As I screwed on doorknobs at the bed-and-breakfast that Will is remodeling, my mind toyed with a dilemma that has niggled at me for years. When I got home, I pulled out a pen and paper to scribble down two statements I often heard taught that seemed contradictory. I messed with turning them into syllogisms, but gave up when I couldn’t make the logic come out perfectly.
The first statement is that “miracles mostly happen where the Gospel spreads into new territory.” This is what I have heard to explain why we don’t see miracles in our time and place. The second statement: “Jesus told us to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.”
Hmmm…. If miracles happen where the Gospel is going into new territory, and we aren’t seeing miracles because they occur where the Gospel is spreading, then we aren’t preaching the Gospel either, are we?
Or are the miracles not happening for other reasons, such as a lack of faith? Maybe both the lack of faith and the lack of evangelism?
Any of us would readily say that God can do miracles. I think we are much slower to believe that He wants to do them. Our faith in God’s loving heart is weak.
Seeing miracles should never be the primary focus of a Christian. The primary focus of a Christian is to know God! But if we aren’t seeing many miracles, our own logic says it is because we are not serious about spreading the Good News!
I have noticed that the few miracles that we pray for are mostly for our own benefit. We don’t pray for miracles that result in an unbeliever’s conversion. Praying for a brother in the church to be healed of cancer would not seem out of the ordinary. Going to your unsaved neighbor’s house and laying hands on him and praying for him to be healed of cancer–now that would be different!
Do we feel any sense of responsibility for our neighbor’s spiritual condition? Do we believe in God’s loving heart for our neighbor? Are we willing to pray for miracles, to bring our neighbor to Christ?
If we aren’t working with God to redeem the world, what ARE we doing with our time and resources? How much do our local church committees, church functions, discussions, buildings, and decisions actually have anything to do with evangelism?
Reading “On the Cutting Edge of Mission Strategy” by C. Peter Wagner in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement got my mind turning over this subject again. (Thank you for the book, Kristin and Andrea!) Wagner writes, “While we do not deny the validity of the Word of God, many of us have not experienced New Testament power in our personal ministries. I for one never saw it at all during my 16 years as a missionary to Bolivia. To me the power of God was to save souls and help us live a good Christian life. I now see that as correct, but only a partial view of God’s power.”
Wagner quotes Timothy Warner as well. These are Warner’s words: “In many parts of the world, people are much more power-conscious than they are truth-conscious. We may preach a very logical and convincing message by Western standards, but our hearers remain unimpressed. Let them see Christian power displayed in relation to the spirit world in which they live with great fear, however, and they will “hear” the message more clearly than our words alone could ever make it.”
These missionaries were talking about their experiences on the fields overseas. Do we also need God’s power here in the States? Miracles or not, I think a lot more evangelism needs to happen. And we can more effectively reach people if God’s power is evident; be it unreasonable love, convicting words, or prayer for healing spiritually and physically.
For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.
(1 Corinthians 4:20 ESV)