What are your expectations?
Many who live the Christian life are expecting God to provide for them, bless them, promote them, and protect them. You can find scriptural evidence that this is definitely something God has done and promised to continue to do.
Let them shout for joy and rejoice, who favor my vindication; And let them say continually, “The LORD be magnified, Who delights in the prosperity of His servant.” (Psalm 35:27)
For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD, You surround him with favor as with a shield. (Psalm 5:12)
Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. (Malachi 3:10-12)
If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world. You will experience all these blessings if you obey the Lord your God: Your towns and your fields will be blessed. Your children and your crops will be blessed. The offspring of your herds and flocks will be blessed. Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be blessed. Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be blessed. The Lord will conquer your enemies when they attack you. They will attack you from one direction, but they will scatter from you in seven! The Lord will guarantee a blessing on everything you do and will fill your storehouses with grain. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you. If you obey the commands of the Lord your God and walk in his ways, the Lord will establish you as his holy people as he swore he would do. Then all the nations of the world will see that you are a people claimed by the Lord, and they will stand in awe of you. The Lord will give you prosperity in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you, blessing you with many children, numerous livestock, and abundant crops. The Lord will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do. You will lend to many nations, but you will never need to borrow from them. If you listen to these commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today, and if you carefully obey them, the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always be on top and never at the bottom. You must not turn away from any of the commands I am giving you today, nor follow after other gods and worship them. (Deuteronomy 28:1-14)
These are the things that really get people to shout and praise the Lord. We are excited and expectant that our relationship with and obedience to God will result in God blessing our lives. Many Christians serve the Lord and will serve the Lord regardless of their financial status. Some Christians, however, equate financial blessing with spiritual obedience or even sanctification, holiness or Christ-likeness.
I don’t want to go down that road in this piece, but I do want to examine expectations and specifically as they relate to success and failure.
There are many people within the church who live disappointed and often times depressed lives. Counseling sessions with pastors, psychologists and other professionals abound in our churches. Many larger churches have a staff psychologist to care for the emotional and mental needs of their members. Anti-depressant prescriptions have the same penetration and usage into the church as they do into the common population. Fear, anxiety, discontent and self-loathing seem to be alive and well among the ranks of those with the fish on the back of their cars.
- We dream,
- We pray,
- We give,
- We praise,
- We live,
- We buy sermons,
- We attend conferences,
- We call prayer lines,
- We read books,
- We get anointed with oil,
- We watch preachers on TV and the internet,
- We want the formula, the secret, the keys, the special prayer….
What is your definition of success?
Here is the dictionary’s definition:
suc·cess [suh k-ses] –noun
- the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors.
- the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.
- a successful performance or achievement: The play was an instant success.
- a person or thing that is successful: She was a great success on the talk show.
- Obsolete. outcome.
What is your definition of failure?
Here is the dictionary’s definition:
fail·ure [feyl-yer] –noun
- an act or instance of failing or proving unsuccessful; lack of success: His effort ended in failure. The campaign was a failure.
- non-performance of something due, required, or expected: a failure to do what one has promised; a failure to appear.
- a subnormal quantity or quality; an insufficiency: the failure of crops.
- deterioration or decay, esp. of vigor, strength, etc.: The failure of her health made retirement necessary.
- a condition of being bankrupt by reason of insolvency.
- a becoming insolvent or bankrupt: the failure of a bank.
- a person or thing that proves unsuccessful: He is a failure in his career. The cake is a failure.
Does God define success or failure in the same way that we do?
From what I can tell, God’s definitions of success and failure are quite different from ours.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
- The Apostle Paul is one of the greatest successes of the Christian faith and yet he was executed by the Romans, having spent numerous years in prison. He had no legacy or wealth that we know of save two-thirds of the New Testament.
- Jeremiah was a success in the eyes of God, but a miserable failure in the eyes of his country and contemporaries.
- Solomon amassed more wealth than anyone we read of in scripture but his personal failure in matters of faith and morals grossly outweigh his success.
- John the Baptist’s ministry only lasted six months prior to his decapitation – yet he successfully set the stage for Jesus Christ to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom to Israel.
