Christians in Training: 5 Lessons from 2 Timothy

The topic for today’s blog post was decided a month or so ago. Then my oldest son (13) came home from Bible camp this past Saturday and asked, “Mommy, will you write a blog post about my week at camp?” Of course, there was no way I could refuse, especially after he agreed to write out the 5 things he learned at camp that he wanted to focus on in his life.

5 Lessons from 2 Timothy

I. Practical Ways to Live Unashamed for Our Lord (2 Timothy 1)

  1. Refresh your gift (v. 6)
  2. Serve with courage (v. 7)
  3. Anticipate hardship (v. 8)
  4. Remember the God who saved You (v. 8)
  5. Trust your security (vv. 11-13)

Jonathan’s Application: After hearing these steps, I am going to try and be more open to talk about the Bible at school.

II. Jobs of a Christian (2 Timothy 2)

  1. Teachers (v. 2)
  2. Soldiers (vv. 3-4)
  3. Athletes (v. 5)
  4. Hard-Working Farmers (v. 6)

Jonathan’s Application: I am going to try and act like these jobs to be a better Christian.

III. How to Be a Useful Vessel (2 Timothy 2)

  1. Handle the Word rightly (vv. 14-19)
  2. Have a clean heart (vv. 21-22)
  3. Engage others correctly (vv. 23-26)

Jonathan’s Application: I am going to try and be a useful vessel to God by following these steps.

IV. How to make Time for God’s Word (2 Timothy 3)

  1. Pray for help & guidance (James 4)
  2. Make a plan (Isaiah 32:8)
  3. Get accountability (Proverbs 27:17)
  4. Get back-up (Psalm 37:23-24)

Jonathan’s Application: I am going to try using these steps and make time for God’s Word.

V. How to Effectively Preach the Word (2 Timothy 4)

  1. Have spiritual wisdom and an understanding of the Gospel
  2. Experience the power of the gospel in your heart
  3. Handle the Bible with skill
  4. Have the right motive
  5. Be ready at all times

Jonathan’s Application: After hearing these steps, I am going to try and preach the Word to some of my friends.

CONCLUSION

Not only did my son come back excited about studying God’s Word, he also came back questioning some of the teachings. Now, let me first just say that the teachings at Bair Lake Bible Camp are Bible based and come through spirit-led Christians. But what excites me about my son’s questioning is that through his questioning, he and I were able to discuss several important aspects of being a Christian (especially as a teenager). Not only that, but we were able to discuss the importance of “examining the Scriptures daily” (Acts 17:11) on your own in addition to hearing preaching/teaching.

My son was too young this year to become a junior counselor after going through Christians in Training (CIT), but he is looking forward to doing so next year. In fact, he’s excited about going back to Bair Lake Bible Camp for CIT through high school. To have your child excited about not just learning about God’s Word but also eager to apply it in his everyday life and beyond truly brings the greatest joy as a parent.

DISCUSSION: What aspects of Jonathan’s notes do you want to apply to your life?

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Recommendations… Notice a Pattern?

So often, God speaks to us about issues or gives guidance to us through patterns. He often uses what I read in this way. As an example, below are several blog posts that fit with a pattern in my life where I feel God wants me to focus.

Fruit of the Spirit – You’re invited to Plant, Grow, & Cultivate – Weekly Bible study by Kathy Howard.

Does Playboy Influence Your View of Christian Community? @ A Curious Band of Others.

Small Town Triples in Size Overnight! @ A Curious Band of Others.

How to Inspire Others to Be Productive, Courageous, and Hard-Working – Episode 9  – Podcast at Life of a Steward.

Make Time For Relationships: How and Why – Episode 4 – Podcast at Life of a Steward.

If a topic or issue keeps arising in a variety of ways in your life, consider that it may just be God speaking to you. For me, that usually means I need to quiet my spirit and take time to listen.

DISCUSSION: Does God use patterns to speak to you too?

How to… Be Accountable

So far in my Christian life, I have been influenced tremendously by both the law (what I should and should not do, obeying the rules) and my own nature (the desires of the flesh). As Kathy Howard says in The Proper Climate – “Fruit of the Spirit” Lesson 1, “freedom cannot be found in observing the Law. And indulging our sinful nature will never produce the righteous life God desires.” Instead, true freedom is found as we “live according to… life in the Holy Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). (For a terrific study on living in the Holy Spirit and specifically on the fruit of the Spirit, please check out the wonderful Summer Bible study by Kathy Howard titled Fruit of the Spirit: Plant Grow & Cultivate.)

