Last Sunday’s sermon, “Miracles in a Nutshell,” was a difficult one for me. Thank you for your patient involvement, and thanks for your participation in the message and resulting prayer time. I’ve enjoyed the give-and-take we’ve had during this summer’s “Nutshell” sermon series.
A message on miracles is difficult because I know that for every person who rejoices over an apparent miracle in their life, there is the person who is waiting for some powerful intervention of God in their own life but seemingly not receiving it. Nevertheless, we are called on to be attentive to God’s works, to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, and we are to grow in maturity and understanding that God works through miraculous deliverances as well as through ordinary and tremendous suffering. As we discussed two weeks ago, there is a sense in which Jesus did not come into the world to take away our sufferings (at least, not immediately) but to share in them. One day He will complete the perfect transformative work He has begun !
I am still convinced that the miracles we read about in the New Testament have primarily two purposes :
They authenticated those early trailblazers of the Gospel message. Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 put Him directly in line with Moses as one who was able to bring bread down from heaven – God’s man, God’s messenger, God’s prophet, Israel’s deliverer. Following His crucifixion and resurrection, He told the early band of disciples that they would perform amazing miracles as they took His Gospel into the world (Mark 16:17-18), … and they did ! Paul also wrote to the Christians in Corinth, Greece, as a reminder to them of the God-ordained nature of his own ministry : “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you” (2 Corinthians 12:12).
Through the great miracles of the Bible, God’s purposes were illustrated in powerful, visible ways. Through the feeding of the 5000 Jesus was not only able to show He was the bread-giver but that He is the true bread (John 6:35) ! If we will come to Jesus by faith and take Him into our lives, we will be nourished spiritually forever !
So, we walk a fine line. It’s good to experience what appears to be miraculous ; it’s also good to be reminded that a craving for the miraculous may cause us to be blind to, or inadvertently ungrateful for, the smaller things God is doing every day !
Several of you shared on Sunday of God’s miracles in your lives. Later in the week, Ralph Engelmeyer emailed me stories of God’s timely and powerful work in his life. Ralph gave me permission to share his stories with you. I thought you would enjoy them.
I’m a big believer in miracles. I believe we have miracles happen to us and we don’t realize it. For example, on three different trips I have fallen asleep at the wheel : once up in the back roads of Canada, once up by Hannibal, Missouri, and the third time by the Valley Mount Ranch near Valley Park.
In Kenora, Ontario, I went around a sharp curve, fell asleep at the wheel, and woke to find myself heading off an embankment and into a cliff. I knew I was going to crash, and I slid down in the seat ready for the impact. But I didn’t crash and my car was still on the road. It reminds me of the popular song by Carrie Underwood, “Jesus Take the Wheel”. Jesus must have taken the wheel because I was a gonner if He didn’t.
The Hannibal incident wasn’t so dramatic — I was just worn out from driving 1178 miles by myself straight through from Red Lake, Ontario, to St. Louis. I woke to find myself crossing the lanes of a busy highway toward a ditch.
The third incident was another “Jesus Take The Wheel”. I was returning to Kirkwood from the farm by myself, and at the Valley Mount Ranch I hit the warning road strips. I woke to find myself leaving Highway 44 at a speed of 85 mph. I awoke too late and thought it was all over for me. But somehow, I brought it back onto the highway, … not through my power, but His power.
In all three incidents, I didn’t give God the credit — my answer was, “I was lucky.” But the more I have thought about it, I should not be here. Somebody “took the wheel.”
And so, we give praise to God for His personal and powerful work in our lives. “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10) has for a long time been an inspirational verse of Scripture for me. The Lord encourages us to ask for big things, as we did Sunday morning, praying specifically for :
the Brown Family
the Brune Family
unsaved loved ones in our immediate and extended families, as Judy Gloe mentioned for herself and John
needy and broken families in our community which Anna Azevedo and others serve
those going through illness, as has the Talley Family
those experiencing strain in their marriage, as Mike & Catherine Mahoney once did, until God patiently, graciously, and powerfully brought them through.
What consolation or encouragement is there for the one in whose life the “miracle” isn’t happening ? I’ve known just enough heartache and unpleasant surprises in life to know that God doesn’t always spare us from pain or loss :
My mother died an unpleasant death from a cancer of the brain when I was twelve years old.
I lost an infant child who died for no apparent reason in his sleep in the middle of a beautiful spring day.
All my earthly belongings (except for two lawn chairs and parts of a stereo) were stolen during a move.
My life- and ministry-partner was taken from me in mid-life, long before it would seem that she should have been.
(I feel like the old guy in the nursing home in the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button who keeps repeating throughout the film, “Did you know I’ve been struck by lightning seven times ?”)
Three thoughts if the “miracle” doesn’t seem to be happening in your life :
1. God has a greater goal for all of us than simply the experience of miracles, as thrilling as that part of our relationship with Him may be. His great goal for us is that He is making us to be more like His wonderful Son, Jesus, our Savior. And He will accomplish that goal : “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29). To be made into a person like Jesus will definitely require that we experience some suffering. Only through those painful experiences can we begin to comprehend the pain He suffered and the depth of His love for us and for the entire world.
2. God’s deep work in our life is many times hidden from view, and our understanding of the events of life depends on our manner of interpreting those events. In a book I’m reading on depression, Depression : Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness, by Edward Welch, the author gives these helpful thoughts :
Things don’t simply happen to us. When they do, we respond with an immediate interpretation of their meaning and significance. We filter the event through our view of God, others, and ourselves that we have been developing throughout our lives.
For example, let’s say that someone didn’t say hello to you at church. You interpret it : “She is angry at me” ; “She is a snob” ; or “She must have a lot on her mind. I need to give her a call.”
It rains the entire weekend you had set aside to paint some outside woodwork. You interpret it : “I can’t believe this is happening to me,” which means, “I can’t believe God is doing this to me.” Or you might say, “I still believe that God is good even though I am disappointed. I believe He is even in these details.”
All pain is interpreted pain. Your story, your interpretations, your motivations, and your beliefs come out of your heart. Therefore, … “above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
3. Until that final day when we are physically present with the Lord forever, all miracles are temporary. The 5000 who were fed became hungry again. The young man Jesus raised from the dead (Luke 7) eventually died again, bringing sorrow again to his mother, I suppose, if she were still living. To the lame man Jesus healed at the pool of Bethesda (John 5), Jesus said : “Don’t sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you,” implying that his life ahead as a healed man would nevertheless be filled with the normal temptations, pain, and suffering we all experience in this fallen world.
We’re looking forward to a new world, and eternal life free from the pain and loss of sin ! That day is coming, … and it will figure into this coming Sunday’s sermon : “Revelation in a Nutshell.” What are your thoughts about the Book of Revelation ? Come ready to share, worship, and grow.
Gospel of John class for adults at 9:00.
Worship at 10:15.
Please be in prayer for the final two days of VBS this week. Thank you to those who have been serving this week !
See you Sunday !