This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series: ‘Do miracles happen today?’ (Chester)
The next section of Tim Chester’s book, Do Miracles Happen Today? that I would like to summarise is that part of chapter 5 which deals with ‘miracles and the purposes of faith.’
Chester believers (with John Stott) that miracles are certainly possible, but not as common as they were in, say that time of Jesus and the apostles, because one of the main purposes for miracles – attesting to God’s unfolding revelation – no longer applies.
God’s great plan for our lives is not that we should be healthy or wealthy, but that we should be conformed to his Son. And suffering has a great part to play in this.
We also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rom 5:3-5)
My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything. (James 1:2-4)
This [living hope] brings you great joy, although you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials. Such trials show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold—gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away—and will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Pet 1:6f)
As Chester comments: ‘Suffering, trials, grief. You might well pray for a miracle to bring sufferings, trials and grief to an end. But consider how God uses them. In God’s hands the end result can be perseverance, character, hope, love, maturity, proof, purity along with praise, glory and honour for Jesus. These things are not second best! If a miracle does not take place and what you get instead are perseverance, character, hope, love, maturity, proof, purity and glory then you are not being hard done by.’
So how should be pray for one another. Paul gives us an excellent model:
We also, from the day we heard about you, have not ceased praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects—bearing fruit in every good deed, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for the display of all patience and steadfastness, joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. (Col 1:9-12)
The heart of this prayer is the heartfelt wish that that God would give them a knowledge of his will, ‘so that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects.’ One important aspect of this is to be enabled to display ‘all patience and steadfastness’. We need God’s power ‘so we can be joyful in suffering and sickness. We need God’s power so we can go on loving when rebuffed or mistreated. We need God’s power so we can trust God when the road gets rough.’
Chester asks: ‘What are the requests you commonly make in prayer? It’s all too easy for us to pray for good health, guidance for decisions and successful job interviews. As one church leader put it to me once, our prayer meetings sound too much like a hospital waiting list. But just imagine how different it would be if our prayers lined up with Paul’s prayer here in Colossians 1. We would be going beyond the surface and addressing what really matters. It would be real spiritual work. We would be going deep—deep for ourselves, deep for one another.’