January 25, 2016

Expect to be surprised

But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. (Galatians 1:15–17)

Paul learned early that in serving God he had to make room for Him. That is, when he planned or even prayed that this and that would happen, he realized that the will of God could surprise him

God isn’t a puppet or a genie in a bottle. We often tack “according to your will” on the ends of our prayers without fully grasping the reality that God does as He chooses. I’m certain that He even enjoys surprising me with answers to my prayers that I did not expect.

Paul hinted at God’s surprises in several places, but I particularly like this one:

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20–21)

The KJV translates this as: “Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think . . .” and from this and years of experience, I can say that I’ve never been able to second-guess God. I might tell Him what I would like Him to do, but have learned that His ways are not my ways. He has far better plans than I could ever imagine. Time and time again, He has proven this true with surprises upon surprises.

Chambers says do not look for God to come in any particular way, but just look for Him. That is the way to make room for Him. I can expect Him to come, and expect Him to answer, but cannot expect Him only in a certain way. Even after years of getting to know Him, it is common to overlook this element of surprise. When Peter was in jail, Christians prayed for his release yet were so surprised when he showed up at their prayer meeting that the woman who answered the door left him standing there while she ran to tell the others.

God never works in predictable ways. What He does is always beyond what I hoped for, better than my imagination (and I have a very active imagination). He does what is according to His good pleasure!

Chambers offer this advice: “Keep your life so constant in its contact with God that His surprising power may break out on the right hand and on the left. Always be in a state of expectancy, and see that you leave room for God to come in as He likes.” The key here is trusting Him to do as He likes — for He is God and I am not.

This gives me great expectations to face the challenges of today and of this new week!

Bob finally got some sleep during the night and is more alert today. His nose is sore from the increased oxygen, but at least he is not short of breath. His feet are still swollen and he has lots of bruising from the blood thinners. His doctor wrote on the whiteboard in his room that his expected release from the hospital would be “greater than 5 days.” We played cribbage today, which he could not have done a couple days ago. All these improvements are answers to prayer, but as he says, he is still very sick. His lungs are not any clearer even though he more easily breathes and moves around. We are both thankful for the prayers of God’s people and know that the Lord hears them all.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:22–26)

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