We Don’t Need Miracles to Experience God’s Power & Goodness (HC LD 10, QA 27-28)

Multitudes of people in America and across the world lust for miracles. They badly want to see God’s power manifested in poignant and astonishing ways. So many excitedly flock to notables like Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Todd White, Todd Bentley, and Bill Johnson. Sometimes the lust for miracles is so strong people reject God’s sovereignty, providence, and gracious provision in hardship and rely on miracles for hope, comfort, and blessing.

Several years ago, a little girl from Bethel Church tragically died. It was heartbreaking. Bethel prayed for days for God to work a miracle and raise the girl from the dead. They refused to embrace God’s providence by faith, so they looked for a miracle. In her understandable pain and sorrow, the girl’s mother went so far as to say:

We are asking for bold, unified prayers from the global church to stand with us in belief that He will raise this little girl back to life . . . Her time here is not done, and it is our time to believe boldly, and with confidence wield what King Jesus paid for. [1]

Did the God who has our days numbered make a mistake (Job 14:5)? Did the God who gives and takes away miscalculate someone’s days (Job 1:21)? Are we at liberty to say, “No, their time was not done!” Does the absence of miracles mean God is disinterested or deaf? We may feel the answer is yes, but the clear answer is no. A lust for miracles distracts people from the comfort, assurance, peace, and goodness of God’s providence. God is truly upholding and governing all things and actively working all things for the good of His people (Heb. 1:3; Rom. 8:28), and this is a tremendous comfort. Many spiritual people are bewitched by miracles to the point they do not see God’s divine power, goodness, mercy, grace, and kindness every day in His acts of providence, nor are they comforted by His providence. More than we need God to perform a miracle, we need God to open our eyes to His divine and active providence all around us.  

On various occasions, people wanted Jesus to perform miracles on demand to test him, and Jesus responded the same way: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign” (Matt. 12:29; 16:4; Lk. 11:29). One time Jesus “sighed deeply in his spirit and said, ‘Why does this generation seek a sign’” (Mk. 8:11-13)? Their lack of faith upset Jesus.  

The New Testament uses several words for miraculous events: miracles, signs, wonders, and mighty works. They’re all astonishing displays of power performed by a person. In Acts 8:13, Simon the Magician saw “signs and great miracles performed” and “was amazed.” The earth revolving around the sun is God’s omnipotent providence; miracles, signs, and wonders are God’s omnipotence performed through and by someone and observed by others. Acts 2:43 says, “And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.” God’s almighty power was working and revealed through the Apostles’ miracles. In Acts 3, Peter (and John) healed a lame beggar. That was God’s almighty power working through Peter. That was a miracle. But I’ve had pneumonia two times and was healed two times. I was not healed by a miracle – God did not do an astonishing work through a person – but God healed me nonetheless by His almighty providence. I’ve never experienced a miracle, but I have experienced God’s divine power, grace, mercy, love, and care through His providence. I can’t count the ways God has loved me through providence. Lust for miracles would only blind me to my Father’s providential love and care and set me up for discontentment, disappointment, doubt, and despair.

Friends, miracles differ from providence. We may say that a baby’s birth is a miracle. We would be right if by “miracle” we mean “a general act of God’s divine power acting through natural processes.” But there’s a much better word for a baby’s birth (and other wonderful natural processes) than “miracle.” More precisely, more helpfully, a baby’s birth is not a miracle, it is a wonderful act of God’s divine and powerful providence. Jesus healing a blind man is a miracle. Peter healing a lame man is a miracle. Sick people being healed because they simply touched Paul’s handkerchiefs were miracles (Acts 19:11–12). Getting healed from cancer in an unexplainable way or even by means of chemotherapy is not a miracle, but it is God’s compassionate and divine providence working for the good of His people. It’s important to realize that saying something unexplainable is not a miracle is not necessarily saying God’s divine power was not at work. Labeling something God’s providence instead of miracle is still to laud God’s almighty power, love, and care. We would do well to look less for miracles and more for God’s providence.

Miracles sound sexy, unique, and exclusive. People like to claim miracles. Providence probably sounds too academic or theological or mundane for people. But, dear friends, providence is a marvelous term. I think people get so enthralled with miracles that they overlook God’s power and goodness in everyday life, in daily providence, in His sustaining and loving care of them. Perhaps people are more superstitious than they are filled with true faith.  

Heidelberg 27 asks, “What do you understand by the providence of God?” It answers:

God’s providence is His almighty and ever-present power, whereby, as with His hand, He still upholds heaven and earth and all creatures and so governs them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things come not by chance but by His fatherly hand.

Right now, God is upholding and governing you and the entire universe by His omnipotent power. This is His love and care for you. The signs of new growth in the spring are not miracles, but they are God’s divine providence. See it and rejoice in God’s omnipotence. The April showers that bring May flowers are not miracles, but they are God’s glorious providence. And you know what? Your hardships are also God’s providence. He is working for your good in them. This is comforting, reassuring, even life-giving, and strengthening. God is active and involved in your life in marvelous ways, and you don’t need miracles to see and experience His grace and power. You simply need to open your eyes to perceive with faith your God’s power and goodness in your life. Atheists see natural processes at work apart from God and refuse to praise God; Christians see God at work through natural processes and praise God with grateful hearts. Natural processes are no less God’s kind provision than miracles were His kind provision to the diseased, demon-possessed, and deaf.  

I think the lust for miracles leads people to assume miracles help people believe the gospel. Miracles authenticated Jesus as the Christ, authenticated his identity and divine nature and power, but they never caused anyone to believe the gospel. Only God’s sovereign Holy Spirit acting and working through the gospel can save someone’s soul. Read the book of John. You’ll see how ineffective miracles were to save people. Miracles have never granted people faith; only God has. Friends, the gospel preached is the power of God for salvation, not miracles. Consider John 12:37-40 which says:

Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”

Seeing and believing in miracles never saved anyone. Hearing and believing the gospel preached by Jesus and the Apostles’ who performed miracles saved lots of people. Consider the religious leaders who knew Jesus rose from the dead but still didn’t believe in him (Matt. 28:1-15). Do miracles serve us in a way that God’s providence doesn’t?

Dear ones, miracles would not really increase our faith if God’s providence doesn’t increase our faith. By His divine providence and goodness, God has provided you and me with powerful means to increase our faith – the Word, sacraments, and prayer in the context of the community of faith at our local church. Let us believe the gospel so that we can see the power and goodness of God in His almighty providence.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2019/12/19/after-toddlers-death-church-has-tried-days-resurrect-her-with-prayer/. Italics mine.

Quotes from the Heidelberg Catechism are taken from Zacharias Ursinus & Jonathan Shirk, The Heidelberg Catechism (Manheim: Small Town Theologian, 2021).

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

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Jonathan Shirk

Welcome to the online home of Jonathan Shirk, family man, Reformed pastor, author, podcaster, and small town theologian. Whether you're from a small town or big city, may this website help you find deeper comfort and joy in the gospel.

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