Expecting Vs Wanting

Wanting vs. Expecting

Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them. Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king. Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. – Daniel 2:12-18 ESV

I was watching a business training video online today and she talked about in it the difference between expecting success and wanting success. She said, “Expecting to succeed and just wanting to succeed are two very different things, because if you expect it, you act very different and you put very different steps in motion than if you just want it. Wanting is just like a pipe dream or a wish.”[1]

Our small group is studying Daniel and a topic that we discussed last time we got together seems to line up exactly with this definition. Daniel expected God to come to his aid, so he put different steps in motion than I probably would have in his place. I believe that we can and should apply this idea to our faith, just as he did.

In chapter 2 of Daniel, we find the King Nebuchadnezzar is demanding an interpretation to a vision he’s had. When he finds they can’t meet his demands, he orders all their deaths. Daniel doesn’t know about any of this, even though he is among the ones that have sentenced to death, so he goes to the captain of the guard to learn what’s happening.

When he hears that a dream is the cause of the trouble, Daniel immediately sets up an appointment with the king to interpret it for him. Then, Daniel goes to his friends and asks them to pray for him to receive the interpretation, which he receives in a dream.

The part of this story that is about expectation is the moment right after he talks to the captain of the guard about why he’s been sentenced to death. The moment that he heard the reason, he went to get an appointment with the king. THEN, he went and got prayers. First, he took action, then he begged before the Lord with his friends.

I’m sure there was prayer coming out of him the whole time, as this was probably a very intense time for him. I’m not trying to say that we should not pray before taking an action. I’m saying that I think we should trust our relationship with God enough to know when to take an action and when to stop and pray before taking that action.

Daniel didn’t stop and ask God if it was alright to go tell King Nebuchadnezzar that he would interpret the dream. He didn’t ask God for a guarantee about getting that interpretation. He didn’t try to beg for more time or ask, “Why me?!”

What he told his friends to do was to, “seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery.” That doesn’t sound like what you ask for when you’re confident of the answer. That sounds more like asking to get the answer, which means: Daniel didn’t have the answer when he set up the appointment with the king. He had no idea what the dream was and he didn’t know the outcome of the conversation that would happen.

Daniel knew something far more important. Daniel expected God to help in his time of need, not just wishing for it. He also knew that he had to ask for it from the Lord; he couldn’t just waltz into the king’s court unprepared and expect the Lord would hand answer to him. Daniel walked the line of expected God’s answers and taking the action that happens as a result of that expectation, while still staying humble before the Lord and seeking Him in all things.

You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. – Psalm 73:24 ESV


[1] Renae Christine

Fret Not Over Evil Doers - Psalm 37:7

Trust in His Long-Term Plan

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. – Psalm 37:1-6 ESV


When we read an inspirational scriptures, we can often imagine the passage in glowing and pretty images. We feel warm and fuzzy over what it says, but we don’t’ stop to think about how the passage would look in real life if we lived it out. Psalm 37 is one of these that has beautiful, true, and inspiring promises. However, if we pick out only those phrases, we don’t see the true image that’s being painted of what we are stepping into.

Truth 1: There are evildoers, and we must let them be. This passage is about letting the Lord fight our battles and believing in His long-term plan. It’s about how we’re supposed to live in the midst of bad people. We sometimes act like, as Christians, it’s our job to get rid of the bad people or at least convince them their bad and try to make them stop doing bad things. Psalm 37 is saying that there are evil people in the world, and we’re not to get worked up about it, but to let the Lord deal with them in his way and His time.

Truth 2: Our righteousness is to be highlighted by God, not us or our friends. Our righteousness isn’t defined by what group of people we associate with or how good we’ve followed a list of rules. We are to wait on the Lord to acknowledge our righteousness, not ourselves. He will bring it about, after we are patient. Note, it says, after we wait on Him; He doesn’t say it will happen right when we want it, or when it will make us look good to other people, or anything else that is based on our desires and expectations. It’s His work to do and it will be done in His time and His ways. Our job is to wait.

Truth 3: Belief first. We often want God to answer our prayers or give us blessing and then we’ll believe Him. We don’t say that outright, of course. Our minds are a lot more nuanced and complicated than that. This passage highlights how important it is to put our belief in God first, before we demand proof or blessing or protection. Our hearts must be in Him and held there as circumstances change. We will face temptation after temptation to remove our faith and hold onto something more tangible and immediate.

