Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1, NASB).
Faith can be such a challenging concept: assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. It is so hard to trust in things we cannot see. In fact, it may seem foolish to do this — even when we’re trying so hard to trust. Often, we fear being thought foolish, so we’re afraid to express a trust in something that can’t be seen or explained.
Imagine for a moment that you are part of the early church. Do you struggle trusting in things you can’t see or explain? You have experienced times of great joy as you’ve personally witnessed or heard about many amazing miracles: the lame walking, the blind seeing.
But there have also been excruciatingly difficult times. And now you have learned the horrifying news of a fellow believer jailed for his faith.
How can you hold on? If you are the servant girl, Rhoda, you will stand out for your faith in this situation.
A king arrests
Herod has executed James, John’s brother, for spreading the good news of Jesus. The Jews praised Herod for that vicious act. With one “victory” under his belt, Herod now has Peter arrested and imprisoned — Peter, the bold, brash, outspoken follower of the Way. Not wanting to take any chances with an escape, four squads of four soldiers each are guarding Peter until Passover is done, when he can be brought out before the people (Acts
Concerned about Herod’s intentions, those of you in the church gather secretly to pray for Peter’s release. We can’t lose another leader, you think, so you keep praying. Meanwhile, Peter is sleeping between two soldiers. He is bound with two chains, and guards stand in front of the door watching over the prison. Herod is leaving nothing to chance. An escape will not be permitted (vv. 5, 6).
A disciple freed
Peter, though, seems unconcerned, trusting in the Lord’s deliverance as he rests peacefully. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appears in a great light and strikes Peter on the side, waking him. “Quick, get up!” the angel orders, and the chains immediately fall off. “Put on your clothes and sandals. . . . Wrap your cloak around you and follow me” (vv. 7, 8).
Thinking it all a dream, Peter complies. However, as they pass first one and then a second guard and the great iron gate leading into the city swings open on its own, Peter realizes that the Lord has truly rescued him from not only Herod but also the Jews. Once outside the gate, he heads immediately to the home where he is confident many are gathered, praying for his release (vv. 9-12).
Try to place yourself in Peter’s shoes. Still in shock from this miraculous escape, you’re eager to tell your friends, to let them know their prayers have been answered. You’re knocking on the door, excited to tell them of God’s miraculous rescue in spite of all the odds against it. You rehearse in your mind the various miracles that occurred during your escape so that you don’t leave out any details.
A servant runs
However, rather than the gate being thrown open in welcome, nothing happens. The young servant girl who answers the knock is so overjoyed at hearing Peter’s voice that she forgets to open the gate. Instead she races into where the others are gathered and announces Peter’s arrival (vv. 13, 14).
Can Peter hear the confusion inside? Rhoda’s joyous news that Peter is alive and at the gate. The disbelief of those praying so passionately for his release: “How can Peter be at the gate? He’s in jail!” “You must be out of your mind!” Possibly a few “silly girl” comments as well. Peter smiles to himself at these conflicting expressions of faith. He continues to knock at the gate, and Rhoda continues to insist that Peter truly is free.
This situation is much like what happened in Mark 9. The father of a demon-possessed boy tells Jesus, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (v. 24). Praying for Peter’s freedom but not accepting his miraculous release. Assurance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen. Perhaps the believers have developed their own ideas of how God will answer their prayer.
A simple faith
Only Rhoda, it seems, doesn’t hesitate, doesn’t doubt. As soon as she hears Peter’s voice, she knows who he is. She knows he is on the other side of that door, that their prayers have been answered, that she must share the good news with the others — the older, more experienced Christians, those with greater faith. Or so she thinks.
Faith is so counterintuitive to our human experience. We want to see and touch in order to believe, but our Father asks for our unwavering trust — even when we can’t see how He is working. Or we pray for God’s will but decide what that will should look like. We want to tell God how to handle our situation, but then we sometimes miss His answer when it doesn’t align with our expected outcome. Perhaps this complete, trusting faith of Rhoda’s is a further example of what Christ meant when he said that we must become as little children (Matthew 18:3). One who didn’t fear being wrong, didn’t doubt that prayers had been answered, but simply recognized Peter’s voice and gave thanks for the answer to prayer.
Lord, help us to be like Rhoda, fully trusting that You are at work in our lives, resting securely in the knowledge that we don’t need to figure things out, because You already have. Your ways are not our ways, but Your ways are most definitely the best.