Raising Our Hopes

Positive expectation: That feeling you had as a child on Christmas morning when you woke up and remembered what day it was. It’s that wonderful mixture of adrenaline, pleasure, excitement and anticipation of something good that was going to happen to you. It was so real you could almost taste it.

However, as we grew older, our expectation of good took a sharp downward turn. We experienced disappointment over and over and became wary of getting our hopes up. “Expectation is the root of all heartache,” Shakespeare said.  “Don’t expect things to happen. It is better to be surprised, than to be disappointed,” the pessimist tells us. To be truly happy: “Improve your reality, or lower your expectations.”

But, is that how God wants us to live? Being cynical and having little expectation of good in order to insulate ourselves from disappointment? Perhaps our problem has been not in expectation itself but in whom or what we put our expectation:

My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;I shall not be moved. (Psalm 62:5-6, NKJV, emphasis added)

Israel’s King David certainly had his share of disappointments and crushing despair, especially in his personal life. The context of this psalm is a time of attack and oppression from his enemies, but David remains confident in God’s power to help him. Through his experience with God, he knows that the problems around him are not stronger than God’s stability, defense and saving power, so he expects God to deliver him completely.

When you are going through difficulties, do you expect God to help you or do you expect the worst? Do you expect you will have to figure things out on your own and make do with your own resources, or do you expect that God will come through for you with the miracle you need?

Hope is a prevalent theme in the New Testament, and one that is closely linked to our expectancy of God’s goodness. Unfortunately, what “hope” means in our everyday vernacular is much different than how the Bible uses this term, so the impact of the message is often lost on us.

In modern speech, we use this word synonymously with “wish for,” as in, “I hope it stops raining”; “I hope I can find a parking space close to the entrance to the store”; “I hope my boss gives me a raise.”

Usually, there is no expectancy implied that what we hope for will happen. It’s a weak, watered-down version of the definition as it is used in the New Testament, which is a pleasurable anticipation or expectation of good.

Using that definition in place of “hope” in the 80-plus verses that it is used in the New Testament could drastically alter how you understand God’s desire for you to live. Here is one example:

May the God of expectation fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with expectation by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13, NIV, the word expectation used in place of hope)

God wants our expectation of His goodness to OVERFLOW in our lives. This can only happen through the Holy Spirit’s power working in us. He is the God of expectation, not disappointment. If we hang around Him, we will be people of expectation.

If we suffer from a lack of joy and peace in our lives, it might be because we have little expectation of God’s goodness. We are filled with joy and peace as we expect HIm to show up and show Himself strong on our behalf.

It’s time to raise our hopes high and let God fill them.

Expecting Something Good

Familiarity breeds contempt, the saying goes. I never want that to happen with my relationship with God. After being a Christ-follower for more than 30 years, it’s a very real danger because I can finish a verse you start and not even think about what it means.

It’s not that I have learned everything there is to know about any topic in the Bible, or even that I am doing most of it. Far from it! It’s more a problem of my brain registering familiarity and not taking a deeper look at what God wants to tell me.

The Holy Spirit helps me overcome this problem by giving me provocative definitions about familiar Bible words, usually when I am first waking up in the morning.

This morning, it was the familiar concept of “faith” from the Scriptures. How many messages have I heard (and taught) about that Bible term! But the Holy Spirit, with His laser-like ability to get to the main point, breathed new life into my understanding with this thought: “Faith is nothing more than an expectation that God will be good to you.”

I like that. It’s simple; it’s fresh. As I tried out that definition in some well-known verses, I was amazed at how they popped with new meaning and relevance. See what you think: 

Hearing the word about Christ is designed to bring me expectation that God will be good to me. (Romans 10:17 ESV — So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ …)

Bible-reading should not be to build information but to build expectation! Each day when I look at the Scriptures, they can build an expectation in my heart of how good my God is and how good He wants to be to me. There is so much that is wrong going on all around us — and maybe within us — that we need to build this expectation daily.

To walk by faith means that I continually expect God to be good to me no matter what I see. (2 Corinthians 5:7 — for we walk by faith and not by sight …)

All hell can be breaking loose around me, but if I look past what my senses tell me and rely on the expectation inside about how God wants to be good to me today, right in the midst of the junk, then I can be at peace.

The only way I can please God is to expect Him to be good to me. (Hebrews 11:6 — But without faith it is impossible to please God…)

This is how much God wants us to expect Him to be good to us — He will not be pleased with anything less!

My expectation of God being good to me creates something tangible in the spiritual realm that changes what I see. (Hebrews 11:1 — Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.)

Expectation can be sensed, just as hopelessness and despair can. It permeates the atmosphere, changes my body language, and can be heard in my voice. If I choose to be expectant rather than hopeless, I give God something to work with to bring the answers to my prayers to this earth.

God can help turn my fear into an expectation of good from Him because I know He loves me perfectly. (1 John 4:18 — Perfect love casts out fear …)

To be fearful is to expect evil to happen. God wants me to cancel fear through expecting His goodness to happen instead, simply because He loves me.

What all of this means is the end of frustration as I have known it, because to be frustrated means I have stopped expecting God to be good to me. The remedy? The word about Christ, telling me that God is for me, with me, in me and ready to help me.