles today? Some scholars believe that miracles are no longer needed to affirm our faith because we have the bible, but I think that makes God seem distant and disconnected from his creation. And I don’t think it’s theologically accurate. My faith has been strengthened by miracles.
I still don’t understand why God heals some people and lets others suffer. I guess it’s up to God’s providence as to whether or not he will do a miracle. I admit that sometimes I get discouraged when I pray for a miracle and nothing happens. The most difficult answer to prayer from God is silence. When heaven is silent I quickly begin to question if God really cares but the truth is that God does care, he just might be answering my prayer in a different way than I expect.
What if we begin to anticipate God answering our prayers and doing miracles? And what if we actually give him credit when it appears that something supernatural has occurred? God is still in the miracle business. When you pray, pray expecting God to move. What you believe shapes how you pray. And what you pray shapes you. Your miracle may still be in process.