His Terms, Not Ours

by Julie Zine Coleman

“It is a fundamental principle in the life and walk of faith that we must always be prepared for the unexpected when we are dealing with God.”      D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The stream of pilgrims entering the city had been steady for several days. It was time for Passover, and every male living within fifteen miles of the city was required to come to celebrate in Jerusalem. One particular group of travelers stood apart from the rest.

As they ascended into town from the Mount of Olives, some of the men began to spread their coats or freshly cut palm branches on the road before them. The object of their tribute came into view, astride a donkey. As He neared the city gate, the surrounding crowd began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” This was obviously no ordinary pilgrim.

The scene was reminiscent of another historical triumphal entry. Antiochus, King of Syria, had desecrated the Temple by offering swine flesh to Zeus at the altar of God. After the battle in which Antiochus was soundly defeated, the victorious Simon Maccabaeus was welcomed into Jerusalem with shouts of joy and branches of palm trees. Now, 150 years later, history seemed to replay itself as Jesus rode into the city. Waving palm branches and shouts of acclamation announced the arrival of another conquering hero.

The crowd believed that Jesus had come to oust their enemies and lead them to political independence. Their expectations were reflected in the very words they shouted. “Hosanna” literally means “save now!” It was a conqueror’s welcome they gave Jesus, but they did not comprehend the kind of conqueror He came to be.  He would score victory over an oppressor, but the oppressor was not Rome. It was the death-grip of sin. He came on His terms, not theirs.

Days later, the crowd was shouting at Jesus again. But this time the words were vastly different: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” He had failed to meet their expectations. And so they rejected Him as their Messiah.

Has God ever failed to meet your expectations? In the two years my mother was dying, I had expectations of God. I would not suffer grief like most people. I had the Lord in my life. I assumed He would be there for me and hold me close and shield me through the process. So I cried out to Him in anticipation, waiting for Him to reveal Himself to me and fill me with peace.

It was like shouting into the wind. I got nothing.

His silence shook my faith to its very foundation. Where was God? This was the hardest trial I had ever encountered. Why was He silent when I so desperately needed Him?

I was hurting so badly I could hardly see straight. I wanted out from the pain. But God had plans for my pain. He would use it to mold me more closely into the image of Christ. I would learn to identify with Him by going through the process of grief and suffering. Most importantly, I would experience a deeper intimacy with Him as I learned to lean on and trust Him on a whole new level. He proved Himself faithful through the crisis. But He came to me on His terms, not mine.

When God seems to let you down, it’s time to look at why you are disappointed. Maybe it’s time to adjust your expectations.

The crowd on Palm Sunday those many centuries ago was looking for a temporary fix. They wanted peace and an easier life. God had something bigger and far better in mind for them. What He would accomplish over the next few days had eternal implications. They would be given a chance of peace with Him, a cure for their sin, and a hope for an eternity in heaven. His goals were far superior to any the crowd could have imagined.

We are limited in our understanding of God’s plan for us. We go for the temporary fix quite often, begging for relief from our temporary discomfort or pain. But He has higher goals for us than that. He will use the pain to accomplish what will afford eternal benefit. His terms are superior to ours. And we can trust Him to deliver far greater things than we can even know to ask.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”       2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NASB  

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300

About the author: Julie Zine Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or crafting. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Did you know Arise Daily has a book that just released? Arise to Peace is a compilation of devotionals from 72 well-loved authors in the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Julie Coleman served as General Editor for the project. Order your copy today!

Join the conversation: How has God surprised you with better than you could have imagined?

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