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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Does God Still Do Miracles?

One of the things I've noticed over the years is how much more accepting missionaries are of spiritual things than are most of the people in the pews back home. I'm pretty sure this has to do with the fact that here on the field, we're forced to rely on God for everything; we depend on Him for understanding, direction, and personal identity. Few of us have big churches or strong Bible study groups for support. When God moves in the States, He's competing with all the other "Christian stuff" that the church is into. When we see Him at work on the field, we take note; God allowing us to see what He's doing is affirmation to our calling and motivation for our perseverance.

So to the Godly (yet sheltered) people at home, us missionaries might come across as a little bit "charismatic." Just a little "liberal." Anyone who has struggled to learn a second (or third, or fourth) language believes that God still moves supernaturally through languages. If you were to ask the majority of Southern Baptists in the U.S. whether God still does miracles, I bet most would say yes, but few would be able to give examples from their own lives.

I'm not accusing anyone of anything here. I know that there are people in the States who are very much in tune with the Holy Spirit, and see supernatural things all the time. I just wanted to point out another are where I feel misunderstood.

So does God still do miracles? Real miracles? Make time stand still? Raise people from the dead? Plagues? Restore sight? Smite deceitful, disobedient people? I think He does.

17 comments:

Nomad said...

So do I. I've seen some of them. God is still an Awesome God!

Strider said...

As you know I have chronicled some of the supernatural things that the King has done in our part of the world over on my blog. I have told some of those stories back home. Most people have no problem with those stories. After all, they happened 'over here'. If they happened 'at home' most people I know would not react so well. 'Ah, those folks over at that church are gettin' a little charasmatic, I hear.' I did have one guy in a church come up to me after my sermon and tell me that God does not do that stuff anymore. I hope guys like him are in the minority but I am afraid that there are a bunch.

stepchild said...

Strider,
I wonder if this doesn't play into the stateside concern for "doctrinal purity" on the field. Measures such as requiring the signing of the BFM 2000 and the new policies on baptism and private prayer languages seem to be aimed at excluding (or, at least, limiting) "charismatics." But what if, because of the glimpses into the spiritual reality we get daily on the mission field, we're all too "charismatic?"

mr.t said...

stepchild,

I am wondering the same thing about the stateside perspective of some. If some of our trustees behind the policy changes lived on the field for a time, I wonder if it would change their perspective.

hellands said...

I am a fellow missionary in Western Europe. I am not IMB, but from a charismatic/pentecostal church. God healed me of cerebral palsey as a child. Yes, God does do miracles, otherwise we should have another profession.

Brittany said...

I belong to a non-SBC church that challenges us to believe for the impossible and to look for the unexpected. I was caught up in the hope and excitement of this doctrine until I experienced several instances of loss and grief to which no one at my church could offer an explanation (it's easy to preach that God wants us all happy, healthy and wealthy until someone dies). Anywho, my hellish year nearly tempted me to discount God and all that I've been taught as a child regarding who He is. One day, as I poured out my heart to a colleague visiting from Germany, he asked, "What would it take for me to believe in God again?"

I replied, "I want to see God and know He is real. I want to see a desperate situation change and know the only source of change came from God. I want to see a miracle rather than just hear about it. I want to know that this person in whom I've placed my faith really is alive and well and active in our lives."

He agreed to pray for me that God would answer this desire of my heart.

That was 3 years ago, and I'm still hoping. Bad news: I haven't seen Him yet. Good news: I haven't quit looking.

stepchild said...

Brittany,
I think I might be where you are on this. While I believe that God does miracles, I've been through a couple of times where He could have and didn't. I think that's affected my theology quite a bit.

It's been so long since I've seen God work in overt, obvious ways that sometimes, I'm tempted to do the "Christian" thing and start calling everything a miracle. "Praise the Lord, I didn't run out of gas!" Stuff like that.

Watchman said...

