Many of the miracles that are publicly testified to in church life are wilderness miracles. Shoes that never wear out, food that simply arrives at the door, and unusual signs in the heavenlies are all things to which we give God all of the glory, but is that the high ground of the miraculous or simply the nursery slopes of the miraculous that God has in store for our lives?
As church leaders do we go for the glamour and romance of the spectacular in the wilderness over the slightly more subdued, but just as potent, miracles of Canaan? Which gets the most publicity? Biblically, the wilderness was on the way to Canaan. It was never a destination.
It always amazes us how good God is to new Christians. As babes in Christ, ‘miracles’ seem to abound and then seemingly ‘tail off’ as they mature in Christ. Is it, though, a tailing off or a transition to a different kind of miracle that has less gloss but just as much substance.
There are some crucial differences between the miracles of the wilderness and the miracles of Canaan. In understanding them we can help create and mould church life that leads people to maturity without losing the wow factor of living for Jesus.
Wilderness miracles are subsistance miracles. Canaan miracles are abundance miracles. In the wilderness they had one pair of shoes that were miraculously renewed. In Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey, they had as many pairs of shoes as they were willing and able to create.
Wilderness miracles require no planting. Canaan miracles require planting. Wilderness miracles are largely providential. They rely on the faith of the great leader and the prayers of others rather than personal believing. Canaan miracles are largely partnership dependent. Your harvest is according to your seed sown.
The understanding of this can make a crucial paradigm shift in the thinking of our people.
Jesus didn’t tell us to pray for the harvest but to send labourers into the harvest. His focus was on partnership. Things rarely happen just through prayer unless you are a new Christian. Canaan miracles need a seed. Romans 8: tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing comes from someone speaking. Someone speaking comes from someone going. I believe in prayer but dismiss the emergence of the cult of prayer.
Paul didn’t stop writing a second letter to the Corinthian church because he was just trusting God for the needs of the Jerusalem church. Jerusalem needed a miracle and Paul was convinced that the Corinthians would play a vital part in it. God rarely does creative miracles in the area of provision. Even though He could cause money to grow on trees or create a million pounds and place it in a briefcase just outside your front door, He rarely does it. Why? Because the greater kind of miracle in God’s cache’ is the miracle of a changed heart. It’s a creative miracle of a different kind – God changing the motivation of the heart and making someone become the source of someone else’s supply.
For Christians the Canaan miracle of people responding to people as well as people connecting with people in order to respond to them may be less dramatic than money falling out of the sky but in reality it’s just as powerful because the hand of God lies behind it. Much of the Christian life is a ‘stitch up’ between seed and harvest, a giver and receiver, prayer and responder.
At the start of both Elijah’s and Elisha’s ministry they had an encounter with a solitary woman in need. The first had a little oil and a little flour and the second only had a little oil. The first woman gave what she had away and for the rest of her life was rewarded with an endless supply. The second woman obtained as many vessels as she could and was given as much return of oil as the number of vessels could hold. For the first woman, it was according to Elijah’s word. For the second woman, It was according to her pots. That’s Canaan living.
It’s always a secret dream that a millionaire would walk into our churches and become a major financier of our vision. Far fewer people dream of creating millionaires. We have taken the scripture ‘seek first his kingdom’ out of context. To seek God’s kingdom is to seek after both vision and provision of His kingdom rather than simply seeking after ‘spiritual things’ and putting our personal needs last. Just as it is important to train and raise up children’s workers, it is also important to train and raise up vessels of provision through which God can use to help generate financial provision for His Kingdom. That is the difference between wilderness thinking (simply to be the beneficiary of a secret will) and Canaan living which seeks to increase the wealth of ordinary people in order to be used by God for His future purposes. Our generosity opens the windows of heaven not just to the rare finds of riches but also, primarily the opportunity to create wealth through business investment, promotion and the general favour of God.
Let’s create churches where people are both believing and working hard, in faith and sowing seeds, and both in awe of the mystery of God as well as demystifying the process through which God often uses in building His Kingdom.
Let us get excited about the testimonies of the box of food on the doorstep and let us begin to magnify the great testimony of the businessman who in obedience to faith, set up a distribution centre on the other side of town and saw his profits double. A miracle worth celebrating and will lift our churches out of subsistence and into abundance.