Managing Your Expectations
Have you ever noticed that life doesn’t always turn out the way you had expected? When we are young, we are full of hopes and dreams about how we want our life to be – who we will marry or what career pathway we will choose. What we don’t realize at that age is how difficult and unpredictable life can be. As we approach middle age, having encountered many unexpected difficulties, our expectations gradually begin to change to more closely match our reality. Life, as it turns out isn’t the bed of roses we thought it would be and so much of what happens is out of our control. I recently read a quote that said, “The grass is greener on the other side because it’s fake”. We see this in the highly staged social media world. Comparison thinking is so destructive but the reality is everyone has problems and challenges. The disappointments of life can be very overwhelming and there are times when we need to manage our expectations. As Christians, how can we live in a fallen world and carry on as though everything is okay?
The Apostle Paul says this in his letters to the early churches:
…I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be. I know now how to live when things are difficult and I know how to live when things are prosperous. In general and in particular I have learned the secret of facing either poverty or plenty. I am ready for anything through the strength of the one who lives within me. Philippians 4:11-13 (J.B. Phillips New Testament)
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)
These verses are saying we are to be content and thankful in every situation. If this is the case, then there are definitely some days when I need an attitude adjustment. Is it possible to be content and thankful in extreme situations? How are we to react then? After Paul & Silas commanded an evil spirit to come out of a young girl in the name of Jesus, they ended up in prison. It turns out there were a few people making money from the girl's actions under the influence of those demons. Here is what the magistrate said:
"These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice." The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks." Acts 16:16-24 (NIV)
This is certainly not the reaction they were anticipating after God had just set the little girl free from demonic forces. Now, I’ve never been thrown in prison, but it must have been a rather shocking experience for Paul and Silas. As we read on and see how they handled the situation, it’s hard to believe their response to having just had their clothes ripped off, beaten and thrown in prison with their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here." And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. Acts 16:25-34 (NIV)
What an incredible account of the power and faithfulness of God! How amazing to see Paul and Silas praying, singing and praising God in an unimaginable situation completely out of their control!
We live in a fallen world so circumstances and people on the earth will always be imperfect, difficult and unpredictable. But at the same time, we need to realize that we are not of this world, we are citizens of Heaven and we are to be operating in the supernatural power of God at all times. The things on the earth may be in complete disarray, but we live for a higher purpose in a supernatural realm. What does Jesus say in John 16:33?
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)
Leveraging Your Expectations
The word leveraging means to use something to its maximum advantage. This word is often used when referring to financial matters. Expectation is faith and faith is the currency of Heaven. When we leverage our expectations we are using our faith to get God to move on our behalf. You see, God is not moved by our needs, He is moved by our expectations. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t see and sympathize with the difficulties in our lives, but it means He wants us to come to Him and in faith ask Him for His help. In the day-to-day life of a Christian, we should not expect anything less than what God’s Word says about us and our circumstances.
In the Christian life, high expectation equals faith and it is faith that pleases God. Meditating and speaking God’s Word out of our mouth increases our faith. As we operate in faith by aligning our expectations with the Word of God, we will see results. This may require a little patience on our part, but if we do not grow weary and give up, our faith will be rewarded with results. God’s Word guarantees it!
Although life on this earth has its fair share of disappointments and can be challenging and even heartbreaking, we serve a Mighty God who assures us in John 16:33 that we can take heart because He has overcome the world! He actually wants to work on our behalf in every situation that we face. We need to be in daily communion with the Holy Spirit. Tuning out the sounds of the world and tuning in to His voice, meditating on God’s Word and joyfully praising and worshipping Him. God hasn’t changed. He is still the same God who caused the earthquake that released Paul and Silas out of prison and transformed the lives of the jailer and his family. That is our overcoming God at work! He responded in a big way as they sang and praised God sitting in that prison, bruised and bleeding. If I want that miracle-working power to operate in my life, my attitude needs to be one of contentment, thankfulness and praise in all situations! If He did it for Paul and Silas, He will do it for me!