Where are the Miracles?

[Audio http://ab86qw.bay.livefilestore.com/y1pf59iO-YHyiK1e-w4-d-v-UYUQE3-5gxmsuLi-FVP8-Pq-4b37Fir9Fm02t8gxmSbFSQfFpAa7yHI5iD0pz3KAvMmsPx-dNan/6-8-08wherearethemiracles.mp3%5D

Title: Where are the Miracles?

Text: Acts 2:43

Time: June 8th, 2008

One of the most obvious things you observe when you read the Bible for the first time as a new convert to Christianity is how the early church was filled with supernatural miracles. Not only is the Old Testament filled with stories of the miraculous, but also the New Testament is filled with the supernatural. Jesus and the Apostles worked miracles, as did the other men and women of the early church. But if we look at Christianity today, if we examine the church today, we don’t see nearly as much miraculous activity as we see in the original Christian church. Yes, there are Pentecostal, Charismatic and other Christians who pray often for healings, and see them happen occasionally. Yes, there are supernatural miracles that happen from time to time probably within all churches among all Christians once in a while, but nothing like we read about in the New Testament record. Yes, there are fantastic and nearly unbelievable reports from the mission fields, particularly in Third World Nations, of dramatic exorcisms and resurrections from the dead, but these reports always seem to be from “over there” in a land “far, far away” among different people, never in the here and now and close by. Now I don’t doubt for one minute that God is still working supernatural miracles because I’ve seen a few of them myself in the course of my twenty years plus ministry. For example, I’ve see a woman healed of cancer through direct answer to the laying-on-of-hands and prayer. I’ve also witnessed a case of demonic possession, at least I was convinced that the person was possessed of a demon based on the circumstances surrounding the incident. And there are many other situations that I’ve witnessed to convince me the God is able to, and in fact does, do supernatural miracles today. I’m sure most Christians, especially most Christian leaders like pastors and church workers, can testify to many signs and wonders they’ve witnessed over the course of their Christian life. But my question is: why aren’t we seeing the kind of miracles and the frequency of supernatural activity that the New Testament describes in our local churches today? Even Pentecostal and Charismatic ministers have to admit that their churches don’t come close to the kind of supernatural atmosphere we observe in the early church based on the record in the New Testament. For example, when was the last time you remember hearing of someone being raised from the dead as a result of Christians praying around this area? The New Testament believers saw such things. Or when was the last time you’ve seen or heard a demon speak in a strange voice from a possessed person — outside of the movies or television? But the early believers had these kinds of things happening. So we have to ask ourselves again and again, “Where are the miracles Lord?” Isn’t the Lord Jesus the same yesterday, today, and forever, as the Bible states? Was the Bible written for our instruction and example? If so, if it gives us examples of miracles, aren’t we supposed to be able to see them in our own day and age? Christianity, as described in the Bible, is a supernatural faith, but that isn’t what we see most of the time today. Why is that? I’d like to tackle this difficult question by offering a few possible answers. Hopefully, by the end, we’ll be able to understand God’s will on the matter.

