God, help me. Help open my eyes so I can see Your presence
in this world in ways that I never have before.
– Lee Strobel, Author of The Case for Christ
Such a heart-felt prayer coming from an atheist who eventually became an advocate for Christ’s lordship might seem a bit out of character, especially for one used to engaging in dispassionate, just-the-facts-ma’am kind of journalism. While his latest book, The Case for Miracles, represents new territory for the former legal editor, Strobel is determined to once again let the evidence dictate his conclusions. His goal is to discover if the biblical God is still active in the world today. Could it be, he wonders, that the seemingly miraculous is best explained by the placebo effect of mind over matter in which you think you are going to be healed, so you are? Is a supernatural occurrence merely a case of a mistaken diagnosis, or the work of a trickster? No doubt such realities may be true in some instances, but after examining a number of firsthand accounts of miracles, Strobel concludes that the Holy Spirit is, in fact, “up to some really amazing things these days”thatcan only be explained by the power and might of an extravagant, benevolent God.
Take, for example, the story Strobel tells of a woman who had been horribly handicapped, blind and wheelchair-bound for many years. After responding to the inescapable feeling that she ought to ask people to pray, the woman suddenly heard God say, “My child, get up and walk!” She obeyed and was instantly healed. Evidence of physical healings come to us from all over the world as do awe-inspiring testimonies from the Islamic world in which Jesus supernaturally appears to Muslims causing them to fall on their faces in repentance before the living God. Yes; God is still on the throne, and He is still making Himself known to those who call on His name in faith believing that with Him, ALL things are possible.
While some may be skeptical of the work of the Holy Spirit in the world today, my time in Africa and my own personal experience have convinced me that the Creator of all things can and does answer prayer. In fact, He not only delights in impossibilities, He specializes in them. Take, for example, a recent drought in Tanzania in which the very young and old were dying from thirst and starvation and cows lay emaciated and dried up alongside the roads and paths. In a bold move that might have gone all too wrong, Christians and Muslims came together at the top of a high mountain, and with one voice, cried out for God’s merciful intervention. Knowing that it never rains in May, the people humbled themselves to ask for the improbable. “Let it rain, Lord,” they shouted. “Let it rain and not stop!” You guessed it! Big, beautiful, life-giving drops of water fell from heaven and continued without ceasing for the entire month.
I have often said that the veil between the natural and supernatural is very thin in countries where culture dictates familiarity with the spirit world. However, I also believe the supernatural is all around us here at home. As Strobel says, the fact that we don’t recognize it may be because we are simply not sensitive to it, or feel a need for it. After all, we have doctors, medicine and modern science at our fingertips. Admittedly, it is easier to trust in the visible and explainable than it is to trust in the supernatural. While God can and does work through modern technology, He also continues to answer the prayers of those whose only recourse is total dependence on Him.
As Luke 7:16 emphatically declares, “God has come to help his people.” What was true for God’s people thousands of years ago is no less true for us today. Catholics, Evangelicals, Charismatics, Pentecostals and well-respected organizations like the Voice of the Martyrs all report miraculous interventions regardless of culture or stream of Christian belief. When it comes down to it, who are we to decide what kinds of prayers God answers today? We ask Him for the small things. Why not the big things? Whether it is through physical healing, supernatural protection, or an everyday answer to prayer, the inescapable truth is that when we don’t limit God, anything is possible, even a deluge of rain in the dry African month of May.
While extraordinary miracles do occur in the lives of ordinary people like you and me in ways that strengthen and affirm our faith, we cannot ignore the fact that sometimes God seems to turn a deaf ear to our cries for mercy. Families are still being torn apart by conflict and betrayal and loved ones are still dying from cancer. Why is one person healed and not another? When asked this very question, one pastor whose wife was dying prematurely from dementia humbly replied, “If I were God, I would have His perspective, I would understand all things that God understands, and I would do the same thing God is doing right now.” The truth is that only God knows the plans He has for us, and even if we don’t understand it at the time, we must trust that “He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:27).
Instead of fearing the work of the Holy Spirit, Strobel says, why not invite Him in all His fullness to participate in our lives and in our churches? He might just surprise us by showing Himself to be “more vibrant, personal, authentic, and active” than ever before. God longs for us to enter into close fellowship with Him where we freely lay all our needs at His feet trusting Him to answer according to His providential plan. We must never forget that “God [still] works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Heavenly Father, we want to experience Your majesty and power in new and profound ways. In the midst of our chaotic world, we need You more than ever before. Release us from all fear so that whenever we seek you, we will find You working on our behalf and supplying our needs according to Your riches in glory. Amen!
— Francine Thomas
Source material: Jessilyn Justice, Charisma Magazine