Advent 2021 begins on Nov. 28 and ends on Dec. 24.

During this season of Advent, join us for weekly devotions as we enter into a time of expectation and anticipation in preparation for Christmas.

An expectation of expansion

By The Rev. Dr. Terrance Gattis

And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory!” — I Chronicles 4:10, NKJV 

The year was 2000 when a little book became a big international bestseller: The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson. The book expounds on a brief prayer tucked away in a genealogy, a prayer that was prayed by a little-known man by the name of Jabez.

What’s interesting about this prayer is that Jabez was calling upon God to help him accomplish what God had already promised to the descendants of Abraham (Genesis 22:17). In short, Jabez was standing on the promises of God. His expectation of expansion was not based on who he was, but rather on who God is and what God had promised.

In truth, the prayer of Jabez can be a source of encouragement and hope for all of us. Without question, this has been a rough year for families who partner with Habitat for Humanity, for our local affiliates and for our ministry, especially internationally. Many are still struggling with the sickness, stress and sorrow that COVID-19 has caused. But the good news is that our God does awesome and miraculous things during rough times. As a matter of fact, it’s going to be during these rough times that God is going to enlarge our territory and bless us to serve more families in some new ways!

As believers who’ve been entrusted to carry out the mission of serving families, it is crucially important that we never forget who God is. God is the creator and sustainer of the Earth. God is a provider and a bridge over troubled waters. God is love. And our God is also a promise keeper. Jabez understood this aspect of God’s character, and he prayed by faith that God would enlarge his territory because that’s what God had promised. And according to the story, “God granted his request.”

So, as we celebrate this Advent season, let us look forward with expectation. Let us not surrender to despair or let the rough season that we’ve been through cast doubt on the great future that awaits us. God is with us, which is why, like Jabez, we can pray with confidence: “Oh, that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my territory.”

Prayer

Gracious and loving God, we thank You for another opportunity to come before You in prayer. We thank You for Your love, for Your goodness and mercy toward us, and for the many ways that You have blessed this ministry called Habitat. As we celebrate during this Advent season, we pray that You will pour out Your Spirit upon us afresh. Bless us to anchor our faith and hope in who You are, and as we look forward with expectation to the great things that You have for us, help us to stand firm on Your promises. We offer this prayer in the name of Your son and our savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Questions

  • What does expansion look like in your specific work at Habitat?
  • Which of God’s promises are you currently standing on?
  • What are you believing and expecting that God will do for Habitat and for your personal life?

The Rev. Dr. Terrance Gattis is the associate director of corporate partner operations in the Resource Development department of Habitat for Humanity International. He is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and also is the pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Stockbridge, Georgia.

Trust the process

By Marcus Reed

I am counting on the LORD; yes, I am counting on him. I have put my hope in his word.  Psalm 130:5, NLT

God is always working behind the scenes. In Habitat for Humanity’s transformational goals to triple our funds, scale and impact as the global leader in addressing the housing deficit, God is at work. Trust Him, prepare for the fruit and be patient.

As I have been writing this, I have been glued to the Olympic Games. The pageantry and competition are like no other. As I marvel at the extraordinary athletic displays, I think about the level of preparation involved for everyone to make it to this stage. For most, these games are a culmination of a lifelong commitment to preparation and trusting the process. There is no better example than Sydney McLaughlin, the women’s 400-meter hurdles gold medalist from the United States. Sydney not only won the gold, but also broke her own world record time. After winning, she reflected on her faith-based expectations: “I just kept hearing God say, ‘Just focus on Me.’ It was the best race plan I could have ever assembled. I no longer run for self-recognition, but to reflect His perfect will that is already set in stone. I don’t deserve anything. But by grace, through faith, Jesus has given me everything. Records come and go. The glory of God is eternal. Thank You, Father.”

God will never leave us. He’s promised that He will be with us always, no matter what, in any and every situation, whether we realize it or not. We need to wait expectantly as we trust God to act and provide. As we wait on God, it is crucial that we consistently work to prepare for the fruit. Like farmers, we need to wait expectantly. While a farmer waits, he prepares for the harvest. He gets ready. He doesn’t sit around thinking, “I wonder if this is going to grow or not.” He expects it to grow. He prepares for the harvest so that when it comes, he can reap the benefits — trusting the process.

Our expectations are in the promise of the transformation of Habitat to eradicate housing deficiencies worldwide. We will continue to work diligently through increased efficiencies, greater collaboration and integration across our global network, and better stewardship of our relationships and funding.

As we celebrate this Advent season, may our expectation in the works of God yield extraordinary results.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your continued works. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” With this word, we know that You are preparing us for where we are going. We understand the preparation may not be easy. We also understand that as we go through the process, we will be in a waiting season. Provide us with the strength and courage to focus on You and trust the process. 

