Great Expectations

My grandmother was a university English and Speech professor. Though she died just as I was graduating college, she made an impact on my life and academics in a very special way. In one such way, she always pushed me to communicate well. Not to the masses behind a microphone, but in everyday life. She was a passionate Arkansas Razorbacks men’s basketball fan. It would drive her crazy every time the star athlete was interviewed and it was difficult to understand what he was saying. She would always tell me, “You may never make a million dollars, but at least you will sound like you do. These boys sound like they have mush in their mouths!” My grandmother was also passionate about English literature and stage drama. I received a bachelor’s degree in Rhetoric & Writing at UA Fort Smith (Go Lions!) and was in theater in freshman and sophomore year, as influenced by her.

One of my college-favorites was the book Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I was enthralled by the experience of young Pip and his relationship with the mysterious Miss Havisham. Trying to make sense of his feelings toward Estella; family, social, and personal experiences made this an unforgettable book. I still keep a copy amongst all the theological and church books on my shelf in the office.

In Mark chapter 4, there is an incredible truth surrounding the concept of expectations. The story, simply titled Jesus Calms a Storm, challenges us to consider our expectations of Jesus and to be convicted by Jesus’s expectations of us.

Our Expectations of Jesus In the disciples’ defense, at this point they had not been following Jesus very long. Nonetheless, they had seen Him perform miracles, heard Him teach, and already responded in faith to His call on their lives. Therefore, it is no wonder Jesus is direct when He asks, “Why are you so afraid?” When the windstorm arose, the disciples were petrified. Their expectation of Jesus was very low – that He did not care, that He was not able.

If we are going to “get in the boat” with Jesus – if you have surrendered your life to follow Him as a Christian – you must live your life with a great expectation of who Jesus is. He is worthy of being followed because He does care and He is able. He cares for you and He loves you in the grand, miracle working-moments of storm-calming but also in the mundane, every day.

The thing about our expectations of Jesus is that they must correlate to our own efforts. In other words, if you are going to live with rightfully-deserved expectations of Jesus’s power and presence in your life, then you must decrease your own power and effort. A mature Christ-follower does not have great expectations for Jesus as a “co-captain”. John the Baptist would say, “He must increase and I must decrease.” This kind of perspective, on a daily basis, is truly living with a glorifying understanding of who Jesus is.

Jesus’s Expectation of Us The disciples’ expression and Jesus’s response also teaches us Jesus has a high expectation of His followers. Whenever he asked, “Have you still no faith?” it was not because He did not know. This question is one that should motivate us to be Christ-followers who live up to our expectations. Salvation is not asking Jesus into your heart, for the purpose of making your life better. This is not authentic Christianity. He is not yours to only call on as needed or to exist by the ways and means you find most convenient. Christianity is a life lived in surrender. A life of daily trust and faith. In salvation, this is what you “signed up for.” This is the expectation Jesus has for His followers. That you and I will have faith that He is who He says He is, did what He said He did, and we will live accordingly.

Jesus teaches in Matthew 7 you will know a person’s authenticity by their fruit. Is your life producing the fruit of faith? Are you living in a way that is in accordance with the great expectations God has for your life?

The beautiful paradox of our relationship with Jesus is that our ability to believe and our expression of faith is not ours to produce on our own. We cannot work hard enough to live with these great expectations – of Jesus or ourselves. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can live in such a God-honoring way. Let us be found in prayer, daily, for the presence of the Holy Spirit that we may live lives that glorify the Father.