“Why do we see so few genuine miracles in our day?” Have you ever asked this question? I certainly have. We see a lot of hype, psychological manifestations and pseudo-miracles, but my heart aches for the real and the holy. It’s not that God has decided not to ‘do miracles’ anymore so the problem isn’t His. Could it be ours?
It is not only the scarcity of miracles that concerns me, it is also the disconnect between how we live and what we observe in the lives of the early disciples. Those men and women who made up the first century church were passionate about Jesus and powerful in the way they ministered in His name. When they prayed with one heart and mind the place they were in shook (Acts 4:31). When Peter’s shadow fell on the sick they were healed (Acts 5:15). They were devoted to God and to each other (Acts 2:42-47). When they preached they did not call for a ‘while all heads are bowed’ secret response to the Gospel. Instead they proclaimed boldly, “Repent then, and turn to God” (Acts 3:19). They were different to people around them and different to most believers today.
In 2005 George Barna conducted a survey among United States Christians. Among other things, he ascertained that:
- The typical churched believer will die without leading a single person to a lifesaving knowledge of, and relationship with, Jesus Christ.
- Churched Christians give away an average of about 3% of their income in a typical year, and feel pleased at their ‘sacrificial’ generosity.
- The likelihood of a married couple who are born-again churchgoers getting divorced is the same as couples who are not disciples of Jesus.
So the terrible reality seems to be that most of us are no different to unsaved people. I guess if we want to minister miraculously as Jesus did we need to live as He did – differently. If we want to experience what the early disciples experienced then we need to be like them.
These observations have troubled me deeply for several years and so I set out to try to identify the root causes of my dilemma. Of course it is a hopeless quest to try to simplify such a complex issue and to reduce it to a set of prescriptions. However, my main findings are as follows:
Most of us have an essentially materialistic mindset. We need to realise that the Kingdom of God is shifted 180o to the kingdom of this world (John 18:36). What is more, it is the worldly kingdom that is up side down, not the Kingdom of God. Problems occur when we still live as if the world is the right way up; as though it were the same as the Kingdom of God. To act differently we need to first think differently. I believe that as we start to see the world as it really is, from a spiritual perspective, we will begin to speak and act as the early disciples did.
We also have a terrible misconception of who we are. Most disciples of the Lord Jesus see themselves primarily as servants, even slaves. Our favourite prayer is “Lord, please use me”. Yet the New Testament revelation is that we are sons and daughters of the Most High God. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1). The wonderful passage in Galatians (3:26 to 4:7) that sets out our true status ends with the words, “so you are no longer a slave, but a son.’ Of course we serve, as bond-slaves, but service defines what we do, not who we are. We are sons and daughters who serve. There is a profound difference between a son and a slave mentality. A slave defines who he is in terms of what he does. A son determines what he does because of who he is.
Perhaps the underlying reason we are generally so passionless and powerless is that we have failed to realise just who we really are. Consider some of the implications of sonship:
- The privilege of prayer, both personal and corporate.
- The prerogative of revelation.
- The potential for empowerment.
- The response of service.
- The catalyst of revival.
That’s what I want! What about you?
My third major finding was that so many of us seem to have become confused concerning the nature of prayer, the stewardship of spiritual power, and the need to proclaim in word and ministry – prayer, power, and proclamation.
Regarding prayer, we have largely reduced what is meant to be intimate communion with God into stylised categories such as petition, intercession, and so on. When did prayer stop being simple heartfelt communication, and start becoming a series of formulas?
We also seem to have confused prayer with proclamation. For instance, some folk address demons, and even the devil, as part of a ‘prayer’ meeting. Others deliver mini sermons to others in the group over God’s shoulder. Do you know what I mean? “Dear Lord, let us….” Or even as blatant as lecturing others and then adding “and so Lord, help us to….” We also routinely pray for the sick when Jesus actually instructed us to heal the sick. Have you noticed that Jesus never prayed for people who needed His ministry? None of the accounts of Jesus casting out demons or healing, record Him as praying for the afflicted person. He simply instructed, proclaimed, declared, and imparted healing and life.
Regarding power, a lot of people either effectively deny that God still imparts ‘power from on high’, or limit it to an initial, once off, ‘baptism in the Spirit’ experience. Yet surely one of God’s responses to our prayers is to empower us so that we can grow up as His children to be and do as Jesus did. And that is what we can experience!
Finally, having prayed and received power from on high, we need to proclaim in word and deed – we need to speak and do in the power of the Holy Spirit and under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, perhaps as we restore the dynamic unity of prayer, power, and proclamation we will live our lives in Christ more as the early disciples did and experience more of the miraculous Kingdom of God..