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TMK
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Joined: 2012/2/8
Posts: 5380
NC, USA

 The Risk of High Expectations

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever." (Eph. 3:20-21)
~The Apostle Paul, addressing the potential of the Church

"The lowest expectations bring the greatest rewards."
~My brother, addressing the potential of the 2011-12 Cleveland Cavaliers


When I read my brother's Facebook post quoted above, it gave me a good chuckle. In fact I laughed out loud when I read it. It is an example of a thing that is so sad it's funny-- sort of like Eeyore on "Winnie the Pooh." I responded to his post by stating that having low expectations is my default position when it comes to the LeBron-less Cavs, as well as other Cleveland sports teams.

But we have to be extremely careful about carrying this attitude when it comes to our faith. I believe that one of the enemy's primary strategies is to instill this attitude into as many Jesus-followers as possible. Why? Because the result of such an attitude is lethargy, a lack of zeal, a hardened heart and just plain lukewarmedness. And, as Jesus would say about that, "gag." (Rev. 3:16, loosely paraphrased).

But what causes this attitude to creep in? How does a person with great faith slip into the mindset that when it comes to God, "the lowest expectations bring the greatest rewards?" The causes are many, but here are a couple that I can relate to:

~~We hear of miraculous healings, even people being raised from the dead, but we never actually see it for ourselves. It's always in that city in another state, or that far-off country, or in someone else's church or ministry. Meanwhile, people we know and love suffer from horrible diseases and die premature deaths, despite our best efforts to bring God's Kingdom into the situation.

~~We pray and pray for revival in our town, our schools, our region, but it never seems to happen. Revival is always breaking out somewhere else (usually in some far away country or city), so we are left talking about great moves of God in the past, or talking about what God is getting ready to do because we have never actually experienced the real thing for ourselves.

These are just a couple of examples. If you are honest, and you might as well be, you can probably come up with others. The risk of high expectations is the risk of disappointment and disillusionment, pure and simple. So, to protect our fragile psyches, we simply lower our expectations. A person with low expectations is hard to disappoint, and easy to please. This season, a Cleveland Cavs fan is happy if they only lose by 10 points, as opposed to 20.

Friends, this attitude when it comes to our faith is pure venom- a good couple of fangs' worth. It is poison for a believer and, quite frankly, inexcusable. Note that I did not say that it is not understandable, just inexcusable. It is an attitude that we must fight and renounce with every ounce of our being if we are going to move the Kingdom forward on this earth.

But what’s the big deal? If we just want to sit back and never expect much to happen, and if we are just content with the status quo, and if we are perfectly comfortable with the attitude that God can do whatever He wants, but that He just doesn’t do very much, so what?

The answer is simple—: if we as believers aren’t going to do it, it just isn’t going to get done. Sure, God can do whatever He wants without help from us. But He won’t. That is not in His nature and it is not in His plan for the ages. Look at Paul’s statement again: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, ACCORDING TO THE POWER THAT WORKS IN US, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever” (Eph. 3:20-21). We like to quote the first part of the verse, but we forget the capitalized part.

Here is another passage with a similar idea: "I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, THROUGH THE CHURCH, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph. 3:7-11)

You see, we cannot get away with having low expectations, because God has HUGE expectations that depend, yes depend, on us. Just read those two passages again if you have any doubts about this.

For some reason, it is in our nature to feed on disappointment and failures. I mean we gorge on this stuff until it is coming out of our ears. This translates into the mindset of having low expectations. Instead of dwelling and meditating on what God had done or what He has promised, or even on the fact that He is with us every moment of every day, we are afflicted with the “yeah, but” syndrome. “Yeah, but we prayed and laid our hands on that person but nothing happened.” “Yeah, but we pleaded for God to intervene in a bad situation and He didn’t.” “Yeah, but…” thinking is a cancer and a faith killer. How in the world can we “boldly approach the throne” if “yeah, but” is lurking in our minds? I don’t think it is possible.

We have to be stubborn people. We can’t give in to “yeah, but” thinking. We have to forgot about the “yeah, buts,” perhaps try to learn from them, and move on. We have to be aggressive about it. If we are passive, it is a certainty that the bane of low expectations will creep in.

Here is one of my favorite episodes from the Old Testament:

"When Elisha was in his last illness, King Jehoash of Israel visited him and wept over him. “My father! My father! I see the chariots and charioteers of Israel!” he cried.

Elisha told him, “Get a bow and some arrows.” And the king did as he was told. Elisha told him, “Put your hand on the bow,” and Elisha laid his own hands on the king’s hands.

