Saturday, February 6, 2010

07.02.10 - Can We Expect Miracles?

Last week I introduced the theme of “Changing the World.” I want to pursue that some more.

I suggested last week that we might be cynical about the idea of changing the world but that is exactly what Jesus and the disciples were accused of doing. The Pharisees feared that the whole world was following Jesus. The disciples of Jesus were accused of causing trouble all over the world.

Maybe God’s wants us change the world. Certainly our task is to make disciples of all nations; to preach the gospel in all the world.

I asked what it would take to change the world. On the way out of church one person said “a random act of kindness.” Someone since has said his family watched the film “Paying It Forward”. The theme of that was doing something that would change the world and it is about acts of kindness. We have the DVD if anyone wants to watch it. Someone else said it takes vision and passion to change the world.

There were probably other things said too which have slipped my mind. What else would it take?

Are we too small to change the world. Mother Teresa said, 'I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.' Can you cast a stone across the waters?

Our daughter, Kirsten, gave me a book for Christmas called “You Were Born For This” by Bruce Wilkinson who wrote “The Prayer of Jabez”. The sub-title is “7 Keys to a Life of Predictable Miracles”. That made me a little sceptical. Are miracles that simple that they can be achieved with seven steps? What about “predictable miracles”? It sounded to me as if miracles were something we could turn on and off. I suspected the book was going to be a lot of motivational talk that wasn’t really grounded in real life.

But, as I read it, I became more and more convinced and challenged by it. It wasn’t just ra-ra-ra stuff. Wilkinson has a high level of expectation about miracles happening but seems to me to be realistic about what we need to do to be used by God.

Can we expect miracles? Can miracles be predictable? People often say, “You can’t expect miracles.” But can you expect miracles? Should we expect miracles? Should we expect to deliver miracles into other people’s lives? Can we expect everyday miracles? Or is that all just Christian hype and unrealistic?

I am sure we all understand miracles to include very dramatic things such as walking on water, raising the dead, people being healed... We have lots of people here who can tell stories of God’s healing and maybe some instances of being raised from the dead. People here have stories of God being there for them when they were at their wits end. All sorts of things. If you questions whether miracles can really happen, that is an honest question but many people here can tell stories of what they certainly believe to be miracles.

But if, one day, you felt that God was asking you to visit a particular person and you had coffee together and you said, “I want you to know that I pray for you often. I know that life is pretty tough at the moment. You must be desperately concerned for your daughter. I just want you to know that I’m praying.”

If that person responded, “You don’t know how much that means to me. I got up this morning feeling desperately lonely and feeling that no one really understood. In fact, feeling like giving up. Thank you for saying what you just said.”

And you said, “Well, you know, I just felt God wanted me to say that to you today.”

If that happened, would that be a miracle? No one was raised from the dead. No one was healed – in a way. But God was involved, you were obedient and somebody knew that God cared enough to speak and encourage him or her. Would that have been a miracle?

Bruce Wilkinson talks about everyday miracles. He says that on the one side you have Christians who are into signs and wonders – the big spectacular miracles – and that’s great but somehow it seems to be restricted to a fairly limited group of particularly gifted people. On the other hand, you have Christians who are into lots of good works and serving but don’t expect to see the supernatural –believe in miracles but don’t expect to see miracles. But he says, in the middle is the territory of everyday miracles.

What would it be like to be part of miracles like that every day? Is that possible? Should we expect that God wants us to be part of a miracle each day? In other words, does God want to intervene supernaturally in human affairs frequently? Or only rarely? And does God want to use you as part of those miracles?

A miracle like I described doesn’t require any special powers. It doesn’t require any particular spiritual gift. Some people do have a spiritual gift of miracles and God uses them in the area of signs and wonders. But miracles like the one I described require only an expectation that God wants to do something powerful and a desire to be part of it. It requires a love for people and a sensitivity to people’s needs. It requires a willingness to partner with the Holy Spirit. Those are the sorts of “keys” that Bruce Wilkinson is talking about, but they are possible – maybe not easy, but possible – for any of us.

How many of us have felt a nudge to help someone and done nothing about it? Is it possible that God has wanted to do something supernatural but we have not been ready to deliver that miracle?

I am not talking here about simply being encouraging or simply being caring. I am talking about partnering with the Holy Spirit. I am talking about the supernatural – about things we cannot do by ourselves but simply have to be God. I am not talking about good works. I am talking about miracles.

Can we expect miracles? Brue Wilkinson says, “God is keen. He is just looking for volunteers.”

