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.

Solitude, Silence, and Fasting

Steve Arterburn

At times in our lives we all have wilderness experiences’times when we face despair and feel alone in the world.  Elijah was a prophet in the Bible who had a literal wilderness experience.   His time in the wilderness forced him to practice three spiritual disciplines that freed him from his dependence on the world and encouraged him instead to depend on God.  We might learn from his example.

The first discipline Elijah practiced was solitude:  and it served at least two purposes.  It protected him from King Ahab who wanted to kill him.  And it provided an opportunity for him to deepen his faith, to draw closer to God. Next, Elijah’s wilderness experience gave him a time to practice silence, which allowed him to listen for God’s voice. And finally, Elijah practiced a form of fasting.  Strictly speaking he didn’t abstain from food, but his food was controlled by God’s special provision.  Periodically, God would send ravens carrying food for Elijah to eat.  In this way, Elijah learned to trust God to provide for his daily needs.

A wilderness experience can play an important role in our spiritual growth.  Are you going through one now?  Don’t miss what it might be offering you.  Like Elijah, withdrawing from your normal routine will remove you from distraction and lead to an intimacy with God.  Silence allows you to listen to God. And fasting teaches you to depend on God to provide for you.

Worship

Steve Arterburn

Worship is a way of life.  Worship isn’t simply what you do for God in church; it’s also who you are for God in the world.  

So how can you bring worship into you daily life?  Let’s consider some suggestions from another man’the apostle Paul. In chapter twelve of his letter to the Romans he gives us some good counsel.

First he says you need to allow God to transform your mind.  In this way, your allegiance is transferred from the world to God.

Second, he tells you to serve others with your gifts.  This displays God’s glory as your Creator.  You should rejoice in these gifts and use them to accomplish God’s purposes.

And third, Paul says you need to be a reflection of God’s love and grace.  The second great commandment is that you love others as yourself.  Paul provides numerous concrete examples of how you can obey this commandment.  These aren’t simply humanitarian gestures.  They are acts of worship, acts that please and honor God.  Let me leave you with a few ways Paul says you’re to worship God.

Love each other with genuine affection
Never be lazy in your work
Be glad for all God is planning for you
Be prayerful
When God’s children are in need, be the one who helps
Get into the habit of inviting guests for dinner, or if they need lodging, for the night
Don’t try to act important but enjoy the company of ordinary people