"Question: If a tree falls in the forest and no one's around, and it hits a mime, does anyone care?" This is the dark humor of the cartoonist Gary Larson, best known for his single-cell comic strip The Far Side. Its oddball humor has often tickled my funny bone, and at other times struck me as just... weird. But then again, that's probably a big part of why I like it. In the case of this particular quote, Larson's humor is not only comical, but also insightful and poignant.
If something happens outside of the realm of your personal experience, does it matter? If you don't have empirical evidence, did it actually happen? There's a big part of what we believe as Christians when it comes to miraculous occurrences. The Bible is littered with God's mighty power on display for all to see, identify, and remember. Here are just a few examples:
"Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back with a powerful east wind all that night and turned the sea into dry land. So the waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with the waters like a wall to them on their right and their left" (Exodus 14:21-22, CSB).
"[Elijah prayed,] 'Answer me, Lord! Answer me so that this people will know that you, the Lord, are God and that you have turned their hearts back.' Then the Lord’s fire fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench" (1 Kings 18:37-38, CSB).
"After [Jesus] said this, He shouted with a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!' The dead man came out bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, 'Unwrap him and let him go'" (John 11:43-44, CSB).
"God was performing extraordinary miracles by Paul’s hands, so that even facecloths or aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, and the diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them" (Acts 19:11-12, CSB).
At this point, you don't have to be a Bible scholar to know that this list doesn't begin to scratch the surface of the historical evidence of God's miraculous actions in this world. Acts He used to save and protect His people, and to show all creation His loving intentions. In fact, this list leaves out three miracles that encapsulate the beating heart of the Christian faith: the Incarnation (God becoming human), the death of Jesus (God dying is pretty miraculous, if we're honest), and the Resurrection of the Son of God at Easter. Even that final miracle had to be expressed with a certain amount of experiential evidence to be believed by Jesus' closest followers, and one disciple pushed that investigation to its breaking point (John 20:19-29). I like to call him "Thomas the Scientist" rather than the traditional "Doubter."
Yet, the greatest miracles that can happen are much akin to what Jesus does right after He presents the empirical evidence of His resurrected life. He says words we all need to hear, LONG to hear: "Peace. Be still. Don't be afraid. I'm here." To anyone who has ever faced sin's brokenness and what it does to a person's body, mind, and spirit throughout one's life, these are life-changing words. Miraculous words. To be released from fear because there is nothing left to fear (not even death!) is a miracle. To have a God who is as close to us as our next heartbeat, because Jesus' death unites us to Him, is a miracle. To find supernatural stillness in a turbulent world IS a miracle. So as much as we may look for supernatural evidence of God in a world where what we can observe in essence is matter and energy, the greatest miracles God has ever accomplished are the ones that turn a person's heart back to Him.
I am a thankful recipient of that miracle. God has worked on my heart throughout my life, and I'm thankful to be the person I am today because of His consistent, gracious work in my life. You also are a recipient of that miracle. God continues to work on you, to transform you into someone more like Him. Someone who trusts Him. Someone who acts more like Jesus. And along the way, I'm sure He's provided you with ample evidence in the natural world that could properly be described as miraculous. Whether it's technological breakthroughs that we take for granted today but would have appeared magical in eras gone by, or circumstances in your life that a materialist would explain away as coincidence or "luck," you have evidence that God is still doing extraordinary, miraculous things in an ordinary life like yours.
So will you firmly believe that God can still do miracles? Not just theoretically, as we're honor-bound to do as Christians, but in actuality? Will you be willing to boldly ask God to do miracles in your life and the lives of those around you, trusting that His answer will bring the greatest good? I'm learning to say, "Yes!" to those questions. I pray you will join me. I firmly believe that God is on the move here in our midst at Immanuel, and He's leading us to places that we wouldn't have imagined in the past. "Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us— to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen!" (Ephesians 3:20-21).
Adventure is out there!