We’ve all done it–saved a few dollars only to find that the product wasn’t what we really wanted. The boots were a great buy, but the first time you wore them in rainy weather your feet got wet! Disappointment and frustration come on the scene, and we’re angry with ourselves for being a penny wise and a pound foolish, and angry with the company for a faulty product albeit an excellent sales pitch!
And what about religion? Do we get what we expected, or are we disappointed with some aspect of our “religion?” I hesitate to use the word “religion” because it can mean so many things. Merriam-Webster defines it as (1) the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance.
Service, worship, commitment, devotion–each word requires action on our part, and yet they can also involve others: a pastor, song leader or worship team, a building, other believers. We need to stop and ask ourselves whether our disappointments and frustrations are because of others or ourselves. For example:
You battle with your kids all morning to get them to church, and then you sit in the car waiting for hubby to get himself ready. By the time the car is moving, tempers are hot, kids are cranky, and somewhere along the way, the Spirit of God has been doused by the caustic atmosphere. You get there late–no parking! You rush the kids to their classes, receiving a look from their teachers which you read as, “Can’t you get here on time?” When you finally get to your class, you don’t hear a thing and wonder why the pastor/teacher can’t be more effective.
Is the problem with your kids, hubby, teacher, pastor…or you? We recently watched a program about Queen Elizabeth II. In one episode, her sister, Princess Margaret, was told that parliament would not approve her plans to marry a divorced man. As queen, her sister also presided over the Church of England and needed to make a choice: would she uphold the doctrine of the church or sanction the marriage.
Princess Margaret was faced with a choice: lose title and country by marrying the man she loved or step away from the relationship. She chose the latter and did eventually marry, but that marriage ended in divorce.
This is not a condemnation of Princess Margaret. The circumstances surrounding her life are only known completely by her. But to blame her sister, or her uncle for abdicating–forcing her father to be king, or the common people for their sympathies, or Peter Townsend for being so friendly… it only hardens the heart; and there is just one root that enjoys the dusty soil of a hardened heart–the root of bitterness. It grows unseen by the owner of the hard heart and may stay dormant for years, secretly growing beneath the surface, but its fruit will show eventually. Sadly, the Princess’ life was full is heartache, sickness, and sin.
When we are quick to blame others, we are in danger making Romans 6:12 a reality in our lives.”Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” We can blame others, but there is no remedy for a hard heart there.
Back to our “religious” disappointment. Check why the disappointment is there. It may be legitimate. You may have a pastor who doesn’t preach the Word. It could be that your church carries false doctrine on the books. You may have a program that is business-oriented instead of Christ-oriented. If so, then ask the Lord for His leading. But if the problem is within your own heart, there’s only one way to fix that! Surrender to God’s Word.
John 10:27 says, “For my sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
We have a wonderful Shepherd! Not all religions can say that! They demand so much and offer only lies! Our Shepherd KNOWS us. But this verse also sheds light on our part: Do we hear His voice? Going back to our late-to-church scenario, the question or challenge is: Can you lay aside all the frustration of a morning gone wild and surrender to the message from the less-than-perfect preacher? Can you put aside the cares and worries of the day and spend time alone with God… “my sheep hear my voice.”
And then there’s another admonition: “and they follow me.” Listening is never enough. Following is the key to routing out bitterness or whatever we are harboring which will hinder the work of the Holy Spirit. As Martin Luther said, “Keep a short account with God!”
You get what you pay for. Thankfully, we pay nothing for our salvation! It’s been paid in full, and it is a perfect salvation offered by a perfect Savior. His church is not perfect, but we can make our part as spot-free as is humanly possible! Then the question becomes, “Did Jesus get what He paid for?”