“Show up. Do something. See what God does.”
Those were the words of counsel shared recently by a missions leader who has spent much time in closed countries. Of course, he couched these words in a context of prayer and planning and of a basic missiological framework. His point to his hearers: don't overplan; rather, act in faith.
Our strategies and plans usually don’t work out the way we expected. But the Lord seems to delight to reward those who humbly expect to see him work. I recall Dr. Richard Ganz, at a conference many years ago, say that people used to wonder why amazing ministry opportunities seemed to “find” him. If you’ve ever read one of Rich’s books or heard him speak, you know that he is a walking treasure trove of such stories. He said that, initially, he brushed off such comments because he was convinced that everyone had such opportunities. Over time, he began to see that his initial assumption was not true. Eventually, he concluded that the reason he had so many exciting encounters was that he simply expected God to work. God seems to bless us with fresh opportunities when we live expectantly.
Part of expecting God to do something is learning that, whatever you do, he will probably bring the opportunities and the fruit indirectly. He delights to work in ways that prevent us from claiming the glory for what he has done. That frees us up to go forth with confidence, even if our plans are imperfect. We can show up, do something, and see what God does, all without worrying about whether our goals or expectations were met.
How do we cultivate expectant living? At least three steps are critical:
- Know the promises of God. How can we know what to expect God to do; how can we expect the kinds of things he has promised to do if we do not know what he has promised? So the psalmist says in Psalm 119:147, “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.”
- Pray each morning that the Lord will act that day to fulfill his promises. “O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” Psalm 5:3
- Look for the answers to your prayers throughout the day. As we’ve just seen, Psalm 5:3 teaches us not only to pray, but to watch. Elijah prayed for rain in 1 Kings 18. He prayed seven times for rain and kept sending his servant to look for a rain cloud until the Lord answered.
When we begin living with the vigorous expectation that God will act, then it becomes a habit of life that we humbly “show up” wherever God calls us. Next, we do something according to his will, as best as we can discern it, with all the strength we have. Finally, we see what God does. And we give him all the praise and honor for it with gratitude for the privilege of being some small part of it.