When it Comes to Miracles, God Does it His Way

When it Comes to Miracles, God Does it His Way

I remember when I was growing up, there was a lot more competition between Burger King and McDonalds than there seems to be these days. And as you may remember, the brilliant marketing slogan for Burger King was, “Have it your way at Burger King!” You could custom order your burger with the pickles or without the pickles, with the ketchup and onions or without, cheese or no cheese – just any old way you wanted it. And the implied message to us was, at McDonalds, you’ll get a cookie-cutter, assembly line burger, but at Burger King, we will create your perfect burger for the way you want it.

What was so novel an idea back then has become commonplace now. We have personalized and customized everything. We can order custom made cars with all the bells, and none of the whistles we want. We customize our workout plan for the type of body we desire, and our diet plan to complement our individual health profile or nutritional philosophy. We customize our social media and news feeds to hear only our favorite commentators and create personalized watchlists to see favorite TV shows and movies at any time of day or night we like. 

It's interesting then, that the Church seems to often put God in a box. We tend to think when He stated that He never changes (Malachi 3:6), that means He always operates in exactly the same way. But I have great news! God is not an assembly line or cookie-cutter God. God’s character never changes, but His actions are custom made, perfect for each individual and situation. That means, regardless of how we may presume He will answer our prayers, God doesn’t necessarily deliver miracles our way, but rather He does it His way!

One of the most interesting, and unusual miracles Jesus did is found in John 5:

“After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk.’ And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked” (John 5:1-9).

What Is the Pool of Bethesda?

The text says this pool was by the Sheep Gate, which was located next to the Temple in Jerusalem. And we are told that the name of the pool was Bethesda, which means House of Mercy. 

But the place was originally named the Virgin’s Well when priests discovered a hot spring adjacent to the Temple. As a result, they dug out a huge pool around the opening fed by this hot spring to create, in essence, a bible land Jacuzzi. 

And because the priesthood in those days was an exclusive, high-ranking social group who hobnobbed with society’s rich and famous, they built walls around the pool to make it an exclusive hangout for the elite.

Inside was ornate and beautiful; the pool and pavement were overlaid with the most expensive and precious marble. And because the Mediterranean sun was so hot, they built a porch or a colonnade around the pool for shade. 

This place was so popular that they eventually built four more breathtakingly beautiful porches around the pool. They were supported by marble columns, and filled with comfortable furnishings. But by the time Jesus walked through, the place had changed dramatically.

The pool had been abandoned by top society, and had become a place for the down and out, especially those in need of healing. It was no longer beautiful and ornate but run down and dilapidated. What happened? The hot spring had dried up, the rich moved on, and the sick moved in.

John 5:4 is somewhat of a mystery, and many Bible translations have removed it to a footnote. Some believe that it was not part of the original manuscript but was added at a later date for the purposes of clarity.

But what I find interesting is that Bethesda, or House of Mercy, was the name given to it by the sick and infirmed, not by the rich and famous (they called it the Virgin’s Well). 

Take another look at verse 4, which says:

“For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had” (John 5:4).

Now the reason why this verse would have been added for clarity is because this was what the sick people who gathered there actually believed and had faith in. And it was apparently true that from time to time, without warning, the waters of the pool would begin to be violently shaken. Furthermore, as the story goes, the first one in was healed of whatever affliction they had.

And so the sick would wait and watch, hoping that they would be lucky enough to be the first into the pool and finally receive a miracle. But even though their odds were poor that they would be the one healed, people waited. In their minds, this was the only way they thought God would work to heal them.

The paralytic in John 5 also had this belief. He had been working his plan for 38 years, staying firm in faith, praying, waiting for his miracle. His continued hopefulness after so many years of disappointment is admirable.

But as I examine this man’s story, the thing that strikes me most is that I’m glad God is not limited by our presumptions, but delivers miracles His way.

God’s Way Is Better Than Our Way, So Leave it Up to Him

Clearly, this man’s plan was flawed from the beginning: be the first one among hundreds into the pool when the water is stirred. Sounds a bit like a man is hoping for a lottery win to fix an imminent financial crisis. And it gets worse: 

“Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me” (John 5:7).

Without help, his plan was doomed to fail. But when we ourselves need a miracle from God, we usually don’t have much of a better plan than his.

How often do we come to God with our ideas, our programs, our presumptions, of how God should fix things in our lives? How often do we go beyond asking God to intervene, and advise Him how to proceed?

Okay God, here is how you can fix my financial problems. I come home and there is a check waiting for me for a million dollars in the mailbox from Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes!

And God, here is how you can give me a marriage miracle. Today when my spouse comes home from work, you have them fall down at my feet, start weeping uncontrollably, and apologize for everything they’ve ever done wrong (even though I am just as responsible for our problems). 

It's amazing how we often have the “how” figured out for God, and concoct a plan for Him to follow. Our faith should never rest in how God does a miracle, but simply that He will make a way.

And God’s way is always better than we can imagine!

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20).

Jesus was not interested in the man’s plan, only his faith. So He asked:

“Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6).

I believe what He was really asking the man was: Son, what do you want? You can have it right now. Regardless of the water, or friends, or luck. I’m here, the Living Water, and I see your faith. Trust Me, this is a better plan. 

If we also would let God figure out all the details for our miracle, we will discover He has a much better plan for our lives as well (Jeremiah 29:11).

God’s Way Is Better Because it Also Makes Us Better!

Do you want to be made well? Isn’t that an interesting question to ask someone who had been lame for 38 years? But God often begins His miracles with asking us questions. 

“How many loaves of bread do you have?” was the catalyst to the feeding of 4,000 people (Matthew 15:34).

“Who touched me?” was the catalyst to the miracle healing of the woman with the issue of blood (Luke 8:45).

“What do you have in your house?” was the beginning of a supernatural multiplication of oil for financial provision (2 Kings 4:2).

Pay attention when God asks you a question; He may be setting you up for a miracle. But moreover, God’s questions can even make us a better Christian when they cause us to pause and evaluate our priorities, motives and methods.  

The question, do you want to be made well, forced the man to consider whether or not he was up to the challenge of changing his priorities. Was he willing to replace faith in his plan, with faith in God?

Most people want and pray for at least some of the following things: money, fewer hassles, more time, more choices, health and long life, to be loved, to make a difference, or get a fresh start.

It’s not a bad list, nor would God necessarily disapprove. But when God asks us the question, what do you want, He’s ultimately asking, Are you willing to put me at the top of that list? 

If you put God first in your priorities, He withholds no good thing:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

God’s questions also cause us to evaluate our motives. That is, why do you want to be made well? God is less concerned with what we want, and more concerned with why we want it. And it’s the why that often determines the outcome.

“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3).

And God’s questions also cause us to check our methods. 

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be financially successful, but scamming people is not the right method. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to win a sports competition, but cheating is the wrong method.

When God asks us a question, He is setting us up not only to receive our miracle by His plan, but also for an internal adjustment to bring us more in alignment with God’s character and His will.

Are you asking God for a miracle today? Don’t try to tell Him how to do it. Let God do it His way. He’ll come up with a customized, personalized miracle better than anything we could ask for or imagine, and it makes us better to boot!

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/phive2015

Frank SantoraFrank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Good Good Father. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit www.franksantora.cc. Photo by Michele Roman.