Expected outcomes and a desire for specific results is as natural as an age old river. In my Pentecostal upbringing, where we often place a high emphasis on experiences in our worship services, I have frequently heard the exhortation that we will receive based upon our expectations. Now before anyone assumes I am being critical, I have made those statements and will continue to do so because there is a measure of truth there. However, over time, in our results oriented society we can be baited into confusing faith with expectation.
Expectation is centered on a particular outcome or occurrence.
Faith is centered on a particular person.
The moment faith is leveraged more for a result than the person of Christ we have allowed our Americana to hijack the deep places of our soul, subvert our allegiance to the King and mis-shape the attributes we ascribe to God. Faith, leveraged with imbalance, pulls us into the miry clay of self, causing us to exchange the pearl of great price for a dime store string of beads tossed at Mardi Gras.
Met expectations are not the dream of the knower of God, for unmet expectations do not erase him from the story or cause him to be absent from our view. Results do not increase God, and a deficiency of results do not minimize his stature. Those same results, or lack thereof, also do not dictate the measure of His availability, nor give clear evidence of the nature of our connectivity.
There was a moment in the Old Testament (2 Kings 4) which intrigues me because we find a woman who leveraged her faith well…
In short, the woman who lived in Shunem interacted with the prophet Elisha. She perceived him well, and she and her husband shared meals with the prophet. Over time she became unsatisfied with the occasional meal and decided to build onto her home. She created a room, a place of habitation and rest for Elisha and he apparently stopped and stayed anytime he was passing through. Eventually the prophet determined it was good to bless this woman of Shunem and asked her what she wanted. She didn’t present a long list of needs nor did she tell the prophet what she is “believing God for”. She was content. Possibly content that this prophet, voice of God, conduit of heaven, representative of the throne room would come and abide in her home.
Along the way, an odd thing happened. Elisha decided to bless her…by prophesying she would have a son. The woman had long been barren and her response to his declaration was one of pain, disappointment, unbelief and simply stated, lacking in faith. Yet a few months later she had a son. She was bestowed a result that she didn’t have expectation, or even faith to receive. How does this happen? It defies some of our well worn theological paths.
If I can speculate, it seems she leveraged her faith and found contentment in a person. This compelled her to value his presence highly. As a result of her leveraging her faith for “presence” she was blessed with something she didn’t even have faith to receive. Why? Because faith leveraged for the person and presence of Jesus has the capacity to override our lack of faith for a result.
What does this mean for us?
As we begin 2018, maybe we should leverage our faith more for a person than an outcome. That way, regardless of the outcome, you get the person…who will probably bless you in ways you had given up on long ago.
**I know there are balancing statements to be made, counter points and this idea creates some tension. Welcome to the life of faith, where so many of the lines of certitude we have drawn are more blurry than our human comforts appreciate.