Summary: Common disappointments that new Christians face often bring discouragement to the point of giving up.
Iliff and Saltillo UM churches
August 29, 2004
“Disappointments New Christians Face”
INTRODUCTION: Think back to the time when you first came to the Lord and made your decision to become a Christian. You might have been a little child in Sunday school. It may have been when you were a teenager at church camp, or later on as an adult. It could have been a sudden and dramatic experience where you felt the load of sin and guilt lift off of you in such a way that it was overwhelming to say the least. Or it could have been a gradual experience--steady and sure--but you realized that a transformation was taking place.
Look back to that time--then and now. Has your Christian experience been all smooth sailing? All joy? All uphill with no disappointments?
In today’s scriptures both Peter and James speak about disappointments especially that new Christians face. Although we all face disappointments as we go through our Christian journey, sometimes the disappointments seem more overwhelming for anyone new in their faith. Problems and disappointments not only overwhelm us but some even fall by the wayside and give up--some quit going to church altogether and say, “I just can’t make it. It’s no use. I just give up... Things are a mess.”
Peter and James wanted to help people understand some of the disappointments that they would face and help them to progress in their faith rather than to become a “spiritual drop out.”
Peter is connecting with the people when he says, “I know how you feel when you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime.” But he goes on to say, “Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it PROVED to be pure. Genuine faith put through this suffering comes out PROVED genuine” (Message Bible I Peter 1:6-9).
James follows up this same idea by saying, “Count it a sheer gift when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well developed--not deficient in any way” (Message Bible, James 1:2-4).
These two writers are telling us that we will face disappointments when we become a Christian, but it is not necessarily a bad thing for it only serves to test our faith and to show that it is genuine. The hassles we go through serve their purpose--to help us become strong and mature in our faith.
STORY: Justin had two goals in life. One was to have fun and the other was to do nothing. According to his Mother, he does both quite well. He headed for the school bus one fall morning and a few minutes later, he was back at the front door.
His mother opened the door and saw Justin standing there. She demanded to know why he was not on the bus.
He said, “I’ve quit school.”
“Quit school,” she repeated in disbelief. “Why have you quit school?”
Without hesitation the six-year old dropout said, “It’s too long, it’s too hard, and it’s too boring!”
“Justin,” his Mother said firmly, “You have just described life! Now get back on that bus!”
Peter and James are telling us the same thing in these scriptures.
What are some common disappointments that we probably will face at one time or another in our Christian walk? I would like to look at three different things.
1. Disappointment with Ourselves: Sometimes you may hear the statement, “Come to Jesus and all of your problems will be solved.” When people find they are still facing the same weaknesses as before, they wonder, “What is wrong with me?” Have you ever felt this way? Why am I still having a struggle with temptations? Why don’t I FEEL joyful all the time? Why do I still have the same addictions? Why does my temper still flare up at the drop of a hat? Why do I still have financial problems? I thought Jesus would “FIX” all of this for me.
Many people become Christians excited about the forgiveness of sins, the chance to start over, excited about the help God is going to give them to change. But many times the changes that will take place happen gradually rather than instantaneously--in the ongoing growing process. So people begin to feel disappointed in themselves and think there is nothing to Christianity.
ILLUSTRATION: A teenager at Juvenile Detention said, “I prayed once and nothing happened so I’m not going to pray anymore.”
Some of us have unrealistic expectations for ourselves. We live in an instant society where computers are not fast enough, food preparation takes too long, and we impatiently honk our hors if the red light doesn’t change fast enough. We think our Christian growth should take place instantly but this is not realistic. When we come to Christ He DOES forgive us of our sins the minute we ask, but that is THE BEGINNING of our transformation toward maturity. Our faith is tested and tried over time to see if it is genuine--to see if it can stand the fire of the refining process.