Recently, a friend and I have been pushing each other to focus more on walking in and living life as directed by the Holy Spirit. We are challenging each other tremendously in this area. Had we not been, I am not sure Kathy’s Fruit of the Spirit study would have caught my attention. Why? Having an accountability partner, something I longed for my whole adult life but couldn’t find, has played a large role in tuning my spirit to help me be more in tuned to the Holy Spirit.

Informally, this type of accountability can happen when a body of believers comes together regularly in worship and small group study. It can also happen when a group of runners gather every Saturday morning for their “long runs.” In a more formal sense, the idea of an accountability partner provides a unique way to be encouraged on a more intimate level. Whether formal or informal and whatever the focus and purpose, the benefits of accountability increase when individuals are…

  1. Meeting regularly. My accountability partner and I meet for discussion about every other week, and we see each other at church on Sundays. Face-to-face connections provide the glue for relationships. Hebrews 10:25 warns against stopping this habit and connects it with the idea of accountability.
  2. Connecting often. In our busy culture, meeting face-to-face regularly can be a struggle. Fortunately, that same culture gives a multitude of ways to connect in between face-to-face meetings. Blogs, email, Facebook, and Twitter provide unique ways to connect with others. The truth that No Man Is An Island holds true more today than ever.
  3. Teachable. When I taught college English classes years ago, most students wanted to learn at least to some extent. But a few students wanted to get a passing grade without learning. This isn’t possible in college, and it’s not possible in life either. In order to move toward excellence, one must be willing to learn from others. (Proverbs 23:12)
  4. Transparent. This does not necessarily mean airing one’s dirty laundry, but it does mean an honesty that gives room for true accountability. I have been in what I thought was an accountability relationship where the other person was not teachable or completely transparent, and I discovered that not only was I wasting my time but “casting pearls to swine” too (Matthew 7:6).
  5. Prepared. Just like taking a test without having studied is unwise, so too is expecting accountability to take place when you’ve made no effort to make progress. To prepare for the time with my accountability partner, we both make notes about what the Holy Spirit lays on our hearts, and we come ready to discuss those. There are many ways to prepare for accountability, and the specifics really depend on the unique reasons behind the partnership.

Without question, God encourages the idea of accountability. Hebrews 10:24 says to “think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.” Whether formally or informally, having people we can encourage and be encouraged by goes a long way in helping us to “hold tightly to the hope we say we have” as well as to “encourage and warn each other, especially now as they day of his coming back again is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23, 25).

DISCUSSION: What other elements need to exist in accountability relationships?

Related Posts:

How to… Be Encouraging Just By Being You

Sunday Reflections… No Man is an Island

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Sunday Reflections – No Man Is An Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each piece is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor or thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

John Donne wrote the poem “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in 1624, and it inspired a famous book (Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”) which then inspired a song by a well-known rock band (not my kind of music… my brother’s).

The poem also well illustrates Luke’s words in Acts 2:42-47 where he stresses the importance of connection. Once becoming a believer, an individual joined with other believers and “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, sharing the in the Lord’s Supper and in prayer.”

Being united by faith in Christ, the early church focused on connections to strengthen and encourage each other. Connection was crucial to the survival of the church in its infancy.

Connecting with a body of believers still remains crucial in our challenging culture today. Yet the onus lies with the individual to connect and be connectible. But how does one cultivate healthy connectivity?

  1. Connect to God. Without this connection, all other connections are futile. Begin with the basics of consistent Bible study, fellowship and prayer as the individuals in the early church did. Add to that foundation as led by the Holy Spirit.
  2. Be connectable. Make time in your schedule for others. Let the Holy Spirit work in you and give you an attitude that draws instead of pushes others away. Realize you can’t change others, and focus on the one person you can change.
  3. Develop broad shoulders. No one is perfect. People will say and do stupid things. Finding ways to support and encourage through imperfection creates connection. (See post Do You Have Broad Shoulders? for more on this point.)
  4. Be willing to share. While sharing possessions certainly fits here (an example set by those Timothy spoke about in Acts), the point of sharing burdens must also be made (Galatians 6:2). Some burdens are obvious. Others not. Allowing someone to bear your burden may mean being brave enough to share it. Of course, this is a lot easier when healthy connections already exist.
  5. Submit to the process. Connecting exists as an ongoing process. Making good choices to cultivate the process is crucial as each individual does his/her part by connecting to God, being connectable, developing broad shoulders and being willing to share.

