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Miracles and faith

I really enjoy reading the miracle accounts in the Bible.

Just as Moses and God parted the Red Sea, I see seas parted whenever God’s people truly obey him.  From the man who just wanted to stay home with his grandchildren to the man who led his people out of centuries of slavery, Moses learned a lot in his lifetime.

When Joshua fought the battle of Jericho at unbelievable odds, God caused the city walls to fall down so they could just walk right in.  How often do we see walls that are so tall we defeat ourselves rather than following God’s prescription for wall wrangling.  There is no wall too tall for God to tear down.

When Jesus healed the centurion’s servant, the faith of the centurion was so great that Jesus did not even have to be there for the miracle to happen!  Now that’s a great moment waiting to happen in someone’s life today.

Peter was one of the more impetuous disciples, so when he saw Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee he jumped out of the boat to run to him.  He was able to walk for a few steps until he took his eyes off Jesus, began to see the angry waves all about him and started to sink.  

Of course, the heart of the miracle is that Jesus was walking confidently on the troubled sea, master of the waves that roll and the winds that blow.  Our trusting in him to do that in today’s storms is a continuation of that miracle.  Like Peter, we may fail and be weak at times, but Jesus is always there to pick us up.

I’m thinking that the miracle of the loaves and fishes, when Jesus took five loaves and two small fish and fed well over 5,000 people, is the one the church has trouble understanding.  Too often we look at the resources in hand and aim too low, when we walk with the one who has unlimited resources.  Jesus can take what we have, just as surely as he did so long ago, and make it into a miracle of grace that will amaze people everywhere.  

Then there is the one about fishing on the other side of the boat.  After fishing all night, the disciples had caught nothing.  Jesus says, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat!”

After some grumbling and hesitation, they obeyed and caught so many fish they had to tow the net to shore for fear it would break.  That directly translates into the work of God’s church today!

Again and again we do the same old thing, hoping to catch fish where there are none.  Jesus calls upon us to do something different at his direction.  He will tell us where and how and when.  All we must do is listen.

Along with tried and true ways of reaching out to the lost, God shows us new ways we never thought of before.  Time and time again, I have found that all we have to do is travel with him, and, at the right moment, he shows us exactly what to do.

The key in this miracle is that there is no preparation or planning.  It happens in the spur of the moment, in the instant of need, which, come to think of it, is when all miracles happen!

Of course we can misuse the miracle idea, and try to call up a miracle for our own shortcomings, but that never works out very well.  

Father O’Malley was driving down to Boston when got stopped for speeding in Medford.  The highway patrol officer smelled alcohol on the priest’s breath and then saw an empty wine bottle on the floor of the car. 

He said, “Father, have you been drinking?”

“Only water,” replied Father O’Malley. 

The policeman asked, “Then how come I can smell wine?”

The priest looked at the bottle and said, “Good Lord! He’s done it again.”

The good part about that story is that the priest is still expecting miracles.  You see, the world operates in the world of normality. Cause and effect. One thing follows another.  A  natural world affected and guided by our own human efforts.

Miracles happen when God wants to show us he is God.  They happen sometimes in moments of need, sometimes in great emergencies.  They always reveal God’s hand in accomplishing his will in humanity.

Jesus’ time on earth begins and ends with a miracle.  From the virgin birth to the resurrection, God was accomplishing the cosmic task of reconciling the world to himself.

If we look at Jesus’ entire ministry as moving from miracle to miracle, we will miss the point.  While there were many miracles in his ministry, and there are many in today’s world, God wants to show us that we must trust in him all the time. 

Trusting when there are no miracles in sight takes much greater faith.  But when we do, a miracle cannot be far behind!