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Reaching A Generation For Christ #1, September 26, 2020

What is Youth Ministry?

By Randy Sexton

I have a book in my library which I purchased October 23, 2009 but did not begin reading until August 9, 2018. The book is titled Reaching a Generation for Christ and is edited by Richard R. Dunn and Mark H. Senter III. The book was published and copyrighted in 1997 by Moody Press which it says is a ministry of the Moody Bible Institute. The subtitle of the book is A Comprehensive Guide to Youth Ministry, and the back cover introduces the book in this way, “In Reaching a Generation for Christ, more than fifty of the country’s youth experts send a resounding call that the years ahead can bring one of the most exciting and fruitful time ever for youth ministry. Never before has so much youth ministry been taking place. Yet we have barely begun to tap into all the creative, fresh ways to present the good news to this generation…. A comprehensive, compelling new book that expands upon and updates The Complete Book of Youth Ministry, this is a valuable resource for youth pastors, volunteers, leaders, and anyone who is concerned about capturing young people’s hearts and minds for Christ.“

The book contains 7 parts and 32 chapters written by various authors who “have studied youth ministry, taught about youth ministry, and have done youth ministry.” The 7 parts include:

  • Framework for Youth Ministry
  • Structures for Youth Ministry
  • Contexts for Youth Ministry
  • Skills for Youth Ministry
  • Challenges in Youth Ministry
  • Resources for Youth Ministry
  • The Future in Youth Ministry

With this introductory article, I hope to launch a new series, “Reaching a Generation for Christ.” I am planning to publish a new article in this series the 4th Saturday of every month. We will examine some of the thoughts and ideas presented in this book, compare them with Scripture and try to draw some applications. The articles will be written primarily by me, with perhaps a guest article periodically. I would appreciate your comments and feedback on the articles, and if you think they contain beneficial content, please share the posts with others.

The question for this introductory article is What is Youth Ministry? As I address this question, there will be four components: What Do the Scriptures Teach, What Has the Church Done Historically, What is a Youth Ministry Culture, and What Action Do I Need to Take?

What Do the Scriptures Teach?

The Scriptures certainly have much to say about teaching children to love and obey God. But the concept of a Youth Group or a Youth Ministry is foreign to the Scriptures. I would concur with the following summation of the teaching of Scripture:

“God has already given us everything that pertains to life and godliness (2Peter 1:3), including the principles and models of ministry in the Scriptures. If our goal is not to grow a youth group, but to see the first-century church ideals and convictions reproduced in the context of twenty-first-century teens, then Scripture does indeed contain sound principles for youth ministries within the church. Every ministry’s goal is to make disciples. Student ministry should be purposeful, active, engaging, and spiritual. For it to be biblical, it needs to follow the model in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 with students being mentored for character, instructed in doctrine, and equipped for every good work so that they will engage in effective ministry. The leaders (i.e., adults, mentors, pastors, youth leaders) are there to model, mentor, and equip these young ministers in Christ-like character, sound doctrine, and effective methods to reach lost peers and make disciples of their own (Matthew 28:18-20). This is clearly the ministry model of Jesus Himself. According to many scholars and experts on the life of Christ, somewhere around half of His original disciples were teenagers when He began His discipling ministry to them. His was the original ‘youth group.’

The Apostle Paul gives us a good picture of this kind of effective mentoring ministry in 
2 Timothy 2:2, when he says to Timothy, ‘And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.’ Here is the application for those in student ministry today. Mature believers are called to equip the saints with sound doctrine to produce the outcome of sound living. Now let us bring this all back into a twenty-first-century student ministries context. The goal is making disciples and seeing the power of God unleashed in and through the lives of young people. Teens are at the point in their lives where they need to know the truth of God, how to live a life pleasing to Him, and what task He has called them to. As long as our motivation and message match that of Christ, then our ministries to youth are not only biblical, but necessary.” (

What Has the Church Done Historically?

Conservative Churches of Christ have not historically had a “youth minister” or a specific ministry labeled as “youth ministry.” The conservative view of Scripture is that any organization smaller or larger than the local church is not authorized (except the church universal, of course, which has no physical organization).

