Words and Wonders
I want to start this morning with a preacher story. A preacher story is kind of like a dad joke, only worse. I usually don’t do preacher stories, but I have actually a reason for doing this one and it’s an old one. So, like old dad jokes, they just get better.
A bar called Drummonds in Mount Vernon, Texas began construction on the expansion of their building to help grow their business. In response, the local Southern Baptist Church started a campaign to block the bar from expanding. They passed around petitions they had prayer meetings and about a week before the bar’s grand opening the bar was struck with a bolt of lightning and burned to the ground.
Afterward, the church folks were rather smug, bragging about the power of prayer. But the angry bar owner eventually sued the church on grounds that the church was ultimately responsible for the demise of his building through direct action or indirect means. Of course, the church vehemently denied all responsibility or any connection to the building’s demise. The judge opened the hearing by saying I don’t know how I’m going to decide this, but it appears from the paperwork that what we have here is a bar owner who now believes in the power of prayer and an entire church congregation that does not.
So, there’s a message behind that little story and that is we Christians are pretty weird – the way we talk about things, the way we say we believe in things, the things we post on social media. And yet at the same time we kind of reverse ourselves in strange ways.
What about the kinds of things that we saw in the story about Elijah that we’ve seen so far. Do you believe in that stuff? God actually talking audibly to a person or that whole business about the birds bringing roadkill and then God tells him to go into town. And God says, I’ve commanded this widow to feed you. Evidently the widow had not gotten the memo because she was plotting the last supper for her son and her. Elijah rolls in and says, hey give me some water. And the woman goes to get him some water and she’s going to get him some water, he says, hey bring me a little muffin. And the woman said, well I’ve got enough oil and flour to make one little muffin, and my son and I are going to divide it and then we’re going to die.
And Elijah says, yeah bring me that muffin. And by the way when you do, God’s going to bless you, and that flower and that oil they’re just never going to go away. It’s crazy stuff, right? So, in a church like North Hills and in case you haven’t been here for a long time I’ll just kind of out us that when we read something like that in the Bible, we actually believe that that’s what happened.
We don’t believe it’s just like this little myth like Aesop’s fables or something. We believe that God actually did what’s written there. But the bigger question or maybe the more complex question is what about today? Should we expect that God still does miracles today just as much as he did in Elijah’s day? That’s the question of the morning. A small question. How many of you ever wondered that? One of you? Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.
All right, three of us are wondering about this. So, the rest of you are going to get to hear about it. So, we’re going to start by taking a quiz. This is very scientific. I just made it up. It’s called The Miracle Comfort Quotient test. So here we go. Everyone get ready to mark your ballots, and I really want you to do this. We’re going to see where we come out. So, in the story of Elijah opens up with Elijah saying it’s not going to rain again till I say so. So, do you believe that that actually happened in the Bible? Do you really believe that someone took total authority over the weather? If you believe that, mark your box. That means I believe that that really happened.
And if you don’t mark that box, shame on you. Because we’re Christians here. But what about the second box? How many of you really believe that that is likely, that it is rational that we should expect that an individual today living in Greenville in 2018 could say it’s not going to rain again until I say. If you believe that’s something we should expect, then mark that second box. How about God talking audibly to somebody?
Do you believe that really happened, or did Elijah just make it up? If you do believe it, check that box. What about God talking audibly to you on the way home from church. Don’t go to Zaxby’s. If that would not surprise you, check the second box. What about God sending birds to carry food to eat? If you think that really happened, check the first box. If it would not surprise you in the least if God did that again today, check the second box. What about God miraculously causing food to be multiplied?
What about God. Empowering someone to raise someone from the dead. Do you believe it was in the Bible? Do you believe it happens today? So how many of you I wonder had at least five boxes checked? In fact. How many of you checked all the “I think it happened in the Bible” boxes?
Raise your hand. That’s about what I would expect. I’m going to ask yet how many of you checked boxes and that other column, but I want to drill down into this story. And I want to ask the question just very frankly this morning. Are we allowed to be Word people and wonder people?
Or do we have to choose? If I brought a basket full of words like God’s words and all the amazing things that people have written about God’s words. And I set it right here, and then I bring a basket full of wonders, signs, miracles, amazing things where God suspends the laws of nature today. And I had a basket right here. And you had to choose between the two, or do we?
