A young psychology student serving in the Army decided to test a theory. Drawing kitchen duty, he was given the job of passing out apricots at the end of the food line. He asked the first soldiers that came by, “You don’t want any apricots, do you?” Ninety percent said “No.”
Then he tried a different approach: “You do want apricots, don’t you?” About half answered, “Uh, yeah. I’ll take some.”
Then he tried a third test. This time he asked, “One dish of apricots or two?” And in spite of the fact that soldiers don’t like Army apricots, 40 percent took two dishes and 50 percent took one!
A fun and harmless experiment.
But what about when the stakes are higher?
Harvard social psychologist Robert Rosenthal’s classic study (1966).
In a San Francisco grade school, all the children were given a standard I.Q. test at the beginning of the school year. However, the teachers were told that the children were given a test which could predict which students could be expected to have a spurt of academic and intellectual functioning. The researchers then simply drew names out of a hat and told the teachers that these were the children who had displayed a high potential for improvement. Naturally, the teachers thought they had scored highly on the test and began treating these children as special children.
And the most amazing thing happened the spurters, spurted! Overall, they averaged four more I.Q. points on the second test than the other group of students. However, the gains were most dramatic in the lowest grades. First graders whose teachers expected them to advance intellectually jumped 27 points, and the second grade spurters increased on the average 16 points more than their peers. One little child who had been classified as mentally handicapped saw an increase of 45 I.Q. points!
Expectations, it seems, matter.
Last week in looking at giving up control and trusting in God, we considered how much in life we actually do not have control over. And yet, we do have influence, and others have influence over us.
So, in what way can giving up our expectations be helpful in bringing us closer to God and becoming more faithful followers of Jesus?
Well, just like last week, when the “giving up” had more to do with our disposition than our decision, more to do with our attitudes than our actions; so it is with our expectations.
Here’s the filter question: Does this expectation limit or expand the possibilities before us?
Let’s think about prayer in relationship to our expectations. We may pray for something or someone for a particular outcome what WE have in mind for a situation.
But putting it the outcome in God’s hands may end up surprising us. Because, while I believe it’s important to pray for specific situations, pouring out our hopes and dreams and desires to God, we ultimately end up with the prayer Jesus taught us “thy will be done” which means our expectations may not be met. They may, in fact, be exceeded!
When Nicodemus went to Jesus, there were many expectations piled on to that encounter:
First he had to go at night, because he feared what his friends would say if they knew he (a devout religious professional) was seeking out this crazy man who spoke in riddles and prophecy, who was healing and forgiving sins and all sorts of things that he was not authorized to do.
And clearly Nicodemus did not have his expectations met in Jesus.
Even though he had heard and believed that Jesus was the Son of God, still what he got from Jesus was new and not expected. Be born again? What? How can that be?
When Nicodemus is talking to Jesus, he has a hard time understanding what God’s grace is really about, because he is used to thinking in terms of religious structure. Sometimes we just can’t know what’s going on or what’s coming next.
God doesn’t guarantee any future circumstances or uninterrupted prosperity, but we can trust that God will be with us through whatever circumstances we face, and that God will work with us to make the best result out of even the most hopeless of places.
This makes me wonder….do you think that perhaps Jesus takes Nicodemus to this challenging place of new birth BECAUSE he (Nicodemus) was believing, that is, he did acknowledge that Jesus was God’s son?
I do suspect that people who know the Lord personally have an openness to the twists and turns of life, missed opportunities that really might be blessings.
I wonder if people who trust in God have a firmer footing when things don’t turn out as they expected. Because God is all about exceeding our expectations.
We are hard-pressed to find a story in the Bible that ends up with God standing by watching as people’s lives disintegrate around them leaving them in a hard place with no hope. It is not in God’s nature to leave us in such a state.
Josh Shipp story…(watch this video to hear the full story:
When we give up our expectations
we become more open to whatever God has in store for us
more open to something different which
When we give up expectations
we are actually more obedient to God
When we give up expectations
we allow God to expand our hopes
And what a beautiful place that is! Amen.