Ed Harrell in his book, The Churches of Christ in The Twentieth Century, mentions “Young People’s Meetings” as a source of division. In fact in 1936, Foy E. Wallace, Jr. listed them among his “list of hateful problems.” He says that in that same year, “Guy N. Woods attacked the ‘menace’ of Young People’s Meeting Societies.” He quotes from an article written by Woods, “The Menace of the Y.P.M. Society” that appeared in Firm Foundation, March 17, 1936, p. 1, “Not since the shameful defection produced by the innovation of instrumental music and missionary societies, has a more insidious evil encroached on the purity of New Testament churches. For a time covertly, but now brazen and bold, the Y.P.M. Society, rears its ugly head, as religious journals weekly tell of further departures from the ancient order of things and the simplicity of the Lord’s arrangement” (pp. 45-47).

If you look at the history of youth ministry in denominations you find a “mixed bag.” Dave Wright, coordinator for youth ministry in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina has written a very informative article that can be found at In this article, Wright traces the history of youth ministry from the beginning of Young Life by Jim Rayburn in the 1940s, Youth For Christ and Bible Clubs of the 50s and 60s, the parachurch movement of the 70s, and the entertainment-driven focus of the 80s. The result he summarizes as follows:

What happened in all that? First, we moved from parachurch to church-based ministry (though the parachurch continues). In doing so, we segregated youth from the rest of the congregation. Students in many churches no longer engaged with “adult” church and had no place to go once they graduated from high school. They did not benefit from intergenerational relationships but instead were relegated to the youth room.

Second, we incorporated an attractional model that morphed into entertainment-driven ministry. In doing that we bought into the fallacy of “edu-tainment” as a legitimate means of communicating the gospel. Obscuring the gospel has communicated that we have to dress up Jesus to make him cool.

Third, we lost sight of the Great Commission, deciding instead to make converts of many and disciples of few. We concluded that strong biblical teaching and helping students embrace a robust theology was boring (or only relevant to the exceptionally keen) and proverbially shot ourselves in the foot.

Fourth, we created a consumer mentality amongst a generation that did not expect to be challenged at church in ways similar to what they face at school or on sports teams. The frightening truth is that youth ministry books and training events were teaching us to do the exact methods that have failed us. The major shapers of youth ministry nationally were teaching us the latest games and selling us big events with the assumption that we would work some content in there somewhere. In the midst of all this, church leaders and parents came to expect that successful youth ministry is primarily about having fun and attracting large crowds. Those youth pastors in recent decades who were determined to put the Bible at the center of their work faced an uphill battle not only against the prevailing youth culture but against the leadership of the church as well.

The task before us is enormous. We need to change the way we pass the faith to the next generation. Believing in the sufficiency of Scripture, we must turn to the Bible to teach us how to do ministry (rather than just what to teach). Students need gospel-centered ministries grounded in the Word of God.

What Is a Youth Ministry Culture?

In the preface to the book Reaching a Generation for Christ, it is stated,

“Though theology remains the queen of the sciences, the developmental, sociological, and historical lenses assist the innovative youth leader in doing theology in the environment of this generation. Even with the four lenses, youth ministry is still an art. The Spirit of God guides the insightful disciple in painting on the tapestry of growing lives. As in The Complete Book of Youth Ministry (1987), this book revolves around three statements amplified in “Part 2: Structures for Youth Ministry:

  1. Youth ministry begins when adults find a comfortable method of entering a student’s world
  2. Youth ministry happens as long as adults are able to use their contacts with students to draw them into a maturing relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
  3. Youth ministry ceases to happen when either the adult-student relationship is broken or the outcome of that relationship ceases to move the student toward spiritual maturity.”

According to some who are active in Youth Ministry, there are five components that are necessary for building a strong youth ministry culture: creativity, communication, creating common experiences, articulating and reinforcing core beliefs, and commitment.  (“How To Build a Strong Youth Ministry Culture, Andy Blanks, February 18, 2019) (

According to one source, “In the past ten years there have been a number of excellent studies on the religious beliefs, practices, and attitudes of adolescents. Unique among these research projects is the ‘Study of Exemplary Congregations in Youth Ministry (EYM), funded by the Lilly Endowment. The EYM Project focused on identifying congregations that consistently establish faith as a vital factor in the lives of their youth and discovering what accounts for their effective approaches to ministry. Seven denominations were involved in the study: Assemblies of God, Evangelical Covenant Church, Lutheran (ELCA), Presbyterian Church USA, Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, and United Methodist. Dr. Roland Martinson of Luther Seminar was the project director.” (Special Research Report: The Spirit and Culture of Youth Ministry, ( /uploads/5/2/4/6/ 5246709/ spirit__culture_of_ym_essay.pdf).

