Can it be that seeking regular miracles in our lives isn’t what God intends for us?
First, be clear on this: I’m convinced God can and does perform miracles today. I think we should pray for healing for the sick and ask God to help us in dramatic ways. And sometimes he does. But should Christians expect to see miracles on a regular basis? I don’t think so, and I want to tell you why.
What is God’s purpose in doing miracles? Two things stand out in Scripture.
First, God used miracles to validate his messengers and his message. In the Bible, there are three prominent clusters of miracles that accompany God’s prominent messengers: Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. Their miracles got people to pay attention to their message.
Second, God used miracles as an act of mercy to meet deep human need. This was especially evident in Jesus’ ministry when he was moved with compassion to heal, but Moses and Elijah also worked miracles for this reason, too.
God cares about our concerns and sometimes intervenes miraculously to rescue us from our troubles. It’s why we’re told to pray for one another.
Though Jesus performed many miracles, however, he had something interesting to say about those who craved after signs and wonders:
An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matt. 12:39–40)
Jesus said his resurrection from the dead would be the chief miracle validating his ministry. The resurrection was Jesus’ greatest miracle because of what it accomplished. Jesus confirmed his message of salvation by rising from the dead. If he can raise himself from the dead, then he can raise us from the grave, too.
Demanding further signs to confirm Jesus’ claims was, in his words, “evil and adulterous”—like when atheists demand that God do outrageous things to convince them he’s real. The resurrection is enough evidence that Jesus is who he claimed to be.
But what about those of us who already believe? We have deep human needs, too. When God hears our prayers for a miracle, it encourages us, helping us to know God cares about our requests. This is a good thing, of course, but the Bible is clear that miracles aren’t what God normally uses to develop our faith and lead us to spiritual maturity.
Usually, God does not intend to rescue us from the hardships of this life, but rather to use them for our benefit. Suffering is God’s method of producing endurance and growth in the life of Christians. Peter, James, Paul, and Jesus all talked about how God uses suffering to develop godliness and perseverance in us.
They didn’t just talk about it; they lived it, too. Jesus was a man of suffering, well acquainted with grief, Isaiah tells us. The writer of Hebrews said Jesus suffered as an example to us. Paul, following in Jesus’ steps, was whipped and beaten with rods multiple times and was eventually martyred along with many others.
Suffering, not miraculous deliverance, is the primary way God matures his children. A supernatural event can encourage us, of course, but it doesn’t mature us. Maturity comes through trusting God when things are really hard, even seemingly unbearable.
Will we trust God when the miracles don’t happen? Since our faith is built on the sign of Jonah, we can have hope despite our current circumstances. The resurrection is sufficient. We look to the miracle from the past that secures our future and stabilizes our present.
Trusting in miracles to alleviate our suffering sets us up for disappointment with God when we’re not delivered. Instead, we pray, cast our cares on the Lord, and consider it all joy when we suffer because we know that through our hardships, our faith is refined and matured.
When God does not give us a miracle, that doesn’t mean he let us down. When we embrace suffering for what it can produce in us, we mature, grow in steadfastness, and persevere well, which brings glory to God.
Miracles have temporal benefit. Eventually, we all die. Perseverance through suffering, though, “produces for us an eternal weight of glory,” in Paul’s words.
So when hard times come—and they will come—pray for a miracle, but understand that God may choose to use your difficult situation to make you more like Christ, and that has eternal benefit.