Alex Costanzo, part of the Cornerstone Teaching Team, talks about how surrendering our expectations to God can lead to having more hope and less disappointment.
Blessings everyone, hope you are all well. And having a great summer, the Costanzo family is just coming out of graduation season. We’ve been pretty busy, Michael and I, we have three, six, and our youngest just finished eighth grade. And for those of you who were born before the eighties, like me, you might not be aware that eighth grade graduation is a thing these days.
It certainly wasn’t when I was growing up and my son asked me if he was getting a graduation gift and I said, sure, it’s called ninth grade. Of course, we did get a little something for him to mark the occasion. And we’re very proud of him and excited about high school for him. And speaking of high school.
We also attended our middle son’s high school graduation. And this really funny thing happened. They began to read the names of the students in alphabetical order, and they went from the C names to the T names without calling his name and for a split second, I had this moment of panic. Oh my gosh. He’s never going to move out, followed by a moment of joy.
Yes. I get to keep my personal Uber driver. His name is Bruno, so I like to call him Bruber. But then I realized that the announcer was reading the names of the absent students first. So he’s definitely headed to college and I’m definitely losing my chauffeur. And our oldest son who graduates from college in a year.
I got a really fun invitation from his middle school alma mater to be the keynote speaker at this year’s eighth grade graduation. And it was pretty cool to watch him give a speech I snuck in and sat in the back. I couldn’t help myself. He imparted some great words of wisdom, like be a listener, be kind, even to those who are unkind and to seize the day.
All great advice to young people facing a bright future, but the one thing that I would have added to my son’s message. If I were the speaker is lower your expectations, lower your expectations. How’s that for a motivational quote, but life is hard, right? Life is hard. When we’re young, we’re told the world is your oyster,
so we make plans, we set goals, we dream, we make promises to each other, but because we’re imperfect humans living in an imperfect world, things don’t always turn out the way we think. Rather we experience disappointment. Don’t we? Broken relationships, broken dreams. I think about my own life. I can assure you that blindness and cancer was not part of my plan.
And disappointment is disheartening. Proverbs tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.” Disappointment is kind of tricky because it can turn into discouragement and anger. It can turn into doubt, doubt in ourselves, doubt in the Lord. And if we’re not careful self-pity and bitterness can fester and grow into kind of a spiritual heart disease.
That results in a hardened heart toward God and towards life. And when our hearts are hard, we miss out on God. We cannot see or hear the Lord anymore. Maybe we’re still going through the motions. Maybe the head knowledge of the Lord is still there, but we’ve lost the passion, the connection, a joy of knowing Him.
In many ways, this is what happened to the Jews with Jesus. He didn’t meet their expectations. He didn’t fit their definition of a proper Messiah. They wanted a political revolutionary, not a carpenter who challenged the religious status quo and the ones that rejected Him, not only crucified Him, but missed out on Him.
They missed out on His love and grace and they missed out on salvation. Guys, let’s not miss out on the Lord. When life fell short of our expectations, when we experienced disappointment and even failure. And we certainly will, how we choose to respond makes all the difference. Today. I want to take a look at two of Christ’s disciples, Simon, Peter, and Judas Iscariot.
They both had a plan, but neither plan went as expected. And I think we can learn something about disappointment and failure from their stories. We’re going to do a little compare contrast. So first, what did they have in common? Well, they were both pretty outspoken disciples. Peter was sort of the unofficial leader of the disciples.
He was impulsive and arrogant at times. He often contradicted Jesus right to His face. Like the time Jesus talks about His impending death on the cross. And Peter rebukes Jesus for saying such a thing. And Judas was outspoken too. He was the treasurer for the group was strong opinions about money. When a woman washed the feet of Jesus with a jar of expensive perfume, he criticized her harshly for wasting it on Jesus.
Since it could have been sold to feed the poor and here’s something else they had in common, they both betrayed Jesus. Let’s focus on Peter first. Then Jesus told him that – let me start over. Then Jesus told them this very night, you will all fall away on account of me. Peter replied, even if all fall away on account of You, I never will.
Truly, I tell you, Jesus answered this very night before the rooster crows. You will disown me three times, but Peter declared, even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you. You know, many of us like Peter have really good intentions when we make a promise or set a goal. We really mean it in that moment.
We’re so sure. So certain, but we’re human, our feelings, our circumstances change, and the follow through is more difficult than we thought. Peter indeed denies that he knows Jesus. Later that night, he’s huddled around a fire with other bystanders in the courtyard of the high priest where Jesus stands trial.