But some believe that current youth ministry culture has missed it’s mark. Notice, “Obsessed with cool. Trendy. Impulsive. Self-focused. Caught up in the moment. Probably sounds like a description of some of the kids in your youth group. Actually, um…well…this is not an article about youth culture or the world of today’s teenagers. This is an article about us—those of us in the youth ministry culture, those of us who work with teenagers—and how we seem to be sliding into an adolescent approach to our faith and mission. Look at our must-read books, listen to our conversations, go to our seminars and measure our values. Even a quick survey of the current youth ministry culture tells the story: We’re not just working with teenagers; we’re starting to think like them. ( “The Culture of Youth Ministry,” Duffy Robbins,

What Action Do I Need to Take?

The statistics are alarming. As Dave Wright points out in the article sited above, “Mike Yaconelli, founder of Youth Specialties, stated this rather boldly in Youthworker Journal in 2003. According to Lifeway Research, 70 percent of young people will drop out of church after high school, and only 35 percent will return to regular attendance. Christian Smith’s National Study of Youth and Religion found that most American teenagers have a positive view of religion but otherwise do not give it much thought. Kenda Creasy Dean, in her book Almost Christian, asserts, “American young people are, theoretically, fine with religious faith—but it does not concern them very much, and it is not durable enough to survive long after they graduate from high school.” 

The Barna Group says, “When Barna president David Kinnaman published his 2011 book You Lost Me, we heard from many people (especially church leaders) who were shocked to learn that 59 percent of young adults with a Christian background had dropped out of church at some point during their 20s—many for just a time, but some for good.

Eight years later, research for Kinnaman’s new book Faith for Exiles: 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon reveals that the church dropout problem is still a problem. In fact, the percentage of young-adult dropouts has increased from 59 to 64 percent. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. 18–29-year-olds who grew up in church tell Barna they have withdrawn from church involvement as an adult after having been active as a child or teen.”

So what is the solution to reversing this trend? Kinnaman has some interesting ideas that he presents in his new book, which I have not yet read. We may take a closer look at it in future articles in this series, but he introduces the concept of “resilient disciples.”

“It is not all bad news, however. Through more than a decade of interviewing teens and young adults, Barna researchers kept encountering a small but significant number of young Christians who run counter to the overall trend. So, using the same research parameters as in You Lost Me (18–29-year-olds with a Christian background), Kinnaman and the Barna team fielded new research to study the countertrend. Yes, most Christian twentysomethings spend at least some time disconnected from a faith community. But what about those who stay? What, if anything, do they have in common?

In Faith for Exiles, Kinnaman and his coauthor, Mark Matlock, get to know the one in 10 young Christians for whom they’ve coined the term “resilient disciples.” “From a numbers point of view,” Kinnaman says, “10 percent of young Christians amounts to just under four million 18–29-year-olds in the U.S. who follow Jesus and are resiliently faithful. In spite of the tensions they feel between church and everyday life, they keep showing up.”

So what does it mean to be a resilient disciple? As defined in Faith for Exiles, individuals in this group: have made a commitment to Jesus, who they believe was crucified and raised to conquer sin and death; are involved in a faith community beyond attendance at worship services; and strongly affirm that the Bible is inspired by God and contains truth about the world. In addition, they agree with one or more of the following statements that speak to the exilic conditions in which their faith still thrives:

  • I want to find a way to follow Jesus that connects with the world I live in.
  • God is more at work outside the Church than inside, and I want to be a part of that.
  • I want to be a Christian without separating myself from the world around me.”


Tune in again next month when we will continue this series.


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Becoming the Man God Wants You To Be #5, September 9, 2020: Passion

If I am to become the man God wants me to be, I must face life with passion. Passion is “any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate… a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything” (

Leadership guru John Maxwell says, “Experts spend a lot of time trying to figure out what makes people successful. They often look at people’s credentials, intelligence, education, and other factors. But more than anything else, passion makes the difference. David Sarnoff of RCA maintains that ‘nobody can be successful unless he loves his work.’”

He proceeds to list “four truths about passion and what it can do for you as a leader:

1. Passion is the First Step to Achievement. Desire determines your destiny…. Anyone who lives beyond an ordinary life has great desire…..