First, maybe God sends extra-ordinary miracles only in extra-ordinary times. Acts 2:43, “Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” I’ve heard it explained that the reason we don’t see the quality and quantity of miracles today in the church is because the New Testament time was special, and special times call for special miracles. Or in other words, according to this theory, there are ebbs and flows to miracles in the history of God’s people. Even in the Old Testament we see great miraculous events happening at certain times, but then we hear of dry periods where not many miracles take place at all. For example, we know for a fact that between the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, and the New Testament period, a period of hundreds of years, the prophetic voice was absent in Israel. That’s why all the people were excited when John the Baptist came on the scene, because it was hundred and hundreds of years since a real prophet spoke the Word of God to the people. So from this example, we can see that there is some truth to the theory that God’s supernatural works ebb and flow, increasing some times and decreasing at other times. The ordinary and normal condition might be where some miracles, some supernatural things happen occasionally, a little all the time, but nothing extraordinary very often. Another example that supports this view is from 1 Samuel 3:1, where it says, “Now in those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.” So we see again another clue from the Bible that it just might be God’s will to bring some seasons of abundant miracles where many kinds of supernatural signs and wonders occur, but then again, there are other seasons, more often than not, where the Lord withholds miracles to only a few occasionally here and there. If this explanation is true, then we might say that the New Testament period was an example of a time during which the Lord poured out an abundance of miracles upon the early church – maybe to help get it launched and established – the way a parent might give their child a push in order to help get him or her started riding a bicycle, but then once they are up and going the parent backs away and lets them operate on their own power. If the New Testament is filled with the record of the early church under the influence of God’s super-abundant miraculous blessings during a special period of time, then it would make sense that if we are far removed from that special time, we might also not experience the same supernatural outpouring in our time – that is, unless the Lord chose to visit us again with the same kind of miraculous season of miracles He brought upon the early church. But until that special time, we make good with what we’ve got. We may see a few miracles here and there, once in a while, but, according to this theory, we shouldn’t expect to see the same things today. There is some truth to this approach, although let’s consider some more possibilities.

Second, maybe God doesn’t send many miracles today because of people’s general lack of faith. Acts 2:43, “Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” There can be no doubt that following in the wake of Jesus there were lots of people who had experienced and witnessed supernatural miracles like never before. In fact, can you think of another time in all of recorded history where one man worked so many miracles as Jesus? As we know, Jesus was more than a man, more than a carpenter as they say, more than a mere mortal human being. He was God in human flesh, second person of the Trinity. He worked his miracles by the power of God. Thousands must have witnessed miracles of all kinds – and not just occasionally but frequently, very often during those three years of Jesus’ public ministry. They witnessed miracles of healings, of exorcisms, of supernatural miracles of power over nature, and even raisings from the dead. And these witnesses were not only believers but also unbelievers and the general population of citizens, Jews and Gentiles too. So then, after the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, when the Apostles and the early church started doing miracles, they were working with a population of people who had witnessed miracles before and believed in the supernatural already. We might say they were already primed and ready for more miracles. Now today, as we look at our own time and culture, there is no question that we live in a society of skepticism and doubt. The general population today in the United States doesn’t have a whole lot of faith in the supernatural. Yes, there is belief in a spiritual reality, but for most people that reality is so far away from their everyday world that it is more like a dream to them than something real. It’s even worse in Canada and Europe – these places are even more skeptical than in America. There is no question that compared to Bible times, we live in a faithless world, not a faith-filled world. There is an example of the kind of faith-less attitude we see today, and strangely enough it comes from the Bible during the time of Jesus, in Jesus’ own hometown. In fact, his own hometown response reminds me a lot of what we see today. Here’s the account in Mark 6:4-6, “Jesus said to them, ‘Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.’ He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.” The population of that town didn’t have enough faith to see miracles from God; they were too skeptical, they were doubters, faithless. It reminds you of people today. Maybe this is a better explanation than the first: maybe God doesn’t send many miracles today because of people’s general lack of faith. We know a lack of faith can prevent miracles; we see it here in the Bible. So today too we don’t see many miracles because people just don’t believe in God enough or believe in supernatural reality or in miracles. That’s a possible explanation. But there’s another explanation. Let’s look at it.