Are we supposed, let me ask that a question. When I say, when I say, how are we supposed to think about miracles? And you’re going to finish the sentence. Stories about miracles, signs, and wonders are… fill in the blank. How are you going to fill it in? Real? Exciting? Mostly fake? Good? Scary? The finger of God? The deception of Satan? What do you think about signs and wonders?
Well, I need to begin by giving you a little history about myself. I grew up in southern California in the 1970s around something called “The Jesus Movement.” Anyone ever heard of the “Jesus Movement. Yeah, all the old people, awesome. Oh, some young people too. Before there were hipsters there were hippies, and the hippies were way cooler than you hipsters. I’m just telling you. Because everything in my day is way cooler than anything in your day. But it was it was a crazy time because there are all these people. This was the age of Woodstock, shortly after Woodstock, and it was very counter authority, and it was very free. And all of a sudden, a lot of these people who had kind of dropped out of society, dropped into the drug scene, the free love scene. All of the sudden God just started saving a lot of those people.
And there was this guy named Chuck Smith who was right down the road from me who was one of the few pastors who rather than kind of shutting the door because this stuff is just, I don’t know what that is, he opened the doors wide open. He said I don’t understand what’s going on, but come on in and I’ll teach you the Bible. There was a guy named John Wimber who was down the other road from me, and John Wimber used to always say, I just want to do the stuff. And what he meant by that is that John Wimber really believed that every believer can walk and talk and do the very things that Jesus Christ did.
And you know what? It was happening. And it was such, it was such a beautiful time. Because it was so focused on Christ and life seemed so simple. If you met someone, and he didn’t have a shirt, and you had two shirts, you just didn’t think about it. Sometimes you just had one shirt and said take my shirt. I can’t even count the number of times people took off their shoes and gave them to someone. There was just a beauty about it.
And I’ll never forget there was a group back in that day called Love Song. Anyone ever heard of Love Song? I’m really determined. Oh wow. Wow you guys are. Yeah. You don’t want to admit it, do you? Because that’s… Yeah, that was them. Love Song actually came to Chuck Smith’s church, and they said hey man, we’ve got these songs. We want to come and play in your church. He’d never seen them before. And they didn’t look that good when they came into Chuck’s church. So, this is what Chuck did, he said oh well play a song for me. So, they went out to their Volkswagen van. They got their guitars, they brought them back in, they set up. They played this song. And I mean these songs these guys wrote, they were like, you would say there were nothing. The lyrics were just so simple. But the but the presence of God came down as these guys were playing. And Chuck Smith said hey, how about tonight? And they said well, we don’t know about tonight because one of our guys is doing a rap for marijuana and he doesn’t get out … wait, he gets out at noon, he gets out on release so yeah, we can come tonight.
And that was the world that was going on. And I remember when I actually went to one of their concerts. I walked into that venue and when I walked in that venue it was like there was a wind that was blowing. I can’t explain it. I know if you’ve ever gone into a store or something where they have these huge fans to keep the flies out or something and it kind of blows and it’s really annoying and messes your hair up.
When I walked into that venue it was like that. I had to literally lean to walk into that room. And after growing up in a church all my life, around religion, being in Sunday school, memorizing Bible verses, probably for the first time in my life I encountered the presence of God. And it just destroyed me in a great way.
Well then, I got educated and things got a lot more complicated. And I was taught to read the miraculous parts of the Bible just as past history. And I was taught this with a lot of certainty by people that I still really love and respect. Or some people would say yes, God can do anything he chooses of course, but to pursue signs and wonders and miracles is wrong, and it’s dangerous, and we don’t do that, wherever “we” are.
But then something else happened. God brought me to Greenville ten years ago. I was blessed to be part of this staff, and I started traveling the world. And all of a sudden everywhere I was going in the world I started encountering the same kinds of things that I experienced when I was young. I went to Ethiopia – I can’t even count, I say dozens, I think it’s hundreds, but I don’t want to use hyperbole, so I’ll just say I know dozens of people who came to Christ through dreams and visions.
A young man that I met was standing out in a field. He was 15 years old, had never heard the gospel. He hears a voice “Come to me. Come to me.” He walks for three days and two nights to find a church, comes in the church. He said I heard this voice. I don’t know what it means. They explain the gospel to him. And I sat in that guy’s church 21 years later, 3000 people. That guy never even went to seminary. And they’ve planted ten other churches. And I saw that story repeated every time I went to Ethiopia, I would hear about this.
