Exciting phrases, easy acronyms, and memorable lists formed from dense works of systematic theology can be helpful for the everyday Christian. While these reductions of God’s Word and His nature help us understand general frameworks, they are unable to help us understand everything the Bible teaches. It is one thing...
We have a way of shaping our expectations. But this way, the responsibility is on us, and we can become unsettled, even angry, if our expectations fail to become reality.
My 7-year-old grandson is famous for this. Recently, when my husband had our deck taken apart for repairs, Oliver was determined to play on it, even though we’d told him it was off-limits. He said, “But I can see in my mind how I will walk across it!” He had developed a mental expectation and was not happy when we prevented him from making it a reality.
Likewise, adults sculpt expectations about how their lives will proceed. The happy marriage of parents leads to an expectation of similar marital bliss, while an unhappy parental divorce builds the opposite prospect. My generation expected that diligent work would lead to the American Dream. Yes, many have achieved success – but others have endured financial, relational, and health challenges.
Four Things You Can Always Expect from God
Life does not play out as expected. Some of my expectations have been met, others have been exceeded, and yet others remain unmet. I imagine that you would say the same.
As I’ve studied the Bible, I’ve realized how my expectations are not necessarily God’s expectations for my life. I started thinking about what we can expect from God, no matter what.
1. Unchanging Love
I remember being stunned when a friendship went wrong or a boy broke up with me. It had apparently never occurred to me that someone wouldn’t like me. Shocking, I know.
But God’s love is unchanging. The Bible tells us that while we were still sinners and had little knowledge of the love of God, Christ died for us. When we enter a relationship with God, through Jesus, learning more about what the Bible teaches about the love of God, our eyes are opened. God’s love is no longer abstract. This continues to astound me.
There will be times when relationships hurt, but I know that nothing will ever cause God to break up with me. He knows me better than I know myself, and through Christ he loves me and is for me. He created me, and he will never leave me. I can expect God’s love, always.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
2. Unending Presence
Have you ever been left out of something? Me too. It hurts to be left on the outside when others are together on the inside. Lately, my husband and I have felt this with regard to our work. Earlier in our careers we were successful and satisfied, but now we find ourselves searching for fulfilling work. When I see friends and family members who are hitting their stride in their jobs, I feel left out.
I don’t know why work has been such a struggle for us, but I do know that God is in it and that we are growing closer to him through prayer, searching, and waiting.
God will never leave us. He’s promised that he will be with us always, no matter what, in any and every situation, whether we realize it or not. He often uses difficult circumstances to get our attention, for we may be too self-sufficient to look for God until he shows us just how dependent we are on him. We are not promised easy lives, but we can expect the presence of God in our difficulties.
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
3. Glorious Transformation
Transformation is harder to get our heads around, for it’s a process empowered by the Holy Spirit that takes effect with our cooperation.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Notice that “do not conform” is active and “be transformed” is passive, the Holy Spirit’s work. We renew our minds every time we immerse ourselves in God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit slowly transforms us to be more like Christ.
When we learn to reject the pattern of this world, that it’s all about us, and see that it’s all about the Lord, the Holy Spirit will transform us to be more like Jesus. We will be humbled. We will repent. The attractions of this world will recede, and the glory of God will come into unmistakable focus.
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God also uses trouble to initiate transformation; we can expect trouble at some point in our lives. The most recognizable moments of transformation in my life happened as a result of trouble.
When I was raising my children, I remember a time when I was troubled about my parenting. I was taking a walk and praying about it when the truth of God’s Word renewed my mind. I realized that his will for my children would be accomplished, that he loved them more than I did, and that he was a far better care taker than I’d ever be. In that moment, God used that trouble to transform my heart and my parenting.
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18, emphasis mine)
4. Perfect Glory
Our expectations are short-sighted. This life is only the first baby-step of our eternity with the Lord. Because we live in a fallen world, there’s no escaping the effects of sin. In Christ, however, we have the firm expectation of living with him in a perfect, sinless world forever.
- Jesus said he goes to prepare a place for us (John 14:1).
- The writer of Hebrews wrote that heroes of the faith were looking forward to a heavenly country, as do we (Hebrews 11:15-16).
- Paul said, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
If our expectations are set on the promises of God’s unconditional love, constant presence, transformation by his Holy Spirit, and unimaginable eternity with Jesus, we will never be ultimately disappointed.