The new year is so pretty and clean, sitting here on the first weekend of the year. I have significant expectations for this year, partially because I will soon turn 47, and since 47 is my favorite number (for no particular reason), I have long thought this year would be big for me. But God is doing something a little weird in my heart right now. Let’s see if I can break it down.
When Jesus came to earth as a human baby, and even later, when He healed and blessed so many, the people around him didn’t recognize Him. John says,
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. -John 1:10-11
They did not recognize Him. They did not receive Him.
Why not? Because they were expecting something different. They wanted and expected a military hero, riding in on a white horse, vindicating all the wrongs done to them over the centuries. They had conflated spiritual salvation with political and cultural revolution.
This is a chrysalis. Just a few days after I took this photo, a beautiful butterfly emerged from it. A chrysalis looks more like a tomb than an incubator. If you didn’t know the biology behind butterflies, what would you think of this? I would think it was a spider’s nest or a weird piece of trash. I would flick it off the underside of the branch where it hung and think nothing of it, probably stepping on it as I walked away.
My expectations, based exclusively on what I see, are very low for this miracle of the animal kingdom. The people’s expectations for a certain first-century, out-of-wedlock carpenter’s son were very low as well.
Expectations: they will bite you in the butt every time.
It’s a good thing God shatters expectations.
If the Jewish people had gotten what they expected, it would have been pretty good. They would have become…
- Citizens of a powerful earthly kingdom
- Soldiers in an unbeatable army
Because they didn’t get
what they expected, they
received something even better!
But because they didn’t get what they expected, they received something even better: the right to become children of God (John 1:12). Yet only those who could lay aside their messianic expectations were able to receive this incredible gift.
Their expectations limited them to what they could imagine with their human minds.
When the butterfly is forming inside the chrysalis, it has no idea what it feels like to fly. (Any Hermie & Friends fans out there? You’ve seen this animated.) And if it stays inside there, it will never know the freedom of flight. The butterfly must demolish the chrysalis in order to escape from it because, when the butterfly is fully formed, the encasement becomes a cage.
If we stay within our expectations, we will be confined by them.
If we release our expectations, God will shatter them, revealing something even more spectacular than we expected—both in what we are empowered to do and in what He has for us.
I have ideas…goals…about how I want this year to go. But as we stand at the beginning of 2020, I sense God pointing to His expectation-shattering agenda. I can’t see what’s on it. I don’t know what His goals for me are.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. –Ephesians 3:20-21
Immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
I could choose to apply my human expectations to 2020. For example, I would really like to get my Bible study published this year. Or I can believe, first in His Name (John 1:12 again), and then in His bigger and better point of view…in His “immeasurably more.” I can step back and let Him shatter my personal expectations so I can really fly!
Don’t let your human expectations for 2020 confine you to what you can imagine. The Israelites missed the Messiah because of their expectations about Him. My #2020expectations are #NotAboutMe, via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)
Have a story about expectations God shattered for your good? Encourage us all by sharing it in the comments below!