• Video (above): Ruth Rosen introduces David Brickner's article.
• Listen to the podcast of the whole article now read by Ruth Rosen.
When you think of modern-day miracles what comes to mind? For most people it is something spectacular, unmistakably impossible apart from God's intervention. And, technically, miracles are God's cosmic interruptions of natural occurrences.
We ask God to perform miracles, such as reversing terminal cancer.
I have a friend who believes that we should continually expect God to do miracles. He invites Jewish unbelievers at public meetings to learn about miracles and tells them that Jesus will perform a miracle if they believe and invite Him to do so. "After all," he reasons, "the Scriptures do say that 'Jews request a sign.'" He believes that building a platform for those signs is the key to seeing many more Jews coming to Jesus.
To be honest, I am glad that God has not called Jews for Jesus to operate quite that way as we preach the gospel. God surely can and does heal miraculously, but it seems to me that He does not do so as a common occurrence. I hope that does not mean a lack of faith on my part, but I think there is a fine line between faith and presumption. I do believe in miracles and I love it when God chooses to demonstrate His power with signs and wonders. I've just never felt authorized to schedule those occurrences or, as one preacher used to say, to always "expect a miracle."
Frankly, the kind of "miracles" I've seen God delight to perform are easily disregarded by skeptics. Yet they are undeniable to those who look to trust in Him. They may seem like small stuff, compared to the parting of the Red Sea. But they are surely divine interventions: powerful and unmistakable, yet intimate and personal. In fact, those "small things" played a big part in how the Lord led me to trust and obey Him.
I was brought up in a Messianic Jewish household. In fact, I come from five generations of Jewish believers on my mother's side. Despite my heritage I did not follow the Lord, but preferred worldliness and ungodly behavior ... until God revealed Himself to me in a most unusual way. I was in my first year at Boston University, pursuing a career in music as an orchestral trumpet player. Though a freshman, I was determined to make it into the Concert Orchestra at the University—an opportunity reserved for the more accomplished performers, usually upperclassmen.
I prayed to God for the first time in a long time and asked for His help. I promised to get closer to Him if He would "get me into the Concert Orchestra." (What chutzpah!) The big day came and I joined those crowded around the bulletin board to see the results of the auditions. To my great disappointment, my name was not on that list. I went to inquire with the Dean of the School of Music. He informed me that, in fact, I had been placed into the University Symphony Orchestra—the top-level performance group more often reserved for seniors and grad students.
I was elated, and feeling wonderful about myself—completely forgetting my prayer and promise to God. That same day I was to have my first trumpet lesson with the man who would soon become the first trumpet of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. I sat down to play for him, but nothing came out. I found myself literally unable to play a clear note. It was an eerie experience.
My teacher informed me that I needed to change my embouchure. That means relocating how you place your mouth on the instrument. For a wind player, this is like major surgery and puts you out of commission for weeks, if not months. When my teacher asked if I had been placed in a performance group he was astonished when I told him I had made it into the symphony orchestra. He really could not believe it, and called down to the dean's office to see if there had been some misunderstanding. My humiliation was complete.
I dejectedly trudged my way through campus, down Commonwealth Avenue, head down, feeling terribly sorry for myself. Then, in a flash I remembered my prayer and promise to God. The sudden recollection so shocked me that I stopped dead in my tracks. I looked up and there in front of the student union, not 50 feet away from me, stood two people in Jews for Jesus T-shirts, handing out tracts.
My mind was racing. It was one of those strange moments when everything fits together but you never saw it coming; like working on a Rubik's cube and suddenly all the colors are in alignment. It felt like I stood there staring for several minutes, but it must have been just a few seconds. I approached the two Jews for Jesus folks and introduced myself. They were very glad to meet me and invited me to a Bible study. I went and, as they say, the rest is history.
Over the years I have often reflected on that series of circumstances. There is no doubt in my mind that God supernaturally orchestrated the details of my life in order to get my attention and capture my heart. It was my miracle—something God intended for me—to show His kindness and grace. He often appears in the seemingly small things that show us His great love for us in a big way.
Recently, one of our staff members asked for prayer for her mother who is suffering with Alzheimer's. The state intended to remove her from her long-term care facility run by believers, placing her in an institution they deemed more appropriate. This would have been a traumatic and truly unnecessary interference. We prayed and the state officials reversed their decision, allowing the mother to remain among her friends and fellow believers who love her and can truly care for her. Some might have urged us to pray for healing instead of for the right housing, but we all saw God's gracious hand in the outcome.
A beloved Jews for Jesus board member felt what he thought might be an irregular heartbeat. He went to a cardiologist who immediately scheduled him for angioplasty. We all prayed and later rejoiced to hear that he went home that very same day having had just one stent put into a blocked artery. Maybe some would have admonished us to pray for a complete healing without surgery instead, but I can assure you our board member, his family and all who prayed rejoiced together in God's goodness. It was in the wisdom God gave that man (and his physicians) that the problem was detected early. And the good result came as a result of His loving providence. Praise the Lord!
Have you had experiences like this? Seemingly small things that God orchestrates to make a big difference in our lives and in our walk with Him? It is good to recognize and celebrate these "small miracles" and to guard our hearts from disappointment if things don't go as spectacularly as we might like.
During the days of the prophet Zechariah many people were upset because the second temple being built in Jerusalem was not quite as grand and as impressive as they wanted it to be. They were comparing it to what it had once been and lamenting the difference. But God was in it all and He admonished those who were disappointed, "Who dares despise the day of small things?" (Zechariah 4:10).
We need to remember and memorialize those times when God works in small ways; ways that may not impress the skeptic but which are so obviously showing His love for His children.
At Jews for Jesus we would love to see thousands of Jewish people coming to Christ. But even when one person comes to faith, though it may seem a small thing, it is always a miracle of God. The Lord loves to work in ways that may not seem remarkable but are nevertheless truly amazing because He is in them to accomplish His great purposes. May He give each of us eyes to see Him at work in the small things.