How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years. Luke 1:18
Have you ever been just plain confounded, or shocked at the way God chooses to answer your prayers? Make no mistake about it, God hears and answers our prayers. My question is, how do we respond to His answers?
In the first chapter of Luke's Gospel he gives us something that none of the other gospel writers do, an introduction to John the Baptist's parents, Zacharias (Zachariah) and Elizabeth. He does this in the context of telling of the miraculous circumstances surrounding the birth of the forerunner of Christ. We are told that Zacharias and Elizabeth are a godly and righteous couple who, despite their close walk with the Lord, have not been blessed with children. The feeling that we get from the chapter is that this lack of children had been a matter of fervent prayer for these two for who knows how long. In the end, however, Zacharias is performing his priestly duties in the temple one day when the angel Gabriel appears to him and announces that they will be blessed with a child who's name will be John and he will be the forerunner to the Messiah. This is fantastic news but Zacharias responds in the same manner that we do so often...with doubt.
After hearing a direct word from the Lord, via His messenger (point of trivia, the Greek word from which we derive "angel" means "messenger") Gabriel, Zacharias effectively looks at him and goes, "Say what?! Don't you know how old we are. We can't have kids." Gabriel, being one who stands in the very presence of God, does not take this response lightly and informs Zacharias that because of his doubt he will be unable to speak from that time until John is named.
How many times have we responded similarly when God has said the impossible, or unlikely, is going to happen in our lives? How many times have we doubted God would come through for us when He has given us a promise?
The Bible is full of examples of people doubting and admonitions not to do so. Universally, God's Word frowns on doubt. Peter is rebuked by Jesus when his faith begins to waiver while he is walking on the water. The disciples are corrected when they doubt that Jesus was risen from the dead. James has some strong words about doubt in his letter. He goes so far as to say that if we ask for something from God in doubt we should expect nothing!
There is another road, however. As the story continues in Luke 1 we find Zacharias bringing the news of their impending pregnancy home to Elizabeth. Listen to how she responds;
This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.
In essence Elizabeth has received this news and looked heavenward and said, "Thank you Lord. Thank you." She responded in humble gratitude. We know from verse 6 that Zacharias and Elizabeth were righteous in the sight of God so it would have been very easy for her to think that God "owed her one." How many of us look at God and remind Him of all the hours of volunteering we've done, how much we've given in the offering plate, and how many times we've read the Bible through in a year, then demand that He bless us because "we've earned it." Friends, I have to tell you that no matter how much you or I have "done for God," He doesn't owe us anything. Every good thing He gives to us is out of His overflowing grace and love, and our response to the gifts He gives should be nothing less than total, humble gratitude.
When God chooses to bless us after hearing our prayers and petitions we have two options. One, we can respond with doubt like Zacharias did going, "Say what?" Two, we can respond like Elizabeth did and humble ourselves before the Lord and thank Him for His blessings and provision. I pray that when the time comes we will be ready to answer like Elizabeth.