Acts 12 records Peter’s deliverance from Herod. 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 seemed to believe that God could 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 were 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? Why didn’t they just accept Peter’s deliverance as a matter of course? 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. Awhile back I 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 as confident as we wish it would be (are we being judgmental?) or if we will be encouraged because God has taught us a new thing. Which will you be?
Something to think about,