If we see Jesus’ current work disconnected from our expectations based on the biblical record, our faith and ability to lead can be crippled.
Expectations often shape a leader’s response to Jesus’ work in and through us. Our expectations stem from personal experience, education and what we see in other leaders. The most difficult expectations are those we believe come from Scripture. If we see Jesus’ current work disconnected from our expectations based on the biblical record, our faith and ability to lead can be crippled. In these times, we may need an expectation reset.
An expectation reset is what we see when we read Mark 8-10. In this section of Scripture, Jesus reveals what will happen to him as he and his disciples approached Jerusalem for the final time in his ministry. As they do so, Jesus predicted his death and resurrection three times. In each case, the disciples responded according to their expectations. Jesus’ corrections allow us to see how we can experience a much-needed adjustment of what we expect as we follow him and lead others.
The Suffering Reset
The first expectation reset includes what we expect concerning suffering. It amazes me how shocked so many leaders become in times of suffering. Where did we get the notion that leading would somehow make us exempt from pain and frustration? In these times, I think we are tempted to behave like Peter and rebuke Jesus. Revisiting Mark 8 reveals that Jesus referred to Peter as Satan because he did not have in mind the things of God but of man. Jesus then clarifies our expectations by explaining that following him requires self-denial and extreme humility.
The Greatness Reset
The second expectation of many leaders concerns greatness. In a world that praises excellent achievements, the church has joined by creating its list of all-star leaders, so much so that many leaders fail to ever fulfill their calling because they are too enamored with becoming the next famous revolutionary.
The expectation of greatness is corrected by Jesus in Mark 9 when he teaches that true greatness is making oneself last. My fear with this correction is that somehow we will begin to use serving others as means to receive their praise. This would be a sad moment of self-service masquerading as Christlike leadership.
The Prayer Reset
A third expectation involves how we approach Jesus in prayer. I must admit that many of my prayers as a leader have sounded much like the request of James and John in Mark 10. They said, “We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” But by reading the text, they wanted authority over others. Isolated, that statement carries the stench of self-entitlement. I have been guilty of this more often than I would like to admit, and I am probably not alone. Opposite this request is the plea for mercy made by the blind beggar named Bartimaeus. I believe Mark includes this story in the latter portion of the chapter because it is the opposite of the selfish request of James and John.
In a society that craves superiority and control, Christian leaders can bring positive change through self-denial and servitude. Perhaps we will sidestep the pitfalls of our own selfish, misguided expectations and step into a life of purpose and wholeness. If God has placed you in a position of influence, I pray that your expectation is biblically sound and Christ modeled. Remember that where and how God used you is per his divine plan. I do not believe leaders should ask Jesus to do whatever they ask but instead humble themselves to serve as he wills.
May the Lord bless you as you continue to lead in stressful times. Remember that he who called you is faithful and will do tremendous work through your leadership. Today is not time to quit or shrink back. It is time to adjust our expectations and accept reality with courage and determination. You may not have expected the difficulties of your present situation, but our all-knowing God foresaw them and works all things out for your good and to his glory.