Summer 2024

THE INCREASE: Expectant to Move - Mark Appel

My guess is that no one is immune to placing unrealistic or unhealthy expectations on life. We all tend to overestimate what we think we might want, need, or should have. The expectations we place on life should be based in Scripture and what we know to be true of God’s Word.

Expectations are, many times, formed through experience. When we take what we know of God’s Word, making that our foundation for life, and then combine that with what we’ve experienced in the past, we begin to shape our anticipation for the future. The expectations we, or others, place on our own lives can be crippling, but if we view both our past and future from the perspective of God’s Word, we can approach life with a confidence that will not disappoint.

It’s good to hold ourselves to a high standard, expecting much from our efforts, but we also have to understand that we’re not perfect. We will fail often, and that’s ok. When I pitch a game, I have a healthy expectation that I’m going to do my best, but I also expect that I am going to work to get myself or my team out of a jam once or twice (or more) every game. Since I prepare my mind for this possibility, when that time comes I’m ready to face it. Instead of being completely taken off guard or thinking, “Why is this happening? Where did this come from?” I’m prepared for action. I don’t hope that these times come, but when and if they do, I want to be ready for the challenge.

Putting expectations on our circumstances is, in a way, putting an expectation on God to change our situation to what we think is best. I’ve been playing in the minor leagues for four years now. When I was drafted out of college, I expected to be in the big leagues within a few years, but here I am four years later — still not there. Yes, I aim for the stars, and that’s a good thing to do, but maybe my expectations were placed in the wrong place with the wrong heart. I was placing my trust in God, expecting Him to bless me and let me live out my dream because of my faithfulness to Him.  But God does not owe me, or anyone else anything, and His expectation isn’t the same as ours. He calls us to be faithful to Him no matter what our circumstances are. He’ll take care of the rest. The reason for faithfulness is not to receive better material gifts or greater circumstances. The reason for faithfulness is to know God more, which is greater than any gift or circumstance could offer.

“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” —Isaiah 55:8-9

The way Jesus lived out His life and ministry in Scripture should be the standard we expect of ourselves. By studying how He lived, we have a model of how we should live out our role as His ambassadors. We should often ask ourselves, “Is my life in accordance with God’s Word, with complete dependence and trust in Him? Or am I always worried, afraid, or insecure about a situation I might face?” If we hold ourselves to the expectation of living out the truths of God’s Word and aim to be a reflection of Christ Himself, our worries and fears will be replaced with confidence in the Master’s plan.

Having a firm foundation in God’s truth and a healthy expectation of our own ability to respond to the Holy Spirit’s power within us will set us on a path of eternal peace and purpose. When we try to set our trust in anything else, we’ll begin to question ourselves when things get rough. When our expectations aren’t fulfilled, our foundation will be rocked.

God knows we are sinful and broken people in need of a Savior, that’s why He came to save us! By His grace we are saved and set free to live a life of expectancy — expectant for Him to do things that only He can do. His only expectation is for us to be faithful to Him, following His lead and striving to be like Christ. He isn’t waiting to strike us when we mess up. We serve a compassionate and loving God who has walked in our shoes and faced temptation, pain, and suffering as we do. Yet He was able to withstand temptation and endure suffering because He trusted in the unwavering plan of the Father. We too can have this confidence as we approach each day with the expectation that God will work in and through us to accomplish His perfect will.

Mark Appel

Mark Appel is a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies minor league system and a regular contributor to The Increase, providing monthly articles and opinions.

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