No, this isn’t a post about pregnancy. Although one could argue that there are pregnant moments when dealing with God. I’m talking about living a life of faith that expects God to actively engage with the believer.
Many times in our church services I speak about coming with expectation. Far too often Christians show up at church kind of tuned out. Maybe they come because they’ve always come. Maybe they come because they feel that they’re supposed to. But I believe that God wants us to show up to a church service expecting something. In fact, I think we should show up to life expecting something.
Assuming this is true, what are we to expect?
1. Christians should expect to encounter God.
This can mean many things. For some, it has to do with the manifestation of the Holy Spirit through the gifts given to believers for the edification of the body. For others, there is an emphasis on some special feeling that God is present and is often accompanied by an emotional outpouring. Others hope to see miracles, signs, and wonders.
All of these, and more, can certainly be seen or felt when God is present. But not always. The true expectation of the presence of God is the result of knowing that God is present, not that he might show up.
God is present when believers gather to worship. He inhabits the praises of his people. He is present in the Holy Supper. He is present in his Word. He is present in times of prayer.
God is present! When we gather with one another, and even as we live our daily lives, we must remain conscious of the presence of God.
2. Christians should expect to be blessed.
The focus of a church service and the focus of Christian living is not on us. We would be stunted spiritually if all that we did was about us. But as we live sacrificially and in service to God and others, we should expect to receive God’s blessings.
In the book of Joel, chapter 2, the people of God are on their knees repenting of their sins after God orchestrates the destruction of the land. Everyone is invited to rend their hearts in hopes that God might relent and leave a blessing behind. Even in the midst of national sin, God’s people can hope for and expect a blessing when they come to him. Hebrews 4 offers us the hope of blessing in our times of need. Jesus says that the Father knows how to give good gifts (including the Holy Spirit).
God blesses his people! We should expect to experience these blessings when we gather, as well as in our daily lives.
3. Christians should expect to be challenged.
The Christian life is not easy. Jesus actively discouraged people from following him when he perceived that they were not ready to do so fully. Men were sent back to bury their parents. Others were told to count the costs. Rich rulers were sent away sad and discounted.
Jesus specifically tells us that we will carry a cross daily. We will have to die to ourselves in order to live for him. We will lose fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters for his sake. We will be hated and persecuted.
Jesus didn’t come to make our lives easier, but he did come to make them better and to give them more meaning and purpose.
When we gather with God’s people and submit ourselves to his Word, we will be challenged to repent, to sacrifice, to die. Over and over. As living sacrifices, we’ll be asked to hand our bodies over to the flames as an offering to God daily.
Additionally, God disciplines those he loves. We must not expect to come to a church service simply to be encouraged, unless we allow the rightful sorrow over sin to be an encouragement to walk more faithfully with God.
God challenges his people! We should expect this to happen to us when we approach him alone or with the body.
4. Christians should expect to be used by God.
Our churches today do not generally make space for God’s people to actively give in a gathering. But we should come to church with something to offer. It may be a prayer for someone. It may be a word of encouragement. It may be a ministry in which you can serve. It could be more personal in a small group or Sunday school class.
Wherever you can, look for an opportunity to give. In 1 Corinthians 14 we’re reminded that everyone is supposed to bring a song or a word from God when Christians gather. Whatever your gifts are, utilize them in the midst of God’s people.
God uses his people! When you gather, look for an opportunity to bless someone or serve someone.
Don’t go through life on autopilot. Be an expectant person. Keep your eyes open to see what God is up to. Where is he manifest? What blessings is he offering? What challenge is he presenting? How can you be used by him?
If we have these questions in mind, I believe we’ll experience a more fruitful life as believers. And this isn’t just for church services. This is a way of being and living that permeates all of our lives.