Expectations: a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.
Click here tHow difficult and distressing when reality does not live up to our expectations…what we think ‘should’ happen.
I have talked/counseled/encouraged/rebuked and listened to hundreds of people through the 51 years I have been a Christian. There are those that seem to have unshakable faith and those that struggle almost daily, and many that are somewhere in between. What makes the difference? I don’t have a deep theological answer to this question just some thoughts from years of experience. My somewhat simplistic observation, I can’t help myself, that’s what I do, look for the simplest answer possible, is disillusioned, unmet expectations. People have wrong thinking and wrong expectations because they have wrong thinking and wrong expectations about people and most assuredly about God.
He/she should’ve or he/she could’ve or why did they not respond in a way I ‘expected?’ It gets even weightier when we pummel God in the same way; God should’ve or certainly He could’ve. We, in essence, take God to court and put Him on the witness stand as we throw questions, and yes, sometimes even accusations. I’m glad God does not get nervous over our tantrums!
Only time and experience equip a person with the ability to maintain a certain amount of peace and trust in the midst of life’s unruly situations. You must, and you will, learn the benefit of the words of the Apostle James:
"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."
Nothing tests our faith like unmet expectations. Of course, we can assuredly ‘expect’ God to move in our situations…the key is to trust His ways and not our ways. Isaiah reminds us of this timeless truth: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord."
Our steady foundation must rest, not on expectations from people, because they will surely disappoint, but on expectancy that God works in His way and in His time!o edit.
I have such fond memories of the small group of people that greeted us enthusiastically in the spring of 1977. We had just accepted the call from them to be the pastors of this newly formed church body called Faith Tabernacle. We arrived in Melrose, Florida as a couple of skinny kids, 25 and 28 respectively. We didn’t know a lot, we didn’t have a lot of experience, but we were young, energetic, full of hope and vision. Randy led the worship, gave the announcements, took the offering, preached the message, and handled the altar calls. I was in charge of helping people in and out the creaky little door to the little bathroom that was located in the back of the tiny office space that we rented as our ‘sanctuary.’ Those were the days, my friend…
It’s this time of year especially that I seem to spend a lot of time in reflection about what has passed and also hoping and desiring to embrace what lies ahead.
The thankfulness I revel in is always attached to specific memories. One delightful memory that reoccurs regularly as I reflect, was the joy Randy had in leading worship. It didn’t matter if it was on key or out of key it was always sung with gusto. Interestingly enough, those that were in charge of finding the ‘key’ seemed to always find it. One of the favorite songs we all sang together was the following:
… Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He's given
Jesus Christ, His Son
… And now let the weak say, "I am strong"
Let the poor say, "I am rich"
Because of what the Lord has done for us… Give thanks
Those of you who know this little chorus will be singing it all day as I will. This is a time to specifically set aside a time of thanksgiving. I know it should be year-round but I have no trouble recognizing a special day for the celebration of a grateful heart.
Have a blessed, reflective, Thanksgiving this year… Give thanks with a grateful heart.
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD… -Psalm 27:13
I really resent the feelings of helplessness. I am a ‘rescuer’ at heart. I would take on the bully that tried to harass my little brother. I wrote the advice column in our high school paper. I freely gave my best guidance to friends and family (asked or not), but my goal was to just help in some way. And when I had children, that instinct went into overdrive. To say I was a helicopter mom would be a mild description of my exploits…when grandchildren came…well, let’s just say my efforts of rescue and protection increased exponentially.
Watching and listening to the struggles and horrors of what has, and is, taking place in various nations of the world, as well as, right here in America, can cause an overwhelming anxiety of helplessness. We want to do something but to many of us our platform to make a difference is many times limited. What to do…what can “I do?”
You may hear someone, or may hear yourself say, “well, I guess all I can do is pray.” Oh, what an egregious mindset. All you can do? I read this statement the other day:
“If you’re overwhelmed by the fact that there’s nothing you can do except pray, then my friend, you undervalue your greatest weapon.”
Prayer is one of our greatest ways of helping to change the events in the situations we see. I am believing and waiting for some of the miraculous reports that will soon be coming out about incredible interventions in some of the most hopeless situations. And when it is reported it will be because we prayed!
“…The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16
“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD…” Psalms 27:13
Here are a few perspectives and principles that I have learned the last 50 years. I learned them the hard way.
1) Who you are as a believer is more important than what you do.