Third, maybe God doesn’t send many miracles today because God’s people specifically don’t have enough faith. Acts 2:43, “Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” The previous explanation was based on the people, the general population, the mission field, not having enough faith. But this present explanation is based on God’s people not having enough faith to believe in him for miracles. Now there is much truth in the view that if the general population doesn’t have enough faith they might not see many miracles, and conversely, if the common people do have enough faith they may well see many miracles. Take for example in Africa today. The people over there generally believe in the supernatural and consequently they see many miracles. It’s the same way in Latin America today as well. Wherever you see lots of miracles from God happening it’s in a population of people who have enough general faith for miracles. And wherever you don’t see lots of miracles happening, it’s usually in the midst of a population that doesn’t believe much in miracles. Take, for example, the skepticism and doubt in Europe today. Consider the most skeptical country in Europe, probably France. You are not going to see many miracles there today because those people hardly believe that there is a God let alone supernatural miracles. Ok, that was the last explanation. But this third explanation is that it isn’t so much the general populations’ lack of faith that is keeping God from working many miracles, it’s the skeptical, doubt-filled, unbelieving condition of God’s people, the church. God is not so much rebuking the unbelieving unbelievers as he’s rebuking the believers for their unbelief. He’s rebuking the church for its unbelief. The best example of this kind of unbelief even among believers is the account of Jesus rebuking the disciples after he supernaturally calmed a storm that was tossing their boat. In Mark 4:40, “He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’” Now if Jesus was rebuking these early believers for their lack of faith, what is he saying to us today, us of the church, us as Christians? I’m reminded of another passage that says, “When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith?” Apparently not, if you look around at the state of the church today. It is my firm conviction that if believers would really believe what they say they believe, and live like it, we’d see more miracles today. But we live in the midst of a worldly church, where Christians spend more time with the television every day than with God in prayer and the Bible. It’s often hard to tell the difference between the Christian and the non-Christian. I’m still ashamed to repeat this report – there are more incidents of divorce among Christians than non-Christians. The general state of Christianity and the Christian church is not good, not healthy. So then, the explanation as to why God isn’t working miracles like he did in the early church would be – because of unbelief among God’s own people.

So what can we do about this tragic situation? The obvious answer is to begin to pray that God revives his people, revives us all. We need to pray for revival, starting with our own hearts. I hear that some of the pastors in Jamestown are still meeting together and praying for revival. I used to attend these prayer meetings until I realized that their concept of revival is entirely different than the Bible’s understanding of revival. These men believe that revival is primarily for the unbelievers to convert and become Christians, but that isn’t what true revival is primarily all about. True biblical revival is when believers get serious about confessing and repenting of their own sins, and rededicating their own lives back to God. The problem isn’t primarily a problem with the world of sinners. The problem is that the world of sinners is now in the church and it’s impossible to tell the difference. The doubt, the skepticism, the unbelief out there in the unbelieving world is now in the church. The disobedience and rebellion against God and God’s Word found out in the world is now found in the church too. I hear that some of these pastors have organized for a series of revival meetings this summer in Jamestown. They’ve invited an evangelist to come and try to preach to the unbelievers and get them saved, when what he needs to do is preach to the believers and church people and Christians — to try to get them saved! I’m half serious about that too! We’ll see revival, not when we first try to get all the unbelievers saved, but when we try to get all the church people back to God! The New Testament says that Jesus rebuked his own disciples for their lack of faith. Jesus is still rebuking his people for lack of faith. I honestly believe that there are many supernatural miracles that we aren’t seeing because we don’t believe God enough for them. I’m not saying there aren’t special times of supernatural blessings from God in the form of signs and wonders, but I’m saying that there is no question that a main problem, if not the main problem is unbelief among God people. What can we do? Pray to God to revive us again, revive our prayer times, revive our Bible devotion times, revive our witnessing, revive our fellowship and love, revive our obedience and holiness. I believe God is waiting for his church to get serious about him before he gets serious about us. What does the Book of James say, “Draw nigh unto God and he will draw nigh unto you.” I think there is truth to all the different explanations as to why we don’t see today miracles like the early church. Yes, there is a general skepticism and doubt today in our culture and society, and yes, that really makes it hard for people to even be open to God breaking through in supernatural signs and wonders. Yes, also, there is truth to the explanation that God sends miracles and withholds miracles in seasons according to his wisdom. But I think the biggest reason we aren’t seeing the kind miracles the first Christians experienced is our own general lack of faith in the church today. Let’s pray God revives us again as we search our hearts, confess our sins, repent, and recommit to him anew.

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