2. Passion Increases Your Willpower…. Passion “is the fuel for the will. If you want anything badly enough, you can find the willpower to achieve it. The only way to have that kind of desire is to develop passion….

3. Passion Changes You. If you follow your passion – instead of other’s perceptions – you can’t help becoming a more dedicated, productive person. And that increases your ability to impact others….

4. Passion Makes the Impossible Possible…. A leader with great passion and few skills always outperforms a leader with great skills and no passion” (The 21 Indispensable Qualities of A Leader, pp. 83-85).

Brian Biro uses the word “enthusiasm” to describe this attribute which he says was one of the two “foundational cornerstones” of Coach John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success. The other was “industriousness.” He says, “To fully achieve the best of which you’re capable, you must love what you do. Industriousness and enthusiasm are inextricably bound together. Hard work without enthusiasm leads to tedium. Enthusiasm without industriousness leads to unrealized potential. When they are present together, they cement a solid foundation leading to success

He says there are three primary targets for your enthusiasm: people, fundamentals, and learning.

(Beyond Success, p. 62-63)

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says this about passion, as it is used in Scripture:

“’Passion’ is derived from Latin passio, which in turn is derived from the verb patior, with the root, pat-. The Latin words are connected with the Greek root, path-, which appears in a large number of derivatives. And in Greek, Latin, and English (with other languages in addition) words connected with this root, pat-, path-, are often susceptible of a great variety of meanings, for which the dictionaries must be consulted. For ‘passion,’ however, as it appears in English Versions of the Bible, only three of these meanings need be considered.

(1) Close to what seems to be the primary force of the root is the meaning ‘suffer,’ and in this sense ‘passion’ is used in Acts 1:3,’ ‘to whom he also showed himself alive after his passion.’  This translation is a paraphrase (Greek: ‘after he had suffered’), due to the Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) (post passionem suam), and in English is as old as Wycliff, whom the subsequent English Versions of the Bible has followed. This is the only case in the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) where ‘passion’ has this meaning, and it can be so used in modern English only when referring (as here) to the sufferings of Christ (compare ‘Passion play’).

(2) ‘Suffering,’  when applied to the mind, came to denote the state that is controlled by some emotion, and so ‘passion’ was applied to the emotion itself. This is the meaning of the word in Acts 14:15, ‘men of like passions,’ and James 5:17, ‘a man of like passions,’ Greek homoiopathes; the Revised Version margin ‘of like nature’ gives the meaning exactly:

‘men with the same emotions as we.’

(3) From ‘emotion’ a transition took place to ‘strong emotion,’ and this is the normal force of ‘passion’ in modern English the King James Version does not use this meaning, but in the Revised Version (British and American) ‘passion’ in this sense is the translation of pathos, in its three occurrences:

Romans 1:26 (the King James Version ‘affection’); Colossians 3:5 (the King James Version ‘inordinate affection’); 1 Thessalonians 4:5 (the King James Version ‘lust’).

It is used also for two occurrences of pathema (closely allied to pathos) in Romans 7:5(the King James Version ‘motions,’ the King James Version margin ’passions’) and in Galatians 5:24 (the King James Version ‘affection’). The fixing of the exact force in any of these cases is a delicate problem fully discussed in the commentaries. In Colossians 3:5 only does ‘passion’ stand as an isolated term. The context here perhaps gives the word a slight sexual reference, but this must not be overstressed; the warning probably includes any violent over-emotion that robs a man of his self-control.”


Burton Scott Easton

(Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. “Entry for ‘PASSION, PASSIONS'”. “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia”. 1915.) 

Bestselling authors Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz refer to this quality/attribute as “Spiritual Energy.” They maintain that, “The quantity of energy we have to spend at any given moment is a reflection of our physical capacity. Our motivation to spend what we have is largely a spiritual issue. Fundamentally, spiritual energy is a unique force for action in all dimensions of our lives. It is the most powerful source of our motivation, perseverance and direction. We define ‘spiritual’ not in the religious sense, but rather in more simple and elemental terms: the connection to a deeply held set of values and to a purpose beyond our self-interest. At the practical level, anything that ignites the human spirit serves to drive full engagement and to maximize performance in whatever mission we are on. The key muscle that fuels spiritual energy is character – the courage and conviction to live by our values, even when doing so requires personal sacrifice and hardship. Supportive spiritual muscles include passion, commitment, integrity and honesty” (The Power of Full Engagement, p. 110) (Underlining is mine – RS).

