Faith in the Trenches

Sunday, we looked at the deliverance of Peter from Herod in Acts 12.  It is an amazing passage of Scripture highlighting the power of God.  It is also a profound example of fervent prayer.  Yet, the part that I personally find so instructive is the response of the people.  Acts 12:5 says, “So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.”  They were fervently praying.  They seem to believe that God can do something to help Peter.  After his release, Peter goes, “to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.” (12)  They followers of Christ are even praying that very night for Peter’s rescue!  Yet, their response is a little too much like us.  It says in verse 16,  “When they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed.”  Why be amazed?  If we believe God, don’t we expect Him to work?  If we believe God, then shouldn’t His acting in our life be something that we look for just like the water that comes out of our faucets? 

My answer: of course not!  When God works, He stretches our faith.  He takes what we believed yesterday and pushes it so that it becomes better, fuller, and stronger.  Since none of us are perfect, God’s actions in our life will continually be a marvelous surprise.  It is not merely the absence of faith that is surprised by God.  It is growing faith that is also surprised by Him!  Growing faith says, like the man whose son was tormented by demons, “I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

What about us?  Do we get discouraged when God surprises us?  Do we feel that we are somehow a great spiritual failure when our feet struggle with keeping up with our faith?  Do we let those times of stretching discourage us rather than encourage us?  Let me give a physical example of this spiritual truth.  I recently went to a workout offered by a person who attends my church.  That workout stretched me.  The next day I was sore and aching.  I had a choice that day.  I could be discouraged that I was not in better shape.  OR – I could be encouraged that I got a good workout and my body was challenged beyond the norm.  I chose to not be discouraged by the aching (even though there were times I thought that I could not move!).  I was encouraged because I recognized that I could feel the stretching of my body.  This is what happens to us spiritually when God works in our lives.  He stretches us.  We ache with surprise or amazement.  We then need to choose if we will be discouraged because our faith wasn’t confident enough or encouraged because the amazement means that God has taught us a new thing.  Which will you be?

 Something to think about,

Pastor John

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3 Responses to Faith in the Trenches

  1. internet elias says:

    Beautiful post. Could it be, too, that their amazement was born out of contrition rather than out of surprise that their prayers were answered? A broken and contrite spirit is the result of the indwelling Holy Comforter. It is a condition of the ‘holy’ heart. These early Christians were filled with Pentecost…with ‘belief.’ They knew ‘seek and ye shall find’ – ‘ask and ye shall receive.’ But scripture teaches that the real deal Christians always have been rejected…always will be ‘outcasts.’ Truth offends!

    Again, good post. Timely. Thanks.

    Carolyn

    • Pastor John says:

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, part of their amazement could be born out of their contrition before a Holy God. It struck me, though, how the Scripture comments about their amazement and their disbelief of Rhoda’s testimony of Peter’s presence at the door. It also strikes me (as we seek to apply this Scripture to our lives) how often in my church Christians seem terribly troubled by how they are stretched by God when it would be good for us to be thankful that we would be (in the words of the early followers), “worthy to suffer shame for the name.” (Acts 5:41)

  2. internet elias says:

    Amen to that. Oh that all could understand ‘tribulation worketh patience, And patience, experience; and experience, hope: Romans 5:3-4. Did a post on that very thing at my site couple of days ago called ‘Wilderness/Bozrah/Breaker’ which speaks to the inevitability of suffering while under God’s divine protection.

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