Harold Bullock: We've pass through most of the spring and a lot of things have happened. Some of you had kids, some have gotten married. For all of us, we're on the edge of summer. What are you looking forward to? What lies in front of you? Whenever I was eight years old and got close to my birthday, I was looking forward to a whole lot of things. This last birthday I wasn't looking forward to that much, but it was really good time. We human beings, we're wired together so that we just look forward. Actually Western society developed primarily out of the Biblical mindset, and in the Biblical mindset, time is moving forward. It began, things are happening and there will be an end, a consummation to it. In a good part of the rest of the world, time doesn't move forward. Time is circular. It's just things just keep going in circles.
It's all happened before. It'll all happen again. People are born, die, are reborn, die, are reborn, die. It just all sort of all moves in the circle, but not for the west. Now in the, in the Bible time is moving forward, but you know the way human beings are made, it doesn't matter what your culture is, as you get close to something that's good, that might happen, you look forward to it, you anticipate it. We're just made that way.
When I anticipate, I'm looking forward. If I'm looking forward, I'm anticipate, I'm expecting. I'd like to talk to you about expectations. Whenever you come to Jesus Christ, you're still you, but there's some changes that come, changes that come within you, and then changes that come in the way we handle life. We talked last week about disappointment, and I'd like to talk with you about anticipation, expectations today. Do we have the poem?
When I was 46 I wrote a poem that as I work through the forties, the forties tend to be, especially for guys, a really rough time, it's rough for the women, but especially for fellows, it's just really hard. You're at a point in life where a lot of your expectations are not coming true, and you have to soldier on anyway. You may have a wonderful wife and family, or you may not be married. It doesn't matter. The stress just increases. For me personally, as I realized early on that I was into this kind of period of life, I would wrestle through issues and then write a poem about it, and I'm not a great poet, but I really enjoyed my own poetry. This one has to do with expectations, which you wrestle with in your forties. Here it is, you can memorize this one easily, it's not long. It's called Before You Pull the Plug.
Before you pull the plug, revise your expectations. Know that devastations have come and gone before.
Like I said, it's not a great point, but I like it.
Because we, we have the point where the expectations are not coming true, and we just want to pull up, block, bail, abandon. Calm down, revise your expectations. Devastations have come and gone before. This is not the first time.
Let's talk about this. When I started looking forward to something I am expecting, I'm anticipating, I'm expecting something, and that that can be the start of a lot of problems. Let me show you a diagram. This is an expanded diagram. Last week we looked at part of it. Here it is. I anticipate, I expect something, whatever it is, my birthday present, or a relationship to work out a certain way. I anticipate, and then I run into reality. If my expectations come true, I'm glad. If they don't come true, I'm disappointed, and from disappointed, I got three ways I can go. can get angry, or I can get sad, but either way I ended up rebellious. I can get so angry with what other people did and didn't do, I blame them. Now I go, and I just go from disappointment, to anger, to rebellion. My expectations didn't come true. God, you let me down so I'm going to rebel a little bit, and enjoy myself, or I can go the other way, sad. My expectation didn't come true, "This always happens to me. I'm so sad, and discouraged. I think I'll rebel, and enjoy myself."
It's amazing how you get to the same place by different routes. There is a third way, and that's to trust God. Trust God with this situation, ask Him for help with it, and began to get traction and deal with it.
Now we looked at this last week, we looked at this part of the diagram last week. From disappointed, to angry, sad, or trusting God. That was the message last week. What I'd like to do this week is focus on this part, the first part, anticipate and then reality. We're going to be talking about expectations, and some guidelines far expecting better, rather than being trapped by it. I start looking forward. No one announces, "It's time to set expectations."
I just start looking forward and at that moment I began to set expectations, and you and I do this all the time. That happens on a daily basis, and many, many, many times a week. We just look forward to something. It could be that it's been a long day, I'm just looking forward to getting home, and sitting down, and relaxing. That's not much, is it? But it's an expectation, and once I started anticipating, I actually have three ways I can be disappointed. Wow. Three ways.
The first is, I'm anticipating what's going to happen. In this case, sitting down, and relaxing. Wonderful thought. However, something will happen, and it may not be what I want. On my way home to sit down at 5:45 and just finally relax, the tire goes flat. I anticipate what's going to happen.
