GOD’S NEXT: GREAT EXPECTATIONS! pt. 1
“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord. “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities.” - Isaiah 54:1-3
I want to share a message from Isaiah 54 that I was meditating on for our anniversary. What is God’s next move for us this year? I believe that this year, God wants us to set high expectations! GREAT EXPECTATIONS!
We just celebrated our church’s 94th anniversary, And to God be all the praise and glory for giving us nine decades and more! Our community of faith has experienced the favor and blessings of God like never before, starting with six members who separated from the Mount Vernon Church and embarked on a journey that we still enjoy now – being part of the Elizabeth Baptist Church. Over this significant span of time, we have experienced the matchless blessings of God upon our ministry; and our church has been blessed incredibly in so many different facets of ministry.
But, the greatest temptation we face is the false assumption that we have reached the summit of success and our spiritual zenith in God. With 94 years of existence, we might erroneously assume that we have optimized every opportunity, and now we get to rest. We can wrongly perceive that EBC has done all it can do. But we haven’t. God has something even more grand and glorious on our next horizon than we have experienced over the past 94 years. We stand on the edge of great expectations and expect God to do something grand, individually and corporately.
In Isaiah 54, God is speaking to His people in the context of their exile. They were in captivity for 70 years because they were insubordinate to God's will, insincere in their worship, and indifferent to His word. As a result, God sent them into exile under the authority and power of Babylon. However, He comes and gives a word of hope against the backdrop of retributive justice. The result? The people of God turn to a place of repentance and experience His restoration and redemption. God is seeking to redeem and restore them. Psalm 30:5 says, “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
God gives Isaiah a picture in Isaiah 54 of His plan for their lives, set against Isaiah 53, where we see what is to come. The suffering servant is a picture of Christ, where Isaiah says, “He will be wounded for our transgressions, bruised by iniquities, and the chastisement of our peace will be placed upon Him, and by His stripes, we will be healed.”
As a result of the suffering servant's atoning death, Isaiah 54 comes into play with a promise that God will restore and enlarge his people. God's kingdom is about to expand! After we’ve experienced the redemptive power of God, He’s going to do something big!
SING WITH CONFIDENCE
See how Isaiah 54 opens up with this line: “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor!”
We should get excited right here and right now! God is saying that we should sing. And not sigh, even when we are captive to something. We’ve got to learn how to sing and praise God in advance.
It’s called anticipatory praise – we’re praising God for what we believe He will do. Paul and Silas are locked up in prison at midnight and almost beaten to death, but that doesn’t stop them from putting up a prayer and praise party in prison. Acts 16:25 They made up their minds to still give praise to God despite their circumstances.
SEE WITH EYES OF FAITH
Not only must we learn how to sing in bold faith if we're going to have great expectations, but we learn how to see with the eyes of faith. See it even if it has not happened yet. People may say it's crazy, foolish, and religious, but they are not expecting what we expect. Likewise, we must not expect those who don’t understand to put in the same effort.
I have to sing with bold faith and see my bright future with His eyes of faith. Why? Because we walk by faith and not by sight. The things God has for us are things that our eyes haven’t seen and our ears haven’t heard of before. We can sing because we’re witnessing something in the Spirit.
We have a different set of eyes when we boldly decide to walk with God and when we decide to take our walk with God seriously. We will miss out on what God has for our lives if we try to observe it only in its physical form. You may be barren, desolate, or sterile, but God says that's precisely where I want you to be—where your skills, abilities, and execution don't matter.
HAVE A TREMENDOUS ANTICIPATION
Our expansion comes with enormous expectations. Isaiah 54:2-3, He says, “Enlarge the place of your tent and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities.”
He uses the illustration of a tent, a practical illustration that the people of God could readily resonate with at the time. God doesn’t want us to confine ourselves to the familiar. Instead, we are to stretch beyond the familiar! If we're anticipating more increases, the first evidence that we have is a great expectation that is seen in our preparation. We can’t tell people we expect to grow if we are unprepared.
Our current tent is where we are comfortable and cozy, and we know all the ins and outs, but what God’s about to do is require you to do something uncomfortable. We may have a wonderful vision board with all our cute little clip art with nice colors and prints. But if you don't plan, nothing will happen.
EXPAND YOUR CAPACITY TO RECEIVE
God’s great expectation for you is an increase and influx. But you have to expand your capacity to receive!
The truth is, we can have all the great expectations, but nothing extraordinary will occur if we can't deal with stretching beyond the familiar. It takes faith to operate when things are not easy and smooth. It takes faith to operate in generously receiving what God has for us.
It's easy to operate when everything is black and white and makes sense, but it takes faith to operate when it’s not making sense. Thank God before it arrives. See with your spiritual eyes and have great expectations!
Our prayer today: Father, we thank you for your Word. Thank you for giving us hope and optimism even though we may feel like a barren or desolate life situation. I pray God for your people that we will not live in a place of despair over our former years in our exile experience. Instead, move us from a place of exile to a place of expectation that we can see a brighter future and that we can sing about your glory. In Jesus' name, Amen.