Three or four times ago I went to Ethiopia. I met a man who was a Muslim sheikh in a village, the most devout Muslim. Again, he hears a voice, he goes to a church. They give him the gospel. He comes to Christ. He loses everything – his family, his land, his status, every penny that he owns. He starts traveling over Ethiopia, and he said you want to meet my key guys? I said yeah, I want to meet your key guys. And we go in this little room and here are five other Muslim sheikhs who he had led to Jesus Christ who have now all planted churches. And this is the story of the world outside America.
And so, I started asking myself what are we supposed to make of that? Do we have different rules for America as opposed to the rest of the world? So, I want to share some discoveries. I don’t have an agenda this morning, I’m just sharing. And you can do with it what you like. But I want to share some things that I was told that I’ve spent a lot of years kind of studying myself, because that sometimes you find out it’s not always exactly like what you were told. For instance, I was taught that the subject of miracles, signs, and wonders is not a major theme of the Bible. It’s kind of a peripheral theme of the Bible. But when you read the Bible, there are at least 150 direct miracles in the Bible. And I’m not just talking about God speaking to someone, that’s a miracle too.
I mean where God suspends the laws of nature, turns the earth’s axis backwards and makes day into night, and makes it rain fire, and all these miracles, 150. About half of them in the Old Testament, about half of them in the New Testament. Of the 70 or so miracles in the New Testament, about half of them are in the life of Christ, about half of them are through the apostles. So, when you take the whole thing together from Genesis to Revelation, the whole Bible includes a lot about the miraculous. Jesus said in John 14:12,
“Truly, truly I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”
And I remember a few months ago sitting on the beach and just talking to the Lord, and I said God I want my ministry to be like Jesus. You know in America we have to choose, right? We get a T-shirt. I get the John Piper T-shirt, or the Bill Johnson T-shirt, or whatever the flavor of the day is. And that’s what I got. I want to be like John. I want to be like Bill.
And I was just sitting on the beach, and I said, I just want to be like Jesus. So, I started reading the book of Matthew, and I won’t relate that whole conversation, it would take a long time, but I notice you get to Matthew 7 and it’s the end of the Sermon on the Mount, right? If you start looking at the section headings in Matthew 8 through about chapter 20, you know what they are? Jesus heals a blind man. Jesus heals a deaf man. Jesus casts out demons. The vast majority of the book of Matthew is about Jesus’ works. And I started asking myself, if I want to be like Jesus, what about that way? Can I be like Jesus in every way except that part?
I was also taught that miracles signs and wonders faded away after New Testament times. And I was taught that so confidently and with so much authority. But when I look back, and again I still love and respect people who teach that. But you know I never really checked it out.
And in one of the definitive works that teaches that position, they actually quote two people to prove that. And one of the two, they go back to the early church, they see the writings of the early church. There are only two people, and actually one of the ones that they quote is a man named Augustine. How many of you have heard of Augustine? He was a big guy. And at one point early in Augustine’s life he wrote something like, I think the miraculous signs have ceased.
But by the end of Augustine’s life when he wrote his greatest work the City of God, he actually included many records of many miracles that he had seen. And at the end of that work he writes this, “I am so pressed by the promise of finishing this work that I cannot record all the miracles. I know. Let me give you a few more. These are some of my favorites. This is not exhaustive.
Irenaeus who lived from 125 to 200 which is within 30 years of the death of John the Apostle.
“In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the church who possess prophetic gifts and through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages. Yes, moreover as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years.”
Tertullian a little bit later, ”
For seeing that we acknowledge the spiritual gifts … and heaven knows how many … people have been cured of their sicknesses. God everywhere manifests signs of his own power to his own people for their comfort, to strangers for a testimony unto them.”
Novation, a little bit later,
“The Holy Spirit gives powers and healings, does wonderful works, and arranges whatever gifts there are of the charismata.”
Origen, a little bit, well, going back a little bit,
“Some give evidence of their having received through this faith a marvelous power by the cures which they perform.”
One more. Cyprian of Carthage.
“In Christianity there is conferred the gift of healing the sick by rendering poisonous potions harmless, by restoring the deranged to health, and thus purifying them from ignominious pains, by commanding peace for the hostile, rest for the violent, and gentleness for the unruly.”
