Great expectations

I was visiting another church to attend a concert. I got to the front door five minutes before the scheduled start and found a sign saying the concert had been moved to a different part of the building. I went around the building and found an open door. The concert was already going. They had decided to start 30 minutes earlier than the publicized schedule. They let everybody they thought would come know about the change. They didn’t expect visitors like me to show up.

Most churches say they want visitors, but often their actions indicate they don’t really expect any visitors will come. When songs are sung but the words are not in a hymnal or not handed out or not put on a screen, it shows they don’t expect any visitors will be in the crowd. When the speaker says a Bible verse or story is “familiar to all of us” it shows he assumes only regular church-goers are there. He has probably made anybody who is unfamiliar with the verse or story feel unwelcomed.

Sadly, at times, people will invite others to church because they know they should, but they don’t think the ones they invite will come. They share the good news of Jesus with others, but they don’t think it will be received. They pray for God to work in lives, but they don’t think it will make a difference.

David wrote, “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation” (Psalm 5:3). This is the same David who ran confidently into battle against Goliath. Even though Goliath was strong and intimidating, and David was armed with only stones and a slingshot, David expected God to give him the victory. “This day the Lord will hand you over to me … and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel” (I Samuel 17:46). We pray and wait in expectation that God will do good and gracious work and reign victorious.

In the late 1700s hardly anyone in the churches in England was interested in doing mission work in faraway lands. “Too hard. Too dangerous. Too expensive.” William Carey was frustrated with that attitude and so he founded a missionary society in 1792. At the first meeting of the society he preached a sermon that included the call, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” Within a year he and his family and partner headed to India. It was hard. It was seven years until the first convert was baptized. He spent 41 years in India without coming home on a furlough. But he was used by God to translate the entire Bible into six of India’s major languages. He attempted to do great things like work for the abolishment of infanticide and widow burning.

The order in Carey’s phrase is important. First we expect great things from God. Motivation and strength comes when we see the great things Jesus has done for us. In response to those great things, we attempt great things for Him. Because of His goodness, grace and love, we pray, we invite, we serve and we live with great expectations of changed lives and good work God will do.

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