If we are not in tune…We can build an alternative reality of success instead of wholeness, but it is a fantasy. Get with God and gut this stuff out now, while there are those around you to help.
T. Kempis, a 14th century Monk in writing words of encouragement and correction to young monks entering the monastery said “…if I am outwardly admonished and not interiorly set on fire I may die and find that my life was without fruit, and at the moment of judgment I may be condemned for hearing the word but not fulfilling it, knowing it but not loving it, for believing it but not living it.”
Who you are as a believer is more important than what you do.
2) Self-sufficiency is a trap.
Dependence on ‘self’ leads to prayerlessness. You will find, and it will be a good day when you find it, that having confidence in your flesh is just an illusion. Crisis will drive you to your knees and ultimately flat on your face. And when you cry out and mean it when you say, “Oh God, I can’t do it”…He’ll be there. When you can no longer hold on, He’ll hold on to you. Again, to quote Kempis: “If you are looking for knowledge and learning that is useful to you, then love to be unknown…”
Self-sufficiency is a trap.
3) Don’t fear the crucible event that is coming.
The word crucible means: a situation of severe trial. At some point in your life you will experience, if you haven’t already, an event that changes you. Don’t be afraid…what you do with that life-altering event will reveal who you really are. And it’s good to know who you are and it’s good to find out that you are really stronger than you think you are.
To quote Kempis one more time, “…you must not become dejected nor give into despair… Remember, after winter comes the summer, after night comes the morning, and after the storm comes the great calm.
"To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” - Ecclesiastes 3
God’s timing…have you noticed? It’s different than our timing!
I’m sure we all probably went on ‘road trips’ when we were kids. If you were like my kids the most frequently asked questions were: “How much further?” or “Are we there yet?”
I have vivid memories, as a child, of traveling with my family from Illinois where we lived to N.D. where my parents were from. Mom and dad would load us up in our 58 Edsel and head north. Of course, back then no stopping at hotels or restaurants…a loaf of bread and a pound of baloney and we were good to go! The nagging question always was, “Are we there yet?”
It seems so difficult to wait for anything…in the natural but how about when we are ‘waiting’ for God to speak or move in situations or issues of life? Listen, waiting on God is the rule not the exception. We’ve all offered God some really good plans but when He doesn’t take us up on ‘our’ plans we try to help open the door. When it seems there are no open doors, we many times try to force the lock; ‘our’ wisdom and strategy then kicks in and we attempt to compensate for our lack of trust! Not until history has run its course will we understand how “all things work together for good.” None of us learn this lesson quickly…The Psalmist in Psalm 13:1 cries out, How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? The Message translation puts it this way…Long enough, God— you've ignored me long enough.
We don’t like not being able to control things. We hate the feeling of utter helplessness. We despair when things happen that we cannot manage. We always look for ways to ‘nudge’ the arm of providence. If it seems that you are stuck in some dungeon or that you have been put on a shelf, it could be God saying; hold steady, I am going to be the One to exalt you and lift you out of this prison experience in My way and in My timing. God comes along and works in such a manner that the only thing you can say is “God moves in mysterious ways…His wonders to perform.” Don’t fret, God knows where you are!!! ‘You’ may not know where you are but be assured, He ‘knows’ where you are!
…Since before time began no one has ever imagined, No ear heard, no eye seen, a God like you who works for those who wait for him. -Isaiah 64:4
In this hour of all-but-universal darkness one cheering gleam appears: within the fold of conservative Christianity there are to be found increasing number of persons whose religious lives are marked by a growing hunger after God Himself. -A. W. Tozer
You probably assumed, when you read those first few words, that I was talking about our own current universal darkness…it certainly could apply.
I’m not sure why but I am drawn to the old WWII movies, the history and the upheaval of that time is disturbing, yet enthralling; not only the horror of the events but of the courage of those who not only survived but later thrived. While most of us may not remember much about WWII, who could forget the violence and unrest of the 1960s? I remember waking early in the morning and overhearing my mom and dad discuss the need to possibly build a fall-out shelter. We had air-raid drills in our elementary school and had to hide under our desks. The message of the church I attended in the early 70s was that Russia was going to invade America at any moment. I believe if we would do a walkthrough of history, we would see each and every generation face what seems to be insurmountable and debilitating circumstances. The circumstances may vary but the answer is always the same…stand strong, do not waiver, trust Him and maintain, as Tozer encourages, a growing hunger after God Himself.
