Why don’t we see miracles today?
Jesus’ miracles served two purposes: (a) They were a matter of proof of his identity as the King of God’s Kingdom. See Matthew 11:2-5 and Matthew 12:28 for example. (b) They are future pointers to the Kingdom that he is bringing in. There will not be evil, suffering, pain, trauma, tragedy and death in his eternal Kingdom. Therefore Jesus’ miracles are visible demonstrations over the natural and sinful world that the Kingdom is breaking into.
As such, miracles are key elements of Jesus’ ministry. It is not surprising that when the great light of the world came into the world, then the great forces of darkness also rose in opposition to it. I presume that there was incredible supernatural activity at this time because it was the eternal Son of God who was the focal point of all of these things.
Should we expect the same today? Is this the norm for the way that Jesus works in His disciples lives now? I don’t believe so. Miraculous signs accompanied Jesus and the apostles' declaration of the gospel in the first generation of the Christian church, and in many ways this was a special time for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. We know the power of the proclamation and the signs because God had them recorded for us in the Bible which bears witness for us today of the power of God. As such, the Spirit of God works in and through the gospel to bring people to salvation. The Word of God does not need miracles to supplement it.
Am I tying God’s hand here? No – he can and does do miraculous things in our generation. The same God who exercised the miracles of 2000 years ago could do the same today. When we pray for healing for a person, for example, we demonstrate a confidence that the God who is in control of sickness and disease can take that sickness away completely. There are many Christians who can testify to that very experience today. But I desire to leave the when, where and why with God.
In some Christian traditions there is a “this life certainty” of healing miracles, which is tied with a person’s faith. “Have enough faith” it is argued “and you will be healed”. This really concerns me though, for the following reasons:
(a) It places the healing on the person, not on God
(b) People of great faith suffer
(c) It leaves a person up to being disappointed with God if a request is not answered “on time”
(d) The mark of Christian discipleship is the cross = death to this life (not the promise of victory in this life)
(e) It takes the things of heaven and places them in this life (what is called an over-realised eschatology).
We need to strike a balance between asking God for great supernatural acts (especially of healing) but also allowing for God to answer ‘no’. We need a balance between confidence in God’s ability to do it and a too-certain expectation that He will in the timing we demand.
In the end though, salvation is always and only a work of God. So it is a miraculous thing when a person becomes a believer. They are brought from death to life, from condemnation to salvation, from hopeless to full of hope. So the “miraculous” work of God is seen every day as God brings more and more into the Kingdom. And that is something we should really pray about!