Donne’s poem not only so well emphasizes the idea that no person exists to live life as a lonely island, it furthers the point by saying that “each man’s death diminishes me.” In other words, each person brings something unique to the body and has a “plan and a purpose” (Jeremiah 29:11). The body functions most effectively and with greater efficiency with all its parts connected and healthy.

What We All Have in Common with Serial Killers

If you’ve ever watched Criminal Minds, you probably understand the basics of profiling. The habits and history of the “unsub” (unidentified subject) get uncovered as a way to identify this person, usually a serial killer, and to ultimately stop them from killing. The key to finally discovering the killer’s identity usually lies with victimology. Who are this person’s victims and why? What do the victims have in common with each other?

This idea of victimology can also serve to help us non-serial killers discover more about ourselves in a way that can help us better “make the most of every opportunity” as we pursue holiness in that we can better learn to “love others as we love ourselves” (Matthew 22:39By considering who our victims are and why, we can discover some significant truths about ourselves.

To fully benefit from the following points, first consider those individuals with whom you struggle. Who easily and consistently annoys, frustrates and/or angers you? (I know someone immediately came to mind. Did for me.) Now ask yourself what specifically triggers these reactions. For example, is a person’s arrogance, failure to listen or disorganization what bothers you? Or, perhaps bossiness or refusing to admit mistakes really gets you going. Maybe their over-confidence or constant dramatization of life bothers you. Once you’ve completed this evaluation, proceed with an open mind.

WARNING: This process may get a little uncomfortable. Proceed only with a teachable heart and a willingness to let the Holy Spirit get into some dark and dirty corners.

Now ask yourself if that which bothers you most in others lies at the heart of your own personal struggles. In other words, do the victims of your dislike indicate something you need to work on or come to terms with or accept as weaknesses within you?

Consider the following questions:

  1. Do you project & magnify? We sometimes project (or see) our own weaknesses and then magnify them (see them bigger than they really are) in others. We do this so much so that we no longer see those same weaknesses, bad habits, fears and insecurities in ourselves.
  2. Do you distract yourself? Dealing with insecurities, fears, weaknesses and bad habits can be so painful and uncomfortable that we avoid dealing with them through busyness, focusing on the problems of others, and outright self-deception. After all, if we don’t admit we have these issues, we don’t have to deal with them, right? (Wrong! We’ll deal with them one way or another, but that’s another topic for another time.) In distracting ourselves, we create our own version of reality that all too quickly becomes complete truth in our own minds thus seemingly justifying our actions.

This idea is somewhat at work in 2 Samuel 12 when the prophet Nathan rebukes David for killing Uriah and taking his wife for his own. Nathan first tells David a story to which David “burned with anger” and immediately wanted to take vengeance when all the while the story was about David. Fortunately, Nathan’s pointing out of David’s wrongdoing met a repentant heart (Psalm 51), but clearly David’s initial reaction showed that he had projected and magnified his own wrongdoing when he heard the story. He had also somehow distracted himself to the point of not initially seeing a correlation between the story and his adulterous actions.

So what do we DO after profiling our own victimology?

In Criminal Minds, the information is used to detect patterns in the unsub’s behavior. This can be a useful first step, especially if we allow the Holy Spirit to reveal those patterns to us and lead us to a place of repentance. A second step comes again from David in that he moved on with His life, seemingly trying to not repeat this same mistake. That’s not to say David didn’t make more mistakes, but a study of his life shows that he continually sought to please God.

When I watch Criminal Minds, I sometimes wonder what an official FBI profile of me would include. Maybe I don’t really want to find out. What I do know is the more I can self-assess, which really means the more I allow the Holy Spirit to show me areas on which I need to work, the better able I am to truly “make the most of every opportunity” that God gives me for serving and glorifying Him.