Then he commanded, “Open that eastern window,” and he opened it. Then he said, “Shoot!” So he shot an arrow. Elisha proclaimed, “This is the Lord’s arrow, an arrow of victory over Aram, for you will completely conquer the Arameans at Aphek.” Then he said, “Now pick up the other arrows and strike them against the ground.” So the king picked them up and struck the ground three times. But the man of God was angry with him. “YOU SHOULD HAVE STRUCK THE GROUND FIVE OR SIX TIMES!" he exclaimed. “Then you would have beaten Aram until it was entirely destroyed. Now you will be victorious only three times.” Then Elisha died and was buried (2 Kings 13:14-20).

I think this passage provides a perfect remedy for the attitude of low expectations. When we feel ourselves slipping into that mindset, we should be taking up our arrows and begin pounding them on the ground until our arms are sore. Of course, you don’t have to use literal arrows but I guess that would be all right. But we should whack our arrows on the ground, and with each swing say something along the lines of: “I will not [whack] have low expectations [whack] I am a child [whack] of the King [whack] and I have been commissioned [whack] by Him [whack] to bring His Kingdom [whack] into my situations [whack].” See, there’s eight good whacks. Elisha would be pleased.

The reason that I think this imagery is powerful is because when we just think something, sometimes it really doesn’t sink in very well. But if we combine a thought with an action, it makes it seem like we are actually doing something, which in fact we are. We are taking an aggressive stand against the tragedy of having low expectations regarding our faith.

Time is short. We cannot afford to have low expectations. If you do, get over it. God expects great things from His Church, so it follows that we have no right to have low expectations for ourselves. Don’t succumb to a low expectation mindset. It is what the enemy wants, and will ruin our effectiveness for Him.

Let’s grab those arrows and start pounding.


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Todd

 2012/5/16 12:38Profile
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Joined: 2005/2/24
Posts: 2732


 Re: The Risk of High Expectations

Excellent post and topic.

People with low expectations rightfully observe that their own inspired visions dont usually come true in their original form. They see that other people with visions can be painfully dissapointed, or look like fools. What they don't observe is that only people with vision overcome obstacles.

People with low expectations can often go undetected by others or even themselves, because they identify themselves with high prinicples. High principles to live by are a fine thing, but they are not worth very much without the application towards a specific vision. In fact, high principles without vision can implode on themselves into cynicism.

Cynicism is a selfish fearful impoverished posture. It is a little yeast that leavens the whole loaf. On the other hand a vision, a purpose, a calling...God can use these things in us to stir up love, faith, and hope, a deep well of spiritual resources that high principles know little about.

Amy Carmichael has some excellent quotes on this topic. Here are just a few that have challenged me...

----------------------------

If my attitude be one of fear, not faith, about one who has disappointed me; if I say, "Just what I expected," if a fall occurs, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
 
If I cast up a confessed, repented, and forsaken sin against another, and allow my remembrance of that sin to colour my thinking and feed my suspicions, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
 
If I do not give a friend "The benefit of the doubt," but put the worst construction instead of the best on what is said or done, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
 
If I fear to hold another to the highest goal because it is so much easier to avoid doing so, then I know nothing of
 
If I find myself half-carelessly taking lapses for granted, "Oh, that's what they always do." "Oh, of course she talks like that, he acts like that," then I know nothing of Calvary love.






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Mike Compton

 2012/5/16 14:05Profile
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Joined: 2010/4/7
Posts: 71
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 Re: The Risk of High Expectations

Excellent post TMK! Thank you for sharing. I don't have much to add, but just wanted to say that what you said is what the Lord has been putting on my heart since the beginning of the year.

Let's keep believing, keep trusting the word of Lord! In due season we shall reap! Those that sow in tears shall reap in joy. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness.


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Andrew

 2012/5/16 14:42Profile
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Joined: 2005/5/2
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 Re:

Quote:
People with low expectations rightfully observe that their own inspired visions dont usually come true in their original form.


One of the most inspiring and brilliant Christian leaders I have encountered said to his students: “I have high standards but low expectations.” He kept the bar high but accepted that few would attain it. And so he was gracious in his grading…. and also in his relationship with people.

It’s how Christ treats us, is it not?


Diane


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Diane

 2012/5/16 14:59Profile
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 Re:

I wonder if I got that quote right. I think I did, but at least I know it can't be interpreted to imply lack of vision and slothfulness.

