Through the magic of social media, several years ago I reconnected with a close childhood friend. We had not communicated or seen each other in about 43 years but were able to schedule lunch together while I was visiting my hometown.
I arrived at the restaurant first and he came in a short time later. Despite having not seen each other in over four decades, we immediately recognized one another. He looked older. Maybe I did too – just a little.
The first thing we talked about was whether we would have recognized each other if we had just randomly passed each other on the street. We both acknowledged that we probably would not have. The only reason we recognized each other was that we were expecting to see each other on that day at that place.
Without that expectation, we could have been in direct proximity to one another at any point in time and never realized it.
Clearly, expectations matter.
Clearly, our expectations affected our awareness, and our awareness affected our recognition.
SO, COULD OUR EXPECTATIONS AFFECT OUR AWARENESS OF AND RECOGNITION OF GOD?
Not only could they, but I think they probably do more often than we imagine.
I think there is a general un-awareness of God’s presence for many of us as we go about our daily lives. It’s not that we don’t think God is there. We just don’t really feel a genuine awareness of his presence.
And without that awareness, we often fail to recognize what he is doing in our world and in our individual lives.
And without that recognition, we miss out on the tremendous opportunity and blessing of actively interacting with our Savior.
It’s pretty hard to interact with someone when we don’t recognize that they are there. And we sometimes don’t recognize that they are present because we don’t have a genuine expectation of them being there.
SO, WHAT DO WE EXPECT OF GOD?
I mean, do we wake up in the morning expecting to see God work in our life that day? Do we really expect to personally interact with him in some way during the day? If you are like me, unfortunately you probably don’t give that nearly enough thought.
And if we don’t have those expectations, is there a real possibility that we will not recognize that opportunity and miss that blessing? God may indeed be right there working some detail of our life and we completely miss it.
Could it be that we miss untold opportunities for interaction with God just because we have no expectation of them happening? And what is the cost of those missed opportunities?
I don’t pretend to know what will be revealed to us after this life ends. But I think one of our biggest shocks may be the number of opportunities for guidance and blessings that we missed. Opportunities missed because we had no genuine expectation of what God could do in our lives.
SO, HOW DO WE CHANGE OUR EXPECTATIONS?
First and foremost, we must have access to God, and that access only comes through our faith in Jesus Christ. There must be the recognition that we are sinners in need of a Savior and that Jesus is that Savior. That is the foundation. Until we arrive at that point, our expectations are genuinely and rightfully limited.
Each of us comes to Jesus with different backgrounds, influences, and situations, so the starting point for our expectations looks different for all of us. There is no checklist I can give you to help enhance your expectations of what God can do in your life.
But I can offer you some suggestions that are of help to me:
1. Recognize what God has already done for you. You are here right now reading this, so obviously God has gotten you this far. Recognition of what God has already done in your life should provide you with confidence in what he can do today and in the future. Taking time to count your blessings really is a worthwhile activity. Recognition of what God has done in your past may help you to recognize him in your present.
2. Seek inspiration in what God has done in the lives of others. If God has done it for others, you can have complete confidence that he can do it for you. The Bible is full of examples of what God has done in the lives of all kinds of people.
Our own generation is filled with people who have firsthand witness to the workings of God in their own lives and in others around them. What God has done in their lives, he is certainly able to do in yours. It is not God’s abilities that have diminished, it is our expectations. Recognition of God’s work on behalf of others can help you recognize him and his work on your behalf.
3. Take the time to ask God questions and to quiet yourself long enough to listen for his answers. What does God want you to know about this day or the situations you are facing? We have grown accustomed to wanting immediate answers. We fear awkward silences.
But we will likely never have a deep awareness and recognition of God in our lives without this discipline. We may never understand what God is doing or what he desires for us if we do not ask. And asking without listening for the answer is pretty meaningless. There is no greater way to recognize God than to approach him in prayer with questions and expectations of answers.
4. Strive to apply the lessons available to us through the Bible from our own past experiences and the experiences of others. I have found that God often does not grant me deeper understanding and awareness until I am faithful to act on what he has already entrusted me with. It is often difficult to recognize God working in our lives if we are not cooperating with him in that work.
To be honest, it is easy to fail to recognize God in the day-to-day moments of our lives. Even the disciples failed to recognize Jesus right in their midst after the resurrection. That’s understandable. After all, they really weren’t expecting him. The same goes for us. If we are not expecting God, we may not recognize him when he’s right there.
The reason some of us attend church services is to provide ourselves with a time to be in God’s presence. But the fact is that God is just as present on a dreaded Monday as he is on a Sunday. He is just as present in our work or school environment as he is in our church environment.
It is not God’s presence that is different in these situations. It is our expectation of his presence that is different.
What a shame it is to have the God of the universe right there with us in every moment of life yet fail to recognize him.
So today, be on the lookout for God in every situation. Expect to see and interact with God. I promise you God is right there. You just may not be recognizing him.