Related Posts:

How to… Put Your Behind in the Past

Stain Free

DISCUSSION: “The more pride we have, the more other people’s pride irritates us.” (C.S. Lewis) How does this quote connect with our study of victimology?

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Guest Post – In This World, You Will Have Trouble!

Welcome Chris Patton from Christian Faith at Work for our guest post today. Chris’ blog is “not as much about how to be a Christian in business, but more about how to run a Christian business.” After reading today’s post, take a minute to learn more about Chris and his inspiring story. You won’t regret taking the time to do so! I know Chris’ blog (and of course his post for us today too) will bless you as much as it does me!

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In This World, You Will Have Trouble!

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is found in John 16. Jesus and the disciples have just finished the Last Supper. Jesus is soon to be arrested. In between these two major events, He is teaching the disciples some of His most critical lessons. He knows He is near the end and I feel the intensity is climbing. Then He says it…

“In this world, you will have trouble.” – John 16:33

What Is Wrong With Me?

Am I sick or out of my mind? Why in the world would I see that as one of my favorite verses? I must be missing a screw somewhere, right? Wrong. Maybe I am very different from you, but I want to know the truth. I want to know what to expect. I don’t want it candy-coated.

Shoot Straight With Me!

When I was a kid and I asked if it would hurt when the nurse gave me a shot, I wanted to hear the truth. I wanted to be able to prepare for the pain. I did not want someone to tell me, “No, dear. This will not hurt at all.” I knew I would see stars. I just wanted someone to shoot straight with me!

I am not that crazy about surprises…at least not bad ones. I can handle surprise birthday parties or even, “Surprise, your wife is pregnant…with twins!” Those are good surprises and I can roll with that.

What I do not want is to be lulled into a false sense of security, thinking everything is okay. I do not want to be told that if I will just follow Jesus, then all of my problems will go away! I do not want to hear another preacher tell me that I simply need to pray this prayer and my financial struggles will disappear.

Jesus Is Clear

This is why I love these words of Jesus. He was straight with the disciples. He wanted them to know clearly that He was leaving them in a broken world and that trouble was a given. He did not want them relaxed or letting their guards down. Instead, Jesus wanted them to be prepared for what the world would soon throw at them.

Folks, Jesus wants us to know the same thing. In this world, we will have trouble. We will struggle. We will not breeze through this life simply because of our relationship with Jesus. In fact, as he says, the world will hate us. That hate will bring struggle. Please know this and do not be naive.

So Now What?

So, now that we agree that we will face trouble in this life, what are we to do to survive it? How do we prepare for these struggles and trials? How do we make sure we are not tempted to throw in the towel and drift away from God’s plans for us when life hits us in the face?

I believe the key to surviving the trouble that life will throw at us is to have the right foundation. If our view of the world is not based on a solid foundation of faith, then we will suffer significant damage when the storms roll through. With the right foundation, not only will we survive with minimal damage to our faith and our walk, but we will also be stronger for the next fight!

Foundational Truths

I think the foundation for our Christian walk can be boiled down into four truths. If you can internalize these four truths, then I believe God can accomplish great things through you. Internalizing these four truths will not eliminate opposition, rejection, struggle, or failure. In fact, I guarantee you will experience one or more of these issues in the process. At the same time, the final results will be greater than anything you could have accomplished or experienced outside of these truths.

  1. I am a child of God. (John 1:12)
  2. God has a plan and purpose for my life. (Psalm 139:13-16, Ephesians 2:10)
  3. God is good. (Mark 10:18)
  4. Therefore the plan and purpose God has for me is ultimately good. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Your Part

I urge you to memorize these four truths and the related Scripture. Internalize them in a way that, when you are squeezed, these come out. Repeat them to yourself when the storm is raging. Pray that God would show His faithfulness in ways that reinforce these truths in your heart.

And, last of all, commit my favorite verse to memory as well. But when you do, don’t forget the last part!

“In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

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Be sure to check out Chris’ blog! Here are three of my favorite posts from Christian Faith at Work.

Solomon’s 8 Steps for Discovering God’s Will

Why You Might Not Like Tim Tebow

Warning! Your Foundation May Be Defective

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If you would like to guest post on Struggle to Victory, please read Recommendations and Guest Posts.

