Randy Alcorn / May 21, 2018
Recently I listened to John Piper answer the question, “Why Do We See So Few Miracles Today?” on his Ask Pastor John podcast.
His answer is great. It also got me thinking about something else I would add to what John says: that visible miracles are reminders of the reality of greater invisible miracles, which in fact are happening all the time as God regenerates hard human hearts. Hence, God is doing far more miracles than we realize. That’s what this blog is about.
The Costly Miracle of a New Heart
Our Lord transforming human hearts, through stunning acts done daily around the globe, is every bit as miraculous as Jesus transforming water into wine. In fact, these redemptive acts make the dividing of the Red Sea, the falling walls of Jericho, and the raising of Lazarus from the dead actually pale in comparison. Is that an overstatement? No, because the greatest physical miracles cost our all-powerful God nothing, but the miracles of salvation, sanctification, and glorification cost the very life of God’s Son.
God gives us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), makes us new in Christ (Ephesians 4:24), and changes our destiny from death to life, from Hell to Heaven (John 5:24). He takes drug-addicts, sex-addicts, pride-addicts, gossip-addicts, and every variety of sin-addict and works a transforming miracle in us.
As we yield our wills to Him daily, He provides yet another series of sanctifying miracles for us, so that cumulatively, if we have eyes to see, we’ll realize there have been thousands of intervening miracles of grace in just our own lives, and countless millions more in the lives of others. (For more on this, see The Wonderful Miracle of Conversion.)
When God drew me to faith in Christ, as a 15 year old, my life changed radically. One of the hundreds of verses I memorized was this one: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). And the only explanation of this was nothing less than miraculous. As the next verse says, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself…” (v. 18). Miracles are things which God does that cannot be explained by natural processes or human actions. Hence every true conversion—which is not the same as every outward profession—is by definition a miracle.
God’s Miraculous, Empowering Grace
Often when someone dies it’s said, “We prayed for a miracle, but for some reason God chose not to answer.” I understand this, and indeed it’s true that God sometimes doesn’t perform the miracle we asked for.
When that’s the case, I think we would do well to realize this: “While he didn’t perform the miracle we asked for, He performed many other miracles of grace and encouragement, inspiration and comfort, personal transformation and increased dependence on Jesus, worship and deepened relationships, faithfulness and perseverance, empowerment, and open doors of evangelism…and almost certainly many other miracles we don’t yet know of but one day will. And some—perhaps many—of those miracles happened because the miracle we prayed for didn’t.” (See “If I Have Enough Faith, Will God Heal Me?”)
I am witnessing miracles in Nanci’s life and mine even as we pray for the miracle of God directly intervening to cure her colon cancer. To clarify, this sort of cancer is tricky, multiple doctors tell us, as it “hides.” So even as we repeatedly ask God for a total-cure miracle, it’s hard to know what’s going on in the microscopic cells surrounding where the cancer was first detected, and partially removed, and in other parts of her body. (It’s not like a foot that needs to be amputated, but God heals it and it’s objectively obvious.) We know sometimes God chooses to heal, and sometimes He doesn’t. So knowing He could heal directly (and maybe has already), or He could heal indirectly through medical means, we move forward with treatments that will fight the cancer if God has not chosen to directly kill it.
However, to the point I’m focusing on, I can vouch first hand for the miracle of God’s empowering grace in our lives. As Nanci daily meditates on Scripture and reads Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy and The Pursuit of God, and Packer’s Knowing God, and as we discuss what we’re learning and pray together, I see in her and in me a profound “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” that “will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
Likewise we see transforming grace in our dear sister Karen Coleman who served with us for years at EPM, as she is in stage-four breast cancer and experiencing great fatigue but also the peace of Jesus. Karen has had to retire from EPM, but continues to inspire us. I just read her CaringBridge update where she lists a number of blessings and says, “We all have purpose and work to do for the Kingdom until He takes us home!”
My point is that we don’t lack miracles in our lives! What we lack is the vision, the eternal perspective that allows us to see and experience and marvel at these miracles. For while we may say redemptive transformation is an invisible miracle, that’s not entirely true since its effects are visible. Jesus said, “Every tree is known by its own fruit” (Luke 6:44).
Consider 2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” Isn’t this “invisible miracle,” which is really an ongoing daily series of miracles, ultimately visible? Doesn’t it result in a life once characterized by the sordid works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) becoming a new life that bears the fruit—and fruit is visible—of the indwelling Holy Spirit? “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Can you think of a greater miracle, or ongoing series of thousands of miracles, in each redeemed life? So, thank God daily for His miracles of grace in your life and those you know, and a world full of people you don’t know but one day will live with in the presence of Jesus. And ask Him to open your eyes to His miracles, not limiting them to physical or medical miracles.
Forgiveness Is the Greatest Miracle
Every time Jesus forgives sin, He performs the greatest of miracles. In Mark 2:1-12 Jesus performed an amazing miracle, the healing of the paralytic. But there’s much to be learned from this passage, because the first thing Jesus did was to say to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (v. 5).
Then the teachers were offended because they thought, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (v. 7).
Jesus then asked them, “Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?” (v. 9).
The answer is obvious. It is easier to SAY sins are forgiven, because there’s no way to prove that has actually happened. But if you say “Get up” to someone who’s paralyzed, a miracle won’t have occurred unless he actually gets up! So everyone will either see the miracle or know that it hasn’t happened.
Then Jesus said, “But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So He said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home” (v. 10-11). Then the man got up and “walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’” (v. 12).
Though the people were amazed at the physical healing, many may have missed the point that the greater miracle was Jesus forgiving the man’s sins! It was to authenticate the GREATER miracle of forgiveness that Jesus performed the LESSER miracle of physical healing.
Why do I call it a lesser miracle? For several reasons, but it takes me back to the fact that the omnipotent God can heal physical problems with no effort or cost. But He could not heal spiritual problems nor forgive sins without going to the cross to die for us, which was neither easy nor costless even for the omnipotent Creator. (How Jesus can say “Your sins are forgiven” to someone before the cross? This article provides a helpful answer.)
As for some other answers to the question of why God doesn’t seem to do as many physical miracles today, do listen to this excellent 10-minute answer from John Piper.
Photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash