How often do you see God’s hand intervening in your day? The Father reveals his love through signs and wonders. We see it in the uncanny coincidences that make a difficult situation easier. He reveals his love in the perfect timing of an unexpected phone call from just the right person while we’re wondering how to accomplish a goal. He sings to us through the songs playing on the radio that minister to us.
We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. … This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 2:1-4 NIV)
God the Father reassures us through many signs. He wants us to know that he is actively involved in our lives. He does this to build our faith and help us keep our salvation. He wants us to know that he really does care about us and about each situation that is troubling us, because signs are testimonies worth celebrating to build the faith of others.
The Father’s concern for us is not supposed to be a mystery. It’s not supposed to remain hidden. Our faith is made stronger when we realize that Abba-Father is with us.
On Day 8 of this journey into the Father’s heart, I shared the story of how Abba gave us a sign that he approved of our purchase of land to build our house. I mentioned the sign of the unusual timing of the scientist from the Environmental Protection Agency showing up while the land surveyor was there, which made his job easier.
If Ralph and I had not been asking the Father for knowledge of his Divine Will, we would not have been looking for signs. It’s important that this is the motivation for our sign-seeking. Signs can be too easily misinterpreted. Circumstances that are not signs from Abba are too easy to make wrong assumptions about. Demons can give us false signs. And God’s signs can be too easily overlooked.
To detect genuine signs, we start with the humility of realizing that we can misread signs. We ask the Father to correct our thinking if we misinterpret a sign. And always (except in cases of emergencies) we wait for Abba to give us multiple signs: one sign confirms another.
For example, while we were still searching for land, we jotted down the phone number of a builder whose signs we saw next to new construction projects. Mind you, there were other builders who had signs, too. We “just happened” to take note of one particular builder. And it turned out that he was Catholic, like us, and he believed in prayer to help get projects done, like we did.
By itself, this was just a nice happenstance. Combined with the timing of the scientist and the surveyor and other signs (such as the hawk feather that I’ll tell you about shortly), it was an important message from the Father.
Merry, the Indonesian woman who shared on Day 9 her discovery of Abba’s blessings in the struggles she dealt with, received a sign from God in the color teal. She writes:
“I suddenly developed such fondness for the colour teal. Every time I saw any objects in teal colour, my mood just lit up. One day, I woke up with this strong desire to go to the chapel in my area, just to sit in front of the tabernacle and spend time with God. I went to the chapel in the morning. After praying for a while, I walked closer to the tabernacle and kneeled, then bowed my head to the floor to worship Jesus hidden in the Consecrated Hosts [that were behind the closed door of the tabernacle].
“As I bowed my head to the floor, I saw a small object in teal colour. (I assume it was the tip of a mechanical pencil.) I had no idea how that could be on the floor. The floor was always clean. I was so surprised. I was stunned. At the same time, I felt very special. God had given me a present, just for me, to remind me always of him.
“During my hard times or when I am in doubt, I always come back to that small object and remind myself that God cares for me.”
Many people have experienced God’s signs reassuring them. We especially need this after the death of a loved one. Here’s the story of what happened to Dawn and her family after her brother passed away.
“Our family’s grief has been naturally overwhelming at times,” she says. “During a celebration of our father’s 80 birthday, most of the family (about 28 of us) gathered for a weekend at a camp on a lake. Each morning we were greeted by a beautiful red cardinal that perched on a narrow metal frame. It seemed impossible for a bird to land there. It would knock on the window, seemingly at us. We waited each day to see this curious action of the cardinal. That was 4½ years ago. To this day, when we go to this camp we are greeted by a cardinal. We have decided it is God’s way of sending us a beautiful memory of our brother.”
Abba’s wonderful purposes
A sign is a means of communicating instructions or a direction to follow — like a stop sign or a highway marker pointing to the next exit. Our days are full of signs of God’s presence; we just need to pay attention and learn how to interpret happenstances. But Abba-Father gets even more dramatic than that. He enjoys working wonders in our lives — miracles.
Gift Nyirenda from Malawi says:
“If we walk with God on our side, signs and wonders are a testimony that will always accompany us. I was desperate to find a job after getting married, just to support my family. I applied for different jobs related to my studies, but nothing seemed to work. I gave up and wrote no more applications. All of a sudden (without expectation) I got a phone call from someone I did not know inviting me to go and start teaching at a certain institution immediately. I could not believe how that worked, but there I was, teaching. I rose to be the Principal (Head Teacher governing all operations of the institution).
