Signs, Wonders and Miracles
by Pastor James Ho, March, 2003
A short while back I read a book with an interesting title: ‘Seeking Signs and Missing Wonders’. It was written by Rev Geoffrey Lay, parish priest at Longstanton, near Cambridge, England. What was so special about him as a parish priest was that he is blind. He wasn’t born blind. His sight used to be as good as the ‘average’ person’s. But it suddenly took a turn for the worse when he turned twenty-one. His deteriorating sight was attributed to a genetic defect. It seemed that his whole world caved in as he turned twenty-one. His life was never the same again as it became littered with suffering. After he married, he lost a daughter when she was only five months old; the infant had serious cerebral and other disabilities. However, all these trials and setbacks didn’t deter him from perceiving the Creator as a loving and compassionate God. In fact, he was more than ever determined to seek Him and eventually became a parish priest with a healing ministry in the Church of England.
It is, of course, only natural to expect a disabled person to seek a cure for whatever was ailing him. It would be their hearts’ desire to be healed miraculously, if that were at all possible. That is why Christian movements identified with faith healing draw large crowds, especially those who are lame, sick and disabled. But unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that not many have been healed physically. Some were documented as been healed at the time they attended the ‘faith healing’ event, but later relapsed back to their former sickness. Neither Rev. Lay nor I deny that there have been cases of miraculous healing. But those cases are exceptions, not the norm. And ‘Faith healing’ ministries can be misleading and more often result in bitter disappointments rather than full recoveries by the power of God.
Are there still signs, wonders and miracles around nowadays? Could an average believer experience or perform any miracles and wonders? I watched a movie called ‘Third Miracle’. It was based on a debate on canonizing a Catholic lady as saint. It was reported to the Catholic Church that she performed many ‘miraculous’ deeds and that her whole life had been dedicated to charitable works. But she passed away in her forties. The Church evaluated all the evidence that was submitted by interested people to show that she did perform miracles. Every piece of evidence had to undergo a rigid test of validity, factuality and reliability. It had to have been supported by two or more witnesses as well as the medical history relating to the event. Under such stringent tests many reported incidences were discarded except for two undeniable incidences. However, in order for the sister to be canonized as a saint, there still had to be a third miracle to substantiate her elevation to sainthood. Thus the name of the movie, ‘Third Miracle’.
It is obvious that according to the Catholic standard, it is extremely difficult to be canonized as a saint. According to Webster’s dictionary, a miracle is a supernatural happening. If one experiences something extraordinary, something which is beyond human effort, it can be considered a miracle. However, such supernatural events still have to be supported by witnesses and medical records in order to be accepted by the Catholic board. But although we may never be canonized as saints, it does not mean that we have not experienced miracles. At the end of the day, it is God who finalizes the verdict.
I have had many extraordinary experiences. In fact, my faith is strengthened because of many spiritual encounters. It is more factual and realistic for me to believe in the reality of God than to deny His existence. I will just cite two incidences here to attest to my involvement in miraculous events and hope that they will encourage each other’s faith.
1) It was back in 1994, near Christmas time. Kathleen and I both love fruits and Australia produces among the best varieties available anywhere. One afternoon we ate some fruits. Late that night she felt nauseated and started to vomit; she also experienced severe abdominal pain. She took some medicine and went to bed. But she tossed and turned all night because of the severe pain. She was also running a fever. We suspected that it was a case of food poisoning.
The next day she did not feel any better, and so in the afternoon we decided to go to see a doctor. Since we were on a working visa, we didn’t have any medical coverage. The most economical way to deal with the problem was to see a gynecologist. It had cost only AU$8.00 a year to be eligible for such a service as part of the family planning project.
When the gynecologist had listened to Kathleen’s description of her symptoms, the doctor told me to rush Kathleen to the hospital because she suspected some kind of internal infection or inflammation. That could have been extremely serious. She couldn’t pinpoint the exact cause. It could be appendicitis or some sort of intestinal infection.
The estimated cost of the hospital stay was about AU$800.00 a day. It was an astronomical figure to us especially when compared to what we earned. So we sought a second opinion by going to a medical center. It cost us another AU$28.00 to see the doctor. This time, after listening to Kathleen’s description of her pain, the doctor didn’t even bother to examine her. He simply said that there was nothing that he could do and he strongly recommended her to go to the hospital immediately. So we drove to the nearby hospital.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t familiar with the local directions, missed the exit and ended up driving further away from the hospital. Meanwhile Kathleen was doubled up with the abdominal pain. She couldn’t sit long enough in the car for me to figure out how to get to the hospital. She preferred to go back home to rest instead. Just as we arrived home we received a phone call from a sister in the church. She had some urgent matters to deal with and needed our immediate attention.
We met the sister at a nearby food court to discuss her problem. When she saw Kathleen, she immediately sensed her pain and suffering. She forgot her own problem and wanted to take Kathleen to the hospital. She understood our financial concern and assured us that she would foot the bill. We deeply appreciated her kindness but Kathleen preferred to wait another day to see if her situation improved. But the sister urged Kathleen to see her own family doctor. But it was already late afternoon and so we left it until the next day before going to see the family doctor.
Another day went by and Kathleen’s pain persisted. She was still vomiting and feverish, so we went to see the sister’s family doctor. He was a fine Christian too. After examining Kathleen and listening to her description of her pain, he also recommended that she go to the hospital at once. He also suspected it to be some kind of internal infection or inflammation which, if not treated soon, might further deteriorate into a life-threatening problem. We elected instead to commit this matter into the Lord’s hands, but if Kathleen’s situation did not improve soon we have had no alternative but to take her to the hospital. By now we had three doctors who had all arrived at the same diagnosis and recommendation. But we rest our case to the Lord.
