It has been said, if you don’t want to be disappointed, have low expectations. I’m sure we’ve all been there. I certainly have. The bar was set, and, for whatever reason, reality did not reach it. Disappointment set in, hurt and more. Yes, the truth is, high expectations run the risk of disappointment. I guess God is willing to take the risk. Paul wrote a verse that many of us can quote,
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God…
but what about the second part, as well as the verse that follows?
…to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:28-29
Did you catch it? God’s expectations? Those that love God, Those that are the called, Those that He foreknew, Those that He predestinated… ...He expects to be conformed to the image of His Son. Wow. Talk about a high bar! And Paul called it exactly that. In writing to the Philippian believers he said,
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14
Yes, God’s expectations are high. For Paul, Acts 9:15 tells us God’s goal,
… he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:
That day on the Damascus road, at the same moment in which the Lord saved Paul, He also set expectations for his future. He is a chosen vessel, to bear my name. You and I are just like Paul. Paul says he was “apprehended of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12). Likewise, at the very moment in which we had our own personal encounter with Jesus Christ, when we accepted Him as our personal Saviour, Jesus Christ laid hold of us; apprehended us for a purpose and a plan. His plan for each of us. His expectations. What are they? Scripture has many passages which tell of His purpose. The following have been speaking to me. The older man is to be: (Titus 2:2) Sober (sound in mind) Honourable Self-controlled Strong in faith Filled with love Filled with patience The younger man is to be: (Titus 2:6-8) Sober-minded An example of good works to others Solid in doctrine Grave (honest) Sincere Sound in speech The older woman is to be: (Titus 2:3-4) Holy Not speaking evil of others Not given to much wine A teacher of good things A teacher of the younger women The younger woman is to be: (Titus 2:4-5) Sober Loving to her husband Loving to her children Discreet Modest A keeper at home Good Obedient to her husband All employees are to be: (Titus 2:9-10) Obedient to their employers Seeking to please their employers in all things Not talking back Not stealing from their employers All Christians are to be: (Titus 2:12) Denying ungodliness Denying worldly lusts Living sober lives Living righteous lives Living godly lives 2 Peter 1:5-7 includes a similar list: Be diligent in adding to your faith, Virtue Knowledge Self-control Patience Godliness Kindness Love So, how are we doing? We could look at the bar and decide it’s too high. We could rationalize and make excuses for ourselves or argue that God must not mean what He says. But the reality is, God’s Word is exactly that - God’s Word. We are to live unto righteousness (1 Peter 2:24). We are to depart from iniquity (2 Timothy 2:19). We are to be holy and without blame before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4). We are to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). Good works have no part in our salvation (Galatians 2:16), but scripture is clear that, Righteous living is expected of those saved by His grace. And yet we realize how weak we are; how incapable of ever living up to His expectations. But this is exactly how our God loves to work; taking what seems backwards and turning it right-side-out. For when [we are] weak, then [we are] strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). [We] can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth [us] (Philippians 4:13). Why does God set His expectations so high, when He knows, even more than we do, that we can never reach his level? Because although it is true that low expectations decrease disappointment, this statement is also true: Expectations strongly influence people’s behaviour. Over and over again, studies have proven that people rise to meet our expectations of them – whether those expectations are positive or negative, high or low, correct or incorrect. God does have high expectations for us… because He wants us to rise to meet them. And thankfully so, because what if the opposite was true? What if God’s purposes for us were under the bar? What if He told us we’d never amount to anything; that we’d never rise above; that we’d never make it? How would these expectations sound to us? Would we be motivated to press on as Paul was? The reality is, God did not need the researchers to come up with their statistics. He already knew. High expectations motivate. High callings encourage. And amazingly enough, the One working in us, motivating us to reach high, is God Himself. Philippians 2:13 says,
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
Philippians 1:6 also says,
He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.
God sets the bar high, and then works in us to reach it! Is that not incredible? I think it is! Our high calling and the motivation to reach it is a joint effort – God and I working hand in hand. He is working in us. He will perform what He started. And one day soon we will be all that He wants us to be! Praise Him!! In the meantime, let us do as Paul did. He described his “flesh versus spirit” battle in Romans 7:14-25 summarizing it in verse 24 with, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? And the triumphant answer in verse 25? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! We can reach high – through Jesus Christ, and Paul encourages us to do so.
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13
We are God’s chosen vessels. We are His name-bearers. No wonder His expectations for us are so high. He has chosen to take the risk.
Let us forget the past, reach forth and press toward the high calling of God. May we say with Paul…
I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. Philippians 3:12 NLT
Written by Zonya Bergsma