Our God is a God of wonders. As the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, God can suspend natural laws to fulfill His goal. Miracles were a part of Moses, Elijah, and Elisha's ministry. Of course, Jesus and the apostles' miracles confirmed their message from God. Still today, many people desire to experience something and will go to great distances to have that experience. Through the years we have seen the Charismatic Church greatly limit the purpose of the Holy Spirit. While I believe miracles served a purpose, I don't agree with how they are used in the modern church. Often, they are used or abused in very unbiblical ways.
1. Signs and Wonders Do Not Always Produce Disciples or Conversions
As great as signs and wonders can be, they do not always result in salvation. We see in John 2:23 there were many that believed when they saw the miracles. But look at how Jesus replied in the next verse in John 2.
"But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men," – John 2:24
This verse is a powerful reason why we don't need to seek after signs. Many believed, but in their hearts, they were not entirely interested in following Christ. While they enjoyed observing the miracles, and many even profited from them, there was no desire to follow Him. So many people wanted the signs but did not want the Savior. We see this again in John 12.
"But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:" – John 12:37
In Matthew 12, the Pharisees asked for a sign. The request came after Christ had already performed miracles that proved who He was. They were asking for signs, but they were not interested in believing. Jesus responded to them properly.
"But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:" – Matthew 12:39
Some seek after signs because they do not believe what has already been performed. Jesus had been performing miracles for a while when a group of Pharisees came to Him with an impertinent request to see another sign. In response, Jesus condemned them.
They were "wicked" because they refused to believe what Jesus had already performed.
"For all this they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works" – Psalm 78:32
Their hearts became hardened towards the truth, even after all the public miracles. Nothing was going to make them believe; their hearts were as pharaohs, hardened after witnessing many of Moses' miracles in Egypt.
They were "adulterous" from a spiritual sense. They left true worship with God to follow a man-made set of traditions. Not satisfied with the miracles Jesus had already performed, they demanded something even more extraordinary.
People who seek signs are not always interested in being genuine followers. Many want to enjoy the extravaganza of the moment. That's why Jesus and the apostles did not stop at signs. They understood the importance of preaching the Gospel.
Some people look after signs and wonders because they want validation of God's truth. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this desire. God gave signs to Moses and Gideon to affirm His word.
However, there is a moment when enough miracles have been performed, the truth has been confirmed, and it is time to exert faith. After several miracles at the burning bush, God became angry when Moses paused in obedience.
"And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart." – Exodus 4:14
It is more noble in God's sight to believe without having a miracle. Jesus went to the Samaritans because they did not need signs, only His words.
"And many more believed because of his own word;" – John 4:41
A few verses later, Jesus rebuked the Galileans because they required signs.
"Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe." – John 4:48
Some seek after signs because they seek an opportunity to excuse their unbelief. There were people in Jesus' day who tempted Him by seeking a sign.
"The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven." – Matthew 16:1
Since they determined that the sign needed to be "from heaven," they most likely desired something breathtaking, similar to Elijah's calling down fire from the sky or Isaiah's causing the sun to change course. Their "test" was probably designed to be something "too great" for Jesus to do, and they hoped He would attempt it and fail.
Some people seek after signs because they are merely curious thrill-seekers, like the crowd in John 6:2 or King Herod in Luke 23:8.
And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased." – John 6:2
"And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him." – Luke 23:8
They want to see something stunning, but they have no genuine desire to know the truth of Christ.
Some people seek after signs because they hope to get something out of it. After Jesus fed the multitudes, many people followed Him to the other side of Galilee. Jesus knew their true motivation, however, and rebuked it.
"Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled." – John 6:26
The multitudes' desire was not to know Jesus or even to see more miracles. They simply wanted to fill their stomachs again.
2. Seeking Signs Can Open You Up to Deception
Satan has the power to produce and imitate false signs and wonders. In many churches that believe in signs and wonders, seeking these things takes priority over the teaching and preaching of God's Word. When this begins to happen, people are open to deception. If an individual's faith is built predominantly on signs and wonders and not God's Word, they are treading on a very shaky foundation and are susceptible to deceit. When signs and wonders seem to be present, people often ignore things like a person's character and doctrine and can partake in things not found in the Bible.
The emphasis must be on discipleship, preaching God's Word, the declaration of the Gospel, and the glory of Christ (not the glory of the person performing the "signs").
"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." – 1 John 4:1
Is There a Better Option for Seeking Signs and Wonders?
Instead of spending your time pursuing signs, spend your time seeking the moving of the Spirit. You probably think these two things are synonymous, but they are not. The Holy Spirit can move, and signs and wonders can follow. However, signs can be present without the Holy Spirit. The two don't automatically correlate. As we saw with Christ, many people sought signs and yet missed God. But, if you seek the Spirit, you will never miss God. The reward is not seeing God do some great sign; the true reward is standing in His presence. When the Holy Spirit is present, it could mean miracles take place. But, even if they don't come, His presence will be sufficient to satisfy more than any sign could ever could.
An authentic outpouring of the Spirit will lead to the conviction of sin, repentance, salvation, and transformation. These are the signs we should desire more than anything else. Let your heart be drawn to a genuine move of the Holy Spirit, and if signs and wonders follow, that is fantastic.
But people's lives being genuinely transformed is the sign we should seek most of all.
Don't pursue signs and wonders. Pursue God. It is in knowing Him we find eternal life, not by experiencing the signs. Better than seeking after a miracle is taking God at His Word. Simple faith is more pleasing to the Lord than a reliance on a dazzling sensory experience.
"Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." – John 20:29