Overcoming Expectations

Steve Arterburn

One of the subtlest enemies of spiritual life and growth is the influence of other’s expectations of you.  The world expects you to continually seek possessions and prestige.  It expects you to fill your time with busy activity, whether meaningful or not.  

Are you allowing the world’s expectations to dictate your life?  How often do you act in order to please others rather than because you want to please God?  Sometimes pleasing God may actually require that you disappoint others because you can’t fulfill their demands on you.

What do people expect of you?  What do you do when the world’s demands are pressing in on you?  Solitude can help you break free from other’s expectations.  When you spend some time quietly alone you can see more clearly what the world is asking of you.  In solitude you’re more able to evaluate these expectations in relation to God’s desires for you and to decide which demands should or should not be fulfilled.   

Following one of the busiest days’and nights’of his ministry, the book of Mark tells us that Jesus ‘awoke long before daybreak and went out alone into the wilderness to pray.’  Is your life busy?  Are you feeling pressure from your work, your wife, your friends, or your kids?  Follow the example of Jesus.  Make solitude a priority in your life today. You’ll be better for it.

Old Habits

Steve Arterburn

All of us have felt the tug of an old habit or former way of life.  And I’m sure you’ve known the frustration it creates as you long for the familiar, even though it may be destructive or may lead you outside God’s will.  At times, the challenge may seem too hard.  Your old life beckons, tempting you with familiar sources of comfort.

Did you know that many Jewish Christians of the first century thought about returning to the Jewish faith?  Some of Jesus’ teachings didn’t seem to line up with the teachings of the Jewish rabbis.  Was Jesus really the Messiah?  Did following him mean they had to give up their old, familiar forms of worship?  Would it be wrong to go back to their old beliefs and traditions?  Did it make sense to follow this new way when it led to harsh persecution?

The writer of the book of Hebrews addressed these concerns of the Jewish Christians.  In this book, they are encouraged to hold onto their faith, to encourage one another and to look forward to Jesus’ return.

What old habits are haunting you?  Addiction? Lust?  Anger?  Spiritual renewal requires that you seek God, surrender your life to Jesus Christ, and follow his ways.  From time to time, you will almost certainly feel a temptation to return to your former ways of life.  But God is more than able to help you overcome and empower you to grow.

Nebudchadnessar’s Pride

Steve Arterburn

Nebuchadnezzar was one of the greatest conquerors in the history of our world.  He came to dominate the people of many nations.  He possessed power, fame, and wealth.  At one point, he even considered himself to be a god.  But, like so many others, he lacked the one thing he needed the most: peace.  His insecurities wouldn’t allow him to be at peace with himself.  So how could he be at peace with others?  He was a man who was unhappy with himself and hostile toward the people around him.  Can you relate?

Nubuchadnezzar never truly discovered the peace that could’ve been found had he surrendered his life to God.  He did everything he could to maintain his power over others.  Remember the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?  When they walked out of the fiery furnace unscathed, Nebuchadnezzar realized that he’d been thwarted by God.  He also saw that the three who surrendered their lives to God had far greater power at their disposal than even he had.  Despite his recognition of God’s power, however, the king’s pride continued to get the best of him.  

Nebuchadnezzar continued to brag about his greatness and claimed that he alone was responsible for the great city of Babylon.  He refused to recognize that all power’even his power’was granted by God.  Subsequently he never understood the blessing of peace that comes with surrendering to God.  Do you know this blessing of peace?