There is a pressure that is constantly battling around us to give people whatever they want. When you are younger it was labeled peer pressure. However, as we grow older the peer pressures continues throughout life, we just call them “Expectations”… and you get them from everyone: family, friends, co-workers, and members of your church, even from yourself. The truth is we cannot escape all expectations… but we can choose whose expectations we will obey!
Why do we live by the expectations of others, even when sometimes they are harmful or wrong? Two possible reasons: F.O.F. and F.O.P. Some of us have a Fear of Failure, and so we assume Perfectionist / Over-Achieving behavior. We cannot stop producing for others out of the fear that we will be seen as a failure. This is related in many ways to a Fear of People, and what they will think of us. This fear causes us to get on the never-ending treadmill of People Pleasing behavior. Both of these fears create a level of expectations that we try to live up to that cause us to make bad physical, emotional and spiritual choices, eventually leading to catastrophic events. We run the risk of long-term damage to our health, relationships and ministry, living in spiritual bankruptcy as we feel we can no longer connect with God.
Exodus 32 is an example of the tragic results that come from trying to live up to the expectations of others. In this season of the Hebrew history, Moses is with God, getting the rules of Covenant (i.e. Law, 10 commandments, etc.), but has been delayed in coming down from the mountain. The people gathered together around Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us”(vs. 1). And Aaron obeyed the expectations of the people. Why? Was he afraid of them, or in his new leadership was he trying to please them? Either way, by obeying the expectations of others –Aaron sinned (vs. 2-4) and led others into sin as well. But God was not pleased – His anger burned against them. And Aaron and the people suffered dearly for his living by the expectations of others (vs. 7-10). Moses recognized that this plan didn't begin with Aaron, but that he gave into the demands of the people and allowed sin to take root in the camp. “What did these people do to you…?” (vs. 21) This is why we obey the expectations of others – we are thinking of what others may do to us… We fear their responses, we want their approval, we desire the momentary pleasures they can offer us.
The truth is Jesus has expectations for us too (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus expects us to do life with Him, inviting us to “take My yoke upon you and learn from Me”. This refers to an ancient farming practice of training new oxen to plow the fields but partnering (yoking) the young ox with an experienced, stronger ox to bear the burden of the load. The younger ox did not feel the weight of the yoke but rather learned to walk in step with another ox; experiencing the process of plowing while the stronger ox did the bulk of the work. This is the expectation of Jesus… to allow him to do the work of life and ministry, with you present. God’s yoke feels light to us, because He is carrying the full weight of the work. If the tasks (yoke) of ministry and life are hard and your burden is heavy, then it isn’t God’s yoke or burden, and you are not allowing God to shoulder the burden that only He can be expected to carry. Jesus said it clearly, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light”. Obeying the expectations of God brings rest and right focus. Choose wisely who expectations you will obey!