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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Great Expectations

Great Expectations.  No, I'm not referring to the 1861 classic novel by Charles Dickens about the young lad, Pip.  Neither am I referring to wishful thinking.  I'm talking about today- your life, my life. What are we expecting?  I'm talking about expectations that are rooted in a greater reality than we can even think, feel, or imagine.

A few days ago I felt a small cloud try to hover over my mind.  You know that type of day...things are going alright. Not too bad. Not necessarily good. Just ok...but then your thoughts start to slip and doubts sink in.

Thoughts of Fear.  
The Future. 
Finances. 
Friendships. 
All your Follies. 
All your Foes. 

And your expectations are less than great. They are shrinking fast into something small, hidden, afraid, and locked away.

It was then that I found this ripped-up scrap piece of paper that has been floating through my things for weeks. I had written a spontaneous prayer on that paper literally weeks ago and it somehow never made its way into my journal or anything. Just a scrap that kept landing wedged between my books or on my keyboard as I was practicing or on the floor next to my bed or in a stack of paperwork on my desk. But maybe it kept getting shuffled around like that so I would see it over and over and over.  Here are the words to that prayer:

"Dear God,
Increase my expectations;
Increase my faith;
Increase my hope.
Amen"

Simple, yet arresting.  On that same piece of paper I had only one other quote (minus the scribbles and fragments of chords from a song I was working on).  Here's the quote from a new friend of mine who works at a pregnancy help center in Georgia:

"Our destiny is so much bigger than our ability." - Christa Childs

Is this true?  Could it be?  Is our destiny larger than what we can accomplish on our own?  Is God's plan greater than what we can do or think or ask or imagine?  The Apostle Paul seemed to believe this with every fiber of his being when he passionately penned a letter to the early church in Ephesus. So let's digest his words in Ephesians chapter 3 verses 16-20 for a moment and pray them together- pray these words over your life, over my life, and over the life of the global, beautiful church, the bride of Christ, through whom God has chosen to reveal His love and glory!

"I ask that He will strengthen you in your inner selves from the riches of His glory through the Spirit. I ask that Christ will live in your hearts through faith. As a result of having strong roots in love, I ask that you'll have the power to grasp love's width and length, height and depth, together with all believers. I ask that you'll know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God. Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by His power at work within us."

Now those are no small expectations!  Let's put these words in context...This was a man who had been arrested, tortured, shipwrecked, and was walking around with a mysterious thorn in his side...yet he was full of grand expectation, rooted in greater reality than his present circumstances- the reality of God's power and purpose!

He shared his expectant heart with another church in Philippi when he wrote, "It is my expectation and hope that I won't be put to shame in anything. Rather, I hope with daring courage that Christ's greatness will be seen in my body, now as always, whether I live or die." (1:20) He went on to confess, "to live is Christ and to die is gain" (1:21)  Think about that for just a moment.  To live is to have Christ inside you. To die is to gain the glory of eternity.  How then can we expect anything less than greatness?

Dr. Scott C. Todd is one of my heroes. He is the Senior Vice President at Compassion International and has written an extraordinary book called Hope Rising, which challenges the 21st Century Church to end extreme global poverty (talk about the weight of huge expectations!)  He is no pie-in-the sky idealist, however.  This is a man who has published work in more than a dozen biomedical journals and ho holds a patent for the treatment of hepatitis C.  Medical scientists and doctors are rarely day-dreamers. They are realists who see the harsh facts of life; but this man's realism is rooted, once again, in the same soil as that of the Apostle Paul's- in a greater reality.  He exhorts, "Before we can act...we must first break free from the tyranny of low expectations. I want to lift your expectations of what is possible, of the future, yourself, the Church, even your expectations of God.   That won't come easily. Old expectations can feel like zombies refusing to die, but they must die before new expectations can replace them.  Once new expectations fuel our efforts, we can put our plan into action...On the journey ahead we will no longer slouch along with mediocre expectations of God or of ourselves..."

So our hearts and minds give way to great expectation.  Every step we take, we stomp out fear.  We hope and have vision for life, and even in death our expectation is only the glory of life forever in Christ!  A few weeks ago, my Bible Study leader, Robert Ricci, exclaimed:  "Instead of having a victim's heart, I now have a thankful heart. No thank you, Satan! I shall not be a victim today! I shall be strong in Christ!"  Again, it all comes back to expectation!  Does it mean that every day is easy and life is free of trials? No!  But our expectation increases faith and becomes the seed that is planted for God to sprout victory and life in every single situation, even those that have weeds of pain and struggle.

I leave you with Psalm 27:14.  I dare you to write this out and declare it each morning if it's all you can do to muster up GREAT EXPECTATIONS!

"Wait and hope for and expect the Lord;
be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring.
Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord."