When Vic raised his hand at the back of our little, white-clapboard country church on Sunday night, everyone knew what song he would be requesting.
Vic had retired from a career in business and settled in our tiny village, becoming a faithful member of our first church: Pulaskiville Community Church in Central Ohio. And more than any other song or hymn, he loved to hear the congregation sing, “I Believe in Miracles.”
We all did. I liked the song because of a particular phrase that resonated with my Nebraska farmer’s heart.
I’ve seen the lily push its way
up through the stubborn sod,
I believe in miracles
for I believe in God.
Vic and the rest of the congregation, however, knew we weren’t just singing about flowers—or the power of a small seed to worm its way to the earth’s surface and greet the rising sun. No, it was more than that. We were celebrating the almost miraculous revival of a small, once-nearly-dying country church.
We were remembering the Sunday morning when God’s Spirit moved with such power in our congregation that almost every person in attendance surged to the front of the sanctuary, seeking prayer or praying with others. Lives were transformed that day. Destinies changed. Families were saved—spiritually and literally. Hardened husbands and fathers came broken, weeping, seeking God’s grace and mercy.
In almost fifty years of ministry, I have never witnessed anything like that Sunday morning in Pulaskiville. Everybody agreed it was a “God thing.” The Holy Spirit showed up to bring new life as only He can do. That’s why we sang about sprouting seeds and stubborn sod with such heartfelt joy. We had seen God’s work His miracles in our very midst.
Perhaps you have seen a dandelion pushing up through asphalt or a tiny wildflower sinking roots into a small fracture of a granite cliff. To witness such relentless power from something so fragile and inconspicuous ought to amaze us.
But there is something more amazing than that. It is the sheer power of a simple message that turns lives upside down and right-side up, and reconciles strained and broken relationships.
God delights in using simple, ordinary things to accomplish great purposes. He used a youthful shepherd with a sling to take down a giant and defeat an army. He used a donkey to turn around a wayward prophet. He used a dove to convince Noah it was time to dock the ark and build a home on terra firma. He used a boy’s picnic lunch to feed a hungry multitude. He depleted Gideon’s army to demonstrate how a handful of men with faith could scare the life out of marauding Midianites.
Biblical stories of God’s power to use the weak and confound the wise and the strong abound, but I also have an example from personal experience. It’s the story of how God transformed a bashful farm boy into a man He could equip to preach and teach for these past five decades.
Let’s turn to the Bible for examples of God power to do great things with ordinary people like you and me. Consider Paul’s personal testimony:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. (Romans 1:16)
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (1 Corinthians 1:18, 19)
Paul concludes, “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1: 22-24)
Imagine hearing rumors swirling through Jerusalem that a baby boy, the future King of Israel, had been born in a cave near Bethlehem. His parents were a common carpenter and a simple peasant girl from Nazareth. (Oh, by the way, rumor was she was pregnant prior to their marriage.) Some day, so the word on the street was, this little baby would rule over the entire world. Sound believable?
At least King Herod took it seriously, but he was so paranoid that he had also killed a wife and sons.
The message about a Jewish rabbi suffering on a Roman cross for the sins of the world may not sound impressive to our contemporary culture. Millions of people have heard about it and either vaguely remember it or dismiss it with a shrug.
But it’s hard to argue with the evidence of a changed life—something right before your eyes. No, it may not be as sudden or dramatic as a whirlwind or lightning strike. Even so, the gospel message about Jesus Christ is God’s incomparable tool to unleash life-bending, heart-transforming power. It’s a force that remolds lives, whether they are men battling addictions at the Shepherd’s House or white-collar criminals behind a desk on Wall Street.
That is the gospel! That is why Paul could say he was not ashamed of the gospel because it contains God’s power to transform the world one person at a time. Paul ought to know, because he was one of those hardened sinners whose life was turned 180 degrees after being knocked from his mount and blinded by indescribable light and hearing the sovereign in heaven asking, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
God has used and is still using a simple story about Jesus Christ and a cross to change lives. The gospel planted like a small seed has the power to break through the stubborn sod of the hardest sinner’s heart. That’s why I am proud to say that I am a preacher of the gospel.
Call it all foolish? Perhaps.
Call it weak and powerless? Never!
Vic requested a song because we all believed in miracles and in God. We had witnessed the visitation of heaven on a Sunday morning in that little, white, country church in Ohio.
The advent of a delicate flower somehow shouldering its way through hardened soil may be a miracle so common that we walk by it a hundred times a day without taking any notice at all. But the stunning reality of changed and transformed lives, made new forever through Christ, is a different proposition altogether. Families, friends, neighbors, and coworkers certainly take notice.
As do the angels.