God promises us wonderful things, but the path to those blessings is one of patience in the face of evil, wait for acknowledgement from Him alone, and choosing to believe no matter whether circumstances make you look crazy or not. This is a slightly less rosy picture than just believing for happy blessings. However, if we can keep this image in our mind, we will stay closer to God during the less rosy times. Otherwise our happy image of how things should be collides with the truth of our reality and we feel disillusioned or let down.

Life isn’t pretty or easy, but God will come through in the end. Don’t let the selfishness and harm that comes from the evil in the world stop our eyes from seeking the Lord. We must remember to not worry or be jealous of their success or fear that God has forgotten to deal with them. God is the boss and He will bring about His justice in the perfect time.

Rejoicing at what the Lord Says - Nehemiah 8:12

Hearing, Believing, and Changing

And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. … And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” … And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them. – Nehemiah 8:1, 9-10, 12 ESV

Nehemiah was a prophet who lived in the time that the Babylonian exile ended. At the time that the exiles were returning to Jerusalem, he had been in the court of the king in Babylon. But, when he heard that Jerusalem was destroyed and walls in ruins, he gave up his high position and went back to help rebuild the city. Part of what Nehemiah did for the people was to teach them about the Law of Moses. Over the seventy years of captivity and exile, the habits and traditions around keeping the law had fallen away.

In Nehemiah chapter 8, we see the effect that the renewing of the laws and traditions had on the people. Ezra the scribe was asked to read the Law of Moses to the people. As they heard it being read, clearly and so they could understand it, the people started weeping. Nehemiah and the Levites reminded them that this is a time of joy, not weeping. They said, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” (v. 9). In verse 12, it explains a little more what the people were going through, “And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions [to the poor] and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.”

I love this story! Everything is here that shows us what we need to do to make changes happen and stick in our lives is here. These parts are

  • Knowledge and Understanding
  • Connection
  • Supporting leadership
  • Willingness to obey

The first part has two elements to it: knowledge and understanding. The people weren’t being rebellious or defiant; they simply didn’t know what they were supposed to be doing. Nehemiah doesn’t try to correct behavior first thing. He knows that they have to know the truth of God and be taught it. It might seem like splitting hairs to say that knowledge and understanding are different, but the nuance of them is captured in the part that says, “They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.” (v.8 NIV). They didn’t just put the words out there and tell the people to start a Bible study if they didn’t understand it. They explained it in such a way that they understood what they heard. They now had the knowledge of the law and the understanding of it as well.

The second piece of this is connection. Religion is an abstract concept. It is an idea that we can’t always define quickly and easily. These abstract concepts include things like: there’s a powerful being who is intelligent and loving, but invisible and intangible, and ideas like love, mercy and justice. Even if the intangible is acknowledged, it can be difficult to apply this knowledge to our lives, or, said another way, to care about it. To take all these things and believe that they are real and important enough to be willing to change our lives for is a huge step of faith.

This step of faith can only happen when something connects us with the truth that’s in the knowledge we’ve gained. Knowledge alone isn’t enough, in most cases, to change a person or commit their steps to a path that will cost them personally with no earthly gain in site. That kind of belief is found only in the presence of the Lord. Only when we accept the words of understanding and allow them to connect us to His Spirit. This is why the people wept, because they were so overwhelmed with the Spirit that they felt the connection to Him deeply and personally.

The next piece of this story is the supportive leadership shown by Nehemiah and the Levites. All of Israel is gathered here and is crying. I imagine that some of the Levites were a bit overwhelmed by the people’s response. Thousands of people crying would be intimidating! Fortunately, Nehemiah knew what was happening and knew how to support the people as the Spirit was working in them.

He offered them a day to celebrate the goodness of God while they absorbed the love and knowledge they’d gained. He sent them home, telling them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (v. 10). The first time you feel the moving of the Spirt, you might not know how to handle it. Nehemiah is given them the opportunity to enjoy the moment and to have a good meal (eat the fat) and make sure the poor in the group can enjoy a good meal as well.

The final part of this is the willingness to obey. In the next section of chapter 8 and 9, Nehemiah and the other leaders and priests start implementing what they’ve been reading in the Law, right away, no wasted time! The people celebrate and rejoice in this and join in wholeheartedly.

When we’ve been brought into a new understanding of God’s truth, we need to be willing to step into obedience as well, without hesitation and with wholehearted devotion. This is the only way we can see the true change in us: hear it, understand it, celebrate it (leaders support it), and do it.