In fact, it is almost impossible to read any church father that does not mention the occurrence of signs and wonders. But then I was taught that miracles, signs, and wonders have usually been confined to fringe elements of Christianity. There are always those crazy people or enthusiastic people like Allan. And so, you know there have always been the people that are a little bit loose, you know they do that stuff, but not our people, right? Our people don’t, they don’t get crazy like that, right?
Well guess again. Let’s start with John Wesley, a hero of the faith.
“I do not recollect any Scripture wherein we are taught that miracles were to be confined within the limits of the Apostol Age.”
Now sit with that for a minute. He goes on to say,
“The grand reason why the miraculous gifts were so soon withdrawn was dry, formal, orthodox men began even then to ridicule whatever gifts they had not themselves, and to decry them all as either madness or imposture.”
During the first great awakening,
“People dropped on every side as thunderstruck as they fell to the ground, others with convulsions exceeding all description, and many reported seeing visions. Some shook like a cloth in the wind, others fell down with involuntary laughter.”
Jonathan Edwards who is one of my heroes, even though he was flawed in some ways. Jonathan Edwards writes,
“Many young people appeared to be overcome so that the whole room was full of nothing but outcries for some hours. There were instances of persons lying in a sort of trance, remaining for perhaps a whole twenty-four hours motionless, and with their senses locked up; but in the meantime, under strong imagination, as though they went to heaven, and had a vision of glorious and delightful objects.”
During Jonathan Edwards’ time almost every single preacher he knew opposed him, which was kind of weird, because now I see all these reformed people with t-shirts like “Jonathan Edwards is my homeboy.” But he wasn’t anyone’s homeboy back then because people were critiquing him, criticizing him and actually telling him, you need to stop this. And it was in response to that that Jonathan Edwards wrote a very lengthy book which you can get on the Internet, you can get it in the PDF “A faithful narrative of the surprising work of God in revival in which he details hundreds of instances of miraculous occurrences in the revivals that we now celebrate as the Second Great Awakening.
George Whitefield who is another hero especially of reformed people, was a very close friend of John Wesley. There was this time that George Whitefield actually went to talk to John Wesley to tell him to stop because during Wesley’s preaching a lot of people were passing out, falling over the kind of stuff you see on TV now and say you don’t like that. But it was happening during Wesley’s preaching and George Whitefield went to Wesley and said, brother you need to cut this stuff out.
The next day Whitefield was scheduled to preach, and while he was preaching people all over the room fell over. And Wesley then said to Whitefield, this is a quote,
“I trust we shall all suffer God to carry on his own work in the way that pleases him.”
There are so many of these, I have hundreds of these. But let me close this section with a guy named Martin Lloyd-Jones. Martin Lloyd-Jones is another hero of mine. He was a doctor who became a preacher, a great writer, his commentaries are just amazing. Martin Lloyd-Jones was anything but an enthusiast. But he says,
“Always in a revival there is what some call divine disorder.”
Now note the word always. For him, that’s a strong word. Always. Always. This is a man who was an ardent student of church history. And his conclusion was, this always happens. And he goes on to conclude his book on this topic by saying,
“Why should the Devil suddenly start doing this kind of thing? The very result of revival completely excludes the possibility of this being the action of the Devil. If this is the work of the Devil, well then, the Devil is an unutterable fool. He is dividing his own kingdom; he is increasing the kingdom of God. There is nothing so ridiculous as the suggestion that this is the work of the Devil.
That’s strong. But in case you’re not, I don’t know, I’m not trying to convince anyone, just reporting what I’ve found. But I do feel like I have to bring in the big gun, Charles Spurgeon because in Greenville church world that’s the next thing after the Bible. So here you go. This is straight from his mouth or his pen to my mouth to your ear.
“When people hear about what God used to do, one of the things they say is, ‘Oh that was a very long time ago.’” [You ever heard that?] “They imagine the times have altered since then. Things were in a different state then from what they are now. Has God changed?
Is he not… the same yesterday to-day and forever? Nay, I think I may push it a little further, and say what he has done once is a prophecy of what he intends to do again – that the mighty works which have been accomplished in the olden time shall all be repeated….
Others among you say, ‘Oh well, I look upon these things as great… miracles. We are not to expect them every day.’ That is the very reason why we do not get them. If we had learnt to expect them, we should no doubt obtain them, but we put them up on the shelf as being out of the common order of our moderate religion, as being mere curiosities of Scripture history.
