“Are You Raised, Transformed, or Redirected?”
(Why Does God do Miracles?)
June 05, 2016
By John Partridge*
Scripture: Luke 7:11-17 Galatians 1:11-24 1 Kings 17:8-24
George Herbert Leigh Mallory was born on June 18th, 1886 and was an extraordinary mountain climber who was attempting to be the first to reach the peak of Mount Everest. He made climbs of nearly every well known mountain and in the 1920’s made three attempts, in 1921, 1922, and again in 1924, to reach the summit of Everest. On March 18, 1923 a reporter from The New York Times asked Mallory, “Why did you want to climb Mount Everest?” This question was asked particularly in light of his plans to go again in 1924, and Mallory responded with what has been described as the most famous quote in mountaineering, “Because it’s there.”
During Mallory’s third attempt, on either 8 or 9 June 1924, Mallory and his climbing partner, Andrew “Sandy” Irvine both disappeared on the North-East ridge when they were only about 800 vertical feet from the summit. Mallory’s body was lost for 75 years and only discovered in 1999. Irvine’s body, and the camera that he carried (which might provide evidence of whether or not they reached the summit before Sir Edmund Hillary), remain missing even today.
And that brings us to the question for today because last week we talked a lot about the great power of God and the amazing miracles recorded in scripture that displayed God’s power. But in the end, we often ask the same question that the New York Times asked George Mallory… “Why?” Why does God perform miracles? Why does God choose to display his unlimited and unmeasurable power? And in order to arrive at an answer we will, once again, take a look at some of the miracles that God has performed. We begin again with the stories of Israel’s greatest prophet, Elijah, during a drought and famine that caused hardship all over the region. (1 Kings 17:8-24)
8 Then the word of the Lord came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there [Zarephath was to the north of Israel, beyond Galilee, in what was then a part of the Assyrian empire and what is now the nation of Lebanon]. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”
12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”
13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”
15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.
17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. 18 She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”
19 “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed.20 Then he cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”
22 The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. 23 Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”
24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”
God does some amazing things in this story, but this is what I want you to remember: At the end of the story we hear the widow say, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”
And then Luke 7:11-17, we hear about a miracle of Jesus that echoes the story of Elijah…
11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
16 “They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.”
In this story, Jesus is in the town of Nain which, while it isn’t as far north as Elijah was, is still in the region of Galilee and far enough north to remind everyone of Elijah’s story. Here, Jesus meets a funeral procession on its way to the cemetery. The funeral is already over, the time of mourning in the home is over, and the mourners are now carrying the body to be buried. Jesus stops and touches the bier, or platform, on which the body rests and the pall bearers stop with him. Jesus simply commands the dead man to get up, and he does.
And once again I want you to remember the last two verses from that story: “They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.”
And finally we come to the story of Paul’s conversion that we discussed last week. This time found in Galatians 1:11-24.
11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being.17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.
18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.
21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.
Paul is even farther north than Elijah and Jesus as he travels in Syria and Cilicia (which is in modern Turkey). Paul’s entire life is changed. He doesn’t physically come back from the dead, but he is restored to life eternal by his recognition of Jesus as the Messiah. Paul’s entire life is transformed and given a new direction. And what is the result? Paul says: “They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy. And they praised God because of me.”
And so today we have heard three stories about the power of God and each time we heard words that sound very similar.
- Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”
- “They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.”
- They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me.
Each time, the “why,” the reason that God performed a miracle, was so that God could be made known to humanity.
I have had people ask me why we don’t see miracles as often as we used to, or why we don’t see miracles in North America when others in places like Africa, parts of Asia and Cuba, do occasionally see them. And at least a part of the answer is in these three scriptures. If God performs miracles so that he can be made known, what need is there to perform them in places where there are already an abundance of believers who have already been called to do that very thing?
But more important than that is the understanding that God never performed miracles just so that he could be famous. God doesn’t just want to be made known so that everyone knows him. God wants to be known so that he can use us. For reasons that we don’t understand, God wants us to join his family and to live with him. But before we can do that, he needs to make us perfect. Few, if any, of us will come anywhere close to perfect in this life, but God intends to move us in that direction whenever possible. God is at work every day moving us toward perfection… if we will let him. And in the process, God will do three things: First, he will rescue us from death and raise us to a new life. Not just a new life after this one ends, but a new life that begins now, a new and radical life that is dedicated to serving him. Second, God will be at work transforming our lives so that we, more and more, resemble him. Every day, little by little, we should increasingly reflect God’s values, love, compassion, justice, mercy, forgiveness, and every other aspect of his personality. At some point in that process, others will likely begin to notice that we are different than we used to be and, if we are doing it right, they will want to know what happened to us so that they can have whatever we have found. And third, God is at work redirecting us so that instead of dedicating our lives in the pursuit of pleasure, money, power, or something else, the direction of our lives becomes a reflection of his will and his mission so that we truly become the hand and feet of Jesus.
In reality, answering the question of “Why” God does miracles is the easy part.
God does it for us.
God performs miracles to make himself known to humanity. But what follows is harder. What follows is a journey of faith that begins with our resurrection to life eternal, continues with transformation into a new creation as we become the people that God intends for us to be, and finally begins a pursuit to become a reflection of his will and mission so that we do the work of the Kingdom of God and truly become the hands and feet of Jesus.
The hard questions are these: Are you raised, transformed, and redirected?
How far have we come?
Are we moving forward, or are we stuck?
What must I do to become the person that God created me to be?
How is God calling me to become the hands and feet of Jesus?
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