Miracles: God’s Not Supposed to Do Stuff Like That

God doesn’t receive glory from fear or silence.

I was sitting in my usual spot at the pastors’ prayer meeting, listening to the prayer requests and preparing to join in prayer. Often the requests made by this interdenominational group of pastors are for God's blessings on events and programs, mission trips, or other exciting happenings these dedicated pastors are organizing in the community. I rarely have such requests to bring up since our little church, with its limited budget and manpower, does very few big or exciting things.

But that day the tone of the conversation was downcast. A few pastors had just conducted some very difficult  funerals. Others were trying to help congregants battling alcoholism and drug addiction. With each contribution, our hearts were getting heavier. We all needed a little encouragement, so I decided to share one of the recent testimonies I’d heard at our church. An 83-year-old man in our church had broken his hip; a few weeks later his wife got up in church and testified that his hip bone was completely healed. The doctors couldn’t even see a break.

The quick turn of heads and the looks on the pastors’ faces shouted a collective, “Are you serious?” Then came the half-serious question: “God's not supposed to do stuff like that in a Christian Reformed church, is he?”

I probably don't speak up often enough about the miracles God does in our congregation. I tend to check my motives to a fault before sharing. So often I’ve seen the work of God proclaimed in a way that glorifies the individuals or churches who received the miracle instead of simply giving all the glory to God.

But God doesn't receive glory from fear or silence either.

Raised from the Dead?

It started in the spring of 2008. My family and I had just left for Michigan. Somewhere en route we got a phone call from a member of the congregation who told us her cousin’s heart surgery had gone badly. His brain had been deprived of oxygen long enough to put him into a coma and destroy any possibility of quality of life. She asked for the congregation to pray. Her cousin had been a faithful attender at our church for quite some time. Shocked and horrified, we prayed that he would somehow recover. Weeks later, his condition was deteriorating. Given no hope of his survival, the family eventually made the heartbreaking decision to “pull the plug” of the machinery keeping him alive and to let him go.

We prayed as the family gathered. But instead of dying, he came out of his coma and began to breathe on his own. After a few weeks, he left the hospital to enter a rehab center. By the time I saw him again, he was functioning quite well. When he showed up in church for the first time, the congregation went wild—well, as wild as a group of Dutch and Navajo folks can get. There were a few unsolicited “Amens” and some good healthy nods. Really, we were all blown away.

Miracle Babies

Two years later, a woman in our congregation was having a very difficult pregnancy. At 22-and-a-half weeks her water broke. She contacted me, and by email and text I was able to get the whole church praying. She desperately wanted her baby to wait one more week to be born. This tiny human being, smaller than an iPhone, was born 17 days later, breathing with his own little lungs. Doctors soon had to put him on a respirator because his lungs were too tiny to handle breathing. After about a month, he was hanging on to life by a thread. Facing his likely death, we somehow received the grace to keep praying. The nurses, calling him a fighter, gave him the name “Eli the Prophet Edwards.”

Eli is now almost 2 years old. He’s still on a ventilator part of the time until his lungs heal completely but has no signs of brain damage or hearing loss. I don’t believe that this little guy survived because he was a fighter—but because a miracle-working God was fighting for him.

That same year another mother in our congregation had a baby. Delivered full term, the child wasn't breathing. Doctors told them he wouldn’t survive. The grandfather of the baby, however, called his son to say that he believed he had heard a word from the Lord: “Peace be with you. Do not fear. You shall not die” (Judges 6:23). He called upon the church to pray. Once again, prayers were prayed, faith was stirred by the Holy Spirit, and baby Gideon came home a few weeks later, thriving.

Marveling at God’s Wonders

By this time, our congregation had begun to believe that God does great and mighty things. A sense of joy and hope arose during our gatherings as people were reminded of God’s love for them and his power to work on their behalf.

