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August 23, 2012, 10:58 AM

Do God's miracles depend upon our faith?

I believe that God still performs miracles today.  I do not believe that I or anyone else can predict, plan or otherwise manipulate God into performing the miraculous according to my own desires.  Much teaching that purports to be Christian today is actually more akin to ancient witchcraft (the attempt to manipulate spirits through rituals, spells, etc) than Biblical teaching.  The idea that faith alone is the determining factor in God's decision to act supernaturally or not gives the believer far too much credit and undermines a genuinely Biblical understanding of God.  Further, those who teach such ideas often imply, unwittingly or not, that those who are ill or impoverished are somehow less faithful than the rest.  The lives of the apostles and the history of Christ's followers makes this implication ludicrous.  That is not to say that our faith doesn't matter at all, but I believe it has more to do with how it shapes our expectations than how it affects either God's ability or willingness to act.  I encourage you to read Matthew 13:53-58 as you consider the remainder of my comments.

Jesus returns to His home town in this story - and is rejected.  Why? Not because He is any less powerful or authoritative in Nazareth than elsewhere, but because they are unable to change their preconceived understanding of Him.  How difficult it is to receive people as they are and not as we expect them to be!  The people of Nazareth take offense because Jesus has so clearly gone beyond His assigned station in life.  “Is not this the carpenter’s son?”  In our case, I wonder how many people today might truly change if those who love them genuinely expected it of them.  Jesus merely showed them His true nature, and it was too much for them.  We have all put our ugliness on display for this world – and it takes a powerful work of God to believe any beauty can ever be seen in us again. 

The concluding statment is fascinating and easily misunderstood. “He did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.”  This statement is not to suggest that Jesus’ power is somehow dependent upon our faith, as so many in the health and wealth movement today would say, but that we might understand that a lack of faith lowers our expectations.  When people expect nothing to happen, they fail to even ask.  There is a thin line between expectation and presumption.  We must learn to ask the Father expectantly while simultaneously receiving whatever He decides to provide us in absolute submission.  So then, our faith is a key to God's miraculous work, but it is in shaping our willingness and expectation that God will work in such a way, not in influencing or enabling Him.  The final decision to act in whatever manner He sees fit is always God's.  We can ask expectantly, but we cannot presume upon His undeclared will in any matter.

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