How to… Be Encouraging Just By Being You

Encouragement does not come naturally for me. Not something I’m proud to admit. Whether because of nature or nurture, personality or temperament, being encouraging to myself or to others comes with great effort, if it comes at all. Yet, the Bible says to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).

Encouraging others is a desire of God’s heart. After this realization, my fix-it personality set to work figuring out how to be more encouraging. First, I set a goal of encouraging a certain number of people each week. That didn’t work. Honestly, I just kept forgetting to be encouraging. Then, I enlisted my boys’ help and asked them to remind me to be encouraging. But I think they were too used to me being me, and they forgot to remind me. So what did I do next? Well, I gave up for a while, not out of frustration but more out of knowing the timing wasn’t right. The Holy Spirit needed to do some work within me.

I knew I needed a heart change. I needed to see something differently or something new that I just wasn’t seeing. Since motivation wasn’t my issue, I started to see that the focus of my motivation was wrong. Instead of encouraging to make me look good, or at least not look like I didn’t care about others, I needed to encourage because I wanted to and because I believed in who and what I was encouraging. I needed to stop encouraging just to be encouraging and because it pleased God.

The following 4 realizations have helped me to at least start to be a more encouraging person.

  1. The Golden Rule is a great starting point. Not just a cliché saying, the Golden Rule actually comes from scripture (Matthew 7:12). To apply this rule to encouragement, consider the ways you are most encouraged and then encourage others in those same ways. For example, I enjoy being complimented on what I say, so I try to encourage others when they say something that encourages me.
  2. I gotta be me! A new Dr. Pepper commercial has a great song that says, “I gotta be me.” Being anyone else means bucking up against the “one of a kind” person God made me to be. What does this have to do with encouragement? When I am who God created me to be, I am better able to be encouraging. If I try to be my sanguine friends, I feel constantly sick to my stomach and worn out. But, if I encourage in my introverted way, I am being who God made me to be, which helps me be a better friend, wife, mother and servant.
  3. Apply Paul’s formula for life. In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul gives a simple formula for living life: Live quietly, mind your own business and work with your hands. How does this encouraging others? Verse 12 says that living this type of life shows “proper behavior” that earns the respect of others. For me, having respect for someone is encouraging because they hold qualities that motivate me to be a better person. And, in keeping with the above two points, if respect for how someone lives their life encourages me, then perhaps how I live my life can encourage others.
  4. Balance listening and talking. As an introvert, I don’t say much when I’m in a group of people I don’t know well or if I am uncomfortable for some reason. But when I’m around people I know, I definitely talk more, often too much. Being too quiet makes people uncomfortable, and talking too much makes them feel unimportant. At least, that’s what it does to me. So, as I work to become more encouraging, I need to balance how much I talk with how much I don’t.

Encouraging others means accepting who God made them to be and appreciating the gifts, abilities and viewpoints He gave them. When we support others in a way that pushes them to be the best they can be, encouragement results.

DISCUSSION: What do 1 Thessalonians 4:18 and 5:11 add to this topic of encouragement?

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Sunday Reflections – A Father’s Wise Advice

“My children, listen to me. Listen to your father’s instruction. Pay attention and grow wise, for I am giving you good guidance. Don’t turn away from my teaching” (Proverbs 4:1-2). Some have received positive instruction, such as that spoken of in Proverbs 4, from their earthy fathers. Others have not. Fortunately, everyone can receive perfect advice from their Heavenly Father as He fills the gaps in our lives.

Instructions for “the way of righteousness” make up Proverbs 4, telling us how to have “life and radiant health.” Let’s look at five points made by Solomon as he passes on what his father David once told him about living a holy life.