I think we cross a line when our longings turn to demands. I've walked with a family who lost a son in a tragic car accident about 5 years ago. They prayed for safety, yet the car still ran off the road, killing the son, while the daughter walked away without severe injury. It was a the kind of thing that caused lots of people to question their faith. It was through this that I felt I was putting God in an either/or situation. I put demands on him to guarantee my prayers. Either He does what I say or I don't believe in him. Its hard to teach on prayer when it doesn't seem to work for you.

Brittany said...

Watchman

I hear what you are saying, but I'm still left in a quandry. If we can't pray believing that God will answer our prayers, then what's the point of praying? Some people voice prayers that lack complete faith and come across more as a, "I hope God hears me" types of cries. Others voice prayers that seem to demand God act in such and such a manner.

How do people confidently pray for someone to be healed if the pray-er doesn't know if God really will heal? Isn't that giving false hope to the person who is sick or injured?

I know there has to be a middle-ground, but what is the point of asking for something if we can't be sure He'll reply? There's a verse that says without faith we can't please God, but what is our faith supposed to stand on?

Strider said...

In the movie 'Shadowlands' CS Lewis, when confronted with well meaning friends who challenged him to pray for his dying wife's healing, cries out, 'I don't pray to change God's mind, prayer changes me!' God is loving and good. We are frustrated to take this on faith so much of the time because we don't see the whole of reality that would inform us as to why things happen the way they do.
I think that Lewis is right. We need to pray to be changed to be able to know Him better. When we pray for someone to be healed we are not asking God to change His mind, we are praying what He has asked us to pray because we know His mind. If you don't know that God wants to heal someone miraculously don't pray that way. Asked Him what He wants. When we come to Him to ask Him what He wants then we get to know Him better. We begin to see Him more clearly and our faith does become sight.
I just reread this and I hope that I am not coming across as condescending or arrogant. I am a fellow traveler. I am a seeker. But I have also seen some of what I talk about. I long to see much more and so do you. Let us never be content to know so little about God and His ways. Let us press on to know Him deeply.

Matt said...

Brittany,

I think you are asking some great questions! Questions that should be asked and pondered more often by all of us. I grew up in a church with the whole health/wealth doctrine and I am still recovering from that an many ways.
I think Stryder has a point about our motives in prayer, but I often am not sure what God wants. I do not always find it so easy to distinguish the will of God. So, in those times of uncertainty I pray for what seems best to me, but also allow that God may know better or have other plans. That's really difficult and somewhat frustrating not to know that everything I pray for will happen.
However, we are not alone in this. I can think of several instances in the Bible where faithful people prayed for something and their prayers were not answered. The one that sticks out the most is Jesus prayer in the Garden "Take this cup away from me...not my will, but yours be done".
I don't know if this helps at all, but I really appreciate your honesty and that you continue to seek God. I believe that he will honor you although it may be in an unexpected way.

Blessings,
Matt

stepchild said...

Strider,
Thanks for reminding me of that great movie, and the Lewis quote.

I'd want to ask: What about honest expression of my desires to God? Is there any place for my own (though sometimes selfish) requests?

In the circumstances mentioned by Brittany, I can't imagine not praying for healing. You add a mystic (and I use the word here in a positive way) element to prayer that I'm not familiar with. Should we pray and ask God what to pray for? Should we just know?

Sometimes, I'm like David, and I ask God (even tell Him, as if I could) to do things I'm pretty sure He wouldn't do. Though I've never ordered Him to smite my enemies, I don't think this misguided sort of prayer is a total waste. My relationship with God has been strengthened through all of the disagreements we've had.

Watchman said...

Brittany,

We can still believe God answer prayer even if He doesn't answer every one in our favor. Prayer is both mysterious and certain, a paradox not easily taught nor does it make a best-seller.

