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God Wants to Use Christians in Miracle Work Today - Part 3, Testimony
by Max Aplin
5/26/2017 / Miracles
In part 1 of this article we saw that the Bible fits best with the view that God wants to keep using Christians in miracle work until Jesus returns.
In part 2 I listed some objections that are made by those who say that Christians should not seek to work miracles today. And I gave what I believe are good answers to those objections.
In this final part we will turn our attention to testimony of miracles. In what follows, I will do two things.
First, I will say something about claims of miracles. In recent years many Christians claim to have witnessed miracles. I have spoken to some who say they have seen miracles. And I have even witnessed a couple of miracles myself.
Second, I will make some comments on evaluating claims of miracles.
Reports of miracles
To begin with, let’s think about reports of miracles in the church today. There should be no doubt that in recent years many Christians have claimed that they have witnessed a miracle.
That is not to say that all Christians will be aware of these claims, for at least two reasons.
First, more than a few believers, sadly, live their Christian lives isolated within their own denominational bubble. And they therefore hear of little that goes on outside that bubble.
This means that if a Christian is a member of a denomination that denies the place of miracles today, they may well not be aware that there are many claims of miracles in our day.
Second, more than a few Christians, equally sadly, have little interest in countries outside the one in which they live. The New Testament makes it clear that the early believers took great interest in what was happening with their brothers and sisters around the known world. And the same should be true today. But unfortunately this is often not the case.
It is a fact that there are many more claims of miracles in some countries than in others. So if a Christian lives in a country where these claims are relatively infrequent, and if they have no real interest in the church in foreign countries, they may not know how many believers today claim to have witnessed a miracle.
A Christian who has contacts and interests within a variety of denominations and countries, will be in no doubt that many believers alive today say they have witnessed miracles.
I don’t intend to make a long list of such claims here. But I will give one example of the sort of thing I mean:
A few years ago I was speaking to someone who has links with churches in Nepal. I told him that I had heard that the church was growing rapidly in that country, and I asked him if what I had heard was right. He replied, ‘It’s like the book of Acts.’
What he meant, as he went on to explain, was that, just as we find in Acts, God is using miracles to cause the rapid growth of His church in Nepal. He also told me specifically about the case of a child being healed in a village that had led to a number of conversions.
At the present time worldwide there are many similar reports. It should be regarded as a fact that large numbers of Christians in our day claim they have witnessed a miracle.
I have spoken to people who say they have witnessed miracles
I have also spoken personally to some Christians who say they have witnessed miracles.
For example, I can think of one conversation I had with a local pastor a year or two ago. He told me about a young woman who had suffered from severe mental illness. She had been unable to work and had been on a lot of medication. He told me that after his church ministered to her, she was able to work and no longer needed medication.
I can think of another conversation I had with another Christian many years ago. He told me how he had laid hands on a woman who was wearing a neck brace. He said that she had been healed and was able to immediately remove the brace.
I have had a number of similar conversations with various Christians over the years.
My own experiences of miracles
I would like at this point also to be able to reel off a list of impressive miracles that I have experienced personally. However, I am not a position to do that.
I have witnessed God acting supernaturally in different ways. For example, I have seen Him speak powerfully through prophecy and through ‘coincidences’, and I have seen him provide for me in striking ways too. But in terms of what the Bible would define as a miracle, I have not witnessed all that much. And what I have witnessed took place many years ago.
Nevertheless, I will mention two experiences I have had, which I am sure were miracles:
Firstly, I have experienced one healing miracle.
In 1989 I began to experience a difficult-to-describe abdominal pain. This increased in intensity for a few weeks. Then it remained for a further few weeks at a level where it was causing me constant and considerable discomfort.
A Christian brother laid hands on me for healing. At the time he laid on hands I felt no change. However, over the course of the next two weeks the pain melted away to nothing and never returned. I am sure that this was a miraculous healing.
Secondly, I have also seen one visible physical miracle, a miracle that was unusual in that it involved no human agent.
When I was in a back-street in Paris in 1992 I saw a road sign with some printed writing on it, as there is on all road signs. However, I am sure that the writing on this sign was a miraculous manifestation in which God was speaking to me.
On the sign was written my name ‘Max’ and also the words ‘Giselle – Freund’. I can’t remember if there were any other words on the sign too. I didn’t have a camera with me, so I wasn’t able to take a photo. Anyway, the main words were ‘Max’ and ‘Giselle – Freund’.
Immediately before going to Paris, which is of course in France, I had been in Germany visiting someone called Gisela, the French equivalent of which is Giselle. She was my friend, the German for which is Freund.
I believe that on this miraculous road sign God was telling me that He was with me, and that I was then, and had recently been, in the right place at the right time. He did this, rather mysteriously, by putting my name, along with the combination of a French and a German word, on this road sign. The fruit of this incident was that I had a better sense of God being with me.
