A sporting event is often the occasion in which God performs the miraculous – at least that is how many explain the unusual, unprecedented, exciting, plays that often ensue. In fact, some have said that the Super Bowl between the Patriots and the Seahawks ended in “miraculous” fashion when Butler intercepted a pass with 30 seconds left on his own one yard line. If he (or God) had not made that play, the Patriots would have likely lost the game and the Seahawks would have been crowned Super Bowl Champions. Maybe that play was not exciting enough for you to qualify it as a miracle, but you would agree that when the United States beat the Russians in Ice Hockey in the 1980 Winter Olympics it was truly a “Miracle on Ice,” right? Yet, there are greater, more important questions than which, if any, sports play or sporting event qualifies as a miracle. The sufferer, for instance, sadly wonders, “why hasn’t God miraculously healed me?” The question becomes even more hurtful if miraculous events are seen in the sports arena, “Does God care more about who wins the Super Bowl than my deplorable condition?” The answer to these and other important questions about miracles can be answered in the Bible.
Identifying a Miracle
The first step to understanding biblical miracles is being able to identify a miracle. Is the birth of a beautiful baby girl a miracle? Is an improbable catch a miracle? Is an unexpected recovery of health necessarily a miracle? These questions can be answered by adopting a biblical definition of a miracle. In Hebrews 2:3-4, it is written, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” In other words, how will one escape punishment if one ignores the inspired message of the Apostles whom God confirmed as His messengers by performing “signs,” “wonder,” and various “miracles” through them. The biblical definition of a “sign” (sēmeion) is “a sign, prodigy, portent, i.e. an unusual occurrence, transcending the common course of nature” (Thayer, E-Sword). Therefore, a sign occurs when God suspends the natural laws that He created and upholds in order to demonstrate something to mankind. God performs these signs with His power (“miracles” [dunamis]), often through human agency (John 3:2). The result of God using His power (“miracles”) to suspend the laws of nature for a specific purpose (“sign”) results in mankind’s amazement (“wonders”). With these definitions in mind, it becomes obvious that the birth of a beautiful baby girl or an improbable catch is not a miracle, but not as obvious when considering the unexpected, amazing healing of physical ailments.
Miraculous Healing, Should I Hope for It?
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ, His apostles, and others performed numerous miracles that healed the human body. For instance, Jesus healed the man who was born blind (John 9:1-7), Peter healed the man who was born lame (Acts 3:1-10), and Philip healed many who were lame and with “palsies” (Acts 8:1-7). On the surface, this should give me a lot of hope for miraculous healing from Multiple Sclerosis; after all, I wasn’t born with Multiple Sclerosis, I developed the disease over time. Healing me of Multiple Sclerosis is, in theory, less of a miraculous feat than healing those who were born with terrible circumstances. There are many Christians in a similar situation. Should Christians who are suffering and their family members be hoping for a miraculous intervention by God? To answer this very important question one must consider the purpose of miracles and who was able to perform miracles.
The Purpose of Miracles
First, from Hebrews 2:1-4 and Mark 16:20 it is evident that miracles were performed for the purpose of confirming that the words spoken by men were, in fact, the words of God. The main purpose of miracles was not purely benevolent in nature, it was primarily confirmatory in nature. For this reason, there is no longer a purpose for God to perform miracles now that the written Word of God has been completed (1 Corinthians 12:8-10; 13:8-13). If this is true, I have no reason to hope that God will miraculously heal me from Multiple Sclerosis.
Second, it is evident that miraculous power couldn’t be indiscriminately passed on to others by others. Obviously, Jesus, God incarnate, had the ability to perform miracles, and He did so over death (John 11), disease (Mark 2:1ff), demons (Mark 5:1-9), material things (John 6:5-14), and nature (Mark 4:35-41). Jesus promised His Apostles the ability to perform miracles of the same type and delivered on His promise in full on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:5; 2:1-13). There were others, such as Philip, who were not Apostles but had the ability to perform miracles as well. This means that there is at least a possibility that someone today has the ability to perform miracles, right? Well, not exactly. The Apostles were given the power to perform miracles by God and could bestow miraculous abilities by the “laying on of hands,” but, unfortunately, those who received the power to perform miracles from the Apostles had no means by which to transfer the power to others. For example, Philip received the power to perform miracles from the Apostles “laying on of hands” (Acts 6:5-7) and performed miracles (Acts 8:6-7), but Philip was unable to transfer the power to perform miracles to others. Therefore, Peter and John had to come to Samaria to bestow the power to perform miracles by the “laying on of hands” to the Christians there (Acts 8:14-17). After the Apostles died there was no one left with the capability to pass on the ability to perform miracles. Therefore, miracles ceased. For this reason, I have no hope that God will miraculously heal me from this dreaded disease.
Okay, Now What?
Well, you might say, “that was depressing, thanks a lot!” For me though, there is nothing depressing about determining the truth about the doctrine of miracles or any other doctrine contained in the Scripture. In fact, it is very liberating. I don’t have to be upset with God when He doesn’t heal me miraculously, because I know He doesn’t operate in the world that way anymore. I don’t have to spend thousands of dollars for some charlatan dressed in fancy clothing to smack me on the forehead and say, “your healed!” and then accuse me of weak faith when I am not healed. Instead, I am able to focus on the means by which God does intervene to heal the physically ill which it vital to my recovery.
The Bible teaches Christians that God works providentially in their lives (Rom. 8:28, et. al.). The belief that God does not perform miracles in this age is not a denial of God’s providential work. God works to provide for the Christian in non-miraculous ways and does so successfully. One might ask, “how?” God provides by using the means available at their optimal efficiency without violating the free-will of men. Read the Book of Esther and consider all that God accomplished through Esther without performing a single miracle! For this reason I pray often and fervently, that I will be healed from Multiple Sclerosis, without any expectation of God’s miraculous intervention. You might respond, “It is an incurable disease, you do believe in miracles!” No, no, men think that it is incurable. Men have often believed certain diseases were incurable…until they discovered a cure. It is my unwavering belief that prayer is effective (Jas. 5:16) and that if a cure is capable of being developed by all the means available operating at their peak by the will of God, I will be cured. However, there is a reality that I may never see that cure. Will it be because God does not care about me? No, it simply means that the means were not available and could not be made available during my lifetime without the miraculous intervention of God, and that is okay. “Okay! What do you mean it is Okay! You are headed for disablement and continued and increased pain and suffering, and this is okay?” Yes, it is okay because God has supplied me with every avenue necessary for me to cope with this dreaded disease. Prayer, His Word, His Church, His Peace, His Providence, and the hope of everlasting life! Simply put, there is victory in Jesus.
Friends, I do not have any hope of God miraculously healing me because the Bible appears to support an opposing belief. Biblical hope is built upon desire and expectation; I desire that God would miraculously heal me, but I cannot have the expectation because the Word of God indicates something different. However, I have unwavering belief in God. He will providentially care for me by using all the means available at their greatest potential to answer my prayers according to His will.Yet I Trust.