“To this day, I keep the faith that God does watch over us. Despite our little efforts, he will see us through the challenges we face. I know God is always watching over me and my family.”
What do you suppose was the Divine Purpose behind the miracle that Gift received? Did God intervene just so Gift could support his family? No, there’s more. There’s always more. With God, there are always multiple benefits. Multiple purposes. Think about the testimony Gift’s story became. It became an opportunity to evangelize everyone who heard it. Abba-Father wants all of his children to learn how he takes care of those who develop a close relationship with him.
As you read this chapter, the stories of others will trigger memories of your own experiences of God filling your life with his presence. When you remember something, pause to think about how your story can reveal the Father to those around you.
Revealing the Father is why Jesus worked many signs and wonders. The miracles proved the divinity and authority of Jesus — and all the Jews knew that divine authority comes from the Father. When we accept the divinity and authority of Jesus, we embrace the Father.
The miracles of Jesus helped people get to know Abba as he truly is: Yahweh, the God who is full of compassion, love and helpfulness. Simultaneously, the Father’s ultimate purpose for miracles was to reveal who Jesus is. Every miracle was (and still is) an invitation to understand that (1) Jesus and the Father are one, and (2) Jesus is the way for us to reach the Father and spend eternity in Heaven.
Most of the miracles that Jesus performed very purposefully addressed human needs: healing diseases, healing grief by raising loved ones from the dead, feeding empty stomachs, and setting free the victims of demonic control. His purpose was to show the Father’s compassion for us in our human condition. It’s God’s love meeting us in our human suffering.
In the miracles of Jesus we see a Father who is deeply affected by our pain.
When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:14 ESV)
In the miracles of Jesus we see a Father who is moved to compassion because his children are suffering. He does not sit idly by, telling us to “just deal with it and offer it up”. He is much more involved than that. He’s a Daddy who kisses away our “ouchies”.
On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” (Luke 6:6-9 NIV)
This scripture is packed full of signs and wonders.
- The man with the withered hand did not ask Jesus for a healing. God’s desire to reveal himself through signs and wonders does not depend on how we ask for it or whether we even try.
- Jesus reacted to the misconceptions of the Pharisees and teachers. He felt compassion for the injured man while also feeling upset about the uncaring attitudes of the leaders of the synagogue.
- Jesus demonstrated the Father’s compassion by showing and then stating that the needs of people are more important than overly strict interpretations of the Sabbath law.
- Jesus gave a name to their overly strict interpretation. He called it evil.
- Everyone who heard what he said and saw the miracle he performed had the opportunity to be changed by it.
Imagine what the man with the healed hand did next. It’s very possible that he began to follow Jesus everywhere. He was hungry to learn more about this miracle worker who cared about him so deeply — just like you might be if someone came along and singled you out and showed you tremendous concern by miraculously healing you. Perhaps he was there when Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. The words I speak are not from on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his works through Me.” (See John 14:9 and 10.)
In the miracles of Jesus we see a Father who cherishes his children who have such a close relationship with him that they are always listening to him.
For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more…. (Luke 8:17-19 NIV)
May’s story is an example of this. She loved taking care of her three grandchildren while their parents worked. One morning, her daughter-in-law called very early to ask her to take three-year-old Thomas to the doctor. Of course May said yes. But when her son (the child’s dad) dropped the children off later than normal, he explained that Thomas had thrown up before leaving home and had to be cleaned up.
“Now,” he said before hurrying back to his car, “there is no need to take him to the doctor because, after he threw up, his fever broke and he’s feeling better.”
May sent the two older grandkids off to school and then looked at Thomas sleeping peacefully on the couch. She reasoned that he was tired because he’d had a rough night.
What happened next can only be explained by a good connection between Abba and his daughter, May. She describes it this way: “Now you will all agree that any of us mortals would have to be insane to pick up a sleeping child and for no visible reason take him to the doctor. Much less the emergency department. However, I did just that.”
She prayed the Memorare (a prayer that reminds us that the Blessed Mother of Jesus is ready to help us) on the way to the hospital. She says, “I truly felt like turning around, as I did not know what reason to give them for bringing him in. But something kept me going.”