It had always been our practice to set aside a section in the bulletin for prayer requests so that members of the congregation could lift those requests up in prayer throughout the week. I honestly didn’t know if anyone other than a few prayer team members took the time to pray over those requests. But suddenly that section of the bulletin was in high demand. People wanted to make sure they knew about all the latest challenges to pray for and they wanted to make sure their requests got into the bulletin. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined that a church bulletin would get so much attention! People in our church were starting to believe with all their hearts that when the people of God pray, God moves.

There is no human logic to what we have experienced. I have served in churches with more charismatic, faith-filled leadership and congregations where people believed and waited passionately for God to move among them but saw very little in the way of miracles. Perhaps God has chosen to show his power among us in these ways because our weakness makes his strength so obvious. Our congregation has certainly faced its share of disappointments, and there are many people who struggle and receive no miracles. But we have seen what God can do, and it’s changing our lives.

We have become a congregation that testifies regularly about the great things God has done. Not long ago a woman told us that her son, who has had a heart condition since birth and has undergone several surgeries, received a report from the doctor that his heart was “in perfect condition for a boy his age.” Within the last few years, a woman's grandson and two others were healed of cancer. A man who was saying final goodbyes to his relatives because his organs were shutting down showed up in church on Easter Sunday, to our great astonishment. People testify about financial miracles, salvation, deliverance from drug addiction, and many other works of God's power among them.

So I really didn’t feel like I was saying anything surprising when I reported that God had healed an 83-year-old man’s hip bone. It was just one of many incredible things I’ve seen God do for his people. Is God supposed to do this in a Christian Reformed church? I don't know. All I know is that he’s doing it, and we are grateful witnesses.
 

 

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is a miracle? How do you define it?
  2. Does God still do miracles today? Does he do them in your congregation?
  3. What is the connection between miracles and prayer? Will God only do miracles if we ask him? How many prayers must be given and how many people must pray for God to do a miracle?
  4. Why does God do miracles at some times but not at other times?
  5. Is the everyday, ordinary process of healing also miraculous? An uneventful birth? A healthy crop growing in the field?
  6. Share some stories you have personally witnessed of God doing miracles and/or acting in very surprising ways.
  7. If God does not answer prayer for a miracle with a yes, does that mean those praying don’t have enough faith? How about Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane?

About the Author

Susan LaClear is the pastor of Maranatha Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Farmington, New Mexico.

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Comments

Thanks for your article on miracles.  I'm sensing this may not have been an easy article to write.  It may step on some toes, if I read between the lines.  So good for you.   I’m sensitive to another article in this issue of the Banner about “meanness.”  It’s an article that we (including myself) need to take to heart.  So I’m at a loss as to the best way to react to this article on miracles.  I like to read many of the Banner’s articles and try to see them as a religious skeptic, or a person on the street might see them.  I wonder how people on the street look at us who are on the inside of the church.  I know that this article was written for the Christian community (mostly a CRC audience), but I still wonder how we, as Christians, come off to people outside the church. So perhaps my comments could be reflected on as coming from a skeptic. My intent is not to hurt Susan’s or anyone one else’s feelings.

First the title of the article is questionable, “Miracles: God’s Not Supposed to Do Stuff Like That.”  That is so contrary to a Christian position.  Christianity is based on the idea that God is not limited by natural laws and that miracles are his domain and nobody else’s.  The message of the Bible from start to finish is all about a miracle working God.  So how can a Christian even come close to thinking that God is not supposed to do miracles.  Maybe to answer one of the Web Questions, “What is a miracle?” we should recognize that the miracles recorded in the Bible were acts of God by which he acted beyond the laws of nature.  Miracles included the seven (six) day creation account of Genesis, the virgin birth of Jesus, the twofold nature of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the instantaneous turning of water into wine.  These and many other recorded miracles were acts of God by which he acted apart from and beyond natural laws that limit us, as humans.

