BY WESLEIGH ANDERSON
O ur God is not a superhero.
Many of us learned the opposite in Sunday School as children, and I do not mean to disparage your childhood churches by saying this; saying “God is the ultimate superhero” is true is some respects, and it is an easy stepping stone for young people to reach greater knowledge. Like saying “the American Revolution was fought because of taxes,” there is a grain of truth, though it is grossly oversimplified.
But saying that God is a superhero misses His most essential attributes: God has no alter ego. He cannot fail. He does not stop being who He is.
However, when we read about God in the Bible, it is easy to think that He is now hiding from us. Even Elijah, who was taken into heaven without dying, despaired of feeling the presence of the Lord (1 Kings 19); for us, the task of trusting God must feel infinitely harder. This seems unfair: how can we feel God’s presence when He does not appear before us? Why must we believe without touching the wounds in Jesus’ hands (John 20:27)? When Superman went without appearing, people began to doubt his existence—is he sick? dead? But God has promised us that He does not change, so what has?
Perhaps we do not have enough faith today.Jesus did tell us that “according to [our] faith will it be done to” us (Matt. 9:29), and we know that when people “lack[ed] faith,” Jesus “did not do many miracles” (Matt. 13:58). However, God does not require faith to perform miracles, though He may choose to withhold miracles from those who do not trust in Him. When the Israelites grumbled in the desert that they had no food, God provided them with manna despite their lack of faith. Out of the Twelve Disciples, only John is recorded as staying by His side at the cross (John 19:26). Still, Christ died and rose again not just for John who stayed by His side, but for everyone, even Peter, who denied him three times.
In teaching us that miracles are not dependent on faith, God also teaches that our faith should not be dependent on miracles. People only believed that mild-mannered Clark Kent was Superman when they saw him fly. Jesus, on the other hand, did not perform His miracles to make people believe in Him. We even repeatedly see people not believe despite the evidence in front of their eyes. In Luke 11:14–15, Jesus healed a mute man by casting out a demon, but in the very next verse, people again asked “for a sign from heaven” (Luke 11:16). Even when He performed this greatest of all miracles—rising from the dead after saying He would—most still did not believe. Jesus rejected people whose trust was based only on miracles; their faith was not authentic. During Passover, “many people saw the miraculous signs [Jesus] was doing and believed in His name” (John 2:23). However, because their faith was dependent upon the miracles Jesus performed, He “would not entrust Himself to them,…for He knew what was in a man” (John 2:24–25). The people were merely astonished by Jesus’ novelty, rather than being truly convicted by God and repentant of their sins.
But is faith not faith, regardless of its origins? No. Jesus showed that belief in miracles alone can easily lead us astray; the devil is cunning and makes attempts to imitate God to deceive us. Satan “himself masquerades as an angel of light [and] his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:14–15). People reacted in the same way to seeing Jesus perform miracles as to seeing Simon the magician practice sorcery: they followed him because he had amazed them. We know that Simon was not acting under the power of God, because no Samaritan had yet “receive[d] the Holy Spirit.” Even after his baptism, Simon was not a true Christian, for his “heart [was] not right before God [and he was] full of bitterness and captive to sin,” and God will not bless an unrepentant heart (Acts 8:10–23). Satan has not given up imitation, and he will not give up until the end time when the false prophet of Satan will perform “great and miraculous signs,” and in doing so will deceive “the inhabitants of the earth” (Rev. 13:13–14).
Thus, miracles should not be the primary foundation of our faith. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is being…certain of what we do not see,” and we can certainly see miracles. What purpose, then, do miracles hold for us today?
First, though miracles should not be the basis of our faith, they are “signs,” as John calls them. God does not use them to reveal the Messiah to those who don’t believe, for “they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31). Rather, He uses them to confirm the Messiah to His people. When Jesus turned water into wine, “He thus revealed His glory, and His disciples put their faith in Him,” but they had already been following Him before He performed this sign (John 2:11). This miracle was not the foundation, but simply the confirmation—a sign of what they already knew to be true.
This does not, however, tell us where the miracles are today, but the book of Daniel holds a curious and unexpected answer to this question. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon built a colossal golden idol and proclaimed that everyone must bow down to it, but three Jewish captives faithful to God—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—refused. In a fit of anger, the king had them thrown into a blazing furnace, but they told him, “the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know…that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Dan. 3:17–18). They knew unequivocally that God had the power to save them, but they also knew that He was under no obligation to do so, and yet their faith in Him did not falter. Superman would be nothing if he let Lois Lane die, but God’s salvation does not always come in this world. The Lord did, in fact, deliver the three men; however, the most awe-inspiring moment was not when they walked out of the furnace unharmed. Rather, it was when Nebuchadnezzar saw them and praised “the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,” not because of the miracle he witnessed, but because “they trusted in [God] and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God” (Dan. 3:28). The true miracle was not their earthly salvation from fire, but their eternal salvation that came from trusting God. Incredible miracles pale in comparison to an unwavering faith. Thus, we can see now that God still performs the most incredible of His miracles each and every day. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “miracle” as “a marvelous event not ascribable to human power or the operation of any natural force.” Though this definition applies to the three men surviving the furnace, it is even more relevant to their faithful confidence in the face of death and to Nebuchadnezzar’s repentance upon witnessing that faith. We, who are born into sin, are not capable of doing anything for the glory of God; without Christ, “we [are] powerless” (Rom. 5:6). Without Christ, we must perish in eternal separation from God, and no human will or natural power can change that. Rather, only God has “brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13–14).
Thus, anything we do for the glory of God is a miracle of His doing—when we bear the fruit of the Spirit, that is a miracle; when we spread the Gospel, that is a miracle; and when we are saved by God’s grace, that is a miracle. As Christians, we are all miracles, not because we are born, but because we are born again. But, if you think you have not yet known the miracle of Christ in your life, I invite you to witness, like King Nebuchadnezzar, the faith of every true Christian and “call upon the name of the Lord [that you] will be saved” (Acts 10:13).