  1. Learn to be wise. Verse 7 tells us that this is “the most important thing you can do.” How does wisdom begin? Proverbs 9:10 tells us wisdom starts with “the fear of the Lord.” This means learning what God hates and not doing it and learning what He desires and doing it knowing that one day we will be held accountable for our attitudes, actions and words.
  2. Develop good judgment. Good judgment follows wisdom and could be described as the ability to apply wisdom. Good judgment involves learning from mistakes (your own as well as others), having patience, and continually seeking wisdom. Good judgment allows for the development of a clear conscience (2 Timothy 2:15) and involves following good examples (1 Corinthians 11:1).
  3. Guard your heart. As we’ve already noted, wisdom is the top priority. Interesting that verse 23 of Proverbs 4 says that guarding your heart is the top priority. Perhaps this means wisdom and guarding one’s heart are closely connected and perhaps even one in the same. Ephesians 6:14 instructs us to put on the “breastplate of righteousness.” This means that righteousness (right living) protects our hearts. Wisdom allows us to have good judgment to live right which then protects our heart. So, the way to guard your heart is through wisdom.
  4. Know what to avoid. Proverbs 4:14 says to “do not do as the wicked do or follow the path of evildoers.” (See Psalm 1 for additional emphasis on this point.) Then in verse 24, we are told to avoid “perverse talk” and “corrupt speech.” These verses tell us to guard what goes into our hearts through our ears and our eyes. Wickedness, violence and sleeplessness are just some of what happens when we don’t avoid these things. Solomon tells us simply to “turn away and go somewhere else.” In other words, avoid them and simply do not give them room in your life.
  5. Don’t get sidetracked. Keeping our focus lies more than with just avoiding evil. Not getting sidetracked also means choosing to pursue good. This includes choosing to see the unseen (2 Corinthians 4:16-18), getting wisdom and using good judgment. Keeping focused means knowing the truth of God’s Word for protection against not only the accuser’s lies but also against man’s ideas and philosophies as well as against our own distortion of reality to fit our fleshly desires.

In Bible times, a city without walls left the people exposed to the enemy and open to thieves. Likewise, a person without wisdom leaves his heart exposed and vulnerable.  Fortunately, God always gives wisdom to those who ask for it (James 1:5), and often that wisdom comes through godly fathers, just like the advice in Proverbs 4 came to Solomon through his father David. If you have a godly father, be thankful for him and soak in his wisdom. If you don’t, know that your Heavenly Father fills that gap. If you are a godly father, are married to one or just know one, encourage him today to pursue the wisdom of his heavenly father and to share his wisdom with those he loves as David did with his son Solomon. And as this wisdom flows, boast in the giver of that wisdom (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

DISCUSSION: In Star Wars, Episode II, Attack of the Clones, Dexter-Jettster says to Obi Wan, “I should think that you Jedi would have more respect for the difference between knowledge and… heh heh heh… wisdom.” How does this difference play out in the life of a Christian?

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Could This Be Your Biggest Source of Irritation, Frustration and Even Anger?

My son’s final report card for the 5th grade had a mix of ME (meets expectations) and AE (approaching expectations) on it. Fortunately, there were no BE’s (below expectations). But clearly, expectations were set and hopefully well-communicated to the students. If nothing else, the idea that people expect things of them should be clear.

Go back 15ish years to a college class I took. For one assignment, the teacher asked for our expectations. Most students said they didn’t have any. At the end, when asked if their expectations were met, students said they either were or were not. The teacher then asked, “How can your expectations be met or not met if you didn’t have any?” I don’t remember any of the details of this assignment or even what class it was, but I remember this point about expectations. Expectations often operate unawares.

Now consider the business world. Anyone in sales knows that their business revolves around meeting customer expectations. As Curtis Fletcher says in Creating Customer Expecta…, every aspect of a business creates expectations, from the tag line, to the company name, to the web site. In other words, we have some control over the expectations of others. Some.

Before getting at why expectations could be the source of much stress or worse in our lives, let’s first understand some basic facts about expectations.

  1. Everyone has expectations.
  2. Expectations are often unknown.
  3. Expectations are not requirements.
  4. Expectations are not rights.
  5. Expectations set standards.

The problem with expectations comes when we treat the above facts as if they don’t exist, whether because we forget them or are ignorant of them. If we’re honest with ourselves, we constantly discover that the source of much irritation, frustration and anger comes when expectations that no one knew existed are not met. So at what point do expectations begin to create havoc in our lives? Expectations can become irritations, frustrations and anger when they are…

  1. Unmet
  2. Unrealistic
  3. Unfair
  4. Unset
  5. Unclear

… and we do nothing to understand the process our expectations go through. We simply let the resulting emotions (irritation, frustration and anger) bubble up without assessing from whence they came. In other words, we need to deliberately make a point to clarify expectations.

