Jack’s parent’s always took him to church when he was a child. He frequented Sunday school and worship services each Sunday with his family. He had learned all of the famous stories of the heroes of the Bible. He had heard of the times that God had intervened in the lives of His committed saints to rescue them from the hands of peril. Jack sang the great songs of the faith and he sang them with passion. “A mighty fortress is our God. A bulwark never failing.” “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” Jack knew them all, he believed them, he recalled them whenever trouble would come knocking at his door.
Jack grew up and began a family of his own. The Lord blessed Jack and his wife with a little boy whom they loved with a love they had never experienced before. Jack and his family continued the family ritual that had been started by his folks when he was a little boy. They would travel to Sunday school and church every Sunday in order to worship God for His goodness and to teach their son about the faith that had given them stability and strength.
One Christmas when the little boy was four years old, Jack and his family traveled to grandma’s house to celebrate the birth of the Messiah and to be with the family that Jack treasured. After the presents were unwrapped, Jack’s son went outside to play in the front yard. He had only been outside a few minutes when Jack decided to go out and check on him. Jack put on his jacket and went outside when all of a sudden his horrifying nightmare began. Little Joseph was hanging from grandma’s picket fence by the hood on his jacket. Jack rushed to help his little boy, but the boy’s body was lifeless. Jack lifted the hood off of the picket fence and tried to frantically revive his son while he screamed for help. An ambulance was called and the paramedics tried to breathe life back into the child, but life was gone.
For the next several months Jack cried out to the heavens seeking some kind of answer from God, but to Jack the heavens were silent. Why? Why? Why? Why, didn’t God do something to stop the death of his little boy? Why was God so silent while Jack and his wife were agonizing over their loss?
Finally, Jack gave up. He stopped hating God for His silence, His seeming lack of concern, and Jack simply stopped believing in God. His disappointment had ranged from despair and defeat to simply denying the existence of the God from whom he had once drawn so much strength and solace.
Jack’s disappointment with God caused him to walk away and forget everything he had learned, everything he had believed. It is not just the “Jack’s” of the world who go through horrible, nightmarish experiences who find themselves disappointed with God. It is also those whose very lives have been spent teaching others about the Lord, but who deep down have had their faith worn away with little, antagonizing disappointments.
Some time ago a Bishop was asked to lead a clergy conference. In order to assess his audience he asked the host, “How many of these ministers are functionally agnostic?” The host was a little starlted at the question, but he responded by saying, “About 75%.”
The Bishop found out later, from talking to the ministers, that they called themselves believers, but that they had long given up on the expectation that God would act in their lives. It was a long process of erosion, bit by bit, over a long period of time. The Bishop discovered that these ministers had been taught a lot about what modern people couldn’t believe and very little about what they could or should believe. The power of the Word of God had died with the many exceptions that were placed upon it.
Some of the older ministers found that years of church squabbles, unresponsive congregations, constant money concerns, unsympathetic leaders, and personal disappointments diminished their faith. Some were turned off by the television evangelists who taught that if you prayed the right way you could get God to perform on cue. In reaction to unbiblical faith, these ministers developed minimal faith. They continued to pray for the sick but would have been surprised, even embarrassed, if anyone would have been healed.
What is it that causes us to be disappointed with Jesus? Praying for an “A” when in fact you get an “F”? Asking Jesus to help your mom and dad love each other only to find them signing divorce papers? You prayed for God to cause your mate to love you again, but love never came. Praying for healing only to find you’re sitting in the office of the funeral director? How about cutting a deal with Jesus only to find out that He hasn’t kept up His end of the deal?
For some people, disappointment with the Savior comes like a tidal wave. An overwhelming tragedy in which hope is lost, innocence obliterated, relationships severed, and heaven silent. For others the lethal mixture of pain and time erodes away the deep faith and trust in the Savior. There are 1001 reasons why people cry out, “Jesus help me,” and then wonder if He has turned a deaf ear.
Has Jesus ever disappointed you? I’m sure that if you would be honest you would say, “Absolutely!” I’m sure that you could tell stories of how you were counting on Jesus to bail you out, see you through, help you over, but instead you ended up feeling let down.
