Why isn’t it over yet? When are we going back to some sense of normal? I thought God was going to deliver us from this disease and this rioting by now; why hasn’t He done it yet? These questions permeate believers as we navigate through the challenges of 2020. As I have thought through many of these things over the last few weeks, the Lord began to speak to me about an Expectation Gap.
What’s an expectation gap you ask? An expectation gap is when we expect things to change or improve as we believe the word of God, however, we haven’t seen the change manifest yet. The gap is the chasm between what we believe versus what we see. Part of the journey of faith is learning how to manage ourselves through the expectation gaps of life. Sometimes we pray and we see immediate change, however, other times we don’t see change for weeks, month, and years – if we continue to believe. The challenge for many Christians is they stop believing for the breakthrough along the way and accept their present circumstances. Look at Proverbs 13:12:
12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.
The word defer means to put off to a later time. This verse is saying when the things we are believing for get put off to a later time, our heart becomes sick. That’s pretty serious.
The first time someone showed me that verse, I was in a state of depression. The reason I was depressed is because I was believing for God to restore a relationship, however, things were only getting worse. My friend who showed me the verse told me I needed to quit believing for God to heal the relationship and move on because the expectation gap I was experiencing was making me depressed. Hope deferred was making my heart sick.
As I thought through the advice, it made sense in some ways because once we make a decision that a situation can’t improve, it is easier to just move on. It’s like we shut down the part of our heart that is designed to believe and we just acquiesce to reality. My biggest challenge with that advice, however, and why I ultimately rejected it is because the only way to see change in any area of our life is to have hope.
Think about all the things we do that we do because we have hope for something better for ourselves:
- Apply for a new job so we make more money.
- Ask a girl out because we want to get married.
- Start working out because we want to get married one day.
- Volunteer at church because we believe God wants to use us to help others.
- Learn a new skill so we can be a better employee at work.
We were designed to hope and the only way to see change in our lives is to hope. So how do we keep our heart from getting sick in the midst of hoping for a better future, particularly when the answer is delayed? The answer is the rest of the verse:
But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.
What is the tree of life? It’s a metaphor for the cross. The cross paid for our destiny. Ephesians 2:10 says God has already prepared good works for us so we could walk in them. Another way of saying that is He has a great plan for our life that is already ordained, we just have to find out what the plan is and cooperate.
God wants us to have hope in the great plan He has for our lives. He wants us to believe for a great job, great mate, kingdom purpose, and to walk in our healing. The key to doing that when the answer has been delayed is to focus on the tree of life. The cross paid for our destiny and we need to become more aware of the reality it made available than our present circumstances. That is the key to navigating the expectation gap.
So how do we do that practically? Each of us is different, but one of the things I do pretty regularly is read the first three chapters of the book of Ephesians. In the book of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul shares truths that I wash in each day. These include:
- God already chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world (in other words He chose us in Christ because he knew Adam and Eve would mess up. He had a solution before we ever had a problem.)
- God has already blessed us with all blessings in heavenly places.
- We are set bet before Him as holy and without blame in love.
- We are made accepted in Christ. (Who cares if people accept us, Jesus does.)
- We already have an inheritance in Christ and His inheritance is in us.
- We are already sealed with the Holy Spirit.
- We have the same power working in us that raised Christ from the dead.
- We are already seated in heavenly places in Christ.
- Jesus continually preaches peace to us.
- We have been given spiritual gifts from the foundation of the world.
- God has already commanded the length, width, depth, and height of His love toward us.
- God does exceedingly, abundantly above all we ask or think according to the power that is already in us.
This is a quick summary of the first three chapters of Ephesians. I’ve learned to dwell there because these verses are the truth of who I am and what God’s plans are for me even when my circumstances say otherwise. These verses are my reality. When we let them paint an image of that reality on the inside of us, they will begin to change the physical reality in which we live. That is the key to overcoming the expectation gap!
To learn more, check out this message I taught at Grace Life Church called, “Eating From Tree of Life.”