In life, invariably, anything that you do over-and-over has the potential of devolving into mere repetition with no feeling involved. We call that “going through the motions”, right? It can happen with anything: work, exercise, paying the bills, regular date nights with your spouse, community, Sunday church gathering, daily Bible reading, and so forth. When that happens, the tendency can be to think, “I need something different. I need something bigger-and-better. Or, something is wrong with this thing I’m doing. I need fireworks! I need excitement! I need a change.”
As a result, our hearts tend to respond in one of two ways…
On the one hand, we may just numbingly grunt out what we know we’re supposed to do because, after all, its what we’re supposed to do. There’s something to that, but its not the whole picture.
On the other hand, we may just choose do something else entirely. Change itself is good. Personally, I love change. There’s something to that too, but its not the whole picture either.
So, on the one hand, we may press ahead but only grow more embittered and disillusioned. Or, on the other hand, we may stop reading our Bibles or stop running with our community or stop being consistent for Sundays gatherings – all because “we’re not feeling it” or it feels so “repetitive”. The next “thing”, we think, will be great until it too devolves into mere repetition and we’ll need to repeat the cycle once again.
I have an encouragement for you, for us.
The biblical definition of hope is confident expectation - not, as some would say, wishful thinking. The author of Hebrews explains, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…” (Heb 11:1) In other words, faith is connected to assurance and conviction - or confident expectation. So much of what we get out of life, especially the Christian life, is based on what we expect out of it. Could it be that, although imperfect, there is nothing wrong with our Bibles, our communities, our churches, our Sunday gatherings but, rather, something wrong with our posture of heart toward them?
Could it be that we're more enamored with our circumstances than with the God of our circumstances?
If we expect these things to not meet our needs, they often won’t. If we don’t expect to grow, we often won’t. If we don’t expect God to show up in fresh ways, he often doesn’t. If we expect things to be repetive, they often will be. It we don’t expect to learn, we typically won’t. If we don’t expect God to use the words of others around me to encourage, correct and edify, we miss it when it does happen. If we anticipate that we’re going to walk away from community, for example, thinking “I’m just not feeling it”, then we probably will. If we’re dead set on things going our way, we’ll often miss what we really need – and, often, all that God is doing along the way.
The Christian life isn’t about mountain top experiences as much as daily – and expectantly – walking out our faith with other brothers and sisters through the thick and thin (even mundane) of life, before our good and gracious God.
In John 15:5, Jesus promises that there will be fruit in our life if we abide (or, “make our home”) in him. To abide in Jesus is to live with confident expectation (i.e. hope) that he is good, he is alive, he is ruling and reigning, he is forming us into his image, he is working all things for our ultimate good, his word does not return empty, he forgives our sin, he is near, he cares, he hears and answers prayer, he is providentially governing the affairs of the world (and our life) and more. That changes our fundamental posture towards life – and the seemingly routine things of our day-to-day experience. In other words, that causes us to approach every day expectantly. This isn’t empty optimism, but trust in the God who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think (Eph 3:20).
Why do I say all of this?
Well, I can guarantee you will grow if you’re expectant and consistent in your approach to following Jesus – especially in the mundane. How can I guarantee that? Jesus does. If you abide in him, you will bear fruit.
Here’s how it works, again imperfectly, in my life. In the morning, I open up my Bible and pray, “Lord, I’m tired and lack focus. But, I come here to meet with you and hear from you. You are the living God and so I expect you to show up during this time. I anticipate being convicted, given grace and seeing new things. Lead me now.”
Or before our weekly community meet-up, “Lord, I’m even more tired than I was this morning, but I know you delight in your people meeting to pray and apply your word. So, give me your heart now. Give me eyes to see what you’re doing and ears to hear what you’re saying. I want to approach this time expectantly. I don’t want to miss you.”
Or before our Sunday gathering, “Lord, your word does not return empty. What every heart in this room needs right now is to hear from you – to be convicted, moved, encouraged, loved, given grace. I don’t want to approach this time thinking you’re not here – that’s a lie. You are here. I anticipate you to move in ways I could never fathom or imagine in the lives of your people.”
So approach your Bible, your church, your community, your Sunday gathering, and your life expectantly – because we have a God that is that big, that good, and that near.