SET SOME EXPECTATIONS
William Carey, a shoemaker in England, preached a sermon on, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” It revolutionized the missions in the world. Like Carey, we too must set some expectations. A destination with a road map is only good if I get on a train that shall take me there. It is a journey that requires my presence and activity. Recently, I was pleasantly surprised to hear a minister speak on works as the evidence that we are saved. In fact, God saved us for the intent to do good works. He ably connected works with grace; still, he left me with the impression that grace was sufficient (Eph. 2:8-10). Grace, for far too many of us, has become a destination and not a beginning. Grace, in Christ, came for the purpose to lead us back to God; but we better be on it, otherwise it shall become void. At the destination where we are headed, we shall be asked what we have contributed to our journey of grace (Ro. 2:6-8; Rev. 20:12).
Jesus had expectations. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (Jn. 10:10). “I am the way and the truth and the life” (Jn. 14:6). Paul linked the life in Christ with the work of grace. The Greek renders Eph. 2:10 thus, “He has recreated us in Christ Jesus for good works, God predetermined it that we should walk (live) in them (in works).” God chose us before He created the world to lead holy and blameless lives (Eph. 1:4). Paul did not separate grace from works. He was keenly aware of our tendencies to rule out an attempt to fulfill our necessary expectations. “Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (I Cor. 9:26-27). And again, “And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I die every day – I mean that, brothers – just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’ Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God – I say this to your shame” (I Cor. 15:30-34). The Apostle did not take his expectation to be in the resurrection for granted. He, himself, expected something in return for his work (I Cor. 9:7-12).
We are not in this world without expectation. We expect favors and favors are expected of us. Luke captured this enlightening statement of Jesus on expectation. “That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Lk. 12:47-48). No body is exempt from or excused from doing what is expected of us. There are dire consequences for us and for others if we fail to do what is expected of us. A person with a single contribution or responsibility is just as important as the one with five obligations (Mt. 25:14-30). Particularly in an organization, as small as a family, the least among us are just as necessary as the most recognized. Far too often, we ourselves are not aware of how much we need those that can contribute little until that one particular need arises. For instance, God instructed Samuel to find a man with a particular ability among the sons of Jesse. Seven of the finest and most talented men presented themselves before Samuel, but not a one of them met that particular need, except a shepherd boy by the name of David (I Sam. 16). Another example was Joseph. He dreamed about great expectations and his brothers hated him for it. They sold him into slavery and he ended up being the Prime minister of Egypt during a severe crisis (Gen. 37-41). Then there was Gideon, the least among his family and a trumpet player. With three hundred trumpet players he defeated the Midianites (Jug. 6-7). None of these men knew what they were capable of until they had to do what they could do. They were not born but became heroes.
It is admirable to look to heroic individuals, but how can a small individual achieve his/her expectation? I am not a hero nor am I a no body. When I lost the use of my hands and had to depend on my mind for setting some expectations for my life, I faced an enormous hurdle. I was twenty-one at the time with two years of Polish education and four years of German schooling. I decided to become a minister. It was a foolish dream to my counselors and experts. A minister’s training was equal to a Ph.D. For two years, I sat with high school students and for three years with college students before I could sit down with seminary students. Throughout this time, I studied English and Greek, had more cosmetic surgery, met my wife while I studied Hebrew at Princeton, and I graduated in two and one half years. I did not know that I could do it until I set out and did it. What I set out to do was within the real of my expectations. There were more than one goal or steps that I had to reach. None of them were beyond my possibility. There was also an essential mental attitude in setting my expectations. I felt motivated by a higher power to reach for that expectation. Before my accident, I never had the desire to become a servant of God. It was when I believed firmly that I was doing what God wanted me to do, that I overcame all the hurdles that were placed in my way and there were many. I had no easy sailing. For instance, my English had advanced to a level that I was not allowed foreign student privileges; yet, the major tests were based on the American and English culture. My experience was not at all unique. Any one can set some goal and reach it with minimum efforts. It is simply up to us to do it.