NEW ORLEANS – James MacDonald, pastor of the six-campus Harvest Bible Chapel in the Greater Chicago area and a prostate cancer survivor, told participants at the 2012 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference on Monday that they need to have "active faith" if they want to experience the miracles that God wants to do for them.
MacDonald experienced a miracle in his fight with cancer, but he said he did his own part before God worked. In 2008, the prominent pastor was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 48. He underwent 45 radiation treatments before his PSA levels dropped. At the pastor's conference, he was happy to announce that he will be cancer free for three years as of Friday.
Going to the doctor, said MacDonald, was part of showing active faith.
"Did I pray? Did our church pray? And did people I'll never have the privilege of meeting pray for God to heal me? Yes, they did. But I went to the doctor," he said.
MacDonald exhorted the crowd at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center to first do what they can as they wait for God's miracle. Preaching from the story of the wedding banquet in Cana, he pointed out that before Jesus performed the miracle of turning water into wine, he first told the servants to fill up the jars with water.
When a church member asks MacDonald to pray for their job search, the pastor said he usually asks, "How many applications have they filled out?"
"You do what you can. Faith is active," said MacDonald. "So as you wait for your miracle, have you done everything you can?"
To illustrate how inactive Christians can be in their faith, MacDonald read a poem titled, "Buttprints in the Sand," a parallel to the popular Christian poem "Footprints in the Sand:"
One night I had a wondrous dream,
One set of footprints there was seen,
The footprints of my precious Lord,
But mine were not along the shore.
But then some stranger prints appeared,
And I asked the Lord, "What have we here?"
Those prints are large and round and neat,
"But Lord they are too big for feet."
"My child," He said in somber tones,
"For miles I carried you alone.
I challenged you to walk in faith,
But you refused and made me wait."
"You disobeyed, you would not grow,
The walk of faith, you would not know.
So I got tired, I got fed up,
and there I dropped you on your butt."
"Because in life, there comes a time,
when one must fight, and one must climb.
When one must rise and take a stand,
or leave their butt prints in the sand."
During his talk, MacDonald spoke about four points on how to experience miracles:
1) Miracles flow from what we have
2) Miracles flow through active faith
3) Miracles flow for God's glory
4) Miracles flow for deeper faith
Even the period that a Christian spends in waiting for God's miracle is part of His plan to reveal His glory, according to MacDonald.
"God is working in your heart readiness to optimize the miracle for his greater glory. And when it comes, you will be in the best possible position to testify to His greatness," he said.
MacDonald also explained that miracles happen so that believers can express deeper faith in God. For the disciples of Jesus, the miracle at the wedding banquet became the foundation of greater faith.
The pastor concluded his address by reminding the audience of God's faithfulness and encouraging them to believe God has already done what they have prayed for.
"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Not just some day. Not just from heaven, but right here on earth," he said.
MacDonald was one of the last speakers of the two-day 2012 SBC Pastors' Conference. Other speakers included former SBC President Johnny Hunt, Turning Point Radio host Dr. David Jeremiah, Radical author Dr. David Platt, and PowerPoint Ministries leader Jack Graham. Fred Luter Jr., who is expected to be elected as the first African-American president of the denomination on Tuesday, gave the concluding address in the conference.
The 2012 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting kicks off today. The theme of this year's two-day meeting is "Jesus to the Neighborhood and to the Nations."