Expectations, especially when they are clear, can be very helpful in determining an individual or an organization’s course of action. Consider the following points to help clarify expectations in a way that can strengthen every relationship, whether with your spouse, kids, coworkers or customers.

  1. Understanding other people’s expectations takes work.
  2. Telling someone your expectations takes courage.
  3. Discussing expectations is often appropriate and necessary.
  4. Writing down expectations can help clarify them.
  5. Expectations are a part of every relationship.

There are two keys to not allowing expectations to degrade relationships, to lead to discouragement or depression, or to simply cause an all-around bad day. First, understand and communicate expectations, points that were essentially covered in the above tips. Second, having and constantly developing broad shoulders. Take the time to answer the question, “Do you have broad shoulders?” Understanding and focusing on both of these elements can go a long way in warding off the negative impact that expectations can cause if we let them… if we do nothing to understand them.

So what can we expect without fear of being wrong? We can expect disappointments as well as surprises. We can expect mistakes, failures and successes. We can expect the unexpected. And, we can expect our expectations as well as the expectations of others to be regularly unmet, unrealistic, unfair, unset and unclear. Why? Because we’re human.

DISCUSSION: What additional points do you have regarding expectations?

Note: Special thanks to Mark Allman for his contribution of many ideas for this post. You can read those ideas in his own words in the comment section of Happy Anniversary.

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Guest Post – 3 Moves That Get You Closer to God

Today’s guest post comes from T. Neal Tarver, a native Texan living in Wisconsin, Tom has served churches in Texas and Wisconsin. He, his wife Ellen, and son Daniel lived and worked for three years as missionaries in the Russian Far East. Tom speaks enough Russian to both converse and confuse.

In 2011, Tom was selected as a semi-finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Genesis contest. He’s also been a two-time winner of MBT’s “Make Every Word Count Flash Fiction” contest. His debut novel, Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes, is available through WestBow Press, Amazon, BARNES & NOBLE, and other retail outlets.

He currently writes from his home in Richland Center, Wisconsin, or from wherever his travels take him. He posts articles weekly at A Curious Band of Others. Tom has spoken in churches across America, and in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

3 Moves That Get You Closer to God

Doggone it!

No Internet connection again.

Reboot.

Check the cable connections.

Flick the router power button off and on again.

Still … nothing … nothing at all.

Grrr!

This has been a problem I’ve had for weeks now—a hit-or-miss Internet connection and it’s been more miss than hit. I’ve had trouble communicating via email. I haven’t been able to Google facts. I’ve gotten assignments in a day later than planned. Pictures for a newspaper article couldn’t go out when I needed them to.

All because … doggone it … no connection with the Internet.

Until …

I moved.

I don’t mean changed addresses. I simply mean I got up from the kitchen table where I was comfortable and started working at the coffee table (which isn’t comfortable but, hey, now I’m connected).

Been having trouble connecting with God lately? May I suggest you move.

Move your body. If you tend to nod off during prayer time (and I have), maybe you need to relocate. If I sit in my comfortable easy chair, I nod. If I kneel at my easy chair, I tend to remain awake and aware of what I’m doing.

Even better for me, I walk. The movement stimulates my mind and allows me to pray with greater energy.

Move your schedule. In other words, reshape your schedule around your priorities. I had to rethink my email priority. It swallows up enormous amounts of time if I let it. In the past, I’d check email first thing in the morning, but what I thought would take a few moments would chomp out a huge hunk of my time.

I still check email but I’ve moved it down the priority list. My prayer and devotional time zipped to the top of the list (mainly because, if I wait until I have time, I find no time in the day).

Move the clutter. For financial reasons, we decided television in our home wasn’t a priority so we dropped cable (and without it, we get no programs). I am amazed how much time I have for other things, like sleep, when I’m not watching sports on television.

This also opens up reading time, studying time, devotional time, walking-the-dog time … I think you get the point.

I moved something out and allowed time for other things to move in, including time with the Lord.

One benefit of the move to the coffee table is I’m closer to my wife (she does her computer work—editing, Facebook conversations, etc.—on the couch by the coffee table). I find when I move my body, my schedule, and the clutter I’m also closer to God.

What moves would you add to the list?