As We Prepare to Celebrate a Miracle...
As I write, we are just over 2 weeks away from Christmas and celebrating the miracle of a teenaged virgin giving birth to the long awaited Messiah. I’m listening to Christmas music (specifically Silent Night at this moment), planning out Christmas presents, and recovering from an early Christmas weekend at my sister’s house with her three young, energetic girls. I’m looking at the Christmas cards which have started filtering in from family and friends while being reminded of what has made these people important people in my life. I’m also making my peace with a predicted winter storm arriving in the next 24 hours which promises to drop anywhere from 4 to 10 inches of snow here in Northwest Iowa. Yes, Christmas preparations are in full swing.
The birth of Jesus, celebrated each year on Christmas Day, was a miracle which changed the world.
And while Jesus’ birth certainly is a notable miracle for many reasons, we can’t forget about the many other miracles recorded in Scripture. From creation to the parting of the Red Sea. From water turning into wine to demons being cast into a herd of swine. From a woman conceiving in her old age, well past child bearing years to the Son of God defeating death. Again and again the stories are told of God doing extraordinary acts in the world which alter the course of nature itself, allowing humanity to catch a glimpse of God’s true power.
This week we are going to take a look at the gift of miracles. In 1 Corinthians 12:10, the Greek which is used for this particular gift is energemata dynameon which translates most commonly as “workings of powers.” The NIV calls this gift “miraculous powers” while the KJV translates this gift as “the working of miracles.” It is worth noting that miracles and healing are listed as two separate and distinct gifts in 1 Corinthians. We will talk a bit more about healing specifically in a couple of weeks but for this week, we are going to look at what makes miracles stand out as a distinct gift.
Miracles are something which is out of the ordinary. They are something which occurs outside of the bounds of what is natural and normal and therefore are, by definition, rare. They are not something which can be predicted and for which science offers no suitable explanation. They cannot be replicated upon command. They can only be explained by faith in the power of God to intervene in our world.
Miracles, or “signs and wonders,” seem to have been much more common in the early church. As you read through the book of Acts, you can see the apostles doing things such as raising people from the dead (Acts 9) and casting out demons (Acts 16). The apostles were doing the work of laying the foundation for what we know today as the Christian church and miracles were one way they were able to prove the power of their message. It’s easy for us, in our modern day American culture, to forget the power and dominance of Rome and the Roman government in the first century. In every way imaginable, Rome made a statement about their power and might. To visit Rome in that day was to be overwhelmed by the sheer size of the city and the temples within. It was to be dazzled by the riches displayed both inside and outside. Artwork and sculptures told of their power and conquests. They made no apologies about claiming to literally be the center of the universe.
This is the culture which dared the apostles and the early to church to proclaim God’s power as greater than what they bore witness to on a regular basis. Ancient Romans were not a people who were easily impressed. And to go against the Roman government was not done without significant and often severe consequences. And so the working of miracles was a much more common occurrence as God demonstrated his power and gave credibility to the message the apostles preached.
In our modern world, we don’t see nearly as many miracles. There is lots of debate as to why this is. Some scholars argue that the gift of miracles was only meant for the apostles and the early church and so has died out. Others argue miracles still happen but we are just too quick to explain them away with reason and science.
Personally, I lean towards the gift still being active in the Church today because nowhere in Scripture is this gift singled out as one that will die out with the Apostles. However, I do think there is also something to be said for the role miracles play in proclaiming the power of God to those who live in a culture which has very few, if any, examples of faith to follow. To that end, where we do hear about miracles still occurring today are in places where there are very few believers. And those few who do believe likely face pressure and persecution from the government, the culture, or both to be quiet about their faith or abandon it all together. This reality would explain why, in heavily churches countries such as the United States, we rarely see “signs of awe and wonder.”
Regardless of your personal views, miracles are acts which proclaim the truth that God is supreme over all of creation, both seen and unseen. If needed, God can bend the rules of nature and laws of physics to accomplish His goal at any given moment. They make those who witness them sit up and take notice.
So how do you know if this is a gift which may be part of who you are? Those rare individuals who have been given the gift of miracles often have a heightened sensitivity to the presence and power of God through the Holy Spirit. They have a special desire for God to reveal Himself and draw many to faith in His Son Jesus Christ. They take care NOT to draw attention to themselves but are constantly pointing others to Jesus. They understand that God is Sovereign and that He can work when and how He desires, and strive to be sure they are available and listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
- Have you witnessed any miracles?
- While there are many out there who are looking for fame and fortune in telling a story of a miracle when it did not actually occur (movie rights and book deals anyone?), there are stories of true, modern day miracles to be found. With a quick google search, I’m personally intrigued by several highlighted in this article. What stories of modern day miracles have you heard about lately?
- Christians living in countries and cultures where the message of Jesus’ love and forgiveness are not welcome treasure and value each prayer spoken for them. If you are looking for a way to be more aware of the Christians in these places, download our app and follow our Bible study/prayer guide from our previous series.