After they arrived, “Thomas walked with me from the parking to emergency. I felt stupid about my reason for bringing him. But in the short time while we waited for triage, he went into septic shock. The nurse took him from me and ran inside with him. His bowels and kidneys had shut down. His skin stopped getting oxygen. They worked on him for hours.”
The staff congratulated May for saving her grandson’s life. She told them who it was that actually saved his life: “Our God who’s mercy is boundless.”
Then one nurse said, “Yes it was God, but you were open to his instructions.”
If May had not followed through on the urging she’d felt in her spirit — an urging that seemed illogical and unlikely — she would have soon found him dead on the couch. His window of recovery was only twenty minutes, and May had taken him to the hospital before that window had started its countdown.
One minute he had been walking through the parking lot like a normal kid. The next minute his fever went through the roof along with his heart rate. The room was full of nurses, each finding a vein, because time was crucial. His nails turned blue, his skin marble. Antibiotics were pushed directly from a syringe into his vein. One nurse was unwrapping the sterile syringes — countless syringes — while another nurse pushed them into the vein.
May held the oxygen mask to his face as her grandbaby lay weak on the bed. An x-ray machine was rolled in. His left lung was full of pneumonia. Heart medication was given to him and they called for a helicopter to be ready so that, once his heart stabilized, they would transfer him to a world renowned children’s hospital.
When his heart finally stabilized, he started improving faster than any of the doctors and nurses thought possible. There was no longer a need to transfer him. He stayed in this hospital only four days.
Faith is a gift
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked the blind man.
“I want to see.”
“Go,” said Jesus. “Your faith has healed you.”
Immediately the man received his sight. Then he followed Jesus.
(See Mark 10:51-52.)
Wait a minute! Did you notice what Jesus said just now? “Your faith has healed you.” So does that mean that if we don’t experience miracles it’s because we don’t have enough faith? It would seem so. Jesus often said, “You of little faith! Why are you afraid?” (Matthew 6:30) and, ” You of little faith! Why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31), and, “If only you had faith the size of a mustard seed…” (Matthew 17:20).
Because of this, we assume that we must be diligent about increasing our faith. We turn faith into a project, a spiritual exercise. We work at it and work at it and yet make little progress.
The good news is: Faith is not a project. It’s a gift. It’s not something we do. It’s something that Abba did for us when he created us in his image and then adopted us because we turned our lives over to him. He gave us what he has. Faith is our inheritance as long as we accept what Jesus did for us on the Cross.
Jesus destroyed the barriers between Heaven and Earth. He brought Heaven to Earth when he walked the Earth. (The kingdom of God is at hand,” he said in Mark 1:15, “so repent and believe the good news!”) He showed us the door to Heaven when he died on the Cross, and when the Father resurrected him he opened that door. And then, after Jesus ascended to Heaven, he sent to Earth the Holy Spirit so that we could receive and enjoy our Heavenly inheritance while we’re still on Earth. Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 12:9).
God gives faith to everyone who has the humility to follow Jesus. Remember the rich young man in Matthew 19:16-22? He turned away from Jesus, downcast because Jesus had asked him to give away his earthly possessions in exchange for the treasures of Heaven. The young man did not have the humility to listen to what Jesus was trying to teach him. He was not interested in learning that love is the greatest wealth of all and that God’s love is so extravagant it far surpasses every earthly thing.
Lacking the humility to learn, the young man did not receive the gift of faith. God wanted to give it to him, but the man stubbornly trusted in his possessions and in his own efforts instead of the faith that Jesus revealed.
The gift of faith comes from the Father through the Holy Spirit thanks to what Jesus did for us. “Anyone who believes in Me, as promised in scripture,” Jesus said, “will have the Holy Spirit flowing from within them like rivers of living water” (see John 7:38-39).
After his resurrection, Jesus blew his life-giving breath onto his disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). On the Feast of Pentecost, after Jesus ascended to the Father, this breath of Jesus blew through the locked-up room where the disciples waited and prayed, and the Holy Spirit arrived like fire.
The Holy Spirit is still setting the followers of Christ on fire. We are still in the Era of the Holy Spirit. And so, to be a Christian means that we receive — and use — the gift of faith, as well as other gifts that come from God’s Spirit. Why? Simply because the Father loves us so much that he’ll do anything we let him do if it draws us closer to him.
