Not-So-Great Expectations

September 26th, 2011

Have you ever noticed that some people become negative when the conversation turns to spiritual matters? I’m an optimist, and I like to encourage people to stretch themselves spiritually. On one hand, I think we should be satisfied with Christ, but I don’t think we should ever be content to stay exactly where we are in our relationship with him. When it comes to God, we should always want more. So I sometimes clash with people who set their sights low and try to project those low expectations onto others. You know who I’m talking about. In fact, we’ve all probably been one of those people from time to time. They’re the ones who can give you all the reasons why God won’t answer your prayer, or why the Bible doesn’t mean that, or why healing probably won’t happen (but let’s pray anyway, just in case!) Some in popular culture would call these people haters. This term, of course, is slang but is defined at Urban Dictionary as follows: One who either verbally and/or physically inhibits another individual’s game or mode of operation primarily due to jealousy, envy, animosity, bitterness, resentment, and contempt.

That about says it all. Spiritual haters often think they’re satisfied with their level of spirituality, but they tend to be easily threatened by other people’s experiences, especially if those experiences deviate from what the haters perceive as “the norm”. Let’s go to the basketball court for an example. If you’ve ever played pick-up basketball at a park, you know that there are players who are really good and players like me who aren’t so good. That doesn’t mean that one player is worth more than another, it just means that because of a combination of natural talent and experience, the players are at different playing levels. The really good players consistently try to improve their game, hopefully while exercising humility. The players who need more improvement usually go one of two ways: they either try to learn from the better players (and make a habit of playing with them often), or they “trash talk” and disparage the better players.

Most of us don’t have a problem giving other people props in the world, but when we get into the church and start talking about things like prayer, wisdom or Biblical insight, we are offended at the idea that one person might be more skilled or gifted than someone else. (You mean some people actually get more results praying than others? That’s not fair!) The truth is, people are at different levels spiritually. We all know people who have gone further than us in certain areas, and others who haven’t made it to where we are. Instead of trying to learn from those who are more advanced, some of us choose instead to treat them with contempt. We attack their theology and nit-pick. We point out their character flaws. We won’t even admit that they’ve gone beyond us spiritually somehow. Most trash-talkers on a basketball court are usually blind to the fact that the person they’re insulting is actually better at basketball than they are!

So what’s my point? Simply that we shouldn’t let other people keep us from reaching new spiritual heights. Don’t make it a habit to hang out with someone who consistently kills your dreams, peddles mediocre spirituality as normative or defends the status quo as acceptable. Ephesians 3:20 tells us that God "is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us”. Some of us aren’t even asking God to do the great things we can imagine, let alone the things we can’t! Negativity is abundant in the church and people who don’t believe God are a dime a dozen. (There is such a thing as being realistic and rational to a fault.) Not only should we aim to be people of great faith, we should surround ourselves with Christians who build us up, not ones who tear us down.

That is, if we actually want to improve our game.


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