Miracles are Like Basketball
A friend once shared with me a sermon where a theologian confessed powerlessness because he tried to do miracles but it didn't work; so he lost all hope about those miracles being for today. He wished that healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead were still for today, but he concluded that they weren’t based on his experiences (or lack thereof). His heart was hardened in regards to pre-heaven miracles with the exception of conversions. Disillusioned by disappointment, his hope for the sick and demonized got deferred to only heaven after death. C.f. Proverbs 13:12
Admittedly, I felt judgmentality-turned-sympathy towards him in my heart since he came to an illogical conclusion. Other believers in Jesus likewise didn’t see anyone healed when they laid hands and prayed for them in risky public settings, but they clung onto God's promises in His Word about healing the sick and they didn’t let discouragement get the best of them. They didn't give up as they publicly prayed for thousands of people, one at a time, day after day, but saw no results over the course of many months. Finally, since they did not give up, they saw breakthrough and have since seen thousands healed physically as they were touched by God’s love and subsequently received Jesus as their Lord and Savior. (1)
As I thought about these matters, I pictured a kid who tries out basketball for the first time. He practices and shoots at the hoop multiple times, but he always misses. Does this mean that he should give up on basketball forever? Is basketball for him? Maybe he won't play for junior high school, high school, college, and/or the NBA, but he definitely won't improve or do any of those things if he believes he can't and throws in the towel.
Suddenly I remembered a traumatic memory from my childhood. I was at the Wellness Center gymnasium shooting hoops by myself, and a couple other older boys came to do the same. Before that day, I had seen some improvements in actually getting the ball into the hoop after lots of practice. But this day, every time I shot the basketball, the two boys would purposely sling their basketballs at mine in order to knock it away from making the basket. This happened for a very long time, and I got very discouraged.
Recalling this memory for the first time in a while, a phrase from a verse came to my mind: “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;” Ephesians 6:16 ESV [emphasis mine]. From this I got the picture that I had opposition with “the fiery darts of the evil one” represented by the basketballs that the boys threw to knock my basketball from fulfilling it purpose and direction.
Some time later I went to a one-day basketball camp I got signed up for at that Wellness Center. Although I recall being the least-skilled person at the camp, I also remember the trainer continually stressing this one statement I never forgot and have heard again from time to time: “Believe you can or believe you can't. Either way will work.” This likewise connects with the above verse, for we might equate “take up the shield of faith” with “believe you can [through Christ who gives you strength].”
To this day I’m not very good at basketball; I’m the “looks can be deceiving” guy. The last time I played for fun, my Malaysian friend told me, “At first I thought you were going to amazing at basketball, but I was wrong.” (Thanks, I really appreciate that.) But the point is that if I do have a desire to improve at basketball, it is possible insofar as I will not throw in the towel and dedicate myself to a lot of practice. Sure I’ll never make it into the NBA; that’s fine with me, but I can at least get better than I am now if I put in the time and effort.
Until just a couple years ago, I never got the memo that God is still in the pre-heaven healing business. I was shocked and amazed when I changed the way I thought and was open to that possibility. Since I tend to approach life very intellectually, I read books on the subject from those who successfully healed the sick, cast out demons, etc. through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God the Father. A couple of these first books include Healing the Sick: A Living Classic by T.L. Osborn and They Shall Expel Demons by Derek Prince.
Unlike basketball, I do have a desire to improve at my relationship with God and loving other people. One great way to love my neighbor as myself is to help them experience God’s love and plan for their lives. Some of the most tangible expressions of showing God’s love to people include healing their sicknesses and casting out demons, as Jesus demonstrated. Jesus is God’s ministry model for His people, the church. That’s why Jesus commanded his followers to teach their followers (the church) to do everything he commanded them to do. Those commandments include casting out demons, healing the sick, etc. c.f. Matthew 10:8; 28:18-20.
Since I want to grow to maturity in my relationship with Jesus Christ, and his commandments are not mere suggestions, I spend my time researching how other followers of Jesus obey his commandments more successfully as I likewise look for opportunities to love people in such practical ways in my own life.
If you haven't yet entered into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ to discover His love and plan for your life, I recommend my article here: Did You Hear the News?
(1) One example is Todd White. The shift in healing results occurred after he received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire, as is consistent with the book of Acts. That is why Jesus told his disciples after they got saved, "And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.'" Luke 24:49 ESV; c.f. Acts 1:4-8