The life of faith is a life of expectation. It’s a life of anticipating all the incredible and miraculous ways that Jesus will work in your life and in our world.
But while we say we believe in the God of miracles, deep down, what we really believe in is the God of marginal life improvements. We don’t live expectantly, believing that Jesus is able to bring transformation and renewal at any moment.
Jesus is in the business of radical life transformation. He takes us from being spiritually broken and lost to being made fully alive by the power of his Spirit. He changes hearts. He changes communities. He even calls us into his mission of changing the world.
And yet, we often settle for a whole lot less than that. We expect life to be mundane. We expect people to never change. We retell stories from scripture about ancient miracles without ever allowing ourselves to believe that miracles could become part of our present reality.
We tend to forget that the God we see in the bible is the same God whose very Spirit resides in and among us.
Why We Aren’t Expectant
There are some honest reasons for your lack of expectation. You’ve prayed for miracles in the past, and you didn’t see them come to pass. You’ve been around a long time, and you’ve seen all the ways people refuse to grow. You’ve come to understand that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
That’s something that Solomon noticed as he mused about the world and his place in it.
“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
To a certain extent, Solomon is absolutely right. Life is cyclical. Nothing’s really new.
For thousands of years, babies have been born while old people die.
World empires rise and inevitably fall–only for other empires to take their place.
Things get better and then they get worse.
(And then they get better again and then they get worse again.)
Humanity doesn’t really seem to change. Every generation contends with the same struggles, pitfalls, and shortcomings. There is nothing new under the sun. All of this is completely true.
But do you know what’s also true? Jesus makes us this promise.
“Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)
Eternity has broken through into our reality in the person of Jesus. God in the flesh came, he died, he rose again. And he has given us his Spirit, who is beginning to make all things new.
The renewal process has already begun.
The world will never fully escape the hamster wheel cycle of progress followed by inevitable decline until we see the fullness of renewal that Jesus will reveal at his return.
But that doesn’t mean that Jesus hasn’t already begun to make all things new in the lives of those who belong to him. We should expect that. We should anticipate it. And if we do, we’ll begin to see what it really looks like to live life fully alive.
Here are 4 compelling reasons why you should cultivate a mindset of expectation as you walk with Jesus.
1. Expectation activates your faith.
Anticipation is not passive. Expectation never leaves you flatfooted.
There’s a saying that applies here: When you’re praying for rain, don’t forget your umbrella.
God often calls us to wait. But it’s an active kind of waiting. We’re called to pray. But sometimes we forget to actually expect God to answer. God is working in your waiting. And knowing that doesn’t make you passive. It activates you to begin working too, knowing that he will supply the supernatural power.
Always bear this in mind. If what you’re expecting were up to you, it wouldn’t be worth your time or effort even trying. And that’s because you have no power in and of yourself. I think that’s why we get so discouraged–we already know this intrinsically, but we constantly try to operate under our own strength.
You are not able to change hearts. You are not able to transform a community. You are not able to change the world.
But as Jesus works through you, you are able to speak words of life into hearts that need to be changed. By the power of the Holy Spirit, you are able to rally people around the cause of Jesus, to activate others’ faith, to see them meet both the spiritual and physical needs of the people in your community.
Expect it. Expect that Jesus will work through you. And then go about seeing how you can activate that faith and act on your expectation.
2. Expectation ignites your prayer life.
Our prayers are often puny. We only pray for what we think is reasonable. Not too much trouble. Not too ambitious an ask. But here I find the words of James striking.
“You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:2b-3)
And the reverse is true. You would have what you expected if only you asked–and if only you asked with a selfless heart bent on fulfilling God’s purpose for you.
So ask. And expect that Jesus is able to do it.
If you have trouble believing that Jesus will really answer your bold requests in the affirmative, you’re not the first. One time, a man came to Jesus asking if Jesus could heal his demon-possessed son. He asked, “If you can, please heal him.” Immediately, Jesus replied, “If I can? All things are possible to those who believe” (Mark 9:23).
The man’s response was telling. Like us, he wanted to believe. He wanted to expect. But he just had trouble expecting that healing was actually possible. So this is what he said.
“I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24b)
May we pray something similar. What if we started asking God to give us faith to believe that what we want to ask for is really possible? What if we started praying as though our God were actually able to do something? (Because he is.)
3. Expectation gives you eyes to see what God is doing.
Let’s be real. God isn’t waiting on you to begin working in the world.
But Jesus is inviting you to be a part of all the ways in which he is already working. When you cultivate a mindset of expectation, you attune your heart to notice all the ways in which God is moving in your world and enables you to be a part of them.
This is what happened in the days just before Jesus began his public ministry. The people were listening to the preaching of John the Baptizer, expecting that something amazing was coming.
“As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, ‘I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’” (Luke 3:15-17)
The hearts of the people were prepared to receive what they had been expecting. Their Savior is coming. Those who weren’t living in this expectation were caught off guard when he actually came–most notably the Pharisees.
Expect that God is always preparing to do something big. Something unexpected. Something miraculous.
If you look closely at the people around you, you can likely see the seeds of renewal beginning to grow in the lives of those you never thought would budge toward God. You can see seeds of renewal in situations where you never thought you would see any progress.
Your friend becomes more open to spiritual things.
Your spouse is showing curiosity about Jesus and church.
Doors are being opened for you to begin making a more widespread impact.
Expect that you’ll begin to see God moving. Sometimes in small and almost unnoticeable ways. But then seemingly all at once in a glorious display of his power.
4. Expectation is contagious.
Expectation can ignite your faith. It can also ignite a movement. We all want to hope. We all want to believe. But somewhere along the way, we felt like we were told that we weren’t allowed to.
When you cultivate a mindset of expectation, you give the people around you permission to do the same. And when we expect God to do great things in our midst, we will begin to attempt to do great things for his mission.
And the most amazing part is that we will actually begin to see the miracles we dreamed of. It’s not too much for God to do. We just can’t do it without him. And we can’t do it without each other.
Recapture your child-like sense of expectation.
When you were a little kid, nothing seemed impossible. No dream was considered too big. No good ambition was unreasonable. But then you grew up and realized that reality is often harsher than you expected. And as a result, your expectations became a lot more manageable.
But you don’t have to be a little kid to have great faith.
You do, however, need to recapture something that you lost when you began to mature into adulthood: your sense of child-like belief that anything really is possible with God.
Choose to expect God to move in your life. It might not always be in exactly the ways that you expected. But God is at work in ways you cannot yet imagine.