And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. (Ac 19:11-12)
I have been thinking about this passage of scripture. I mentioned it over on Ricky's blog the other day, and it was mentioned in the word to our church on Sunday.
What got me thinking was not whether God still does extraordinary miracles through the hands of his servants. To me that's not the question. What I have read, what I have seen, what I have heard, and what I know and understand about the nature of God leaves me in no doubt. God has not run out of "miracle-juice", nor has it become watered down over the millennia. He is the same awesome miracle working God today that he was two-thousand years' ago.
What does intrigue me though is what form these extraordinary miracles take today. You see, and you can feel free to disagree with me on this, I don't believe it's about sweaty handkerchiefs!
God is a God of infinite resourcefulness and imagination. The handkerchiefs was something extraordinary he chose to do through the hands of Paul. We don't read of it happening though the hands of anyone else, not even Peter. The fact that they were classified as "extraordinary" underlines the point further. It was something special and distinct to the man and his ministry, not a new pattern that emerged relating how we are to minister to remote sick or demonised individuals.
In Acts 5:15 we read of another type of extraordinary miracle. Peter's shadow only had to fall on the sick as he passed them in the street and they were healed. This again is not something we see attributed to anyone else. It was extraordinary, distinct, different, unique.
When Jesus healed people, on occasion he would heal them with his spit! This also is not something we see anyone else do (thankfully!) I wonder if Jesus chose this method deliberately so that it wouldn't be copied as an empty ritual! Jesus healed people in so many different ways for the same reason, I believe. He wanted to leave us principles to engage our faith, not patterns to be entrenched in formulaic religion.
So Jesus healed with his spit, Peter healed with his shadow, and Paul healed with his sweat. The pattern I'd draw from these extraordinary miracles is that they were all different!
So if we are seeking to be those who move in extraordinary miracles today, we need to be looking not to what God did through somebody else at some other time. We don't have to go out to buy a new range of ministry hankies, or go looking for a sunny spot where the sick folks hang out... we need to raise our expectation of how our awesome God can transform the ordinary things in our lives into an extraordinary means of his grace.
How about someone being healed by just receiving a text message from a servant of God? That would be extraordinary! Or someone who gets healed on their way in to a meeting just because they were handed a bulletin by a man or woman stirred in the Holy Spirit. Ordinary everyday actions transformed by an infinitely creative God into something extraordinary.
How many ways can God be extraordinary?... my guess is about six and a half billion!