Disappointments happen. They’re a part of life. If we can’t learn how to deal with them, then it’s going to be a very long, uneventful journey. There are times, however, we feel we’ve heard from God, did everything right, and because things don’t end up the way we want, we start to wonder if God tricked us…that He’s an arbitrary Sovereign who dangles a cosmic carrot in front of us.
Here are some reasons we may feel deceived:
- We get in the way or try to “help God.” Like Sarai who gave Hagar to Abram (Genesis 16) or Jacob who usurped his brother’s inheritance (Genesis 25, 27).
- We’re impatient. Hmmm, did God forget about me? Why is it taking so long for Him to fulfill His promise to me? If we think we’ve waited endlessly, think about this: Jacob waited over 20 years for his brides, but even longer for the dream at Bethel to materialize. Moses was a nomad for 25 years before he fulfilled his purpose, and it would be another 40 years for just a mere glimpse of the Promised Land. What about poor Simeon who waited his entire life simply to see the Messiah’s face (Luke 2)?
- Our expectations don’t line up with God’s. We have idea or scheme of how things should look. How many, how big, how valuable? This causes us to fixate on the results instead of on God. Oops. (Jonah 4:1).
- We or someone else did something wrong. Perhaps wrong motives, pride, even wanting to share the spotlight with the Almighty. These behaviors can jeopardize God working in our lives (1 Kings 11).
- We heard wrong. Let’s be open to the possibility that we weren’t listening to God but possibly the enemy’s deception or our own desires drowning out His voice (Genesis 3).
For my colleagues, there’s another kind of disappointment that’s a little more serious because success is so engrained in our minds, especially in our consumer based society. We let results define our livelihood and self worth. Many have left the ministry much too soon because of frustration and hurt. While that is a part of ministry life, once again the problem may be internal strife instead of external and empirical production. Are we too determined to achieve:
- Earthly results. We are too often judged by peers based on results. Minsters’ meetings become difficult because we dread the question: “How many you running now?” There are times we grow envious of other’s ministries, giftings, results. Some of our peers seem like they have the Midas touch while we have to squeeze water out of a rock.
- Earthly repayment. We’ve sacrificed, prayed, fasted put everything on the line because of a cause and passion. For what? What do we get out of it? We have a George Bailey self pity moment, forgetting that it’s about pouring into people’s lives.
- Earthly recognition. Too often, we yearn for the applause of man. We want to be able to say “look what I accomplished.” There’s a part of us that wants to be the big bad expert that others look to. Public opinion is fleeting. People are fickle. Let’s be content with the approval of Christ.
- Earthly rewards. We want to know we’re making a difference in people’s lives. It’s not always evident, many times til many years later. Not all of us will have the Mr. Holland experience where all those whom he helped returned to say thank you. Most times, we need to be satisfied with the God nod.
- Earthly reference. We base so much on stinkin numbers: attendance, bank accounts, square footage of our facilities and property, programs, small groups, salvations, baptisms, miracles, outreaches, etc. If only we could see things from God’s viewpoint. All the ledgers, budgets, and accolades mean nothing to Him; only people who seek after Him and His will. Only in America can we have the biggest congregations, the biggest buildings, the showiest productions and promo, and still have absolutely nothing to say. Maybe there needs to be a new standard of success…we’ll call it obedience. Nothing more, nothing less. We may never know on this side the eternal effect a simple act of obedience could have.
Few people know the name Mordecai Ham who was a powerful preacher in the early 20th century. He saw much success as a revivalist cutting through grassroots America. He went through a period of disillusionment and discouragement, not seeing results as he ministered in the Carolinas. In a moment when he almost shut down his tent meetings, he felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit to go on. When he gave the appeal that evening, only 2 teenage boys responded despite his pleas for people to come to Christ. Little did anyone know on November 1, 1934 the future of one of those boys whose name was Billy Graham. What if Mr. Ham hadn’t simply obeyed God?
“One of our troubles is we are not willing to humble ourselves. We are not willing to give up our opinions as to how things should be done.” Moredcai Ham
Do we yearn to see our name in print or in lights, or simply to hear the words, “Well done good and faithful servant.”