“Is there a time when Christianity doesn’t work? Yes. Christianity does not work when there is a false expectation regarding what the Christian life is all about. It doesn’t work when there is little or improper teaching of Biblical precepts and standards. It does not work when there is a lack of commitment to the disciplines involved in perseverance and growth. It does not work in isolation from other believers. Most important, it does not work apart from the saving grace of God through Christ.” – Richard Ganz, Psychobabble, The Failure of Modern Psychology – and the Biblical Alternative. Crossway Books, 1993. p.118-119.
False expectations ruin many things including professing Christians who begin a new life of faith in Christ with assumptions that have nothing to do with the gospel. A mail clerk expecting to climb the corporate ladder and make vice president in under a year is a false expectation. Sure, it probably has happened somewhere in the past, but for every bottom level worker in large companies today to expect the same result because of their hard work is totally ridiculous. Unfortunately many professing Christians have similar erroneous ideas about the Christian life.
Many begin a new life in Christ with the idea that because now they have made a decision to believe in Him, that happiness will shortly follow and problems will become a minimal. This is partly due to the evil teaching of the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel (which is no gospel at all – See Galatians 1:6-7) which has now also leaked into the mainstream evangelical church. There is an overwhelming number of people in our churches today that think that faith in God means an easy life. I hear it on a regular basis. “Ron, I am trying hard, but nothing seems to be going my way. Why?” What we are seeing is an epidemic of believers living their lives disappointed in God. They would never admit this because they do not want to risk making God mad or looking like a person of little or no faith. In other words, they hide their disappointment in their heart and usually do one of three things. 1. Try harder to please God. 2. Withdraw from church life, reading and studying their Bible, prayer, etc, thinking that their salvation is only good for after they die, and they put God aside from every day life and seek to make their own happiness. They do occasional “christian things” because they need to convince themselves that they have not lost faith. 3. They turn away from Christianity altogether. The first one is running toward a finish line that does not exist and only leads to exhaustion and frustration. The second is delusional about the practical aspects of the gospel, and if not teachable will lead to believing that the gospel only applies to eternity and not to life right now. The third one demonstrates that the person never really trusted in Christ. They believed in an imaginary idea that had Jesus attached to it. All three lead to empty lives and all three, more often than not, lead to depression. And since God has not worked for them, they turn to the humanistic psychology that almost always makes the problem worse because they are pointed to a solution that little or nothing to do with God, which is not a solution.
“I feel distant from God.”
“Why does not God bless me like He does other Christians?”
“I am doing my part, but I do not see God working on His side.”
“I am not getting what I expect from the church, so I quit going.”
“The Bible does not appeal to me.”
“I faithfully serve my husband/wife, and give them all the things they want, but I do not get anything in return. I saw the movie. It is suppose to work.”
“If I am God’s child, then why do I experience so much hardship, trials, depression, suffering?”
“I want to quit. I am just not satisfied anymore. I was doing better on my own.”
“This is not what I expected.”
“I need to focus on me before I can serve or help anyone else.”
“I can worship God by myself. I do not need the church.”
“I do not read my Bible much, but I think about God a lot.”
“I gave my 10% to the church, so why does not God bless me for my obedience?”
“I need to get my life in order before I can get serious about God.”
I have heard all these and many many more. So what can I say to respond to them? Well, first I must begin with a few questions.
“Is it possible that the problem is not God, the church, but rather us? Could it be that it is our sinful heart and mind that is broken and not God, His word, or His church? Could it be that our sin is the problem and we need to confess it, repent of it, and turn to Christ and walk in faith to what He says? Could it be that our expectations from God are non-biblical? Could it be that we have a stubborn heart which has become unteachable and does not want to hear what God’s word says? Is it possible that our lack of commitment to the basic spiritual disciplines of the faith (Bible study, prayer, church attendance, serving, giving, fellowship, sharing life, etc.) are really the result of the fact that we love our idols more than we love God and His kingdom? Do we isolate ourselves from the body of Christ because we are just unmotivated to be with them and would rather do our own thing because that is what we are into the most – ourselves? Have we forgotten that salvation is a massive gift of God’s grace that we do not deserve, yet He freely offers it to any sinner who will forsake their sin and turn and trust in Him? Have we forgotten that we deserve eternal hell for our sinful rebellion, but God who is rich in mercy has extended His saving arm of mercy out to us by sending His Son Jesus to die on a cross to pay the punishment for our sin?
See, Christianity does work! It works for sinners. It does not for righteous people. For those that see the problem being the church, God, Christians, etc., they are right: Christianity does not work. But those that see the problem being in their own heart, it does work because it works for sinners.
OUR OWN SIN AFFECTS EVERY PART OF OUR BEING! We cannot forget that. Sin affects our thinking, reasoning, motivations, attitudes, desires, goals, dreams, and expectations, etc. If you are depressed because your faith is not working for you and life stinks, I want to strongly encourage you to think about something sincerely. God is not your problem. The church is not your problem. Your bad childhood experiences are not your problem. Sin is your problem. Repent of it. If you have trouble discovering it, find yourself someone who will speak kindly, yet bluntly with you about your spiritual condition. Christianity works for sinners. If your life’s main objective is not about glorifying God and enjoying Him forever, then you are in sin and need God’s grace and restoration because your relationship with Him is broken. If you have little or no desire to study God’s word, pray, and be with the church then these are clear signs that something is wrong. Not with God, but with you. He is there, calling you and I to turn from our sin, shame, rebellion, selfishness, idols, and disobedience and receive His forgiveness and be restored to a life of joy walking in faith. Christianity works for sinners who humble themselves, admit their sin (without blaming anyone or anything), and turn to the all-powerful and all-loving God. It works, and the joy that flows from His grace is unending.