Typically as Christians, when we hear the word “idolatry” we think of the worship of carved figures or statues often used in religions such Buddhism or Hinduism. However, another definition of the word is “extreme admiration, love or reverence for something or someone.” The thing we all need to deeply consider is that we are all guilty of idolizing our own selfish ideas, projections and expectations that we put on ourselves, our lives, and the people in it.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Are you currently in the place in life you expected to be a year ago? Five years ago? Ten years ago?
- In the past 30 days, has a situation turned out very differently from the way you expected it to, and did it cause you upset, frustration or anger?
- In the past week have you had an interaction with someone (a co-worker, friend or significant other) in which they responded/reacted in a way not in line with what you would have liked?
- Do you realize how often you lose your peace because of unmet expectations?
Without any doubt, unmet expectations are one of the biggest causes of upsets in our lives and breaking free of this idolatry is a vital step to living the abundant life Christ promises. We all would benefit from removing unnecessary disappointment in our lives, but practically, how are we to do this? By being in the will of God; being thankful and keeping an eternal perspective. God’s word says:
” … in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18
This clearly says God’s will is for us to be thankful in EVERYTHING! If you take the time to do a serious word study here you will find that the word “everything” means: EVERYTHING! In other words, in all circumstances give thanks; in joy or in sorrow give thanks.
So God’s will is for me to be thankful when I get the promotion at work AND if I get an unexpected negative medical report? Yup, everything means everything.
Wait, so I’m supposed to be thankful if a loved one dies or a relationship ends? Yes – “everything.”
You want me to be thankful if I’m in a car crash or wrongfully accused of something and it costs me and my loved ones dearly? Well … E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G!!!!!
Ephesians 5:18-20 says this: “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,”
We are to give thanks to God, no matter what. The way we do that is to be “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;” – Philippians 1:6
God knows exactly what we must go through to be conformed to the image of Christ and the truth is that having an unthankful spirit is sin. Jesus clearly told us that in this life we would have tribulation (John 16:33) and also that the world would even hate us as it hated Him (John 15:18), so it should not come as such a shocker when we experience hardship or persecution in this life.
Spiritual maturity in Christ is marked not only by the ability to be content no matter what state we are in and gracefully endure difficulty through Christ (Philippians 4:11-13), but also to acknowledge and accept that God works all things for our good to conform us into Christ’s image (Romans 8:28-29), and that we are often conformed into Christ’s image through hardship and turmoil. God’s discipline should be welcomed, expected and accepted. We can rest assured that our Lord chastens us:
” … for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” – Hebrews 12:10-11
God clearly has a purpose for the circumstances we experience in life, and when we find ourselves upset it is usually simply because either we don’t want what God wants or we don’t want what He wants in the way He wants it.
“The spiritual saint never believes circumstances to be haphazard … he sees everything he is dumped down in as the means of securing the knowledge of Jesus Christ.” – Oswald Chambers
To make sure that we are giving thanks in everything, let us always look at what God has done and look at what he is going to do. With the glory that is waiting for us in the future of heaven how could we be anything but thankful?
Breaking free from the idolatry of unmet expectations and being able to almost “hope for the best, but plan for the worst” if you will, always keeping in mind that God’s will is for us to give thanks and be more and more like Jesus will surely help us stay in the joy of the Lord on a daily basis. Yes writing about this is much easier than walking it out in life, but being able to always assess how we are doing in the mirror of God’s holy word will surely keep us on the right path.
“We are not fundamentally free; external circumstances are not in our hands, they are in God’s hands, the one thing in which we are free is in our personal relationship to God. We are not responsible for the circumstances we are in, but we are responsible for the way we allow those circumstances to affect us; we can either allow them to get on top of us, or we can allow them to transform us into what God wants us to be. ” – Oswald Chambers
Being able to give thanks in EVERYTHING will undoubtedly make a dramatic impact on our own lives and the lives of all of those around us. Are unmet expectations a recurring cause of upset in your life? What are the obstacles to more fully being able to give thanks in everything?