There were once two parents with a secret. They fought and planned and managed their lives to hold this secret down.
“Santa is coming!” their children sang. “It’s almost too wonderful to believe!”
With their mouths, the parents said, “How exciting!” But with their minds, they said, you’ve got the right idea. It is too wonderful to believe.
Then one day, the children came home with tear-streaks. They knew the truth.
Lots of parents don’t tell their kids that Santa isn’t real. They don’t tell their kids the hard truth because they are mean, but because they are concerned: can their kid can handle the truth?
Like kids that believe in Santa, people believe certain things about God and faith to be true because that’s what they’ve always been told, or because they want them to be true. But eventually, plodding through the mud of life, they discover the truth: life is hard, and not everything is as it seemed.
At some point — as a parent — you have to tell your kid the hard truth that Santa isn’t real. And at some point — as a pastor — you have to tell your people the hard truth.
We’ve compiled a list of seven hard truths to get you started.
1. God isn’t Santa.
Dr. David Pendergrass articulated this hard truth well when he said this: “God is not a cosmic Santa Claus.” You don’t get put on the nice list for doing the right things and, in turn, get whatever your heart desires from God.
Whenever we feel entitled to some kind of reward or “what we deserve” for what we’ve done, we cease to view God as God — the One who is our King — and begin to view Him as our Santa. And you may have heard the hard truth: Santa is not real.
2. You won’t always be healed.
There is so much good in praying for healing — healing for others and for ourselves.
And while it is true that God is able to heal, he’s not obligated to. Think about it: if God were obligated to heal and answer every prayer of healing, no one would ever die. The hard truth is that at some point this life will end. We will all “not be healed.”
But that’s not the end of the story. There is hope.
Our great hope is not that we won’t experience death, but that death is not the end of life — it’s the beginning.
3. You won’t always be “blessed.”
When someone says they’re “blessed,” they usually mean something like they have more work than ever, their kids are great, or they have a good money flow. The implicit suggestion is that they are “blessed” because those things have happened. Conversely, if those things were not true, they would not be “blessed.”
Though there was a time — albeit long ago — that “blessing” and “wealth” and “good-living” were tied together, I seem to recall this lesson from a young teacher about 2,000 years ago:
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11).
We might also do well to remember when this same teacher’s cousin asked Him to save his life, and He didn’t. But instead sent word in Matthew 11:
“Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”
(For more on this, check this out.)
The hard truth is that “blessing” is not about we have accomplished, but what God is accomplishing in and through Jesus.
4. It’s not about you.
It’s so easy for church to become a country club. Not in the stuffy, elitist sense, but in the “church is for us” sense. It’s about what we want — our preferences, our comforts. It is our little world that we control . . . and we determine who gets in and who stays out.
But Pastor Jordan Easley says the hard truth is that church isn’t about us and our holy huddles. It is about seeking and healing the lost. The church should be a refugee camp for the lost and hurting. It should be a place hurting people are brought in to be made well and then sent out to bring others who are hurting back in. We weren’t brought in to simply socialize.
5. Silence is ok.
Christians (rightfully so) like the celebration of Sunday’s resurrection. After all, it is the reason Christianity exists. That said, there is great value in the silent awkwardness of Saturday — you know, the time when Jesus was in the grave, his disciples were scared out of their minds, and they all thought they had wasted the last three years of their lives backing the wrong messiah?
Sometimes God is going to be silent. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t “Christian enough” or that you are somehow “broken.” It means God is being silent.
And the hard truth is that silence is ok.
6. Christianity is not about a feeling — it’s about choices.
How many times have you been asked, “How can I get that fire back? I just want that awesome feeling of being connected to God.”
That question usually follows some awesome spiritual experience. This question isn’t all bad — it just misses the point. When we pursue and desire the “feeling” of being on fire for God, we begin to worship that — and not God.
The hard truth is that being a Christian isn’t about getting warm fuzzies when the band is rocking or the pastor preaches an exciting sermon. It’s about daily choosing to pick up our cross, even when we don’t feel like it.
7. No three-step formula will guarantee any outcome.
I get it: it’s easy to help people remember and understand things by formulas and clever mnemonics. They have their place.
But we must be clear: there’s no guarantee to happiness or success, a great prayer life, or anything else. The Bible doesn’t offer a good/efficient/successful/rich life, but new life.
And the hard truth is that this new life might look different from what we expect. We might do everything scripture says and have a business fail, be poor (which is no sin), struggle with depression, and/or not become the next big thing.
What scripture does say is God will not leave us as orphans (John 14:18). Whatever we have to go through in life, we won’t have to go through it alone.
That’s the kind of guarantee we can count on.
* * *
Parents make excuses for not telling their kids about Santa — and they feel good about it. But the hard truth is this: they are lying to their kids.
And pastors, no matter what reasons we have for not telling our people truths — even hard ones — the end is the same: we’re lying to them. They’re going to find out eventually.
The question is this: Do you want to tell them the hard truth? Or do you want them to be blindsided by it?
This piece was originally published at team-impact.com/blog.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.