“He knew what was in a man.” Jn 2:25 NIV
Here are three areas in which you must learn to have realistic expectations: (1) You must have realistic expectations of yourself. When you do things poorly you usually feel bad. That sets in motion a never-ending cycle of reaching for things that are out of reach, hoping to prove something you don’t have to prove in the first place. You think you should be able to do what others do, yet if you are not similarly gifted you cannot excel in it. You don’t need to prove anything! Just obey God, and allow Him to take care of your reputation. As long as you expect to excel outside your gifting and calling, you will always end up disappointed. (2) You must have realistic expectations in your relationships with others. To make yourself responsible for someone else’s happiness, or them for yours, leads to a life of frustration. Abraham Lincoln said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” If people don’t have the right outlook in life, you, and a hundred others like you, won’t make them happy. (3) You must have realistic expectations concerning life. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33 NKJV). As long as you’re in this world you’ll have problems. Nobody gets a free pass. But don’t worry, the Lord’s got everything under control. Just learn to be realistic. You will always have to deal with unpleasant situations, stubborn problems and difficult people. But your attitude (not theirs) is what determines whether or not you enjoy life.
“He knew what was in a man.” Jn 2:25 NIV
Jesus saw the best in people and worked to bring it out. But He wasn’t naïve; He understood human frailty. When people disappointed Him, He didn’t retaliate in anger, or distance from them. What did He do? “Many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man” (vv. 23-25 NIV). Jesus constantly called people to a higher standard, but He understood that their best would still be imperfect. And you need to understand that about your loved ones too, and handle them accordingly. The perfect relationship, the perfect job, the perfect church, and the perfect neighborhood don’t exist! God knows that, so He gave us instructions on how to deal with people who disappoint us: “Bear (endure, carry) one another’s burdens and troublesome moral faults, and in this way fulfill and observe… the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2 AMP). You say, “What is the law of Christ?” Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment…Just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another” (Jn 13:34 AMP). To love as Jesus loved, you must love without condition and without pressure. It’s easier to talk about how to treat the irritating people in your life than it is to do it. But the Lord never commands you to do something that He won’t give you the grace to carry out. And the great thing is, in the process of carrying it out you become more like Him.
“Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.” Eph 6:18 NLT
In August, 1806, five Williams College students met in a field for one of their twice-weekly prayer meetings when a thunderstorm drove them to take refuge in a nearby haystack. Continuing in prayer, Samuel John Mills shared his burden that Christianity be sent abroad, and the group prayed that American missions would spread Christianity through the east. The haystack prayer meeting held in Williamstown, Massachusetts, is viewed by many scholars as the spark that ignited American support for world missions. In 1808, the haystack prayer group and other Williams students formed “The Brethren,” a society organized to effect, in the persons of its members, a mission to the heathen. Within a few years they inspired the founding of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). Several of the students, including Adoniram Judson, went to Asia as missionaries (the first foreign missioners sent from America in 1812). Samuel John Mills stayed stateside to recruit others, and helped organize the American Bible Society and the United Foreign Missionary Society. In its fifty years, ABCFM sent out over 1,250 missionaries. In 1961, the American Board merged to form the United Church Board for World Missions (UCBWM). After 150 years, the American Board had sent out nearly 5,000 missionaries to thirty-four different fields. And it all began with five young men praying in a haystack! Nothing can take the place of prayer—not money, not programs. The truth is, we can do great things after we pray, but we cannot do great things until we pray. So the word for you today is, “Let us pray.”
“The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.” Pr 13:4 NIV
The word “diligence” includes such qualities as hard work, honesty, persistence, and striving for excellence. The New Living Bible Translation puts it this way: “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” One expert says, “Success doesn’t come from being a hundred percent better than your competition, but from being one percent better in a hundred different ways.” Syndicated business columnist Dale Dauten says: “If you want to be creative in your company, your career or your life, it all comes down to one easy step…the extra one. When you encounter a familiar plan, you just ask one question: ‘What else could we do?’” To succeed you’ll have to do more—more than you may want, more than your competition, more than you think you’re capable of. The poet William Arthur Ward said: “I will do more than belong—I will participate. I will do more than care—I will help. I will do more than believe—I will practice. I will do more than be fair—I will be kind. I will do more than forgive—I will forget. I will do more than dream—I will work. I will do more than teach—I will inspire. I will do more than learn—I will enrich. I will do more than give—I will serve. I will do more than live—I will grow. I will do more than suffer—I will triumph.” You can’t do whatever’s easiest and still reach your goal. You must do more. You must do “whatever it takes.”
