The inspiration (infallibility) of Scripture and our preaching from it have often been discredited by attacks upon the miracles reported in the Bible, whether performed by Christ or occurring upon such (Old Testament) people as Jonah. (This subject can include too such supernatural phenomena as the Flood and Noah’s ark.)
This is not the place to explore that big subject; books have been written on it, including C.S. Lewis’ Miracles, which ably defend the traditional, orthodox acceptance of the reality, authenticity of miracles in Bible times and otherwise. Suffice it to say, for our purposes here, that a “man of God’ should have no hesitation in preaching on a given miracle in Scripture (or Scripture at large) for fear his text is merely a legend, folk-tale, Jewish myth, etc. (One wonders why those who think so, continue to use them for sermonizing!) And either the whole Bible is true or forget figuring out what is and what isn’t. If there was no Jonah, how can we be sure that there really was a Jesus Christ, who thought and taught that Jonah was real?
One reminder is in order; many preachers (and lay Christians) feel threatened if a given miracle in Scripture is explained naturally. For example; the Jordan river has frequently in its long history been dammed up for a while when its tall, clay banks become undercut and crash into the gorge. This could well indeed have happened at the time of Joshua’s crossing. An earthquake may well have caused Jericho’s walls to fall. A volcano of sorts might have inundated Sodom and Gomorrah. And so on. The miraculous element in all these is the fact that their occurrence was predicted; their timing was supernatural, God-controlled, like the strong east wind that blew all night on the
Red Sea before Israel crossed through it. People used to laugh at the idea of Judgment’s trumpet being heard around the world, until radio was discovered (not invented!). Or the possibility that at the Second Coming “every eye will see him” – because, (don’t you know) TV pictures do not follow the curvature of the earth in the fashion that radio waves do – but then along came satellites, technological “angels” indeed. In short, generations to come, if Jesus tarries, will no doubt laugh at today’s sophisticated criticisms of Scripture the way we smile at medical and other “scientific” truths that were taught and believed as certain fact only fifty years ago!
What about miracles today? Some Christians have sincerely thought that when Scripture was completed, miracles ceased as being unnecessary. Others, correctly, point out that we may never “box” God in such fashion (where he does not explicitly reveal his will and plans), and we may not deny or doubt the possibility and reality of miracles today or at any time in history. Regeneration is as much a miracle as raising a dead body to life. And if it did not happen constantly, the physical birth of a human being from a virtual nothing would be called a miracle; a miracle, after all, is just an unusual, unfamiliar example of God at work.
Unfortunately, where our lives are actually full of “miracles”, such as hamburger turning into hair or even brain-cells, we Christians pretty much limit the word to physical healing, forgetting how He has altered weather in answer to prayer and caused “ravens” to bring us blessings from unexpected sources.
Suffice it to say that we may expect any kind of miracles, including healing, if God knows it is best for our eternal welfare. (In another connection these notes point out that God allows the satanic angel of death to carry off some of his people “prematurely” (I Cor. 11:30), in order to save their souls. And so, while it is perfectly true that it is God’s will, desire, even command that we be healthy and well (if we believed otherwise, we ought not to run off to the doctor and take medicine the moment we get sick), he certainly allows a lot of us to remain unwell, physically imperfect (just think of all the eye-glasses we wear!) in order that we may be whole, healed, in the fullest and finest sense of that word. We may indeed pray for healing for ourselves or others, even in terminal illnesses (which often proved not to be terminal, just on account of answered prayer), but we must be sure we have God-honoring reasons for such a prayer. That’s what it means to pray in Jesus’ name and according to God’s will. “Failure” in such a case to receive what we want and asked for does not (repeat, not) imply lack of faith on our part; faith as such has very little to do with it, any more than the force with which a person presses a button determines whether a machine will start, a light go on. Real faith is revealed by the fact that the person prayed with the conviction that God could if he would, and if he didn’t (exactly when and how we asked) it was still OK. (Faithlessness says peevishly, when God does not jump like a magician’s assistant, “I didn’t think (or even), I knew “it ” wouldn’t work! Now I’m through with that kind of a God.” Faith says with Job, “If He kills me, I will still trust Him!”, and often ends up with greater faith and more possessions than he had before.