Miracles are mysterious events. They happen in unexpected ways, at unexpected times, and, sometimes, to unexpected people. Yet we know from the Bible that certain conditions are conducive to miracles taking place. For instance, a faith-filled heart paves the way for the woman with the issue of blood to be miraculously healed when she touches the fringe of Jesus’ garment. Jesus tells her, ‘Beloved daughter, your faith in Me released your healing. You may go with My peace.’ (Luke 8:48 TPT).
When Jesus is rejected in His hometown of Nazareth, on the other hand, His miracle-working power is obstructed. The crowd mutters, ‘“Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are His sisters not here with us?” And they were [deeply] offended by Him [and their disapproval blinded them to the fact that He was anointed by God as the Messiah].’ (Mark 6:3 AMP). Consequently, Jesus is unable to perform any great miracles there, except to heal a few sick people, and we read: ‘He was amazed at the depth of their unbelief!’ (Mark 6:6 TPT).
I’d like to look at a few things that pave the way for the miraculous, in the context of some miracle stories that happen in the Bible.
1. Mercy, kindness and grace pave the way for a miracle of salvation.
In the story of Zaccheus (see Luke 19:1–10), Jesus Himself models for us how to treat others if we’d like to see their lives transformed by saving grace. Jesus is travelling through Jericho, when He comes across the wealthy chief tax collector for the region, a man named Zaccheus, who has climbed a tree beside the road to get a glimpse of Jesus over the heads of the crowd. To everyone’s surprise, Jesus stops and looks up at Zaccheus. Imagine the moment. Jesus knows full well that Zaccheus has grown rich from cheating people. Knowing Zaccheus is a crook, the crowd is probably hoping Jesus will expose the corrupt tax collector and give him what he deserves. Maybe Zaccheus is panicking and thinking, ‘I’ve been caught out in front of everyone, and I have nowhere to hide!’
To the crowd’s disappointment, however, Jesus is not there to point an accusing finger or to tell Zaccheus how bad he is. What happens next is a picture of Jesus walking in His purpose, as it is set out in John 3:17 (TPT): ‘God did not send His Son into the world to judge and condemn the world, but to be its Saviour and rescue it!’
What we witness is Jesus paving the way for redemption by showing Zaccheus mercy, kindness and grace. Jesus invites Zaccheus to come down from the tree and does him the honour of stopping off at his house to spend some time with him. Zaccheus is thrilled, the crowd not so much. ‘Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, “What business does He have getting cosy with this crook?”’ (Luke 19:7 MSG).
What Jesus has done is countercultural. As a result, He loses the approval of the crowd yet wins Zaccheus. Standing in front of the Lord, Zaccheus repents. ‘Half of all I own I will give to the poor,’ he tells Jesus (in Luke 19:8 TPT). ‘And Lord, if I have cheated anyone, I promise to pay them back four times as much as I stole.’ This complete turnaround is a miracle. Jesus responds, ‘Salvation has come to this home today.’ (Luke 19:9 NLT).
2. Building and praying pave the way for miracles of deliverance, provision, and hope restored.
Anyone going through a disrupting and turbulent time can glean some wisdom from the prophet Jeremiah, who lived through the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile yet came through these devastating chapters of Hebrew history with his faith still intact.
Jeremiah pens an extraordinary letter from Jerusalem to the captives in Babylon. ‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:4–7 NIV).
Build and pray are God’s directions to His people when they’re going through a crushing time of upheaval, displacement, and loss. It would have been easy for the exiled Israelites to give up, abandon their faith, uproot themselves from their faith community, lose all hope, and fall in with Babylonian culture. But God’s will for them is to keep on sowing good seed – to build, to cultivate the ground, to multiply, to move their lives forwards, to seek peace (not stir up trouble), and to pray for their environment.
These are the actions that pave the way for the miraculous promises in Jeremiah 29:11 (AMP) to be fulfilled: ‘“For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”’
God’s will for us is that we keep on building and praying, too. Miracles happen while we faithfully get on with what God has called us to do, despite all that’s going on around us, or everything that’s coming against us. The truth is God is still at work, and He knows what He’s doing. ‘I have it all planned out,’ God says (in Jeremiah 29:11 MSG), ‘plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.’ Our part is to not get tired of doing what is good (see Galatians 6:9). God encourages us to keep sowing good seed, so we may reap the harvest of blessing He has for us, if we will not give up.
3. Remaining faithful to God through the hard times paves the way for miracles of restoration.
Remaining faithful to God through the worst of times is Job’s superpower. Job is a righteous, integrous man who is our prime example of bad things happening to a good person. Job loses everything – his family, his fortune, his health – yet he neither sins nor blames God for any of it. His wife tells him: ‘Still holding on to your precious integrity, are you? Curse God and be done with it!’ However, Job replies: ‘We take the good days from God—why not also the bad days?’ (See Job 2:9–10 MSG.)
At the same time, Job doesn’t accept his suffering passively. He asks the age-old questions of ‘Why?’ and ‘Why me?’ What sets Job apart is that he takes his questions to God and wrestles with the Lord about everything that’s happened to him.
Job’s friends visit him and tell him what’s wrong with him. According to their analysis of the situation, Job is suffering because he has sinned. Their quick-fix solution is that Job repents of his sin to make the suffering stop. Essentially, they prop themselves up by tearing Job down. Yet their answers and explanations are based on false assumptions. They don’t have the whole picture and they misrepresent the Lord.
To his credit, Job isn’t swayed by the negative voices that are coming at him from all sides. Job’s life is built on God, and when everything else is stripped away, Job’s faith passes the test and he keeps trusting the Lord. As a result, Job is vindicated and God restores his fortunes, giving him twice as much as he had before. (See Job 42:10.)
Job’s faithful endurance paves the way for miracles of restoration in every area of his life. I love what it says in James 5:10–11 (MSG): ‘Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honouring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.’
I encourage all of us, let’s be merciful, gracious and kind in our treatment of others, remembering that our purpose as followers of Jesus is to create pathways for people to come to Him. Let’s keep building and praying, as God instructs His people to do during some of the toughest times in their history. Let’s remain faithful to God no matter what happens. And we will see miracles.