“I try to find common ground.” 1Co 9:22 NLT
Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy. To win someone over, you must first do two things: (a) understand them; (b) become comfortable with diversity. Paul wrote, “So I can bring them to Christ…I try to find common ground with everyone” (vv. 21-22 NLT). Paul wouldn’t yield an inch when it came to the truth, but his strategy was always one of love. Whether he was speaking to Jews, Greeks, Romans or barbarians his message never varied. But his approach did. When people know you respect them you’re more effective at helping them to change. Speaking to those who were willing to alienate someone over a fine point of theology, Paul writes, “In Christ’s family…you are all equal…in a common relationship with Jesus” (Gal 3:28 TM). Just think, when the saints of the ages gather round God’s throne to praise Him they will not only be from different continents and cultures, but different eras—the early church age and the space age. What a concert! But you won’t enjoy it if you’re so narrow that you only know one song, because they may not be singing that particular number over there. Some of God’s choicest characters were culturally diverse, like Moses, an Israelite raised in an Egyptian household to prepare him for his destiny. Or Peter, who was prejudiced enough to think that God only blessed Jews until God straightened him out saying, “If I say someone’s acceptable, don’t you say they’re not” (See Ac 10:15 paraphrased). Evidently Peter got the message, for he wrote later, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth…love one another deeply” (1Pe 1:22 NKJV). So, learn to be tactful.
“My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Ex 33:14 NIV
Unless you spend time in God’s presence you will always have an underlying sense of insecurity. There are certain people we draw security from just by being around them; their presence and approach to life make us feel better. Likewise, when you need to be lifted and strengthened you must spend time with God. Being in His presence is like being in a room filled with perfume; you take the fragrance of it with you when you leave. Moses spent a great deal of time with God. He knew that without God’s presence he wasn’t worth two cents. Can you imagine being responsible for the daily care of two million people, getting them out of one country and into another—on foot? It’s mind-boggling. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the Israelites spent much of their time complaining about their lot in life and finding fault with Moses. When things went wrong, he was their favorite target. It was an ideal situation for losing your mind. But God told Moses, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” God can give you rest in the midst of trouble, and peace in the midst of conflict. That includes a difficult workplace, or a home that’s in constant turmoil. God’s presence can help you to show love in the face of mistreatment, and patience in times of stress. It can help you to bring positive change without a lot of words, and end up feeling good about the way you handled things. So spend time in God’s presence today.
“I have suffered the loss of all things.” Php 3:8 NKJV
Stop and listen carefully to what some of the people around you are saying. Many of them express regret because they backed off from their dream of earlier years: a career not pursued, an opportunity left unseized, a relationship allowed to wither and die. Decades later they come back to it and think more about it. But for some, it’s too late. They can’t achieve their dream at any price. For others, the dream is possible but the price is much higher. In his book, Put Your Dream to the Test, Dr. John Maxwell writes: “Going after a dream is like climbing a mountain. We will never make it to the summit if we are carrying too much weight. As we enter each new phase of the climb, we face a decision. Do we take on more things to carry, lay down things that won’t help us climb, exchange what we have for something else, or stop climbing altogether? Most people try to take too many things with them…when successful people climb, they let go of things or start changing them in order to reach a higher level…The payments required for reaching a dream never stop. The journey continues only if you keep paying the price. The higher you want to go, the more you must give up. The greater the price you pay, the greater the joy you feel when you finally reach your dream.” Someone said a task without a vision is drudgery. A vision without a task is daydreaming. But a task with a vision is the pathway to victory and achievement.