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The Great Disappointer



Is it a bird? Is it a plane?


No, it’s The Great Disappointer!


The Great Disappointer is capable of jumping absolutely no tall buildings in a single bound. They travel at the speed of an average human being (and maybe slightly slower these days, if we’re honest). They are only capable of an average amount of work each day, and have never managed to defeat that ever re-spawning supervillain, the To-do List. They answer every distress call with an attitude of compassion and a desire to help but, to be frank, sometimes they get it wrong. They do not have the practical, financial, or people-resources to accomplish more than the most essential missions of the day. Their supersonic hearing picks up all your ideas and their X-ray vision sees all your hopes and dreams for the ministry, but they are powerless to make those dreams a reality right now.


Then, when The Great Disappointer slinks back into the dead of night after another mission averagely-done, if you listen carefully, you can hear them utter their trademark catchphrase: ‘I’m sorry for any disappointment’.


MY OWN SEASONS AS A GREAT DISAPPOINTER


Clearly this is all a bit over the top and tongue in cheek, but have you ever had a season where you donned the cape of The Great Disappointer? The people around you look to you for support, for vision; they expect you to deliver solutions to the pressing needs of your church, ministry, or loved ones, but the only superpower you have is the power to disappoint them. Well, aside from the power to disappoint yourself.


I have experienced more than one season as The Great Disappointer, and as a recovering people-pleaser, each one was especially challenging and tiring. Yet, God met me in these seasons with reminders of his truths, fresh perspectives, and new experiences of him.


If you have worn the cape of The Great Disappointer, (and perhaps are still wearing it), then here are some reflections to help you discard it.


JESUS THE DISAPPOINTER


Even writing that subtitle feels scandalous to me. How could Jesus ever disappoint anyone? Yet he did. Frequently. Since coming to this realisation by reading God’s word, I have found this truth immensely liberating.


We know from the gospel accounts that many people had great and specific expectations of Jesus, ones he didn’t fulfil. Consider, for example, the constant crowds who sought out Jesus for healing and miracles. Jesus healed a lot of people, yes, but on many occasions, he also left towns and cities where crowds were still waiting on him. He left people in need in order to travel further afield, and he withdrew to spend time with his Father (Mark 1.35-39).


There were also times when his teaching disappointed people. We’re told that they departed with sadness because the truth he spoke was not what they wanted to hear. The rich young ruler described in Matthew 19 comes to mind.


Finally, there is the judgement and scorn displayed by the religious elites, followed by cries of ‘crucify him!’ from the people, many of whom had welcomed him with hosannas just a few days before. Jesus was not the Messiah or military leader they wanted or expected him to be. As a result, their disappointment turned to malice.


And yet, this was the path he chose because he was committed to carrying out the will of his Father in heaven.


For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.

John 6.38


Jesus wasn’t swayed by the expectations and subsequent disappointment of others. He followed the will of his Father and completed his mission at the cost not only of people’s opinions of him, but ultimately, death on a cross.


WHEN WE DISAPPOINT PEOPLE


So what about us?


Clearly, we are not in the same category as the Lord Jesus. He was sinless; we are anything but. We are capable of sin and stupidity and, at times, we deserve to be corrected and challenged. Sometimes we will be going in the wrong direction and when we encounter disappointment (or disagreement), it can be an appropriate wake-up call. However, that will not always be the case.


As leaders, we want to seek God with pure hearts and pure motives, so the following questions are worth considering.


  • Do you seek God’s will?

  • Do you talk to the Lord and other wise believers about your important decisions?

  • When making decisions, to the best you can discern, and with all humility, are they in line with the Lord’s will for you and the church?

  • Are you acting with integrity, without open or hidden disqualifying sins?

  • Are you leading and caring for the people God has given you to the best of your ability?


Once you’ve answered these questions in humility and with faith, then a hard truth must also be accepted.


Sometimes, you will still disappoint people.


When this happens, though it may feel hard and heavy to do so, you can come to your heavenly Father in prayer. Just as the Lord Jesus did when he was burdened. What a joy to approach your Saviour, who knows exactly what you’re going through! Remember too, that you serve a gracious and loving God, who is never disappointed in those who have surrendered their lives into his care. Ever. He is on your side. Always.


I urge you, therefore, to take hold of the following truths.


People’s disappointment does not equal God’s disappointment. Your approval rating is not the barometer of God’s pleasure or blessing in your life.


This is especially important for those who have become too dependent on the opinions of others.


So, take heart!


Lift your eyes to your Lord. Know that he delights in your faithful service, even if others do not.


GOD IS THE HERO, WE ARE THE SIDEKICK


When we take other people’s disappointments on our shoulders, we place ourselves in danger. This is not our job, nor is it healthy for ourselves or those we serve. Yet it’s so easy to buy into this narrative. When everyone comes to you, hoping that you’re some kind of caped salvation figure, it’s hard to turn them down. Who doesn’t want to be seen as the one who fixes problems, makes wishes come true, and leads people to victory? It’s nonsense, of course, but therein lies the danger. Not only does it tap into your pride but before long, you can end up feeling like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. You are the one holding everything up and moving everything forward, making everyone happy . . . or sad. The cape has become an essential part of your uniform, but everyone’s still wondering why you can’t fly!


I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, but . . . you are not the hero!


You are the sidekick.


Only Jesus saves. Only he can build his church. He is the powerful one. He has the resources. He is the hero. Always.


We are weak humans, recipients of God’s extraordinary grace.


Like many sidekicks in pop culture, we’re not especially powerful in our own right. I have no need to remind you how frail and vulnerable you are. If you’re anything like me, the longer you live, the more this truth becomes apparent. We are so very weak and limited. Both physically and in terms of our character growth.


And yet, we have a mind-blowing privilege. Our hero has called us to be on mission with him.


But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Eph 2.4-10


“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matt 28.19-20


We are called to take part in our Lord’s mission to bring all nations into his kingdom. Notice, however, that he doesn’t do this by wrapping a cape around our shoulders and turning us into a superhero. Yes, by his Spirit he is changing and sanctifying us, but this side of heaven, we will never be without limits or weaknesses. In fact, our weaknesses give us the opportunity to rely on him more, and point others to him.


Hear the words of the apostle Paul.


But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Cor 12.9-10


Being confronted with our own limits is a good thing. It moves our hearts to seek him in prayer, to submit to him, to trust him, to rely on him. And when we learn to do this well, we provide a model for those we lead.


So, take the cape off your shoulders and refuse to put it back on.


Follow your hero out into the world, and watch as he performs his wonders. Seek him in all things, and serve him obediently.


Remember, also, that he is never, ever, disappointed in you. He loves you.


And his grace is sufficient. At all times.

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