Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Miracle or myth?

[I struggled with myself to come up with a suitable title for this post, still not sure if I called it right: Miracle or myth?]

I remember sitting in the pew watching many preachers/pastors/healers/miracle workers operates on different levels of charismatic gifts offering miraculous signs/wonders/healing to people. (I know I am touching a very sensitive subject but bear with me…)

The categories of people include extreme cases such as the ones declare fasting and prayer until God moves (or solves) on a particular issue they are dealing with. In most of the cases it is sickness, finance, relationship etc. The other extreme is those who believe such problems are a result (punishment) of some (unconfessed) sin, either their own sin or their ancestor’s sin. Such people usually spend a whole lot of time figuring out what that sin is and where the ‘curse’ originated. ‘Curse breaking ministries’ are there for their help to break such curses once it is identified. They have a lot of verses to quote from OT about the generational impact of people’s sins.

I have also heard people keeping the dead bodies of their loved ones believing God will raise them from dead. Hundreds of stories can be heard about miraculous healing, divine transfer of money, etc on the television.

Is there any truth in all these? Have you ever wondered?

One of the reasons I am writing this is because of couple of issues that I am currently struggling with. We have noticed a white patch on my son’s forehead couple of weeks ago and kept postponing to consult a doctor until last Saturday thinking it was a regular skin irregularity on little kids (He is only 22 months old). We went to see a dermatologist on Saturday and he didn’t take much time to diagnose it as Vitiligo. According to the doctor it can either go away or spread to other parts of the body as he grows. But the bottom-line is there is no treatment for it. Knowing nothing much about this disease we came home and my wife started searching internet looking for more information. As we read more on it, the disappointment, worry and anxiety started to fill our minds. One website showed some pictures of other kids who have the same disease and seeing them increased our level of fear. Though I tried to put a fake smile on my face while looking at my wife’s tear-filled eyes, I felt saddened and worried. It is not at all a life threatening illness but the emotional turmoil a person can go through because of it is unimaginable (think about people's strange looks etc).

If this could have happened couple of years ago, the first thing we would have done is rushing to a miraculous healer to lay his hands on my son and pray for healing. Though many of my perceptions about the way God works in people’s lives have been changed over the years, I still believe in prayer, I still believe in miracles, I still believe in supernatural manifestations. BUT I just don’t believe in the way those have been projected in Christianity today. There are many reasons I don’t buy into the hype of today's healing and miracle ministries. One reason is, I haven’t yet seen a single person who has been healed miraculously (instant, real miraculous healing). The second reason is the Bible (New Testament) itself which I will get into the details in a minute.

Going back to the story, we were little exhausted on Saturday after the doctor’s appointment and on Sunday around 8:30 in the evening I got a call from my Aunt informing me that her daughter (my cousin) is admitted in the hospital due to premature labor pains. She was only 5 months into her pregnancy and was having twins. Right now as I am writing this she is still in the hospital and doctors informed them to have no hope to save the babies. My aunt called me to request prayers.

Philip Yancey, a well known Christian writer who recently wrote a book titled ‘Prayer, does it make any difference?’ gave a speech recently about that book. He receives thousands of letters from all over the world on his new book. According to him, based on the many letters he receives, there are still miraculous healing happening, but the percentage of such stories is very very low. Most of the people who were diagnosed with terminal illness have died regardless of how they prayed or how many people have prayed for their healing. (That was a very difficult statement for me to write). That’s the plain reality.

I will continue to pray for my son and I will continue to pray for my cousin, because God is asking me to cast all my worries upon Him. But I observe a big change in the way I pray, and I believe this change in my attitude towards prayer is the result of knowing my God in a little more intimate way. I would most likely pray a prayer like this: "Father, heal my son if it is your will. My heart desires his complete healing. Give my cousin full term, healthy babies if its your will. Regardless, give us your peace which transcends all the understanding to go through these difficulties. And make the outcome favorable to You and us."

He promises peace in all the circumstances, but He do not promise bodily healing in all the circumstances.

I do not believe that God punishes His children because His own Son took that punishment which was due for us. He became a 'curse' for us by hanging on the tree to rescue us from all the sins, all the curses and all the unrighteousness.

I draw a very important and huge principle from the prayer of Apostle Paul. Three times he pleaded with the Lord to take it (thorn in his flesh) away from him.

But this is what God told him: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I felt ‘weak’ after learning about my son’s sickness. I felt more tenderness in my heart. I felt more close to God and I now have an increased compassion towards other parents who have kids with different illnesses. After hearing about my cousin, though I felt pain, I praised God a 100 times more for giving us full-term healthy kids and I told my wife that having a healthy baby (which many of us take it for granted) is a bigger miracle than healing of cancer. Having able to get up in the morning and going to work is a miracle. Coming back home safely is a miracle. Having a healthy marriage is a miracle. If I continue in that line, I would end up asking an obvious question, what is NOT a miracle? Is there a miracle greater than salvation? A free gift which we could never earn with our efforts? What miracle is greater than Christ dying on the cross for my sins? How about Christ living in me? How about God of the universe calling us His children? How about we calling Him 'Abba'?

