What do we expect?

‘Our God is a God who saves;’ Psalm 68.20

This is a fundamental truth of our faith.  The very name ‘Jesus’ means ‘God saves’, and yet it is surprising how quickly we can forget this and settle for less.  We can get used to the idea that God is the one who brings comfort and peace – and this is what we begin to pray for and expect.  We can easily forget that whilst the peace and comfort of God are marvellous gifts, there may well be more he wants to bring to us and to our situations.  If we could open the door to expectancy, then who knows what he might be able to do?

A challenging question to consider is what you are actually expecting God to do in any given situation?  Are you expecting him to comfort or save you?  It is probably true that your expectation frames your prayers, and whereas you might think you are being submissive in praying that his will be done – whatever his will is – it is interesting to note that Jesus never seemed to encourage those who came to him to pray in this way.  He seemed to value honest needs being expressed.

As you approach God, what is it you would really like to ask him to do?  This is not what you think you ought to ask, but how would you like the God who saves to touch you?

Letting God be in everything

‘All things were created by him, and all things exist through him and for him. To God be the glory for ever!’ Romans 11.36 (GNB)

This is one of those statements that we come across in the Bible that is so easy to gloss over without really taking in what it says.  There is one phrase that really seems to stand out – that all things exist for him.  What could this mean?

Supposing every single situation in which you find yourself has the potential to lead you closer to God?  You probably have no difficulty in recognising that some situations are in God’s hands because there have been moments in your life when you could clearly see his hand at work in them.  However, it is completely different to see the potential for God to work in every single situation in which you find yourself.

Actually, it is simply your attitude that transforms every situation into an opportunity for God to act.  Are you able to turn to him in every situation and offer it to him for his glory?  This begins by letting the name ‘Jesus’ be on your lips in every idle moment, and then you will naturally find it there in times of crisis.

Why not begin now?  Spend the next five minutes simply whispering the name ‘Jesus’, and then try to keep his name close to you throughout the day as you see him turn situations to his glory.

It’s all because of his love!

‘The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand’ Deuteronomy 7.7

We find it so hard to believe that God loves us just for who we are.  Deep down inside we suspect that he loves us because we are good, or because we mean well or try hard.  Therefore when we sense that we are not good or doing well, it can be hard to believe that God loves us at all.

Yet this encouraging verse is right there in the first few books of the Bible, reminding us that God’s activity on our behalf is all down to the fact that he loves us.  His motive and the driving force behind all his actions is the profound depth of his love towards us.

When we are in need it is very natural to begin to bargain with God; if he shows love towards us, then in return we promise to do something sacrificial for him.  Whether or not we are in need, the place we need to come back to is the certainty of his love for us.  The new covenant that Jesus made with us was not an agreement that we could bargain with God for his goodness, but rather an agreement that he would give himself totally for us and do everything needed to release the action of God to us.  Once again it comes back to his love and not our goodness or whether we deserve it.

As you begin to pray, let these words from 1 John 4.16 flow through your mind: ‘… we know and rely on the love God has for us.’

What is trust?

‘Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.’ Psalm 62.8

It is very easy to tell people who are in need, ‘Trust in God!’  In saying this, we are often encouraging them to take an extra leap of faith or a deeper level of trust.  In some way it is a calling to do slightly more than they are already doing.

However, when this psalm encourages us to trust in God it is more than a simple cliché for we are also encouraged to pour out our hearts to him.  The writer was saying that to trust God was not just about having confidence that everything would turn out fine, but also about trusting him with all our emotions and feelings – especially when we do not think that everything is going to turn out well!

One of the most wonderful privileges about worshipping our God who knows everything is that we do not have to put on any masks, or pretend to be or feel anything different from what is really going on within us.  Why not pour out your heart and speak honestly to him right now?

Being at Home with God

‘I long to dwell in your tent for ever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.’ Psalm 61.4

There is something about this statement that prompts us to ask – how?  How can we dwell with God in a more permanent way?  The answer involves the simple realisation that all we have to do is to step into what already exists.

In John 14.23, Jesus says this: “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.  My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” He is saying that because we have turned to him, then both he and the Father have already made their home with us.

Often we can find ourselves seeking an experience that we do not need because what we are seeking is already ours.  We long to have experiences of unity and more closeness with God, when in this world we could not be any closer than we are already.  How much closer can we get than having the Father and the Son making their home within us?  Take a few moments to rejoice in this truth and worship God for the reality that he has made his home within you.

