Expectations Meet Reality


Expectation is the father of all frustration and the mother of all disappointment.

  • When you enter a marriage, you have expectations for your spouse. It’s why premarital counseling is important – to communicate expectations before they become a source of conflict.
  • Parents have expectations of children “I expected better of you.” “What did you expect?” “I’m just a kid!”
  • Teachers have expectations of students to complete assignments and behave with respect.
  • Workplace has expectations that are often spelled out in job descriptions with the last line saying, “And other duties as assigned.”
    • They don’t teach pandemic planning in seminary. Nor do they teach staying late every week to take out trash and put away chairs; but it’s a common expectation that no task is beneath the servant of One who washed feet and died for us.

The last several weeks have been filled with a lot of frustration.

  • Some have lost jobs, lost loved ones, among other losses.
  • We are recognizing HS Seniors experiencing loss of experiences and ceremony to capstone multiple years of work and achievement.

Even this last week many people expected an opening in ability public gatherings but was met with counter instructions and restrictions for churches.

  • I’m as disappointed as anyone. Yet, as a Christian my aim is two-fold: 1) to honor God, 2) to help my neighbors. We are honoring God by keeping faith personally and in connection with one another. We are also honoring God by respecting our government. Respect for gov doesn’t mean we cannot differ opinion or protest, but it does mean we discern ways where we can both honor God and respect gov.

Every relationship, every organization, everything we do, and everywhere you go there are certain expectations for us and from us.

Today’s message will help us discern how to manage our expectations according to our faith in God. mt 11


Our expectations can potentially help or haunt us. I want to reassure you that God has not forgotten, and he is forever faithful. God always keeps his promises and his way is perfect. There is tension between reality for what is and faith for what can be. A Bible passage to help think more clearly on this topic is found in Matthew 11.

Matthew 11:1-5 We overcome unfulfilled expectations by focusing on God’s work.

  • John Baptizer is in prison for speaking against Herod, an immoral politician. Eventually, John would be executed for his outspoken faith (cf. Matthew 14:1-12).
  • While John was in prison, he sent his followers to question Jesus if he was the Messiah or should he expect another? In other words, “When are you gonna change my circumstances?”
    Actually, John wasn’t having a pity party, he was pursuing Jesus for clarity. God was not working in the way John wanted and he needed answers. Expectations must be expressed.
  • When we tire from our trials, this is the moment to lean in rather than drift off. As John took assistance from disciples, so are we from church.
  • Expect the unexpected. Most travelers (wives/mothers!) have tendency to overpack – at least 1 extra pair of ___; bring that rain jacket just in case; a momma’s purse known to have the kitchen sink! If we expect the unexpected for traveling, why not for traveling the circumstances of life? Our packing contents, whether traveling or in life circumstances do not make our character but reveal it. And the reality is it has often become too easy to feel entitled as if God owes us a better hand than what we are dealt in life.
    • “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.” Matt 5:45

Jesus communicated to John He was working all around him. “Go and tell John what you hear and see…” and Jesus not only characterizes His ministry (cf earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, see below) but He also supports His actions from OT Scriptures; prophecies about the Messiah.

Isaiah 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 61:1-2               Matthew

29:18; 35:5    Blind receive sight                 9:27-30 two blind men healed

35:6                Lame walk                              8:5-13/9:1-8 Centurion’s paralyzed servant/paralytic w/ friends

Leprosy cured                        8:1-4 Leper is cleansed

29:18; 35:5    Deaf hear                               9:9 Matthew hears voice of God

Dead raised                           9:18-25 Ruler’s daughter restored

29:18; 61:1    Poor have gospel                   5-7 (5:3), 10 SOM given (poor in spirit have kingdom)

Isaiah 35:1-7
1  The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
2  it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing… They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God.
3  Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.
4  Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”
5  Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6  then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
7  the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water”


Jesus is not only affirming His identity as the Messiah, He is affirming John’s identity and incidents of preaching resulting in prison. Essentially Jesus is saying, “John, you can trust me and I see you. You will get through this.”

Jesus quoting Scripture is also important for John and us. Jesus is reminding us what sustains us in the storms of life – God’s word! While dark times tempt us to doubt our faith we must doubt our doubts for what we know is eternally true. We should not doubt in the dark what God has spoken in the light. The Bible has endured plagues, pandemics, persecutions, panics of war and weakened nations. Our lifeline and power to persevere is Scripture.

  • SPBC, let’s reconnect with our Small Groups.
  • GRADS, take this summer to do 2 foundational actions
    1) Read a book of the Bible with your parents… if that’s painful for you–choose Jude or Philemon (1 ch!)… Better suggestion: Jonah… or choose a Gospel.
    2) Choose a church wherever is your next location.
  • Parents – leverage the table. Take advantage of daily meals to process and plan, and prioritize new normals.

