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Giving Up Expectations March 7, 2012

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Genesis 12:1-4a

Lent Midweek 3

March 7, 2012

Focus: God always takes care of His people.

Function: That the hearers stop expecting their lives to go as they planned.

Structure: Problem…solution.

Giving Up Expectations

            Christian author Max Lucado once noted that “we all have a way of completing this sentence: ‘If God is God, then….’  ‘There will be no financial collapse in my family.  My children will never be buried before me.  People will treat me fairly.  This church will never divide.  My prayers will be answered.’ And when these expectations go unmet doubt sets in.  We tell God show me and I’ll believe, He says believe and I’ll show you.”

Expectations are a major part of this world.  There isn’t a time that goes by when things aren’t expected of you.  Before you’re even born, there’s the expectation that you’ll be a boy, or a girl, that you’ll be healthy, that there won’t be any problems.  You’re expected to crawl, walk, and be potty-trained by a certain age.  And once school starts, then there’s expectations.  You’re expected to excel, to get good grades, to outdo your classmates.  You’re expected to finish school, go to college, and get a job.

Parents expect their children to follow the rules, to be responsible, and to take care of them later in life.  And what about those expectations that young couples have as they’re dating or engaged.  When they fall in love, they “know” how marriage will be.  How many couples sit through pre-marital counseling, or skip it altogether, thinking everything is going to be wonderful, because they’re madly in love.  For those in here who are married, what happens after the honeymoon?  What happens when you start to learn that the spouse you love is actually a sinner?  How’d those expectations turn out?

These are all worldly things.  Things that come and go.  But what about our expectations for ourselves?  As Max Lucado penned, we set ourselves up expecting the best of this world.  Did you know that high school and college students still expect on average to have a job when they graduate, one that will pay them a six figure salary?  They expect to step into the comfortable life that they’ve been living recently with mom and dad, forgetting that mom and dad had to work a long time to achieve that standard.

We have expectations of everything.  I expect you to pay attention to my sermon.  You expect me to deliver God’s Word and Gospel in a way that makes sense and is beneficial for you.  I pray that God works through me to meet that expectation.

And then there’s our expectations of God.  When things don’t go as planned, how often do we get angry with God?  Maybe it’s the loss of a loved one, or you got fired at work, or you totaled your car; whatever it may be, why do we expect God to make our lives perfect?  Sometimes we need to remember that Jesus told His disciples they would be persecuted and suffer greatly for following Him.  So why do so many Christians now believe that God wants them to be rich in this world?

As we turn to our text from today, what expectations do you think Abraham had for his life?  I know it’s hard to do, but put yourself in his shoes.  You’re a young man; most of life is still ahead of you.  And then one day, God comes down and tells you that He has a plan for you.

“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Abraham, leave behind everything you have, everything you’ve ever known, and follow Me.  That’s the essence of what God said to Abraham that day.  And it’s similar to how Christ called His disciples.  Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.

Abraham responded the way God knew He would.  “So Abram went, as Yahweh had told him, and Lot went with him.”  Similarly, the disciples left their nets, their boats, their families, and followed Jesus when He called.  A casual reader of the Old Testament knows how Abraham’s life turned out.  He became rich in terms of those days.  His offspring filled the earth, and he can count Jesus Himself among his descendants.  He also lived a long life, dying at the ripe old age of 175.

But the casual reader of the New Testament knows the disciples did not meet the same end.  As Jesus told them, they paid the price for following Him.  They were persecuted, beaten, imprisoned.  They suffered much in their lives.  All but one was killed for being a disciple of Christ.

And what about what the Jews expected of their Messiah?  They expected a king, one who would overthrow Rome.  They expected Him to set up His kingdom in their midst, and that they would then live these perfect lives, filled with peace, prosperity, all you could dream of.

But how did the Messiah come?  When He rode into Jerusalem, did He have an army with Him?  No.  He rode in on a colt, nothing more than a young donkey.  And when He was before Pontius Pilate, did He strike Him down to claim His victory?  No.  Instead, He allowed Himself to be struck.

And as Jesus told Nicodemus in our gospel today, just “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”  Back in Moses’ day, when the people sinned wildly in the wilderness, a plague of serpents befell them.  And as the people were bitten, fell sick, and started dying, Moses went before God on their behalf.  God instructed him to take a snake and to mount it on a standard, or a wood pole like armies used to carry around bearing their flag.  So Moses did, and when the people looked upon the serpent, they were healed, they lived.

So it is with Christ.  He didn’t come to meet our expectations of Him.  Rather, He came to do what needed to be done by Him.  As the people in the wilderness sinned, so did all mankind, you and I included.  And as God once offered a temporary solution in the serpent on the standard, He offered a permanent solution when Christ was hung upon the cross.

Therefore, when we look upon the Son of God, when we believe in Him through the faith that God has given to us in our baptisms, when we partake of His body and His blood at the Lord’s Supper, we are healed; we are forgiven; we live.

More often than not, when we set our expectations, we set them too high.  Sometimes we don’t even set them with the right priorities or beliefs.  As we go about this Lenten season, give up your expectations.  Now that could include expectations of your lifestyle or worldly things, but I’m primarily talking about your expectation of what life and God have in store for you.

Don’t try to figure out God’s master plan.  Don’t aim to know what God has in store for you.  As humans, we’re simply limited in our understanding.  The more we concern ourselves with things we can’t understand or things that leave us worrying about the future, the less we actually are able to live as God’s children.

When you fail to trust in God to take care of you, when you take your eyes off the present, you miss the opportunity to live.  You miss the chance to serve God by helping others.  You miss opportunities to share the message of salvation which Jesus gave for all people.  But you also miss the opportunity to truly see all that God has blessed you with.  You miss out on the gift of forgiveness, that your sins are no more.  You miss out on the loving brothers and sisters God has surrounded you with.  And you miss out on seeing His love for you, a love so great “that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”  Cast aside your expectations, and instead trust in God and count the blessings He’s already given you.

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