As the Phillies head into the World Series it seems the entire city of Philadelphia can be heard singing the teams theme song, “We’ve got high hopes!” Have you ever told someone not to get their hopes up? Maybe you were the one being warned, with high hopes comes the opportunity for those hopes to be let down, to be disappointed. And yet, living without hope is not really living, it is going through motions, becoming cynical and hard- hearted. The truth is, when we begin to live without hope in our own life we inevitably begin trying to steal hope away from others as well. We get to a point in which we define ourselves by disappointment, which loves company just as much as misery does. One online dictionary defined the word disappointment this way, “A feeling of dissatisfaction that results when your expectations are not realized.” I thought this one really hit the mark. Disappointment is not really tied to the outcome of a situation nearly as much as it comes from my expectations going into that situation. Ever have a job offer in which the salary was not quite what you had hoped? Receive a gift that was less than you had expected? A friendship or relationship that just didn’t fulfill your expectations? In these situations we blame the company offering the job, the giver of the gift or the friend that did not come through, but what if the entire problem was our expectations? What if our hopes were unfounded or our expectations were off? Ever feel disappointed with God? Ever have a prayer that does not get answered as you had hoped or a longing that did not get fulfilled as you determined it needed to be? I think most of us have.
After Jesus died it seems that most of the believers gathered together. I can not imagine the emotion of those few days. I am sure there was sadness, anger, fear and a lot of disappointment. For three years they had followed, they had listened, watched Him heal, teach, pray, even raise the dead and now He Himself was dead. He had told them that this would happen but that did not seem to help at all while it was all happening. I am sure in the midst of the group there were those that believed that something was going to happen, that this was not the end. I would venture to say that there were probably even a few that were remembering His words of His death and resurrection and were holding out hope that it would come to pass. Three days later some of the women of the group went to anoint Jesus’ body and give him a proper burial. When they arrived at the tomb His body was gone and an angel met them and told them that Jesus was alive. They ran back and told the Apostles and the other believers. Jesus was alive! He was alive, just as He promised, He is no longer dead! Luke 24:11 gives us some insight into how powerful the disappointment of Jesus’ death was among some of the believers, “And their words seemed like idle tales, and they did not believe them.” Even though Jesus had done everything He promised to do, because it did not meet their expectations some refused to believe. If our expectations are off disappointment is inevitable. The problem with this is that disappointment can become so strong that we refuse to see the good that is done, we choose not to rejoice at the miracle of resurrection because we are still “let down” by the reality of death.
Two of the believers showed how strong their disappointment was, they simply left. Luke 24 goes on to tell us about two believers that left Jerusalem and were walking to Emmaus. As they walked they were talking to each other about all that had happened. As they talked Jesus came to them. They did not realize it was Him, but He came close and listened and questioned them on what they were saying. Finally they shared what the real problem was, not that Jesus had died, He prepared them for that; not that He had resurrected, He had promised them that; The real problem they had was, “we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.” An honest answer that reveals the truth of their hearts. Rather than believing that Jesus had a plan for their lives, they had a plan for Jesus’ life. They followed Him as a Prophet, possibly even as the Messiah, but they followed Him with a plan that they desired to see Him fulfill and when He did not walk according to their plan they were disappointed, so disappointed that they ultimately left.
So let’s go back to the first paragraph, ever been disappointed with God? Are you right now? In the midst of your emotions have you stopped to consider that it may be your expectations that were amiss and not God’s actions? Even more, have you stopped to search your heart and find out if you have tried to lead God rather than have Him lead you? We talk so much about God’s will that I think we have unraveled it to the point that it is no longer what God desired it to be. God’s will is not how He can order your steps for your pleasure, it is how you and I can walk in the steps that have been ordered for His glory. Henry Blackaby writes “if you ask the wrong questions you will get the wrong answers.” I want to adapt this for our thoughts today, if you have the wrong expectations you will be disappointed! We must learn to seek God for His expectations rather than seeking Him to try to get Him to fulfill ours.
Like many, if not all of us, I have miracles that I am asking God to do. I am asking God to do a miraculous healing in the infant daughter of dear friends. I am asking God to miraculously wake from a coma the 18 year old daughter of another friend. Every day I ask God to bring salvation to my community, to deliver the bound and set free the captive. I ask Him to heal the sick and to restore the broken hearted. I pray for salvation of the lost and for the abused to know that they are loved. These are all things that I have no power to control, no power to change, no power to resolve on my own. This is why we pray isn’t it? Don’t we bring our needs to God because we believe that He is able and we are already very sure that we are not? Here is what I am learning, if that is indeed why and how we pray then we are preparing ourselves to be disappointed. Prayer can not be me pleading with God to do what I am sure needs to be done, it must become me coming to God because I am sure that He is good, He is loving and He is able. It must become me coming to God and asking what He puts in my heart and believing what He speaks to my Spirit and letting Him set the expectations of my life. Prayer can not be about God proving Himself by doing what I ask, prayer must become about God already being proved by being present, by who He is not by what He can do for me.
The two men that walked along the road to Emmaus had had their hopes crushed. They share freely that Jesus had not fulfilled their expectations. After they shared this Jesus went on to teach them the true purpose of the Messiah. The Bible says that He shared from Moses all through the prophets all things “concerning Himself.” After He taught them, He broke bread with them and then they realized it was Him. As their eyes were opened He vanished and they did an amazing thing, they ran back to Jerusalem to tell the others. In the matter of a few hours they had gone from so disappointed that they walked away to so convinced that they ran back to convince the others. It is amazing how much God’s voice and God’s presence can change our perspective and raise our expectations. The truth is, God has never let us down, in fact, He usually goes over and above our expectations, we just don’t often see it that way. The two men headed to Emmaus gave up because they wanted Jesus to physically redeem Israel for them; Jesus explained that He had come to spiritually redeem all mankind. He did not meet their expectations because He came to do more. God desires to do more in your life as well. Paul wrote, “Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think”. Thank God that He is not bound by our expectations, that would truly be a disappointing life! We must change our mindsets and stop trying to guide God with our expectations and let Him remove all boundaries by showing us His plans. Remember this, He knows the plans that He has for you. That means that His plans are not dependent upon what you and I know, understand or expect. We must learn to trust Him, His love, His character and His heart. If we can trust God then we can choose to always believe that His plans are only to give us hope and a future, they are never to harm us! If you would be so bold and so courageous today, would you join me as I try to pray this prayer with sincerity and surrender, “Jesus, I trust you today. I trust your love for me, I trust your heart for me and I trust your plans for me. I choose today to set aside my expectations so that You can reveal to me Your plans. I will not live in disappointment, I will not judge You according to my understanding or lack of it, but I will worship you according to your beauty, your greatness and Your majesty. I surrender my heart and my mind to You today and ask You to simply have your way. I trust You with my life, with my heart, and with the lives and hearts of those that I love. I choose to believe that You do all things well and that You will fulfill plans of hope and future for me and for all of those that I bring to You in prayer. You are great and Your hope never disappoints! In Jesus’ name, Amen.” Let’s prepare to walk in more than we understand and expect and let’s choose to believe that when things happen that we were not expecting and that we do not understand that we will believe that what God is doing is greater than our understanding and greater than our expectations, He is not a God who disappoints, He is a God that does much more!