Crippling Expectations

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Do you recognize the picture above? That’s a young Billy Beane who was drafted in the first round of the 1980 MLB Draft. He had all the tools and was considered to be a “can’t miss” prospect. Instead he had a career .219 average, with 3 HRs and 29 RBI.

This week Coach Bonn talked with infielders about range and getting to balls that no one expects you to get to. Coach Furtner and the outfielders made measureable team, outfield, and individual goals. In both cases, there’s something interesting that happens when you give your all and lay out for a groundball that you don’t get to, or state that your goal is to win a state championship but you come up short.

It’s easier to give up and fail than it is to give your all and fail. So the higher or loftier the goal, the more crippling that can be at times. We see this in competition and we see this in faith.

The first 5 books of the Old Testament were known as the Law. Within the Law, there are 613 “thou shalls” and “thou shall nots”. On top of the 613 God-made laws, a group called the scribes made thousands and thousands of man-made rules to help enforce the God-made laws. Then there was a group called the Pharisees who dedicated their lives to not only memorizing, but also following the thousands of man-made rules from the 613 laws. I’d venture to guess that most of us as Christians would have a tough time naming 20 of those laws.

As if that wasn’t daunting enough, in Matthew 5 during His sermon on the mount, Jesus starts claiming how it’s actually even harder than it sounds. Matthew 5:21 says, “21 You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

So Jesus says that his audience knew the law that if you murder someone, you will be liable to judgment, but he says that even if you get angry, you will be liable to judgment. Chances are that none of us have murdered anyone, but all of us have been mad at someone and Jesus is saying that both offenses are subject to the same punishment.

So what we need to understand about sin is that sin isn’t just our outward actions. Sin isn’t just when we kill someone. Sin actually happened long before when we had so much anger and/or hatred in our heart that we allowed it to manifest into murder. Sin is the condition of our hearts that we can sometimes mask with our actions, thus creating cardboard Christians.

This statement by Jesus seems that it could make an already impossible feat of following the law even more impossible. Even the thought of trying to accomplish this is exhausting, let alone the attempt at doing it. But then Jesus says this a few chapters later in Matthew 11:28, “28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

If you are tired of trying to do the impossible and memorize, let alone follow the 613 laws on your own power, Jesus says come to Me and I’ll give you rest. What does that mean? Jesus says in Matthew 5:17, “17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Meaning that Jesus didn’t come to do away with the 613, He came to be the only person in the history of the planet to actually do them every moment for His entire life. This is what that means to us...we don’t have to follow the 613 laws; we just need to follow the one guy to obey all 613 laws, because if we follow the one, then we follow all 613. As long as we are following Jesus, we cannot sin at the same time. Unfortunately, we can be following Jesus one moment and the very next moment fall off track. It’s a moment-by-moment decision. Can you imagine the success rate if we were only conscious of this for an hour and a half a week on a Sunday? I think we can.

Let’s not allow the near impossible expectations cripple us from doing God-sized things. Let’s follow the one thing we know has the ability to accomplish God-sized things and allow the results to take care of themselves.

“33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33