I posed this question to my class during the last class. After spending the term looking at the apostles preaching the kingdom of God, the good news of Jesus and demonstrating the accompanying power through miracles, signs and wonders, I wanted us to discuss why we don’t see God move more in our context. We just finished looking at how God did extraordinary miracles through Paul in Ephesus, Acts 19:11-12 Similar to the faith a sick woman had to be healed of her issue of blood by simply touching the edge of Jesus’ robe, the people in Ephesus thought if they just touched one of the Aprons Paul used when he worked on his tents they could be healed too. The power of God aided in the spread of his word throughout the entire region of Asia Minor. As we discussed the question, I found their answers to touch on universal issues all people have with not seeing more of God’s power as well as particular differences found in the Thai context. I’ll start with the universal similarities.
1. Fear. The first similarity found in our discussion touches on what most people in every context come across as to why God doesn’t move more. We are afraid to ask, or afraid to look foolish if we pray for a miracle and nothing happens. Sometimes we fear making God look bad. God is not as concerned with his reputation as we are. God can take care of his own identity much better than we can. The Bible is full of examples of when a person didn’t get healed not to mention all healing Jesus performed was only temporary as we all still die at some point. Healing and miracles simply point to God and give him credibility and a place to intersect our life. However, the one person who the Bible tells us God specifically did not heal him even though he asked three times was Paul, the guy who above we said saw extraordinary miracles. I like to think the thorn in his flesh that Paul talks about in II Corinthians 12:7-10 refers to his blindness. In Galatians, he says which of you would not sacrifice your eyes for me, and see with what large letters I write with. We will never know, but I take solace in the fact that Paul shared my affliction. I say this to make the point that if Paul was not shaken by the unanswered prayer, how can we let the fear of God not accomplishing what we want to hold us back from seeing God do something incredible in our life or the life of another person. Oral Roberts, who had an amazing healing ministry, said that approximately 1-out-of-10 people he prayed for found healing. If people who saw a lot of miracles say that failure rates are that high, we just need to press through in order to see more of God, but I think we all agree that we are afraid to ask.
2. Ignoring the problem. One student said she feels like she doesn’t see God, because she ignores the problems. Maybe we all find our self growing accustomed to a problem or a broken world. We adapt and adjust in order to make do with life as it happens. I know I have grown more settled with my blindness over the years. I would love to see a miracle now as much as ever, but I know I don’t push as hard as I used to. We get comfortable and allow life to simply go by without asking God to act.
3. The third answer that I wanted to touch on before moving into subtle particularities for each of these was a bad attitude. Another student explained that sometimes we have a bad attitude and don’t really want to see God heal someone. Perhaps we feel offended by that person or jealous. We no longer care if God does something miraculous for them. God’s power does not depend on our attitude or behavior, but we can do plenty to prevent God from moving. God allows us to be his instrument, and when we abdicate that privilege by allowing an offense to come between us and another person, God will not force us to be part of his miracle. God might still move on behalf of the person or persons he wants to bless, but we might miss out on sharing in the miraculous move of God. If we want to see more of God, we need to see people the way God sees people.
Before I move into the particulars of the Thai context for these answers, I want to briefly touch on something my wife said that rarely gets answered in a discussion like this. We are not often close enough to God to hear him when he is moving and wanting to perform wonderful miracles. Jesus said he only does what the Father says which tells me if we want to see more of God in action, we need to draw close to him and wait on him like Jesus did.
Now let me get back to clarifying some particular differences in these universal issues we all have from the Thai perspective.
1. Fear. I see fear holding back a Thai person slightly more than the average person as Thai people are timid by nature. A Thai person rarely speaks boldly or steps out in boldness. However, Paul told the Corinthians that he came in fear and trembling. Timidity doesn’t have to prevent us from seeing God move. The Thai people just need to allow God to move in a way that is appropriate for them. The one student who told the most stories of God moving in a miraculous ways probably has the most tenacity and boldness of any Thai person I know. It takes a lot for a Thai person who grows up afraid of a spirit around each corner to simply have more boldness. They just need to see God move more often in his way among the Thai people.
2. Ignoring problems. I saw one particular difference in ignoring problems in the Thai context. Because of the belief in Karma, Thai people believe bad things happen to people as a result of something bad they did to someone else. If someone is sick, they deserved to be sick. If someone is crippled, they must have done something bad in this life or a previous life. Thai people get used to allowing people to struggle and struggle since they get what they get. For Thai Christians, they need to see that God wants to change the course of a person’s life. I said to the class, God wants to interrupt our life with his blessings. God doesn’t want us to continue on a path of destruction, but he wants us to find him.
3. Bad attitudes. Finally, Thai culture is based on grain jai or a balancing of action. If you do something nice for me, I should do something nice for you. There becomes an expected understanding of how each person should treat another person depending on status, age and class. If someone doesn’t live up to their end of the bargain, the other person will get noi jai or literally small hearted. Our best translation for this is offended. Thai people are easily given to offense. I can see why a bad attitude is something they want to be careful of.
We all learned a lot about God’s action in our life through this class. I hope I encouraged you along the way to seek more of the power of God in your life. Help me conclude this discussion on God’s power by answering why we don’t see God move in our life more?