We cannot imagine them to be according to the ordinary working of his mighty power. Let us take the blame of it ourselves, and with earnestness seek that God would restore to us the faith of the men of old, that we may richly enjoy his grace as in the days of old.”
So where did this idea, this teaching, this philosophy, this mindset come that miracles have ceased? Well if you guys want to stay after for lunch, I’ll give you a two-hour lecture about that. It’s really actually very interesting, and it’s very understandable.
If you go all the way back to the time of the Protestant Reformation, there was just some crazy unhinged stuff going on. People were showing up saying, hey God told me that we don’t have to obey the Bible anymore. God told me that we don’t have to do this, or we have to this, or there are cows on the moon and they talk English. And so, it was just crazy town. And so, a lot of the reformers as a response to that said, look we’ve got to put some kind of limitation on this thing. So, we’re basically just going to say unless it comes out of chapter and verse, we’re not accepting it. And it’s very understandable.
So, Calvin who was kind of like the key theologian of reformed theology (and if you don’t know what that is, don’t worry about it, just a big old dead guy), he put into writing this position that miracles don’t happen anymore. If you fast forward to the days of Charles Finney at the end of the 1800’s when dispensation, wisdom which is another theological framework started to grow, the same kind of stuff was going on.
And I’m not saying that they did it as a reaction, but again dispensationalism kind of decided that was another dispensation, that doesn’t happen today. So, the idea that miracles have ceased is maybe one of the only things that Calvinists and dispensationalists agree on. But there’s nothing in this book, nothing, nothing. if you were on a desert island, and a Bible washed up on the shore, you would never conclude that miracles had ceased.
You would never conclude that God intended Christianity to be nothing but a rational or intellectual religion. You would conclude quite the opposite. Think about Elijah’s story. We don’t have to choose between word and Spirit. In Elijah’s story in verse 17 it says,
“He stretched himself out on the child… he cried to the Lord, ‘O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.’ and the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child returned, and he revived.”
That’s a wonder right there! That’s a wonder. That’s awesome. But look at the next verse.
“And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, ‘See, your son lives.’ And the woman said to Elijah,
‘Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.’”
See the wonder and the word are not two separate things. They are connected. God used the wonder to confirm the word, and he used the word to explain the wonder. If you go to the life and ministry of Christ, you see this. It’s always connected, words and wonders. There are so many verses about this. Paul described the life of Jesus, or Peter.
“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil for God was with him.”
And the same Jesus said, these works that I’m doing, you’re going to do. And he commissioned his followers in the New Testament, not just the Apostles, the twelve, the seventy, the 120, he put his authority and power on them, and they went out and did exactly the things that he did. In his first sermon in Luke 4, Jesus said,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim” [proclaim, that’s words] “the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind.”
That’s wonders. Jesus doesn’t separate this into two baskets and tell us to choose. When you come to the Book of Acts, how do we get from point A to Point B? How did you start the book of Acts? Think about this. All the Christians in the whole world could have sat in that section right there easily in the whole world. But by the end of the Book of Acts there are churches all over the known world.
How did that happen?
Well we read verses like we see in Acts 6:7,
“And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly.”
It happened because of the word, didn’t it? It happened because of the preaching of the word. But look at the next verse.
“And Stephen full of grace and power was doing great wonders and signs among the people.”
See they’re never far apart.
I was at a conference about a month ago with real wordy people, more than us. Real wordy people. At this conference they were they were actually going through the Book of Acts. Somebody was talking about all these passages in Acts where it talks about how the word of God multiplied. They were really excited about that, and I’m excited about that. There are about maybe six of these passages where it says the word of God multiplied. And as they were reading through all those passages I notice that in every single one of those passages without failure, every single one, within two or three verses it talks about wonders. But it’s interesting when they read those passages they never read the read the verses about wonders.
So, I’m just asking people, why is there half of Christianity that when they read the book of Acts they wear these glasses that the only thing they want to talk about is the wonders and the other half of Christianity that reads the Book of Acts as though those verses aren’t even there.
At what point did God tell us you’ve got to choose?So why is it that this is such a tough subject for us? It’s real quiet in here, in case you didn’t notice. I know why this is hard. It’s because of Aunt Lois.
