Are miracles of God possible?
Are miracles of God possible? Many people in our society are skeptical. In this age of science, can we believe that God can really break into this physical world and supersede the laws of nature? And if so, why would he want to? Many also ask: “If miracles are possible, then why doesn’t God do them for me?”
By logic, only a sovereign transcendent Creator can supersede nature because if such a God created the universe, he then controls it. The Bible records many such acts in which God suspends his own natural laws. Of course, many people don’t believe the Bible or believe in God at all. But if these accounts are true, they demonstrate not only God’s existence, but many of his attributes: that he is sovereign, all-powerful, and all-knowing.
Some people use the popular meaning of the word miracle as in: “The birth of a baby is a miracle.” Certainly, a baby’s birth is a wondrous and awe-inspiring event. I have seen a number of them, and I can testify that they are wondrous! And that’s fine if that is how people want to use the word. And there are also those who believe that miracles permeate everyday life. But if miracles are commonplace and everything is a miracle, then the word quickly loses its meaning. Of course, everything that God does is wondrous—his creation is awe-inspiring and makes him worthy of worship. But these all work within the laws of nature.
Miracles and the laws of nature
In this post, I will define a miracle as an act of God that supersedes natural laws. A miracle by this definition is only something that God can do. It must from a human view be out of the ordinary, and not something we would expect. According to C.S. Lewis, if we believe in miracles, we must also believe in the laws of nature.
If a man had no conception of a regular order in Nature, then of course he could not notice departures from that order…. Nothing is wonderful except the abnormal and nothing is abnormal until we have grasped the normal. (C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, Miracles chapter)
The laws of nature govern events and actions within the universe, unless something from outside the universe interferes. If God is sovereign—and Christians believe that he is—then he can break through and interfere with nature as he pleases.
… if there was anything from outside Nature, and if it interfered — then the events which the scientist expected wouldn’t follow. That would be what we call a miracle. In one sense it wouldn’t break the laws of Nature. The laws tell you what would happen if nothing interferes. They can’t tell you whether something is going to interfere. (C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, Religion and Science chapter)
Beliefs about the supernatural
Materialism or naturalism is the belief that there are no forces or intelligence beyond the physical world. To the materialist, the supernatural doesn’t exist. It’s a popular creed among many in the sciences and most atheists. These folks commonly believe that stories of miracles are fabricated by the uneducated who don’t understand science. They are sometimes right, since no doubt many stories of the miraculous are in fact fabricated. But this doesn’t prove their claim that true miracles are not possible at all.
There are others who believe in the supernatural apart from the actions of any sovereign God. Included in this group are “New Agers” who believe healing spiritual power can be accessed through channeling or crystals, those who practice magic, and those who believe in extra sensory perception.
There are also people who believe in miracles associated with certain religious shrines, statues, and physical locations. This is a modified form of animism, wherein supernatural powers or “gods” inhabit physical objects or places. People of many cultures believe this in one form or another. Animism, as well as the other beliefs discussed above, conflict directly with faith in one sovereign Creator God.
Most people who believe in one God believe him to be personal and intelligent, and that he created a world governed by natural laws. Most monotheists believe that God is all-powerful and all-knowing and can interfere with the physical universe. Christians in particular believe that God can personally communicate with people to answer prayers or communicate to teach a lesson or convey an idea or perform miracles to display his power.
The miracles of Jesus
According to the Bible, Jesus performed many miracles during his three-year ministry. These were attested to by many witnesses and confirmed in four separate accounts. Jesus:
- Turned water into wine (John 2:1-11)
- Healed the sick and crippled (Luke 13: 10-13, Mark 1:40-42, 2:1-5)
- Cast evil demons out of people (Luke 4:31-37, 8:26-33)
- Told people details of their personal lives (John 4:16-18)
- Arranged for his disciples to catch a great number of fish (Luke 5:4-7)
- Opened the eyes of the blind (John 9-1-12, Luke 18:35-43)
- Calmed the sea (Mark 4:35-41)
- Walked on water (Matthew 14:22-27)
- Multiplied food for people to eat (John 6:1-13)
- Raised dead people to life (John 11:1-44, Luke 7:11-17, Luke 8:48-56)
Why did Jesus perform miracles?
Why did Jesus perform miracles? To show off his power? To entertain people? No, according to the Bible they were for specific spiritual reasons:
- He loved people and had compassion on those in need. (Luke 7:12-15)
- To fulfill the Scriptures (God’s word spoken through the prophets). (Isaiah 35:5-6, Matthew 11:2-6)
- To show God’s power and glory to lead people to worship and faith in God. (John 11:4)
- To demonstrate that he is the Son of God and was sent from God. (John 11:4, John 20:30-31)
God’s sovereign actions: signs and wonders
Some people are enamored with the supernatural and drawn to anything miraculous. But this kind of focus can divert people from the truth. False miracle stories can also invite ridicule from unbelievers, discredit the gospel, and discourage people from seeking God.
God does not give miracles to just amaze and entertain us. In the Bible miracles of God are commonly described as “signs and wonders.” A wonder inspires worship, allowing us to see something only God can do. Signs get our attention and display important messages. A store sign shows a store’s name and location. Road signs show important conditions, features, dangers in the road, or where to turn off to get to our destination. True miracles of God get our attention, proclaim God’s power and sovereignty, inspire worship, and point us to Jesus Christ.
