You may be in the middle of a miracle right now and simply not see it. It may be that you are waiting for a miracle. You’re discouraged because things seem to be at a standstill. You do not see any evidence of God’s supernatural work on your behalf.
Consider what David says in Psalm 18: “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God; he heard my voice from His temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears. Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, because He was angry. Smoke went up from His nostrils, and devouring fire from His mouth; coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down with darkness under His feet… The Lord thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered His voice, hailstones and coals of fire. He sent out His arrows and scattered the foe, lightnings in abundance, and He vanquished them” (Psalm18:6-9, 13-14).
You have to realize, none of these things literally happened. It was all something that David saw in his spiritual eye. Beloved, that is faith. It’s when you believe God has heard your cry, that he hasn’t delayed, that he isn’t ignoring your petition. Instead, he quietly began your miracle immediately when you prayed, and even now he’s doing supernatural work on your behalf. That is truly believing in miracles, his marvelous progressive work in our lives.
David understood the foundational truth beneath it all: “He also brought me out into a broad place; he delivered me because He delighted in me” (Psalm 18:19). David declared, “I know why the Lord is doing all this for me. It’s because he delights in me.”
I truly believe in instantaneous miracles. God is still working glorious, instant wonders in the world today. In Matthew 16:9-11 and Mark 8:19-21, as Jesus reminds the disciples of the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000, he is asking them and us to take note of his progressive miracles and their role in our own lives today.
Do you know it is possible to walk before the Lord with a perfect heart? If you are hungering for Jesus, you may already be trying—desiring earnestly—to obey this command of the Lord.
I want to encourage you; it is possible or God would not have given us such a call. Having a perfect heart has been part of the life of faith from the time God first spoke to Abraham: “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1).
In the Old Testament we see that some succeeded. David, for instance, determined in his heart to obey God’s command to be perfect. He said, “I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way…I will walk within my house with a perfect heart” (Psalm 101:2).
To come to grips with the idea of perfection, we first must understand that perfection does not mean a sinless, flawless existence. No, perfection in the Lord’s eyes means something entirely different. It means completeness, maturity.
The Hebrew and Greek meanings of “perfection” include “uprightness, having neither spot nor blemish, being totally obedient.” It means to finish what has been started, to make a complete performance. John Wesley called this concept of perfection “constant obedience.” That is, a perfect heart is a responsive heart, one that answers quickly and totally all the Lord’s wooings, whisperings and warnings. Such a heart says at all times, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. Show me the path, and I will walk in it.”
The perfect heart cries out with David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me” (Psalm 139:23–24).
God does indeed search our hearts; he said as much to Jeremiah: “I the Lord search the heart” (Jeremiah 17:10). The Hebrew meaning for this phrase is, “I penetrate, I examine deeply.”
The perfect heart wants the Holy Spirit to come and search out the innermost man, to shine into all hidden parts—to investigate, expose and dig out all that is unlike Christ. Those who hide a secret sin, however, do not want to be convicted, searched or probed.
The perfect heart yearns for more than security or a covering for sin. It seeks to be in God’s presence always, to dwell in communion. Communion means talking with the Lord, sharing sweet fellowship with him, seeking his face and knowing his presence.
The Old Testament is filled with God’s miracle-working power, from the opening of the Red Sea, to God speaking to Moses from the burning bush, to Elijah calling down fire from heaven. All these were instantaneous miracles. The people involved could see them happening, feel them and were thrilled by them. And they are the kinds of miracles we want to see today, causing awe and wonder. We want God to rend the heavens, come down to our situation and fix things in a burst of heavenly power.
But much of God’s wonder-working power in his people’s lives comes in what are called “progressive miracles.” These are miracles that are hardly discernable to the eye. They’re not accompanied by thunder, lightning or any visible movement or change. Rather, progressive miracles start quietly, without fanfare, and unfold slowly but surely, one step at a time.
