What Do I Believe . . . That I Don't Really Believe?

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
— James 5:16 ESV

Sometimes I live like an atheist.

Now before you write me off, before you label me a heretic, before you consign this post to "Trash," let me suggest that you too might occasionally live like an atheist.

Think about it . . . we know God says, "Don't be anxious" (Philippians 4:6), but we still get anxious. We know that God declares, "I can do the impossible" (Mark 10:27), yet we cower in the face of our impossibilities. We know God's Word tastes better than honey (Psalm 119:103), but we'll skip it to get to the gym. We know God's wisdom is more precious than jewels (Proverbs 3:13), but we'll trade it for the latest reality craze or "must see" game of the week.  And then there is this one: We know God answers prayer (James 5:16), but we really don't expect him too.

Sometimes I think my "Just Do It" t-shirt should read, "I Doubt It."

I feel a little better about myself when I open the pages of Scripture. There I find dejected kings, dumbfounded psalmists, sleeping disciples, and doubting Thomas. The reality is that walking with God is often living somewhere between certainty and skepticism. Such was the case of the early church.

Peter was in prison, the latest catch of the powerful and deadly Herod Agrippa I. Herod had just killed the apostle James. Now Peter was his next in line for the executioner's sword. So the church got busy. Acts records that "earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church." Acts 12:5 ESV

Sitting on the sidelines, watching biblical history unfold, I shout: "Way to go church! You are believing God for the impossible."

Or are they?

As we read Luke's account we discover that God miraculously intervenes on Peter's behalf. He springs him from prison and saves him from certain death. Peter is stunned by what has transpired. It's surreal. Finally, he gets his bearings and makes his way to Mary's house where many believers are fervently praying for his release.

At this point the scene becomes comical:

When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter's voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” Then he departed and went to another place. Acts 12:5, 12-17 ESV

Oh to be a fly on the wall. Rhoda shrieks, "Peter is here!" The group responds, "You are out of your mind! Now leave us alone so we can get back to praying." The Greek construction is incredibly clear: She keeps insisting that it is Peter. They keep saying, "You're crazy!" And meanwhile, Peter just keeps knocking!

Classic! Do they really believe? Of course they do--and they don't.

I love the Word of God. I love that God doesn't take an airbrush and cover over the blemishes of his disciples. It's encouraging. Acts 12 is my reminder that my doubts don't diminish His truth:

  • He still calms the anxious heart.
  • He still performs the impossible.
  • He still feeds the hungry soul with His Word.
  • He still imparts wisdom.
  • He still answers prayer.

Sure, there are times I don't really believe what I think I believe. My actions bear this out. But the lesson of Acts 12 bears repeating: My doubts don't diminish God's truth. So I'll keep believing and I'll keep praying even when I act like I don't really believe what I know I believe.

How about you?


Spanish River Church is in a seven-part sermon series, Famous Unbelievers. Together with Gospel Fellowship, The Avenue Church, and Crossway Church, we are learning to believe God in the crisis of faith. You can click here to watch yesterday's message, Every Believers Dilemma About Prayer from Acts 12, or check out our site churchwidestudy.com to find a full array of small group and study resources.