I think it's an issue of contrasting excellence with perfectionism. Perfectionists seem to have high expectations, but in actuality they have low expectations because they don't want to risk failures and stumblings.

How's this: There is a kind of expectation that keeps us living in an idealistic dream world instead of the the real world - and so there is little mercy and love.

Diane


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Diane

 2012/5/16 15:46Profile
TMK
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Joined: 2012/2/8
Posts: 5380
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 Re:

quote:

"One of the most inspiring and brilliant Christian leaders I have encountered said to his students: “I have high standards but low expectations.” He kept the bar high but accepted that few would attain it. And so he was gracious in his grading…. and also in his relationship with people.

It’s how Christ treats us, is it not?"

In a sense, Christ does treat us like that-- he is forgiving and understands our weaknesses.

I another sense, however, Jesus has very high expectations. He tells us to "count the cost" of being his disciple, and has several statements like "If a man does not (fill in the blank), he cannot be my disciple."

He told the disciples to feed the multitude (before he stepped in) and he seemed upset with the disciples when they woke him up during the storm on the sea-- arguably he felt they should have handled it (although I realize this may be a bit of a stretch).

And I certainly understand that we can have unreasonable expectations; it would probably not be healthy to expect that we can walk into a hospital and clear out the cancer wards. But maybe we SHOULD expect that God will heal a cancer patient in our midst.

I heard somebody say recently that they would rather aim for the stars and hit the moon than aim at nothing and succeed every time.

The key is not to get disillusioned when we take a risk and it flops. We serve a big God-- we just need to obey and leave the results to Him.


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Todd

 2012/5/16 20:33Profile
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Posts: 3776


 Re:

Quote:
The key is not to get disillusioned when we take a risk and it flops. We serve a big God-- we just need to obey and leave the results to Him.



This is it, isn’t it!

And just for clarification, here is the response I got when I inquired about the quote:


“Well, it was a bit of a joke. The point being: yes, I know what is good/bad, right/wrong, better/worse, etc.. But these are all rather abstract realities in the course of actual life: people (us) don't/can’t usually meet these standards, for a host of reasons. But that's not a good argument for giving up the standards themselves, as if nothing matters, or there is not difference between good/bad etc.. Only that we approach our own performance with much patience and humility.”



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Diane

 2012/5/16 21:14Profile









 Re:

I agree with the first post in it's entirety. I usually don't read long posts but that was a breath of fresh air.

 2012/5/16 21:58
Compton
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Joined: 2005/2/24
Posts: 2732


 Re:

I continue to appreciate the topic of this thread.

However, I also continue to feel that evaluations like "low expectations" or "perfectionism" are either too equivocal or too ambiguous for us to respond to with any certainty. In themselves they offer no sense of degree, dimension, depth, or density for us to make adjustments accordingly.

The real question isn't whether we are being too condemning or too coddling towards ourselves. The real question is do we have a vision, a calling, or a commission from God...and if so are we being faithful? Without answers to these questions, our measurments of ourselves (and others) are little more reliable then personal sentiment.

"Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day have I been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of rivers, in perils of robbers, in perils from my countrymen, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in labor and travail, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Besides those things that are without, there is that which presseth upon me daily, anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is caused to stumble, and I burn not?"

How would I have evaluated Paul? Would I ask him to try harder or would I perhaps console him to expect less from himself?

"For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name's sake."

Without vision, there is no certain way to determine how high our expectations should be, because the only measuring device left is personal sentiment. Without eyesight, there is nothing to focus on.

"It is easier to serve God without a vision, easier to work for God without a call, because then you are not bothered by what God requires; common sense is your guide, veneered over with Christian sentiment. You will be more prosperous and successful, more leisure-hearted, if you never realize the call of God. But if once you receive a commission from Jesus Christ, the memory of what God wants will always come like a goad; you will no longer be able to work for Him on the common-sense basis." ~ Oswald Chambers

MC



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Mike Compton

 2012/5/17 0:44Profile
TMK
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Joined: 2012/2/8
Posts: 5380
NC, USA

 Re:

Quote: "The real question isn't whether we are being too condemning or too coddling towards ourselves. The real question is do we have a vision, a calling, or a commission from God...and if so are we being faithful?"

Do you think that every Chrisitian has a vision or calling on their lives? I have often wondered about this. It does seem that some do to a greater degree than others; but I am wondering if all do. I guess I dont consider the call to discipleship to be the type of vision you are talking about, bu perhaps it is.


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Todd

 2012/5/17 7:34Profile





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