A person cannot experience miracles without being in a dire situation that requires one, says Mark Batterson, lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C.
His new book, The Grave Robber, focuses on seven miraculous signs of Jesus found in the Gospel of John and how God can perform greater miracles today. He illustrates how these miracles are a result of a critical need and an unwavering faith.
Throughout the book, Batterson, who is also The New York Times bestselling author of The Circle Maker, shares stories of miracles that occur on a daily basis to those that leave a lasting impact. Among the stories, Batterson tells of a boy whose ear was completely regenerated after being eroded by disease, and that of a chance encounter on a plane that saves two lives, among other testimonies.
While his book narrows in on Jesus' miracles and what He is capable of doing, Batterson notes that it is not about seeking miracles, but rather seeking God who will produce wonders as a result.
Below is an edited transcript of Batterson's interview with CP:
CP: You write that we don't experience miracles because we don't put ourselves in situations that necessitate one, but how can one do that?
Batterson: Everybody wants a miracle; we just don't want to be in a situation where we need one. You can't have one without the other. Sometimes what we perceive as our problem is really God setting us up to do something miraculous in our lives. It's about training ourselves to see those problems as opportunities so God can intervene.
CP: You also say we usually believe God for the bigger miracles like they are no big deal but we do not believe Him for the little things, why is that?
Batterson: In some ways, we take some big miracles for granted. We're on a planet that's spinning at a thousand miles per hour, traveling through space and we don't worry about God keeping our planet in orbit. We already trust God for the big miracles like our heart beating and today alone, we'll take a thousand breaths, but can we trust Him in the smaller things? Everything is a miracle but it's about trusting God for those things that go beyond some of the natural laws that God created Himself. So the book is a journey from appreciating Him for all the everyday miracles but then believing Him for some of the out of ordinary miracles that at one point or another, some of us need.
CP: Let's talk about what you call "trip wires" that keep us from stepping into the miraculous. You mention there is a difference between discernment and skepticism, can you explain the difference between the two?
Batterson: For starters, we have a human tendency to try to explain away what we can't explain, but you just can't explain a miracle. The skeptical part of us will try to explain the part that we don't understand. What I think we need is discernment to be able to know what is God doing and saying in a situation and then respond to that. The second "trip wire" is the discouragement. All of us have experienced disappointment and sometimes we can allow those to keep us from believing God the next time. We have to be careful about those two things. I didn't want to get into the book and ignore some of the biggest challenges that we face. I also talk about what happens when the miracle doesn't happen. It's important to write about those things when it doesn't go the way you want it to.
CP: Speaking of disappointments, you say it's a mistake to allow our disappointments to make us give up when we're praying for a miracle. But how about someone who is praying for healing and much time has passed by without getting a miracle, should they still keep the faith?
Batterson: You have not because you have not so God won't answer 100% of the prayers that you don't pray. To not pray is not an option but I think there are times when God will speak into your spirit and you'll have a sense that this is not the right time or the right place for a miracle. But until the Lord has released me from something, I'm going to continue praying for miracles … what if the Israelites had stopped circling Jericho on day six? The walls wouldn't have come down. Our problem is that we give up too soon. There are things I've been praying for many years, miracles that haven't happened in my life but do I still have the faith that God is able? I do. I believe He is able to do more than all I can ask or imagine so it's important for me to hold on to hope.
CP: Miracles don't happen because of a person's optimism but can positive thinking and speaking words into existence be a catalyst in God moving His hand for a miracle?
Batterson: In the book, I make it a point not to seek miracles, seek Jesus and if you seek Jesus, you're going to bump into some miracles because that's who He is and what He does. You can't read the gospels and not find that. At the end of the day, the will of God is the glory of God and sometimes He chooses to reveal His glory through a miracle. But sometimes, God doesn't.
What's important is that we posture ourselves in humility and really understand that the only one who can perform a miracle is God. But then there is a catalyst, it's called faith. How that all plays in God's cosmic plan is beyond my pay grade and beyond my intellect. Sometimes you have to do the natural so God can do the supernatural. It's not our effort that makes a miracle happen, it's God's power but our effort can be part of the equation. That's a delicate balance and hopefully I've struck that balance in the book.
CP: What is one miracle that you've experienced or witnessed that has left you completely astounded?
Batterson: I've experienced healing in my own body where God has supernaturally touched me in a way that is beyond a doctor's ability to explain … One fun miracle is that we're doing this interview at Ebenezer's Coffee House and the reality is that it was a crack house. We shouldn't own it because four people offered more money than we did, two of them real estate developers, and yet we got it and I think it's because we circled it in prayer for five years. The same miracle has been multiplied because we've had a million customers walk in through the doors and in the next calendar year, we'll pass the $1 million dollar mark of every penny of profit that we give to missions. When people walk in Ebenezer's I tell them, 'you may think this is a coffee house, it's not. This is what a miracle looks like, we just happen to serve coffee.'
When God does a miracle in your life, the way you steward it is you believe God for a bigger and better miracle. In John 14, Jesus said, 'you will do greater things than this.' In other words, He said you're going to do greater things than the miracles He did. If it wasn't Jesus who said it, we would call that heretical, but He said, 'I will empower you.' And if you follow me, you're going to walk into the middle of some miracles.' I think my prayer for this book is just, let's believe God and stretch our faith to believe that He is a God that does miracles. By time people get to the last page, my hope is that readers will have experienced a miracle or it will set them up to believe God for that miracle.
For additional videos on Batterson's interview with CP, visit CP Insider.