“If you have the faith the size of a mustard seed,” Jesus said, “you could command a mountain to move and it would be moved. Nothing would be impossible for you.” (See Matthew 17:20.) Why? Because our Good Father wants to help his children have strong faith. Life-changing faith. World-changing faith!
Jesus also said, “It is the Father dwelling in Me who performs the works you’ve seen me do. Believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. Truly, truly, I tell you (this is important, listen up), everyone who believes in Me will be able to do the same works that I’ve been doing. In fact, you will be able to do even greater things, because I am going to the Father.” (See John 14:10-12.)
Why did he make this astounding promise? Because a good relationship with Father God through the help of the Holy Spirit is astounding! This scripture should deeply convict our hearts. Are we taking Jesus seriously? Or perhaps we are saying, “Who, me???” while looking around us to see if Jesus meant it for someone else.
Read the Book of Acts to see what Christian faith is supposed to look like. We should go running to the Sacrament of Confession for being mediocre compared to those people. We need to repent of ignoring and disbelieving what Jesus said in John 14:12, because the world very much needs Christians who reveal the Father through signs and wonders, like Jesus did. The people in our homes and parishes and workplaces need to learn what God the Father is really like.
Tragically, we have been influenced by the world around us. We’ve been living in the so-called age of science and reason, which has become, regarding matters of faith, the age of extreme skepticism. And yet, if we look for it, and if members of the Body of Christ communicate and collaborate in the sharing of testimonies, we find plenty of evidence that Abba is still sharing his love through signs and wonders.
Every day, ask the Holy Spirit to increase in you the gift of faith for miracles.
One Sunday evening, Ralph and I spoke to a youth group in a parish of our diocese. Afterward, a girl came up to us wanting to be prayed over for a healing. A year prior to this, she had been in a car accident that damaged her left shoulder. Even after physical therapy, she still could not raise her arm much.
“Will you ask Jesus to heal me?” she said.
Ralph and I both thought, “Oh no! She’s expecting a miracle. Who am I to try it?” And then we looked at each other with resignation. We couldn’t shoo her away. So we prayed with her for a few minutes and then said, “Raise your arm. How high can you lift it now?”
It went all the way up!
Ralph and I were as happy as she was.
Just before Jesus ascended into heaven, he gave these final words as an exclamation point at the end of a very important chapter of salvation history: “Go out into all the world and preach the gospel. Signs will accompany those who believe: In My Name they will drive out demons, speak in new tongues, pick up snakes without harm, and drink deadly poison without getting hurt. They will lay their hands on the sick, who will then be healed.” (See Mark 16:15-18.)
Evangelization is the mission of Christ. Signs and wonders are part of this mission because they prove that God is real and that he truly cares about us. As Saint Paul tells us in 1st Corinthians 12:7, “To each of us the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
In verse 9, Paul specifically names faith as one of the gifts of the Spirit. He names other gifts too, all of which empower us to be effective partners with Christ in his ongoing mission.
These gifts are: supernatural wisdom, words of knowledge that do not come from our own heads, healing the sick, working miracles, prophesying to deliver God’s messages, discerning the presence of evil spirits, speaking in a language that is not our own and interpreting what was spoken in the unknown tongue.
As with all spiritual gifts, the gift of faith named here is given to us for the purpose of edifying others. Those who have the gift of faith are an inspiration to everyone around them — and a challenge to those who do not want to humble themselves and become followers of Christ. We show by our confidence in God that, no matter what happens, God is real, God cares, and God will back up our faith by turning everything, including bad things that happen, into good (“God works in everything for the good of those who love him”, Saint Paul assures us in Romans 8:28).
The gift of faith for miracles is a fearless reliance on God’s promises. This fearless reliance is not a self-built courage. We don’t have to work and struggle to overcome the fear that God will fail to answer our prayers. We only have to realize that we have been given this gift and we have to make ourselves available as stewards of his gifts. Then we leave the rest up to God.
Abba builds our confidence
Signs and wonders are the Father’s blessing on our decisions to faithfully live the gospel in our daily lives and to share it with others. He wants to activate in us the Holy Spirit’s gift of miracle-working faith.
We often talk about increasing our faith. We might say, “Your testimony about how God answered your prayers has increased my faith.” This is wrong language. Faith does not need to be increased! Even a mustard seed size faith is enough to move mountains. When the Holy Spirit gives a gift, he gives it fully.
