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Experiences or Expectations?

Experiences or Expectations?

Our faith may have invisible limits.

What we think of as “faith” is often conditioned by our past experiences. And our experiences may have been extremely limited. Have you come the place where you have developed low spiritual expectations in how you will encounter God in your life?

Let me explain. Many believers struggle with unanswered prayer. Frustration in prayer has baffled some to the point that they just stop prayer. “Why isn’t God coming through for me? Why is He not taking my advice? My experience has been that I can’t really count on answers to prayer. It may for others, but prayer doesn’t really work for me.”

Frankly, we get tired of waiting. We are unaware that we are asking God to come through on our terms. When we lay our own needs and desires before God, and God delays or doesn’t answer us, we let this reinforce the lie that God is either limited in power, or He just doesn’t care about what I want. Past experience begins to set a limit on our faith, and we no longer anticipate answers to prayer.

“Expectation burn-out!” Okay. Here are a couple of clarifying insights from God’s perspective:

James 4:3You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it  on your pleasures.

Jeremiah 17:9-10“The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.

We need a break-through here. We need a bigger picture of Jesus. Focusing away from ourselves, let’s nurture our faith to anticipate God’s answers flowing from His greater wisdom, power and grace.

Steve Wilson, a Wesleyan pastor in Marion, Ohio, makes an provocative distinction between faith that is limited by experience and faith unleashed through expectation.

Experiences can limit our faith. Expectations can expand our faith.

I’ve thought about this insight for some time. The Bible is God’s Self-disclosure. From what God has revealed about Himself in His Word, what may we expect from Him? If our eyes were more focused on His heart, His purposes, His glory — what difference would it make in the faith we display in prayer?

Poor experiences are often so uncomfortable that we tend to lower our expectations in self-protection. But when our faith looks up to Him to embrace all that He is, we can easily raise our expectations. So:

  • How big is our problem? Yet how big is our God?
  • How severe is this illness? Yet how powerful is the Creator and Healer?
  • How dark is our struggling relationship? Yet how healing is God’s love, forgiveness and grace?
  • How apostate is our nation becoming? Yet how strong is the arm of our Lord to save and revive?
  • How long must we wait for answers to prayer? Yet how perfect is God’s timing?

I encourage you to join with me in elevating our expectations of God. Let’s feed on His promises, His power, the possibilities of which He is fully capable. Let’s not limit our faith to our past experiences, but let’s grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Surely, this will enliven our faith to expect greater things from Him. Let us elevate our expectations to be worthy of our great God.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.  (Ephesians 3:20-21)

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