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Now let’s talk about core expectations because I think we have some.

For example, we have an expectation that we can decide our reality, that we can define our identity, that we can determine our security.  This is what we’re all about in life.  This is what we want.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re in business or ministry, in education or politics, it doesn’t matter at all.  You are attempting to decide the reality that you want to have.  You’re attempting to define the identity that you want most and you’re attempting to determine your security so you’re safe.  It may or may not occur to us that our security comes at the cost of others, but that’s kind of their problem, isn’t it? 

And the bottom line of all of these expectations is this:  we can be in control of life.  The problem is, we don’t decide our reality.  We enter in to God’s reality for us.  We have a child who walks away from our values and from our commitment and goes away and grows up and lives a very different kind of life and we didn’t decide that. He decided that.  We become ill, we have a chronic illness, we can’t function effectively.  We can’t stop that.  We didn’t decide that.  We don’t control reality.  

We can’t define our identity.  We can try so hard to kind of have a great personal PR, to maintain a particular perspective, but the people all around us know, that’s not who we are.  And sooner or later, I’ll tell you, someone will take advantage of our efforts and leverage it into gain for them and loss for us. We can only discover the identity God has for us. 

And we don’t determine our security.  How can we determine our security?  We can’t control.  We can’t control the economy, we’re reacting to it all the time.  We can’t control the things people say about us even when they’re wrong and they’re unjust and it can cost us.  We can’t determine our security, we can only trust God to be our security no matter what we face. 

We can’t control life.  When we try we become fearful, we become angry, we become increasingly out of control.   And the amazing thing is the more we try to be in control, the more we’re out of control.  That’s true.  You may go for years being in control, sooner or later, your control will collapse. 

Our expectations are demands that we put on God and others that must be met and when they’re not met we become fearful, we become angry, probably both, certainly one of the two.  We struggle, we wrestle.  Often when we’re caught up in depression it’s because of our unmet expectations.

I’ve gone around the world and I’ve asked people, ‘O.K., what are your expectations?’  So I just want to give you an overview, a list of expectations I’ve collected from Asia, Latin America, Middle East, Eastern Europe…these expectations are pretty universal. 

Here’s one - “I will be successful because I am obeying Jesus.” 

Or, “My accomplishments give me identity…I am somebody because of what I have done.” 

Or, “Jesus owes me because I have given up so much for Him…that’s part of the deal, I give up, He gives to me.  I give to Him, He gives to me.”  It would be a great deal among us as human beings but it’s not necessarily at all the deal He made. 

“My followers should work to make me successful.”  It’s especially true, I think, of pastors.  We don’t really say it but we think it…in our quiet moments we think it.  “Don’t they understand that my success hinges entirely on them?  Don’t they get it?”  No, I’ll tell you as a matter of fact, they don’t. 

“My children will never suffer.”  Painful, painful, painful, painful but there’s no guarantee. 

“My children will make me look good in the Christian community.  I mean that’s what children are for, isn’t it?  They exist to give me illustrations and make me look good.”  That’s kind of a pastoral perspective.” If you’re in business then, you know, it’s going to make you look good, it’s going to make your wife look good, you all go to church together and you’re the ideal family….until your children decide they don’t exist to make you look good. 

“God will give me a mate.”  That’s for the singles, many of whom struggle with being single. 

“My wife or husband will understand me, what I do and why I do it, and not be bothered by it.” 

“Because I waited to marry a Christian my marriage will be tension-free.”  Ha, I’ve actually had people say that to me full of anger because a marriage isn’t tension-free. 

“Because I’m following Jesus I will have no financial concerns.”  That’s an interesting one.  Talk to the believers who are paying a price for following Christ and it’s financial.

“Life will be fair, no one will mistreat me, I will be valued for every contribution I make.”  Again I come back to pastors or maybe ‘life will be fair’, I could speak to pastors’ wives who struggle so greatly with so much injustice at times.  Or the pastor who will be valued and not criticized.

“I will be free from illness.” 

Or, “I can expect my wife to understand the demands I face and never be stressed by them.  She should never be disturbed that I’m out of the house at five in the morning and don’t get home ’til ten at night.  Doesn’t she understand that I’m working not only to provide but to give us far more than provision and the day will come—of course it will be after the children are grown up and gone—but the day will come when I sell this business and I make all kinds of money and then we can be together.”  I don’t think she understands.  She didn’t plan to be a functional widow raising her children. 

“I can expect my wife to cover for me with the children. I can expect her to explain to the children why I have to be gone all the time and not to complain to me.” 

And so I should be in control of my reality, my identity, my security, my life.  I should determine the ultimate outcomes of my life.  I should have a crown, it’s my crown.  Interestingly, all of these expectations are about control not trust.  

So I ask you a question.  How do expectations express themselves in your ministry, in your business, in your management, in your family? What other expectations do you see, whether among businesspeople or other families or pastors or whatever group you belong to?

Remember that the root issue of the Misfocused Mind is a Hardened Heart.  And the interesting thing about the Hardened Heart is this, the Hardened Heart—like Peter, like Andrew, like James, like John—is totally committed to Christ, they were radically, totally committed to Christ, they gave up everything to follow Him.  But it was also selfishly driven by expectations and it was blindly convinced it was right.

That’s why when Jesus told Peter that he pursued the interests of man, I’m not sure he got it.  Because his heart deafened his ears, blinded his eyes, paralyzed his hands. See a Hardened Heart is committed to God’s interests and man’s interests at the same time in the Name of Jesus.  It’s a heart that takes control in order to make its expectations come true.  And the only time we get freedom from expectations is when we put down our crown and take up our cross. 

So I ask you this.  What expectations are in your heart?  And are you ready to gain freedom from those expectations by putting down your crown and taking up your cross because that is where we go next.

 

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