I truly admired Kathleen’s endurance and toleration of the pain. I tried to persuade her to go to the hospital but she insisted on waiting. We remembered the bible verse in Ps 25:3
‘ None of those who wait for the Lord will be disappointed’
That evening, Kathleen stayed in the bed; she was still in severe pain. I was also in agony watching her struggling with the almost unbearable pain. I knelt by her bedside, laid my hands gently on her abdomen, and began to cry out to our Lord for help. I poured out my heart in agony and pleaded with the Lord to heal Kathleen. I was praying for a miracle. After the prayer, I noticed that Kathleen had fallen asleep. While I knelt by her bedside watching her peaceful sleep, I wept because she had not been able to sleep at all the previous nights.
When I woke up the following morning I looked over at Kathleen as she had just waken up too. I asked her how she felt. She turned her head to gaze at me, a faint smile on her face. She told me that the Lord had answered our prayer. All the pain had disappeared and that she felt wonderful after a long night’s sleep. She told me that while I was praying to the Lord, all of a sudden, she heard what seemed like an explosion inside her abdomen. She described it as like an inflated balloon that had suddenly burst under pressure. She immediately felt the relief and fell into a deep, sound sleep. I was dumbfounded and asked her again if she really felt all right. She reassured me of that and then immediately got up off the bed. Her movement looked so easy and there was absolutely no sign of pain. We embraced each other and gave praise to our God.
2) The other event took place in December 1999 on a mission trip to Indonesia. It was the second last day of our stay. In the evening we attended a meeting with a Christian group. After the meeting, one of the members shared with us the news of an elderly lady, 78 years of age, who had been hospitalized for three months. Her condition was described as being critical, and she and her family wanted to proceed with baptism. However, when they approached the pastor of their church, he had declined to baptize the lady because he insisted on baptism by immersion. Naturally, the elderly lady couldn’t go through immersion. They were disappointed and desperate. That was when the member of the group approached us to ask if I would be willing to conduct the baptismal ceremony. I was only too glad to oblige. It was already very late in the evening. So we proceeded to pray together to plead God to give the elderly lady a peaceful night of rest so that she would be prepared to receive baptism the next morning.
The following morning we went to the hospital. We discussed the process with the family members. We were somewhat startled to learn that the elderly lady could understand Mandarin. As least I could share my ministering with her using my limited vocabulary in Mandarin. Another amazing thing was that she had been gravely ill just the night before, but that morning she was mentally very alert. We found out from her daughters that she had all along been a very healthy woman in spite of her age. However, she had some dealings with a witch doctor and the witch doctor demanded a payment from her. She had refused to pay. Where upon the witch doctor told her that she would suffer severe consequences if she didn’t pay the amount by a certain time. Indeed, she fell ill soon after the deadline for payment had past. The illness persisted and her situation deteriorated. I perceived that a demonic attack had caused the illness.
I managed to share the gospel message with the elderly lady in Mandarin with a little help from our Indonesian co-worker. I instructed her to deny all idol worship and believe in God alone. The elderly lady obviously understood what I was saying to her as she nodded her head in response. I proceeded with the ceremony and she was baptized. Suddenly, I felt the Spirit move me to pray for the relief of her pain. So I asked her where it hurt the most and gently touched her abdomen. She reacted violently, her whole body was shaking as she mumbled something. I couldn’t understand her reaction. Her daughters immediately told me that I was touching the exact spot of her pain and that was why she was mumbling ferociously. She must have been deep in pain.
I apologized to her at once and reassured her that I would continue to pray for her healing. I laid my hand on the painful area again and prayed for her as mumbled in agony. I prayed that the power of the Holy Spirit would set her free from any demonic possession and that the Lord would mercifully grant her healing. She fell into complete silence the minute after my prayer. When her daughters asked her how she felt, she couldn’t say anything because she had an oxygen mask over her mouth. She looked bewildered and surprised. We didn’t pursue the situation any further because we had to leave for another important appointment before we departed Indonesia the next morning.
After we were back to Sydney, we received news from our co-workers that the elderly sister had been released from hospital the next day. Even the doctor was completely dumbfounded. The doctor’s original diagnosis was that she would die anytime because she was in a coma the night that we were told of her condition. Those who witnessed the deliverance testified that it was a miracle. Praise the Lord! Following her miraculous healing, her Buddhist husband and her unbelieving youngest son also became Christians.
Could the above cases be considered as miracles? Do I need a third miracle to be canonized as a saint? After watching the movie that elaborately demonstrated the stringent tests of justifying what is considered as a miracle, I must admit that it would be futile to defend my case. However, these are undeniably extraordinary events and I am sure there are many amongst you who can testify as to your own extraordinary spiritual experiences. Assuredly, we don’t need any human institution to approve or to disapprove of our ‘miraculous’ experiences. The most important approval is from God alone.
Last of all, the greatest miracle that one might experience is not any physical healing, even to the extent of rising from the dead. The greatest miracle is your own transformed life, empowered by the Holy Spirit. A life rooted and grounded in the love of Christ and faith unshaken despite any adverse external circumstances. This is the only miracle that you need for the Lord to accept you as saint. I conclude with Rom 8:35, 37-39
‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ... But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of god, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord’
If we echo the above bible verses in our hearts with conviction, we don’t need further miracle to be approved by God and to enjoy His presence in His heavenly kingdom.
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church