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I beg your pardon, but God NEVER promised you a rose garden

September 10, 2015

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“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”  2 Timothy 4:1-5

If you tune into enough Christian TV these days, you might be led to believe that we can buy our way to health, wealth, happiness, and success. When you listen to many of the televangelists, it would appear that Jesus is the key to being set free from all that is difficult and hard about life.

Word of Faith, Health and Wealth and Name It and Claim It are just some of the names the prosperity gospel goes by. These “gospels” teach that God provides rewards, including personal happiness, financial wealth and physical health for believers who have sufficient faith. Sufficient faith – who or what determines that? Why your level of success of course! The greater your success, the greater your faith must be, or so they say.  And for them, your faith is on a sliding scale – the bigger your “faith” the larger your expected monetary gift should be. The “prosperity theology” in America grew in the last century and has been called a “baptized form of capitalism.”

The doctrines of the Word of Faith are typically acquired by either taking biblical passages out of context or appealing to a “new revelation” from God that “clarifies” or expands what the Bible says. Preachers associated with the movement are some of the most popular with some of the largest mega-churches, best-selling books and television programs. They include Kenneth Copeland, T.D.Jakes, Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, Frederick K. C. Price, Jesse Duplantis, Marilyn Hickey, Robert Tilton and the list goes on.

So tell me, exactly which verses grant hope for new cars, job promotions and good health? I know there are a staggering number of Bible translations out there (which may be part of the confusion), but my Bible tells me that as followers of Christ, we are assured persecution (2 Tim. 3:12) and suffering (Acts 9:16) and are admonished toward self-denial (Mark 8:34).

Let’s look at some of the scriptures that the prosperity bunch uses to give validation to their teaching:

John 10:10“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

This is the signature verse of the prosperity gospel and is completely taken out of context. The previous verses talk about Jesus, the good shepherd and the sheep knowing his voice. Verse 10 contrasts Jesus with false shepherds who steal, kill and destroy. The “abundant life” refers to knowing and being known by Jesus, not material things.

James 4:2 “You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.” 

This verse is used to reinforce the “name it and claim it” part of the prosperity gospel. If you don’t “have,” it’s because you haven’t prayed enough. It completely ignores the next verse in which James says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

Creflo Dollar says this of prayer –  “When we pray, believing that we have already received what we are praying, God has no choice but to make our prayers come to pass.”

Even Jesus prayed –   “Yet not my will, but yours be done.”

3 John 1:2 “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.”

This was a greeting. It was only a greeting-nothing more. How many times have you or I written pretty much the same thing in a letter to a friend? It was never meant to be taken as a promise that none of God’s people will ever fall ill. However, the prosperity gospel teaches that physical health is inseparable from spiritual growth. That if a believer were truly faithful enough, he would be experiencing bodily blessings.

One verse that is so totally misunderstood (I was on the wrong track for a while) is Jeremiah 29:11. Most read a more modern translation that says –  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

However, if you read it in the King James Version, you will get a better understanding. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

This verse refers specifically to the Israelite exiles in Babylon. The original Hebrew word translated as “prosperity” can mean peace, completeness, safety, health, satisfaction or blessings. It does not imply financial prosperity.

Despite the Bible’s numerous warnings against it, the idea that wealth is a sign of God’s favor and that the poor have done something to deserve their condition persists as an undercurrent today that is sometimes used to justify a hateful attitude toward those who are poor. Be very careful of categorizing people and putting them all in the same box. Watch your attitude about the homeless, those on welfare, etc. You do not know everyone’s story and only assume. Your hate will only bring you misery because you do reap what you sow.

We are not guaranteed freedom from suffering in this life. In fact, Matthew 7:14 tells us that “The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life.” The narrow way is the way of the cross. It begins with repentance from our sins and faith in Christ alone who by his death on the cross purchases our forgiveness, and by his obedient life obtained a perfect righteousness, with which he clothes us like a garment. That is true and eternal prosperity.

No, God has not promised us a rose garden or to take away suffering and to give us lots of money. Life is tough, no doubt about it. Jesus never meant it to be easy. He said in this world we will have trouble. He has, however, promised to go through the tough spots with us and that He has overcome this world.

As Isaiah 26:3 says, “…the steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.” It is challenging to stay-the-course and be steadfast, but if we can keep our minds fixed upon Christ and rest upon him by faith, he will keep us in perfect peach. The Christian life is not easy, but it can be one of great joy, impenetrable peace, intimacy with out Lord, and rest for our souls.

Never put anyone on a pedestal. Test everything you see and hear against the Word of God, no matter who says or does it. Remember, Satan can and will use anyone to further his purpose. Even you, if you let him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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