Over the past month I have been reminded over and over of our call to proclaim the kingdom of God and share the good news of Jesus. In both conversation with friends and times of reflection, I have been reflecting on the book of Acts. We see such an urgency in believers to share the message of Jesus. We see over the first decades of the church the gospel spread across the Roman empire and beyond. Jesus is made famous, and people are starting to follow “The Way”.
As I have been reflecting, I came across stories like Peter and John going to pray and coming across a lame man begging. They take authority and heal him. I also think about Simon the Sorcerer who tries to buy the Holy Spirit from some disciples because of the power he has witnessed.
In the early church, the power of the Kingdom displayed and the the presence of the Holy Spirit are not separated from the message of Jesus. In fact, it is these very things that seem to spread the gospel like wildfire. Even as Peter is making a case for Jesus in Acts 2, it is coming on the heels of the Holy Spirit descending and causing those present to share the gospel in many tongues. We see this combination of message with signs and wonders over and over again.
I love the story in Acts 16 where the earthquake hits the prison and frees Paul, Silas and the other prisoners, but they stay and the jailer asks, “What must I do to be saved?”.
I am all about the need for knowing and sharing the message of Jesus with people. We are called to be witnesses and proclaimers of the gospel. But there is something missing without the power of God displayed. It is like we are trying in our own power to convince people of Jesus. You may be thinking that the truth about Jesus should be enough. But people are burdened under lies and need something to break through those walls that have been built up.
Over the past few years, I have seen numerous people experience healing and other miracles. I have been blessed to be a part of it and prayed for it to happen. I am thankful for this and want to see more. As I have looked back though, I have noticed that they were all in the context of believers with believers. As I read the book of Acts, however, I am seeing almost all of these miracles happen not in houses of worship but in streets, in prisons, in places filled with lost people.
I am not saying to stop praying for healing in your church (I believe James 5:14 and the role of elders praying for healing is good). Rather, I am saying we need to start taking the authority Jesus has given us to the streets, our workplaces, to every space we occupy. There is a theme of a sent people throughout the scriptures. This is not just in the Great Commission (Matthew 28). Jesus in his time of ministry on earth sent out his disciples with authority to heal, deliver and share the message of the kingdom (Matthew 10, Luke 2).
So my question is, where are all the miracles? Where are the stories of healing on the streets, and other tongues in multicultural contexts? Where are the stories of demonic deliverance? I imagine local television news and newspapers back in the time of Acts would have reflected the power of God at work.
I know there are miracles happening in our midst. God has not stopped doing things, but I think we have lost sight of so much of the purpose of miracles happening in our midst. These are a foretaste of what is to come, a foretaste to reveal king Jesus and his kingdom. Shouldn’t it be displayed not only in the places we are already worshipping Jesus, but on display for those who are ignorant? As I read the gospels and the book of Acts, that is the picture I get. But as I see our practices as a church, we are seeking the miracles in church and are silent when surrounded by unbelievers.
It is almost as if we just feel safe tentatively asking God to do a work in the safety of the church but are horrified by the thought of praying for healing with an unbeliever and risk God not showing up and healing the person. We often excuse ourselves by saying we didn’t feel prompted. We believe lies that God won’t show up (perpetuated by our not seeing it happen) and that we will turn people away from Jesus if we pray with them and nothing happens.
To these I say, Jesus wants to show himself and his power! That’s why he has sent us with his authority. And second, unbelievers are right now bound in darkness. If we don’t make an effort to step in, they are still forever in darkness. Should we not, in faith, step out in trusting God to show up and not fear the failure of our role? It is not our convincing message, but rather the revelation of the person of Jesus through the Holy Spirit that draws people.
I think we need to recapture what it means to be sent out by Jesus. I think we need to start looking for opportunities for the kingdom of God to be displayed like Peter and John in Acts 3. I think our desire for miracles needs to become a little less selfish and a little more selfless. I think we need to start seeing the place for miracles more in the public’s eye and a little less in the confines of our churches (not saying we shouldn’t see miracles in the church as well).
I want to see the gospel spread like we see in the early church and I don’t think that telecommunications is the answer (not saying it is not helpful). I think the answer is signs and wonders of the kingdom of God accompanied by the good news of the gospel. I think with the world of relative truth and individualism, the power of God will be what breaks through the lies and cuts to the same question the jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?”