Vision and Expectation

Lon’s Solomon’s message on Sunday was all about vision and expecting God to do great things. He talked about William Carey and his statement – “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” According to Lon, expectation is rooted in a person’s credibility and power.  The main point of the sermon was that “because of God’s boundless power and His proven faithfulness, we can have unlimited expectations of what God can do […] and to approach life in any other way is an insult to the Almighty God.” You can find the full sermon (entitled “Expect Great Things From God, Attempt Great Things For God – Part 1”) here: http://www.mbclive.org/

Josh and I talked on Sunday about how much we love vision messages – maybe because we’re both so visionary and have the tendency to look way out and dream really big. Almost daily one of us makes statements that begin like this: “When I run…” or “If I ever am in charge of or have the opportunity to lead…” But I think last night I realized that sometimes even I don’t dream big enough, I don’t expect enough. Last night, when I found myself surprised by God drawing someone to Himself via very non-traditional means, I also found myself disapointed in my own faith. I want to be in a place where I’m constantly amazed by God, but never surprised at His almighty power and absolutely incredible faithfulness. And even though I don’t always expect enough, that’s one of the things I LOVE about God – that sometimes He sweeps us off our feet by His grace and shows us to what lengths He will go to pursue one single individual.

If I’m going to be in ministry, even as a part-time volunteer, such expectation and faith needs to be standard, even baseline, in my heart. Especially since my long-term goal is to be in full-time ministry in the next few years. It’s understandable to be in a state of constant amazement and wonder at the greatness of our God, but we must also expect Him to intervene in our lives, change us, draw us closer to Him, and to be shaped into His image.

Jesus had such incredible expectation, in relation to the Father, that He submitted to the Father’s will and suffered on the cross (Matt. 26-27). I know I’ve previously discussed how expectations can limit and stifle… however, when expectations are placed on the God of the universe… our faith grows and we begin to dream big dreams and believe big things about the God we serve. For all of the ways that sometimes a relationship with God resembles our earthly relationships, this area is completely different. In a relationship with God, expectations EXPAND our lives and our love for Christ. He wants to be expected to keep His promises and to show Himself to be who He is – the God in whom we live and breathe and have our being (Acts 17:28). It’s a truly beautiful thing.

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Expectations

Today was a really rough day. Seems like a lot of life situations all came together and broke me not once, but multiple times throughout the day. I tend to store up stress, anxiety, concern, hurt, and pain all together until I just can’t hold any more… and then it all comes pouring out, accompanied by tears, as a few not-so-fortunate individuals found this evening. It’s not that I don’t pray about things – most days this summer I’ve felt almost like I pray without ceasing about some situation or another – I think I’m finding instead that it’s my perspective that predisposes me to this type of response.

Tonight’s Gathering service was like finding water after a long time in the desert. And I know that sounds dramatic, and very well might be, but it definitely helped to put today, and in fact, my entire summer into perspective.

John talked about expectations and how our expectations affect the outcomes of our lives. His message was mostly geared toward those who underestimate God and His love and what kind of expectations we should really have when it comes to our relationship with Him. And that aspect of it was great, but it opened up my eyes to a lot of the real sources of the discomfort, pain, and even anger that I’ve encountered and walked through over the past several months.

The real source is me. It’s all about my expectations. The expectations I place on other individuals and their ability to perform and to love me well, the expectations I place on myself to always do what should be done and in the manner it should be done in (to achieve perfection or as near to it as is humanly possible), and the expectations I’ve placed on God – asking and expecting Him to fit into the box I’ve created for Him without even knowing I’ve done so.

expectations placed on others

Somewhere in the midst of all the craziness I’ve forgotten an important lesson that God began teaching me last fall regarding expectations and loving people.  The two don’t go together. God’s showing me again what it means to love completely – as He loves. And that means loving with no expectations, no demands, no agenda, etc. I am to love people for who they are and for what they will be, not for who I expect them to be.

This was my conclusion last fall: if I have any agenda, any requirements, or any expectations, I merely barter my affection. For my love to be complete, I have to love without conditions.

This is my conclusion this fall/end of summer: there’s also a real difference between expectations and anticipation. And it’s okay to be disappointed when things fall through, when people let me down, and when situations beyond anyone’s control just simply don’t happen as planned. And I shouldn’t be upset with myself for anticipating. Anticipation, after all, is a very nice thing when its dream is fulfilled.

expectations placed on myself

I’m a perfectionist extraordinaire. I absolutely can’t stand it when I don’t perform to the best of my ability, or when I make stupid mistakes, or find that my laziness or lack of wisdom has created a large problem that I must face.

Days like today are actually such a blessing, because I am forced to remember how truly human I am and that there’s absolutely nothing in my life that I can handle on my own – I am forever going to need Christ and His mercy, love, and grace. The truth is that I’m not really capable of living up to anyone’s expectations – even my own – without a solid relationship with Christ and the companionship and help of the Holy Spirit. His wisdom is absolutely essential to my life and I need to be so much more sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

expectations placed on God

This one’s a bit more difficult and spans my entire lifetime. John (McGowan, not the apostle) is completely correct in his statement that the expectations we place on God really do determine what our experience with Him is like. And I think that if our perception of Him is distorted that our expectations will be as well. The difference between how we should see God and how we should see people is that we absolutely must see them for what they are. God is God… He is I AM and can be no other. All throughout His Word, He invites our expectations:

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.” Eph. 3:20-21

I think the difficulty here lies in determining which expectations are Biblically-sound and which are the result of misunderstandings of Scripture, false teaching, and our desire that God conform to our image of Him, rather than allowing ourselves to be molded and shaped into the likeness of Christ. And that is a much longer post for a later date…

all of that to say that I need to change. I need to be more like Christ. I need to stop expecting people to behave in certain ways and simply appreciate them; I need to take a step back from all of the things I’m doing and with some sort of objectivity determine if the expectations I’ve placed on myself are realistic, and even more importantly, evaluate their worth in the kingdom of heaven… and lastly, I need to continue to take a closer look at Scripture and continue to deeply pursue the truth of who God is and what that means in terms of what I expect Him to do in my life.