Expectancy Theory

There is a theory that was promoted in the early 1960s, called the “Expectancy Theory.” In short, it is about the mental process around choice or choosing. It helps to explain the processes that an individual goes through in order to make choices. It also supposes that individuals will behave in a certain way, because they are motivated to choose a specific behavior over another, due to what they expect the result of their selected behavior to be. To put it another way, their actions are guided by what they hold to be true and by their expectation that the outcome(s) of their choice(s) will directly have impacts on them. They become motivated by their choices and the outcomes of those choices.

While this is a theory, in part it should hold true for us in our Christian lives. Look at Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians in Ephesians 3:14-21. He held that people who had been called would be rooted in the truth and experience true Godly love in their lives. They could expect these things because they made choices that were motivated by God’s promises.

Look at the trial of Stephen in Acts 7. He gave example after example of the fathers of old who had this same expectancy of God, doing exactly as He had promised them. And yet, the religious leaders of that time were not making the correct choices. In fact, Stephen calls them out on the carpet in verses 51-53: “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.

In Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23, we have the parable of the sower. And we read that while people have choices, often times they make the wrong ones because they have not fully invested in and truly caught the true picture. Yet, we also read of those who do get it. Their labor is great and their harvest is also great. Those are the choices that we should be making every day. So many times we are warned, exhorted and encouraged by the apostle Paul to be steadfast in the way that we have chosen to live (compare 1 Thessalonians 5:6-26). Note how Paul encourages the entire church in this regard. It’s not a one man effort. Yes, each is responsible for their own actions (and thereby the outcome), but as Paul is pointing out, there is a dire need for each person to be strengthening each other as well as praying for each other.

As we are growing in Christ’s grace and knowledge, we should become more and more motivated and captivated that this is the right Way of Life. There should be no doubt in our minds as to whether or not this is the true Way. In so doing, our actions and hearts will be motivated, as we read in 1 John 3:18-24. This has to be our motivation and truly what we should strive to do.

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