Philippians 3:14 (KJV), “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”.
When my 7 year old, Felicity, was around 4 years old she was a wee bit mischievous and I found myself correcting her quite often. One particular time, I don’t remember what she did, but I do remember telling her not to do it. Would you believe that she did it anyway? I was so upset that I raised my voice at her and she burst into tears. It broke my heart to see her cry but I just could not get over the fact that I told her not to do something and instead of keeping my command, she did it any way. I picked Felicity up and carried her to the couch to explain why I was upset. Through tears she said, “I’m sorry mommy. Do you forgive me?” I replied, “Of course I forgive you baby, I will always forgive you.” Ever since that day, I have had numerous similar conversations with all my children, usually stemming from them being disobedient. As they have gotten older, I have increased my level of expectations for each in regards to how they communicate when they are upset, what chores they are given and how I expect them to be completed, I expect them to complete our normal routines without having to be prodded over and over, I expect them to listen and follow instructions without complaining or procrastinating (depending on the age of the child that I’m talking to), etc. Now I rarely have days where all of these things happen, so instead of getting angry and raising my voice I have chosen just to correct them and forgive them. I find that I am like a broken record because I’m constantly explaining my expectations to my kids. I do this because I can’t give up although that would make my life easier, because my goal is to raise kids who can function without their parents one day. I fully look forward to the day where all of my kids are adults, living on their own, and productive citizens to society and the Kingdom. But until that day comes, I cannot grow weary if I expect to reap the harvest that I want.
Does this sound familiar? Being told not to do something but doing the exact thing we were told not to do? Disobedience with forgiveness as a given? High expectations that are not met consistently? Being told the same thing over and over only to complain or procrastinate? Constant correction done in love? Our relationship with God mirrors our relationship with our children so much that I am almost certain that one of God’s purposes for giving us children is so that we can see the error in our own ways. In my post Self-Reliance is NOT a Kingdom Principle, I mentioned that God has high expectations of us. Which is why “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son” (Hebrews 12:6, NIV). Just like parents, when God gives us clear instruction, He expects us to follow directions. The Bible is full of God’s expectations of His children, and just like we do with our children, these expectations are repeated over and over again from the Old Testament to the New Testament.
These are just a few of God’s expectations and these are generally the ones that are the easiest to keep. I think of these as the basic commandments, these are the commandments we teach our young children. But as we become more mature in our faith, God’s level of expectation rises in the same way we increase our expectations of our children as they mature. Just read Colossians 3 for a detailed list of the expectations God has for believers who are mature in their faith. I’m going to give you Colossians 3:8 from the NIV for a little snippet. It states, “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” This whole chapter is filled with instructions on what not to do and what to do. It is a wonderful representation of the expectations.
As I read through this list again just now, I saw a couple of things that I failed at just this week. Romans 3:23 NLT states, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Although God sets the standard, He also knows that we will have a difficult time meeting the standard. The beautiful thing about our God is that He does not expect perfection but the constant striving to meet His expectations. In Philippians 3:14 KJV, Paul says, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Even Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, was only striving; He did not meet all of God’s expectations, but he never gave up. That is what God expects from us, He gives us the standard to live by and then we judge ourselves by the standard. And when we fail, we correct ourselves and keep striving. The grace that we receive is that God continues to offer blessings upon blessings even though we continue to fall short of His standard. I do this same thing with Felicity every single day. There is not a day that goes by that she does something that she knows that she should not do, but there is also not a day that goes by that I don’t forgive her and show her my love in different ways. She doesn’t deserve many of the things she receives from her father and I, but it’s something about her humbleness and genuine apologies that makes us want to bless her with a new toy, a special excursion, or even a snack she loves. God does this for all of us if we just humble ourselves and genuinely repent of our sins. Remember God wants to bless us, the least we can do is eagerly attempt to do His Will.