The book of Job talks about this. Job is a book on suffering, and why it happens. It's a very deep book. This is what Job writes, he'd gone through some horrible trouble: Yet when a hope for good, evil came; when I looked for a light, he's expecting light, then came darkness.
What was I expecting? Good, light. What happened? Evil, darkness. The what can be a disappointment. Now here's another one out of Ecclesiastes, a book on the philosophy of living. The writer says, no man knows either love or hate awaits him. Actually that's part of a larger statement. He's thinking about life at this point, and he says, I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God's hands. You know, we are in God's hands, but no man or woman knows whether the love or hate awaits him.
Whenever we start expecting what's going to happen, it's that moment that we start getting set up for disappointment. I expected what, I also expected when. When am I going to sit down and relax? When I get home. That'd be about 5:45. Here's what Scripture says, Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled, that's a tree of life.
Whenever you are longing for something, and it really does happen, it makes you feel great. It's life-giving, but whenever the timing keeps on being delayed, and delayed, and delayed, it's not here yet, it's not here yet, it's not here, after a while you just get heartsick. Heartsick means you just lost motivation. You don't want to do anything. It just sucks the life out of you. As I'm creating my expectation for whatever it is, my birthday and presents, or what's going to happen in this relationship, or what's going to happen on my job, or just going home and sitting down, I've got not only what, I've also got a when, and when it doesn't happen on time, it's a problem.
There is another way I can be disappointed, though, and that's the impact that it's going to have. If we're looking forward to something, we're expecting something to not only just happen, but some good to come out of it. You might say I'm looking for the buzz. It's going to happen and boy is it going to be a great buzz. It's just going to be wonderful. It's going to be great. This will finally solve the problems. And then it happens, and low and behold, it wasn't that great, or it solved a problem but not all the problems.
There are three different ways you can be disappointed. What, when, and impact. I'm telling you this so as you deal with expectations this week you can understand you're not just expecting one thing, you're expecting three. You can pray about all of them, but they really are three ways to be let down, so watch out.
Whenever you expect things, you develop it in your mind, the expectation, you sort of feel like you have a right to the outcome. Correct? It's been a hard day, I've been working hard, I'm going to sit down and just relax. You feel like you have a right to that. It ought to happen, but it might not. If on the way to get home I have a flat tire, I am not going to be sitting down, I'm going to be changing a tire. This is not what I planned at 5:45, and I might get home if I remembered to air the tire that's a spare in the back, but life is very different now, but I feel like I just deserve that. Well, actually, all circumstantial expectations, that is all the circumstantial stuff we expect in this world, all of them are uncertain. There is no certainty. This is going to happen at this time, and boy this will occur because of it. Those are all vulnerable. They're vulnerable to several things. That's just uncertain. Some of them may be more likely than others, but they're all uncertain.
First of all, they're vulnerable to your own mistakes. Maybe you did something that created a problem with this actually happening. Maybe you made some people mad, or, and maybe it was your misperception, maybe you think you told them what you were expecting, and they really thought something very different, because they thought you're expecting something else. That's just part of the way it is. It's vulnerable to my mistakes, your mistakes. It's also vulnerable, though, to other people's flaws. If you haven't learned this by this point in life, I want to tell you, people have flaws. If you're depending on your faithful dog, maybe the dog will come through. If you're depending on people, we all have problems. Some people have more problems than others. We build different patterns in our lives, but if you're depending on people, it can go wrong. If you have children, and they're in the process of growing up, and you're depending on them, good luck. You know kids have their troubles. You have to work with this. Other people have flaws. If you're depending on your relative who has always been a problem in the past, guess what? They're likely to be a problem in the future. People just have flaws so it, they're just uncertainty in things. Satan's interventions. the enemy is real, and actually more engaged than we might think in our lives, and he blocks things, he intervenes.
Paul, in 1 Thess 2:18, I've listened to several scriptures for you, I'm not going to go into all of them. Some of you use this to study a little bit further during the week, so you can read these, but Paul says that he tried to visit this church that he's writing to time and again, but Satan blocked him. He doesn't say how, but he did, he blocked this. It just was blocked, and this can happen in your life.
