How would you react to a miracle in your life? Would the effect be good or bad? Do you recognize all the miracles God has already performed for you?
A PERSON WOULD certainly expect a miracle to strengthen his faith. Webster defines the word "miracle" as, "An event or effect in the physical world deviating from the known laws of nature or transcending our knowledge of these laws; an extraordinary, anomalous, or abnormal event, brought about by superhuman agency." Certainly any occurrence fitting this definition would strengthen our conviction that there is a God who is able to intervene in the lives of men. However, of the many people who have witnessed or experienced a miracle in their lives, some seem to be strengthened by them while others, in disbelief, explain away the miracle as mere coincidence — and some just forget!
The Historical Record
Look at what has happened in the past. Have miracles actually caused people to believe in God or strengthened their faith in God? Surely there have been no people on the face of the earth before or since who have witnessed more powerful miracles than the children of Israel just before God brought them out of Egypt. They actually saw an entire river turned into blood, along with all the water in all the vessels throughout Egypt. They saw Egypt virtually filled with frogs; they saw the very dust turned into lice at the word of a prophet of God. They heard with their own ears the great cry that went up in the land of Egypt in the night when God killed all the first-born children in the families of Egypt. With amazement, they received gold and silver from the hands of the Egyptians as they were thrust out of the land of Egypt. However, this was only the beginning. They saw the Red Sea standing like a wall on their right and on their left as they walked dry-shod across the bottom of the sea. They then saw the same waters close upon the Egyptian army. They followed a cloud leading them by day and a pillar of fire by night. They witnessed a fantastic miracle when they received the manna in the wilderness which would breed worms and stink if kept overnight for six days of the week, but would not on the seventh day. On top of all this, God even spoke to them. They heard His voice, trembled in fear, and asked Moses to keep God from speaking to them.
Not Quite Convinced
Surely, after seeing all these things, you would think that they would know and believe in the God who brought them out of Egypt. But did they? God called Moses up to Mount Sinai where He gave him two tables of stone containing the Ten Commandments. However, he was gone a little too long to suit the people who were waiting for him. In Exodus 32:1, we read, "When the people saw that Moses was long in coming down the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, saying, 'Come on, make us some god to go in front of us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we don't know what has become of him!'" (Moffatt Trans.). Moses had been gone but a few weeks and the people were ready to turn away from God completely, to make idols and to corrupt themselves. Then, God led the people of Israel north to enter the Promised Land. Men were sent to spy out the land and they brought back an evil report, saying that they would not be able to take it. HOW did the people who had seen all these mighty miracles of God react? How much faith did they gain from walking on the bottom of the Red Sea? "And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should he a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt" (Num. 14:1-4). There were our forefathers!
The Miracles of Christ
How could it possibly be that people who had seen so much could believe so little? And yet, we find the same situation during the ministry of Christ. His disciples unquestionably saw the many miracles He performed. They were present in Cana of Galilee when He changed the water in six great stone Water pots into good wine. We are told in John 2:23, that many believed in His name when they saw the miracles He did. Yet, in John 4:48, when a man came to Him asking Him to heal his son, Jesus said: "Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe." In John 5, His disciples witnessed the miracle when Christ healed the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda. in John 6, they not only saw what happened but also ate the food when He miraculously fed five thousand people with only five loaves and two fishes. In spite of this, Jesus told some of them: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled" (John 6:26). Then, a little later in the same chapter, after He had given them some strong spiritual food, we are told: "From that time many of his disciples WENT BACK, and walked no more with him" (Verse 66).
Miracles Are Not Enough
By this time, it should be obvious that miracles will not necessarily cause a person to believe in and follow God. But should yon FOLLOW anyone because of miracles? In Acts 8, we have an example of a man who used actual miracles to draw people after himself. We are told that in Samaria there was a certain man called Simon, "Which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God." Historical sources show that people actually considered this Simon to be a god. He was leading people into idolatry by performing sorcery — demoniacal miracles. Christ prophesied of the end-time in Matthew 24:23-24: "Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." If you trust that miracles are a proof of a prophet of God, how can you be sure that someone like this would not come along and deceive you? Paul also warned that there would be a great falling away when many would follow the "Man of Sin." He warned that his coming would be after the working of Satan. "with all power and signs and lying wonders" (II Thes. 2:9). Would you believe him and follow him? Would you mistake him for Christ; or would you think that a servant of Christ was the man of sin? How can you be sure?
The Bible Test
Happily, God gives us very clear instructions showing us how to discern whether or not a man performing miracles is of God. In Deuteronomy 13:1, we read: "If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him." God goes on to say that that prophet shall be put to death because he has tried to turn you away from the Lord your God. God here tells us very clearly that even though a man performs miracles, that does not necessarily prove that God has sent him. God may be permitting Satan to perform miracles through a false prophet in order to draw you away from the Truth. The key is that we are to walk after God and keep His commandments in absolute obedience arid service. Anyone who tries to lead us away from obedience to those commandments cannot be of God no matter how many miracles he may perform! Satan can counterfeit signs, wonders and miracles. If you air following after these things, then you can be deceived by Satan. On the other hand, the elect, who are obeying God's laws, will NOT be deceived! Isaiah adds to the warning! "And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? [Seek] To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isa. 8:19, 20).
