Now Faith in Disappointment
Today we look at disappointment. Last week we talked about faith, based around this verse.
Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
We pray, we believe, we trust in the Lord to answer our prayers, yes, no or wait. My question today is, when you have believe God, when you have had faith but what you are believing for doesn’t happen, how do you respond?
FAITH IS YOUR CHOICE
In life, you often cannot choose what happens to you, but you can choose how you respond. One of the great hypocrisies of the modern world is that no one takes responsibility for their actions. People blame their parents, society, their school, their ex, the lack of opportunities. Everybody and everything except themselves.
But the Bible says we always have a choice. To sin, or be righteous. To react in anger, or respond in love. To get angry at God, or press deeper into Him. And here’s the thing, it is these choices that determine our destiny.
Proverbs 19:3 (ESV)
When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD.
So if you pray for something, and don’t appear to get the answer you want, it is your choice as to how you respond to it. We talked last week about the dangers of some hyper-faith theology which implies that you can manipulate the answer you want from God. In the end most of these people feel like God has let them down, and many turn away from Him, saying, “Tried Christianity, and it doesn’t work!”
DISAPPOINTMENT, HIS APPOINTMENT
Perspective plays a huge part here. Your response to an unanswered prayer depends on your perspective. It takes faith to believe God for a miracle, but it takes greater faith to still believe God if the miracle is not forthcoming. God uses disappointments to deepen our faith.
We just need to change one letter to change our perspective. Disappointment becomes His appointment. And this simple change in perspective changes our faith.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (ESV)
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
Things don’t go the way we planned, but we never stop trusting God.
FEELING LET DOWN
John 11:1-6 (ESV)
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
Mary and Martha were friends of Jesus and had personally supported him and his mission, and their brother Lazarus was dying. But for some inexplicable reason, Jesus chooses not to go to his friend, even seeming not to care by brushing off concerns about Lazarus’ condition saying, “This sickness will not end in death,” (11:4).
Then Lazarus dies. Four days later Jesus finally makes it to His friends. Mary and Martha are not only mourning the loss of their brother but also dealing with their disappointment in Jesus for failing to meet their expectations. They reached out in their need, and Jesus let them down and didn’t come in time.
Jesus’ interaction with the sisters gives us a powerful framework for dealing with and overcoming disappointment. I’m going to use disappointment to encapsulate any and all emotions we may feel, because responses to God failing to answer our faith the way we want include anger, hurt, frustration, hopelessness, etc.
Here is how the story plays out, and what we can learn from it to overcome disappointment. Here’s 5 steps to overcoming disappointment.
1. ADMIT THAT YOU ARE DISAPPOINTED
Some people feel that faking faith will make God change His mind and give them what they want, but the first step to deeper faith is to admit your disappointment.
John 11:21 (ESV)
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
This might seem obvious, but we can’t overcome disappointment with God if we don’t admit it to ourselves and to him. When Ignite wanted to move to Nambour but the Clark Centre property fell through, I told the Lord I was disappointed.
You may be tempted to overwrite your emotions by saying “God has a plan, I just don’t know what it is,” or “When God closes a door he opens a window.” But if we don’t actually admit that we’re disappointed, hurt, or frustrated, those cliches are like putting a bandaid over a severed limb. They really don’t help at all. God is not afraid of our honesty, and while for some admitting disappointment can be hard and uncomfortable it’s a necessary first step to overcoming a major obstacle to our faith.
Martha believed that if only Jesus had acted earlier, he could have changed the whole situation. A lot of us feel similar. As N.T. Wright says:
“If you’re like [Martha], and if you have an ‘if only’ in your heart or mind right now, put yourself in Martha’s shoes. Run off to meet Jesus. Tell him the problem. Ask him why he didn’t come sooner, why he allowed the awful thing to happen”
It doesn’t show a lack of faith to admit that you’re disappointed with God. In fact, it shows faith that you can admit it, and move forward. Don’t be shy, let your frustration fly so that you can clear the air and make room for something new. Pray it out, write it out, talk it out, do whatever you need to be honest and release that disappointment.
2. CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE
Don’t stop there. Don’t just rant at God and camp in disappointment. Martha was disappointed, even crushed by what had happened. But rather than fake things, she still was able to present to God her tiny faith, and start to change perspective.
John 11:22-27 (ESV)
But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
You can see this hurt, disappointed woman not faking faith, but starting to change her perspective.
