Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sabbath Sermon: What Did You Expect?

What did you expect when you woke up this morning? When you opened the curtains, did you expect to see it raining? When you saw the post sitting on the mat, did you expect it to be the usual collection of bills? If you are married, did you expect your spouse to smile and be nice to you this morning? As is usually the case with me in the morning, did you expect to have a bit more time to get ready and not quite achieve it?

If you drove here this morning, when you got in your car, did you expect it to start first time? If you came by public transport, did you expect the bus or the train to turn up at the time it stipulates on the timetable?

And what about when you walked through the doors here at church? Did you expect a warm, friendly welcome or did you have so many things to do that you weren’t aware of someone saying “Good morning” to you? Do you expect to go home today challenged and ready to change something as a result of what you might hear? Just exactly what did you expect from today?

This morning, I’m going to briefly talk about the expectations that we have of each other; the expectations we have in our friendships and in our relationships - as well as the expectations we have that relate to that broad topic of church. This is - of course - not forgetting the most important part - the expectations that God has for each one of us here today.

I am someone who loves the English language. I love the quirkiness of it – all those rules that confuse and mystify even those of us who have used the language all their lives. So as someone who likes to do things properly, I should really begin by giving you the correct definition of Expectation – which is this morning’s theme. The Oxford English Dictionary defines Expectation as the act or an instance of expecting or looking forward to. Something expected or hoped for.

So looking at that definition - Expectation is not a negative thing, is it? If you are looking forward to something or hoping for something, you are excited about it, eager with anticipation for it and thrilled when it eventually happens.

Taking that definition and relating it to our own lives - we should be nothing but positive about our expectations of each other. We should always hope for the best from each other. We should always look forward to what we can achieve together – in our relationships and in our church.

When we held our Flower Festival at Crieff Church last August, it was a visible example of Expectation. During the time of the Festival, virtually everyone in the church worked together – not only the people who did the displays, but the ones who tidied up the church grounds, served refreshments, acted as hosts, those who were simply there for people to talk to and help where it was needed – in a real sense of expectation. As a church, we were all looking forward to the event and hoping that our best was going to be good enough. By entering into that event with expectation – as it is defined – we were brought together as a church and in doing so, our actions glorified God.

As well as our expectations of each other being a positive thing, we should also remember that God’s expectations of us are not meant to weigh us down. What God expects of each one of us will encourage us and uplift us. God’s expectations of us are not a great long list of do’s and don’ts. They are His recipe for helping us to live together in peace and harmony –what God expects of us enables our relationship with Him to become deeper and more meaningful. Isn’t that what we all want from our relationship with God?

What are Expectations?
So let’s look at what expectations actually are? It is impossible to enter into any situation in life without you having some kind of preconceived idea of what to expect. Think about it? How many of you have pulled over on a narrow road to allow the other driver to pass and then felt cheated when there wasn’t so much as a Thank You for your efforts? Why do you feel cheated? Because you would pull over and let them pass - and you would expect them to act in the same way that you would act.

Where have these expectations that we all carry with us come from? Are they a random collection of thoughts that swirl around in your brain for a few years and suddenly one day, gel into something coherent and tangible? Are they inbuilt in each one of us? Are they like a unique set of values that each one of adheres to?

The expectations that we all have stem from a combination of factors. Your expectations relate directly to your own personality type. There are four accepted personality types:

And Sanguine

The Choleric person is:
An extrovert. Someone who gets things done. An optimist

The Melancholic person is:
An Introvert. Someone who thinks a lot. A pessimist.

The Phlegmatic person is:
An Introvert. Someone who watches before actually doing. A pessimist

The Sanguine person is:
An extrovert. Someone who is a great talker. An optimist.

So for example - a melancholic or phlegmatic person would approach life thoughtfully and carefully - with a sense of pessimism – their expectations will always be clouded by doubt and negativity. These personality types will approach every situation probably expecting to fail. They will hope for something – but their hope will be simply that things will not turn out as bad as they are expecting them to be!

