Have you heard about the book about a boy who went to heaven and back? The ‘real life’ tale reads something like this; a six year old boy called Alex Malarkey is involved in a serious car crash, he is rushed to hospital and goes onto die. During his ‘death’ he arrives in heaven before coming back to life and making a full recovery. The account clearly resonated with many, with the book reaching the top of the New York Times bestseller list, selling copies by the million.
It now turns out though that the facts found within this story are more than a little spurious, with Malarkey (now 17) and his mother, now admitting he neither died or went to heaven (although he was seriously injured in a car crash.) The very fact that this bogus story was picked up by a Christian publisher and sold by Christian retailers surely says something about our increasing desire to digest more ‘miraculous’ and ‘extraordinary’ accounts of God’s power.
Interestingly, I’ve just finished reading a book called Ordinary, by Michael Horton. It’s a very helpful read and I recommend it. One of the many good points made by the seminary professor behind the ‘White Horse Inn’ podcast is that in seeking out of the ordinary signs and wonders we are in danger of missing the everyday yet extraordinary displays of God’s power and providence.
I’d like to draw on this point further in this piece. Before I do however let me say that I personally believe that in accordance with his absolute sovereignty, God can and has performed miracles such as physical healings. Further, Jesus when on earth performed acts which were quite clearly outside the laws of nature such as walking on water and raising people from the dead. In demonstrating his divinity, these miracles are indeed extraordinary, and different from God’s more everyday acts. My concern however is that we too often take these ‘ordinary’ acts as given and rather mundane, when in actual fact the opposite is true.
In what follows, I will take two ‘ordinary’ deeds and explain why they should be considered extraordinary, supernatural and sovereignly provided by God. It is my hope that in doing so we’d come to regard God in a more awesome, reverential and thankful way.
- The creation and sustaining of the universe
When we look at Genesis 1, we see a repeated phrase, ‘And God.’ This action, mentioned no less than 24 times in this opening chapter clearly demonstrates that whatever you think regarding whether the earth was created in 7, 24 hour time periods, or whether evolution was involved, God is the sovereign initiator and creator of the vastly magisterial and complex expanse we call the Universe. This awe-inspiring act is evident in everything we see around us, from stars light-years away, the beauty of the Chiltern Hills, the vivid rainforest of the Amazon or even the average house plant!
Moreover, God did not magnificently create the earth and all living things within it and then simply leave it to ‘do its thing.’ No, God not only supernaturally initiated and created, but also graciously and sovereignly sustains all life today (Hebrews 1:3.) As such, the fact you’re reading this now and have breath in your body is a cause for great worship and thanksgiving.
- The gifts of justification and sanctification
Secondly, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that we do nothing to earn our justification (that is, having Christ’s righteousness credited to us by God) whatsoever. This fact shouldn’t be especially surprising given that we are born into sin (Psalm 51:5). Indeed, Paul’s letter to the Romans demonstrates that without God’ intervention, we would be enemies of God, set against him (Romans 3:9-18) In other words, justification is achieved through the gift of faith alone graciously provided to us by God. (Ephesians 2:1-9) It is therefore nothing less than absolutely extraordinary.
A believer’s sanctification (being progressively made more Christ like) is likewise a wholly extraordinary and magisterial act of our heavenly father. That is, whilst the Bible exhorts the believer to pursue holiness and godliness (2 Peter 1:5) this is only possible and is guaranteed by God’s amazing grace. In other words, this aspect alone fuels and powers our efforts in pursuing the above qualities (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24.) In other words, both our justification and sanctification are guaranteed by faith, which as noted above is a gift from God, how reassuring!
Application – appreciating the ordinary
Overall, these two so called ‘ordinary’ acts are in actual fact anything but. Whilst the miracles performed by Jesus were unique and performed outside the laws of physics and nature, the two acts above are still entirely amazing, astonishing and God glorifying. My hope is that in realising this, we’d come to view God with more reverence and awe, being increasingly thankful for the everyday ways in which he acts for our good.
Further, in treating the above events as mundane, we can sometimes be in danger of treating God as if he has short changed us when in actual fact he has blessed us abundantly. This is how Paul can say that he’s filled with thanksgiving when hearing upon the salvation of others (Colossians 1:3-8). In addition, Jesus says that in the gospel and his Word we have all we need to bear fruit today (John 15:1-8.)
In short, God through his Son, Holy Spirit, Gospel and Word has sufficiently provided (through his miraculous power) all we could ever need. My concern is that too often we take this undeserved provision for granted, expecting him to do something ‘more’ when he’s already given us so much.
Romans 12:1-2 ESV: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.