Strider,

I think I get the spirit of Lewis' comment, but I've heard it used as what feels like a cop-out by fellow believers, a way to cover for God when prayer doesn't seem to have any effect. I've stopped trying to be God's marketing agent by thinking I have to make Him look good in the eyes of other people. I still have to believe that God listens to men and responds to their cry. That puts me even more in awe of our Creator.

Brittany said...

Along the lines of Stepchild's earlier comment about reducing miracles to everyday scenenarios, I find it's easier to pray for someone to be healed of a cold than of cancer. I also find it's easier to trust God to provide for my needs - because He always has - than to believe He'll deliver a friend from poverty. And it's fairly simple to pray each day for Him to mold me and others into His image because that's fairly ambiguous. It's the idea of believing Him for miracles or "big" things that stumps me.

Just the other day I read a newsletter from W. Africa in which a villager died and was raised again to life. The same writer earlier recounted how a crippled man regained the use of his legs after Christians prayed.

It's stories like this that make my faith seem small and shallow. How does an average Christian develop the faith to pray for a crippled man to walk? How do you move beyond praying for Aunt Nellie's swollen toe to praying for the crippled woman in a wheelchair?

Strider said...

Watchman, yes I have heard people use lots of excuses for God not answering prayer. We have many unhelpful platitudes like, 'God gives three different answers; yes, no, and wait.' Tell that one to Daniel who after three weeks of fasting in Dan 9 had an angel come and tell him that he was opposed by the Prince of Persia. I guess that means the next time you pray the answer could be yes, no, wait, or hang on while I battle the Prince of Persia. Prayer is complicated. I think it is so on purpose. What is the King about? He could end pain and suffering with a single command. He does not. He has ultimate power and woos us and draws us like a lover instead of commanding us like a slave. He does heal us and protect us, and I believe He loves serving us in these ways but ultimately He is calling us to love His light in the midst of a great darkness. Friends and family get sick and die and we are asked to believe that He loves them more than we do. Do you believe He does? I am coming to believe this. I believe we can know Him and His will much better than we do.
Brittany hit the nail on the head with her African example. I can believe he will heal my son's cough. Can I believe he will heal my coworker's son's Muscular Dystrophy? Is it my lack of faith that cripples the boy? Or is there much more to what He is about?
I am rambling a bit but what I am wanting to say is that as the Body of Christ we can and should be growing in our knowledge of Him and our understanding of why He is doing what He is doing. He is invading this rebelious world and 'undoing the works of the evil one'. We ARE his invading force. As we move with Him and see Him for who He is and what He is about we will see much more of the miraculous in our lives and the lives of those around us. No, we will never be free of our selfish motives this side of Heaven. This is part of what is confusing us. People whom we know to be in error see His hand at work in their lives and say, 'You see! I am right' when it is yet more of His grace given because He loves to give it. I have seen people healed through our work. But I am not under the illusion that this is because I am holier than you- knowing me as I do I hope you are much holier than I! I believe I happened to be exactly where He wanted to be working and that it was His grace that allowed me to be a part of what He was doing. When we get up out of bed in the morning determined to see Him, determined to serve Him then we will find Him and it will be miraculous.
And Stepchild, I always wanted to be a mystic but find that I am not intelligent enough.

Watchman said...

I'm sure I would go to hell for wanting this, but if I could add a verse to the Bible, it would include the number of people Jesus did NOT heal and make well. Somewhere along the way I think we assumed that he healed every single person he came across. But what about the blind guy who didn't get to see, while his buddy did? I wish that story was in the Gospels as well.

I don't believe the gifts are dead as some of my doctrinally correct brethren do. I do believe there are periods of silence, or quiet where certain manifestations of the Spirit are at rest. Just like the wind, it ebbs and flows. As the Watchman, I wait for these appearances eagerly. I think the Next Great Awakening is going to be a doozy, unlike anything we've seen before, yet it may never happen in my lifetime, and I have come to a place where I'm OK with that.

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www.caringbridge.org/ok/annajane