A significant expectation shift continues in the American society. This shift gathered momentum the last three decades of the twentieth century. To illustrate this shift, consider the food industry. Many of our 60 plus group remember when you began preparation for a fried chicken dinner by catching the chicken. Many of them remember when you rarely went to a restaurant for a meal. As poverty declined, visits to the restaurant or cafe increased. As the economy grew, the need for convenient food service produced the drive-in. As a prosperous economy stressed time utilization, the drive-by window increased speed and convenience. The success of "fast food" services created the "fast food" industry.
The impact of this process is seen in common expectations. When purchasing prepared meals outside the home, we expect fast service. We expect good food with a wonderful taste served hot within minutes of being ordered. If we are disappointed, we will not return.
Our society expects fast. The postal service is too slow. We want the instant contact of e-mail. Delivery within a week to ten days is too slow. We want overnight express. At home, an electric or gas oven is too slow. We want a microwave that heats food in two to five minutes.
"Now" means instantly, not soon. When we turn on the television, we want a picture and sound "now." When we turn on the heat or the air conditioning, we want noticeable results "now." When we make a purchase, we want it "now."
We want to recover from sickness immediately ["give me a pill!"]. Our marriage problem took ten years to build, but we expect it to be resolved in less than a month ["give us the solution!"]. We want personal problems produced by two generations of destructive behavior to be solved in three visits to a counselor ["give me the answer!"]. We want investments to make us wealthy in a year ["give me immediate success!"]. We do not merely want it. We expect it! Miraculous relief! Immediate results! Instant gratification!
Expectations formed a society that demands the immediate. The expectant attitude places the same demands on God and the church. We expect God to address our "needs" on our time schedule. Prayer should produce instant results. Those results are measured by our expectations [not God's actions].
Rapidly we are becoming a people incapable of keeping long-term commitments. If a job does not measure up to our expectations within a few weeks, get another job. If a spouse does not measure up to our expectations within a few months, divorce. If family life does not meet our expectations quickly, neglect or abandon it. If a friend does not meet our expectations, end the relationship. If a congregation does not meet our expectations, find another. "I will responsibly commit as long as it obviously is good for me--period!"
Surrendering to God is a long-term commitment. It is an eternal commitment, not a ten-year commitment or an adult lifetime commitment. Eternal benefits make this long-term commitment more than worth it (Romans 8:18). However, this commitment involves struggle and inconvenience.
Read Galatians 6:1-10.
Instant results demanded by expectations of immediate visible achievements are an American criteria, not a divine edict. From the time Abraham received God's promises (Genesis 12:1-4) until the time that Isaac was born was a period of twenty-five years (Genesis 21:5). Joseph had his dreams when he was seventeen (Genesis 37:2). Before those dreams became reality, he was sold as a slave, falsely accused by Potiphar's wife, imprisoned and forgotten, remembered as an interpreter of dreams, and transformed from prisoner to ruler. Moses was forty years old when he left Egypt. He was eighty years old when he returned to lead Israel. God spent eighty years preparing him for forty years of service. David spent over ten years gaining experience as shepherd, warrior, and fugitive who depended on God before he became king (2 Samuel 5:4,5). Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his ministry (Luke 3:23). From beginning to end Jesus' ministry lasted approximately three years.
An examination of the work and lives of many of God's great servants reveals several things. Time is a human concern, not divine concern. God uses preparation to achieve purposes. He does not seek instant results. God measures results by faith seen in spiritual maturity, not by visible statistics. What God views as successful often appears to human eyes as ineffective. Things that evoke a "well done" from God easily produce a "so what" from people.
As Christians, we surrender to God's long-term purposes. We measure success in records that stress numbers. God does not. Moses led hundreds of thousands out of Egypt. Two adults who left Egypt entered Canaan. Elijah thought he was the only faithful person left. Jesus taught and healed thousands. About one hundred and twenty remained together after his death prior to Pentecost. We sow for eternity. God gives the increase. We never stop sowing.
Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 3, Lesson 9
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