Every cause which is worth supporting, will have to encounter difficulties—and these are generally proportionate to the value of the object to be accomplished.— John Angell James
This is especially true when the value of the object to be accomplished is something of immeasurable greatness and worth, namely, proclaiming the glorious deeds of the Lord to the next generation so that they might set their hope in Him!
If we are faithful to do this in our Sunday school classrooms, we should not be surprised when we encounter difficulties. Although written almost 200 years ago, John Angell James’ insights are as true and helpful today as they were in his day. Here are some discouragements he notes that are commonly encountered when teaching children, and how to respond to each discouragement:
—From their DULLNESS. Instead of finding them quick in their conceptions, and steady in their application—you will often find them volatile in their habits, and slow of apprehension…
Never yield to such feelings…Plants of great excellence are often of slow growth, and pay with ample interests the gardener’s heavy toil, and delayed expectations.
—Their INGRATITUDE is oftentimes exceedingly discouraging…Perceiving that your kindness is wasted upon objects which it fails to impress—you feel sometimes disposed to withdraw your exertions, which are so little valued and improved.
But consider that this very state of the children’s minds, instead of inducing you to relax your exertions, should stimulate you to greater activity, since it is a part of that depravity of heart and that deformity of character, for the removal of which they are entrusted to your care. To abandon them on this account, would be like the physician’s giving up his patient because he is diseased. The more insensible and ungrateful you find them, the more should you labor for their improvement…
—Their MISIMPROVEMENT operates very unfavorably upon the mind of their instructors. Who has not sometimes experienced a chilling depression, when he has looked round upon the school at large, and compared the actual state of the children…How many appear just as depraved—as when they entered the school, and are leaving it without a single proof on which a teacher can rest his hope that they are really the better for his instructions.
…Children, in whose hearts devout impression may have been produced, are often removed from beneath your care—before you have an opportunity to witness the fruit of your toil! But the eye of God is upon his own work, and he will in eternity, make known to you all that he does by you.