I’ve been thinking about this lesson this week. I never want to do anything to cause someone to give up their faith or to solidify their doubts and that is not my intent this morning. My intent this morning is to do three things. First, I want to encourage all of us to be honest with the Lord about our disappointments. Secondly, I want us to see that we are not the first to feel let down by Jesus, disappointed by what He has done or hasn’t done. Finally, I want us to see that, in spite of what we may feel, we have not been abandoned, He has not left us. As a matter of fact, Jesus’ deep love for you and me was most evident when it appeared that He was a total and complete failure.
The truth of the matter is that I’ve been dealing with people’s disappointment with the Lord for a long time. I remember ten years ago when I was forced to deal with the topic of disappointment with God. It was March of 1997 when Connie and I received a phone call from our neighbor Donna at 10:15 at night. She was troubled and wanted to know if we could come over. Just a week earlier Donna’s husband, Mike, a good guy who knew God’s Word like the back of his hand had committed suicide. When we arrived at Donna’s house she said, “How could Mike have cried out for help to the Lord and things end up the way they have? How could the Lord have allowed Mike to kill himself? Mike knew the Lord. Why wouldn’t He help him?” It is ten years later and I still don’t know the answer to Donna’s question. I don’t know all of the facts, but I’m convinced that even if I did I still wouldn’t fully understand. Connie and I didn’t pretend to have the answer as we sat with our friend, but we did try to comfort her in her pain.
Our friend Donna is not the first person who has been disappointed with Jesus. As I have studied God’s Word this past week I have run across a couple of stories that I would like to share with you. Let’s begin.
There was never a greater advocate of Jesus than John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus. John believed his entire reason for being was to prepare the way for Jesus to come. John took his responsibility very seriously. He went from place to place telling people about Jesus and encouraging them to repent of their sins. When Jesus finally arrived John said, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world!” Who has ever received a more glittering introduction? John was Jesus’ greatest fan, His biggest advocate, and His most committed ally. In John’s Gospel we read,
(19) Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. (20) He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.” (21) They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” (22) Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” (23) John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” (24) Now some Pharisees who had been sent (25) questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” (26) “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. (27) He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” (28) This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing. (29) The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (30) This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ (31) I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” (32) Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. (33) I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ (34) I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:19-34 NIV)
What a great passage of Scripture! If there was ever any doubt as to who would get top billing the questions were answered when John said, “I’m not even worthy to untie the man’s sandals!”
I don’t know what happened, or what failed to happen in the time following John’s great announcement of Jesus as the Son of God, but something happened. I have my suspicions that John was probably looking for the stereotypical Jewish Messiah who would come roaring into town on the back of a stallion and crush all of the adversaries of Israel. That is the kind of Messiah the Jews were looking for, the kind they are still looking for. A conquering King who looks more like a Hollywood action figure than a Savior sent from the heart of God. I’m convinced that John was looking for a Spielberg Savior instead of the Master’s Messiah.
After two years of Jesus talking about the poor in spirit and the blessings of the meek — John began to have his doubts. In Luke 7 we read a little, seemingly insignificant verse of Scripture which casts a spotlight on John’s doubt. Take a look,
(18)John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, (19) he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Luke 7:18-19)
“Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” If that doesn’t catch your attention then I don’t know what will. What happened to the bold zeal of John the Baptist? What happened to, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world?” How did such boldness slip into “are you the one or should we be looking for someone else?”
If John was looking for a Messiah who would ride into town and obliterate the enemy, the Roman oppressors, then Jesus didn’t dispel his doubts at all. In the next section of Scripture we read of John’s followers going to ask Jesus if He is the one.
(20) When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’” (21) At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. (22) So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. (23) Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” (Luke 7:18-23 NIV)
John was disappointed. What he had hoped for, what he had thought about the Messiah hadn’t panned out. John was disappointed.
John wasn’t the only one disappointed with Jesus. Jesus’ own family was disappointed in Him. Why couldn’t He be content to play video games and baseball? Why did He always have to cause such a fuss?
