Chapter 27

Holy Expectation

You've got to believe God will work through your sermon.

If I had to make my living with my hands, I would probably starve to death. Living in the tenements of New York City, my family depended on the superintendent to make repairs when things in our apartment broke. So I never learned to fix things myself. A few years ago, a neighbor noting my ineptness asked my wife, Bonnie, "How do you live with a guy like that?" She replied, "Very, very carefully."

Because I don't believe I can fix things, I usually don't even try. When I do try, I tend to give up whenever I hit a snag. That's normally right after I pick up a tool. I live with low expectations, and Bonnie and I pay a price for it—to plumbers, mechanics, and handymen.

Recently, I purchased some software for my computer and tried to install it myself. I followed the directions closely, step by step, and I was stunned when it worked! I was surprised by my surprise. But that is the result of living with shriveled expectations. You're always taken by surprise.

One day—surprise!—we discover God was at work beyond our most expansive expectations.

Our ministries are stunted when we live with diminished expectations. In fact, our surprise when God works is a dead giveaway of our condition.

We preach the Word of God and then are startled when a woman in our congregation hears the gospel and finds it is indeed the best news ever.

We register shock on our personal Richter scale when a young man who was a victim of abuse hears what Jesus says about forgiveness and decides to confront his older brother who had molested him and get things settled.

We can hardly believe it when a husband involved in an affair sits at communion and, faced with taking the bread and cup, decides to end the illicit relationship.

We're handling dynamite, and we didn't expect it to explode.

When we lose the sense of holy expectation, our preaching gets downgraded to a performance in which we are required to say something religious to pass the time between 11:25 and noon on Sunday morning. We make the calls, attend the meetings, conduct the funerals, officiate at weddings, but we don't expect God will show up. We pray for the sick, but we don't believe our prayers will make much difference. We counsel the bewildered, but we don't count much on the difference God can make. Then one day, surprise! We discover God was at work beyond our most expansive expectations. We had underestimated the reach of God's Spirit.

The Holy Spirit doesn't check in at the church down the street and skip your congregation. He is present, not only someplace else but at your place. Count on him. Expect him. Live with holy expectations. You may be in for a great surprise.