Did you come here expecting to hear from God today? Do you expect to see him working in your life? Do you expect him to respond, to move, to deliver? What are you expecting from the one who holds the whole universe in his hand, the one who makes the sun to shine, and the earth to spin, and the one who fills your lungs with his breath giving you life? Yes, that one … what are you expecting of him?
Your expectations of him are creating your experiences in this life. I’m talking about disappointments and overwhelming awe alike. God is always working, but it is your expectations that create your ability to recognize his works.
Do you just expect God to do what you think is best? Do you want him to take orders … take your prayers like a literal to do-list and make it happen exactly as you wish? Is that what you’re expecting of the one who created this entire universe … for you now to tell him how he should run it?
Ohhhhh snap, are we ever disappointed in that complete and utter letdown. I don’t know about you, but I’ve figured out, 85% of the time, God doesn’t work the way I think he should work. Hey, if God would have listened to me … well I would have totally missed out on some of life’s sweetest surprises and the current unfolding of what I don’t even know to be excited about! God hasn’t followed my demands. He hasn’t shown up the way I expected him to. He hasn’t fixed things the way I want him to, and he never seems to work on my timeline of “right now” and “instantly”. Now could that possibly be because God knows what I do not know? Could it be because he sees things I do not yet see? Could it be that he has eternity in mind, and I’m sitting over here with my fickle feelings and a craving for right now?
Are you expecting God to make this easier? You know, smooth sailing, calm sees, sunny skies, and only incredibly delightful people on your boat? Do you ever feel like maybe you got in the wrong boat because nothing about this sail has been easy, and everyone seems to be generally disgruntled and difficult? Why didn’t God make this easier? Why didn’t he calm those seas? Why didn’t he make the sun to shine? Dang it, why are you once again rowing in a boat with people who only seem to row against you? Why can’t you make progress? Why are you still stuck here?
God doesn’t make things easier, now does he? That’s not generally his way. Just like he doesn’t make arrows shoot forward without first being pulled back, he doesn’t make diamonds without pressure and heat, and he doesn’t make seeds grow without first being buried, he doesn’t make your forward progress and growth without some hardship. When you expect easy, you get discouraged. When you expect instant, you get frustrated. When you expect perfection, you get disappointed.
Let me tell you exactly what you can, and should expect of God:
You can expect him to work in the unseen, and still not see what he is doing, while he is doing it.
You can expect him to work according to his timeline, which is never panicked or rushed, because he holds eternity.
You can expect him to do the impossible, which means all that seemed rationally possible may first have to fail.
You can expect him to use the most unlikely to do his miraculous works.
You can expect him to be in every detail, even when those details don’t make sense.
You can expect him to redeem every heartache, every hardship, and every failure.
And you can expect him to do all of this in ways you wouldn’t have imagined, sometimes wouldn’t have chosen, and didn’t see unfolding.
Paul taught us about having the proper expectations of God. While in prison, chained up and his very life being threatened, Paul had a clear expectation of God. Was it to get him out of there? Was it to deliver him immediately? Was it to right the wrongs, clear his name, make him prosperous? No, Paul knew better than to put his human expectations on a God who’s reign above heaven and earth gave him a greater perspective. So, what were Paul’s expectations here in prison? What did he expect his all-knowing and all-powerful God to do when he was faced with the impossible?
Philippians 1: 12-14 “Everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.”
Now listen closely to verses 20-24 “For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.
Paul has decided in advance how he will view his unfortunate circumstances. No, he wouldn’t have chosen his reality, and maybe you wouldn’t have chosen your reality. But here Paul was in prison, and here you are, dealing with what you’re dealing with. Have you decided in advance how you’re going to view this? What is your perspective? What is your expectation?
If you’re expecting this to all just go away and magically be better, prepare thyself for some major Disappointment with a capital D! If you’re expecting God to shift all his eternal plans to align with your list of requests because you think somehow with your limited view and minimal knowledge you actually know best, oh girl … do you ever have some surprises coming your way!
But if you’re expecting that God is going to work in this, in his own timing and own divine way, to do things you could have never done on your own, get ready for the show!
Paul was looking for the good God was doing in the bad he found himself in. He looked around and saw that while he was chained in prison, God was working through him to bring not only the other prisoners, but the guards, to Jesus! Oh, he could have been pitiful, but instead he was powerful in knowing God was doing something divinely dynamic in his difficulty. Oh yes, God was working direct in his disappointment. God was developing something deep in his distress. Line ’em up and knock ’em down, we’re delivering the D words today!
Heyyyyyyyyy, do you hear me girl … are you looking for God to develop something deep here in your distress? Are you seeking how he is working direct in your disappointment? Are you believing in something divinely dynamic in your difficulty?
Paul said “I fully EXPECT” … yes, he expected his problem to become a platform for God’s power to be on display. He expected God to use everything for something good. Maybe not his personal list of preferences and wishes, but God’s ultimate good.
Paul didn’t even expect to survive this. He simply expected for God’s best plan to unfold. Whatever would be the greatest display of God’s power, that is what he expected. And he made complete peace with the uncertain outcome.
Sis, I believe that’s what God is asking us to do right now. Make peace with the uncertain outcome, after all you’re really not in control of it. You can, and should, do everything you can do, but ultimately the details of your life are in the mighty and capable hands of the One who is bigger than you. And whatever God decides to do with this, his power will be working through it!
Now, expect God to work in the unseen, and still not see what he is doing, while he is doing it.
Expect him to work according to his timeline, which is never panicked or rushed, because he holds eternity.
Expect him to do the impossible, which means all that seemed rationally possible may first have to fail.
Expect him to use the most unlikely to do his miraculous works.
Expect him to be in every detail, even when those details don’t make sense.
Expect him to redeem every heartache, every hardship, and every failure.
Expect him to do all of this in ways you wouldn’t have imagined, sometimes wouldn’t have chosen, and didn’t see unfolding.
And never forget, he’s not shocked, surprised, or panicked by what has happened. He’s not backed in a corner with limited options. His good plans have not been cancelled and where you are today and what you’re dealing with now is an ingredient in the overall goodness God is whipping up! You can expect that!