What exactly is a miracle? If you’re a Bible believing Christian, that’s probably not a question you’ve asked. If you’re a skeptic, you’ve probably wouldn’t even waste much time pondering that question and dismiss it with a remark about ignorant people. Yet miracles are part of the universal human experience. There is no culture on Earth that doesn’t believe in miracles of some kind.
Tim Stafford is a senior writer for Christianity Today and has spent twenty-something years traveling the world and hearing accounts of miracles, which are the topic of his new book aptly titled: Miracles.
He admits that as a reformed Presbyterian, he didn’t have much faith in miracles and mostly leaned toward the position that God had gotten out of using people in His miracle working business after He finished his epic memoirs aka the Bible. (My words not his.)
But when a young man that he knew from his Presbyterian church, who had been bound to a wheelchair, went to a healing service at a more charismatic church and walked away from it pushing his wheelchair in front of him, Mr. Stafford decided to start digging a little deeper.
He found two things: there’s a lot of hyped-up, exaggerated miracles that people just want to believe but probably aren’t even close to true, but there are also real documented miracles happening all over the world. He gives one example of watching Muslims come to Christ in Mozambique because a deaf man is healed in His name.
What is the thing that separates the real from the hype? Well, the real are much rarer, usually important to an individual and those who know him/her, they’re life-changing for everyone involved, and most importantly God uses these “signs” as just that--signs that point to Him.
I have to say that I loved this book.
I’ve seen miracles first hand. When my son was born, my wife went blind from complications because her blood started to clot and hemorrhage and damaged the tissue in her eyes, as well as other organs throughout her body. It wasn’t certain whether she would live or die, but according to the doctors and the counselors that visited during that time, if she made it, her sight would be impaired for life.
I remember making videos of our son for her with the dim hope that God would heal her someday, and I wanted her to be able to see her son’s face when he was born. I also remember writing about healing during this time in the post Healing and God’s Heart.
People all around the world were praying for her recovery, and our boy was a month and half old when his mom was stable enough to come home from the hospital. I can’t point to a specific moment when she got her sight back, but the next time we went to the doctor, she had 20/20 vision.
This is one of those examples Stafford would point to as hard to verify. The medical records show that she was blind and got her sight back, but they chalk it up to the body healing itself. They can’t explain how it healed itself, but it did. It happens all the time. Of course, that’s a skeptic’s response. I don’t know how it happened, but it wasn’t a miracle because miracles don’t happen.
On the other hand, I’ve heard lots of people in the more charismatic side of things claim healing, but then a week later, they’re suffering again. Were they healed or not? I’d say, no, and I think Stafford would too.
However, I think his summation is a good one. If someone tells you they’ve been healed, hope that they have been and praise God. Rejoice with those who rejoice. If someone needs healing, pray that they will be, and mourn with those who mourn. But don’t get so focused on signs and wonders that you forget whom the signs point to.