* Our expectations may not be in harmony with God’s
God showed Abraham that asking for anything is allowed, with the understanding that God’s answers come from God’s perspective. They are not always in harmony with our expectations, for only he knows the whole story. Are you missing God’s answer to a prayer because you haven’t considered any possible answers other than the one you expect? (NLT)
Genesis 18:33 – The Lord went on his way when he had finished his conversation with Abraham, and Abraham returned to his tent.
* God does what we think is impossible
Who could believe that Abraham would have a son at 100 years of age—and live to raise him to adulthood? But doing the impossible is everyday business for God. Our big problems won’t seem so impossible if we let God handle them. (NLT)
Genesis 21:1-7 – Then the Lord did exactly what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant, and she gave a son to Abraham in his old age. It all happened at the time God had said it would. And Abraham named his son Isaac. Eight days after Isaac was born, Abraham circumcised him as God had commanded. Abraham was one hundred years old at the time.
And Sarah declared, “God has brought me laughter! All who hear about this will laugh with me. For who would have dreamed that I would every have a baby? Yet I have given Abraham a son in his old age!”
* Those with an attitude of service go beyond what is expected
Was it right for Abraham’s servant to ask God for such a specific sign? The sign he requested was only slightly out of the ordinary. The hospitality of the day required women at the well to offer water to weary travelers, but not to their animals. Eliezer was simply asking God to show him a woman with an attitude of service—someone who would go beyond the expected. An offer to water his camels would indicate that kind of attitude. Eliezer did not ask for a woman with good looks or wealth. He knew the importance of having the right heart, and he asked God to help him with his task. (NLT)
Genesis 24:14 – “This is my request. I will ask one of them for a drink. If she says, ‘Yes, certainly, and I will water your camels, too!’—let her be the one you have appointed as Isaac’s wife. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”
* Opportunities may come when least expected
Our most important opportunities may come when we least expect them. Joseph was brought hastily from the dungeon and pushed before Pharaoh. Did he have time to prepare? Yes and no. He had no warning that he would be suddenly pulled from prison and questioned by the king. Yet Joseph was ready for almost anything because of his right relationship with God. It was not Joseph’s knowledge of dreams that helped him interpret their meaning. It was his knowledge of God. Be ready for opportunities by getting to know more about God. Then you will be ready to call on him when opportunities come your way. (NLT)
Genesis 41:14 – Pharaoh sent for Joseph at once, and he was brought hastily from the dungeon. After a quick shave and change of clothes, he went in and stood in Pharaoh’s presence.
* God often uses unexpected sources when working in our lives
God spoke to Moses from an unexpected source: a burning bush. When Moses saw it, he went to investigate. God may use unexpected sources when communicating to us too, whether people, thoughts, or experiences. Be willing to investigate, and be open to God’s surprises. (NLT)
Exodus 3:2 – Suddenly, the angel of the Lord appeared to him as a blazing fire in a bush. Moses was amazed because the bush was engulfed in flames, but it didn’t burn up.
* In a nation that was required by law to care for its prophets, it is ironic that God turned to ravens (unclean birds) and a widow (a foreigner from Jezebel’s home territory) to care for Elijah. God has help where we least expect it. He provides for us in ways that go beyond our narrow definitions or expectations. No matter how bitter our trials or how seemingly hopeless our situation, we should look for God’s caring touch. We may find his providence in some strange places! (NLT)
1 Kings 17:10 – So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a cup of water?”
* What God expects from us
Often we ask, “What does God expect of me?” Here Moses gives a summary that is simple in form and easy to remember. Here are the essentials: (1) Fear God (have reverence for him). (2) Live according to his will. (3) Love him. (4) Worship him with all your heart and soul. (5) Obey his commands. How often we complicate faith with man-made rules, regulations, and requirements. Are you frustrated and burned out from trying hard to please God? Concentrate on his real requirements and find peace. Respect, follow, love, worship, and obey. (NLT)
Deuteronomy 10:12-13 – “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? He requires you to fear him, to live according to his will, to love and worship him with all your heart and soul, and to obey the Lord’s commands and laws that I am giving you today for your own good.”
* Don’t underestimate God
The Israelites spent 39 years in the wilderness unnecessarily because they were terrified of the Canaanites. They underestimated God’s ability. The Israelites’ first attempt to enter the Promised Land had failed. Here Israel saw that the Canaanites were terrified of their army. The Canaanites had heard about Israel’s great victories through God, and they hoped that the Jordan River would slow Israel down or discourage them from entering Canaan. But news that the Israelites had crossed the Jordan on dry land caused any courage the Canaanites still had to melt away.
