In the strictest definition of the word, as described by the Oxford dictionary, a miracle is “A surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency: ‘the miracle of rising from the grave.’
In Biblical terms, a miracle is an event or occurrence that plainly demonstrates the works of God. The Bible begins with the words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Creation was the first miracle that began the universe and everything in it. Creation was an act of God. However, not only is the act of creation a miracle, that is bringing everything into existence from nothing, but also sustaining the universe or maintaining its existence is an ongoing miraculous act. The apostle Paul when writing to the believers in Colossi said of Christ, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). In the Greek the word translated “Hold together” also contains the idea to sustain, which verse could be rendered, “He is before all things, and in Him all things are sustained.”
In one sense everything is a miracle, but unbelievers do not think of it that way. The philosophy of the world is to think in natural terms, only by contrast do we see the divine hand in miracles, as found in the Oxford dictionary. God is only thought of when something extraordinary occurs, which in the world’s eyes gives evidence of somethings beyond the natural. When a person becomes a believer and if he or she studies his or her Bible well, he or she will come to understand that God is always in control of all things, even when He allows man the freedom of choice.
Apart from God nothing can continue; you cannot keep your heart beating, your lungs inhaling, or your brain thinking; “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being…” (Acts 17:28). Man, like the material universe, is that dependent upon God, whether the world realizes it or not. Having said that, the Bible does make clear that there are such things as miracles. Some of the miracles of the Bible include creation, the parting of the Red Sea, Manner from heaven, Israelite’s shoes not wearing out for 40 years, the 10 plagues of Egypt, Jesus virgin birth (that’s a big one), the births of Isaac, Samuel, John the Baptist, Jesus’ miracles of healing, walking on water, and feeding thousands with a few fish and a little bread. In these things God has put Himself on display to an unbelieving world.
Therefore, in the strict Biblical sense of the word, a miracle is an obvious appearance of God’s intervention in time and space that otherwise goes unseen. The unseen works of God go on all the time, we simply do not see them because the world continues through secondary causes that we call natural laws. However, a secondary cause is as much moved by the hand of God as the thing it moves. Hence, gravity exists by the hand of God. The person who lives by faith sees all things as the outworking of God’s mighty hand, even though he distinguishes between a Biblical miracle, which is an obvious work of God and ordinary miracles that are obscure to unbelievers.
The year was 1977 and I was out of work. I spent a great deal of time sharing the Gospel on the streets of New York city with Doc Rogers a missionary with the Bible Christian Union. Doc and some others that served with him saw a desire within me to serve the Lord, and so much so that they suggested that I go to Bible school. We had a new baby, who my parents of course were in love with, but what made it worse was the nagging fact that my mother lost her mother when she was only 3. I was torn between my desire to go off to school and the concern that I had for my mother.
On one certain day, as I painted my father’s house for money, I said to God with great cunning but not much wisdom, “OK, since I have no means by which to move to school, if you supply my needs I will leave for school.” Within about 15 minutes my wife came to the window, I was on top of the ladder and she was looking down at me with a great big smile on her face and said, “Joe, you know the income tax check that got lost in the mail 3 months ago, (which I had totally forgotten about) here it is.” Needless to say she was waving it with great glee. What else could I do but say in my heart, “OK, I’ll go.”
As we packed up the truck I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach; you might say that I had no assurance that what I was doing was the will of God. We said our good-by’s, we cried, and we drove away. About 200 miles outside the city I had a sweet feeling of peace come over me, then I knew that I was smack dab in the center of God’s will. The years have come and gone, and I have never swerved from the conviction that God’s will for my life is all about giving Him glory and influencing others for His kingdom. No matter what I do with my time, pastor a church, head up a drug awareness program, or drive a bus the motivation is always to disciple others toward the kingdom of God. It was a gift of faith and not a miracle from God that gave me the assurance that I was in His perfect will.
The miracle of the check and its timing was not the motivating factor in our moving to Bible School, it was a leap of faith built upon the belief that God is and He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Albert Einstein was not a believer in the Judaeo/Christian God but he understood something about how true believer’s live their lives. A true believer lives as though the creator and saving God is behind everything that happens, sustaining, guiding, and by providence working all things according to His divine will. Hence the true believer believes in God and no himself, which means he becomes increasingly God’s slave. God is the master, we are the slaves.