You see, I had an aunt named Aunt Lois. I’ve told you before my family is pretty crazy. But of all my crazy family, there’s never been one crazier than my aunt Lois. Aunt Lois is with Jesus now, I do not have the least doubt. Aunt Lois loved God as much as any person I’ve ever met. And Aunt Lois would not walk past a person and not witness to them if she possibly could. But Aunt Lois was a little crazy, and she was really into the signs and wonders thing.
And I remember that I had also a grandma. She was the one person in my family that wasn’t crazy. My Grandma Ruby is the closest thing to a living saint that I have ever met. I am standing here today probably as much as everything else put together because of my Grandma Ruby. My Grandma Ruby was about 80 years old, and she was dying. She was dying a pretty peaceful death. She was ready to go be with the Lord, she wanted to go be with the Lord. You know the family; my crazy family would be coming in and out of the hospital room. Whenever Aunt Lois came in, if any of us said anything like, grandma’s dying, she would rebuke us, she would tell us “your confession is killing her.” Aunt Lois actually wrote I think it was hundreds of little post-it notes –
Ruby Holder will not die. Ruby Holder will live.
And she put them all over the room.
And you know, my grandma I asked, I tried to talk to her about, do you just think people never die? How does this work. She couldn’t really explain it. But after all that stuff that I experienced at the end of the Jesus movement, people being healed, drug addicts just getting saved, not going through any rehab, just boom. They were done. It was just like all the time. One Aunt Lois set me off all that, and for many years I was just like, man I don’t know what to think about all of this, but I know I don’t want to be like Aunt Lois. And probably almost everyone in this room knows an Aunt Lois or maybe you imagine an Aunt Lois, or you’ve met an Aunt Lois, or you saw one on TV.
And you think, you know it’s probably best if we just stay completely away from that. Well how many of you have ever heard a really horrible sermon. You all have. Maybe it’s this one. Did that turn you off sermons. How many of you have heard flaming heresy, ludicrous, crazy, rambling, boring, dead, aberrant, nutso preaching?
You all have. But it didn’t turn you off preaching somehow. So why is it when we see excesses of some other aspect of what is clearly from Genesis to Revelation the Bible, we think that God’s remedy is to just get rid of it.
At North Hills this book is the bedrock of everything we do, and it always will be. This is not a sensational church, in case you didn’t notice. We’re probably one of the least sensational churches in this city. We don’t run around after fads. We’re not trying to go charismatic or go Pentecostal. We’re trying to go Bible and when I read my Bible it includes a lot of words and it also includes a lot of wonders.
So, what do we do with that. This book is a book of miracles. Every time a person is saved, it’s a miracle. I am a miracle. You don’t know what a miracle I am. Why is it that it’s so easy for us to believe that in a moment God takes all of your sins and removes them, and you can’t see that? Why is it so easy for us to believe that there’s a place that we’ve never seen a dimension that we’ve never known that you die, and there’s actually a whole other realm of existence in which you live forever. Are you kidding me? But that’s not hard to believe.
But the idea that God would interrupt the flow of our rational technical mechanistic lives and actually change the course of history is crazy town. Where did that come from? So maybe our love for the rationality of our faith has tempted us to settle for a merely intellectual faith maybe our expectation of what God does is that you have problems, I have problems, we have all these problems. And we come and listen to a lecture and try and pick out one or two ideas that we can somehow apply to our problems, and that’s the sum total of what it means to be a Christian. But that’s like going to the Moose Lodge. That’s like going to college.
Our faith is in its essence a miraculous faith. So, if we go back to the story of Elijah, this is where I want us to finish. There’s so much. If you take this whole chapter, really what is this chapter all about? It’s not really about the words, although there are lots of words. It’s not really about the wonders. It’s about obedience.
God tells Elijah, “Elijah, go out to the middle of nowhere, I’m going to feed you with bird drones,” and what does he do? He goes. God says, “Elijah, the river is drying up. Go into a city in your enemy territory.” And it says in verse 10, “So he arose and went.” And as he went, he says to the woman, bring me some water. What does she do? She brings water. He says bring me that last muffin.
What does she do? She brings it. Is that rational? Is that rational. It’s not rational. But she does what the prophet, what God tells her to do.
And when you have a woman and a man that no matter what God calls them to do, they’re not analyzing it, they’re not overthinking it, they’re not waiting for the perfect moment when it is comfortable for me. They are responding with radical obedience. When you have that kind of context, then Elijah lifts his voice to God and God responds.
