“For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.” — Philippians 1:20.

When a person applies for a job, they are often given a job description. It’a kind of a check list of things that the employer expects the employee to do. The employee, especially when they are new, can reference the job description to see if they are doing the things that they have been asked to do. We often have a job description for God, a checklist of what we need or expect from Him. The truth is, we have expectations of God. And sometimes, honestly, He fails those expectations. So what do we do when our God-sized expectations are not met?

The reality is God has been failing to meet people’s expectations for centuries. We even see it in the Bible. John the Baptist struggled with this very subject. He had preached about the Messiah’s kingdom coming with power and justice. But instead, Jesus’ ministry centered on preaching and on acts of mercy, and John found himself  wasting away in prison.  Unable to reconcile the contradictions, John sent messengers to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” (Matthew 11:3). In other words, John the baptist had expectations, and Jesus had failed to meet them, at least at that moment in time. 

Have you ever been in the place that John the Baptist found himself in? The place where the reality and our expectations are world’s apart. The place where our timetable is completely different from that of God’s. After all why would we need patience. If God promised to act, why not act now? If its as if we expect God’s whole universe to orbit around our expectations or our timetable.

When we find ourselves most disappointed with God, God has not failed us—but our expectations of God have failed us. We should always hesitate to assume there is a problem when we are the problem; we simply cannot see the big picture. It is hard to accept, but we must come to grips with the limitations of our understanding—and also the limitlessness of God’s. In response to John the Baptist, Jesus challenged him to shape his expectations from the Word of God and not from the circumstances that seemed to contradict it: “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me” (Matthew 11:6).

When God doesn’t answer the way we think He should, we can feel let down. We don’t understand why God chooses to not do things that seem obviously right to us. But I know that He can see more than I can and that He can give me the strength I need to go through those tough times. In those times, we need to remind ourselves of God’s great love for us. He has good things planned for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11; Ephesians 2:10; John 14:1-3). God has not abandoned us nor His plans for our lives. Believe in His goodness and wait on His faithfulness (Psalm 27:14).

Discussion Questions:

  1. How have expectations influenced your Christian life in positive or negative ways?
  2. What kind of expectations should we have when it comes to our relationship with God today?
  3. What is the difference between an expectation and a promise? What are some things God has promised His people? What are some things people expect from God? What happens when these are different?