What needs to increase is our confidence in God’s love, in his caring support, and in the promises he made.
Confidence grows by paying attention to all the little ways that Abba intervenes in our lives. We have big prayer requests and huge concerns. We’re waiting for God to act in a mighty way. But when we focus on these, the waiting is hard. The waiting seems too long and we lose confidence in God’s support.
Instead, look for the little interventions. That’s when we discover that Abba’s supportive hand is everywhere. Every day. And so our confidence grows.
One of my favorite ways to experience Abba as a Father who dotes on me is my raindrops prayer. As described in Day 18, I often ask Abba to stop the rain at my destination when (or before) I get there. Even if it’s pouring when I leave my house, almost always it is a light drizzle or no rain at all when I arrive. And each time, I grin and thank the Father for blessing me once again.
There are countless ways that Abba dotes on us. And because we often fail to notice, he likes to repeat the gesture. Therefore, if something keeps catching your eye, ask the Holy Spirit what Abba is trying to tell you. For example, when Ralph and I began to draw up plans for building our house, I began to notice hawks. We’d be driving to the store, talking about the house, and a hawk would fly across the street in front of us. On another day, we were worried about not finding a bank that would give us a construction loan, and a hawk perched on a tree in the back yard just when I happened to look in that direction.
Hawk sightings became so frequent — at just the right moment — that I wondered if it was all just coincidental or was God doing it. So I asked the Holy Spirit. Not long afterward, I told a friend about it, and together we analyzed what a hawk might represent. What are hawks especially good at? They have keen eyesight, so much so that they can see tiny details on the ground from very high places. Like God!
From then on, hawk sightings reminded me that God is watching over every little detail and therefore we have nothing to fear.
This came in very handy one day when it seemed like we would have to cancel our plans to build the house. I was walking my dog and all of a sudden the air above us became filled with a flock of hawks circling and circling. But hawks don’t flock! This had only one explanation: Abba was getting my attention again. Big time. He wanted me to feel very reassured that he was still watching over the details and that there was nothing to fear.
I praised him, “Thank you!” And immediately all the hawks disappeared. They flew away, I guess. I didn’t see where they went. They were just gone. They had delivered God’s message and were no longer needed.
Several months later, while the new house was under construction, I stopped by one morning to see the progress. After looking around, when I returned to my car, there was a hawk feather sticking up from the gap where the driver’s door meets the frame of the windshield. It was jammed in there in exactly the right way to stand perfectly upright.
Think of how unlikely that is. If not for the hand of God placing it there, the feather would have had to float down exactly right, with the breeze exactly in the right direction and speed, with the tip of the shaft pointed straight down when it landed on the car exactly in the gap.
I still have that feather. Every time I touch it, my confidence in God’s caring support gets reinforced.
The signs and wonders in your life
Abba-Father wants his children to know that signs and wonders are a normal expression of his love. He doesn’t reserve it only for the holiest among us nor for a select few wonder-workers. It is to be expected of those who live by faith.
I believe that one of the reasons why so many people have left the church of their upbringing and why so many of the unchurched are not even curious about the faith is because most believers are not revealing God’s love through signs and wonders. The message we give: Either God doesn’t care enough to work miracles or he’s not real.
Human fathers (and mothers, clergy, and others in authority) are called to reveal what God the Father is like. This important responsibility requires being active in a life of faith. Jesus said this includes signs and wonders. Why? Because our testimony affects the eternal lives of others.
Jeanie found an opportunity to teach her four-year-old son about God’s helpfulness when he accidently dropped his stuffed bunny out of the car window.
“We drove back to that area of the neighborhood and looked all around,” Jeanie says, “but the bunny was nowhere in sight.” She considered introducing her son to praying to Saint Anthony to ask God for help in reuniting him with his bunny, since he is the patron saint of lost items. But she hesitated. How disappointing it would be if the bunny didn’t show up.
Then she decided to use that as a teaching moment and asked God to do with it as he wanted.
“About three weeks passed and our family went to our neighborhood club for dinner one evening. When we walked in the door, off to the side on an entry hall table sat my son’s bunny! I just gloated and told the family that God honors our prayers and those of saints.”
What are your stories about signs and wonders? Start a notebook of testimonies. How has God revealed his love to you in miraculous ways? Find someone to share a story with today.
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© 2020 by Terry A. Modica
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