I’d like to talk to you tonight about “Expectations.” I almost preached this message last Sunday evening, but the Lord led me instead to “Patient Urgency.” And then this week this almost devolved into merely the introduction to a different message. If I go ahead with that third message, I suppose that this will still be its introduction. I came close to preaching about “expectations” the first Sunday of the year – because I thought it would make a good subject under those circumstances.
And yet….. I wonder how many people are like me? To how many people is the New Year not particularly important? To me, it’s basically only another day. Of my 70 years, I have stayed awake to welcome the new year maybe twenty times. And most of those New Years Eves were spent at church in fellowship with you – and sometimes in prayer. In the transition from one year to the next, or one decade or one century to the next, I haven’t really spent much time thinking about that coming year, decade or century. Am I unique? Is it unusual not to be thinking about all the possibilities of the upcoming year? The opportunities? I am not a worrier; that may be one reason I don’t look ahead. But perhaps I have other issues or problems that some psychiatrist would relish to study.
But tonight, for some reason, the Lord has lead me toward something new – thoughts about the future. Tonight, let’s do spend some time thinking about what might be next. Let’s try to consider what might take place in the next 354 days – the days we might have left to call “the year of our Lord, 2020.”
“Expectations.” The noun “expectation” is found 14 times in our King James Bibles, coming from 5 Greek and Hebrew words. Then there are the related verbs “expect” and “expected,” but, surprisingly they only come up in 3 verses. Half of the Old Testament references come from a word which could be translated “hope.” But all of the New Testament verses and half of them in the Old Testament definitely mean “expectation.”
And what is the difference? Our old standard – the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary – can help us out with that. “Expectation, n. [L. expectatio.] The act of expecting or looking forward to a future event with at least some reason to believe the event will happen. Expectation differs from hope. Hope originates in desire, and may exist with little or no ground of belief that the desired event will arrive. Expectation is founded on some reason which renders the event probable. Hope is directed to some good; expectation is directed to good or evil.”
Webster clearly understood the difference between a Biblical hope and the common use of the word. And this definition refers to only secular or fleshly hope. Again, let me stress, none of the 4 New Testament Greek words is ever translated “hope.” They come from words which mean “to look forward” or “to THINK forward” and that is the meaning of the Latin word “expectatio.”
An expectation is the result of thoughtfully considering the future and the possible upcoming circumstances. For example, we expect the temperature to turn cold tomorrow, because it is January – and because the meteorologists are telling us so. Based on these considerations we expect to feel some cold weather. And what are some of the things we might see if we look past tomorrow – considering 2020 generally? What should our expectations include?
Now, here is where I really need your attention for at least the next two minutes. As Webster suggests there are usually good reasons to expect our expectations. But I will add that there are no guarantees. When it comes to “expectations” there are no guarantees. They aren’t Biblical hopes; they aren’t based on divine promises. Logic tells us to prepare for certain things, but there is no scripture, or logic, or fear, which demands that we loose our minds in worry or grief if they don’t come to pass. If we use our expectations properly, we’ll be prepared for the possibilities, but through our trust in the Lord we should avoid the problems which might arise when they don’t take place – or when they do. So what should we expect?
I believe that we should expect life as we know it to come to an end in 2020.
I don’t say that to try to frighten anyone. My statement is not based on NASA’s observations of incoming meteors or asteroids. It isn’t something I’ve concluded from all the talk about global warming or the execution of any high-level Iranian terrorists. In this case I base my statement on what I read in the Word of God. It is possible – and we should expect – life as we know it to come to an end this year.
You see, I believe in the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ for His saints, which I trust, based on your testimony of faith in Christ, includes you – you will soon be lifted from this earth – translated, raptured. The Lord has promised to return to earth to fulfill the divine promises of a Millennial kingdom – the thousand year kingdom when the Messiah will rule over His earthly creation. I know there is a lot of disagreement about details, but I, personally, have no doubt that the Lord will call for the translation of His saints before He sends tribulation with which to judge Israel and the rest of the world in preparation for that Millennium. I am not going to take time to try to prove my position tonight, but I see no reason why the Tribulation could not begin at any time. And in the light of that – there is no reason not to believe that our translation out of the world could not be this year – or even this evening. And in that translation, sometimes called “the rapture,” life as we know it will radically come to an end.
For me, this translation is a Biblical hope – in the sense of a promise of God which has not yet taken place. But I have no authority to put a date on that translation – I can’t say exactly when it will occurred. So, to me, it remains a Biblical hope based on the promise of God. But I admit that it is a fleshly hope as well – it would be a good thing which I’d great enjoy. I am hoping the Lord will return soon; I am hoping that He will come for us this year.
