When I was five years old, my brother, Jack, was born. My mother prepared me for his birth by talking to me. I had been an only child for five years. She knew that I needed to be prepared for a baby in the family. She clearly understood that it would not be good for the new baby to come as a surprise to me. So long before his birth, she talked to me about how nice it would be to have a playmate.

It does not require an imagination to understand what a five year old expected. We were living in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. World War II was raging. Dad was moved to a brand new city to work at a brand new, enormous facility. Everything existed to assist the development of the atomic bomb.

I did not have a playmate. We moved into the first completed house in our subdivision. The thought of having a playmate was absolutely thrilling.

Though I was only five years old, this picture is still clear in my mind. I knew when my brother was born. I knew when Mom was bringing him home. I can see our car, our side walk, and our front yard. I can see me running down the side walk to the car to met my new playmate. And I can remember Mom lifting the blanket off of newborn Jack's face, and telling me that this was my brother.

And I know my immediate reaction. I took one look at newborn Jack, said inside myself, "I can't play with that!" and walked away. My expectations were completely destroyed. I expected a five year old playmate. I did not expect a newborn. I was totally disappointed because I did not get what I expected. What I expected was based on what I wanted. What I wanted had nothing to do with reality.

  1. One huge source of spiritual failure in the individual and in the church occurs through failed expectations.
    1. We can see the power of failed expectations in Israel's deliverance from Egyptian slavery.
      1. God promised Abraham that he would make a nation from Abraham's descendants when Abraham did not even have one child.
      2. God gave Abraham twelve great grandsons through his grandson, Jacob.
      3. From those twelve great grandsons God produced the twelve tribes of Israel.
      4. During a severe famine, God placed the families of those twelve sons in Egypt.
      5. Those families became an enormous people whom the Egyptians enslaved.
    2. God convinced a reluctant Moses to return to Egypt, become the leader of these slaves, request their release, and lead them to the country God promised them.
      1. Moses tried to help his people earlier, failed, and fled to the wilderness to save his life.
      2. He never intended to see Egypt again.
      3. God appeared to Moses, declared that the suffering of Israel must end, and said,
        Exodus 3:8 "So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey..."
        Exodus 3:10 "Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt."
      4. Moses expected to go Egypt, to win the instant acceptance of Israel as their leader, to ask Pharaoh to let Israel go, and lead the people out of slavery to their country.
      5. It did not happen.
        1. Moses went to Pharaoh, made his request, and Pharaoh rejected his request.
        2. In fact, Pharaoh decided there was only one reason that Moses made such a stupid request: the Israelite slaves had too much time on their hands.
        3. So Pharaoh issued a work order that greatly increased the burdens of the slaves to the point that he made their lives impossible.
        4. And this is what the Jewish leaders said to Moses:
          Exodus 5:21 "May the Lord look upon you and judge you, for you have made us odious in Pharaoh's sight and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us."
        5. And this is what Moses said to God:
          Exodus 5:22,23 "O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all."
        6. Failed expectations.
    3. For the next forty years every failure in Israel included failed expectations.
      1. When they left Egypt after God performed the tenth powerful miracle against Egypt, everything was wonderful!
        1. God could do anything!
        2. Soon they would be in their new land!
        3. But as soon as the Egyptian army trapped them at the Red Sea, they turned on Moses and asked him why he brought them out there to die (Exodus 14:11,12).
      2. When God delivered Israel by providing an escape across the Red Sea on dry land, everything was wonderful!
        1. God could do anything!
        2. Soon they would be in their new land!
        3. But as soon as they got thirsty and hungry in the wilderness. they turned on Moses saying, "I wish God had killed us in Egypt!" (Exodus 16:2,3)
      3. The reason God took them through the wilderness instead of on the highway by the sea was to keep them from getting discouraged.
        Exodus 13:17,18 Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, "The people might change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt." Hence God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea; and the sons of Israel went up in martial array from the land of Egypt.
        1. I want you to see something very important to us today.
        2. God used miraculous power to help Israel every step of the way.
        3. And we say, "Oh, if God would just use miracles to help us we would believe and we would serve."
        4. What makes us think that we are so different?
        5. We, just like Israel, are blind to much of God's activity.
        6. We, just like Israel, trust God with the past but do not believe God can do anything about now or tomorrow.
        7. Miracles never produced faith in people who did not trust God.
      4. You need to read the book of Exodus and note how Israel failed again and again because they placed faithless expectations on God.
      5. You need to read the book and note how many times they turned on Moses or on God because their faithless expectations were not met.

