Selling the david hoffmeister faith has come to be one of the core competencies of evangelicals. This has its roots in extending Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) within the circles of our influence.
But, there are parts of the faith-life that don’t always sit well. These are some of the realities that Christians can struggle with:
- Prayers aren’t always answered to our satisfaction. I don’t know any faith-followers of God who enjoy having their prayers answered contrary to what they desire. But God is sovereign, and though we are commanded to pray, none of us can control God through our prayers. This is why prayer involves such supreme faith. It reminds us to pray more holistically, like using the Jesus Prayer, or to pray prayers of praise and thanksgiving, or to pray for the knowledge of God’s will and the power to carry it out. Prayer isn’t just about us pleading our ‘shopping lists’ before Him. It is also God’s language to us.
- Non-believers often cannot be ‘influenced’. We don’t need to be Christians very long to come face-to-face with the fact that we peddle an unpopular message. It is only those that the Spirit has already been working in who are ripe for the gospel. This is a reality we’re both forced to accept as well as accept that we cannot force anyone to come to faith.
- Christians can seem to suffer more than those who don’t believe. Christians do suffer: John Wesley said, “One of the greatest evidences of God’s love to those that love him is to send them afflictions, with grace to bear them.” So, there are two parts to this one evidence; the fact of afflictions that often come as persecutions, and the grace Christians receive with which to bear them. Being a Jesus follower doesn’t mean that we thrive in our suffering. Nobody does. But it is a biblical idea to consider it pure joy when we suffer trials of many kinds (James 1:2-4).
- Christians can’t sin and be happy in their sinning. Yes, this is correct. For those who have the Holy Spirit, there is the conviction of the Spirit. A Christian’s conscience won’t allow them to revel in wickedness. This leaves the believer in the unenviable position that they feel guilty for what others may deem as fun. The conscience is piqued.
- Christians can’t stop sinning. It must bemuse the world when it imagines Christians being ‘perfect’ in God, yet as they watch on there are so many Christians that seem hypocritical. As followers of Jesus we sit on a knife’s edge straddling two opposed truths: we are sinners, but we are called beyond our sin. The only difference is the Christian accepts they’re a sinner, whilst the world either doesn’t accept this fact (as a truth about self) and/or doesn’t care.
- Christians are often frustrated with the church. But just as much are we frustrated by how the church is perceived in the world. We know that the church is precious to God, and that it grieves God’s Spirit when the church is defamed. But Christians know full well that the church is corruptible, because it is run by a humanity under the direction of God but not always in submission to Him. If power gets to a person’s head, that power is wielded sinfully. It’s misused and abused. The only hope for the church is that it truly operates with Christ as its head.
- Christians are usually unable to answer non-believers’ questions. Most Christians will struggle to answer theological questions to the satisfaction of those who ask them. It is easy to miss the mark or to miss the timing or to not get our words right. But the point of living the authentic Christlike life is not in what we say, but in what we do and how we do it; in how we live our lives.
- Christians cannot seem to prove God to those who insist He is not real. This really irks some in the faith. They love their doctrines but cannot seem to make some people budge. These same people will only be convinced by God Himself.
- Christians are just as prone to addictions, despair, disappointments, and failure as anyone is. Perhaps more so in many cases. When we place our hope in God it’s easy to lose sight that we face the same temptations that are common to life. We all face the same kinds of enticements. We’re all tempted into envy and greed and lust and pride. And we all fall for these traps, Christian or not.
- Christians don’t have any excuse to lash out at people. This doesn’t stop some Christians. But people who follow Christ absorb the hurts cast toward them and they attempt to process their hurts in positive ways. There are times, like for anyone made of feelings and flesh, when we’d like to have our revenge. But we’re told that it’s God’s prerogative to avenge.
Christian faith can be as much about truly accepting the inconvenient and uncomfortable realities of life as enjoying the favour of God’s grace. But it is not without cost. Indeed, new Christians ought to know that the genuine life in Jesus is costly, but of course the rewards far outweigh the costs.