Do you expect God to do the extraordinary?
The wife of a missionary, who was in my doctoral group, personifies Jesus and has witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit on many occasions. They minister to poor and impoverished people in a remote part of the world. He told how she encountered a woman who was born without eyes and therefore was abandoned by her parents. His wife embraced this woman, holding her in her arms, until two beautiful, brown eyes miraculously formed. In that moment, this abandoned woman saw for the very first time. That’s extraordinary to say the least. Several years ago, I was in a camp meeting with my friend Dan Bohi and during the invitation a woman came forward in a wheelchair. She hadn’t walked for over ten years because of a brain defect. Dan prayed for her and in front of six hundred people this woman stood and walked. That’s another extraordinary miracle. I desire to be an instrument that God can use in extraordinary ways.
The apostle Paul came to Ephesus, found twelve disciples who needed the Holy Spirit, and he began teaching the Word every day. The Bible says, “God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul” (Acts 19:11). Some scholars believe that these miracles occurred as soon as Paul began teaching. Yet, others teach that he laid a foundation of kingdom principles first before extraordinary miracles began occurring. Although I lean toward the latter thought, there really is no incorrect response. This much is for sure: Paul was used by God as the instrument for extraordinary power in people’s lives. Certainly if Paul was used in that way, then you and I can be used in like manner. We don’t follow after signs and miracles, instead we follow after Christ and supernatural things will accompany us. Jesus said, “These signs will accompany those who have believed” (Mark 16:17), and sure enough when the early believers preached everywhere, the Lord “confirmed the word by signs that followed” (Mark 16:20).
While there is an aspect of “sovereign will” behind extraordinary miracles, there are a few things that I observed in Paul’s life when he came to minister in Ephesus that may have prepared him to be used of God so mightily. I believe that these are characteristic of someone trusted to dispense God’s extraordinary miracles. First, Paul ministered in the will of God. He was sensitive and obedient to the voice of the Spirit (see Acts 16:6-10); therefore, he was in Ephesus because God led him there. The Bible indicates that Paul had previously been to Ephesus and some of the people asked him to remain (see Acts 18:20). However, he left Ephesus stating, “I will return to you again if God wills” (Acts 18:21). The fact that we find Paul in Ephesus again in Acts 19 should tell us that he followed the will of God. My point is that we must obey the leadership of God wherever He leads us. I live by a simple phrase, “life is in the voice.” Learn to recognize and follow God’s voice. Go where He leads, say what He’s saying, and do what He’s doing. Always remain in God’s will.
Second, Paul spoke boldly the message of the kingdom (see Acts 19:8). To speak boldly means to deliver a message with unction, conviction, and confidence. The speaker is not intimidated by people because they are certain their message is truth aimed at setting others free. Leonard Ravenhill once said, “If there’s unction in the pulpit, then there will be action in the pew.” Don’t ever shrink back from speaking God’s truth. Note the content of Paul’s message: the kingdom of God. Paul didn’t complain about the sin in Ephesus. He didn’t speak about his persecutions, problems, and adversities. He spoke, rather, about the kingdom of God. If we’re ambassadors of the kingdom of God, then our messages should be centered on that kingdom (see 2 Cor. 5:20). Darkness always scatters by revealing the light, so talk about the kingdom of God and watch what the King will do to back up that message.
Third, Paul didn’t quit when opposition arose against him (see Acts 19:9). Paul was forced out of the church by hardened and disobedient people, but he didn’t quit. The Bible indicates that he withdrew to another location and preached the Word consistently for two years. One scholar said that Paul preached for nearly three-thousand hours. Many people might be tempted to give up when opposition arises, but not Paul. He spoke boldly until the Word was heard by all who lived in Asia (see Acts 19:10). Are you willing to keep preaching the Word no matter what? Please don’t quit when hardened people rise up against you. I know it’s not delightful because I’ve experienced it, but we can’t quit preaching the truth regardless of who dislikes us.
So, let’s review these characteristics: Paul ministered in the will of God, he boldly preached the kingdom of God, and he never gave up when opposition arose. As a result, God worked through him with extraordinary power. Paul was so anointed with the Spirit of God that handkerchiefs and aprons were placed on the sick and diseases and evil spirits left (see Acts 19:12). If you read the rest of the story, you’ll see that the Word of God prevailed mightily and a massive revival occurred. People confessed their sins and turned away from false religions. A church was birthed in a city where sin, immorality, perversion, and occultism were entrenched. God used one man in an extraordinary way. Don’t you desire to be used by God like Paul was?
I want my city to experience the power and presence of God. I want to see the Word grow mightily in my region. I long for the day when it is said: “All who lived in Columbus heard the Word.” I want to see disease and evil spirits leave people’s bodies and watch people confess their sins and turn to the Lord. That could happen if I remain in God’s will, boldly preach His Word, and never quit no matter what. I might become an instrument God could use in extraordinary ways. What about you?