A Real Miracle
Nevertheless, we must not discount the power of God in the miracles which He does perform. You have experienced a miracle which cannot be explained away as mere coincidence, and which is obviously not a counterfeit of Satan. You may not have even realized that it was a miracle. The miracle is your understanding of the Truth. Think for a moment. If you are like most, there was a time when the Bible was a closed book to you. You may have read it many times without really understanding it, or you may have understood parts of it, without understanding the real message of the Bible. Suddenly, however, the Bible began to make sense to you, and for the first time in your life! What made the difference? Is it just that you had never heard the Truth before? No, if you have read your Bible before, you have come into contact with the Truth. Is it just because you never had it explained clearly before? If that is the reason, why is it that everyone who has heard it explained in the same way does not understand it in the same way? One of our readers from Oklahoma, wrote and said: "I have checked out some of the books from my local library that were used as references in some of your articles, and was shocked and dumbfounded to find that these books completely reversed a lot of things I have believed most of my life. A much bigger shock was in store for me when I tried to tell people what I had found. Here is the standard reaction, 'So what?' 'I don't believe it,' or 'You're nuts!' It is really ironical that these very reactions are more proof that the Bible is really the Word of Almighty God." The person who wrote this letter is beginning to understand the Truth clearly. Yet he presented the same information he had received to others who didn't understand it at all! Read the following letter from Rosebush, Michigan: "Your program and works are a great controversy in this area. When one speaks about listening to your programs, he immediately stirs the hornet's nest and people assure me that you don't know what you're talking about. People can say all they want to against your programs, but I know that your programs are based on truth, and when I see these prophecies come to pass, then I know without a doubt who are the true prophets." These letters are typical of many letters we receive which show some people understand the Truth clearly while others cannot understand it at all. Notice the striking contrast between the following two letters: "I sure was disappointed when I read what you said about hell. In the 20th chapter of Revelation, the loth Verse, it is as plain as the day that you are tormented day and night forever. If there is no hell, what is there to get saved from?" (Man from Roopville, Georgia). "I especially liked your article on "Hell" in the August issue. This settled once and for all the contradicting superstitions of an everlasting and burning hell. "This is the best literature I have ever read. If I could have had access to them before, I wouldn't be in jail today" (Man from St. Cloud, Minnesota). How can two people read the same article, and come to such contrasting opinions? Another man wrote complaining that Mr. Armstrong did not take what he wrote from the Bible. Then, we received this letter from Bremerhaven, West Germany: "What you write in your magazine is so overpowering! I have never heard such things before. I can hardly wait until each new issue comes. I have compared all you write with my Bible and it agrees exactly." What a paradox! And yet, you yourself have probably experienced much the same thing. In fact, you may have had both reactions in your own life! The change from confusion to crystal-clear understanding of God's Word is a notable miracle!
The Reason Why
Why is it, though, that some people seem to understand so clearly while others do not understand at all? The Bible gives us the answer to this paradox. In Matthew 13, Christ explains why He spoke in parables. Most people seem to assume that Christ spoke in parables to make the meaning clear, but He explained that He did not intend for all to understand. He said to His disciples: "Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given." He intended to reveal the meaning to His disciples while hiding it from others. As a matter of fact, His disciples did not understand the meaning at the time. More than once they came to Him and asked Him to explain the meaning of a parable. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 2:14, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things...." Christ's disciples had not received His Spirit — they were not "spiritual." Therefore, there were many things they did not understand until they received the Spirit of God. Christ told them in John 16:13, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth...." There was a real change in the mind and understanding of Christ's Apostles after they received the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, A.D. 31. The Spirit of God is what makes the difference between one man's understanding the Truth and another's not. If you have received the knowledge of the Truth, it is God's Spirit which is responsible for the sudden change in your understanding.
Why Some Don't Understand
But why isn't everyone who hears the Truth led by the Spirit of God into an understanding of that Truth? The answer is given by Peter in Acts 5:32 when he says that God gives His Spirit to those who obey Him. Without that Spirit, it is impossible to understand all Truth. The answer was also given to Daniel in a very striking prophecy found in Daniel 12:10, "...none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand." David sums it up in Psalm 111:10, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that DO his commandments his praise endureth for ever." You have been blessed with a certain amount of understanding or God's Word. How much more understanding will you have tomorrow, next week or next month? That depends on how you act upon the knowledge you are receiving now. As God opens your mind to understand more truth, He places increased responsibility upon you to act according to your understanding. He gives you a stern warning in Hosea 4:6, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children." If you fail to act upon and live by the knowledge you are receiving from God, then you are rejecting that knowledge of the Eternal.