Giving it Up: Giving up Expectations
Giving It Up: Expectations
Genesis 12:1-4a, Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18, John 3:1-17
+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The second topic in our Lenten Sermon Series, entitled “Giving It Up” is, for me at least, an unexpected one. The topic is “expectations.” So this morning, we want to consider “Giving up expectations.”
As I mentioned last week, these topics are ones I found in an outline, online, and not of my own imagining. So when I discovered that I would be preaching on “giving up expectations,” I really struggled with why we as Christians, who are called to live our lives in a blessed hope and expectation of the Victory of Christ over the world, the flesh, and the devil should need to give up “expectations”, the very thing which we seem to base our living here on earth.
As I did some reading and thinking on this, it became apparent that when it comes to expectations there are two motivations which lead us to have expectations. First is what we might call “motivations of the flesh” that lead or rather mislead us to worldly expectations. The second motivation is that of the spirit of God which leads us to good expectations, heavenly ones.
A spoiled child expects to have everything given to them. They’re spoiled, so they have been conditioned to expect to not have to work for anything. Nor do these spoiled kids expect to have to take responsibility for anything, including their own actions.
Take the case of Ethan Couch, an 18 year old who, three years ago, was charged as a teen in a juvenile court of intoxication manslaughter. At his sentencing hearing, the defense lawyer argued that Couch’s wealthy parents never held him accountable for his actions, and he therefore didn’t know right from wrong. It was, therefore, the expectation of this spoiled rich kid, who killed four and permanently injured three others, that he would be treated leniently.
This is a worldly example, a type of bad expectations. But there’s also the idea in psychology, that tells that our expectations limit what we see in the world around us, and others. Expectations based on assumptions about another person, lead us to see only what we expect in that person. If we think a person is a “bad person” or perhaps, “Unchristian”, we will tend to see in them those traits or qualities that we expect.
IN a sense, worldly, bad expectations, about ourselves, and about others, become self fulfilling prophecies. In one study, a group was told they would do badly on a math exam. And they did. Another study found that when adults were given a complex maze to solve, but told that they were based on grade-school difficulty, they solved the maze faster.
Perhaps the best way to give up worldly expectations, is to think about our forbearers in faith, who have turned from worldly expectation to heavenly ones.
Perhaps the best known of all of these is Abram, whom we read about in our first lesson today.
In Genesis 12, Abram was called by God to leave his own country, his family, his inheritance from his father, and to go to a place that God would show him. That promise was that God would make Abram a great nation. But in order to do that, he had to do the unexpected. He had to give up everything he had, then, in order to follow God’s call to him. Abram had to be willing to trust God. That God had a plan for him, and that God would bring his promise to fulfillment.
In our reading this morning, from genesis 15, Abram again hears the promise of God, and God makes a covenant with him, promising that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in heaven. But Abram was an old man, then, and had no children of his own.
He expected that when he died, so would his family line. But God is faithful. God keeps his promises. And if Abram was willing to give up his own expectations, God would bless him, and make him a blessing.
For Abram to follow God it took trust, courage, patients, but most especially, faith. It was by faith that Abram was able to believe God was faithful to his promise.
The Letter to the Hebrews, chapter 11 sums up the story of Abram and God like this:
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”
But the letter goes on to remind us:
“13 [Abraham] died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”
Our challenge this morning is to give up our worldy expectations, and to live as Abraham did – by Faith. In Christ, God has a plan for our salvation. He has won the victory for us already, and he has given us new life, even now, to partake here on earth in his heavenly Kingdom.
The journey of our faith, each of us as individuals, is fraught with ups and downs, of doubts, confusions, of moments of despair, anxiety, and feelings of utter emptiness. And in those moments, we can lose sight of the right expectations we are called to have in faith: that God is faithful, and no matter how bad things may seem, he has called us to where we are, and will give us the grace to endure the sufferings of this present world. They are temporary, but the promise of God is eternal.
So let us, today, give up worldy expectations, like the spoiled brats who expect everything to be handed to them, and let us turn our hearts and minds to God – through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit, and remember what Paul tells us this day:
“…our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.”