Another vulnerability, just life's unpredictability. Life is not predictable. There's reasonable expectations, you get on the freeway, you're not planning on your life ending somewhere. Usually you get off the freeway at the right place, but even that's not certain. However, as we start making plans, or we started expecting things, this is why the Ecclesiastes says, this is a book on the philosophy of life, I have seen something else under the sun, the writer says: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. What's he saying?
I once was watching the Olympics and it was a woman's hundred meter sprint, and there was a lady that everyone expected to just blow everyone else away and win, and she's a tremendous athlete. Of course she'd been training for years and years and years and years, and they got down into the starting blocks, and when the signal went off, she just ripped out of the starting ahead of everyone else, but then about 30 feet ahead she slipped and fell, and another woman who is better than the rest, but nowhere near what she was, another woman won. Time and chance happened to them all. Things happen.
On my way to sit down at 5:45 and just relax, I need to remember that's not a certainty. The next verse actually says: Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped, men and women are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly on them.
You can have a perfectly nice future planned, or that day, but then things happen you never thought of and you have to deal with it. It just happens. Sometimes they happen suddenly like the fish or the bird, they happen suddenly, and you have to deal with these. This is a part of life.
One of the other circumstantial vulnerabilities is just God, God's actions. Sometimes I set my expectations and God allows things to happen or directly blocks them, because He wants to build my trust in Him. This is one of God's great, great desires in our life, that we would actually trust Him in situations, and that trust needs to grow. Actually, for us to enjoy eternity more, it needs to be a lot bigger before we pass on. He works on this. How does He work on it? By putting us in situations where we have to trust Him, and when your expectations don't come to pass, you have to trust Him. Sometimes these things come from His hands to build my trust, other times He wants to talk to me about who I am, and the blocked expectation does that.
Proverbs 24:10 says: If you faint in the day of trouble, you pass out, how small is your strength. I read that verse and I thought, well that's not very complimentary, but what it's getting at is this, we all have to face the tough stuff, and whenever we throw up our hands and just want to scream and wig out and run away, what's happening is God is telling us, "Your capacity for these things needs to grow. Your capacity has to increase, your strength has to grow."
Sometimes God is pointing out to me things in me that need to change. He is going to do me good anyway, however it occurs. Romans 8:28 says: And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God. Yeah, all things. Even the flat tire? Somehow, yeah. It's very hard whenever your expectations fail, and it's very hard to understand how on earth this could be good. However, later on you can probably turn around and look backward in life, and see where God, in not doing what you wanted, provided something key for you that set you up for other things that came. Whenever you're facing that disappointment, we talked about ways to handle that last week, but whenever you're facing it, or you're building your expectations, remember that He will do you good, whether or not this comes pass. You'll have to trust Him, and He likes that.
A friend, a fellow who was in the ministry 50 years and still alive, a really good man, texted me a message last week. Here it is: I have experienced His peace as I surrender my expectations to Him.
Wow. I really want to sit down, Lord, in that chair and just relax, but until I actually get there, I surrender to You. You guide the situation. Your expectations are vulnerable. They need to be actually surrendered to the Lord. I need to yield them to God.
There's a passage in the book of James, actually talks about this. James 4:13-17: Now listen, you who say, he's talking about making plans and expectations, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make it money." Why, he says, you don't even know what your life is. You don't know what will happen tomorrow. Instead, you ought to say, "If this is the Lord's will, we will live and do this." It's okay to talk about your plans, but condition it on God's will. As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.
We talk like we're in control of reality, but we're not. The Lord willing, as the translation I read in 1970 when I read these words was, you should say, "The Lord willing."
That actually became a way of life for me and Deborah. We got married a little bit after that, and throughout the years as we made our plans, it's been the Lord willing. One of us will say, "We're going to do this," and the other one will say, "The Lord willing."
Yeah, because it's as we surrender our expectations that the peace comes. He's in charge. Then our expectations need to be grounded in reality. In the early days of Hope Church, my wife and I started the congregation many years ago, we developed, because it was a new congregation and we had younger people and learning more about church life, we developed some lessons. We'd call them lesson number one and lesson number two. We would make plans, and we get into carrying out whatever it was and stuff would not go right. Someone would say, "But I thought," and someone else would say, "That's lesson number one."