So many quote the scripture from Esther that says she was born for her time and her specific assignment to intercede for her nation. Taken to what I believe is a reliable interpretation I trust we can rightly assign this to each and every one of us that pursue after God’s purposes without fear or intimidation.
We are here, at this time in history, to fulfill what God has given to us as our assignments. Every generation must speak to their generation the hope that we have in Christ…it’s our message…it’s our purpose!
Anyone can start a race, it's the finishing part that strains the spirit, body, and soul. Really, anything in life is pretty easy to start; it's easy to start a diet, it's easy to start cleaning out a closet, it's easy to start a fitness regiment, it's easy to start a budget strategy, etc. etc. etc.
When life's surprises drop in uninvited we usually can muster the courage and strength to start the journey, but as time passes, strength and bravery begin to wane; confusion, doubt, and anger relentlessly intrude in on our thoughts. These are those nasty, uninvited, minions that taunt and torment the strongest of us. Try as we may, the water well of perceived strength is discovered to be empty at times. In our attempt to muster up the slightest semblance of the warrior of yesterday we end up scraping the bottom of the well that has now grown rather barren and crusty. The race, once so valiantly approached, now seems to be moving at a turtle's pace.
The desire for someone, anyone, to really understand your particular situation is ultimately an attempt in futility. There will be those with similar stories etc. but the impact on your life in particular cannot really be understood by anyone in general. It's no one's fault of course, our individual journey is just that, individual...solo. So as the journey is individual, so too the things that help. What helps someone else does not seem to often fit the need inside, personally, where the cracks and crevices seep out despair.
Then, you might ask, where do we land in this journey of the unknown? A reasonable question, a not so easy answer. I noticed my little bio on my Facebook page the other day that says, “I am committed to my commitment to Jesus Christ. I have purposed in my heart to stand in the midst of the storm with my face to the wind.” I made that statement early on in this long journey but when I re-read it, I realized it is still true, and it is still my stand!
Therefore, having so vast a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, and throwing off everything that hinders us...let us keep running with endurance the race set before us... -Hebrews 12:1
There was a cartoon that showed a man getting his fortune told by a fortuneteller. As she looked him over she said, “you will be sad and miserable and poor until you are 30.”
“Gee,” the man replied, hoping for a change in fortune... “what happens when I'm 30?”
The fortune-teller replied, “then you'll get used to it.”
Our reaction to the circumstances of our lives will have everything to do with our sense of well-being and success. It affects our ability to be thankful even in challenging circumstances. It is our perspective that counts and a determination to see beyond what's in front of our eyes.
I remember when we decided to move to Dallas, TX from beautiful Hilton Head Island, SC. We had friends that questioned our sense; “really, you're moving to the jungle of city living in landlocked Dallas, TX from your beautiful resort home, a fifteen minute walk from the beach?” In retrospect I can see that that may have looked like a questionable move.
I did have several months of adjustments and could have allowed depression to set in and dictate my attitude, but I decided to find something that I thought was beautiful about the Texas landscape and focus on that. I chose the bluebonnets that bloom every spring. If you've not yet experienced this wonder in blues and purples you have missed an extravagant spectacle of God's artistic breath…hills and sides of highways covered with flowers in the midst of the hustle and bustle of traffic. Many a day you will see this traffic halted to a slow crawl and even some people stopping to gaze at this spring wonder. There are always people and families tromping through the maze of color and having pictures taken to commemorate this brief interlude of beauty splattered across the Texas scenery. It is a view that is too short-lived but one that is etched in your memory so keenly you anticipate the ritual return with anticipation.
We must learn to make the best and choose to see the best in any situation...you may not be able to change your situation but you can change your attitude.
Two men looked from prison bars,
One saw mud, the other stars.
The Thanksgiving celebration is almost upon us. You may find yourself in limiting or frustrating circumstances, but choose today and ask for His perspective...mud may be all around but look up...you'll see stars.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. -I Thess. 5:18
Our Christian world we live in is not a make-believe world where there are no questions or no problems. It is a world we walk out every day by faith and yet doubt sits on our shoulder looking for any opening to pounce and shake us loose from our moorings. Our faith is being attacked on every level and it seems the only stance that is not acceptable in our culture is being a Christian. And the problem worsens because we feel so inept and feel our intellectual deficiencies are only highlighted by our weak response to these assaults...and doubt digs in a little deeper.