On what basis does he say that? First some questions. “What do you think is happening in heaven right now?” Do you imagine God on His throne and lots of praise and worship? What do you think God is doing? Nothing? Just listening to the worship? What about committee meetings? What about strategy meetings? Let’s look at 1Kings 22. The background is that Ahab, the corrupt and evil king of Israel, planned to go to war against Ramoth Gilead but he wanted to hear from God first. He asked all his prophets – false prophets who worshipped false gods – and they said, “Go. The Lord will give you victory.” But Ahab was not sure so He asked Micaiah, a true prophets. READ 1 Kings 22:19-23.

Micaiah had seen into heaven. In heaven there was a committee meeting going on. God had called all the hosts of heaven – angels – together and they were not singing. They were planning. God asked how Ahab might be enticed to attack Ramoth Gilead. God’s plan was that Ahab should go to war but how might he be persuaded to do that? God asked for ideas. Various angels made suggestions. Then one suggested that he would go to earth and be a lying spirit in the mouths of the false prophets. God said, “Go and do it.”

It worked! Even though Micaiah told Ahab that it was God’s strategy to mislead him through the false prophets, Ahab still chose to believe the false prophets. He went to war and was killed.

While things were unfolding on earth, strategy meetings were held in heaven. God planned to intervene in what was happening on earth and He looked for a partner. In that instance, it was an angel but might it be true that when God has plans for things on earth, He looks for one of us to partner with Him?

When Jesus was persecuted for healing on the Sabbath, He said, “My Father is always at His work to this very day.” (Jn 5:17) God isn’t just sitting on His throne listening to worship. He is working. He is intervening in people’s lives – healing, for example. A couple of verses later, Jesus said, "Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. (John 5:19-20)

When Jesus was on earth, He partnered with God. He didn’t just do His own thing. He said He could do only what He saw the Father doing. He submitted Himself to God. But they worked in complete unity. Whatever the Father did the Son also did. And God was keen to reveal what He wanted done. The Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does.

How could God get something done on earth today? He could do it Himself. He could get an angel to do it. Or, He could use a person. The fact is that He generally uses people.

Can we expect miracles? Can miracles be “every day”? You will have to answer that for yourself but the first reason for believing so is that God is keen to be active in the world and He is looking for volunteers. God is keen because He cares about people. He cares about people in need. He is compassionate. He wants to help people who are suffering. And He is looking for volunteers to deliver those miracles.

Delivering miracles is not just an exciting optional extra for those who are interested. It is what we are meant to do. That is why Wilkinson calls his book “You Were Born For This?”

May I finish with a story from the book?

Jimmy was a very clever, practical guy who could make anything or fix anything but don’t ask him to sit down and talk about relationships or contemplate the meaning of the universe. When he heard that he could partner with God to deliver supernatural events on a regular basis, he didn’t believe it. H worked in the construction industry, not ministry. He couldn’t think of one time from the last 10 years when he could say for certain that God had shown up.

But he more he heard about it, the more he wanted to partner with God to do God’s work on earth and he decided to risk it.

The next morning, as he dropped windows off at a construction site, he got into a conversation with Nick. Nick let it be known that his marriage was on the rocks and he didn’t hold out much hope for it.

Normally, jimmy would have expressed sympathy and quickly steered the conversation to something safer. This time, he listened. Then he said, “Nick I really want to help you. What can I do for you?”

Without hesitating, Nick said, “You could tell me what to do next. I’m tied up in knots but I really want this marriage to work.”

Jimmy panicked! He wasn’t going to tell another guy how to fix a relationship. But he took a deep breath and took an outrageous step of faith. He suggested Nick get something to write with and when he came back, Jimmy would tell him how to save his marriage. In fact, he had no idea what he was going to tell Nick. He was simply buying time but maybe God was doing something here and Jimmy was determined to be part of it.

When Nick returned, Jimmy heard himself saying, “You need to go home and make your bed.” He didn’t know where that had come from or what use it was. “That’s all I have to say,” he apologised, “I guess you don’t even need to write it down.”

Nick stared at Jimmy with his mouth open. “How did you know?” he gasped. “That is a giant source of conflict for us! I’m the last one up and I never make the bed. My wife says it a sign of everything that’s wrong with the marriage. I don’t get it. But you know what? I’m going to drive back at lunch time and make the bed before my wife gets home.”

God wanted to be involved supernaturally in Nick’s life and God wanted to heal that marriage. God cares about the personal struggles of individuals and He wants them to know that. God cared enough to show Nick a practical thing that might help heal that relationship.

All he needed was a Jimmy to deliver it. Can we expect miracles? Can they be every day events?

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