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is busy healing the sick and caring for the people. His presence was so powerful that demons would fall down before Him and cry out, “You are the Son of God.” Jesus was gathering a bunch of renegades together to be His disciples when His family finally said, “Enough is enough! We’ve got to put a stop to all of this insanity.” In Mark 3:21 we read, (21)“When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21 NIV)
“He is out of his mind.” Now isn’t that something for a family to say about one of their own?! They needed family counseling in the worst way, but was it needed because Jesus was truly out of His mind or because they were totally out of touch with what mattered most to God? Regardless, Jesus’ family was disappointed with Him.
We could go on and on talking about those who were disappointed with Jesus for one reason or another. There’s the Pharisees and Scribes who asked Jesus to perform a miracle and were called an “adulterous generation.” There were all of the sick people waiting for their healing by the man at the Pool of Bethesda. The man who had been unable to walk for thirty-eight years was cured, but what about all of the others? Why didn’t Jesus heal them? The stories go on and on…
The most tragic of all the stories of disappointment would have to be the story of the Cross. On Good Friday, the day that we will celebrate this coming Friday, Jesus disappointed all of those who had put their trust in Him. How can a Savior save when He is hanging lifeless on a cross? How can the power of sin be taken away when the Savior appears to be powerless? How can there be hope for life when death has conquered our Hope? All of these questions and more surrounded the cross where Jesus hung lifeless as He drew His last breath.
Those that passed by the cross, possibly even some of who had put much faith in Jesus, hurled insults at the Disappointing Messiah as He hung there bleeding and bruised. We read in Matthew 27,
(39)Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads (40) and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:39-40 NIV)
“Save yourself!” How are you going to save us when you can’t even save yourself? The thought must have reverberated through their minds as they reflected on the words and works of Jesus that they had witnessed over the course of the past three years. They had waited and waited and waited for Him to rise to power, to overthrow the enemy, but as they watched Him slowly fading into history they cast their hopes aside and turned on Him. The people weren’t the only ones who had given up on Jesus. The religious leaders, those who had studied the Jewish Bible and knew the Messiah would come some day, they too mocked the tragic ending of Jesus. They mocked Him not because they had put their hope in Him, but because His shameful end was evidence to each of them that they were right about the renegade religious leader. We read,
(41)In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. (42) “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. (43) He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (Matthew 27:41-43 NIV)
There were many that were disappointed in Jesus and they felt that they had ample reason to be disappointed. Some of the Jews were disappointed in Jesus because they felt that He was immoral. He was willing to eat with Gentiles, tax collectors, and prostitutes who couldn’t care less about keeping Kosher. Some felt He didn’t take sin seriously. The Law said to kill those who were caught in adultery — Jesus forgave. Others, like Judas, were looking for the overthrow of the Romans, but Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.”
Even Jesus’ closest friends were disappointed when He drew His last breath and died. They had given up everything to follow Him. They had lived with Him for three long years — three years of uncertainty, watching Jesus do things they didn’t understand and say things that many times made no sense to any of them. They had lived with criticism, scorn, and persecution from those who reviled Jesus. Now Jesus was dead. He wasn’t taking a break — He was dead! At His death, none of the disciples were even there at the cross except for John. Peter was denying that he even knew Jesus. The rest of His followers had scattered like a covey of quail at the sound of a gun.
If Jesus’ closest friends felt disappointment, then is it any wonder that you or I sometimes feel disappointment as well? I sometimes hear folks say, “If the Lord would only show up, He wouldn’t even have to fix my problem, but if He would just show up in the midst of my struggle, then I could go on. If I knew the Lord saw what I was going through then I could gain strength.” I don’t believe that. I don’t think Jesus physically showing up can solve the problem of disappointment. Jesus showed up time after time, in the most difficult of situations, while He was on the earth, and yet the people were still disappointed. Mary and Martha were disappointed that Jesus showed up late when Lazarus had already died. They didn’t truly believe that Jesus was the Resurrection and the Life. The people were disappointed by what He did, whom He hung out with, what He said, and what He failed to do.
Why were they and why are we disappointed? Good question. I am convinced that they, and we, have been disappointed with the Messiah because we want Jesus to be what we want Him to be, not who He is. We want Him to be the Problem Solver, and He is, but He doesn’t solve our problems in the manner in which we want them solved. We want Jesus to give us peace, and He is the Prince of Peace, but not in the way we want. We want Him to make us happy, but He wants to make us holy.
