Many people, seeking complete satisfaction through their faith, face a crisis of faith when they run into some immovable brick wall of calamity. When their faith is built on a foundation of belief that simply knowing Christ completely satisfies and fulfills all longings, they may try to make the world’s circumstances fit that theology—and they will fail every time. They may grow bitter over perceived injustices from the hand of God (who doesn’t seem to be holding up his end of the bargain), become obsessed with controlling other people’s behavior to make their illusions achievable, feel overwhelmed by cognitive dissonance, or retreat into a comfortable spiritual coma called denial. The belief that life in this world, in right relationship with God, is as good as we need it to be is incompatible with actual life in this world—it is also inconsistent with what Scripture leads us to expect. In the face of reality and in light of what lives in your heart and mine, this type of faith is simply unsustainable.
Even if we achieve the very best life we could possibly enjoy on this earth, we would still have so much less than what God offers us. Our longings are not meant to drive us toward satisfaction in this life; they are meant to drive us to Christ and to long for him and what he offers—and keep longing. We are meant to feel this hunger and thirst until they are satisfied in the presence of God.
So, is your small group thirsty—or satisfied? How can you challenge them to stay hungry and thirsty? Chances are, at least some of the members of your small group are expecting a relationship with Christ to satisfy them so completely, they feel at home in this world. They won’t need anyone else. They won’t long for anything they just can’t seem to find. It’s also possible some have convinced themselves this is already true for them—they really are utterly satisfied. To believe this requires ignoring their very real human needs and the deep ways in which their souls are longing for more. This kind of belief can help create an inauthentic and pressure-filled culture within your group because people who are convinced everything must be fine are very uncomfortable with anything contradicting this belief. Regrettably, others often feel they must play along.
Here are a few This article will present practical ways to challenge this culture within your group and to help members support each other in building sustainable faith.
Be honest with the gospel.
Tell your group members the truth about what Christians can expect in this life. Knowing and following Christ means we are in right, restored relationship with God. It means we have a whole new purpose, our transformation is underway, and our future is brighter than we can possibly imagine. It doesn’t mean an instant change in our circumstances, external or internal. It doesn’t allow us to skip over all the hard parts, take a shortcut through personal healing and growth, or stop needing the things all humans need. It is important for Christian leaders to be accurate about this and to give people realistic expectations of the Christian life.