Let’s encourage one another to approach life, and especially our roles as spiritual leaders in our families and in the church, with passion. God expects no less of us!

Thanks for reading.


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Man has the capacity to Change…But he needs guidance and motivation!

As I read, observe, reflect and react‑‑to the stimuli I am faced with, I am more and more convinced that each “average” person has such capacity to improve his/her potential of achievements, only if they had the information and were motivated!

    Last night as I was in the home of a couple, studying the Bible with them and one of their friends whom they had invited, I was given the following short piece.  I thanked the person, telling him that I would read it when I got home. When I read it, I felt a deep sense of satisfaction.  It may help others, which was the evident aim of the writer, he had helped who was in his position. Yet, it may and should motivate others of us who have not experienced his pain, yet may have the opportunity to work with others, and possibly have a small but significant part in their life‑changing‑ experiences.

    Hi.  My name is Dave, and I am an Alcoholic.  I don’t know if this will help anyone with some problem that I have, but it can’t hurt.  The first thing, and probably the hardest was to admit I did have a problem.  I was a typical drunk, it was always someone else’s fault that I drank and never my own.  I was always looking for an excuse to drink. Either for relaxing or tension.  It didn’t matter as long as I could drink.  I would use up food and bill money to drink on and the sad part was, I knew I was taking away the things that my family needed and wanted.  I was HOOKED.  I guess when it hit me that there was something extremely wrong was when I wrecked my car.  I always thought that no matter how much I drank, I could always handle a car because cars are my life.

     I’m a Mechanic.  When it hit me, I thought, “If this truck hadn’t been here to stop me from driving this car, I may have ran over a kid on the street and not even know it.” I couldn’t handle that. There’s no way. I put my own wife and kinds thru  HELL. I sure wouldn’t want to do that to someone I don’t know.  My life is totally different. I don’t drink and I don’t miss it.  I go to church, and I became a member.  I have Bible study every Tuesday night with my preacher, Bill Sexton, which is a really good man and helps me a lot.  I guess the reason for this letter is to say one thing, and that is this, If you drink, STOP. It gets worse before it gets better.  Don’t learn the hard way like I did. I learned almost to late.

     Please STOP now.

    Perhaps I’d be wise and perceived to be more modest to leave my name out as the preacher, and I thought about doing that.  Then, I wandered if that wouldn’t be a false sense of  modesty, rather than being totally honest.  Therefore, I have left it as he gave it to me.

    I wish to make a point or two, however:

    1. Let us recognize and appreciate the fact that men and women have the capacity to change their lifes, if they have the right guidance and are properly motivated. Many have sank low, experienced great pain, but they may very well be in a position to appreciate truth and be willing to try it to see if it works.

    2. Therefore, we may be in  a position to help‑‑by showing concern, love, and being willing to spend some time to listen and offer our assistance, when they show willingness to respond.

    3. We may be tempted to evaluate one past change, and thus pass “by on the other side” ( Lk. 10:31‑32 ). We need to remember that God sent His Son for us who were all sinners, having been buried deep in some type sin and hurtful behavior. He stands at the door knocking ( Rev. 3:20 ) imploring us to allow Him entrance to our lives.  That is true of every individual, regardless of the dept of degradation into which he/she has sank.

    Beloved, let us be “salt of the earth” possessing and

dispensing the preserving quality‑‑as saints of God. Let us  be lights that we shine unto men and women, boys and girls who have walked the dark paths of sin and pain‑‑which leads to eternal destruction.  Let us see that they have the potential to be creatures with their hearts filled with gladness and going about contributing to the good things in this world, preparing for the next!

 —-William C. Sexton

. PS This was written a number of years ago, while I lived in Kansas City. It makes a point I still believe, however. So I reprint it here for consideration. Please ponder the point!

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The Disciplines of Life: Lesson #11 – Disappointment

“I had no relief for my spirit” (2nd Corinthians 2:13, R.V.)


