“What Outcomes Were You Expecting?”

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

If God asks you, “What outcomes were you expecting?,” it can honestly deflate your spirit for a moment. Your answer may leave you feeling even more deflated.

People who ask your guidance and then choose the opposite path in which you instructed them. People who continue to make harmful choices and seem on a path to no return. Government and worldly systems that put forth the same outputs and expect different results. Sigh.

A friend shared with us that several years ago when he began working with juvenile offenders, he had great expectations for changing the lives of the troubled youth he was pouring into day after day. Some of these youth were former gang members who had committed unimaginable offenses. He was certain that his time spent with them was making an impact. Indeed it was. However, some showed no change in their heart and mindsets that led them into detention centers in the first place. To compound matters, he was a government contractor who desired to make an impact within a system that functioned at the pace of gravy and operated with the typical mentality of “this is how we’ve always done it.” It was hard to see change on any level. At the lack of expected progress, my friend cried out to God in frustration.

The Lord responded to my friend in that sure voice and said, “What outcomes were you expecting?” 

Expectations checking the boxes

Upon hearing the Lord’s question, my friend spent a couple days angry. When the Lord speaks, there is such hard truth to His Words. For me, His responses hit my gut like a brick but also give peace to my search for answers. The answer may not be what we want. The Lord’s response was in reference to mankind’s fallen nature and that God gave man the ability to choose to follow Him—or the flesh. My friend already understood this concept—yet, as Believers, when we are deep in the work in representing God’s love and truth to others, we pray great outcomes will be yielded. We pray that those who are lost and sowing to death will choose the path that leads to abundant life (John 10:10).

The Lord later spoke to my dear friend and instructed him exactly what he was to do in working with the troubled youth—a specific word that has helped him manage his expectations, run in his lane in excellence and trust that whatever seeds are planted, God will be glorified. God knows whose hearts are prepared to receive Him and His truth. God also knows those who will not receive Him, and yet, there are benefits that will come simply from our presence with those people.

My dear friend continues to work with juvenile offenders today and no longer overestimates God’s purposes. God’s purposes, as I am learning, are far different than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9).

When my friend shared with us the Lord’s response said to him, “What outcomes were you expecting?, it took my breath momentarily. It felt harsh. I felt the weight of truth in it. The Lord might as well have spoken those words to me. I’ve written on man’s fallen nature and the consequences thereby that adversely impact our society. I’ve written on that scripture in Ecclesiastes 7:29 that speaks of God creating mankind upright and how man has strayed to pursue his/her own ways.

I know all of this. In my expectation for great outcomes and hoping people will surrender ALL and choose to follow Christ Jesus, I quickly forgot that—in planting seeds or watering a seed that someone else planted—a person is still allowed to CHOOSE whether they will follow God’s will or their own will. They may ultimately choose Satan’s counterfeit paths that masquerade as truth. This has been a sorrowful thing to accept. You have probably felt the Godly sorrow in accepting this as well.

Isaiah55_8-9 clouds

“Choose you this day whom ye will serve;” (Joshua 24:15, KJV)

The freedom to choose is available to all of us. As we continue our work as Christ’s Ambassadors until our last days, some seeds will take root. Others may never. But whatever the outcomes, I am encouraged and you should be too. As we display Christ’s light and love to everyone we meet or speak to, there will be light where previously only darkness existed. God is still being glorified! And when Satan attempts to diminish our walk by trying to make us doubt our effectiveness as Christ’s servants, we should quickly dismiss Satan’s attacks with this scripture:

For God’s gifts and His call (on your life) are irrevocable.- Romans 11:29 

Praise God!! Be encouraged and trust God for the outcomes. Keep being salt, light and truth. Keep planting seeds in love. May you have peace in whatever way He chooses to use you to accomplish His purposes.

God bless you and stay staunch,


Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.



Cake Batter Mess Up

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Any bakers in the house? Those of you who’ve mastered the science of baking, I applaud you. You understand (unlike me) that baking is an exact science and you must follow the recipe to…the…letter. Don’t omit or add anything that the recipe doesn’t call for.

Cake baking is such:  1/2 cup butter (room temperature). 1 cup white sugar. 2 eggs. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour. 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder. 1/2 cup milk. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9 x 9 inch pan. In medium bowl add and mix ingredients as recipe directs. Spoon batter into greased pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

If you follow the recipe to the letter, and refrain from repeatedly opening the oven door, your cake should come out beautifully. But what happens IF any ONE of the listed ingredients is not used, is substituted for something else, or creative license is applied? You got it. The cake will not turn out right. If you forget the baking powder, your cake won’t rise. Too much vigorous whisking of the batter will take the air out of your cake, making it heavy like a brick (I’ve done this, so I know). Using tableware instead of measuring spoons to measure the dry products. Again, problems.

Cake mess up

What happens when we take similar shortcuts to address societal issues? You got it. We’ll incur problems. We’ll continue to apply creative and inaccurate solutions that fall short of the desired outcome.


From campaigns, to governments, movements, municipalities, policymakers and frustrated publics, many of these entities have sought to apply solutions, albeit creative ones, to address and forever resolve our most pressing community, national and world issues.

Cake mess up 2

For gun violence, some recommend taking people’s guns. But if you deny someone a gun who is morally debased, they will surely use a knife, their hands or other means to inflict harm upon others. It’s not the weapon, it’s their heart, that’s flawed.

Like forgetting to add baking soda to your cake batter, solutions developed that exclude Jesus Christ from the mix, will continue to fall flat of the behaviorial transformations we desire to see in one another.

Jesus calls us to love one another. It’s His amazing love that transforms people and situations. Without inviting Jesus Christ to change one heart at a time, the millions of dollars and hours spent to advance change will fail. 

It will fail because many subscribe to the belief that people are born “good.” But in fact, there was nothing innocent about any of us when we were born. We were all born into sin, into a fallen nature.

Dr. Gary Roberts, Regent University Robertson School of Government professor, wrote:

“Our world’s spiritual and cultural economy is the aggregated product of collective decisions made by individuals, families, and social institutions. This world is in a fallen state (Romans 5:12, Ephesians 6:12), hence, it is a battleground between good, evil and human indifference. The end result is individual and collective evil and sin, errors of commission and omission, evil thoughts, words and deeds that estrange us from God, ourselves and others (Romans 6:16).”

As a dear sister in Christ said in reference to mankind’s fallen nature before a holy God, “We underestimate our sin. We underestimate who we are.”

Putting on the righteousness of Jesus Christ and yielding our lives to the Holy Spirit is how we overcome our self-tendencies so we can extend goodness, kindness, love, patience and peace toward others.

No shortcuts. Add Jesus Christ to the mix of our mess.


Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.