And in the mean time it remains an expectation. I expect to hear Christ’s call – “Lazarus come forth” – or “come up hither.” The translation of the saints and my rapture with them is, as Webster put it, “is founded on some reason which renders the event PROBABLE.” My expectation is reasonable based on the Bible. And having that expectation helps me to stay focused. For example, it helps me when it comes to temptations. Along with many other reasons, I refuse to visit any taverns or topless night clubs, because I don’t want the Lord to call me to Himself from such a place. And when I dine at Applebees, Olive Garden, or Mackenzie River Pizza, there will not be a bottle of wine or any beer on the table – the Lord is coming soon – perhaps during that meal. The books I read are chosen in the light of the Second Coming of Christ. The radio in the car doesn’t stop on certain ungodly stations because the Lord will soon be here. I am expecting the Lord to return and that expectation helps me to be the Christian I ought to be.
I began this evening with one of the few New Testament scriptures which uses our word– “expectation.” “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” – Romans 8:19-22. In Paul’s reference to “creature,” he was talking generally about all creation. He was talking about that day in which God’s saints will be finally set apart and glorified in the glorious Son of God. At that time creation will be released from the curse under which it has labored for so many millennia. It has been living with its own expectation – awaiting the manifestation of the children of God. Romans 8:19 will begin with the translation of those saints – it is “the earnest expectation of creation.”
Another expectation under which we should all live is much less pleasant – death.
Hebrews 9:27-28 ties together my second point with our first. Two thousand years ago – the Son of God “appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” That Christ is coming again is one of my expectations, but let’s be practical and remember that death is just as possible – to any one of us – to all of us. There have been thousands of saints for thousands of years who lived in the expectation of the return of Christ during their lives, but their earthly lives ended in death before the Lord’s return. And like them, we too may die before the rapture. And just as it is impossible to pin-point the time of the Lord’s return, it is impossible to predict the day of our death. There IS a death appointment, but it is known only unto God. For you, it may be this evening after you go to bed, or it might be on the last day of the year.
For the Christian this should not be a morbid thought – while perhaps not exciting, it should at least be uplifting. Think back and try to isolate the happiest – the best day – in your life thus far. What was it? Maybe it was your wedding day, or the birth of a baby. Maybe it was your graduation. Perhaps it was when you learned that a disease which was controlling your life had finally been cured. Or you had been in an accident, but on this particular day, you were released from the hospital. You had been in prison, but on that memorable day you saw the sunshine, as a free man, for the first time in 20 years.
Pick the happiest day in your life, and now magnify it a hundred times – a thousand times. One day, perhaps sometime in 2020, you will be released from this hospital which most people call “life,” and you will be able to go home – to the place Christ has gone to prepare for you. Or for what seemed a lifetime, you have lived a single spiritual life, but there is coming a day when you will see your Divine Bridegroom to begin an eternity of bliss with Him. You have been imprisoned in a body governed by a jailer named “Multiple sclerosis” or “Lupus,” but one day coming up this year, you will finally be set free. Why can’t we live in the pleasant expectation of that good day? “I anticipate… I expect my emancipation.”You can’t tell me that death will not come your way in 2020, so why not live in the light of that expectation?
And by the way, for anyone past the age of 30, and for many under 20, you might as well expect a year of physical deterioration in the light of that coming death. Death is a part of the curse of sin, but it doesn’t just show up unexpectedly – without warning. For most of us, it has been announcing its approach with those achy joints, sore muscles, forgotten details, and failing eyesight and hearing. I think we can all expect to see more of this sort of thing, despite the efforts of the drug manufacturers and their pill-pushing representatives.
And you who are not Christians – not believers in Christ Jesus the Saviour – you need to learn to expect death as well. But obviously, not with the same joyful anticipation.
Another of our expectations for this coming year should be trials, troubles and spiritual testing.
“All those who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer……” For some of us those trials will manifest themselves in major changes in our lives. Do you think that on New Years’ day in 1520 BC, Job woke up, rolled over and seeing his wife awake said to her, “I think there are some big changes coming up in our lives this year”? Did Job have any expectation of the serious trials which were approaching? I am not going to fault the man for not anticipating the wrath of Satan, but he – and we – should expect some troubles to arise in 2020.
The only way to prove the quality of someone’s faith is to put it to the test. So the Lord permits trials for the purpose of testing and then strengthening our faith. He also permits those problems so that He might be glorified in providing solutions. Those are some of the lessons from the Book of Job. Satan spoke to Jehovah and said, “Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD” and tore from the man just about everything he had.