Christians believe that God is sovereign and works all events toward an ultimate goal. C.S. Lewis wrote:
…but the true miracles express not simply a god, but God: that which is outside Nature, not as a foreigner, but as her sovereign. They announce not merely that a king has visited our town, but that it is the King, our King. (C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, Miracles chapter)
Answers to prayer
Answers to prayer are by definition miracles of God. When God answers a prayer, it shows his sovereignty and ability to control the created world. It also proves he can communicate on a personal and intelligent level and is not just an impersonal force.
There are countless commands in Scripture to pray, and just as many promises that God will answer if we do pray. If God is real and if he is good, and if he wants us to know and serve him, then it’s logical that he would prove his existence and his care for us by answering our prayers. Many people come to faith in Christ through an answered prayer. We can’t demand that God do our bidding and perform any miracle that we would desire. But I believe God will show his miraculous power by answering the legitimate prayers of anyone who seeks him with a sincere heart.
I am by nature a skeptic and don’t easily believe reports of miracles. Having a science background, I usually need strong evidence before I believe anything. People can make up stories very easily. But I have also had many answers to prayer throughout the course of my life, some of which cannot be explained by coincidence. One in particular stands out to me.
My personal story
In the 1970’s, after earning a degree in geology, I worked for a geophysical surveying company based out of Tucson. The company sent me to many remote areas around the western U.S. to collect data to aid in finding ore bodies. On one project, a field worker and I spent over a month collecting data over a very large area near Butte, Montana, a city of about 50,000 at that time.
Our work frequently took us onto private land. Because of the large study area, the project sponsor didn’t contact all the affected landowners, so we had to deal with them informally in the field. Toward the end of the project, I was getting very tired and frustrated with the work. Because we sometimes entered property without knowing whose it was, we had several confrontations with landowners who demanded to know what we were doing and who we were working for. One man told us he was about to pull his gun on us.
On our last week, we were to pass on foot through land we knew to be the site of a small active mine. The day before, it was Sunday and I had planned on attending a small Baptist church in Butte. But my thoughts went toward the work I had to do the next day. My blood pressure started to rise as I thought of the possible conflicts we could have with the owners of the mine as we passed through their property. I then gave in to despair and imagined a violent confrontation with the miners. After realizing how unfruitful this was, I prayed to God, that he would calm my heart and take care of this most difficult problem.
Encounter with the miraculous
I drove to church, and as I didn’t want to be noticed, took my seat in the back row. Next to me were two strong and very rough looking men. Their hands were weathered and scarred, obviously from heavy physical labor. Seeing that I was a visitor, they introduced themselves, and I told them who I was and what I was doing in Butte. They took interest in my project, as they were miners. I asked them where their mine was, and when they told me, I was shocked! Their mine was the very same mine that we were to pass by to collect data the next day! When I told them, they were amazed. I asked them if it was OK to pass through their mining property, and they welcomed us with open arms!
One minute I was despairing about having to confront people I had never met and whose land I had to pass through the next day. An hour later after praying, those very people invited me onto their property, and I was sharing Christian fellowship with them. The odds of this happening as a coincidence are next to nil. Obviously, many who hear this story will dismiss it and not believe it, as it didn’t happen to them. But I know it happened, and I was awe-struck for many days after.
God’s attributes revealed
This experience was a great faith-builder for me, and proved to me the many attributes of God that I read about in the Bible:
- God is an intelligent personal Being that can communicate with us.
- He is all-knowing and has complete knowledge of what people think and do.
- God is sovereign and has the ability to direct human events and history.
- He loves us and cares about us and our problems.
- He acts in our interest when we turn to him in faith.
- And finally, it matters to him that we act and relate toward one another in love.
The greatest miracles in history
The two greatest miracles of God in history have special meaning in the Christian faith. They are the central to the gospel message and form the basis for our salvation and our very relationship with God.
The incarnation means that God took on human flesh. God himself entered the physical world, being born as a human baby boy. Suspending the laws of nature, God chose a young woman to bear the child, without an earthly human father. This was not a repeatable event—in fact, it happened only once. And it was a gift to us, a pure expression of his grace. We could now see God—who he is and what he is like—through the life of Jesus. And all the other miracles of Jesus result from this miracle.
The death and resurrection of Jesus were the pinnacle of his ministry, and the ultimate purpose for which he came into the world. Christ died as payment for our sins and to free us from the shame and guilt of sin. He died a real death, and his body was verified as dead by the soldiers. Jesus was buried in a tomb, and his body stayed there for several days. He then rose to life, by his own power as the Son of God.
There are people who have been revived, having come back to life a short time after dying. But no one else has ever overcome death. In writing the gospels, the authors took special pains to include the testimony of various witnesses to support this miracle. The disciples also featured it as central to the gospel message, that Christ rose from death to save us from the power of death. Christ has risen, and so shall those who believe.
Coming to faith in Christ
The Christian gospel—Christ’s coming into the world, his ministry, death, and resurrection—is the story of one great miracle. It is the most unusual string of events that has ever occurred on earth. The Christian faith rests on this story, and apart from it there would be no Christianity. Other religions may claim miracles as part of their message or history, but they are not essential to it.
What do these stories lead to? What is their purpose? They are meant to get our attention, to produce in us awe, wonder, and devotion, and lead us to Christ and a relationship with God through him. Those of us who know him can only fall at his feet in wonder and adoration.
To those who are not sure about all this, it’s my prayer that you will see that God is all powerful and can indeed supersede the laws of nature. If you have a sincere desire to know God and to learn from him, God can indeed answer your prayers. And I also pray that you will see Christ, the incarnation of God, respond to him in faith, and enter into this abundant eternal life he offers to all.
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)
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