By Femi Aribisala
Blessed is that man and that woman who is not offended by what Jesus chooses to do and what he chooses not to do.
2016 was a terrible year for John the Baptist. His expectations were not met. He walked with God, kept on the side of righteousness and preached the gospel. Nevertheless, he ended up in Herod’s prison. What kind of reward was that for doing what God asked him to do? Therefore, John sent word to Jesus from his prison-cell and asked him: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3).
Jesus wondered who else John could be expecting. He asked him: “Can’t you see what is going on? Are the blind not seeing? Are the deaf not hearing? Are the lame not walking? Are lepers not getting cleansed? Are the dead not being raised? Is the gospel being preached to the poor? If this is what you were expecting John, then count yourself blessed.” (Matthew 11:4-6).
But no! That was not what we were expecting in 2016. All our expectations were about a world that is going out of fashion. In 2016, we wanted to inherit the world. However, Jesus says: “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36). In 2016, we wanted God to prosper us in the world. But the psalmist says: “It is the ungodly who prosper in the world.” (Psalm 73:12). In 2016, we sought the kingdom of men and its vainglories. However, Jesus says: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33).
Is it any wonder, therefore, if we were disappointed and if our expectations were not met in 2016? Jesus spoke to the crowd about having wrong expectations. He asked them who they expected to see when they went to see John the Baptist in the wilderness. Did they expect to see a sheikh in silk pyjamas? Did they expect to see a man in designer shoes? No; certainly not in the wilderness. If that was what they expected, they would have been disappointed. But if they went expecting to see a prophet, they could not possibly have been disappointed because John was the greatest prophet of his generation.
Were you blessed in 2016? Don’t be too quick to answer. What kind of blessings were you expecting? When Jesus multiplied loaves and fed the multitudes, the people were “blessed.” They acknowledged that it was the work of God. They were so persuaded in this; they even decided to make Jesus their king. But Jesus ran away from them. He was not interested in being a secular king.
Many can only identify the work of God when it affects our stomach or our wallet. God is at work when someone gives us money. God is at work when someone gives us food. But is God at work when there is an earthquake? Is he at work when there is a recession? Can we see God at work when we are in the fire? Can we see him if Lazarus dies?
We believe blessed are those that won the lottery in 2016. But did Jesus promise us the lottery? Did we think blessed are those that got plum jobs in 2016? Or did we conclude we were not blessed because out own job did not materialise?
“Blessed are you when men shall give you money. Shout and leap for joy, for great is your reward on earth.” Are these the promises of God? No, those are the promises of men. Unfortunately, many only teach the promises and expectations of men in the churches and in the process ensure that we end up as frustrated Christians.
Christianity has become akin to playing the lottery. The few winners preach a gospel of their testimonies. But for every man who won the lottery, there are thousands who lost their money and whose hopes were dashed. For every one who won the lottery, there are many others who were disappointed. Hope in the lottery disappoints. But hope in Jesus does not disappoint. Many Christians may be losers in this world of lotteries. But no believer can be a loser in the Lord Jesus.
If we were not blessed in 2016, we only have ourselves to blame. It can only mean we were looking for the blessings God did not promise. Therefore our expectations were cut off. But the expectations of the righteous are never cut off. Some would tell you they were blessed in 2016, however, you will soon discover that what they call blessings have nothing to do with the Lord. The blessings they talk about are often about wealth and riches. However, the blessings of the Lord are not riches: they make rich without adding sorrows with them.
Jesus says blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. If we had hungered and thirsted after righteousness in 2016, then it would have been a fulfilling year. But we hungered and thirsted after material things. That is why we are still feeling empty. Jesus says blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. But unfortunately in 2016 all we saw was what the devil was doing.
Jesus told Nicodemus except a man is born again, he cannot see what God is doing. We claim to be born again; and yet in 2016 we could not see what God was doing. And yet, God was doing a lot all through the year. Jesus says: “My father is always working.” He does not stop working and I do not stop working. He even works on the Sabbath. He even works on public holidays.
Goodness of God
Luke records: “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” (Acts 10:38). He went about doing good. He goes about doing good. He is the same yesterday and today and forever. He did a lot of good in 2016. He will do even more in 2017.
However, we need to have the right expectations; otherwise we will miss God again this New Year. God only works according to the counsel of his own will. That is why he does not have a Council of Ministers or Special Advisers. God only does what he says he will do. He does not do what we say he will do. He does not do what pastors say he will do. Prayer is simply taking back to God what he says he will do. That is what it means to pray in the name of Jesus. It means praying the will of God.
So, if our expectations coincide with the will of God, blessed are we indeed. Blessed is that man and that woman who is not offended in Jesus Christ. Blessed is that man and that woman who is not offended by what Jesus chooses to do and what he chooses not to do. Blessed is that man and that woman who is determined that the will of God must be done. Blessed is that man and that woman who delights to do the will of God. (Psalm 40:7-8).