Some of the most heartbreaking episodes in my Christian experience have been encountering friends who have become disillusioned with the Gospel, defeated in their spiritual life, or disappointed with the church — they concluded, “Jesus really isn’t enough for me.” They don’t ever say that, of course — various reasons or rationalizations might be articulated, but no matter the story, the bottom line is Jesus wasn’t enough to sustain them in the Christian life. Having passed through a particularly difficult event like a church split, physical hardship, betrayal, a devastating personal failure, or an overwhelming test of obedience, these once enthusiastic followers of Jesus are left joyless, crushed, and hopeless. They “tried Jesus” but found their Savior was unable to fix a broken relationship, absorb their grief, grant them endurance, or help them to be good enough to live the Christian life.
So, what does it look like when “Jesus isn’t enough?” What are the tell-tale signs we may observe from the outside? Often, the more sensitive souls will grasp at self-help resources and remedies, hoping to identify and address the source(s) of their disquiet. Others aim at and blame people in their lives or the church. They may lash out on social media or accuse others privately. Perhaps, most quietly withdraw, and their absence goes unnoticed for a while. In the end, they turn away from a Jesus Who wasn’t there for them in their time of need. Paul speaks of “another Jesus” at the center of “a different gospel” that is unable to “save to the uttermost those that draw near ” (2 Corinthians 11:4, Hebrews 7:25). This “other Jesus,” the one who wasn’t there for them, may have the power to save but not to sustain or empower.
Years ago, I met with a group of men before work each Tuesday morning to enjoy a cup of craft coffee, intimate friendship, and a lively book discussion. One of those books was John Piper’s bestseller The Pleasures of God. The book is rich and devotional. It launched us into many encouraging conversations about the ways in which Jesus is not only adequate for those moments of disillusionment and despair we encounter in the Christian life but is, in the words of one old friend, super-adequate. Of course, that’s a way of understating Christ’s sufficiency. But, you get the picture. John Piper successfully drills down to the source of this kind of disquiet in a wounded soul and quarries out the ways in which Jesus can be not only enough but more than enough to carry us through any situation:
Here we see the key to the triumph of obedience over disobedience. The key is confidence that what Christ offers is better than the ‘fleeting pleasures of sin.’ Moses looked to the reward of God’s promises, he weighed that against the rewards of unrighteousness, and he rested satisfied in God… The writer of Hebrews calls this liberating contentment “faith”… The definition of faith behind this usage is given in Hebrews 11:1: ‘Faith is the assurance of things hoped for.’ In other words, faith is the satisfied assurance that God will work things out in the future far better than I could work them out by relying on myself or by departing from the path of obedience – even if obedience means suffering now. Being satisfied with all that God is for me in Christ – past, present, and future – is the power to resist the alluring temptations of disobedience.John Piper in The Pleasures of God
What is the malady that can move a once vibrant, happy Christian to conclude that there must be something more or better out there — that Jesus simply isn’t enough? Unbelief.
And what’s the antidote to unbelief? Simple faith in Jesus and what He’s done in the Gospel provides the “liberating contentment” that will enable you and me to live a life that pleases God. Reflecting upon all Jesus has done, is doing, and will do — in, through, and for us in the Scriptures — is a daily discipline that will fortify and grow our tiny faith. Trusting in Christ brings me that “satisfied assurance” that God has put His Spirit in me and has my best interests at heart, even when I am under intense pressure, or feeling rejected, or suffering beyond my capacity to endure. Finding complete pleasure and satisfaction in Jesus is the engine that powers our ability to navigate both the pain and pleasures that will pass away in a moment at His coming. In other words, Jesus is more than enough for any and all situations we face in this life.
If you are wondering if Jesus really is enough — if He really can deliver on the promises you embraced at some time in the past — turn from your temporary fixes or self-savior projects and trust in Jesus. Look to Him as the Good Shepherd. Ask Him, in faith, to meet your every need and reveal Himself to you as He did to David in Psalm 16:11. Then, join David in singing:
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalms 16:11Psalm 16:11