On the opposite side are the choleric or sanguine people. They will approach everything that life offers them with confidence and enthusiasm. Life for them is a series of totally new and exciting opportunities. Their expectations - even at the most basic level will always be met. They simply do not approach anything anticipating to fail or expecting to be disappointed.

So the type of personality that you are will definitely have a bearing on how you approach things - and what you expect to get out of things.

What you expect also comes from what you have experienced within your own family. All of us belong to a family – even if we have no brothers or sisters, we still have parents. We all have experience of the family unit, however it is made up. Each family that is represented here today is unique. No two families are alike – they may share the same surname, but each family will be different.

It is quite a sobering thought then to realise that our parents’ relationship will have communicated positive or negative expectations about relationships to each one of us. How many of us have ever stopped to think - that what we expect out of a friendship or a close relationship or even our church - stems from what we have experienced as a child? You were probably never even aware of it - many of these expectations will be buried deep in your subconscious. They will simply be unspoken - but they will have a massive impact on how you approach every area of your life.

It is also important to remember that God has expectations for each one of us as well. The expectations that God has for each one of us should be our starting point – when we are thinking about our friends or our family or our church – and what we expect from these areas of our life – starting with what God expects from each one of us is vital. If we don’t act in accordance with what God expects of us, how can our expectations of others have any merit? What God expects of us should be the framework that defines each one of us. It should be the standard that we then apply to everything around us. I’ll talk about what God expects of us in a while but first I’ll talk a little about what we expect of each other.

Expectation of Each Other
What do we expect of our friendships? Do we have two sets of friends – our church friends and our “outside church” friends? Do we try to juggle these friends - hoping that the two never meet or hoping that we will never be forced to choose between them?

When I asked some people I know - what did they expect from their friends – their answers were quite varied and enlightening. Some of the things they expected were:


Friendship can a great many things but at its heart is a relationship where you like each other, respect each other and strive to do your best for each other. The writer, Albert Camus, summed up what friendship means like this:

Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow.
Don't walk behind me, I may not lead.
Walk beside me and be my friend.

I find the subject of friendship quite an emotive and interesting one because it is an area where I have had to change my level of expectation. When I was a bit younger, I would rush headlong into new friendships with a very high level of expectation. This friendship was going to be the best friendship ever!

Time after time, I would launch myself – head first - into different friendships - only to find that my expectations of the person - and of the friendship - did not match in any way with what the other person was prepared to give me.

Now I think I probably approach friendships with caution. I’m not prepared to go through being let down again. My expectation of friendship has – for the moment – been altered. It now perhaps stands at a more realistic level. I’m not pinning my hopes and dreams on someone who would never be able to fulfil them.

That kind of friendship can be achieved though – but it can only be achieved by having a friendship with God. God will give us all the things that we look for in a friendship:


The difference here is that in our friendship with God, our expectations will always be exceeded – and our hopes and dreams will always be fulfilled.

In Romans 5:11, Paul tells us to “…. rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God--all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God.”(NLT)

Think about what your expectations are of your friends. Maybe they need to be raised a little. Maybe, as in my case, they needed to be lowered a little. But I believe that each of our friendships should be measured against – and based upon - the friendship that we have with our Saviour, Jesus Christ. His friendship will certainly provide us with support and companionship and advice and comfort. His friendship will never cause us to examine our expectations and alter them.

Expectations of Relationships
The expectations surrounding the relationships we have - are an extension of the expectations we have of our friends. After all, each close relationship we have - has to have friendship at its heart, doesn’t it?

If you actually like your parents – as people – then you will able to look to them for the same things that you expect from your friends. Only this time, you will have the benefit of some of the things that come from being older – like maturity and experience.

The same can be said of the expectations you have regarding your siblings. Outside of getting married, your relationship with your parents and your siblings – if you have any – are perhaps the closest relationships you will have in your life. You would be right to expect the same things of these relationships as you would expect of your relationships with your friends.

And what about marriage? Could the reason that one third of marriages in the UK break down be because of the unrealistic expectations people have of each other? Could it be because couples fail to discuss with each other what they expect of each other? Could it be that they don’t realise that the same things we expect of our friends can be applied to marriage?

Because I had an outrageously unrealistic set of expectations regarding my friendships when I was younger – when I got married, my husband Malcolm was doomed to failure! I wasn’t even aware of what expectations I had of him – but he was never going to meet them – not at all. I have no idea what his expectations of me were. We didn’t talk about it – I don’t think we even recognised it!

My sister and her husband are trained volunteer relationship counsellors – they take part in church sponsored programmes for couples in relationships and couples who are about to get married. When they cover this topic of expectation – it causes a huge amount of discussion and debate – because very few couples are actually aware that they will invariably bring their own expectations into their marriage.

Within the subject of Expectation, couples learn about maximum, limited and minimum involvement in marriage.

Maximum involvement means that couples share their expectations for their relationship at a deep level. They lay their expectations on the line with each other. Emphasis is put on all of those expectations – which have all been laid out for examination – being met by the person they are building a close relationship with. This level of involvement requires:

Emotional maturity
Absolute trust
Acceptance of who you are

Minimal involvement is characterised by couples having few expectations of each other. Perhaps they don’t even know what their expectations are. They are both more interested in looking after their own needs. It is their needs that take priority – not their partners.

Most of you who are married will find that you come somewhere in the middle of Maximum and Minimum involvement. Achieving a closeness in marriage is something that takes a lot of time – it also takes a lot of effort. The longer you stay married – and the more you become aware of how much important your spouse is to you – will mean that you experience different degrees of involvement as you make that journey together.

But your expectations of each other in marriage should also start with God. As with everything in our lives, what God expects of us should be the lynchpin from which everything else will flow.

What God Expects of Us
So having talked about the expectations we have of ourselves, our friends, our close relationships and referring to what God expects of us – let’s see exactly what He does expect of us.

Besides the Ten Commandments – which are the governing principles on how we should live our lives – God has been very clear in giving His people guidance on how He expects us to live our lives. The Bible is full of advice on what He expects of us – once you start looking for it – it is not easy to ignore it.

I’ve tried to pick out a few of the main ones which I think illustrate to us – quite clearly – what God expects of you and me.

Love your neighbour as yourself – this command comes right after being told to love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and – well – everything in your being. God expects us to love each other – it is a natural progression after loving Him. If you love God, you will love your neighbour. Simple as that.

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another - God loves each one of us and his example of love – the fact that He died for each one of us – is the standard by which we should then love each other. How God treated those around him – his disciples, his family, people he met – is how He expects us to treat the people we have contact with – with love. God is not making it difficult for us – we can see quite clearly what He expects of each one of us.

If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles - God expects us to make an effort. He expects us to make an effort even when we don’t want to – when we are crying out not to – because He knows that in the end we will benefit from having gone that bit further – perhaps we stopped to listen to someone, perhaps we offered to help someone, perhaps we offered a compliment to someone, perhaps we agreed to take the morning service. Whatever we made the effort to do, - God wants us to do it so that we can show others how loving our God really is.

Lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great. As I explained earlier, often our expectations are based on selfish principles – what am I going to get out of it? Here, God is telling us to give without being selfish – don’t hope for anything back. But then, if you do this – your compensation will be more than you can possibly imagine.

Do everything in love. This doesn’t really need to be explained does it? This instruction that we are given in 1 Corinthians is God telling us exactly – and without any confusion – what He expects of each one of us. Whatever our expectations are – of our friends, of our family, of our church – they should be based on love. Our expectations should be grounded in love because God taught us the true meaning of love when He allowed Himself to be nailed to the cross.

So I ask you again - what did you expect today? Was whatever you expected based on what you wanted to happen – or was it centred on what God expects of each one of us?

What God expects of us is not a collection of rules and conventions that are meant to drag us down and make us miserable. On the contrary – His expectations of us loving one other and uplifting one other – can only help make our lives more exciting and enjoyable.

When we look to God for examples of how we should treat each other – and then carry them out - we glorify Him. What else can we do – but do the things that He expects of us - today and for the rest of our lives?

Preacher: Angela Logan - sermon preached at Edinburgh SDA Church in February 2005
Painter: Lars Justinen's - sample picture courtesy of http://www.adventistbookcenter.com/

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