  2. Just as surely as failed expectations brought pain and failure in the Old Testament, failed expectations brought pain and failure in the New Testament.
    1. Jesus was working in the wilderness area where John baptized in the Jordan River.
      1. The political and religious leaders of Israel wanted to kill Jesus, and his twelve disciples knew it.
      2. They knew it was dangerous for Jesus to return to the Jerusalem area (John 11:8).
      3. But he did return to resurrect Lazarus from the dead (John 11).
      4. Jesus immediately became wildly popular.
        1. They welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem as Israel welcomed its king shouting the words and phrases that Israel used when they welcomed a new king.
        2. For a week Jesus was the most popular man in Jerusalem, and no one could slow or stop his "band wagon."
        3. When the Pharisees confronted him, they lost ground.
        4. When the Saduccees confronted him, they lost ground.
        5. When the Herodians confronted him, they lost ground.
        6. They not only could not kill him; they could not stop him.
      5. The expectations of the twelve disciples skyrocketed.
        1. They had been afraid that Jesus might be killed, and now it was obvious that he was going to be king.
        2. He would become king, they would become the king's administration.
        3. So Peter told him that he would be loyal to him to death (Matthew 26:31-35).
        4. All the disciples were filled with such a sense of self-importance that none of them would wash the others' feet (John 13:1-20).
      6. Then everything fell apart, and their expectations were killed.
        1. Jesus was arrested, and they fled into the darkness of the night.
        2. Jesus was tried and condemned, and they could not understand it.
        3. They watched him die hanging from a cross in total rejection and disgrace as though he were an evil man and a terrible criminal.
        4. And nothing made sense. None of their expectations came true.
      7. When their wrong expectations died, they hid in fear in an upper room in Jerusalem behind closed doors.
      8. Nothing changed until they understood what God did: God made Jesus Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).

  3. Failed expectations still bring pain and failure in individual lives and in the church.
    1. Failed expectations are a major source of the kind of disappointment that produces failure.
      1. "You are not what I expected in a wife."
      2. "You are not what I expected in a husband."
      3. "You are not what I expected in a child."
      4. "You are not what I expected in a boss."
      5. "You are not what I expected in an employee."
      6. "Your are not what I expected in Christian friend."
      7. What did you expect? Where did you get your expectations?
    2. One of the greatest sources of pain in our families and in our congregations come from frustrated expectations.
      1. Too many adult sons struggle with the pain of feeling like a worthless failure.
        1. They are certain that they never met their father's expectations, so they are filled with a sense of failure.
        2. This pain spills over into their role as a husband.
        3. This pain spills over into their role as a parent.
        4. This pain spills over into their relationship with their Christian family.
      2. Many adult daughters struggle with the pain of feeling like a worthless failure.
        1. They are certain that they never met their mother's expectations, so they are filled with a sense of failure.
        2. This pain spills over into their role as a wife.
        3. This pain spills over into their role as a parent.
        4. This pain spills over into their relationship with their Christian family.
      3. Many adult Christians struggle with what they have been told are God, or Christ, or the church's expectations.
        1. God goes into a rage when you do not meet His expectations.
        2. Christ will not forgive you when you do not meet His expectations.
        3. The church exists to punish you for your mistakes, not to help you with your struggles.
        4. This pain makes war against the person being spiritual.

May I ask you a question? Do your expectations crush people? Or do they challenge and encourage people? God's expectations nurture people by building relationships. The relationship between God and Jesus show the blessings of God's expectations.

[Prayer: God, help us turn to you as our greatest Helper. Help us understand that You did not send Jesus to devastate us. Help us discover the love in Your expectations.]

Is it easier for the people who associate with you and live with you to walk with God because of you? Do you use expectation like God does: to challenge, encourage, and nurture. Or do you use expectation like Satan does: to discourage and crush?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 13 February 2000

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