Matthew 11:6—15 We overcome unfulfilled expectations by focusing on God’s wisdom.

John objected to his prison circumstances but once he received news from Jesus, he wasn’t offended. John believed God has a purpose for every unpleasant episode of our life. In John’s life – and ours – God will often use crisis to bring about a deeper faith. In God’s wisdom for how the world operates, when we are down to nothing then God is up to something. God uses things the world despises and deems foolish to turn man’s wisdom upside down. When we are weak and no where to turn but God, that is when we are strong.

Our trust in Jesus and God’s wisdom is proved when we endure hardship.

  • Many people purchase generators for their house. They hook them up to their electric panel so that essential household electronics will maintain power when electricity is lost during a storm. Otherwise, all the food in a fridge will spoil, temperature will freeze or sweat depending on season, and you lack ability for lights beyond candles & flashlights. Can you imagine electricity being lost for multiple days, entering weeks, and you never turned on your generator? The only reason why you would have a generator and not use it when you needed it is because you didn’t trust the wisdom of doing so. The same is true during hardships and not following God’s ways and word.

C.S. Lewis after his wife died wrote a book, A Grief Observed, “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth of falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?”

à One of the areas that looks foolish to world but is the wisdom of God is to show grace.

  • Grace to forgive those who wrong you. Don’t become battered, but don’t be stuck by bitterness.
  • Grace to give generously to those who can never repay you back… storing treasure in heaven.

Jesus says, “Blessed is the one who is not offended (σκανδαλίζω stumble, caused to fall away) by me.”

Our identity is in Jesus first, as our Savior and Lord.

Jesus describes John

  • Was John a reed shaken by the wind? In other words, did John lack convictions – No!
  • Was John dressed in soft clothing? Did he choose self-comfort over sacrificial and radical faith?
  • John was a prophet – with the privilege of preparing the way for the Messiah.
    • YET, the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John.
    • Heaven’s view of us has far greater value than we have of ourselves.
  • The wisdom of God is to follow Jesus at all costs and advance His kingdom. While John was in prison and could no longer preach to crowds, He could still promote his faith by not compromising his convictions. In fact, we know Jesus’s answer helped John live out faith and overcome unfulfilled expectations because John died. Yes, you heard correctly. The very fact that John died shows us that he overcame unfulfilled expectations. You see, if John didn’t die then that would mean he was overcome by doubts and he would likely have compromised his faith to spare his life. Yet, John’s death shows us Jesus was sufficient.
    • #GeorgeMüller illustration… After he died, newspapers wrote he, “robbed the cruel streets of thousands of victims, the jails of thousands of felons, and the poorhouses of thousands of helpless waifs.” Where many people saw streets crowded with poor and sick children as a social problem, #GeorgeMüller saw them as a kingdom opportunity. Following the wisdom of God will look foolish to the world but the rewards will be far greater than ever imagined.
    • Side Note… let us be fools for Christ, but let us not be foolish. Our offense to the world should not be our attitudes or behaviors but only our Christ showing we are not better than anyone but just better off – hopeless and broken sinners have found healing and wholeness.

Matthew 11:28-30 We overcome unfulfilled expectations by focusing on God’s wooing.

Jesus invites people a faith relationship (“Come to me”) not a checklist religion. God is wooing us with grace. Jesus uses two words that describe the religion of the day

  • labor (κοπιάω: copious work, toil and fatigue; tense: present active action pursued)
  • heavy laden (φορτίζω: load up, overburden; tense: passive action applied to person)
    The tense of the first labor is an internal weariness caused by human pursuit of accomplishment and achievement, whereas the second heavy-ladenness is external weight caused by the demands and commands placed by others. Jesus is contrasting His own teaching with that of His adversaries, the Pharisees.

Instead, Jesus says, “take my yoke”, an object which joins animals together for submission, preventing rebellion, but for a clarified purpose. In a shared yoke, one of the oxen would often be much stronger than the other. The stronger ox was more schooled in the commands of the master, and so it would guide the other according to the master’s commands. By coming into the yoke with the stronger ox, the weaker ox could learn to obey the master’s voice.

The idea is that faith is being inseparably linked to Jesus so that our life can be productive.

  • Are you tired of laboring but not producing?
  • Where are you laboring in your faith where God is calling you to listen and live loved?


Closing thoughts about expectations meeting reality.

When you’re on a sail-boat in the open water…

  • Don’t get mad and yell at the wind.
  • Don’t give up bc the wind is blowing.
  • Adjust your sails to accommodate where the wind is blowing. Your travel may take a different path, but you will still get to your destination.

Friends, right now we have the choice to complain about the rain or we can make accommodations to adjust our sails, pop open the umbrella and enjoy the journey. There’s two things that matter

  • Who is with you in the journey.

Hebrews 13:5-6 “God has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”

— You are more loved than you ever know and God is working more than you will ever see.

  • You arrive at the right destination.


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