High Expectations

What do we expect of one another? What do we expect of ourselves, and what do we think God expects of us? Sometimes we grow frustrated with one another because we expect so much of each other. We can be very hard on those around us; we can be hard on our families; we can be hard on our brothers and sisters in Christ; and we can be hard on ourselves. Is the alternative, however, to simply lower expectations to avoid disappointment?

When we lower our expectations of each other and ourselves, we may decrease potential for disappointment, but God will never lower the expectations He has in us.

God’s High Expectations

I Peter 1:13 admonishes us to prepare ourselves for God’s service, and he concludes, in verse 16, that this service is to be holy as God is holy. He is our standard for righteous living. This is nothing new in God’s word either; Peter is referencing Old Testament passages in this sentiment. In Exodus 19:5-6, God prefaces the giving of His law by calling His people holy and a nation of priests. Likewise, we are to be holy in every aspect of our lives.

Romans 12:1-2 has Paul calling us living sacrifices, transformed from the world, perfected and good. Paul deals with holiness in Colossians 3:1-17 – our mindset, our morality, our behaviors, our attitudes, our identity. I Timothy 4:12 calls on us to be examples, even in youth, in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

In God’s Image

Where does this originate? In Genesis 1, God makes man after His image. He created us after His likeness. This is not a physical resemblance. We are created after His nature. Ecclesiastes 3:11 assures us God has put eternity in our hearts. See, when Satan tempts Eve by saying the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge will make her and Adam like God, he omits something – that Adam and Eve were already created to be like God. God knows what we are and what we are capable of. He has a right to expect our best from us, for He knows what we can be.

We this reflected in the sacrifices of the Old Testament where God’s people are continually expected to sacrifice the best of their crops and the best of their flocks. We see Malachi 1:6-13 criticize the people of the Levitical Code for bringing substandard sacrifices while entreating God’s mercies. Jesus touches on this concept in Matthew 5:20 where He calls on His audience to surpass the standard of righteousness to which they have become accustomed. He then address our conduct and our attitudes toward others, raising our expectations for ourselves. He concludes by saying, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Again, God is our standard.

In James 2, in the context of describing how faith is put into action, the author reminds us that even demons have a belief in God in verse 19. He reinforces that our faith must be one that is active, always giving our best. Then, in Hebrews 6:9, we are reminded that “we expect better things of you.” Earlier in the chapter, the author is pressing us to grow in maturity, and he warns against those who start faithful but become complacent or fall away. He states those will be cast away from God, but “we expect better things of you.”

Those Who Failed Expectations

  • In II Kings 10, Jehu is a failure because he does not do all of God’s will with all of his heart. He does some, but he does not give his best.
  • In Acts 15:36-41, Paul doesn’t want John Mark as a companion at this point because Paul sees him as uncommitted, as not living up to expectations.
  • In Galatians 2, Paul recounts rebuking Peter for falling short in conduct toward the Gentiles.
  • In Matthew 25:14, Jesus tells a parable of servants given money to invest while the master is gone. Two put their best into their investments, but one falls short of expectation, having done nothing with what he had.


One reason we may have high expectations for each other is that we know one another’s potential. Yes, at times, our expectations can be unrealistic or held too stringently, but high expectations can be good when we are holding each other and ourselves to the standards we know we can achieve. In our service to God, He knows our potential, and His expectations are built around that potential. Where we are content with mediocrity, God holds us to a standard of His holiness. He knows what we can be. We should see that in ourselves as well, constantly striving to do our best and give our best, to be holy as He is holy.

lesson by Tim Smelser