June 11, 2012

His Plans, my expectations

After forty years of walking with the Lord, I can sense when He tells me to do something. Because it is He who tells me, I know that the venture will be successful and have meaningful purpose. I also tend to assume that there will be no trouble along the way, but must acknowledge that this is not always the case.
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. (Matthew 14:22–24)
Jesus made the disciples get on the boat and sail toward the other side. This seems a sure thing, but the disciples found themselves in the midst of a fierce storm. Having been sent by Jesus, they may have expected smooth sailing, but this was not what happened. Does this mean they were mistaken about Jesus’ command to go? Or that He was playing tricks on them? Was their obedience somehow a failure?

The disciples perhaps made the same assumptions that I often make. They thought that because Jesus sent them, they would easily be able to accomplish what He asked. This expectation was not in line with His plans. They may have assumed calm seas and an easy trip; He planned that they would experience His presence in a storm.

My friend Anna has the opposite expectation. She shares how great fear keeps her from doing what she knows God wants her to do, fearing that her obedience will bring disaster. Like the disciples and as I often do, her expectations are causing her to miss the plan of God, yet unlike the disciples, she knows this is happening. She realizes that she will not understand His purpose in her trial until she trusts Him and does exactly what He says.

God wants His people to experience His power and grace. We easily trust Him when all goes well, but will we trust Him when the bottom falls out of life, or when His commands mock our reasoning and common sense? The disciples learned that Jesus would be with them even in the worst of storms. My friend and I are learning the same truth. His plans are always for our good, but we are seldom able to predict the good He has in mind. 

In my case, my faith is challenged if I expect comfort or an easy sail and it does not happen. I need to remember always that God’s thoughts are higher than my thoughts. When He sends me on a voyage, I might have the itinerary plotted, but His plan can totally upset my expectations. I might be thinking outward calm and His plan is to meet with me in a storm. My goal may be to gain a harbor of a rest and His purpose is to teach me there is a rest in Him — even on a raging sea.

Lord, this is an important topic. My expectations can cause my ears to be dull and my eyes to miss the lessons of life. I can resist the righteousness You wish to shape in me simply by thinking You are going to grant me easy sailing. Instead of making assumptions, You want me to live in confident expectation that whatever You are doing will be for my good and Your glory, even if I cannot figure out Your ways and means. Bless and increase my faith, and also the faith of dear Anna — both of us are learning how much You love us.

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