A “Chance” Encounter with the Miraculous

Last week I had an experience I will remember for a long time. Since it was raining outside, we took my three kids and some of their cousins to Big Air Trampoline Park to get some of their energy out.

The place was packed full of young kids and their parents. While my kids were enjoying the trampolines, dodge ball, and the climbing wall, I found an open seat in the small café to edit some of the chapters for an update I am working on with my father for his classic book, Evidence that Demands a Verdict.

Encounter Miraculous

A middle-aged man plopped down right next to me and asked if he could join me to rest his back. “Sure, no problem,” I said. Then he noticed the book I was holding (which was Four Views on the Historical Adam), and asked if it was an apologetics book.

After I explained that it was primarily theological, but dealt with apologetic issues as well, he simply said, “Interesting, but I have no need for apologetics.” His comment piqued my interest, and so of course I asked why he didn’t personally need apologetics.

“Because I have seen God’s power so directly in my own life. Years ago my son was born with a genetic disorder, including a hole in his heart. The doctors said he would only live a couple weeks. Yet he stayed alive, even though the first few years of his life were incredibly tough. When he was three years old, I broke down and cried out to God for his healing. As soon as I was done praying, my soon looked up at me and said, ‘Don’t worry, daddy, Jesus has healed me.’ I took him to the doctor and he was in fact healed.”

As soon as he finished telling me this story, his son walked up, now eleven years old, and said hi. Here’s the bottom line: eleven years ago when his son was born the doctors said he only had a couple weeks to live, because of serious medical complications, but now he is a normal, healthy 6th grader. The father had no doubt that God healed his son. And he also shared how the experience deeply transformed him personally and helped restore his marriage and family.

We talked about the role of apologetics and how, when sharing this story, he is actually giving a kind of apologetic for the faith, which both encourages believers and challenges non-believers to consider the claims of Christ. The Bible does call us both to witness to what we have seen and to be ready with an answer when asked.[i]

But more importantly, do I believe this man and his story? Do you? After all, the man is a complete stranger to me, and you are reading it secondhand. How do I know he didn’t make it up? How do I know it wasn’t merely a coincidence or a misdiagnosis by the doctors?

Since I didn’t follow up and check all the details, I can’t further corroborate his story. And I fully admit that the evidence I am presenting in this blog is tentative. But I choose to believe him for four main reasons:

First, his younger daughter and wife were right there as he shared the story. Wouldn’t they correct him if he were simply making it up?

Second, as far as I could tell, he had nothing to gain from the story. He wasn’t writing a book for money or trying to get famous. In fact, he only opened up when I gently pressed him. He clearly enjoyed sharing the story, because it was so meaningful to him, but he was initially reluctant. He wasn’t looking for an audience to seemingly impress.

Third, I have heard many other stories like this before. When speaking at churches about the possibility of miracles, I often asked audiences to raise their hands if they have personally seen or experienced a miracle (And I always preface it by explaining that by “miracle,” I don’t mean a beautiful flower, the birth of a child, or happening to get the perfect parking spot when Christmas shopping). Every time I have done this, dozens of people raise their hands, and then I am flooded with miracle stories after the service.

Fourth, as Craig Keener reports in his massive, two-volume, academic study Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts, miracles are not contrary to human experience. Hundreds of millions of living Christians believe they have personally experienced or seen the miraculous. This does not prove miracles happen, but it does show they cannot be so easily dismissed. And according to Keener, these are the kinds of miracle claims most frequently attested in the Gospels and Acts.

If you are a Christian and have experienced a miracle, please share it. Sure, some people may laugh or scoff, as they did with Jesus.[ii] But others will be encouraged, and some may even come to faith. If God has worked miraculously in your life, both Christians and non-Christians need to hear your story. And by doing so, you are giving one of the greatest apologetics for the faith. What are you waiting for?

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

[i] Interestingly, the Gospel of John records the testimony of the blind man who simply said, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25) And John also reports that the miracles of Jesus were written down as signs for future generations, who won’t see Jesus in the flesh, so they too can have a confident faith and eternal life: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).

