People cheat to meet expectations. They are driven to do almost anything to earn the favor of others, or to achieve their personal dreams. There is no good excuse for cheating, but most of us understand the power of the human desire to succeed.
Expectations also influence out response to trials. When David ruled as king over Israel, his son Absalom usurped his throne. It was hard for David to battle Absalom, partially because he loved him and also because his failure as a father had helped fuel his rebellion. Ultimately, Absalom was killed by David’s army to save his reign. In response to the news David cried out, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you–O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33) Joab, the commander of the army of Israel confronted David and accused him of humiliating the soldiers who had just saved his kingdom. He boldly ordered his king to go out and encourage his men before they decided to serve someone else. So David sucked it up and put on a good front for the troops, because that was the expectation.
I need to make a confession. Actually I need to make two confessions. I am prone to look over other people’s shoulders, and I am also good at telling people what they want to hear. That’s right! I am a cheater and a liar! Before you contact my home church to have my ordination certificate revoked, let me explain.
On Sunday morning’s I try to be at my best. I go to bed early on Saturday evening, double-check to make sure my clothes match, and “pray up” before meeting the public. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to be in the spiritual, mental and emotional place necessary to deliver God’s truth to His congregation. In reality, many Sunday mornings I am fighting a head cold, sore muscles, discouragement, and on a few occasions depression. But I know, to do what I need to do, I need to put on a front. On occasion, a staff member or elder who knows I am struggling will see me in the hallway and ask me how I am doing. “Doing good!” is my normal response. They smile because they know better, but we also both understand how it is. We have to be confident and strong for the sake of others who are hurting.
Incidentally, if I know I am lying and another church leader knows I am lying, and I know he knows I am lying, is that the same as telling the truth? Never mind. I know the answer.
I actually think staying focused and strong as I am preparing to preach is a good thing. I don’t want my problems to be a distraction. Yet, I must find a way to be authentic, even if it involves confessing my hurt in a purposeful way in my sermons. I must also take opportunities to pour out my heart to people I trust, and allow them to pray for me and comfort me in my distress. If I don’t I can become a slave to expectations, and a spiritual fraud. More than one servant of God has shipwrecked on the shoals of pretense.
Do the expectations of others ever lead you to lie about your circumstances? Do you think this kind of lie matters to God? Why or why not?
Dear God, what do You expect? In Jesus’ name, Amen.