Expectation: A strong belief that something will happen or be the case.
At its most potent this firm, unshakeable belief in a certain outcome produces anticipation, expectancy, eagerness and hope.
These are the feelings that flood through us when we are convinced something is going to change. They are powerful motivators, and when this kind of expectant hope is kindled corporately in a local church community, undiluted anticipation can rush through the whole and bring real forward momentum.
Our problem comes when reality fails to meet our great expectations. The irresistible force of our assumed progress crunches up against the immovable object of reality. And it's reality that bites. Time and again we fail to hit the mark, sometimes coming in close, sometimes nowhere near. Either way, we become conditioned to failure and disappointment.
Nothing saps hope in the local church more than this. We dared to believe, but look what happened. From the people who came out of Egypt to the disciples who found themselves locked in fear in the upper room, you can see their heads dropping, their hearts breaking, their courage fleeing.
What's the answer? Lower our expectations? Our defence mechanisms would give us this as the easy way out. Expect nothing from anybody and you will never be disappointed. Set really low targets, aim only at what you know you can hit, never show courage, never reach long, under no circumstances allow yourself to dream. It saves you from crushing disappointment, but you are living in the doldrums anyway and who is going to gather to such a damp and negative vision?
But we love the hype, we seek the superlative, and when real life disappoints, we hunt hype like a drug in the inconsequential things. Every World Cup that comes around we are definitely going to win. What good is a build up that manages our expectations so carefully that we are happy with defeat at an early stage? No,we live for the glory, the stand or fall, the die trying attitude - That's what we tune in to see, or gather to follow.
Back in the real world, we can't take too much disappointment before we just stop hoping and become cynical, reverting back to our emotional defence systems and lowered expectations; Conditioned to failure, better to survive in life than to dream.
In Ephesians 3.20 Paul paints a picture of the local church being the most robustly expectant people on the planet. No hint of cynical suppression to be found. Instead the polar opposite, wide eyed, sky high hope pumps through the passage.
'Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.'
No lowering of the bar here, rather a realisation that when it comes to the promise of God for his people, you can't out superlative God and his expectations for us.
Perhaps it's time that we stepped back from the edge of mere hopeful hype, or lifted our weary heads from dismal pessimism to realign ourselves to his definition of expectation? Immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine - More than we could express or dare to believe - here is a true definition of expectation to re calibrate ourselves to.