Reading: Expect the best
STEP THREE: Commitment - Do it!
Philemon 1:20 & 21
I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.
4. Expect the best.
Why don't we expect the best in any given situation?
Let's admit it. We tend to assume the worst; well, maybe not the worst, but certainly not the best.
Why don't we expect the best? Because expecting the best of people has been a recipe for disappointment. We have expected the best but the kids don't do what they are told. The employees don't do that little extra that makes all the difference. The wife or the husband forgets to do what was promised, takes the other for granted, and makes excuses for not living up to the optimistic vows made on the wedding day.
So expecting the best often leads to disappointment. But if we expect the worst, we will get the worst.
It seems we are stuck in the middle.
Apparently this is more complicated than we tend to think.
Let's look at some real-life situations.
You are the coach of a soccer team. If you do not expect the kids you coach to work hard, listen and obey, and be team players, you probably won't get kids who work hard, listen, follow, and be team players. But just expecting it doesn't make it happen either.
Expectations alone do not make things happen. You need expectations plus a positive relationship.
If you hope to succeed as a coach, you need expectations plus a positive relationship with the kids you are coaching. A relationship that is built on trust which grows little by little as you and the team progress toward desired goals.
Another example: I, as a Pastor, cannot get everyone to do their share of the work that needs to be done at church by just expecting that every member will do it. I must also do the hard work of building people up by encouraging, challenging, rewarding, and caring for them.
Paul has obviously developed a relationship with Philemon, and now he boldly and positively communicates his expectations.
Okay, sounds good, but how does this actually work?
Let's say you are a parent, and you ask your child to clean up his room or clean the garage. And though you had low expectations in the past, this time, you psyched yourself up, and you believe it is going to go well.
Your child starts to clean up but is soon distracted by some newly found, long-forgotten toy. So you get on his case, and he slowly gets back to it. You go through this discouraging routine a few more times, and in frustration and disappointment, you give up on each other.
What went wrong? You had high expectations. You have a life-long relationship with each other. You care about each other. You want the best for each other.
Again you need to understand that having great expectations is not enough. What must you do?
Try to see it as a game. Does your child know the rules of the match? What is winning? What is losing? What do you win if you win? What do you lose if you lose? Is there a right way and a wrong way? What is the reward for the right way? What is the penalty for the wrong way? What is the point of this game anyway? Why is it important? How does this game benefit both of you?
Do you see? You can have high expectations for a clean room or garage, but unless there is a whole support system that both parties have bought into, expectations will only lead to disappointments.
Notice again the step of expecting the best comes at the end of Paul's letter to Philemon. It comes only after a lot of relationship building.
I hope this is making sense to you now. Most relationship problem-solving strategies will only work if there has been a lot of relationship building. Everyone wants to find an easy, simple, cheap, magic technique that will somehow fix relationship problems without going through the time-consuming and hard work of, little by little, building up the relationship.
There is one more crucial secret to Paul's positive expectation of Philemon.
Paul knew that Philemon had given his life to Christ. And there are some things we can assume of those who have given their life to Christ.
They get a new heart. A heart that seeks to love and to sacrifice for the sake of others.
They get a new Spirit. A Spirit of God that seeks to change them into powerful ambassadors of the cause of Christ.
So why not expect the best of someone with a new heart and a new Spirit?
Philemon 1:21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing
that you will do even more than I ask.
Paul is pretty sure of Philemon's co-operation. Why was Paul so confident?
What role does having a good relationship with someone have in expecting the best of them?
What best do you expect from your spouse, your children, your parents, your teachers, you bosses, your co-workers, your friends, your pastor, etc.?
Philippians 1:3-6 I thank my God every time I remember you. In all
my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership
in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he
who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of
What was the source of Paul's confidence in people?
2 Timothy 1:6-7 For this reason, I remind you
to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my
hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power,
love and self-discipline
What is the source of your confidence in people?