I’m not saying God obeyed Elijah because God is God and we’re not. But I am saying in this whole realm of seeing the power of God, we have a responsibility. You know one of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Thomas. Remember Thomas? He got that stunning nickname. I’m the doubting guy. And all the disciples, all of them, I think all of them except for Thomas had seen Jesus, 10 out of 10. On all these disciples they told the story, “Hey Thomas we saw Jesus. He was real. We touched him. We ate with him. He talked to us.”
Remember Thomas? Okay. You’re not taking me in. You’re not putting one over on me, boys. Unless I put my hand, my finger into the nail hole, unless I put my hand in his side. I’m not a fool. He’s real proud of his skepticism. He defined himself as the guy that wasn’t going to be taken in by the miraculous. And he’s been forever defined as Doubting Thomas.
You remember Jesus came into the room and said, “Thomas, go ahead. Put your finger here. Go ahead. Put your hand in my side.” Then he makes a statement. Do not be faithless but believing.” Now was Jesus saying, Thomas just be gullible, just believe anything you hear.
If anybody says anything, you just accept it. Is that what he was saying? No. But he’s saying, Thomas, I’m not looking for a group of people that are going to define themselves, that they’re suspicious about everything that they hear that doesn’t fit into the little box of their expectations.
Because Jesus said unless you become like a little child, you will no wise enter into the kingdom. And everyone in this room who has been saved, every single one of you, became like a little child when you believed that by asking a God you could not see to do a work you could not see meant that all of your sins were taken away.
You had to become like a little child to believe that. And every one of you who actually believe that there is this dimension somewhere where you’re going to actually live forever, which is contrary to every law that rules every interaction that we see around us. You all believe that.
So where do we go from here? Well we go here. We go to the Word of God and we say, God I just want to believe what you want me to believe. We’re not going to be a people that’s defined by a jersey or a club or a theology or an ism or a movement or a preacher. We’re going to be a people who are defined by this book, whatever it says.
And so, I want to invite you, (This is a lot.) and I want to invite you if you want to talk further about this, here’s my email address. I want to ask you to do me a big favor and not…. If you don’t have it, I’ll tell you. I want to ask you a big favor, please don’t write Peter. I did talk to Peter about this before he left. I said Peter, do you want me to talk about just the moral lessons of Elijah or do you want me talk about like what actually happened, the miracles? He said yeah, talk about the miracles. Absolutely. I’m leaving the country.
I said, what if we have a demonstration and raise someone from the dead? He said, knock yourself out. I’ll be in Bangladesh. So. I just would like to ask you number 1, if you’re struggling with this or if you’re thinking, well what about this? Would you please write me? Would you please not just leave?
That’s so Greenville. If you want to argue with me, argue with me. But as brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s sit down around the Word of God, and let’s figure it out. Secondly if you have experienced healing [I meant to say earlier on that list of does this happen today? I’ve experienced four of those things in a very powerful way in my life, one of them just two days ago in my own household. So, I, you know what I can say. You can’t believe it because I say it. But if you have experienced that, I’d love to hear your testimonies about that.
Whatever questions you have, I’d love to start a conversation with you. But let’s just not live in fear. Please. And let’s not define ourselves by what we’re not. Please. Let’s define ourselves by what we are. We are God’s miracle forever people who are seated with Jesus Christ at the right hand of God. And this morning… You know tonight we’re going to pray over our missionaries to China. Believe me, they’re hoping against hope that God still does miracles, or they wouldn’t be going back to China. And maybe you’re here this morning, and you need a miracle, and you’ve given up. You need a miracle in your marriage. You need a miracle in your physical health. You need a miracle in your career. I would love to pray with you. I’m not a miracle worker, but I know One. A I would love to pray with you. So okay? Let’s pray.
Father, thank you so much that your Word is truth. And God you have not called us to live in fear and reaction, but God you have called us to live in full confidence in the Word of God. And so, God we go forward knowing God that you are the God for whom nothing is impossible, the God who is the same yesterday, today and forever, the God who is still raising the dead, both spiritually and literally, the God who is still opening blind eyes, multiplying food, healing marriages, curing addictions.
God, you are the God not only of glorious words but glorious wonders. And God we love you so much. And God we will follow you wherever you lead us, without fear.
So, thank you in Jesus’ name. Amen.