I am rather hesitant to mention this event, because my experience is that more than a few Christians have no awareness of God confirming things in their lives in any way. I suspect that what I have testified to here will look like nonsense to many. I am also wary that I might be accused of fabrication.
Nevertheless, I believe that God has called me to be a witness of what I have seen Him do (Acts 26:16), so I choose to obey. He knows I am telling the truth. And it is inconceivable that a workman in Paris ever put up a road sign with those words on it, at least while being aware of what he was doing.
I should also point out that in the Bible many of the miracles we find God performing have a mysterious or even bizarre element to them. So if God works miracles today, as I am sure He does, we would most naturally expect some of them to have a certain mysteriousness or strangeness about them. Mysterious words on a road sign are therefore in no way incompatible with the biblical portrait of miracles.
My main aim in this article is, of course, to encourage Christians to seek to be used by God as instruments in miracle work. I am aware that the example I have just given is not in this category of miracles, since there was no human agent. Nevertheless, I have given it in the hope that it will help persuade Christians that God really is working miracles today.
Evaluating claims of miracles
There should be no doubt that many Christians in our day claim to have witnessed miracles. So what are we to make of these claims? How should we evaluate them?
I am sure that Christians often go wrong at this point in one of two ways.
Firstly, there are those who start from the position that a reported miracle cannot be from God. Perhaps this is because the existence of miracles today doesn’t fit their theology. Or maybe they feel threatened in some way by miracles. Whatever the reason, they immediately conclude that the report is false before even taking the matter to God in prayer.
Some of those who take this attitude to miracles have been misled by unbiblical teaching. Some are guilty of the sin of unbelief, one of the key sins in the Bible. And some are just stubbornly believing what they want to believe. Whatever the reason or reasons, this attitude to miracles is seriously wrong in God’s sight.
Secondly, there are those who go to the other extreme and immediately accept that a reported miracle is genuine. I have seen this often. Many Christians love the idea that God works miracles, and they therefore choose to believe every report they hear.
However, we should compare this attitude with that of Paul. In 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 he tells the church in Thessalonica:
‘20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything . . .’
It is true that the testing here refers first and foremost to testing the genuineness of prophecies. But Paul would surely have wanted Christians to do their best to test the genuineness of miracles too.
We find a similar situation in 1 Corinthians 14:29. Here Paul instructs the Corinthians:
‘Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.’
Again, although Paul is speaking about prophecy in this verse, he would surely also have wanted Christians to carefully weigh reports of miracles.
What we should do when we hear a report of a miracle is to start from a neutral position. Instead of being biased for or against its genuineness, we need to humbly take the matter to God, asking for insight.
My experience of listening to Christians talking about the miracles they claim to have witnessed leads me to believe that testimony about miracles is mixed. I am sure some of it is the figment of people’s imaginations. On the other hand, I am sure that much of it is real. Many specific accounts just sound right. The testimony is not forced or exaggerated, and the fruit in terms of God building His church in one way or another is evident.
In John 10:1-6, 16, 27 Jesus says that His sheep – Christians – hear His voice. I think that if we listen carefully, those of us who are born again should be able to hear that God is working miracles today. This is what Jesus is saying.
CONCLUSION TO THE ARTICLE AS A WHOLE
That concludes our discussion of miracles. So let me sum up what we have found.
In part 1 of this article we saw that the Bible fits best with the view that God wants to keep using Christians in miracle work until Jesus returns. And I noted too that in the absence of a compelling case for not obeying biblical instructions to seek miracles, we should certainly obey them.
In part 2 we found that objections to the existence of miracles today fail to convince.
And in part 3 we saw that many Christians today claim to have witnessed miracles, and it makes most sense to think that some of the claims are based on genuine works of God.
Let me end with a Bible text that I quoted earlier. In 1 Corinthians 14:1, as we have seen, Paul writes:
‘Pursue love, and eagerly desire spiritual gifts . . .’
As I noted, the gifts Paul refers to here include miracle work.
Paul’s command in this verse is for every Christian alive today as much as it was for those in Corinth in the mid first century.
Let all of us, then, who are following Jesus as Lord, be faithful in heeding what the Spirit says in this verse of Scripture. We dare not disobey it.
So how exactly should we seek the ability to work miracles?
Well, most importantly we can pray that God would direct and enable us. And for some of us, it may be good to seek out people who are experienced in gifts of the Spirit, those we feel we can trust, to ask for their help and guidance. The more of us who can use spiritual gifts, including the working of miracles, the stronger God’s church is bound to become.
I have been a Christian for over 30 years. I have a Ph.D. in New Testament from the University of Edinburgh. I am a UK national and I currently live in the south of Scotland. Check out my blog, The Orthotometist, at maxaplin.blogspot.com
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