Monday, August 13, 2007

What About Miracles? - Shepherd

What are miracles and what purpose do they serve? Do miracles really happen today? I sometimes wonder if it is my belief in miracles that keeps me writing. I am not thinking of the miracle that first comes to mind for a writer – that a publisher is actually willing to accept and manuscript and work with the author and turn it into a book. No, I am thinking about the miracle that people actually read what we have written and somehow the Holy Spirit uses it for their benefit, to encourage, comfort, challenge or edify them.

Yet why should that surprise us? How many times have we been impacted profoundly by books or articles we have read? I remember how often, in reading the books by my favourite author, Catherine Marshall, I would slip almost unconsciously from reading into praying. What she said just opened the doors of communication with the Lord for me.

Then, I think how I shared the anguish of Joni as she told her story of coming to terms with her paralysis and how after our son’s accident I understood more profoundly than I could have imagined what she said. The miracle was that she would have the courage to give voice to experiences that I could not yet express.

What then is a miracle? Is it some evidence that God is at work? Is it just a coincidence of timing? Why do we want miracles?

I think the Bible encourages us to believe in miracles when it says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” He is working all things for our good. In some of the situations we create for ourselves, nothing but a miracle could save us.

Sometimes physical phenomena explain what we call miracles. The Wesleyan commentary gives offers a possible scientific explanation for the miracle of the Israelites crossing the Jordan in the Old Testament. It says that earthquakes have at times blocked the water of the Jordan River. Perhaps the Lord used such a natural phenomenon for His purposes, in what we call a miracle.

In recent years we have desperately wanted a miracle. People ask us if our son, John will remain a quadriplegic for the rest of his life. Our answer usually is, “Barring a miracle, it looks that way. But we believe in miracles.”

Once, while John was in the hospital in Burlington, Vermont, we focused our prayers specifically on a miracle of healing for him. A friend sensed a firm conviction that she was to come and pray with John, specifically for his healing. She usually abhors peculiar supernatural manifestations. She came to talk to us, obviously troubled by her conviction.

Before talking to John, she needed reassurance we were comfortable with her praying for his healing. Over lunch, Bev told us how her sleep was disrupted by this growing conviction that she was to come and to lay her hands on John and pray for his healing. To do so was entirely out of character for her, but she could not escape the compulsion.

Her biggest fear was, “What if I do this and nothing happens?” “Will it destroy John’s faith?” The risks were high.

After our discussion, we prayed for the Lord to guide us. We entered John’s room apprehensively, not really sure what to do next. Hesitantly, Bev told John about her conviction. She wanted to pray for his healing. Would he be willing? John agreed. As we gathered around the bed, Bev prayed, laying her hands on his back and legs. It was a simple prayer, but we sensed the Lord’s presence with us. No visible changes occurred in John.

The next day, Bev called. A vivid vision awakened her several times during the night. A large banner floating across the sky said, “You have been obedient. I have heard your prayer. John will walk again.” She knew she must call and give John that message.

Today, five years later, John is still a quadriplegic in a wheel-chair. I believe one day he will walk again. It may not be until in Heaven he rises from his chair to be embraced by the Saviour.

In any case, he is a miracle. He has resumed an altered but normal life. He completed his studies at Harvard Business School, where he left off at the time of the accident. He does certain things a different way. He mentors other victims of spinal cord injuries. God uses him to bless others, through their prayers for him. We are blessed by his courage and fortitude.

What is a miracle? Would John’s life reflect more of a miracle if he again walked and used his hands? Miracles do not highlight what we do, but what God does. God’s miraculous grace is sufficient for John whatever his physical situation.

We have seen God’s grace in answering many prayers about John. One of John’s miracles is that those who pray for him, in the process, draw nearer to God, bringing their requests for John. How beautiful is that! Is it a miracle?

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