Then Jesus told this story: “There was a rich man who had some land, which grew a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What will I do? I have no place to keep all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and other goods. Then I can say to myself, “I have enough good things stored to last for many years. Rest, eat, drink, and enjoy life!” ‘ “But God said to him, ‘Foolish man! Tonight your life will be taken from you. So who will get those things you have prepared for yourself?'”This is how it will be for those who store up things for themselves and are not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21)
God defines success by our love, our faith, or faithfulness and our obedience. These things do not depend upon your station in your life nor do they depend upon your natural resources. Is the rich or the poor any more saved or lost because they are rich or poor? Is God any more pleased with praise coming from a CEO or a mail clerk? Does it matter if you live in the aftermath of Haiti’s recent earthquake or a palace in Dubai when standing at the foot of the cross?
Success is defined by, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” (Matthew 25:23). These words can only be spoken by Jesus. The opinions of others as to our success or failure are irrelevant in light of God’s judgment.
Failure is defined by, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity,” (Matthew 7:23). Again, these words can only be spoken by Jesus. “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
So, to answer our question… Does God define success and failure in ways different than we do? YES.
Does this mean that God is opposed to our success in the way that people define success? Not that I can find in scripture. In fact I find that God likes when we prosper (Psalm 35:27). However, what we do find that God is opposed to us being consumed with the present life at the expense of eternal things.
Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things? “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom. “Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” (Luke 12:22-34)
So, we can and will be blessed by God through Christ as a result of Christ and our love, faith, faithfulness and obedience. God keeps His promises and blesses His people. God also is more concerned with character than our substance. He is intensely interested in motive and defines success, failure, luxury and need in different ways than we do.
What are our expectation in being blessed by the Lord?
Is it our divine right or is it a blessing? I get scared any time I hear someone talking to God about their rights. God eclipsed our rights when grace came into the picture. A blessing is not a right, IT’S A BLESSING.
So, when we ask God to bless us, what are we expecting?
Are we seeking favor from the Lord, the creation of divine connections, and the experiential revelation of grace in the natural world?
We should be working hard, educating ourselves, living according to scripture, praying, fasting, giving, loving and asking God to open things we cannot and close things we cannot. Blessing can be found when you receive favor you did not deserve. Favor is only possible when you are capable of being elevated beyond your current station. God cannot bless you into a place where you are unable to live.
Are we seeking blessing or promotion from God for something that we are unwilling to do for ourselves?
The blessing of God is not for instances where you did not do your homework, prepare for your presentation or spent more than you should have. Many times we give in an offering and believe for a blessing of promotion or increase but have been completely unwilling to do anything other than pray. Is the blessing you are seeking something that you have prepared yourself to receive or is it something you simply want God to give you?
- If you were blessed by the Lord and became the boss in your company
- would the company be better off?
- would it grow?
- would it be more profitable?
- are you better equipped than the person currently in charge?
- If you were blessed by the Lord and received that sum of money you have been asking for
- would you tithe?
- do you tithe now?
- would you be a blessing to others?
- would you use it to satisfy your flesh?
- If you were blessed by the Lord and were given a pulpit
- would your prayer life change?
- would you deliver the messages God gives you?
- can you stand the pressure?
Are we looking for a blessing to take us to a position or station that our character, knowledge or ability will be unable to sustain?
The call to service is always proceeded by the call to prepare. God wants you to be blessed and to be a blessing to others. In order to do so we must be willing to prepare and be faithful in the place where we are right now.
What are our expectations?
- Some of us will be leaders, most of us will not
- Some of us will be wealthy, most of us will not
- Some of us will be pastors, most of us will not
- Some of us will own our own businesses, most of us will not
- Some of us will be celebrities, most of us will not
Let me ask you a few questions:
- Can you handle being the person that God made you to be?
- Are you capable of coping with your current circumstances, using your faith and hard work to make the best of them?
- Do your expectations require a fairytale ending or a faith-filled life?
I challenge you to be satisfied with the life God has given you. I challenge you to be satisfied with the calling that He has placed upon your life.
- Run your race
- Finish your course
- Keep the faith
Set your expectations from scripture. Allow Jesus to make your joy full and your life blessed.