We rely on signs often for various reasons. They point us in the right direction. They warn or guide. They help to keep the intersections of our complex lives and civilizations in order.
The Bible is full of signs—signs in nature, signs of God’s blessing, signs of judgment, signs of the kingdom of God, signs of spiritual power, signs of the times, signs of coming events. God revealed the importance of signs at creation, placing the sun, moon, and planets to serve as “signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years” (Gen 1:14). He gave Noah the sign of the rainbow, Moses the sign of the staff, Pharaoh the signs of his wrath, Abraham the sign of circumcision. Prophets were given signs, some of them quite bizarre or even frightening, as when a donkey spoke to Balaam, or heavenly fire consumed Elijah’s water-drenched sacrifice in the presence of the priests of Baal.
The conception and birth of Jesus were accompanied by dozens of convincing signs that he was no ordinary child. There was an archangel, a star, and a manger, just to name a few. When he grew up and began his ministry, Jesus produced many signs and wonders that confirmed the words of the prophets. In fact, he demonstrated so many signs of his power and kingship that “if they should be written every one…even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” (John 21:25).
Because God is into using signs, it is usually acceptable and appropriate for believers to ask for one. It depends on our hearts and motives in asking.
Jesus admonished his followers to discern the signs all around them. He told them the signs they should look for that would reveal that his return was drawing near. When John’s disciples came to Jesus seeking an answer to his question, “Are you the one?” he pointed to his miraculous works as sufficient sign that he was indeed the promised Messiah (Luke 7:22).
Clearly, God is not opposed to giving signs. But we are never to demand them as a condition for our worship or obedience. We are never to be offended when we don’t receive one. Our response to God is based solely in the testimony of Jesus, the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and the authority of the Word of God.
Faith can be confirmed by signs; in fact, baptism and communion are dictated in Scripture as sacramental signs of our relationship with a living Savior. But our faith and love for Jesus is not be dependent upon signs. When they are, this is called superstition. The Christian faith is rooted only in the person of Jesus Christ. And the only sign we need is his resurrection.
Paul wrote, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:21-23).
It is tempting to go toward superstitions. These are often framed in our minds as “If…then” propositions. If such and such a thing occurs, I will know God has heard my prayers or I’ll know that God is real. As though we are in control of the universe or we can dictate to him how he must reveal himself.
No, my friend, God always hears our prayers, and he is Lord of our hearts. We may not discern his answer correctly, but the absence of a sign does not indicate he hasn’t given one. As I have experienced in my walk with him, his answer might be “yes”, or “no”, or “not yet”, or “I have something else in mind.” With or without an external sign.
So, may God bless your walk of faith. May you discern the meaning of signs when they come, and remain faithful when they do not.