Under-promise, then over-deliver.
It’s not a bad way to live. You might even argue it’s a wise way to live. If you make it a habit of underpromising and then overdelivering, you build in reasonable expectations for yourself. And you also add a measure of protection for yourself in that rare occasion when you actually can’t overdeliver.
So at work, that’s why you pad the deadline. Or as a parent, you use phrases like “we’ll see.” You are hedging, knowing you can probably do even more than what is asked of you, but you don’t want to be held accountable to that higher standard.
Hmmm… put that way, maybe it’s not such a good way to live. But it’s certainly better than the alternative:
Over-promise, then under-deliver.
That’s far worse. That’s when you really get in trouble. That’s when you develop a reputation as someone who doesn’t keep their word or has unreal expectations of their own abilities and capacity. So that’s not very good either.
Probably best, then, is to just promise and deliver. To have a realistic estimation of what you can do and then always follow through on what you said you would achieve. This is, after all, what we find in God. We don’t find a God who needs to hedge his bets just in case He can’t come through, nor do we find a God who is so weak that He can’t keep His word. We find a God who promises, and then delivers.
And yet – we also find a God that exceeds our expectations:
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Eph. 3:20-21).
But how can that be? If God tells us what He’s going to do, and then does what He says, how can He exceed our expectations? The reason, of course, does not lie in God’s ability to make promises or deliver on those promises; the reason our expectations are exceeded is because of us. It’s because we can’t grasp the immensity of these promises, or we misunderstand the nature of these promises, or because we simply can’t believe these promises are real. So even though God tells us the truth, we are still surprised when it actually happens. Here are three specific example:
1. We are more than forgiven.
As Christians we believe that Jesus has taken our punishment on Himself. That in Christ, we have “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Eph. 1:7). That though we deserved eternal punishment, Jesus took our place. But God goes beyond forgiveness. We are not only forgiven; we are adopted:
In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will… (Eph. 1:5).
Not only are we forgiven, but we are brought into God’s family. We are given a seat at His table as co-heirs with Jesus.
2. We have more than peace.
When we hear the word “peace,” we tend to think about it in terms of the negative. That is, that peace means a lack of conflict. And that is true:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… (Rom. 5:1).
Apart from Christ, we are in conflict with God because of our sin. We are rebels to His kingdom and His righteousness, but in Christ, that conflict is removed. But we have much more than a lack of conflict.
In Old Testament terms, we live in shalom. While that’s the word translated to English as “peace,” it’s so much more than that. Shalom is not just a lack of conflict; it’s wholeness. Completeness. A state in which there is no lack for anything. This is what God brings us into – He doesn’t just remove the conflict; He makes us complete in every way.
3. We have more than provision.
As Christians, we believe God will provide for us. Of course He will. As Jesus told us, if God provides for the birds in the air and the flowers of the field, how will He also not provide for us? We should not worry about tomorrow in light of this provision.
But God provides for us in a way that exceeds our expectations. Not in the sense that He will provide more money, a bigger house, and more lavish possessions though. He provides every single thing we need for something more precious and lasting than earthly wealth and prosperity:
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires (2 Peter 1:3-4).
God provides everything we need to follow Him in godliness. Every single thing. We have the Word. We have the Spirit. We have the church. We have everything He has to offer to help us navigate the perils of this world and come safely into the next one.
This is the goodness and grace and generosity of God. This is our God who exceeds all our expectations.