When God does a miracle in your life, you have to choose to get the most faith mileage out of it. If you don’t make some effort of the will, the miracle won’t do you much good. God isn’t interested in just performing for us; He wants to strengthen our trust in Him. When trust is weak, too much sight can cripple it from ever growing. Growing in faith is like trying to cultivate cactus in the desert: you can’t over-water a plant that’s designed to thrive in an arid climate or it will die.
We humans always prefer to take the easy way out. If God starts doing miracles too early or too often, we will never build up tolerance for the spiritual deserts in which survival depends on strong trust in God’s good Character. This is why we always see God stringing people out in the Bible. He could have parted the Red Sea the moment it appeared on the horizon in front of the fleeing Israelites, but instead He used the opportunity for a little trust stretching. He knew they were heading into a hostile wilderness and that faith in Him was the only way they’d survive it. By making such a big deal out of the Red Sea moment, He was trying to give them a strong association of “even when it looks really bad, God will come through for us.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t very effective for most of them. Why? Because the people chose to drop the memory instead of hanging on to it.
The popular moment for God to do miracles is in the midst of a crisis. Often the problem is quite serious from the human perspective, which adds a sense of urgency. This is when God likes to make His move—but not too soon. First He gives us time to contemplate the situation and recognize what is at stake. A full appreciation of the problem helps us to fully appreciate Him rescuing us from it.
When the Israelites were out of water in the desert, they were truly in a crisis. The stakes were life or death. It’s not a simple thing to come up with enough water for a mob of that size, and as the days kept passing without a drop in sight, they naturally started to panic. We can all identify so far. But by that point in their journey, the Israelites had several miraculous experiences under their belts. Instead of working themselves into a frenzy, they should have sat down in the dust and started reminding each other of all the ways God had already saved them up to that point. If they’d been doing their spiritual homework, they’d have remembered just how bad things looked before He’d parted the Red Sea, and they’d have developed stronger trust by rolling that memory around in their brains a lot. But as it was, the Red Sea moment was “out of sight, out of mind.” They were no longer impressed with God’s cloud pillar, either—another miracle that was always before them. No doubt they’d let Satan convince them it was just some natural phenomenon that Moses was foolishly mistaking for God. The ten epic plagues in Egypt were also long forgotten—the Jews were no longer impressed by how they’d been protected while their captors suffered horribly right in front of them. So what if Yahweh had turned the sun off for three days over the entire country except for where they lived? That was then, this is now.
Miracles are much more than solutions to a problem. They are meant to be frequently pondered and kept at the front of our memory banks for quick future reference. Miracles are symbolic lessons of what God can do. They need to be properly unpacked until every faith lesson they hold has been dug out of them.
When Yahweh killed all the firstborn in Egypt, the Israelites should have learned that it is always wise to follow His instructions, no matter how nonsensical they seem. It’s a bit bizarre to go painting blood on your doorway and sit around with your bags packed and ready to go. When they saw what happened to those who disobeyed, they should have gained a deeper reverence for God and decided in their hearts to always be quick to do whatever He asked. Yahweh’s public favoritism of them during the plagues, should have given the Jews a sense of confidence that He was definitely on their side. There was so much they could have learned—God had done so much to equip them before they even reached the wilderness. But because they kept blowing off His lessons and taking His miracles at face value only, every time they hit a new bump in the road, they crumbled. When they were thirsty, they had no faith to fall back on, so they settled for the carnal satisfaction of stoning Moses. His death wouldn’t solve the hydration problem, but it would make them feel better in the moment, and the present moment was all they’d come to care about.
To get the most mileage out of miracles, we must not only remember the event, but our emotions before the event. We need to remember how anxious we were that God wouldn’t come through in time. We need to remember the high stakes and the feeling of edging out onto some cracking limb, trying to trust that He’d show up before it snapped off. Then when we find ourselves in a similar future experience, we can reach back through our memory banks and say “I’ve been here before and God came through, so this time I’m going to try to stay calm and trust.” This is what Joshua did after he spied out the Promised Land. He saw the same daunting giants and fortified cities as the other spies, but he also remembered all the ways that Yahweh had saved them up until that point. Because he’d been doing his spiritual homework, his faith was ready to take on a new challenge while everyone else was crumbling in fear.
In America, living by faith is a foreign concept. Most of us work to earn money, we cook our own food, we drive ourselves where we want to go, and all of this gives us a strong sense of self-reliance. At best, we try to recognize God as the Source of all that we have, but this is vastly different than having to rely on Him for providing our basic needs. What if you became seriously injured and there was no medical help available? What if you were thirsty like those Israelites and you couldn’t get to water? Learning to rely on a last minute God for personal basics is a big step for materially rich Americans. This living by faith business doesn’t feel good at all. We like that sense of control. We like to prepare solutions and back-up solutions way in advance. We like having an address to come home to and the guarantee of a roof over our heads. We don’t want to have to sit around wondering where our next meal will come from, or be stuck hungry if God decides we can go without. To learn to live by faith and not have a permanent bad attitude is no small challenge.
What area of your life is God currently challenging you in? When’s the last time you ran into a major problem and He resolved it in a way you didn’t expect? Don’t let any moments of Divine intervention slip past your notice. You never know when He might decide to take you into your own wilderness journey, or when He’s going to call on you to fight some giants or trust His care of you when it seems very insufficient. We don’t want to miss out on any opportunity to get closer to our glorious Creators, and strong faith is the foundation of our relationship with Them.