This is a true story and a warning for us all.
The pilots of the Airbus A300-600 freighter expected to descend through the cloud at 1,000 feet. They expected to see the runway of the airport in front of them as they came out of the cloud. In fact, they came out of the cloud much lower and saw a field in front of them. They crashed. They crashed because they had wrong expectations. In the investigation that followed it was found that because of their expectations the pilots ignored the facts until it was too late.
Wrong expectations don’t kill only pilots. Wrong expectations also kill many Christians.
For example, the new believer who expects nothing but joy is in grave danger. When the suffering that is promised by the Bible comes, it could kill him. Some Christians expect God to give them health and wealth, and lose faith when they are poor and sick. 1 Timothy 6 says, “true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.”
Trust the Bible, and adjust your expectations.
William Shakespeare said, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”
I want to help you avoid heartache. I want to help you avoid flying into the ground.
For three days recently we were fasting and praying. We finished up with a prayer meeting here last Saturday. Maybe you had some expectations for what would happen next. Was that what actually happened?
A common expectation is that something amazing and fantastic will happen if we pray seriously. Another common expectation is that nothing will happen. Somewhere in between everything changing and nothing changing is reality.
For three days we fasted and prayed to be filled with the Holy Spirit and have complete knowledge of God’s will. God promises that he will hear our prayers (1 John 3:22). We know therefore that he heard our prayers for this church. We know also the importance of prayer. We know from the Bible that prayer changes things. Let’s not misunderstand how God works. That doesn’t mean that we all now have perfect understanding of God’s will. It doesn’t mean that we all now are so full of the Holy Spirit that we are sinless.
If that is what we expected, we must have been quickly disappointed.
I have been a Christian for a few years now. I have followed Jesus sometimes well and often poorly. I still don’t have all the fruit of the spirit in my life. If I had expected to have all the fruit from the moment I was baptised in the Holy Spirit, I might have given up years ago. Others expect the gifts of the spirit to arrive all at once, and are sorely disappointed when they pray and people aren’t healed and the blind remain blind.
May I suggest what I think a reasonable expectation might be.
We prayed for ourselves and the church to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
The moment you accepted Jesus as Lord, the Holy Spirit came to live in you. He imparted to you spiritual life, causing you to be born anew as a child of God. The Holy Spirit also baptized you into the body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12:13, Paul explains, “Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.”
There is a moment when the Holy Spirit enters you.
Being filled with the Holy Spirit, however, is not a once-for-all experience. There are many fillings, as is made clear in Ephesians 5:18. “Be filled with the Holy Spirit” means keep in being filled with the Holy Spirit. And also as we read in Acts 8:16 – “The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, for they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit.”
What we have prayed for is not a miraculous experience. What we have prayed for is not an event or a sign. We have prayed for heaven to open a spring of living water in this church and give everyone a thirst to drink from that spring. The answer to that prayer will show in the months and years to come as the living trees grow and bear fruit.
We must all of us remember we are slow growing trees. We need the water of life to drink each day. Slowly we will grow more healthy as daily we are filled with the Holy Spirit. Over time we will have stronger branches and healthier leaves. One day we shall have blossoms, and in due course we shall bear fruit. Not once, but year after year.
We have prayed to start a process, or perhaps restart or refresh. The Holy Spirit is not a medicine. We don’t drink and fill ourselves like taking a medicine. The Holy Spirit is a living being. We drink from this spring by developing a deeper relationship. We drink by walking closely in obedience.
Jesus says in John 14:21 –
“Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”
Jesus says in John 15:4 –
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”
The Spirit-filled life is an obedient and abiding life. It can be experienced daily as you love God with all of your heart, spend time daily in prayer and Bible study, obey God’s commands, and share the Gospel.
We can expect to bear fruit as followers of Jesus only if we actually follow him.
I caution you not to expect this church to suddenly be full of miracles with people speaking in tongues and prophesying. I advise that we are engaged in a process of ensuring that we live by God’s purposes and strength, not our own.
As we live this way, the prayers of this fellowship will be answered.
We will see as we give over our thoughts to the Holy Spirit, that we start to have holy thoughts. We stop thinking the sinful things we used to think, and our minds are changed.
As we daily ask God to fill our hearts again, we find our hearts begin to change. Our desire for God and holy living grows, our sinful desires shrink.
Don’t expect spiritual experiences, instead expect to be changed from within as you fill yourself day after day with the Holy Spirit.
Every time you open a part of yourself to God, there is more space for the Holy Spirit. You could think of it this way. How much rice can you pour into a five litre bucket? Of course, five litres of rice. Now how much rice can you pour into a five litre bucket that is full of cabbage? Not very much. We keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit partly by daily repentance to get rid of all the rubbish that fills our hearts and minds.
We can expect our faith to be tested daily as each day we try to live as spirit-filled believers. We can expect life to be hard and unfair. We don’t expect miracles. We trust and believe in the word of God that tells us he is changing us from within, and that the changes to our hearts and minds he will protect with his armour so that we will bear fruit.