“What do you expect?”  The question can mean many things.  When people complain how another person has treated them, we might mumble, “What do you expect?  He’s always been that way!”  When we already have a poor opinion of someone and that person fails us once again, “What do you expect!” is our cry of exasperation.


Asked in a cynical way, “What do you expect?” becomes quite a negative put-down.  But that’s NOT how we’re asking the question here.  What do you expect… of God?  What do you look for when you teach or read His Word?  What will God do?  What should we expect?


Well, let’s look at His promises.  What has He said He will do?  Here’s a familiar one:  “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11).


Make no mistake about it, God’s Word is going to do what God wants it to do.  But it will be on God’s timetable, not ours.


Here’s another:  “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith we preach); because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved… For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:8,9,13)


Everyone.  This also means you!  And everyone who confesses Christ as a result of your witness to Christ.


Now for one that even the disciples found hard to believe.  Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53).  Where do you expect to find that flesh and blood today?  Where does Jesus give life today?


He promised: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven… For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:18,20)  And again, “Take eat, this is my body… this is my blood of the new testament, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26,28)  And once more, the Bible promises, “We were buried therefore with Christ by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4).


Here it is!  When we bring one another the word of Christ’s forgiveness, it is Christ Himself speaking that word!  When we were baptized, God united us with Christ.  When we receive Christ’s body and blood, He forgives, renews, restores, gives life!


Check out this promise:  “You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Word of God; for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.  The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord abides forever.’ That word is the good news which was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:23-25).


What abides forever is the Word, which includes the whole thing that God does in Jesus Christ to save you, the whole thing that now comes to you in this Word.


What are you expecting God’s Word to do through your witness for Christ?  “Oh, pastor, we’ve tried that before…”  If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that…  Could it be that our witness is weak because we doubt that God is really going to do anything anyway? Or because we become discouraged when God does not work on our time table?


God does have His own time table, as we say in the Augsburg Confession, “through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit, when and where he pleases.” (Tappert, p. 31).  But what God calls US to do is simply to speak His Word of Law and Promise fully expecting God to back it up and bring results on His time table.  So do look for results from your witness!  Do look for the fruits.  Do expect God to be faithful to His promises!  Do spread the seed of His Word liberally (i.e., all over the place!), for the Word of God will do what God wants it to do.


+ Herbert Mueller