[ii] After all, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and the religious leaders wanted to arrest and kill him (John 11:45-57).



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6 replies
  1. james archbold says:

    There are many possible reasons why this child is alive today including advances in medicine and the dedication of health workers, which in fairness you have alluded to in your article. I am happy for the family of course but it is the type of anecdotal narrative that is indicative of what passes as worthy of ‘miracle status’ in the fundamentalist community. I would have thought though that if prayer were effective then Christians, Moslems or Buddhist’s would be known as the luckiest social group in society.They would be the group in society that managed to sell their houses the quickest ,the ones who statistically were most healthy and the ones to live longest, the ones most likely to pass exams, and the ones who enjoyed rain free church picnics..Sadly though this just isn’t the case…Interestingly limbs are never regrown and severed spines are never knitted back together when miracles are claimed…These alas will have to wait a wee while longer for science to do its work..Let us hope this will be soon though.

    • KR says:

      I agree with all of this. I would also like to add that this man must have an astonishing faith in medical science. He apparently thinks that it’s so extremely unlikely that the doctors could have made an incorrect diagnosis that only a miracle could explain his son’s survival. Is that really reasonable? Is it consistent with our empirical experience to ascribe that kind of infallibility to doctors?

      Why did the doctors say that the boy would only live a couple of weeks? Presumably because in their experience (direct or indirect through the medical literature), this is what usually happens to children with this condition. If we accept that the boy survived through a divine intervention, doesn’t that leave us with the rather unsettling question of why God didn’t choose to save all those other children?

    • Louie says:

      I liken it to children asking for things from their parents. Every request is answered, and many times with “NO”. If Christians got everything they prayed for, not one of them would make it to heaven. Just my opinion of course.

  2. Ed Vaessen says:

    “I agree with all of this. I would also like to add that this man must have an astonishing faith in medical science. He apparently thinks that it’s so extremely unlikely that the doctors could have made an incorrect diagnosis that only a miracle could explain his son’s survival. ”

    Replace ‘medical’ with ‘geological’ or ‘biological’ and see how much faith is left in a man like him.
    I am glad with your post because it shows that so many believers abuse science for their own purposes. Science is perfect as long as it proves God. Imperfect however if is does not.

  3. Esther Lim says:

    I was a healthy mid-30s woman. I watched what I ate and worked out about 3 hours every morning. To give you an idea, I could run about a hundred miles on a good week. I started getting really really tired. Thinking my body needed more exercise, I started frequenting the gym even more. Then one day, I started seeing bursts of really really bright white lights – almost like a fancy fireworks ahow, minus the colorful hues of the rainbow. My hubby took me to a retina specialist/ophthalmologist, who immediately scheduled me for an MRI. The scan showed a grapefruit sized tumor lodged deep within my brain’s ventricle. My mom, a true prayer warrior, committed herself to morning prayers (where she goes to her empty church about 5:00 AM in the mornings). She cried out to God, “help us Lord! Esther is so sick!” Then God heard His voice (audibly!), “do you trust Me?” Fast forward almost 2-years later, and here I am living an independent life. I underwent a grueling 10-hour brain surgery via a craniotomy (where sections of your skull is removed). One of the surgeons who was on vacation “happened” to be in the Richmond area, so he was called in to do the surgery at MCV. I later found out that he is one of the top 10 neurosurgeons in the country. You see, there are no coincidences in a Christian’s life. Due to the trauma the surgery inflicted onto my brain, the doctors and nurses said I would live out the rest of my life as a “special” needs person and sent me to rehabilitative therapy, in which I told the doctors, “you watch! My God will heal me. You watch!” Being there was the lowest point of my life. I gave it my best in the confused state I was in, but by the third or fourth visit, they cleared me from therapy as they were no longer able to legally charge my insurance company loud to the significant progress. And to think I was legally deemed handicapped! Although the doctors told me I’d need a handicapped driver’s license, therapy cleared me to drive. I am driving perfectly fine on my “normal” license. Thank you very much. I’ve lost vision in my left eye as a result of the brain surgery, but my faith stands. God will heal it on His time. God is in the business of miracles because He loves us, as a good Father would.


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