Don’t underestimate God. If we are faithful to God, he will cause great opposition to disappear. God can change the attitudes of those who oppose him. (NLT)
Joshua 5:1 – When all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings who lived along the Mediterranean coast heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan River so the people of Israel could cross, they lost heart and were paralyzed with fear.
* Good people exceed normal expectations
The characters in the book of Ruth are classic examples of good people in action. Boaz went far beyond the intent of the gleaners’ law in demonstrating his kindness and generosity. Not only did he let Ruth glean in his field, he also told his workers to let some of the grain fall in her path. Out of his abundance, he provided for the needy. How often do you go beyond the accepted patterns of providing for those less fortunate? Do more than the minimum for others. (NLT)
Ruth 2:15-16 – When Ruth went back to work again, Boaz ordered his young men, “Let her gather grain right among the sheaves without stopping her. And pull out some heads of barley from the bundles and drop them on purpose for her. Let her pick them up, and don’t give her a hard time!”
* If you expect opposition you can be prepared for it
When Nehemiah arrived in Judah, he was greeted with opposition. Opposition to the rebuilding of Jerusalem had been going on for 90 years by those who settled in the area when the Jews were taken captive. In every generation there are those who hate God’s people and try to block God’s purpose. When you attempt to do God’s work, some will oppose you; some will even hope you fail. If you expect opposition, you will be prepared rather than surprised. Knowing that God is behind your task is the best incentive to move ahead in the face of opposition. (NLT)
Nehemiah 2:9-10, 19 – When I came to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River, I delivered the king’s letters to them. The king, I should add, had sent along army offers and horsemen to protect me. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammornite official heard of my arrival, they were very angry that someone had come who was interested in helping Israel.
But when Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab heard of our plan, they scoffed contemptuously. “What are you doing, rebelling against the king like this?” they asked.
* Wrong expectations about God
The astrologers traveled thousands of miles to see the king of the Jews. When they finally found him, they responded with joy, worship, and gifts. This is so different from the approach people often take today. We expect God to come looking for us, to explain himself, provide who he is, and give us gifts. But those who are wise still seek and worship Jesus today, not for what they can get, but for who he is. (NLT)
Matthew 2:1-2 – Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We have seen his star as it arose, and we have come to worship him.”
* Wrong expectations about Christ
The people expected the Messiah to be a king. This quotation from Isaiah’s prophecy showed that the Messiah was indeed a king, but it illustrated what kind of king—a quiet, gentle ruler who brings justice to the nations. Like the crowed in Jesus’ day, we may want Christ to rule as a king and bring great and visible victories in our life. But often Christ’s work is quiet, and it happens according to his perfect timing, not ours. (NLT)
Matthew 12-17-21– This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah concerning him: “Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen. He is my Beloved, and I am very pleased with him. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not fight or shout; he will not raise his voice in public. He will not crush those who are weak, or quench the smallest hope, until he brings full justice with his final victory. And his name will be the hope of all the world.”
* Will come when least expected
Christ’s return at an unexpected time is not a trap, a trick by which God hopes to catch us off guard. In fact, God is delaying his return so more people will have the opportunity to follow him. Before Christ’s return, we have time to live out our beliefs and to reflect Jesus’ love as we relate to others.
People who are ready for their Lord’s return are (1) not hypocritical but sincere, (2) not fearful but ready to witness, (3) not worried but trusting, (4) not greedy but generous, (5) not lazy but diligent. May your life be more like Christ’s so that when he comes, you will be ready to greet him joyfully. (NLT)
Luke 12:40 – [Jesus said] “You must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”
* Jews’ wrong expectations about Jesus
The people who were praising God for giving them a king had the wrong idea about Jesus. They expected him to be a national leader who would restore their nation to its former glory, and thus they were deaf to the words of their prophets and blind to Jesus’ real mission. When it became apparent that Jesus was not going to fulfill their hopes, many people turned against him. (NLT)
Luke 19:38 – “Bless the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in highest heaven!”
* The crowd could not believe what Jesus was saying about the Messiah. They were waving palm branches for a victorious Messiah who would set up a political, earthly kingdom that would never end. From their reading of certain Scriptures, they thought the Messiah would never die. Other passages, however, showed that he would die. Jesus’ words did not mesh with their concept of the Messiah. First he had to suffer and die—then he would one day set up his eternal Kingdom. What kind of Messiah, or Savior, are you seeking? Beware of trying to force Jesus into your own mold—he won’t fit. (NLT)
John 12:32-34 – [Jesus said] “And when I am lifted upon the cross, I will draw everyone to myself.” He said this to indicate how he was going to die.
“Die?” asked the crowd. “We understood from Scripture that the Messiah would live forever. Why are you saying the Son of Man will die? Who is this Son of Man you are talking about?”
