Human nature has not changed since the time when these words were spoken by Jesus: "Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe." John 4:48. Everywhere men and women were looking for signs and wonders, for something out of the ordinary, something which bordered on the miraculous, as evidence of Christ's divinity. Jesus performed many miracles, but never did He encourage the people to place confidence in Him as the Son of God merely because of His miracles. John says, "Many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them." John 2:23, 24. Those whose dependence is in miracles are unstable. for what the miracles of one can do, the miracles of another can undo.
Addressing the class who were looking for signs and wonders as evidence of Christ's Messiahship, Jesus said, "There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." It would appear from this that Satan, as a miracle worker, will reserve his crowning deception until the gospel work on earth nears its close. At the time when the gospel is being proclaimed in all the world as a witness unto all nations, he will appear "as an angel of light," claiming to be Christ, and his ministers will appear as ministers of righteousness. Satan will be permitted to duplicate the miracles which Christ did when He was on earth.
All who are looking for signs and wonders will be in great danger of deception, for so closely will the counterfeit resemble the true that it will be impossible to distinguish between them except by the aid of the Holy Scriptures. The faith of Christian people must therefore not be in signs and wonders, but in God's word. See Luke 16:29-31; John 5:46, 47; 2 Peter I :17-19; Psalms 119:105; Isaiah 8:20.
Naturally, one who is sick is anxious to get well as speedily as possible. This anxiety often leads men and women astray. It is the anxiety to get well quickly that is responsible for the rush to a theater or church when someone appears who claims to heal by the laying on of hands, by suggestion, or what not. We can easily see that should the devil himself appear, healing disease, he would obtain a following. The people would again say, as did the people of Samaria of Simon the sorcerer, "This man is the great power of God." Acts 8 :io. He had "bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one." However, Peter said to him, "Repent . . . of this thy wickedness ;" "thy heart is not right in the sight of God."
Miracles, including acts of healing, will undoubtedly be wrought as the gospel work closes ; but how is it possible to distinguish between the true and the false? Jesus came to "save His people from their sins." His burden was not to heal miraculously, but to bring men into harmony with God's law. His burden was to impart to all the divine nature, and thus fit them for service here and for a home in the hereafter. This should be the one and only objective in life. Anything that is an aid in bringing this about should be welcomed, even if it be sickness and suffering or some infirmity, as in the case of Paul, who thrice prayed the Lord that he might be relieved of it. The Lord heard Paul's prayer, but said to him, No, Paul, this infirmity is necessary for your salvation, When Paul recognized this, he said, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me; , . for when I am weak, then am I strong." All was clear to him now. He said, "Lest I should be exalted above measure, . . . there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me."
When one is in ill-health, it is quite natural to cry out. "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me." It is not wrong to present this request, but we must go a step farther and submit to the One who sees the end from the beginning and knows what is best for us. We must be willing to say, "Nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done." It is at this point of submission that angels are commissioned to strengthen and sustain us.
The fact that Christ instantly healed those who appealed to Him when He was on earth is no reason why ever after we should expect healing in the same manner. One time He stopped a funeral procession and resurrected a widow's only son and her only means of support. This was no evidence that ever after that we should expect funeral processions to be stopped on their way to cemeteries, and the dead raised to life. Jesus stood at the grave of Lazarus after he had been buried for four days and raised him to life. This was to give confidence that He was the Lifegiver. The time is coming when "all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth." Even sickness will be a thing of the past. But that time is not now.
ESUS multiplied the bread and the fishes. But this was not to be a routine affair ever after. Some followed Him because of the loaves and fishes, but God's original plan was that after that, as before, man should continue to till the soil and earn his bread by the sweat of his face. Jesus turned water into wine, but man was to continue to obtain wine as before by cultivating the soil. Jesus did not establish a new order of things. It is no denial of faith in divine healing to continue to make use of the simple agencies which God has provided, such as pure air and water, cleanliness, a proper diet, purity of life, in addition to a firm trust in God. It is no denial of faith to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," and then roll up our sleeves and till the soil to obtain it. It is, in fact, an evidence of true faith. It is no denial of faith to pray for the sick and then intelligently make use of the simple agencies of nature in bringing about healthy action, "for we are laborers together with God."
Furthermore, we are not to ignore the conditions for the maintenance of health. God has established certain physiological laws which regulate the harmonious function of the various systems of the human body. Living in harmony with these laws is an important feature in ensuring health. The operation of physical law is inexorable, and disregard leads to certain inevitable results. We are counseled in "Medical Ministry:"
"Many have expected that God would keep them from sickness merely because they have asked Him to do sq. But God did not regard their prayers, because their faith was not made perfect by works. God will not work a miracle to keep those from sickness who have no care for them-selves, but are continually violating the laws of health, and make no efforts to prevent disease. When we do all we can on our part to have health, then may we expect that the blessed results will follow, and we can ask God in faith to bless our efforts for the preservation of health. He will then answer our prayer, if His name can be glorified thereby. But let all understand that they have a work to do. God will not work in a miraculous manner to preserve the health of persons who are taking a sure course to make themselves sick, by their careless inattention to the laws of health. Those who will gratify their appetite, and then suffer because of their intemperance, and take drugs to relieve them, may be assured that God will not interpose to save health and life which are so recklessly periled. The cause has produced the effect."—Pages 13, 14.
God has in the past, and will in the future, heal miraculously in exceptional cases, but this is not designed to lead men to take the position that all healing should take place miraculously, and that making use of the agencies of nature is a denial of faith.
John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, "did no miracle." He preached repentance. He taught great reforms and urged obedience to them. He subsisted upon simple foods. His message and work was to Pave the way for the first advent of Christ. While John did no miracles, Jesus said of him, "Among them that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist." There were many who refused to receive John's message because it was unaccompanied by miracles. A similar message to that of John the Baptist's is to precede the second coming of Christ. Those whose faith is in miracles will reject it for the same reason that John's message was rejected, because it is not accompanied with miracles. These are in danger of being deceived, for there will be miracle workers who claim to be "the great power of God," who will bewitch the people as did Simon the sorcerer anciently. It can still be said, "Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe."