Our letter this month is born out of some rather costly lessons in false expectations. The shock of discovering this operating in me has further necessitated the need to continue growing up.
One of the more dramatic instances of false expectation is the story of Naaman, a captain in the army of Aram who was afflicted with leprosy. Elisha the prophet told him, “Go, dip yourself in the river Jordan seven times. But Naaman was furious and went away and said, ‘Behold, I thought, He would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and heal the leper’’’ (see 2 Kings 5:10-14).
Naaman has his own thought. He had his expectation of how the prophet would respond to him. Naaman’s self-importance of how he should be treated had imprisoned him. His false expectation caused him to react in anger and disgust. Listen carefully: false expectation almost caused him to refuse to do what Elisha has requested.
My sense is that this principle is very far-reaching. What seems most dangerous is the expectations we can project on God the Father. He did not do what I expected! Often these false expectations of the Lord are engendered by a self-referential interpretation of Scripture. The interpretation may not be totally false, but it is inadequate to properly align us with the greater purposes of Christ’s invisible government.
On a personal level, my own false expectations about what I should be as a Christian can hinder my freedom to embrace and enjoy gracious fellowship with the Lord. Many church bodies live in the invisible prison of what believers are expected to be.
I am increasingly convicted of our conduct as believers. We must stop trying to correct, adjust, rebuke, and expect unbelievers to behave like believers. This takes the form of false expectation. Father is saying something like this to us: cease trying to put the Scripture on people! The Scripture is for you. You “eat the scroll” that is sweet in your mouth and bitter in your belly! (Revelation 10:10). You are then qualified to impart to the aching world the fruit of your life—this is the fruit they long for. Cease playing sheriff, forcing upon others the instructions that were given to transform you.
I see more clearly, my own false expectation: these people are going to hear the Scripture and the principles I am laying on them, and almost like magic, change their behavior to that which I have been falsely expecting.
Jesus, in Luke 15:2, “accepts and welcomes sinners and eats with them (AMP).” They are following Him because the fruit of His life is satisfying their genuine hunger. The linguistic evidence of the text tells us that Jesus wanted to be there with them. He refuses to answer questions that have not yet asked. He is not there waiting for an opportunity to sell them His product. Unlike the respectable religious elite, He was not imprisoned by false expectations and was free to enter their world and be their friend.
Father God is asking us to change our false expectations into an unqualified expression of Father’s love for those who are longing to be accepted and welcomed. It has been the challenge of my life to say unequivocally, God loves people! We have, in false expectation, believed God loves people who believe and behave like us. God loves people; wounded and broken people that do not believe or behave like we think they should. He longs to welcome them and to “eat with them” through us!
How many times I have imprisoned myself and others by putting my own expectations on them without first entering their world by considering, communicating or discussing what I am expecting. The results are: hurt, anger, withdrawal, and distancing. We must battle self-referential false expectations of our marriages, our children, our associates, our friends, and perhaps most importantly, of fellow believers and those who hunger and thirst.
Getting free from the prison of false expectations is a deliberate choice. How I react demonstrates my internal expectations even if my words are communicating something very spiritual. Can we cease reacting out our own false expectations? Can we free ourselves of false expectations to give those who are hungry, the Light and Love of Christ manifested in the fruit of joy, freedom, and the purpose of life in the Kingdom?
Our prayer becomes: Father God, you are showing us something we need to hear and embrace. Make these lessons to be clear, workable and then give us the evidence that we are being transformed into the Image, behavior and response of Our Lord Jesus.