Disappointment is defined as “1. the act or fact of disappointing, 2. the state or feeling of being disappointed, 3. a person or thing that disappoints.” Disappoint is defined as “ fail to fulfill the expectations or wishes of; 2. to defeat the fulfillment of (hopes, plans, etc.); thwart; frustrate (

What does the Bible say about disappointment? If you look for the word in Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible, or in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance Of The Bible, you will not find it. You will find two instances of the word “disappoint,” and one instance of the word “disappointed.” They are:

  • “He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise” (Job 5:15, KJV)
  • “Arise, O Lord, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword: From men which are thy hand, O Lord, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes” (Psalm 17:13-14, KJV).
  • Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established” (Proverbs 15:22)

V. Raymond Edman well describes the disappointment one can feel as he tries to live a godly life. He says, “Who has not experienced the depths of discouragement that come from the stinging defeat of eager expectation, the merciless blasting of high and happy hopes, the frustrations of fond dreams;  in a word, from disappointment, dark, deep, dismal? We had not planned the results in that way. We needed friends and helpers, whose word was true, whose cooperation was cheerful and constructive, and whose dependability was undoubted, but they failed us. We needed abundance of physical health to perform our tasks, and our strength was pitifully poor. We needed large resources to achieve a worthy goal, for the glory of God, and our resources were woefully inadequate. We needed encouragement and enthusiasm, and our only reward was caustic criticism or studied indifference. We believed human promises that proved to be puffs of wind; we experienced pain rather than gain. We were disappointed…. Disillusionment, despair, defeat and degrading self-pity do not meet nor mend disappointment.” (The Disciplines of Life, p. 159).

So what does help us to overcome such disappointments? Edman suggests five things and I would like for you to consider those with me, dear reader. I trust that this will help you, as you strive to add this as one of the disciplines with which you approach life, and as you grow in your service in the Kingdom.

Going Onward Does

The Apostle Paul is a great example of going on in spite of disappointments. In 2nd Corinthians 2:12-14 we read that Paul anticipated meeting Titus in Troas. But Titus did not show up. Scripture does not indicate whey he did not show. But it affected Paul! Paul says, “I had no rest for my spirit” (v. 13, NASB). How did he react to this disappointment? Well, Scripture tells us that Paul knew what his work was; he knew what goal he was out to achieve to further the work of the Kingdom of Christ. He says, “… taking my leave of them, I went on to Macedonia” (v. 13, NASB). He expresses his gratitude for the assurance that God “always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place” (v. 14, NASB).

Another great example is Job. He was in the midst of despair when he said, “My spirit is crushed, and my life is nearly snuffed out. The grave is ready to receive me. I am surrounded by mockers. I watch how bitterly they taunt me” (Job 17:1-2, NLT). The three friends, whom he called “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2, NLT) had not helped him. He also told them, “Your counsel is as helpful to me as a dry streambed in the heat of summer” (Job 6:18, AMP). In spite of this despair, he recognized an important truth that would help to pull him out  of his disillusionment, despair, defeat, and degrading self-pity, “the righteous shall move onward and forward; those with pure hearts shall become stronger and stronger. (Job 17:9, TLB)

Thankfulness Does

Another thing that will help one deal with disappointment is having a grateful heart that freely expresses thankfulness. “A thankful spirit remembers the many triumphs as well as the trials of our faith, the many promises in the Word as well as the many perils by the way” (Edman, p. 160).

The Apostle Paul was thankful under a wide variety of circumstances. He was thankful for food & shelter in the midst of a storm (Acts 27:35). He was thankful for faithful brethren in distant places (Romans 1:8; 1st Corinthians 1:4; Phil. 1:3). And above all, he was thankful for the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s indescribable gift (2nd Corinthians 9:15).

Because he was thankful, he could urge us to be thankful in all things (Colossians 3:15; Ephesians 5:20), especially in prayer (Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2), as we make known our requests. “A heart that is thankful to God for His many mercies is conditioned by a sweetness of God’s spirit against the bitterness of human disappointment” (Edman, p.161).

Again, we have great examples in the Bible. David knew disappointment and discouragement. After arriving home from a three days journey, he finds that the Amalekites had made a raid into the Negev and on Ziklag, they had crushed Ziklag and burned it to the ground. They had carried off the women and children and everyone else but without killing anyone. David’s men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters, and they began to talk of stoning him. Rather than allow this series of events to discourage him, Scripture tells us “But David found strength in the Lord his God,” and in this strength, David sought the Lord’s direction. Scripture tells us, “Then David asked the Lord, ‘Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?’ And the Lord told him, ‘Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you!’ (1st Samuel 30:1-8).

