Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Faithful Expectations

We believe in a God who can do anything. Our Creator brought life out of dust. Jesus Christ healed the blind, cured the sick, cast out demons, and raised the dead. The miracles continue today, though more commonly in small signs and wonders. All things are possible in the Lord. 

So God can do anything. And we ask Him to. When loved ones are sick, we pray that He heals them. When situations are dire, we pray that He come through and provide. And when we ask Him faithfully, He hears and He answers (Matthew 21, 1 John 5). 

Yet how many are still sick? How many are still lost? 

In our circumstances of suffering, we look to ourselves, our loved ones, and our prayers for answers. We ask what it is that are we doing that isn't satisfactory to God, since He continues to not do the impossible? This is natural, even righteous, to do. Some of the common questions we ask when we need answers are taken from these lines of thought:

1. James 4:3 tells us that "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."

Alright. We check our hearts. This time, our motives are not selfish and full of folly.

2. The Old Testament is loaded with examples of people whom God punished for their sin. He spared them when they repented and sought Him.

Okay. We repent earnestly and call on His name. Still nothing in this circumstance.

3. James 1:6 states that "When you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind."

So we're just not believing well enough. So we do. Or we try to. And...still nothing.

There are times when it seems we've tried everything. The equation isn't adding up. So, the platitudes will have to suffice. God's answers aren't always what we want them to be. His plans are better than ours. Maybe He knows something about this that we don't. 

Relief slowly fills our cups. We've examined our hearts and found that it isn't because of us that He isn't performing signs. We can now rest in the idea that God is doing something -it's all just invisible and too grand for our comprehension.

But is that enough? Is it right to lower our expectations of God when He doesn't meet our requirements? 

When we lower our Spiritual expectations, we see the Lord backwards. 

Suddenly faith, to us, is a few cliches that He is in control. Our feelings and emotions have to be in line with the happy lines -we have to have put on joy anyway. Rather than be disappointed and wrestle with the character of the Almighty, we take a step away from Him, bow down, and refuse to look in His face. We'd rather just say it's okay and pretend that it is. 

When we lower our expectations of God, we raise the expectations we have of ourselves.

Suddenly we rely on worldly wisdom to empower us to be good people despite our challenges. We become our own counselors, our own doctors, our own friends. And how faithful we seem! As long as we don't make a lot of fuss and say the right things, we're spiritual.

But God is not less faithful when things we don't like occur. And we are not more faithful simply because we feel that God is less faithful but we're okay with it. 

Our expectations of the Lord must be established according to who God says He is, rather than what we wish were true.

Our Lord is the great physician. He is the creator. God is a provider. In all things, the Lord is faithful and good. His love endures forever. The Lord decides to give and to take away. He is sovereign above all things. Christ never leaves us or forsakes us.  -These are Bible verses. This is the truth. 

And so is this:

Job suffered tremendous loss, and God permitted it. He did nothing to deserve punishment, He believed wholeheartedly that God could do anything that He wanted to. His misery existed because the Evil ruler of this world challenged God concerning Job's heart.

Hagar was sent by God, pregnant and mistreated, back to a miserable situation. It was many years later, as a single mother cast into the wilderness, that God gave her hope and revealed His provision. The hope had nothing to do with improving her personal circumstances -God had plans for her son.

Elijah lived on food delivered by birds. He lived in a cave. This man of God was persecuted for being righteous. God didn't just have him camp out for one night while he "solved" the situation with Elijah's enemies. The man lived in the wilderness for a good long while. The Lord later used Elijah to reveal Himself to those worshiping false Gods. 

Paul had a thorn in his flesh. It truly weakened and bothered him. The Lord easily could have removed it. But He didn't. And the Spirit didn't tell Paul that He had to suffer to understand others better, or to stay humble, or as punishment, or anything at all having to do with Paul and His choices. 

Rather, God said: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness." 
-2 Corinthians 12:9

Why do we expect any less of God than absolute sufficiency? 

There will be trouble in this world, Christ never hid that. We will have emotions, strong ones, and that isn't wrong (see Christ's anger, sorrow, etc). 

Like Eli and like Joab when He was righteous, we must rely on the truth that:
"The Lord will do what is good in his sight." -1 Samuel 3:18, 1 Chronicles 19:13

Like David, we must recognize our options and choose based off of right expectations:
"Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into human hands." -1 Chronicles 21:13

Our Lord is sufficient, exceeding our every expectation. When loved ones suffer for a long time, when they die, when we feel lost and worthless, He is sufficient. His grace is enough for us. 

We don't need to come up with excuses for God. We don't need to raise the bar in our hearts for how we ought to cope. 

If we are faithless (and at times we will be or we feel as if we are) then He is faithful because He cannot deny who He is (2 Timothy 2:13). 

What a gracious God He is, that when we weep, He will weep with us. That's so much more a "solution" than giving us what we want -it is giving us what we need.  Expect that from God. 

Expect that as we rely on Him, He will be enough. 

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