When God Fails Your Expectations

We don’t say it out loud, but often we expect that if we believe and live correctly, we’ll have great marriages, healthy bank balances, well-balanced children, and freedom from major problems.

When God Fails Your Expectations

(Photo by Photodune)

Of course, we know better—but we still lean on the side of expecting blessing for obedience.

The truth is, we have expectations of God. And sometimes, honestly, He fails those expectations.

Here’s why.

The Expected One Has Expectations

We’re not alone in our expectations. Do you remember that John the Baptist struggled with his own sermon?

  • He had preached about the Messiah’s kingdom coming with power and justice.
  • But instead, Jesus’ ministry centered on preaching and on acts of mercy, and John found himself unfairly wasting away in prison near the blistering shores of the Dead Sea.
  • Gentle Jesus hardly seemed the political Deliverer everyone expected.

Unable to reconcile the contradictions and imprisoned in his thoughts, John doubted his own preaching. John sent messengers to ask Jesus, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” (Matthew 11:3).

In other words, the Expected One had certain expectations placed upon Him.

Jesus had failed to meet them.

Macherus, where John the Baptist was imprisoned.

(Photo: Macherus, where John the Baptist was imprisoned. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Our God-Sized Expectations

Has it ever seemed to you as if the “good news” of the Bible doesn’t work in the real world? Ask yourself:

  • If the gospel “worked,” what would it look like?
  • What do I expect from Jesus?

Even when our expectations are biblical, as John’s were, we still see them through the lens of impatience. We suppose that if God has promised to act, He should act now!

As if God’s whole universe orbits around our timetable.

Our God-Sized Disappointments

When we find ourselves most disappointed with life, it’s not because something in life has failed us. Rather, our expectations of what life “ought to be” have failed us.

Or understood a different way, when we find ourselves most disappointed with God, God has not failed us—but our expectations of God have failed us.

  • We should always hesitate to assume the gospel doesn’t “work” when we simply cannot see the big picture.
  • When we struggle to connect truth with life, we must embrace the limitations of our understanding—and also the limitlessness of God’s.

Our inability to understand God should give cause for worship, not cause for doubt. (Tweet that.)

In response to John, Jesus graciously challenged him to shape his expectations from the Word of God and not from the circumstances that seemed to contradict it: “And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me” (Matthew 11:6).

Why Jesus Disappoints Us

Jesus was willing to disappoint everyone but the Father. Everyone.

Ponder that for a moment.

Jesus loved His followers enough to disappoint them, to allow them to question His power and to struggle against their own expectations, in order that they could experience true joy in the long term.

Jesus is willing to disappoint you for the same reason.

Question: What disappointments have you experienced from God that ended up becoming blessings? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Post adapted from Wayne Stiles, Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus: A Devotional Journey Through the Lands and Lessons of Christ (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2008). Used by permission.

Jesus—God’s Ultimate Missionary

Years ago some American missionaries stayed in our home. They told us about an animated evangelist they saw try to communicate to a Russian audience—through a less-than-animated translator.

Jesus—God's Ultimate Missionary

(Photo: The Moscow skyline, by Dmitry Azovtsev)

The evangelist began, “Okay folks, tonight I want you to tell the Holy Spirit something! I want you to say, ‘Yeeessss!’” (pronounced with three syllables).

But instead of translating the passionate “Yeeessss!” the interpreter flatly translated, “Da.” And when the evangelist hollered, “Now, give God a hand!” the interpreter translated the words literally—and the audience stared at one another in confusion. (“Give Him what?”)

The words were translated, sure, but their meaning failed to connect.

Jesus, on the other hand, was a perfect translator. Here’s how.

Exchanging Bethlehem Shopping for Bethlehem’s Story

I’ll never forget my first visit to Bethlehem. In the city of Jesus’ birth, we spent the bulk of our time shopping. Sounds like Christmas, doesn’t it?

Bethlehem olivewood shop

(Photo: Bethlehem olivewood shop. By ecjones)

Gold jewelry set with opals and diamonds sat alongside bowls, oil lamps and other imitation artifacts. Olivewood statues filled the interior of the large establishment, coloring the whole room light brown.

Name any biblical character or animal, and there was an olivewood statue for you! Favorites included:

  • Samson pushing the pillars.
  • David slaying Goliath.
  • And, of course, Nativity scenes of every shape, size and price—from a few bucks to a few thousand.

And the tourists fell upon the plunder.

One wooden figurine caught my eye, a bust of Elvis Presley, and I had to grin. Elvis in Israel? I called over the owner, a proprietor who can smell a tour bus a mile away, and asked him my question.

He corrected me and told me who it really was.

Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity—Appropriately Unassuming

Bethlehem’s main attraction centers on the oldest standing church in Israel. The ancient structure marks the traditional site of Jesus’ birth, and yet, it isn’t much to look at.

Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity—Appropriately Unassuming

(Photo: The front of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Built in the sixth century by the emperor Justinian, the Church of the Nativity sits on top of the location of the original octagonal church Constantine’s mother, Helena, constructed just a few centuries after Jesus.

When I went there earlier this year, it looked altogether uninspiring and unassuming.

To me, that’s appropriate.

Bethel—Finding the Only Gateway to God’s House

There has always been only one way to God—even in the Old Testament. That way is by grace through faith in the object of God’s choosing. Bethel gives us a peek at that way.

Bethel—Finding the Only Gateway to God's House

(Photo: Modern Beitin, ancient Bethel. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

In his flight to Haran, Jacob spent the night at Bethel, where years earlier his grandfather Abraham had heard God promise that he would receive all the land as far as he could see. There, Jacob dreamed of a stairway to heaven, and the Lord repeated to him the promises that Abraham received.

Shaken, Jacob awoke and cried:

How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. —Gen. 28:17

Jacob named the site Bethel—“house of God.” The dream gave more than a vision of God’s house.

It offered a foreshadowing of how to get there.

What Do You Think of When You Hear a Rooster?

One morning when I was in Jerusalem, I chose to have my devotions on the Mount of Olives at sunrise. Making my way through the Old City’s dark and narrow streets, I passed beside the Temple Mount and exited the city on its east side.

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

(Photo: Overlooking Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Photo: צולם ע, via Wikimedia Commons)

After climbing the steep ascent of the Mount of Olives, I sat near its summit as the sun began to warm my back. Turning to Matthew’s Gospel, I read about Jesus leaving the Temple, predicting its destruction, and sitting on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24:1–5).

Looking across the Kidron Valley at the Temple Mount—now crowned with a Muslim shrine—I thought about how Jesus’ prediction proved true. Because Israel rejected Him, they ultimately lost the very objects they hoped to secure through His death—their Temple and their nation (John 11:48).

Suddenly I heard a sound that jerked my mind in another direction.

Cana—Turning Water into Wine in God’s Time

The event in Cana of Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine also occasioned the first gentle shove He would receive from His followers to get God’s kingdom rolling. The first of many.

Cana—Turning Water into Wine in God’s Time

(Photo: Cana sat in the Bet Netofa Valley. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Jesus’ mother, Mary, may have been the first to nudge Jesus toward dispensing the blessings of the kingdom—but she wouldn’t be the last. Many times, the Lord would have to rein in the pushing of others in favor of God’s timing for blessing.

It’s all about timing. God’s timing.

How to Serve God When Nobody Notices

Sometimes it’s tough to serve God in the shadows. You show up faithfully. You contribute your part, but no one seems to notice. Matthias may have felt that way.

How to Serve God When Nobody Notices

(Photo: The Jordan River. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Ever since John the Baptist had prepared the way for the Messiah, Matthias had followed.

  • He had walked in Jesus’ footsteps from the Jordan River to the rugged hills of Galilee.
  • He had followed the Savior with passion and persuasion.

But without recognition. Matthias was a willing unknown.

In those moments we beg God to rescue us from our insignificant lives, believing nothing important is happening with us, Matthias reminds us that just the opposite is true.

Was Judas Saved?

His name is a byword for betrayal. But it never began that way. “Judas” is the Greek form for the Hebrew name Judah—a common designation in ancient Israel.

Was Judas Saved

(Painting: “The Judas Kiss” by Gustave Doré, Public Domain, via Wikimedia)

Judas’s treacherous betrayal came as a complete shock to all who knew him. On the surface, he appeared as dedicated as all the other apostles.

  • Chosen by Jesus.
  • Worker of miracles.
  • Even entrusted as treasurer.

So when Jesus foretold His betrayal at the Last Supper, no disciple at the table pointed and said, “Aha, Judas! I knew there was something about you!” The whole group remained clueless. Each one, in fact, asked, “Surely not I, Lord?” (Matthew 26:22).

Strangely, even Judas asked. Don’t you wonder why?

What Jesus is Looking for in Your Life

Sometimes what you expect is not what you get. You come to a situation that promises one thing, but you get another. Monday of Passion Week proved that way for Jesus.

What Jesus is Looking for in Your Life

(Photo by Photodune)

The day before that Monday, on Palm Sunday, Jesus hopped on a donkey His disciples had borrowed from Bethphage (meaning “house of unripe figs”).

After His Triumphal Entry on the colt, Jesus entered the Temple area and found the Court of the Gentiles—the area for Gentiles to worship God—filled with markets and moneychangers. Jesus promptly cleaned house, saying:

It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer;” but you are making it a “robber’s den.” —Matt. 21:13

Monday morning, Jesus returned to Jerusalem along the same road He had traveled before. He saw a fig tree in leaf, which typically indicated that it would have unripe figs to eat. But the tree offered only leaves. No fruit for breakfast.

So Jesus cursed the tree. And His disciples heard Him. We should hear Him too.

His words indicate what Jesus is looking for in our lives.