God so often disappoints us. No, letís not kid ourselves, we place our
hopes in God and those hopes are all to often disappointed. The fault,
however, is not with God. The fault is with our expectations.
recently reminded me of a sermon I gave a LONG time ago. He didnít
remember it perfectly, but it had made a profound impression on him. He
recalled that I had said "God does not call us to save us, but to spend
us." In context, what I had said was that Godís objective in calling us is
not merely to save our miserable hides, but to spend us in his service.
I had said, "God is not in the business of the preservation and
perpetuation of human flesh." And I think it is in this error that we are
so often disappointed. We think our aches and pains are as important to
God as they are to us. They may be, but it will not be for the same reason
I think Paul was driving at this in a remarkable passage in
God so often disappoints us because he is subtle. We want to see the
withered hand go straight right in front of our eyes. We want to watch as
the man born blind can now see. We want to watch the lifelong cripple
dance and laugh. We want to see Lazarus walk out of the tomb. We want to
see fire fall down out of heaven. And we are a little bit disappointed
when we donít see anything. Oh, God may make a sick man well, but we
wonder if he just got better. He may find you a job, but you canít tell if
he really did or if the job was just there, and time and chance led you to
I canít tell you why God does it this way, but He seems to prefer
subtlety to the grand gesture. One of the great stories of the Bible is
about this very preference for the quiet way of doing a piece of work. It
is the story of Naaman the Leper in 2
It is so easy to be disappointed with God. In spite of everything,
Elijah was. He had seen the fire fall from heaven (1 Kings 18:1-40). You
would think he would have been the king of the hill after this. But in a
matter of hours, he was fleeing for his life. He finally ended up in a
cave on a mountainside. When God finally spoke to him, it was not
overwhelming. It was subtle (1
Kings 19:11-12). He told Elijah to go back to work, and in answer to
his complaint that he was the only one left, God replied: "Yet I have left
me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal,
and every mouth which hath not kissed him" (Verse 18). You, Elijah are
hardly the only man around.
I said it before: We mustnít be disappointed with the subtlety of God.
It is more often than not His preferred manner of operation. And if we
watch for it, we will be far more likely to see it when it comes. When we
pray, we may not have the faith to move mountains. We may not be able to
pray in faith that God will make the tumor just disappear (although He has
done so.) But we can pray for relief from pain, for a good nightís sleep,
a better doctor, better medication.
When you pray, look for that which God may do with subtlety. Look for
the leadership of the Spirit in prayer, and it expect the play to be
subtle. You want to see the lame rise up and walk. That is great if it is
Godís moment for it, but it is disappointing if it is not.
In the night of Jesus betrayal, he went to the Garden of Gethsemane and
prayed fervently that he might not have to go through what lay ahead
(Matthew 26:36-46). This
might be disappointing if it were not for one thing. Jesus was prepared to
go wherever God took him. There was no clap of thunder, no lighting, no
light from heaven. There was, however, one subtle thing. As he lay there
praying and sweating, and angel appeared to him, strengthening him
There was also one other very important thing. Jesus adapted his hopes
to the plan and the method. We are too often disappointed and discouraged
because we fail to make that adaptation.
Now I donít want you to think we shouldnít ask God for the Big Event.
By all means, ask God for the big stuff. He says you have not because
you ask not. But at the same time, look for the subtlety of God, and
join Him in winning the fight before the enemy even knows we are
There was an occasion in Israelís early history when they were terribly
oppressed by the Midianites and God revealed Himself to a man named
Gideon. I recommend reading the whole story beginning with
Judges 6:1 at this link. There are comments in the story.
When Jesus sent out his disciples, he said, "Behold, I send you
forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents,
and harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16). A little subtlety can save the
Paul told the Romans, "For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen
is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we
hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Likewise
the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should
pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us
with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Romans 8:24-26)
Make your requests known to God. Ask as big as you want. But expect God
to be subtle in his reply, because he is that way far more often than not.
And if you are watching for God to be subtle, you will see it. Donít
forget to be thankful for it.
To make a comment on this study, or to ask a question
please click here.
Have you ever
considered what it would mean if you could just live a sinless life?
Youth in Action
Never in our history have young people needed Bible learning and Christian
youth programs more than they do today.