We are not willing to wait for the full story to be told. We are focused on the moment, on escaping the perils that face us at this very moment. When our moments are not filled with sipping fruit drinks on the beach and unbridled ecstasy then our faith in the Savior begins to evaporate with the noon day heat.
This is not to downplay the horrible tragedies that take place in our life. I remember a few years ago when Connie asked me, “How have you been disappointed in the Lord?” I didn’t stutter. I said, “I was so disappointed in the Lord when you had your miscarriage. When we learned that there might be some kind of problem, I prayed and prayed. I honestly believed that everything would work out just fine and it would be another opportunity for me to tell of God’s faithfulness, but I was wrong.” Things didn’t work out all right, I never got to see the baby that I had dreamed of, and I was disappointed. I couldn’t figure out, why, if God could create the heavens and the earth and everything in them in seven days, why couldn’t He protect the life of a helpless little child. The really disappointing thing is that I know He could protect the life of that unborn child, but instead the baby died.
The disappointments that we have all felt will plague us from time to time. We should not be afraid to share that with the Lord. He is big enough to hear our complaints. The disappointments we have faced, and will face, can have a catastrophic impact on life. For some of us they may have even driven us away from the Lord at some time in the past. For someone here this morning you may be wondering if faith in Jesus is not just some childhood fairy tale. You’ve prayed and asked Jesus to help you and you’ve been hurt. I’ve come to bring you Good News!
All of our disappointments will continue to nag us until we come face-to-face with the greatest truth Jesus came to deliver to you and me — The grave is empty! Death has not won — it has been defeated! Sorrow is only momentary, but joy will last for all of eternity! You are thinking, “What in the world does that have to do with the disappointment I have felt, of the times I have felt abandoned and let down?” I say that it has everything to do with it! If I can come to grips with the fact that Jesus has overcome death then everything else is viewed from the perspective of eternity.
Jesus Himself said, “In this world you will have trouble, but fear not for I have overcome the world.” Jesus never once gave the impression that if we trust in Him that we will be automatically transported to an island of ecstasy, but He did promise us that He was going to prepare a place for us where there would be neither sorrow, death, defeat, or mourning. In Revelation 21 we read,
(1)Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. (2) I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. (3) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. (4) He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev 21:1-4 NIV)
In this world I may have trouble, and I am sure there is more trouble yet to come, but I will endure each and every one because I know that one day I will be in the presence of my King in that place where there is neither trouble, sorrow, mourning, or death!
The Apostle Paul once wrote, (13)“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. (14) And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Cor 15:13-14 NIV) If there is no resurrection then you and I have no hope, but the fact of the matter is that Jesus has overcome the grave, He has defeated disappointment by overcoming the grave.
Harry Rimmer was traveling in Egypt one time when he encountered the country’s secretary of state. During the course of their conversation, Mr. Rimmer brought up the topic of Christianity. Rimmer told the official that Christians believe God has given us three revelations of Himself. “We too believe that,” said the official, who was a Muslim. “We believe God revealed Himself in the works of creation,” said Rimmer. “We also believe that,” the other man responded. Rimmer continued, “We believe God has revealed Himself in a book — the Bible.” The Muslim man answered, “We too believe God has revealed Himself in a book — the Koran.” Rimmer declared, “We believe God has revealed Himself in a man — Jesus Christ.” “We also believe God has revealed Himself in a man,” replied the man, “the prophet Mohammed.” “We believe,” added Rimmer, “that Jesus is able to substantiate His claims because He rose from the dead.” The Muslim hesitated, then his eyes fell. He finally replied, “We have no information concerning our prophet after his death.”
Jesus has gone to prepare a place for those who have been disappointed, discouraged, and even felt despair — yet kept trusting and believing. I hope you will allow the Savior to comfort you in your disappointments and open your eyes to the glories of the resurrection.
When it appeared that Jesus was at His worst, when He died on the Cross and everyone had given up their hopes they had placed in Him — He wasn’t finished yet. Neither is He finished today. Keep trusting.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
Oklahoma City, OK 73114
March 31, 2007