Do you believe in miracles? While Christians universally answer yes, this question brings up a myriad of questions for the Church today. Many Christians are increasingly cautious of affirming miracles because of the damage done publicly by faith healers and outright shenanigans. Popular books abound recounting personal stories of being transported to heaven, seeing Jesus, talking to angels and of course, being healed. Should every such story be believed? And if we refuse to believe are we being cynical and unbelieving in our outlook?
Beyond this larger question, the average Christian often has to make tricky decisions in real life scenarios. They are confronted with a claim to a miracle in the life of someone they know at work or in their church. They are pressured to come to a Pentecostal revival where they can’t help but be skeptical of the outlandish behavior and incredible conclusions made by their friends. Just how are we to think about miracles, when we pray for them on behalf of our family and friends every day? We all know God can heal, and we want his healing touch, but we just aren’t sure that we should expect it, or what to do when we think we’ve really seen it.
Tim Stafford, a senior writer for Christianity Today steps into this quagmire and offers us some help in a remarkable new book titled, Miracles: A Journalist Looks at Modern-Day Experiences of God’s Power. Tim navigates this thorny problem by recounting a true story that he experienced in his church, a fairly high-brow, staid and conservative Presbyterian assembly, by his telling. A young man experienced a healing from a debilitating pain in his feet that had required crutches and a wheel chair for years. His family were understandably overjoyed at his sudden and dramatic healing experienced at another church several hours away. But they were a little disappointed that their fellow church members didn’t share all their enthusiasm.
Stafford uses this story as a case in point, and interviewed the family as well as other families affected by this story from his church. Tim also draws on his travels to far-flung corners of the globe, where the miraculous may be more common. But rather than basing his conclusions on eye-witness testimony, Stafford also surveys the Old and New Testaments and the early years of church history looking for takeaways that we can apply to this perpetually difficult question. The result is a lucid and eminently readable account of his exploration. And his book is more than a page-turner. He brings sage advice, common sense, and an open spirit to the topic as well as his own honest account of disappointment and growth in this area.
Stafford’s book won’t change the mind of the die-hard proponent of an extreme position on this issue. Those who see miracles around every corner will still find them, and those who hesitate to affirm the miraculous anywhere after Rev. 22, will equally be unconvinced. But for the average believer, without an axe to grind, Stafford’s treatment will be challenging and uplifting, and ultimately helpful. I was encouraged to trust in our miracle-working God more, and to see the miraculous in the ordinary means of grace that God so faithfully provides.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Bethany House. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
About Book Briefs: Book Briefs are book notes, or short-form book reviews. They are my informed evaluation of a book, but stop short of being a full-length book review.