Pastor's Blog

The sterile hospital room was quiet except for the occasional beeps and clicks of the machinery that kept the motionless patient’s heart pumping and lungs expanding and contracting.  The dear soul had no brain activity.

I was standing out in the hall with the family as the doctor tried to tell them in soft tones that there was no hope.  Proper etiquette wouldn’t let him say that absolutely.  Doctors always leave a pinpoint of hope and family members want to grasp that point of hope, want to grasp anything,  rather than make the decision that no one ever wants to have to make.

I’ve been with families in that situation more than once.  And somehow there always seems to be a well-intentioned evangelical that shows up to break the weighty silence, spurring everyone on to faith in a God who raises the dead and to continue in fervent prayer for a modern-day miracle.  There was such an evangelical in this case – several, in fact. 

This poor family, torn between the grim facts and their faith in God, looked with pleading eyes to me to weigh in.  I said something to this effect: “The God who does miracles is on the throne.  If we allow the doctors to turn off the machines, we will find out if God wants to do a miracle.”  After some deliberation together, the family decided to trust God and turn off the machines. 

There was no miracle.

Perhaps my counsel seems unsettling to some.  It was based on a simple distinction between ‘miracle’ and ‘providence’.  If you wanted the machines kept on, you weren’t trusting God for a miracle.  You were hoping for a providence.  But a miracle really was what was needed in a case like this one.

My approach to the Christian life is simple.  Expect providence.  Make responsible decisions using the knowledge and wisdom you have at hand and trust God to work in, through, and behind the ordinary processes of life.  God can intervene and do a miracle if He wishes.  We have no promise or guarantee that He will do so.  That decision is entirely up to Him.  It’s up to us  to trust God’s decision.

I don’t know why some evangelicals expect God to do miracles every day.  God never promised that.  If miracles took place every day, they wouldn’t be extraordinary.  We’d see them as ordinary, as commonplaces, maybe even as the workings of nature.  The whole point of miracles is that they don’t happen every day.  Their rarity is part of what gives them their character as ‘miracles’.

One of the key biblical terms for “miracle” is the word “sign” (Greek semeion).  A sign doesn’t draw attention to itself.  Rather, a sign points to something else, and the important thing is not the sign but what it points to.  The signs done by Jesus were not merely about getting people healthy;  Jesus left many ill people in their stricken conditions.  The signs He did were cases specially chosen by the Father, cases that would confirm the authority of Jesus and the truth of His message to the people that needed that confirmation.  It would seem that a miracle done today should serve the same purpose.

My faith doesn’t need miracles.  The resurrection of Jesus is enough.  I’m perfectly happy to see God working providentially – what people call “God things” or “God moments” – in, through, and behind the ordinary processes of my ordinary life.

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