When faced with a challenge or an unanswered prayer, it’s unlikely that we all would respond with joy. In this sermon, Dr. Stanley examines what causes our trust in God to waver and encourages us to address our own moments of fluctuating faith.
How do you respond when God doesn’t answer your prayers? Does your faith waver if He doesn’t provide what you’ve requested in the time and manner you expected? Although it may seem that the problem of fluctuating faith is the result of unanswered prayer, it’s actually caused by a misunderstanding of what God is doing in your life.
The book of James tackles the issue of doubting by first addressing God’s purpose for our trials. He says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-3). Sometimes God doesn’t immediately give the relief we seek because He’s using that particular trial to produce something good in us.
Then He tells us what to do. “And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (vv. 4-8).
God wants us to come to Him with our requests, trusting that He hears us. However, if He doesn’t answer them immediately, it’s not because He doesn’t care. His purposes are always accomplished according to His timing not ours. He may answer in a different manner or a later date than we expect. That’s why we must wait and trust Him even when we see no evidence of an answer.
James says, when we doubt the Lord, we are like “the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind” (v. 6). One minute we’re confidently trusting God, and the next moment we’re wondering if He answers prayer at all. Perhaps we’ll only believe Him if He gives us a little encouragement along the way. Or sometimes we fuss and argue with the Lord, thinking this will motivate Him to answer sooner. But all our doubts simply reveal that we are impatient, we don’t know God’s will, or we’re not yet ready to receive His answer.
Whenever God delays in responding to our petitions, He’s teaching us to consistently trust and believe Him, not because we see the answer, but because He’s promised to hear and answer our prayers. When doubts arise because God delays, it’s due to our lack of trust in Him not a lack of care or ability on the Lord’s part.