No wonder, at times, we falter as believers in the midst of this disbelieving age. The cultural situation we are facing today, with Christian beliefs and values being mocked and ridiculed, has provoked the serious problem of doubt for many Christians. I believe what has been most damaging is not the fact that Christians doubt, but the lack of honesty regarding our personal struggles with doubt. It is beneficial to have a healthy understanding of doubt because testing comes to us all.
“Faith,” as one author suggests, “is a radical reliance on God.” It's not faith in our faith, or faith in our friends, or faith in our culture, or faith even in our Bible knowledge; these are all substitutes and they will come up short if we rely on these during our times of struggle, and/or testing. “...what is doubt but faith suffering from mistreatment or malnutrition?” -Os Guinness
Doubt is not the opposite of faith, unbelief is. To believe is to be of one mind, to disbelieve is to be of another mind, and to doubt is to be in between...doubt then is a half way stage but if not checked can move on into unbelief. Doubt is not always fatal but it is always serious. Again, left unchecked or unchallenged doubt can neutralize our hold on faith and can be the prelude or origin of unbelief. Too many Christians find their life of faith a boring, joyless affair. Why? Because there has been a subtle mixing of Christian and non-Christian ideas that have slipped into our way of life. We find ourselves halfhearted because we're double-minded. We try to find the best in both worlds, but we ultimately find the best of neither and end up with the worst of each.
What and why we believe is not blind faith. Our faith is not blind, rather it sees the invisible. Take the story of Abraham and the conflict of the promised heir, Isaac, and God's new command to now go and sacrifice him. Abraham wasn't acting on blind faith, he was trusting in a God that he already knew. He couldn't see the outcome but he trusted in the One who knew the outcome…"he knew why he trusted God who knew why.”
“Unless each of us wrestles with the truth of our own faith, we will end up with opinions rather than convictions. No conviction is truly our own unless we are prepared to hold it even if the rest of the world is against it.”
Martin Luther, defending himself before the Roman Emperor closes his appeal with these words: “My conscience is taken captive by God's word, I cannot and will not recant anything. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. So help me God.”
Let's not doubt God...let's rather doubt our doubt.
The aforementioned quotes were taken from God in the Dark by Os Guinness.
Persevere, persist, continue...can you tell I'm trying to say something? Have you ever felt like there was a big red target on your back and that about the time things are going relatively smooth, even in the midst of challenges, a razor sharp dart hits you strategically smack between the shoulder blades... metaphorically speaking. You may have been managing, you developed coping skills and strategies with the help of the Lord and you had a tenuous, at best, sense of well being for the moment. Well, don't get comfortable!
The book of James has been my consistent reading over these past few days. James, it appears, has an insight into the trials and temptations of life that most of us might miss. Sometimes when I read verses like, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds..." I want to look James in the eye and say, "Really?" "You really think I ought to consider it pure joy?" Gathering my emotions I press on into further reading knowing and trusting James has his reasons for such a blatant declaration. And there it is...that word, because; a seemingly innocuous little part of speech, referred to as a conjunction, that connects the statement with the reason. "...because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." Oh, okay then, the goal is perseverance with the definition being: continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition; steadfastness.
Why can't good times be used to produce perseverance? Why can't peaceful, contented times produce perseverance? Simplistic questions with an even simpler answer...because they can't and don't! There is nothing wrong with having good times and peaceful, contented times, we get those too and we get them to enjoy. But James is after something here, a greater gain than even happiness, he's after eternal rewards and only trials produce perseverance and only those who persevere under trial get the prize...a crown of life. "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him."
Does it help to have this information when in the midst of a trial? The answer is a resounding YES! So much of our life is peppered with trials and only coming to a settled realization that it is not all about the 'here and now' it's also about the 'then and there.' This truth will assist us to persevere, to be steadfast, to hang on, hang in, hold on and carry on! There's a crown waiting; a crown that we will receive for persevering. It is not the kind of crown that we will prance around wearing pointing to a bejeweled headpiece, no,no,no, it's a crown that we will be able to lay at His feet. On that final day, when we all stand to give an account, we sure don't want to stand there empty handed.
It has been said, "Who can mind the journey when the road leads to home?"
You may or may not need this book, but I guarantee you know someone who does. If misfortune in life is trying to destroy you or someone you know, I have wonderful news for you: this book will help you keep living.