Three times he’s asked if he knows Jesus and three times he denies it and each time he actually denies it more vehemently. Look at what’s what it says here. We’ll look at verse 72. He denied it again with an oath. I don’t know the man. After a little while those standing there went up to Peter and said, surely you are one of them, your accent gives you away.
Then he began to call down curses and he swore to them, I don’t know, the man immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the words Jesus had spoken before the rooster crows. You will disown Me three times and he went outside and wept bitterly. I think one of the hardest kinds of disappointment is when we let down the ones we love. Peter’s plan to stand with Jesus to the end went horribly wrong.
But Judas’s plan also goes south. He betrays Jesus with a kiss for 30 pieces of silver and handsome over to the Jewish leaders. But the very next morning Judas is filled with regret. When Judas who had betrayed Him, saw that Jesus was condemned. He was seized with remorse and returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders.
I have sinned, he said for I have betrayed innocent blood. What does that to us? They replied that’s your responsibility. So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Okay friends, we will make mistakes. We will fail. And sometimes in spectacularly miserable ways, we will disappoint and fail each other.
We will disappoint and fail ourselves. So it’s not about whether or not we fail that matters. It’s about what we do afterward that really counts. And this is where Peter and Judas are completely different. Peter is full of remorse for denying Jesus, but he is able somehow to find his way back to the Lord, back to the disciples, because he was there.
When the women brought news of Christ resurrection, and he and John were the first disciples to confirm the empty tomb. And he was there that morning on the sea of Galilee fishing with some of the other disciples when they spot Jesus on the shore. And in true Peter style, he hurls himself at Jesus with no hesitation, look what it says here in the book of John, we’re going to pick it up right
when they recognize Jesus. As soon as Simon Peter heard him say it is the Lord. He wrapped his outer garment around him for he had taken it off and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish for, they were not far from shore about a hundred yards. When they landed
they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it. And, 100 yards. Peter was just 100 yards from Jesus. His speed was the main goal here. Why didn’t he just stay on the boat? And if he’s going to go for a swim, why bother putting his coat back on? It would only slow him down, but it’s like he just can’t think clearly. He cannot contain his excitement and joy.
He just reacts spontaneously from the heart and it came out as probably the fastest 100 yard freestyle in history. I don’t know about you, but when I failed someone, I don’t want to run to them. I want to hide. I don’t want to face them. I’m too ashamed. And sometimes I’m just too stubborn and even too proud to even admit that I’m wrong.
But Peter doesn’t allow any of these things to stand between him and the Lord. He’s able to push through and almost recklessly throw himself at Jesus. And I think it’s because Peter knows Jesus. He knows His loving and forgiving character. He knows that it’s going to be okay. There’s nowhere else, he’d rather be than right by His side.
And not only did Peter get a hot meal that morning and by the way, can you imagine how delicious a breakfast prepared by the Son of God would be, but Jesus also restores Peter by asking him three times if Peter loves Him, Peter responds each time with, Yes, I love you, Lord. Yes, I love you. And each time Jesus tells Peter to feed His sheep, redeeming the three denials from the courtyard scene and commissioning Peter to lead the early church.
The Greek word for charcoal fire is anthrakia and it’s appears in the Bible only twice in the entire Bible. The first time it refers to the fire in the courtyard where Peter is warming his hands and denying Jesus. The second time is in this breakfast scene, the fire that Jesus is using to cook fish and bread.
The very fire that Peter is standing next to as Jesus restores him. There’s this undeniable congruency between the two scenes, Peter’s betrayal of Jesus and Peter’s restoration by Jesus. And Jesus redeems, even a little detail from Peter’s ordeal. A fire is no longer a symbol of personal failure, but of nourishment and restoration, not just for a hungry stomach, but for a broken heart.
It is just so beautiful and poetic. On the other hand, Judas also filled with regret does not find his way back. If we read the second half of Matthew 27:5, we learn what happens to him. So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. You know, Judas is such an interesting character.
Do you ever wonder why he did it? Why did he betray Jesus? He was personally chosen by the Lord as an apostle. He had a front row seat to Christ miracles and teachings. He was sent out with the rest of the disciples to preach the gospel and Jesus loved him just like He loved the rest of the 12. So why did he do it?
The Gospels don’t give us too many clues. So are there are only theories, but one theory is that he did it for the money. The gospel of John tells us that he was, uh, embezzling from the ministry. So we do know that money was a temptation for him, but 30 pieces of silver is not that much money at all. It was like 20 bucks.
If money were the main motive, he could have bargained for a lot more, especially since the Jewish leaders were so eager to get rid of. Another theory is that he did it to save his own skin. He saw how the tide was turning against Jesus and decided that it was a good strategic move to jump ship early.
