When Jesus doesn’t help

Christians usually focus our studies on healing by looking at the stories of Jesus healing people.  But there is at least one occasion when Jesus didn’t heal somebody.  It’s not recorded in the gospels (for obvious reasons!), but we can infer it from an account in Acts 3.

A man who had never been able to walk was begging at one of the temple gates, where he was accustomed to begging every day.  Peter and John came by, and Peter healed him, just like Jesus would have done.  It’s a significant event because it’s the first evidence that Jesus really did pass on his miraculous power to his disciples (John 14:12).

Only it is highly likely that Jesus didn’t heal this man when he had the opportunity!  He must have walked through this gate on multiple occasions as it was probably the most popular gate* for pilgrims going up to the temple, and he must have passed this man.

I can imagine him starting to head towards him, in anticipation of transforming his life, when he felt the restraining words of the Father: “Not him, son, I’m saving him for someone else.”  Jesus must have been disappointed, the beggar must have been disappointed, but Peter and John certainly wouldn’t be.

One of the biggest discouragements in the lives of mission workers is disappointment.  You thought you had heard God’s call to the harvest but there is still no fruit.  The person you have discipled for years turns her back on God.  Not only is your church membership shrinking, your children are not walking with God.  The miracles don’t happen.  You begin to wonder if there’s any point in you being there at all, and maybe you should give up and go home.   I reviewed a real life case some years ago and continue to find more cases of disappointment in the lives of mission workers I meet.

Yet the church looks for success.  They want to know how many people you have baptized – and if it’s not many, what are you doing with the money they give you?  You can’t express your doubts or frustrations to your church – they might stop supporting you!  So your prayer letters never mention the challenges and the discouragement.

Neither can you tell your agency – they might send you home!  The very people who are there to support you through the hard times are the ones you don’t feel you can be honest with.  So where do you turn?

  • You can get a confidential debrief from Syzygy, whether in person or via social media.  Just get in touch on info@syzygy.org.uk.  Or there are plenty of other independent debriefers we can put you in touch with.
  • You could engage a mentor to help you grow through the issues.  Syzygy can help you arrange this too.
  • You could go on a retreat and talk to the retreat leader.  We can advise on several places worldwide where you can find mission-focused retreats.
  • You could start to talk to friends whom you trust.

Whatever you do, don’t lose your faith in a God who cares about you and your struggle, and walks with you in it.  It may not be immediately obvious to you why God hasn’t answered all your prayers, but wait patiently, for he has a plan.


* For an interesting discussion of where this particular gate might have been, visit www.ritmeyer.com/2010/12/14/the-beautiful-gate-of-the-temple/

Disappointment and disillusion

Source: www.freeimages.com

I few weeks ago I was talking to a lady who is angry with God.

30 years ago she and her husband moved to a part of the world where they confidently believed God would bring revival through their ministry.  Despite much prayer and labour, and many false dawns, there has been no breakthrough.  Moreover, her husband has a debilitating illness from which he has not been healed, and their only son has turned his back on God.

She is angry with God, because they haven’t succeeded, and life is not as sweet as she thinks it should be.

Yet she has a high standard of living, financial security, and is not persecuted for her faith – unlike most of the global church, which is far more accustomed to poverty, oppression, suffering and death.  As were the earliest Christians, many of whom would have been slaves.  Much of the rest would have been poor, and were accustomed to their property being confiscated, or facing death if they did not renounce their faith.  And yet the writers of the new testament insist that this is normal.

So, if like my angry friend, we feel tired and fed up in our ministry, what encouragement is there for us?

Jesus calls us to be faithful.  He promises the faithful a welcome into his kingdom.  Faithfulness is not synonymous with success.  In fact, it is possible to be faithful without being successful at all.  Faithfulness is persevering in a calling despite failure, discouragement and defeat.  Faithfulness is doggedly persisting when common sense is telling you to give up.  The martyrs in Revelation 12 suffered death, but we are told that they overcame.  What looked like defeat God considered victory, because they refused to give up even when it cost them their lives.

Faithfulness leads to fruitfulness.  Fruit is godly character produced under adverse circumstances.  I once met a man who had spent 18 years in prison for being a Christian.  Each day he was made to stand chest-deep in human sewage as he shovelled out the cesspit.  And the fruit of that labour showed in the joy and godliness of his life.  He spoke of his experience as if he were in a garden with the Lord, as the smell kept people away and he was able to sing praises to God at the top of his voice while he shovelled.

I draw encouragement from saints like these, for whom the grace of God which they have experienced is so much more important than their immediate circumstances.

” I did not labour in vain even if I am being poured out as an offering…”