3. FIX YOUR EYES ON JESUS, NOT THE PROBLEM
Notice both Martha and Mary, as heartbroken and disappointed as they were, didn’t get mad at Jesus. They didn’t blame Him. They fixed their gaze on Him.
John 11:32 (ESV)
Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
In all the mess and the pain and the disappointment, they chose to focus on Jesus. And Jesus, full of compassion and love, was moved.
John 11:33 (ESV)
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.
If you are disappointed in the Lord today, if you asked God for something that hasn’t happened, if you feel let down today, learn from these sisters. If your faith is wavering, turn to Jesus, come to Him and fix your eyes on Him.
4. DON’T GIVE UP
Just because you decide, yes I’m going to believe God, it is still a journey, and it takes time. Your faith will be tested, but you can stand and prevail. Remember, this does not apply if you have told God what He needs to do for you, but if you know God’s will, you can stand no matter what.
What we often do it try and rationalise the failure to see a miracle away.
John 11:23-24 (ESV)
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus had said, your brother will rise again, and Martha said yes, on the last day. It’s like saying death is the ultimate healing. It’s true, but sometimes it is just an attempt to rationalise the failure of our faith. God doesn’t need you to make excuses for Him. If He fails to make happen what you are praying for, can you trust Him that He had a higher and better way? David Zeims told me months before he died that he believed God was calling him home.
Romans 8:28 (ESV)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
And when Jesus ordered the gravestone to be moved, circumstances flew in the face of faith.
John 11:39 (ESV)
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odour, for he has been dead four days.”
Martha expressed doubts, and a kind of embarrassment at what Jesus asked to be done, but Jesus was ok with that, and He replied
John 11:40 (ESV)
Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
All Martha’s doubts and lack of faith were handled by Jesus, because Jesus loved her. He could see her struggling to try and make sense of it all, and Jesus sees you as you struggle to make sense of life as well. He’s delighted with your faith, but He’s not offended by your honest disappointments and doubts. He leads you gently into faith, and allows you scope to grow in your faith.
5. GIVE THANKS
I want you to look carefully at what Jesus said next…
John 11:41-44 (ESV)
So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Jesus knew the will of His father, and He then He gave thanks.
If you are down and disappointed, if that thing you’ve prayed for seems to be taking too long, if you are struggling to believe God’s will, start by giving thanks.
When Lazarus died, the circumstances were bleak, and conclusively bad. But I have learned that faith, real faith, deep faith, depends not on circumstances, but on our aligning with the will of God. The closer we are to God, the closer our will conforms to His, and then faith sees miracles, and that is what we are seeing here at Ignite. And it starts with rejoicing in the Lord, even in the face of disappointment.
IF GOD HAS LET YOU DOWN
Last week I said this
Psalms 37:25 (ESV)
I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.
I’m the long run, I believe God will never let me down if I live my life seeking Him. But nevertheless, some times we can feel disappointed or let down and hurt when our faith appears to fail.
If you feel God has let you down, today you can rebuild you faith. Be honest before God, tell Him, cry out to Him, seek Him with all your heart. Tell Him you’re hurt, He can handle it. But then, come to Jesus again, fix your eyes on Him and change your perspective. And you can start it all by having a gratitude attitude.
Habakkuk was a prophet at a difficult time in history. He wrote a short 3 chapter book and started by complaining to God.
Habakkuk 1:2 (ESV)
O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?
He rolls out the angry list of disappointments against God for 2 chapters. He says it’s not fair, have you ever said that? He accuses God of allowing the wicked to persecute the righteous. He accuses God of being silent when the bad guys seem to be winning.
Then in the third chapter, he rediscovers his faith, he begins to believe his God again, and the book finishes with this incredible statement of faith…
Habakkuk 3:17-18 (ESV)
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
How do you respond when what you have faith for seems to fall short, or take too long, or not happen at all? It takes faith to see miracles happen. But it takes even greater faith, even deeper faith, when you don’t see the miracles, but still trust God.
In disappointment, can you still rejoice? Can you change your perspective so that disappointment becomes His appointment?
If you have believed God and been disappointed, it is time to rejoice, and we can do it together. Maybe you trusted God for a marriage and it broke up, maybe your business failed or you lost your job. Perhaps you have prayed for something or someone, and seen no visible change. Maybe you believed for someone to come to Christ, and it hasn’t happened yet.
Today, God has a blessing just for you.
DO YOU FEEL GOD HAS EVER LET YOU DOWN?
HOW CAN YOU RESPOND TO LIFE’S DISAPPOINTMENTS?
WHAT CAN YOU CHOOSE TO REJOICE IN TODAY?
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