by Michael Hill
Some of my Christian acquaintances are always praying for miracles. They want to see God’s power active in their lives. Is this an expression of genuine faith? Or is it rather a lack of true faith? I am inclined to think that often their desire to see miracles is a manifestation of a lack of faith. There are several reasons.
Firstly, the Bible clearly teaches that God gave order to the world when he created it. The Wisdom literature of the Old Testament trades on the fact that there are regularities in creation and that these regularities allow humans to operate within God’s order with confidence. As humans we rely on the laws of nature to chart our way through the world. Miracles require the suspension of the laws of nature. If God were to continually interfere with the regularities he set up at creation, then we would find life more difficult to organize and manage.
Secondly, while there are many miracles recorded in the Bible, these miracles are grouped into three periods. The vast majority of miracles occur around Moses, Elijah and Elisha, and Jesus and the early disciples. These miracles authorize these people as messengers from God. They demonstrate that God is at work through them. In Luke 16, Jesus tells the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The rich man implores Abraham to send someone from heaven to warn his brothers so that they might not end up in hell. The rich man is told that they have Moses and the prophets and if they do not believe them then they will not believe someone even though they have risen from the dead. This reply points us back to Moses and the prophets, who were authorized by miracles. God has shown his power and authority in the past, so why does he have to keep on showing it?
We can press the point even further. The greatest miracle of all is the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection was the ultimate expression of God’s power and authority and if we don’t have faith in this miracle, then why should other, lesser miracles bolster our confidence in God?
Paul tells us in Romans 1 that the preaching of the resurrection, the gospel, is the power of God for salvation. If we want to see God’s power at work then we should look and see how the gospel is turning people’s lives around and bringing them into a right relationship with their Heavenly Father. Ephesians 1 tells us that the power that raised Christ from the dead is working in those who believe.
Of course God is almighty and he can do miracles. In his grace he does. But these miracles should not be the basis for our confidence in God. That confidence should come from the cross.
Michael Hill is a retired clergyman who spent most of his professional life lecturing in philosophy and ethics.