I always have to chuckle a bit whenever I read in Acts 12 about how Peter, after his miraculous escape from prison with the help of an angel, shows up at the house where the rest of the church has gathered to pray for his release. When the maidservant, Rhoda, sees him at the door, she is so overcome with joy that she just leaves him standing there and rushes back in to the prayer team to announce his arrival. The rest of the group then argues over the truthfulness of her report: the very answer to their prayers is knocking, and they refuse to believe it. They declare Rhoda crazy – all while Peter is left knocking and calling at the door!
When Rhoda sticks to her story, the church members conclude that Peter’s guardian angel – who according to their Jewish tradition would take on his attributes – has arrived, either to bring good news or to announce Peter’s death. It seems that any other option is more feasible than that God has in fact answered their prayers and delivered Peter from prison! When they go to investigate, Scripture tells us they are “beside themselves in astonishment” as they open the door and see Peter standing there.
The narrative has comic irony, but when you think about it, isn’t it pretty illustrative of the way you and I often approach God? We pray without believing God and are astonished when He answers our petitions. We don’t come before Him with confident faith. We doubt His ability to overcome natural obstacles. We don’t believe His timing is perfect. Oh, we may say we have faith and that we believe in His power and His timing, but when we fret and worry and/or try to take matters into our own hands and push our own agenda, aren’t we proving just the opposite?
Jesus said that as believers we must become “like children” in order to inherit the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3). Childlike faith differs from a doubting faith in that children are trusting and ready to receive whatever they ask for without questions or fear. When a parent makes a promise, a child naturally believes. He or she does not worry about whether or not the parent is going to follow through (unless, of course, the parent has made a habit of deceit or unreliability).
Even when parents tell silly tales of the tooth fairy and Santa Claus, the child readily believes. When a little child climbs up on a ledge and his daddy tells him to throw himself off, reassuring him that “I will catch you”, the child does so gladly, shrieking with delight as he throws himself into his father’s arms. The child may experience some fear, but his trust in his parent – that he will be there to catch him just like he said – outweighs that fear many times over.
This is the kind of trust God wants from us. He wants us to trust Him with the innocent, believing heart of a child and without the cynicism of an adult.
Let’s also remember that doubt is a tool of Satan to make us distrust God’s Word. The natural mind tends to fear and to question what the Bible says rather than simply believe.
The remedy for fear and doubt is faith, and faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). God gave us the Bible as a testimony of His works in the past so we can have good reason to trust Him in the present and for the future. In order for our faith to be strengthened, we must study the Scriptures to know what God has said and done for His people throughout the ages, and also regularly meditate on how He has come through for us, personally, in the past.
This is how we reassure our doubtful hearts that He is, in fact, trustworthy. As a result, we are then better able to come before the Lord in expectant prayer, believing that He is going to act on our behalf, and when we honor God this way by placing confident faith in Him, He again honors our faith by proving Himself faithful to us and answering our petitions.