“God’s gonna use you to accomplish amazing things in this world!”
Messages like these are become part of the norm in the contemporary church. These words surround us in the conversations we have, in the songs we sing, and in the books we read. Now please don’t misunderstand me, I believe these sayings are true. Not only true, but they can be backed up in scripture. If we look at the Bible, we see a story of God using people, and often unlikely people, to accomplish amazing things in this world, dare I say, even miraculous things.
The new movement of the church is powerful, revolutionary, and something that I believe is bringing positive change to society and the world at large. In the last fifteen to twenty years, the church has shifted it’s focus to a relationship with God, rather than a system of stuck, religious rules, and it seeks to empower it’s members to realize that they can make a difference for God’s kingdom. This is a great movement, and one that I am passionately a part of. But, as in any movement, it has its dangers.
What I think often happens in contemporary Christian culture is that we warp the vision of the church by subconsciously rearranging phrases like the ones listed above until we place God at the wrong place in the equation…
“You’re gonna do great things for God in your life!”
“You’re gonna accomplish amazing things for God in this world!”
Unfortunately, and I only know from personal experience, we leave these “encouraging” conversations with the latter two phrases pulsing through our minds and hearts and begin to believe in a false view of what it means to follow God. In a culture where every other person is starting the next big charity, or benefit, or non for profit, it is hard to not fall into the “faith by works” belief that the latter phrases infer. The contemporary church movement desires to see God do huge things in this world. They desire to see the miracles of God as told in the Bible be resurrected in our communities each and every day. (Habbakuk 3:2) This is a fantastic mission, and once again, one that I am seeking to be a constant part of. But the thought that we have to do great things, that we have to manufacture miracles in order for it to happen is, in my opinion, the completely wrong way to go about fulfilling this calling. If we desire to start a spiritual revolution the way Jesus did in the first century, we will not do it through miracles, because neither did He. We will do it through something greater than miracles.
Now don’t get me wrong, Jesus performed miracles, many, many miracles. He walked on water, healed the sick, fed 4,000, fed 5,000, raised Lazarus from the dead, and still had time to heal that one soldier’s ear. The miracles of Jesus are scattered all throughout the gospels. It’s humorous then, to notice how much the Pharisees and disciples react to these miraculous signs. They say, give us a sign so that we can believe, what will be the sign you will give us so that we can believe? (Matthew 16:1, Matthew 12:38, John 6:30, Luke 23:37) Even after witnessing the miracles, they still demand miracles, as if they didn’t see what just happened.
So do the miracles do anything to increase their faith? It doesn’t seem like it. The disciples saw Jesus calm the storm after having just woken up from a nap, yet Thomas still had his doubts. Peter walked on the sea with Jesus, and yet he still disowned the teacher in his darkest hour, the Pharisees stood by and watched miracle after miracle, and the only thing they do is question whether Jesus should be performing them on the Sabbath or not.
Even though these miracles did not increase their faith, the crowds continue to demand one. And on the cross we see them ask for one more miraculous sign…
“The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” (Luke 23:27)
To me, if I’m Jesus, I see an opportunity here. He has been nailed tight to a cross, hands and feet, he is tired, bloodied and broken, but still, he could have easily pulled a David Blaine and blown everybody’s mind. Had Jesus saved himself in that moment, it may have caused many people who were there to fall to their knees in awe of God for the miracle they had just witnessed. And yet Jesus does not save himself, he stays on the cross and dies. That death, which all throughout the gospels is hinted to as the main reason that Jesus was sent. This was Jesus’ final hour, his greatest act, the reason for which the Father sent him, and there was no miracle to be found, just a dead man on a cross. Which once again suggests to me that there is something more powerful than a miracle.
In verse 46 of the same chapter Jesus says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” And he dies. Not only does he die, but in that moment, he pays the price and takes the punishment for the sin of the entire world for all time, and it’s not done through a miracle, Jesus’ greatest act was not a miracle because Jesus knows what this entire post has been hinting towards thus far, that there is something more powerful than a miracle and that is a sacrifice.
We as Christ-followers, when we subscribe to the “faith by works mentality”, constantly find ourselves stuck and afraid. We think, I don’t have the skill set, I haven’t developed my gifts enough, I am not ‘spiritual’ enough to accomplish great things, to perform miracles for God. And that may be true. But the lesson we can take from Jesus is that there is something more powerful than a miracle, and that is a sacrifice. Perhaps there are none among us who can perform miracles, but each and every one of us has the ability to sacrifice. We can echo the sacrifice of Jesus each day and say, Father, I have given you my best, “into your hands I commit my spirit.” We can give our circumstances, our talents, our resources, our struggles, and our lives over to God and what God will do, just like he did for Jesus, because Jesus did not stay dead, is he will take our sacrifice, and he will turn it into a greater miracle than we could have ever imagined, like a resurrection from the grave, defeating sin and death for all time. God doesn’t want your miracles, He’s got the miracles in hand, and he’s just waiting for a sacrifice to attach them to.
So may we come to see the truth that our call is not to do great things, but it is the give it all up, to sacrifice and commit our lives to God, so that He can take our sacrifice and form it into a greater miracle for His kingdom than we ever imagined.