Maybe even come out on top as a disciple who was the first to cooperate with the Jewish leaders. But I have a different theory. I think that Judas was disappointed in Jesus. He expected Jesus to overthrow Rome and to free Israel. And when it was clear to him that Jesus had no intention of doing this, he became disillusioned, maybe even angry.
His heart began to harden. And this along with the other factors that money, this self-preservation, it was enough to just push him over the edge enough for Satan to get a foothold. We don’t make the best decisions when we’re angry. And by the time Judas changed his mind, it was too late. Everything was set in motion for Christ, crucifixion and Judas in despair makes the choice to take his own life.
Scholars actually have different, uh, different views about when Judas died. I didn’t know this. I recently was reading about this most believe that it happened the same day that he returned the blood money, but some actually hypothesized that it could have been weeks later. And if this was true, Judas may have heard about Christ’s resurrection and I wonder.
If things could have worked out differently for Judas, could he have chosen a different path? Could he have found his way back to Jesus back to the disciples? Maybe Jesus would have restored Judas too, and maybe Peter and Judas would have raced each other to shore that Gloria smile. What makes Judas such a tragic character is not his sin of betrayal because Peter in essence committed the same sin.
It’s his rejection of Jesus, his unrepentant heart, he and Peter experienced all the same things with Jesus, but he didn’t have a saving faith, like Peter did. You see, there’s a big difference between regretting and repenting. We can regret something, but not repent of it. We can have remorse, but not ask for forgiveness.
Repent means to turn away from sin and to turn toward God, there’s this repositioning going on a reorientation of our heart back to Christ. Regret is self-focused while repentance is God focused. The apostle Paul tells us in second Corinthians for godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret.
This is Peter, whereas worldly grief produces death, and this is true. Somehow Judah, got lost and never found his way back to the Lord. But the truth is with Christ. There is nothing that we can’t come back from because Jesus died for all of our sins past present future. There is nothing we can do.
There is nothing we can say. There was no one out there. There is no situation that can keep us from His love. So when we fail or when someone fails us, we don’t have to give up. We don’t have to give in to hopelessness like Judas did. The mere notion of hopelessness is actually a lie. There is always hope.
We may find ourselves in the wreckage of plan’s gone awry and bitter heartache, and there’s nothing we can do to change it, but we still have a choice we can choose to turn away from the Lord, like Judas or to turn toward the Lord like Peter. Jesus is the ever present open door of hope. So when life falls short of expectations, resist the urge to detach, do not turn away, rather move even closer to the Lord.
It’s so crucial for us to keep our hearts soft and open to Him. How do we do this? How do we do this? We’re in this Surrender series. So I’m going to give you three Surrender Statements. The first is surrender your pride. Surrender your pride. Peter and Judas were both proud men. Remember how Peter argued with Jesus?
I would never deny you. Yes, you will. No, I won’t. Yes, you will. No, I won’t think about that for a minute. So brazen to say no Lord. I’m right, and you’re wrong, but are we any different. Hear me out when the Lord doesn’t fulfill our expectations. Aren’t we also liked Judas. Unanswered prayers are so hard to accept, but when we hang onto them too tightly, we can get stuck in resentment and bitterness.
And it’s like saying, God, you got it wrong. And pride repels us away from the Lord. Peter speaks from personal experience when he wrote God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time. Humility is what enables Peter to swim to Jesus that morning.
Humility is like the gateway attitude back to the Lord. It leads us to repentance. It gives us the ability to admit I am not the creator of the universe. I don’t know everything. It helps us put our trust in a good and sovereign God and trust allows us to be curious. Lord, what are you trying to show me through this situation?
It gives us patience to wait for His perfect timing and the ability to give thanks in all circumstances. And gratitude gives us the desire to worship, adjust and powerful God, even when we’re hurting and worship, it gives us hope and a fresh, positive perspective of what the Lord is doing. And positivity by the way is good for both our spiritual and physical health. A recent study,
I love this. A recent study from Johns Hopkins concluded that a positive outlook on life reduces your chance of a heart attack by 30 to 50%. It’s the science behind God’s wisdom. If you are walking through a disappointing season today, humble yourself and ask the Lord to search your heart and to give you a new perspective.
Okay, here’s the next one. Surrender your pain, surrender your pain. Watching Jesus restore Peter, so tenderly and intentionally, it tells us that the Lord wants restoration and healing for us. And disappointment is painful and pain is real. Sometimes we push it deep down or find unhealthy ways to numb it, but the Lord wants us to give it to Him.
