Faith vs. Presumption

This isn’t to say that all belief in miracles is healthy. There is an important distinction–and a thin line sometimes–between reverent respect for God’s ability to perform miracles and presumptuous expectation that they will occur. Generally, if my expectation of miracles is not accompanied by the willingness to obey Christ and live responsibly, and also by a humble recognition that I don’t know God’s intention for the future, then my “faith” is better termed presumption.

The compulsive gambler, for instance, who against all odds believes he will win the high stakes, has a strong belief in miracles. So does the person who refuses to work yet assumes that God will provide for his needs. So does the intoxicated person cruising at eighty-five miles per hour who imagines that God will protect him. None of these people, though, comes close to displaying faith in the biblical sense.

While the Scriptures challenge us to a deeper conviction about miracles, they emphasize just as strongly our need to take responsibility, to be good stewards of our lives and to grow in our ability to solve problems. If there are obvious steps I can take toward meeting a need that I have, I’m presumptuous to expect God to provide for it in a more direct, miraculous way. I am likewise naive to expect him to shield me miraculously from the effects of reckless behavior. While he protects us in countless ways from unexpected problems that arise, we cannot expect him to come to our rescue if we deliberately court disaster.

By the same token, I am wrong to think that I ever know for certain that God will perform a given miracle or act in a particular way. The Scriptures remind us constantly that we cannot know the mind of God for our future, for such unbending certainty would remove the need for walking step by step in faith.

Having a general conviction that God is able and willing to perform miracles, though, is not presumptuous, if I’m not assuming to know how God will act and not banking on a miracle to bail me out of responsibility. Under these conditions, believing in God’s power to perform miracles will not lead me to be less responsible but more so. In some cases, this belief will even give me the extra impetus needed to succeed.

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