Both kinds of miracles—instantaneous and progressive—were witnessed at Christ’s two feedings of the multitudes. The healings he performed were immediate, visible, easily discerned by those present on those days. I think of the crippled man with a gnarled body, who suddenly had an outward, physical change so that he could run and leap. Here was a miracle that had to astonish and move all who saw it.
Yet the feedings that Christ did were progressive miracles. Jesus offered up a simple prayer of blessing, with no fire, thunder or earthquake. He merely broke the bread and the dried fish, never giving a sign or sound that a miracle was taking place. Yet, to feed that many people, there had to be thousands of breakings of that bread and those fish, all through the day. And every single piece of bread and fish was a part of the miracle.
This is how Jesus performs many of his miracles in his people’s lives today. We pray for instantaneous, visible wonders, but often our Lord is quietly at work, forming a miracle for us piece by piece, bit by bit. We may not be able to hear it or touch it, but he is at work, shaping our deliverance beyond what we can see.
Some of you have been battling a habitual pattern of sin for a long time. You’ve prayed; you’ve cried; you’ve hoped for freedom; you’ve fasted; you’ve been through counseling; you’ve confessed it to friends; you have an accountability group.
But that thing is still like a thorn in your heart. It’s coming against you powerfully, and you’re wondering, “When will I be free from this?”
Well, I would suggest to you that this thorn may be born out of an Absalom attitude in your life. This attitude is when we lose our complete trust in God, when we’re suddenly not sure if he’s sufficient. This is when we no longer say, “Whatever hardship I’m going through, I’m going to rely utterly on my Lord.”
Perhaps you’re not realizing how much God has done for you already, that he loves you so much, that on the cross he won the victory, that his power is sufficient for you. God is saying, “Hold on! It is working for you, but you feel like this is working against you, so you’ve allowed a rebellious Absalom spirit into your life.”
If you want to be free from that habitual pattern of sin in your life, you must deal with the Absalom attitude and say, “God, I’m going to trust you. I’m going to believe in you and walk with you no matter what.”
When things seem to be withheld, it’s for our own good. The trials and testing’s of your faith are working to bring you into greater reliance on God in your life. They are set before you to help you grow in maturity, steadfastness and strength. Trust in God’s goodness and purpose for your life!
Paul said, “So I say, walk in the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Just walk by the Spirit. Problem solved! But how in the world do you apply a verse like that? How do you walk in the Spirit? What does that look like on a daily basis?
We can picture what it meant to walk with Jesus. The disciples did that. If Jesus stayed in Capernaum for five days, they stayed in Capernaum for five days. If Jesus stopped for lunch, they stopped for lunch. If he turned to the right and went down the road, they followed behind him. But how do we do that with the invisible Holy Spirit? Some might say, “Just go by the Word.” But it’s that very Word that tells us to walk by the Spirit. Filling our hearts with Scripture builds faith and encourages us. But here we’re told that following the Spirit and keeping in step with him is the only deliverance from indulging our lower nature and its ugly potential. How do we do that?
First of all, reliance on the Spirit means we have his help in repenting of those sins that so easily attach themselves to us. Many believers lie to themselves and are in denial as to the “secret treaty” they’ve made with disobedience. The Holy Spirit alone can hep us keep real with God. Whether we struggle with overt wrong actions or subtler unchristlike attitudes, the Spirit’s light focuses directly on the infection and helps us sincerely turn away from it. Repentance is a 180-degree U-turn from sin and selfishness back to God.
Walking by the Spirit is a twenty-four hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week lifestyle. It’s not about going to church on Sundays. It requires much prayer and sensitivity. As the Holy Spirit does precious work, he influences the formation of desires within us, deadening our selfish tendencies toward sin. We overcome the lower nature not by fighting against it ourselves — a losing battle if there ever was one — but by allowing the Holy Spirit to exert his power, every second of the day, on our behalf. In fact, the only one who can put the flesh to death is the Spirit of life.
The Spirit of Jesus within us wants to lovingly manage our days and lead us out into the clean, fresh air of Christlike words, thoughts, and actions. Ask the Lord to make you holy as he is holy!
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.