He wants to redeem the charcoal fire moments in our lives. Jesus said, blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. It’s okay to mourn and to grieve. In fact, one way to think of this is that if we don’t mourn, we can’t be comforted and Jesus wants to comfort us. He’s the one person who understands because He experienced every kind of suffering.
Betrayal, abandonment, injustice, physical, emotional, mental pain, and requires no filter. So process your pain with Him and ask for restoration and healing. Maybe it won’t be perfect on this side of heaven, but He will meet you. And healing may require some work. He may want you to forgive someone or even forgive yourself.
And if God forgave us, who are we to not do the same? And surround yourself with Godly people to encourage you. And if you know someone who’s hurting do not let them isolate even when they screw up, especially, especially when they screw up. Remember when Jesus went back to the Jewish leaders for help and they threw Him out.
He had nowhere to go. We’re all sinners. Let’s help each other find our way back to the Lord. And last but not least surrender your plan. Surrender your plans. As we continue to come out of the pandemic, many of us are busy making plans. Some of us are changing jobs or relocating, whatever decisions we’re facing.
I hope that we’re bringing them before the Lord because God’s plans for us are the best plans for us. I wanted to share just a few things I’ve learned over the years about being in God’s will, as we face decisions, I’ll just go through these pretty quickly. First God will not call us to something that contradicts His word.
If an opportunity arises and no matter how good it is, no matter how much sense it makes for us, if it compromises our integrity, if it goes against Christ’s teachings, if it distances us from the body of believers in any way, it is not from the Lord. Second, the right decision will be accompanied by confirmation.
As we pray, the Lord will confirm it through scripture and through counsel from trusted followers of Christ. And the key here is to go to the people in our lives who will pray with us and speak truth to us, even if it hurts and not simply tell us what we want. And third, the Lord wants to grow our faith.
So if God is calling us to something, it will most likely require for us to depend on Him. It might be something we cannot do on our own strengths and we’ll have to level up in faith. Michael and I, we have a tandem bicycle, you know, those bicycles built for two. It’s 28 years old. We’ve had it almost as long as we’ve been married and we’ve also had some of the worst fights on that bike.
The nickname for the bike is the divorce machine. You have to work together on a tandem bicycle, which isn’t always that easy. The person in the front is known as the captain and the captain does the steering and the braking. Whereas the stoker, the one on the back. And that would be me. The stoker’s job is to provide the power and follow the captain’s lead.
And can I tell you, it can be extremely frustrating to be the one on the back because I have so little control, you know what happens often. Michael will say, let’s go for a little spin. And then 25 miles later, I’ll be like, can we go home now? Or sometimes I’ll whine. No more Hills, no more Hills. But the funny thing is the longest rides with the hardest climbs are the most rewarding.
Can you see where I’m going with this? God is the captain and we are the stoker. There will be times when He takes us to places we don’t want to go. And just like me on the back of that tandem, we’re faced with a choice we can grumble and complain and refuse to engage. I once gave Michael the silent treatment on a bike ride for three hours.
Okay? Not proud of that. Or we can choose to embrace the current route, embrace the current route and be open to what the Lord has for us. And the detours through disappointment and failure are usually the stretches of life, where we grow the most in our character and in our faith, they are the ones that give us a powerful faith story
like Peter’s. You know how I was joking, that those eighth graders should lower their expectations? Well the truth is when we surrender our plans, the Lord does change our expectations, but rather than lowering them, he simply shifts them. They are less tied to our personal wants and desires, less about earthly success and comfort and more aligned with His character and His promises.
Yes, in this world, we will have trouble, but the Lord will never leave us through the disappointing seasons. He will give us comfort, peace, and even joy. He will use all things to work for our good, even the bad stuff. And as children of God, we’re not settling. We’re just letting go. Because when the Lord is our captain, we can have great expectations for our future.
We don’t ever have to be afraid because the best is yet to come. You know, my life didn’t turn out the way I expected, but I’m okay with surrendering the rest of my story to the Lord, because like Peter, there’s no place I’d rather be than in the presence of Jesus. In a moment, the band is going to do a song it’s called “Won’t Stop Now”.
And it’s a song about how an any situation, no matter how disappointing the presence of Jesus is like an open door to a glorious future. And all we need to do is to just keep following Him.
Lord you are the open door of salvation. We surrender to you, Lord. We surrender our pride, our pain, our plans. Show us the way, keep our hearts soft and open to you and to those around us. We surrender our stories to you and we live out our faith in you Lord with great expectations. All of a this in your son’s precious name we pray.
Amen. Blessings everybody.