* Correct expectations of Jesus
It was difficult for the disciples to grasp the idea that their Messiah would have to suffer. The Jews who studied the Old Testament prophecies expected the Messiah to be a great king like David, who would overthrow the enemy, Rome. Their vision was limited to their own time and experience.
They could not understand that the values of God’s eternal Kingdom were different from the values of the world. They wanted relief from their present problems. But deliverance from sin is far more important than deliverance from physical suffering or political oppression. Our understanding and appreciation of Jesus must go beyond what he can do for us here and now. (NLT)
Mark 9:12-13 – Jesus responded, “Elijah is indeed coming first to set everything in order. Why then is it written in the Scriptures that the Son of Man must suffer and be treated with utter contempt? But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and he was badly mistreated, just as the Scriptures predicted.”
* Don’t limit God by your expectations
This mention of the manger is the basis for the traditional belief that Jesus was born in a stable. Stables were often caves with feeding troughs (mangers) carved into the rock walls. Despite popular Christmas card pictures, the surroundings were dark and dirty. This was not the atmosphere the Jews expected as the birthplace of the Messiah-King. They thought their promised Messiah would be born in royal surroundings. We should not limit God by our expectations. He is at work wherever he is needed in our sin-darkened and dirty world. (NLT)
Luke 2:7 – She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn.
* Expectations in God’s Kingdom may surprise us
We may not necessarily see the people we expect to find in the Kingdom of God. Some perfectly respectable religious leaders claiming allegiance to Jesus will not be there because secretly they were morally corrupt. (NLT)
Luke 13:26-27 – [Jesus said] “You will say, ‘But we ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ And he will reply, ‘I tell you, I don’t know you. Go away, all you who do evil.’”
* Faith as expectations
The disciples, terrified, probably thought they were seeing a ghost. But if they had thought about all they had already seen Jesus do, they could have accepted this miracle. They were frightened—they didn’t expect Jesus to come, and they weren’t prepared for his help. Faith is a mind-set that expects God to act. When we act on his expectation, we can overcome our fears. (NLT)
John 6:18-19 – Soon a gale swept down upon them as they rowed, and the sea grew very rough. They were three or four miles out when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified . . .
* What to expect when you pray
When you pray continually about a concern, don’t be surprised at how God answers. Paul prayed to visit Rome so he could teach the Christians there. When he finally arrived in Rome, it was as a prisoner. Paul prayed for a safe trip, and he did arrive safely—after getting arrested, slapped in the face, shipwrecked, and bitten by a poisonous snake. God’s ways of answering our prayers are often far from what we expect.
When we sincerely pray, God will answer—although in his timing and sometimes in ways we do not expect. (NLT)
Romans 1:9-10 – God knows how often I pray for you. Day and night I bring you and your needs in prayer to God, whom I serve with all my heart by telling others the Good News about his Son.
One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you.
* Expect an answer
Wisdom means “practical discernment.” It begins with respect for God, leads to right living, and results in increased ability to tell right from wrong. God is willing to give us this wisdom, but we will be unable to receive it if our goals are self-centered instead of God-centered. To learn God’s will, we need to read his Word and ask him to show us how to obey it. Then we must do what he tells us.
We must believe not only in the existence of God but also in his loving care. This includes relying on God and expecting that he will hear and answer when we pray. We must put away our critical attitude when we come to him. God does not grant every thoughtless or selfish request. We must have confidence that God will align our desires with his purposes. (NLT)
James 1:5-8 – If you need wisdom—if you want to know what God wants you to do—ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking. But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. They can’t make up their minds. They waver back and forth in everything they do.
* This verse is not a guarantee that we can get anything we want simply by asking Jesus and believing. God does not grant requests that would hurt us or others or that would violate his own nature or will. Jesus’ statement is not a blank check. To be fulfilled, our requests must be in harmony with the principles of God’s Kingdom. The stronger our belief, the more likely our prayers will be in line with God’s will, and then God will be happy to grant them. (NLT)
Matthew 21:22 – [Jesus said] “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
* A wonderful expectation
Do you need encouragement? Peter’s words offer joy and hope in times of trouble, and he bases his confidence on what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. We live with the wonderful expectation of eternal life. Our hope is not only for the future; eternal life begins when we trust Christ and join God’s family. No matter what pain or trial we face in this life, we know that it is not our final experience. Eventually we will live with Christ forever. (NLT)
1 Peter 1:3-6 – All honor to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for it is by his boundless mercy that God has given us the privilege of being born again. Now we live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And God, in his mighty power, will protect you until you receive this salvation, because you are trusting him. It will be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while.
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