Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Miracles for the rest of us

Don’t you love all those Old Testament stories? Oversized arks being built. Seas being parted. Walls tumbling down. Lions mouths being shut. Prophets evacuating earth on chariots of fire.  And certainly there’s no shortage of jaw-dropping stories in the New Testament: the blind see, the lame walk, the dead live.

All these miracles do impress me and remind me of God’s awesome power, but they also can make me feel pretty insignificant. I’ve never built an ark, brought down a wall, shut a lion’s mouth, and I don’t expect to leave earth on a flaming chariot. I’ve never healed the sick or raised the dead.  So, in this biblical world of superheroes and miracle-workers, where do I fit in? Is there a need for an ordinary Joe like me? What about the rest of us?

That’s when I turn to this Old Testament story. The full story is in 2 Kings 5, but here’s a quick synopsis.

A powerful general named Naaman has been afflicted with leprosy. A Jewish servant refers him to Elisha, a prophet known for his healing power. He makes the trip to Elisha expecting the prophet to perform some great show to heal him, but instead is told to dip seven times in the muddy waters of Israel’s Jordan River. Naaman is insulted. How dare the prophet forgo a full-scale miracle-making production? He’s about ready to go back home until a servant boldly confronts the powerful commander with these words, “If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?”

The implication is that we often buy into the lie that God only works in the spectacular. The lie that God only works through mind-blowing special effects. Anything less certainly isn’t from Him! Because God asked for something simple, Naaman almost missed out on a miracle!

Could it be that God is working not only in ark-building and sea-parting and dead-raising but also working in simple acts of obedience? Could it be that we walk away from the miraculous because it doesn’t look miraculous? Could it be that we bypass simple acts of service because they are just that, simple?

No disrespect to the miracle workers of Scripture, but the Bible speaks just as highly of giving cold glasses of water to the thirsty; poor widows giving pennies to the temple fund; and boys sharing their meager lunches. These are all reminders that we will not be judged by the magnificence of our work but by our willingness to do what we can.

I may never be called to a starring role, so if I wait to do something remarkable I might just miss out on the small miracles all around me. How sad it would be to have walked away from what God is calling me to do simply because it wasn’t impressive enough?

Maybe God doesn’t need more ark-builders and sea-parters. Maybe he needs more people who are willing to humbly do the unremarkable and less spectacular work of loving and serving others even when no one else notices. These simple and meek acts of service are the miracles for the rest of us.