Habakkuk is another good example. He “saw no outward prospect of prosperity, only utter desolation and disappointment, yet a thankful heart lifted him to high places of victory” (Edman, p. 161). As you read the words of Habakkuk, you find a man who, in the beginning questions God’s justice (Habakkuk 1:2-3), but in the end, he realizes that God is sovereign and that His justice is far beyond his comprehension. Habakkuk was sent by God with a message of judgment on Judah. Habakkuk expresses his changed attitude in the words of his prophecy, “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights” (Habakkuk 3:17-19, NLT).

Assurance Does

Paul had learned that all things work together for good to them that love God (Rom. 8:28). He could say, “All deserted me … But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me (2Tim. 4:16-17). Paul could endure and take pleasure in his infirmities and weaknesses because he knew that God’s grace was sufficient for him (2Cor. 12:7-10). Paul had learned to be content in whatever state he found himself (Phil. 4:11-13).

“Do we know the assurance of trust that takes the sting out of disappointment and turns it rather to ‘His appointment’? Joseph could say, ‘It was not you that sent me hither but God’ (Gen. 45:8). The Most High had so sweetened Joseph’s spirit that he named his sons Manasseh (‘Forgetting’) and Ephraim (‘Fruitfulness’), for God made him to forget his disappointment and to be fruitful in the land of affliction (Gen. 41:51-52)” (Edman, pp. 162-163). Paul had been disappointed in John Mark, but later learned that ‘he is profitable to me for the ministry’ (2Tim. 4:11). The Lord Jesus was disappointed in Peter, but He prayed for him that he would turn again to be strength to the early Christians (Lk. 22:31-32)

“What would happen if in faith and love we prayed for those who had disappointed us? Would they not turn to the Saviour, would not our hearts be sweetened, and would not life become ‘a constant pageant of triumph in Christ?’ …Be assured of God’s promise, as was Paul, who could say, ‘the things which happened to me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel” (Phil. 1:12). Try faith in God and in our fellows when we face disappointment” (Edman, p.163).

Going On Does

“Rather than sulk by life’s roadside, Paul went to the next place of service. There were many that needed his ministry of love, to whom his life, by the indwelling Saviour, could be the unspeakably sweet fragrance of Christ. Herein lies the real discipline of disappointment and despair, to rise up to help others, and to find in that the very attitude and act, that life is “a constant pageant of triumph in Christ” (Edman, p. 163)

“Ezekiel could rise out of the sorrow caused by his wife’s sudden death to bring the message of God to his people on the morrow (Ezekiel 24:18). Out of bitter disillusionment Hosea could say, “Then we shall know, if we follow on to know the Lord” (Hosea 6:3). Of the Lord Jesus, Isaiah prophesied, “He shall not fail nor be discouraged” (Isaiah 42:4). Tidings came to Him about the tragic death of His cousin, John the Baptist. Of course, His tender heart was torn; but there was no opportunity for leisure or solitude; because the multitudes needed Him. Out of the wound in His heart He fed and healed the needy, and thereby that wound was healed (Mark 6:29-44). Going on with God always helps and heals” (Edman, pp. 163-164). 

The “Afterward” Helps

“For every disappointment there is a delight, for every trial, a triumph; for every anguish, an ‘afterward.’ The Scriptures say explicitly: ‘Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby’ (Hebrews 12:11). God’s hard word is never His last word. The difficulty is not defeat. The failure of another is not necessarily a finality. The disappointment need not be disillusionment” (Edman, p. 164)

Yes, Paul was disappointed that Titus did not show at Troas. But, as it turned out, Paul had even greater need for his help and encouragement in Macedonia and was able to report, “God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus” (2nd Corinthians7:5-6).


“There is the discipline of disappointment that would destroy us, unless we cause it to lift us into a new sphere of usefulness and devotion. Turn from the pain, and find the gain of thankfulness and assurance that will make of your life ‘a constant pageant of triumph in Christ.’ Out of heartache there will be healing for you and for others” (Edman, p.165).

Disappointment. It’s something that we all, no doubt, will experience in this earthly life. But if we view it as a discipline to be worked through, as “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character,” we may benefit from it.

Thanks for reading!


(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman, pp. 159 -165)