When tragedy hits, troubles comes, my thoughts are along the line of what God says in Romans, We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Notice that He did not say He will change all the bad into good, but He said He will work everything (bad and good) together for the good. We may not be able to see that while going through it. There will be a lot of unanswered questions. I am not saying it is easy. But we can trust Him for His promises. One of the fruit of the spirit is peace, and I believe that is the peace which transcends all the human understanding, the peace only God can give. God operates from a totally different realm; he always has a bird’s eye view of everything, from beginning to end. We, most of the time has only a worm’s eye view. So, though we don’t understand everything, He is trustworthy, unchangeable and still our best friend.

As Christians, if we fall into the category of people who believe that God will heal all their diseases and solve all their problems, we better get ready to face disappointment! It is an error and it is also an unrealistic expectation to think that life on this earth is going to be pain-free; whereas God says there will be trouble in this world. Lets not resist the truth! God operates from an eternal realm, conforming us into the image of His Son, asking us to think the things above. The people who give others false hope of healing and miracles are teaching error. Their equation is wrong: healing gift + faith = healing. Where is God in that formula? It puts us in pressure to build up our faith to measure up to a certain level to see 'healing'. I am sorry but thats is not from the God I know from the Bible. It is not the amount of my faith/prayer/fasting what causes God to work on my issue. He never promised us that there are going to be only good things in our life but He said He will cause everything to work together for good. Can we believe that truth?

I am saddened by the fact that there are probably many who are angry/disappointed at God because God did not do a miracle in their life the way they wanted. It is an illusion many live in. There is rescue offered and it is found in understanding His grace and unconditional love offered through Christ Jesus. If we learn to leave the results of our prayers unto the hands of such a loving God, we can be in much peace. He wouldn't take pleasure in putting us through pain, it is against His character. He won't keep us on that 'surgery' table a minute longer than it's needed; while He Himself going through the pain with us. It's for our good, it is not a 'testing' or 'punishment'. And regardless of whether you believe in miracles or not, He loves us and feel free to cast all your burdens upon Him. There is nothing wrong in expecting a miracle, but lets don't get disappointed if it doesn't happen the way we wanted. He knows more about us than us.


Todd said...

I agree with what you've said. We battle toward God through a fallen and cursed world in which we can only know of God's peace guarding our minds and hearts after our hearts and minds are assaulted by the painful effects of the world opposed to its Creator.

Well, you said it alot better.

And amen to God's gift of the Spirit of Peace to those who listen to Him and reach out to
Him for it. Take care. Todd

Bino Manjasseril said...

I think, realizing that there are going to be painful effects of this world in our life is the key. Anything else is unrealistic. What saddens me is that when people offer Christianity as a 'problem solver' or 'pain killer'. It is true that it solves a huge problem - spiritual death, but it doesn't solve the problems in this world - sickness, finance, relationship etc. Jesus offers us His peace in all the circumstances, good and bad. We are created for another world (problem-free) and journey in this world is like a prerequisite which involves the problems.

Thanks for your comments!

Joel Brueseke said...

Bino... I, too, think there is a lot to be said for the miracles and God can and does do among His children, and I also think that the reality is that He often does other things besides what we want or expect.

I've come to the same conclusion with you on this, and it's not an easy conclusion to come to but in the end it's reality, and because it's reality we can praise God for it! He is wise, He knows our hearts, He knows our thoughts and needs. He knows what this world needs. As you say, we can cast our anxiety on Him and we can leave it all in the hands of Him and His sufficient grace!

I praise God for miracles and healings that He does all around the world, and I believe that it's not my big faith that ever gets God to do anything but it's that He's a big God. I have several health conditions, one is a serious condition in my esophagus that can lead to cancer, and I've prayed lots and lots about it. I've even prayed that when they do endoscopies (looking down my esophagus and stomach with a camera), that they would find it all perfectly healed, for the glory of God and as a witness to Him. So far, the condition has not progressed, but it also hasn't gotten any better. My old type of thinking would have been, "what am I doing wrong, that you're not healing me?" My thinking has changed. The reality is that my condition is the way it is. It's that simple. :) It is the way it is. If God wants to heal me, I trust Him to heal me. If I'm to go home soon, then I'm to go home soon. To some people, this is small thinking, but to me this is the result of years of talking this over with my big God, and ultimately resting in His sufficiency.

As you say, it's not always easy to think this way or to live this way, but as we grow in grace I think we're more and more able to rest according to His sufficiency and be more content whatever the circumstances.

lydia joy said...

Wow, Bino there is a lot of confusion with healing isn't there....? I will be praying for your son, grace to you and your family.

Bino Manjasseril said...

Isn't amazing that many of our perspectives about many things changes as we grow more into knowing God?
Earthly perspective slowly changes to the eternal perspective? I am not saying the problems we face on this earth is small and easy always. But as part of the growth, He causes us to trust Him more and more as we go through issues.

To some people, this is small thinking, but to me this is the result of years of talking this over with my big God, and ultimately resting in His sufficiency.

Absolutely! thats exactly I was trying to get to in the post. All sufficiency of Jesus is a huge thing, it is so easy to say that phrase but so hard to live. In each and every situation, not matter how bad it is, the simple truth is Jesus is all we need. Is it easy to come to such conclusion while going through difficulties? Not at all. Again, but the truth is all we need is Jesus!

Yes, there is a lot of confusion out there on the issue of bodily healing. I am not claiming that I have all the answers but all I am doing is trying to see if I can learn something from each and every situation is life (good and bad). Thank you so much for your prayer! We need it!