How strong is your faith? Are you going to boast about your close relationship with God? I remind you that Job made no such boasts in the first two chapters of the book. It was God who rejoiced and boasted of Job, provoking Satan’s wicked attack. Is your faith in the Lord a delight to God and a challenge to God’s enemy? If it is – and it should be – then perhaps you should expect Satan’s wrath.
How will you be tried this year? What should your expectations include? For Job it was the death of his children, the loss of his income, and the desertion of his closest friend. Eventually it turned into painful boils – “sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.” He may have had a few shekels in the bank, but how long was he sitting on that dung heap before it was necessary for his friends to begin to bring him food? There have been hundreds of Christians who have lost important things in their lives, causing them to question the love of God – or even the existence of God. It could never happen you, you say? Are you sure? Your losses could be to prove how strong you are. A test of your faith. “There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” – Matthew 24:44. Are you one of God’s elect? Then it is possible that your faith could be severely tried this year. Remember, some of Paul’s associates forsook him – for the world – for false doctrine – for personal reasons. Could you ever question God’s love because that unsaved loved one of yours is still not saved? What if some Bathsheba or a beautiful Absalom threw herself, himself, at you? Could you endure the test?
Oh, and by the way, not all tests are negative. It could be that you might be tried with a great blessing. What if the devil made you rich? I read recently that Satan would probably prefer that you were rich rather than poor. What if you were given a a great job opportunity, but at a place where there wasn’t a scriptural church? Hezekiah was dying but then given 15 years of extra life. Did he use the time wisely? Did he pass the test?
We cannot begin to picture all the trials and tests which might come our way this year. But we should live in expectation of such things. We shouldn’t be surprised if some of them come along. And if we have been spared such testing in recent months or years, perhaps our expectations should even be greater this year.
Related to this and perhaps as the introduction to a future message – we should expect Satanic assaults. Remember that Job’s problems were Satanically conveyed. Again, I’m not going to guarantee anything like this, but they are common enough that we shouldn’t be surprised if Satan doesn’t send one or two of his angels in our direction sometime this year. To expect them is the first step to preparation for them, and with preparation trials can become be blessings.
Now, in the midst of these negative thoughts let me try to raise your spirits once again.
Christians can also expect the comfort of the Lord no matter what else comes our way.
Hebrews 13:5-6 – “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” Who said, “I will never leave thee?” It was the One who is called “the God of all comfort.”
Did Hananiah, Mishael or Azariah, enter 580 BC thinking “this going to be the year of my death?” Perhaps not, but they were living in Babylon as virtual slaves to despotic Nebuchadnezzar. Under the circumstances, they should have learned to live under the expectation of death. Then one day they heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, demanding that they bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s image. The test was on. As servants of Jehovah, they couldn’t do it. They couldn’t bow and pretend homage. When the death sentence was recited, one of them replied for them all. “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” I believe those three men entered that year – and that fiery furnace – in the expectation of divine deliverance. And it was given. Then when their friend Daniel faced a similar fate in the face of starving lions, he too was comforted in the midst of his great test. There may be horrible trials and problems coming, but as saints of God, we can expect the Lord’s grace. As Paul referred to his thorn in the flesh, he added – God “said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” – II Corinthians 12:9.
In Genesis 28 Jacob began a new life and a new year, walking away from Beersheba toward Haran. I can’t vouch for the strength of his faith, but the Lord blessed him nevertheless. God told the man, “I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.”
And of what has the Lord spoken to thee? What have His promises to you included? You can live in the expectation of their completion – their fulfilment. You can expect the Lord to keep thee in all the places whither thou goest. He will not leave thee. “For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people” – I Samuel 12:22. You may expect the Lord’s presence. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” – Isaiah 41:10.
The Christian – the child of God can expect – should live in the expectation of His Saviour’s blessings. We shouldn’t be surprised when once again we experience God’s miraculous grace. And so we enter this new year filled with expectations. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In this upcoming year we can expect challenges and tests. I have an expectation of Satanically induced problems – just as we saw some last year. But, who knows, maybe this year they will include persecution. Some of us who have been healthy may get sick – expect it, don’t be surprised. And we can expect people we know to die.
But we also have the expectation of God’s faithfulness to His promises – and to us. I am expecting to be translated soon and to see the face of my Saviour. I expect to be blessed over and over again in so many ways – because that is part of the loving nature of my Saviour. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” I am excited about this coming year; great things are going to take place – I am expecting great things.
But what is your attitude and outlook? Perhaps your expectations aren’t as bright because you aren’t a child of God? The only way to live joyfully – without fear, as we heard this morning – is by walking hand-in-hand with the God who holds tomorrow. Can you say that you do?