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Questions

  • How does your faith create expectations?
  • What have you been waiting on God to do in your life? 
  • What do you think He might be waiting on you to do in the meantime?
  • In what ways can you prepare yourself while you wait for God to work?

Marcus Reed is the director of information and technology services for Enterprise Entity Management at Habitat for Humanity International. He is based in Atlanta, Georgia.

The reality of expectations

By Jack Bridges

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. — Proverbs 3:5, KJV

Most likely many of us have experienced moments of isolation, fear and uncertainty. When such feelings of powerlessness would overwhelm me, my parents always urged me to trust in the power of faith. That is where the tricky part for me begins, however. The coexistence of faith and expectations tended to blur in my world. When situations would spiral out of control, I realized my battle was not one that goes away with a prayer, a pill, a tweet or any other modern invention. It came back to the basics of truly understanding my faith and giving myself the room to understand that my direction was not always in my control.

I do not know the battle or the tribulations that you may be facing, such as a lost family member, financial hardship, loneliness, etc. I do, however, believe in the power of taking the time to find the distinction between faith and expectations. I say search within yourself and give yourself the room not to know the answer or purpose. It is in this space that I found my bridge to discovery — about myself, the world around me, and my connection to God. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught me that the world is not ours to control, but we can take part in how we embrace or cherish our encounters with others.

At Habitat, we often are provided with pretty clear expectations on how to apply solutions to major problems. Often we collaborate to come up with responses that will help forward our mission. However, in other parts of our lives, we often encounter problems for which there are no clear and perfect answers. This is where faith comes into the equation for me. My expectations are not often my reality, but the framework of my faith guides me in how I engage the world. Our expectations are strong concepts that take us toward a possible goal. Our faith is the transportation that keeps us moving past the ups and downs. 

Imagine the expectation of the people of God who were expecting a warrior messiah. They had a clear vision of what would bring them true freedom. The reality was far removed from their own expectations. During this Advent season, may we search within ourselves and celebrate getting to know our own unique faith. May we give ourselves the freedom sometimes to let go of our expectations and always to trust in our faith.

Prayer

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can; 
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; 
enjoying one moment at a time; 
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; 
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it; 
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will; 
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next. 
Amen.

Questions

  • In what circumstances do you feel in control? What has caused you to feel most out of control?
  • When that happens, what do you do?
  • In what specific ways do you call upon your faith to help you cope when your expectations do not match your reality?
  • What are you doing to bring a sense of normalcy to your life?

Jack Bridges is the director of SHOP funds at Habitat for Humanity International. He is based in Atlanta, Georgia.

An expectation of hope and a future

By Robert Sanders

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. — Jeremiah 29:11, KJV

What a blessing to know that God has great plans for us — plans for hope and a future!

I think it’s safe to say that the past couple of years have been turbulent for us all. The COVID-19 virus has impacted our lives in ways that most of us never imagined. Daily we face legitimate fears and uncertainty regarding the well-being of our family, our friends and our co-workers. 

No one could be blamed for falling prey to the anxiety and depression that builds up over time after so much confusion and loss. Too many are still experiencing the horrors of this disease, and communities all over the world continue to suffer from the physical, mental and economic impact of this deadly virus.

But there is good news! We must continually remind ourselves that our God who sees all and knows all has not forgotten about us. He has a way out. Another version of the Scripture passage above says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

We can find peace and joy in knowing with certainty that the creator of the universe is thinking about each of us. He loves you and me enough to keep us at the forefront of His mind. It is such a relief to know that Almighty God has plans (plural) to bring us to a place of peace and prosperity, and to give us hope and a future. We don’t have to figure it all out, nor do we have to understand it all. God has multiple ways of bringing us through and out of any situation. Joshua 1:1-9 tells us that we must be strong and courageous, keeping our focus on the promises of God’s word.

Habitat for Humanity has played and will continue to play an instrumental part in God’s plan to provide hope and a future to those without a decent place to live. As members of the Habitat community, we are God’s hands and feet, and He uses us daily to help bring those in need to His “expected end.”

During the Advent season, may our prayers be filled with expectation, and may we trust in God’s promises.

Prayer

Lord, thank You for Your grace and Your mercy. Thank You for loving us enough to always have us on Your mind. Remind us, O Lord, to maintain an expectation of hope for a prosperous future because that is Your plan for us. Amen.

Questions

  • Have you experienced anxiety and/or depression during and because of the pandemic? 

  • During this difficult time, have you seen God move in unexpected ways in your life and/or in the lives of others?

  • What does a prosperous future look like for you?

Robert Sanders is the manager of general ledger accounting in the comptroller’s office of Habitat for Humanity International. He is based in Atlanta, Georgia.