Miracles, signs and wonders are not the primary goals of the gospel. Jesus called them the meat that perisheth in John 6:27. It is a meat nevertheless and it has its useful benefits but this meat has an expiry date.
It is great to see cancer healed and we need more healing grace to release men from the bondage of sickness, but do you know that the person healed of cancer may become sick of something else years later. One day s/he will still die. If it is a natural death, most of the time, doctors will still find the cause of death to be one form of sickness or the other. It then means that no healing virtue released into any life is everlasting. It is a meat that perisheth.
Same for breakthrough, miracle alert and the rest of them. They do no have relevance beyond the usually short life span of any individual. The moment the individual crosses to the other side, what will immediately determine his/her placement and eternal destiny is whether he acquired or not the real meat, the one that endures unto eternal life.
Jesus provided this meat that perisheth in his earthly ministry, perhaps more than anyone else: Healings, miracles, miraculous material multiplications, manifestation of the gifts of the spirit (and we are to have this meat in abundant supply in the church even today) but nevertheless he was very intolerant of men who made this the primary pursuit of their lives and ministries. “Why,” he asked them – I believe with a stern look – “do you labour for the meat that perisheth?”
If the theme of a meeting is, “Finishing all your Finishers;” or “7 days of prosperity” the hall will be packed to capacity. But let the theme be, “Cultivating the life of Christ” or “the imperative of following in His steps,” the hall will be empty of even some of the most ardent church attendees.
It is the meat that perishes that is most exciting to the majority of us who are followers of Christ. Those ministers who make this the primary pursuit of their ministry are the most popular in our midst. They have the largest following. They are rated as top pastors above anyone else.
Those ones who are focused on salavation – genuine repentance and conversion followed by an urgent and often painstaking discipleship process which involves the purging of a life from dead works and a training in the very life of Christ – are regarded powerless ministers (eventhough indeed God performs strange miracles through several of these men -only that they never publice it in order not to lose focus of the real meat) and they usually have lean followership.
Why did God release the ministry gifts into the body – the Apostle, Prophet, Teacher, Evangelist and Pastor? So that they can work miracles, signs and wonders? I’m sorry NO. The primary work of these offices and the anointing that come with them is to labour on men to grow into the likeness of Jesus. If you refer to Ephesians 4 you will see this clearly.
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;…… FOR (“For” is a word that points to the purpose of an action or thing) the perfecting of the saints … till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: …”
God’s primary goal for releasing all of the ministry graces is so that they’ll be used to build the church up to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. And this is what determines the success of these offices. If they are used to perform great signs and wonders, make people rich, grow the ministry in membership, build large cathedrals and real estate assets but not to transform lives to resemble Jesus; that apostolic, prophetic, teaching, pastoral or evengelistic grace has been wasted. That ministry is a failure becuase it achieved every other thing but the primary purpose for which it was raised up.
Signs and wonders are ensigns to the unbelievers. It forcefully draws their attention to the credibility of the gospel. No wonder Jesus said, “without signs and wonder many will not believe.” But after they have believed, there is something urgent that we must bend down to do. It is to follow up these men, teach them, build them up, show them the Life of Christ and see to it that this same life is formed in them with a clear evidence in their day-to-day living. That is the ultimate.
If after they have believed, if every Sunday thereafter, we don’t focus on messages that will show them the life of Christ clearly, and confront them with the imperative of conforming to this life – if we simply continue preaching signs and wonders – since that’s the only central theme of our church’s messages – their lives would never rise up to the ultimate goal God is looking for and then it would mean that the initial signs and wonders that dragged them into the fold in the first place is a total waste. Why is it a waste? A life that is not conformed to Christ has no hope of glory! What then is the benefit to God if after all the signs and wonders and healings, a soul is unable to keep the eternal life he had earlier received?
Maybe you can now clearly see that the GREATEST goal that God is desirous to see in the lives of His children is not to see them rich – as good as that is – or healed – as necessary as this is; but to see them changed, and comformed to the exact image of His son. And all the provisions of men and materials which He has released to the body is towards this singular end primarily.
Becoming like Jesus therefore ought to be the highest pursuit of your life because that’s the highest thing God is hoping to see in your life. If you collect any other thing in christianity but you missed this, you got nothing. Eternity will reveal you got nothing. But before you move to eternity, the turbulence of the marriage you’ll experience down here will prove that you got nothing.
As we begin to dig deep into the details of the life of Jesus that ought to be on display in our marriages, I hope you’ll take it personal. I hope you’ll get really committed to it. I hope you’ll have a great sense of failure henceforth whenever situations press you in your marriage in the hope that Jesus will be revealed but what you revealed was the old adamic nature.
For me, this is the greatest pursuit of my life. If there’s anything that makes me feel very proud of myself, it’s when a very volatile situation arises around me which naturally ought to elicit an outburst from me, but then I am able to handle it calmly with a controlled temper and the gracefulness of Christ. That time when my wife is really getting me upset and I stubbornly insist on loving her and I’m buying her expensive gifts, and going out of my way to make her happy. I really do feel very good about myself – that I’m being like Jesus.
In my own value system, if your life is not displaying the life of Jesus when you’re under pressure in your daily relationship with your partner or in your work place, hide your face. There is nothing to be proud of about yourself. If you wear a beautiful clothe, you’ve only wasted that clothe. Wearing a beutiful clothe on a dirty heart! What a waste of money!
Let me leave you with my daily heartcry expressed in a hymn written by Thomas O. Chisholm (1897).
Oh! to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer, This is my constant longing and prayer; Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures, Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Refrain: Oh! to be like Thee, oh! to be like Thee, Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art; Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness; Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
Peniela Eniayo Akintujoye.