So, to say that God is not supposed to do miracles is a little startling.  I thought he was the only one who did actual miracles.  But now realize, the idea or thought that God is not supposed to do miracles comes from the fact that we don’t see God doing miracles today, not real miracles.  I suspect this is the sentiment expressed in this title.  It may be surprising or even very unusual to see things happen to people as described in this article (the healings and such), but I doubt that they are miracles.  I’ve read that the likelihood of winning the Powerball lottery jackpot is more than 175 million to one.  You are more likely to get struck by lightning five different times than you are of winning the lottery.  But yet it is not impossible to win the Powerball jackpot, in fact someone always ends up winning it.  So it is not a miracle that someone wins.  It may feel like a miracle if you or I were to win it, but in reality it’s just a very unlikely thing to win the big one, and is simply a matter of chance.

But if you define a miracle simply as a very unusual occurrence, or a very unlikely set of circumstances happening, even if the chances of it happening are only a million to one, then such events happen to all kinds of people and all the time.  Not only do people win the lottery, people also recover from illnesses even when the doctors have given up.  People survive auto accidents where the car was destroyed to a point of being unrecognizable.  Young people survive from being overdosed on drugs when many other people would have likely died.  Such unlikely situations happen all the time to people who may be Christian, as well as to those who are not.  They happen to people who give no thought to God or to prayer. The skeptic will say such miracles, or very unusual happenings, are not proof of God’s handiwork any more than winning the lottery.  The Christians likelihood of recovering from serious illness are no better than anyone else’s, even if they prayed. 

The skeptic might also point out that the jaded opinions of those other ministers, in regard to God doing a so called miracle in the CRC or any other church, is in reality that even ministers know God doesn’t perform miracles in behalf of Christians.  Ministers, like other skeptics, if honest know that prayer doesn’t change the circumstances of people.  Prayer is more, only a matter of wishful thinking.  That’s the sentiment that these other ministers were likely giving expression to.  When Jesus, on more than one occasion taught his followers to ask for whatever they want and it would be given to them, most people have come to realize that it doesn’t work out the way he suggested.

So yes, unusual and unlikely things happen to Christians and non Christians alike.  If you want to call these unusual happenings miracles, that’s ok.  But realize these are not miracles in the sense that they defy natural laws, they are not in the same category as most of the miracles recorded in the Bible.  They are more in the category of winning a big lottery where the likelihood of winning is in the area of one in 175 million, and likely much less for the recoveries that we witness.  Yes, God does such miracles in the CRC, in the Lutheran Churches, Pentecostal churches and for people of no church and no faith.  Is there a formula that will increase the occurrence of such happenings?  They happen everywhere across the globe, in and out of churches.  I doubt that you are going to change the frequency of such things happening in the church.

 I think that most people on the street can see through much of our Christian dialogue and call into question that which we so eloquently try to express and convince ourselves of.   As Christians we might counter the skeptic’s convictions, but still when listening honestly to the person on the street we should give a thoughtful ear to their thoughts.  They may even have a point for us to ponder.

Thanks for your commet, Roger. Most of my recent experience with the CRC has been out here in Classis Red Mesa, where we tend to paddle down streams other than the "mainstream" in a lot of ways. So it was probably written more out of ignorance about how many toes I might be stepping on than any actual courage to step on them purposefully!  I did feel an incredibly strong and almost inescapable sense of call, however, to write this article. And yes, I did intend it for a churched audience. So I would love to hear your thoughts on how it might strike an unchurched "person on the street", even if you think it would be a negative experience for them to read it (is that what you were implying? I wasn't sure). I'm always open to learning, so feel free to continue the discussion. There was nothing so far that I read that hurt my feelings, so maybe you're taking the article about "meaness" so much to heart that I couldn't even perceive your disagreement!

THANKS SO MUCH Susan for listening to the prompting of Holy Spirit to write this inspiring article! We were touched deeply by the testimonies and we believe that God is just BEGINNING to show us HIS POWER like you have written...True signs and wonders draws all people to HIM!  Our prayer is that many will come to know Jesus personally through them!!   Thanks again.

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