Here is lesson number one: But I thought. Poor assumptions, poor results. Ground your expectations in good judgment about what's going to happen. It could be that your difficult relative really will show up kind this time and responsible. It could be, but make good assumptions.
Lesson number two: TWT. That is, time will tell. We developed this one because as you get into stuff you begin to bounce off each other, and the energy begins to raise, oh yeah, boy, this is going to happen, I can't wait until we get there, and blah, blah, blah, blah blah, and someone will say, "Time will tell."
Reality will show up. We don't want to rain on the party, but we need to keep good sense about this. Ground them in reality. The more critical the outcome, the more you need to count on reliable people and trust whatever it is to reliable people. Not everyone is real reliable. If it's crucial, give it to reliable people. You may need to add insurance, and I've listed a scripture, 2 Corinthians 9. Paul the apostle was collecting an offering for the Christians in the Jerusalem, Judea area of the Middle East because there was a famine and people were really in a hard shape. The churches in Greece were giving money. They didn't have a whole lot, they gave a lot. The people in the north had already taken up their collection. A team with their money was going to come and visit the churches in the south, and they'd take their combined collection with a few more guys and then carry it with Paul to Jerusalem. Paul knew how people are, so he writes in this letter: Now what I'm going to do is to make, to make sure that you're ready when the team comes from the other area, I'm sending these three guys help you get organized and get everything together, so that there won't be a disappointment and you'd be embarrassed.
He did some things to add extra insurance. If it's really important, don't just give it a look and a promise, add extra insurance. Altogether, as you face your expectations, you should act maturely. You get older, you are an elder, you're supposed to be mature. I've written this: I should the eld, E-L-D, that's what the elders do, they eld, act maturely, and there are three things in the ELD.
First of all, Enjoy. That's the E. Enjoy right now. Don't live your life looking forward to the great day one day. Enjoy right now, walking with the Lord, breathing whatever air you have. Enjoy life, if you're married, with your wife, or with your friends, and enjoy right now. Don't just be a person who's one day going to live. Live now.
L is Learn. Learn from what happens. For me personally, throughout life, I keep on learning about expectations. Learn. If things go well, great. If they don't go well, learn.
And then D is Do Right. Ask God's help, trust Him, and move on, and treat people rightly. God will bring us good, ultimately, even though the great thing we're looking for didn't show up on time, or didn't have the impact we thought, God will bring good. Trust Him, and He's going to use our expectations to train us to trust Him, and then to endure the difficult, also to train us to treat other people like He treats us. I don't know about you, but I've disappointed God a whole bunch of my life. The amazing thing is He hasn't fried me yet. There are situations where people need to be disciplined for not doing right, and the Lord has disciplined me, but it's amazing how kind He has been to me when I disappointed Him. You want to imitate the Father in the way you handle people when expectations don't come to pass. Eld. Do right.
Next week we're going to talk about discouragement, how Christ changes discouragement with this expectations matter. Coming to Christ does not mean that all the things you think are going to happen will. It does mean, though, that you have the power not to be overwhelmed by this, and you have the power to learn and set better expectations as you move forward. I'd like to go back, so join us next week as we talk about this, changes to discouragement. I'd like to go back to my point. Here it is, memorize it quickly: before you pull the plug, before you decide it's all over, or you're going to kill everybody, because they didn't come up to your expectations, revise your expectations, live and learn, know that devastations have come and gone before. This is not the first time you've been disappointed, and probably is not going to be the last time, but you know what? Even through this, God will meet me. God will help me and I can move forward and grow. I'd like to lead us in prayer.
Father, thank You for Your kindness to us. Thank you that even though we have disappointed You, You have not fried us. Thank You for repeatedly, whenever we knew we had disappointed you, and expected to turn around and be slapped across the face, You hugged us instead. Father, we ask You to give us a heart for other people like that. We want to be wise about how we set expectations in life and what to expect and whatnot. Well, to be wise and do right in handling things, but God, give us a heart like Yours. We asked You for this in the name of Jesus, and as we move into this week, and we start looking forward, remind us to look forward and commit things to You, and to deal in line with reality. In Jesus' name we ask You. Amen.