Friday, June 29, 2018

Great Expectations

Heart check. When you or I are busy with ministry, how often do we pray for God to do our will? And how often do we ask God to do His through us?

I am working my way through Matthew 11 and processing what God is communicating through Jesus and His Word. In that passage John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus asking, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” In other words, "Are we working together?" John's sacrificed all he had and could have had for Jesus and the sake of the gospel: his career, a family, home, priestly reputation, creature comforts. He was all in. Even so, after intense ministry and in the midst of sacrifice, he was checking to make sure he was where God wanted Him, working alongside the Father, making way for the Savior. He didn't take his role and ministry for granted.

The people, on the other hand, wanted Jesus (and John) to meet their expectations. John was a curiosity. Jesus was a disappointment (see Matthew 11:7-9, 16-19). John was interesting. Jesus was out of control: a glutton, drunkard, friend of tax collectors and sinners. Neither one met their  profile of the ideal religious leader.
The cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were unwilling to repent. They saw the miracles. They experienced Jesus and said, "That's great, but we're not interested." They had a religious system, a way of thinking about life and themselves that suited their comfort and interests.

How often, as I'm planning and doing, do I think, "God, Your plan's not (glitzy/good/exciting/whatever) enough. I'm going to tweak it"? The temptation is to control or seek a specific outcome rather than please and serve the Father. The truth is that it's not about my idea, goals, or mission. It's about His glory, His power, His ways, His plan--and He will accomplish His will with or without me. Life and ministry is not about God aligning with my plans, but me aligning with His. That's the importance and power of prayer through God's Word--getting my heart and brain in the right place before (and in the middle of) serving God and others. It's a matter of realizing that God's desires and ways are better than mine. His ways are perfect, best, loving, and holy. Mine are not.

When I have great plans and goals for my life (and ministry), I wear myself out with unnecessary effort. I push for my way of ministry, my desires, my long-term goals, my "way of doing things." As one mom said recently, "I'm going to make my child ______ or die trying." The answer? You'll die trying. Instead, I'm learning to stop. Look at God's Word. Prayerfully seek His will and way. Examine my heart. Repent of personal demands. Ask for wisdom. Wait. Consider. Move.

When I'm churning my wheels in the "...or die trying" phase, Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Personal newsflash: God's not all about VBS, summer carnival, tents, concerts, and 5 day clubs. He's about Himself. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6). As I let go of my expectations and represent Jesus in spirit and truth, not only does my job gets easier, but His joy and peace increase exponentially.

Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.
I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good besides You.”
As for the saints who are in the earth,
They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;
I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood,
Nor will I take their names upon my lips.

The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You support my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

I will bless the Lord who has counseled me;
Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.
I have set the Lord continually before me;
Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will dwell securely.
For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.
You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. (Psalm 16)

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