When should we expect signs and wonders from God?When considering a religion that deals directly with the creator of the universe, it is not always inappropriate to seek signs and wonders from Him. He created natural law, and He is perfectly able to work around it. But since He is the creator of the universe, we need to understand how He uses miracles, and accept that it is His prerogative to do so whenever and however He wants. In the Bible and in our lives, there are two main reasons God performs signs and wonders for us.
To validate His message and His messengers
There are a few occasions in the Bible where signs and wonders were the norm and to be expected. The first was when God wanted to validate His messenger. Throughout the Old Testament, His prophets were known for two things: prophesying accurately and performing miracles. Moses brought water from a rock (Exodus 17:1-7), Elijah brought down fire from heaven (1 Kings 18), and Elisha cursed a group of young men who were mocking his position as the prophet of God (2 Kings 2:23-24). In each of these cases, God used signs and wonders to identify His message and His messengers to others.
We do not need this today. With the completion of God's Word, prophets are not the primary method by which we learn God's will and character. Instead, we are to trust in God individually and let Scripture guide our hearts.
But, like the miracles God used to introduce Himself to His early followers, He still sometimes validates His message by showing seekers and new believers His power in miraculous ways. When someone first comes to Christ, they are often miraculously healed from a particular sin. They may see their prayers answered in powerful ways. And they may be suddenly aware of God's work directly in their lives.
The mistake is in assuming God will always interact with us in this way. Just as today's church is to be a more spiritually mature version of the New Testament church, Christians are to mature spiritually, relying on the Bible, leading from the Holy Spirit, and a strong faith in God's goodness and power. Signs and wonders are God working for us; spiritual maturity allows God to work through us.
To provide rescue
God also used signs and wonders to provide specific aid to people on a case-by-case basis. Often, this was more an indication of His grace and mercy than His power and authority. God provided for a widow and her son in 2 Kings 4:1-7. Jesus healed many people quietly. Although these signs and wonders obviously became public (we know of them), they were done for specific people in their time of need.
But God didn't heal everyone. John the Baptist was beheaded (Matthew 14:1-12). Paul lived with a "thorn in his flesh" (2 Corinthians 12:7). And Jeremiah went through a lifetime of abuse. As God told Moses in Exodus 33:19 (NASB), "I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion." One group that God withdrew His compassion from was those who had already rejected Him. The people of Jesus' hometown ignored His power and rejected Him, so He "did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief" (Matthew 13:53-58 NASB).
God does the same for us, today. The world is filled with miraculous healings and rescues that came after fervent prayer. But although we can hope and pray for a miraculous deliverance, we need to accept that God acts according to His plan and our best. An unanswered prayer is not a sign that God deserted us, but that He has something planned we can't yet see.
But those who have rejected God and only ask for His help with bitterness and selfishness should not expect God to come to give them the miracle they want. Today we see this with people who demand, "God, I'll believe in You if You give me money." Or even those who walk away from God because a loved one has died. Many of the signs and wonders performed in the Bible were to validate God's message to people who didn't believe. But most of the miracles done for individual people were for people who already trusted God. If we don't have faith to trust God with our lives, it's entirely reasonable that He won't answer our bitter demands.
Signs and wonders have specific purposes. God uses them to identify His message and help those who earnestly seek Him. He does not use them according to our agenda, but His. He will not be threatened or blackmailed. And He will not continue to use signs and wonders in a person's life if they continue to ignore the more subtle ways He works and provides. Signs and wonders are tools to guide us into spiritual maturity. The trusting Christ-follower will understand that God works most often in ways we will never see (John 20:29).
Are Bible miracles literal events?
Why does God require faith?
Does God do miracles today?
How are dreams and visions used in the Bible?
How can I recognize the voice of God?