The Miracle I Didn’t Expect

All my life I’ve been afraid of dogs. (Sorry, dog lovers.) God is good. He has fixed a lot of that fear. But let’s just say that I won’t be replacing Cesar Millan as Dog Whisperer any time soon.

I tell you that because about 14 years ago my then 9-year-old daughter and I went on a missions trip to Mexico. During our trip, we spent a lot of time at a childcare center in a Mexican village. My daughter played with the other kids, and not knowing Spanish really didn’t seem to be a barrier to friendship.

Compared to the people in Mexico, I felt like my prayers were anemic. At noon the children received what was probably their only meal of the day. It was some kind of pasty substance, like a cross between oatmeal and gruel. Most American kids would turn up their noses and refuse to eat it. But the Mexican children and childcare workers gathered around and simultaneously offered up fervent thanksgiving aloud to God for His provision of food. This heartfelt prayer of thanks went on for several minutes before the children sat down to their meal.

One day my daughter and I were at the childcare center alone with the children and the Spanish-speaking workers. The rest of the Americans were a mile or two away helping someone renovate their home.

Suddenly one of the workers came to me and motioned for me to follow her at once. She brought me into another room where one of the little boys was writhing in pain on the floor. Workers were gathered around him–tears in their eyes. It was clear that they wanted me to pray for him.

Wow. They were asking me to pray, when I felt like I needed to be taking prayer lessons from them.

I’ve prayed for many sick people over the years. Once in a great while, something supernatural seems to happen. Most of the time–nothing spectacular. This was no exception. I prayed. The boy cried.

Suddenly it became clear what I needed to do. I needed to walk a mile or two through the village and fetch the nurse who was a member of our group. I couldn’t call; we didn’t have a phone. I couldn’t drive; we didn’t have a vehicle. I needed to walk.

Only one problem: This village was crawling with dogs. If I got in trouble with one, I would have no way to call for help. I didn’t even speak the language.

But here was a little boy in pain. God help me. I started walking.

It was eerie. The dirt road was completely empty. I didn’t see a single dog. I didn’t hear a single bark. I made it all the way without experiencing the thing I feared.

On the way back, the dogs were everywhere once again. But it was okay now. People were with me. They were comfortable with dogs, so I felt comfortable being with them.

We got back to the childcare center. We found some medication. We gave it to the boy, and prayed for him again. His pain receded, and he soon recovered.

So why didn’t God answer my prayer to heal that boy? I think Lorinda had the best answer: “Miracles show us God’s heart.” God chose to heal this little boy in such a way that also showed His love and power for me.

Well, hey, for the benefit of those of you who can’t be with us for Empower Good, I wanted to share with you a little of what went on this weekend.

We talked about the different flavors of faith. Hebrews 11–the faith chapter–was our jumping off place. (See below.)

Here are some quotes I wrote down from the weekend:

“Spoken words are powerful because we are made in God’s image. God spoke the whole universe into existence with His words.”

“I told My people that they can have what they say, but they say what they have.”

“Don’t talk about what you’re not going to be; talk about how you’re going to be like Jesus.”

“Say no to doubt.”

Hebrews 11: The Power of Faith

How do we reconcile the trouble we experience with the good God has promised us? Faith! Faith assures us that our hope in God is rock solid; it opens our eyes to see what others cannot see. Throughout history the great men and women of God had one thing in common: faith. God Himself spoke highly of their faith.

Faith enables us to understand the power of God’s word: He spoke and the whole universe came into existence. What we see now was made from what cannot be seen.

Faith caused Abel to bring to God a better sacrifice than Cain brought. Because of faith, God spoke well of Abel and his sacrifice. Because of faith, Abel’s life still speaks to us, even though Abel died a long time ago.

By faith Enoch sidestepped death and walked straight into heaven. Back on earth people searched for him, but he was gone. Before he left, however, he was known as a man who pleased God.

Do you want to please God? It’s only gonna happen one way: faith. You gotta believe that God is there and rewards those who sincerely pray to Him.

Faith gave Noah the sense to do something that would otherwise be crazy: He built a ship in the middle of dry land. Why? Because God had warned him that the flood was coming. His faith stood out in contrast to the evil all around him. What made him a good man? His faith.

It was faith that caused Abraham to set out on a road trip with no map and no clear destination. God promised him land, so he went to get it. When he got there, he camped out like a refugee rather than a landowner. His son and grandson, Isaac and Jacob, did the same. But he held on to the promise: an unshakable city designed and built by God.

Remember Sarah? She was way too old to have children. And Abraham was a hundred years old. But they had a son. Why? Because she believed that God would keep His promises. From that son came countless descendants.

The people I’m telling you about died without getting everything God promised them. Instead, they saw it at a distance, and realized that this world was not their eternal home. They had their eyes set on something better. Could they have turned back? Sure. But they were looking for God’s good promises. God is proud to call them His children, and He has that eternal city ready for them.

When God tested Abraham’s faith, Abraham obeyed God by offering his son Isaac back to God. He held onto God’s promises, and released his only son, even though it made no sense because God had told him that through Isaac his promised descendants would come. Abraham reasoned that God could give him Isaac back from the dead, and, in a sense, that’s exactly what happened.

By faith Isaac foresaw the future when he blessed his sons Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed Joseph’s sons, worshiping God as an old man. Faith caused Joseph at the end of his life to predict that the Israelis would leave Egypt. He even instructed his people to remove his bones from Egypt and bury them in Canaan when that time came.

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months. They saw that God had a purpose for their son, and they chose to disregard Pharoah’s orders that all baby boys be thrown into the river to drown. By faith Moses, when he grew up, walked away from a life of royal privilege as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Instead of indulging in the temporary pleasure that sin provides, he chose a life of hardship as a member of an oppressed people group. In his mind, suffering and humiliation for the Messiah was better than anything Egypt could offer. Why? Because he could see far enough into the future to see God’s reward. This faith caused him to walk away from Egypt, not bowing to the anger of Pharaoh. Instead Moses saw the One who is invisible. By faith, Moses observed the first Passover, so the angel of death would not harm the firstborn of Israel. Faith brought the Israelis through the Red Sea on dry land. When the Egyptians tried it, they drowned.

By faith the walls of Jericho fell after the Israeli army marched around that city for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute survived the conquest of Jericho because she sheltered the Israeli spies. The people in her city who refused to obey perished.

I could go on with example after example—people like Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets. Faith empowered them to overthrow kingdoms, bring about justice, gain what was promised. They were protected from lions, walked through flames unharmed, escaped death by the sword. God turned their weakness into strength. They became powerful in battle, causing foreign armies to flee. Women received their loved ones back from the dead.

Others were tortured, refusing to turn away from God, so they might gain a better life at the resurrection. Some endured humiliation and abuse, beatings, chains, imprisonment. Some died by stoning. Others were sawed in half. Some were murdered with the sword. Some went around wearing animal skins, destitute, powerless, persecuted, mistreated. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered through the mountains, living in caves and holes in the ground.

All these people were praised by God for their faith. Did they receive what God promised them? Not in this life. But God had a better plan. Together with us they become whole, and together we will receive every bit of God’s perfect promise.

NOTES:
How do we reconcile the trouble … implied by the context. See the last several verses of chapter 10.
pray to Him or seek Him. The idea is that God becomes our priority, our focus.
offering his son Isaac back to God. See Genesis 22 (Day 72).
that’s exactly what happened: God stopped Abraham just before he put Isaac to death. Later passages show that God hates human sacrifice. Clearly God had no intention for Abraham to kill Isaac, though Abraham did not know that going into this experience.
Canaan or Israel.

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