God’s Standards

‘…when a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.’ Numbers 30.2

From time to time we all say things that we probably don’t mean.  We may say them simply out of enthusiasm or exaggeration, or perhaps promise things to others and to God that we can’t actually deliver.  Since we have this tendency we imagine that others do as well, and now and again might wonder if even God is prone to a bit of exaggeration!

This verse encourages us to take our words very seriously and to think carefully about our promises.  The implication that this is something that is important to God is challenging.  It follows that if he tells us not to take our promises lightly, then neither does he.  Sometimes we read the Bible and some of its promises seem to offer so much that we can’t believe God really means it.  It is an incredible thought that he takes the promises he has made very seriously indeed – perhaps far more seriously than we do.

As you read the Bible and come across one of God’s promises, recognise that it comes from the one who has told you not to break your word and who lives by a far greater standard than we do.

Expectation

‘You are my strength, I watch for you;’ Psalm 59.9

It is very easy to be quite passive in the way that we think about God answering our prayers.  It is almost as if we have a list of our prayers and then we tick them off when God has done his bit!  This phrase – ‘I watch for you’ – suggests two thoughts about the way we think of God answering our prayers.

The first is that it addresses the question of our expectation.  Sometimes we might pray about something and then take the attitude that it is up to God whether or not he wants to answer it.  To ‘watch’ for him implies an expectation that he is going to answer in some way.  Psalm 5.3 makes a similar point: ‘…in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.’  Supposing God dealt with our intercessions according to how seriously we took them!

The second point about prayer suggested in this phrase is linked to this.  Not only do we expect God to answer, but let’s look for early signs of this – those shoots appearing from the ground that encourage us that something else is going to follow.  Too often we may well miss the wonderful things God does because we are not looking for them, and in missing them we can easily lose heart and become discouraged.

Bring your need to God now and then ‘watch’ in expectation for the first signs of his response.

 

God is our strength

‘You are my strength’ Psalm 59.9

Sometimes we come across striking verses about God that we would do well to explore, and consider how they really apply to our lives.  This verse is a great example of this and yet the truth is that we probably gloss over it and then move on.

It begins with this prayer, ‘You are my strength’.  There are so many different ways in which we need the strength of God but don’t call upon it.  Perhaps you need his strength to cope with certain situations that are causing you anxiety, or maybe it is not so much situations but people that are a cause of concern for you?  You need a different strength from what you feel you naturally possess – and God’s promise is that he is there for you.  So it follows that if he is there, then so is his strength.

There is a key issue here.  Many of us probably call out something like, ‘God, give me strength’ – but it isn’t like this.  It isn’t just about us waiting until he has breathed some of his divine strength into us, but rather it is God himself who is our strength and we find it when we find him.

When you feel weak and in need of strength, whisper the name of ‘Jesus’.  This isn’t an idle word, but is a reminder that God has come to you already and is with you in Jesus.  To whisper his name is to remember his presence and draw on his strength.

Knowing God’s love

‘This I know, that God is for me.’ Psalm 56.9 (ESV)

All manner of thoughts tend to pass through our minds at any one time: uplifting events, lists of things we need to do, less pleasant memories from the past, random observations about other people and sometimes thoughts we would not want anyone else to know!  For this reason, there is a real value in taking a verse from the Bible and training ourselves to come back to it at times throughout the day, when our minds might otherwise be turning over any number of other things.

This is one such verse.  Spend a few minutes right now to let the richness of the words soak in.  As you breathe in, say to yourself: ‘This I know’, and as you breathe out say: ‘God is for me.’  Repeat the process for a few minutes and then it is likely that during the day you will find this verse popping into your mind, in which case – stick with it!

As you go about whatever you are doing, let these amazing words resonate within you and focus your mind on the wonder of God’s love for you.

The care of God

“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle.” Psalm 56.8 (ESV)

If we are ever tempted to think that God does not care about the things that we are going through, this verse brings us up short.  The very picture of our tears being stored up in a bottle is an image of tenderness and care that is beyond our comprehension.

It might cause you to question – if he cares so much why doesn’t he do something about it?  There are many ways of approaching this particular question and one is connected to the way we regard prayer.  Rather than taking the attitude mentioned above and questioning God’s apparent lack of action, we would do well to catch his tenderness – and indeed his pain – at our suffering.

The image of God storing up your tears implies they are valuable to him – something precious that he does not take lightly.  Perhaps before you begin to pray about some of the issues that hurt you, you should seek to catch his heart for you and what you are going through.  This insight may well change the way you pray.