1: the act or state of expecting: anticipation <in expectation of what would happen>
2: the state of being expected
"Expectation will change your experience." These words came from one of the wisest instructors that I had the opportunity to sit under at Hillsong. Even so, I disagreed. My first thought was, "No they won't. Previous experiences shape my expectations." I will be the first to admit how wrong I was. Our personal expectations have a lot to do with the experiences we will have.
I've been processing this more and more lately. It's become more of a reality to me with us expecting our first child in May. People's well-meaning "warnings" began to create fear and dread. Actually, for a short time I questioned whether or not we were ready for this undertaking. But then I decided to shift my mindset, and my new expectations have started to shape my experience. I'm now enjoying the preparation process- the baby registry, the room decor, the doctor visits. I know I am way out of my league in bringing home a baby. I know we won't know everything we're suppose to do. I know we will miss some areas of preparation and drop the ball here or there. I get it. But my expectation is set: this is going to be awesome!
I know that God is not a vending machine or to be manipulated like a puppet, "If I do this than You'll do this. If I believe this way You'll move for me in this way." I don't think God works like that. I do think God honors our expectations and continues to reveal Himself when we have God-honoring expectations. If we have little to no expectation of truly encountering God, chances are little to none that He'll move in a big way.
There's a story in the Bible about Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Elijah had an expectation for God to show up in a very big way. Imagine the outcome if Elijah's expectations were shaky and small. Elijah stepped up, full of faith, believing God would do something only He could do. The rest is history.
"At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: 'Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you,Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.'" - 1 Kings 18:36-37
Elijah's expectation was God would answer him and make Himself known to Israel. I love this story. It encourages me to step up into God things. It encourages me to set my expectation of God revealing Himself every week. It gives me confidence God will continue to come through. What happened after Elijah prayed is my favorite part.
"Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, 'The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!'" - 1 Kings 18:38-39
Elijah's expectation of God resulted in people knowing who God was and responding. Expectation changes your experience. So what are you expecting to see God do this week? What are you believing for as a leader of His people? What is your expectation in your own life as you encounter the living God?
Last week I shared my heart in worship - I want to lead people to a place of encountering God. It's not something I just landed on one day or decided sounded good. It's a responsibility and privilege that I feel passionately about based on personal experience. When people encounter their creator, their lives are changed.
Abraham's life changed when he encountered God (Genesis 12). Moses' life was changed when he encountered God (Exodus 3). Samuel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah all had God encounters which altered their lives. The Old Testament is filled with stories of people encountering God and walking away changed. In the New Testament we see lepers, prostitutes, the blind, the lame, and a man bent on destroying the Church, Paul. When each one of these people encountered Jesus their lives changed, their purpose changed, and their eternal focus changed.
For me it happened in a one bedroom ratty apartment. I was by myself at the time and feeling very alone and depressed. My life was not going in the direction I knew it should be. I was angry, resentful, and depressed. My attitude lead to poor decisions making friends and how I chose to cope with life. A lot of my time was spent drinking alone, wasted,so I couldn't remember anything. Unhappy with the world and life, anything and everything would throw me into a fit of rage. Nothing in my life resembled a born-again Christian. Even so, by the grace of God, I never walked away from the Church. So here I was, alone, knowing what Christians looked like but not resembling one at all. That day I put in an old "Delirious?" DVD and just sat on my dingy floor staring at the TV screen. At one point the lead singer, Martin Smith, opened up his Bible and began to read.
"He said to me, 'Prophesy over these bones: Dry bones, listen to the Message of God!'"... He went on reading, "Prophecy to the breath. Prophesy, son of man. Tell the breath, 'God, the master, says, come from the four winds. Come, breath. Breathe on these slain bodies. Breathe Life!'"... "So I prophesied just as He commanded me. The breathe entered them and they came alive!" (Ezekiel 37:4, 9-10 MSG)
God met me right in that moment. I encountered Him as those words breathed life into me. My life was changed forever. I had a God encounter, right there, in a crappy apartment with beer cans littering the floor. Worship filled a place where only obscene language, crude jokes, and a looming feeling of loneliness once lived. Worship flew from my lips because in that one moment I encountered Him and He met me where I was.
I don't take lightly what we do. We have a massive responsibility every single week. I believe with everything in me, when people encounter God their lives are changed for eternity. We bring people into the presence of God where He meets them where they're at. We can't manufacture or replicate God encounters. We can prepare though. We can believe and pray every single day that people will meet Him the way we've met Him. We can step up every week ready to take people to the throne of grace where they meet God.
I used to think leading worship was easy. You learn some songs, make sure they flow together, and then stand in front of people and sing. It's easy enough when you don't have a proper perspective on leading worship. God has taken me on a journey the past several years. Along the journey I have learned the weight and responsibility of leading others in worship. There is nothing easy about it. In fact it's one of the most challenging responsibilities I have.
I am a goal-oriented type guy. Give me a goal and I will figure out a way to reach it. Let me know the direction you want to go and I will start running that way. It's how my brain works. As a kid on family vacations, I would sit with a map figuring out the route my parents were taking and if it was the best way. I know how to plan routes if I know the destination.
Leading people in worship has a Goal: Bringing people to a place of Encountering God.
Here's my struggle: there is not a clear cut road map for the end destination. I can't direct or control the best route. I can't guarantee the outcome is the same every time. My goal can't be manufactured or easily planned. There's no way to even know if people will step in the same direction.
Every day I wake up wondering if people will encounter God the way I have. I wonder if they will stand in His presence and know His goodness and love. I wonder if people will find their satisfaction in Him the way I have. I wonder if they will know God is for them and desires to have a relationship with them. Every day I wonder if I can, in some way, hold the door open for someone to step into His presence.
The Goal: Bringing people to a place of Encountering God
Here's where I am with The Goal. I cannot lead people where I, myself, am not going. I cannot take people to a place of encountering God if I am not encountering Him daily. There is no road map for this. It's about personal devotion to an equally personal God. It's about my worship to my God who loves when I spend time in His presence. It's about a life long journey and allowing God to shape me and use me.
There's nothing easy about leading worship. If it was easy everyone would step up and do it. The hardest part for me is knowing there is not a set route to leading people or a formula I can plug into. It's only through the very real presence of Holy Spirit that people Encounter God, and that's what makes the challenge all worth it.
"Let us with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." -Hebrews 4:16