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What We Believe About Prosperity Gospel
Does the Bible promise us prosperity? Does is it say if we live a righteous life then we will be prosperous? Some would even teach that sickness is evil and, as a result, sickness is from the Devil, and we in fact sin when we say God is responsible for sickness. Are those teachings right?
Often, people use certain passages to say such things as “we are not to be sick” or “while living here we should always prosper.” Do such statements contradict or conflict with other verses in the Bible?
Does God mean something else when the Bible speaks of prosperity? Should each passage be looked at the same way, with the same meaning? Is God totally sovereign that He not only permits, but designs all things and, therefore, controls all things?
Are there other reasons for sickness or suffering in poverty? What is the purpose of the Bible? Should we interpret verses by each passage or by the Bible as a whole, jointly fit together?
Remember that the Bible is a story, God’s story. A story written to tell us of how He has created man, chased man, loved man, redeemed the elect unto himself and is crazy about the elect. It is not a convoluted book of separate passages and meanings where verses say one thing that may contradict something else. When we read the Bible as a cohesive book, we are less likely to make mistakes in application and meaning.
The type of teaching that spurs these types of questions is often called or known as the Prosperity Gospel, the Word of Faith Movement, or the Seed Faith Movement. No matter what it is called or referred to, we should state that all such movements falling under these terms are a perversion of the real gospel.
It runs from an extreme of "God wants you wealthy" to "you’re the Kings Kids and he wants you wealthy, healthy and happy," to just simply downplaying pain, suffering, poverty and sin. Along with this come teachings that the Christian life will solve all of our problems, and if we ask anything in Jesus name He will give it.
This is a perversion of the gospel of grace. What is a message about how God has chased, redeemed and brought near a people unto himself for his sake, no longer remains about God. Instead, it takes that message, twists it, and makes it about the ones who have been brought near.
Thus, the gospel becomes one about how God is there wanting us to be healthy, successful, and live in harmonious tolerance with the rest of humankind. The Holy Spirit, instead of pointing to truth and to Christ, becomes the vehicle upon which all are given through power to do whatever we will.
This type of teaching begins at a root error in not understanding that God does all He does for Himself and not for us. God chooses to love us because it pleases Him to do so.
In Isaiah 48:9-11, we see God saying four times that “it is for His purpose that He has done these things.” Ezekiel 36:22 shows us that God is getting ready to move but it is for His sake he is doing these things and not theirs.
He will do this so that others and we will know that He is God. It is to His glory and for the praise of His grace that He has brought salvation to all humankind.
The work of salvation is a work that God primarily does for Himself. He does it because of His great love and mercy for His creation in order to bring His creation back to Him, so they can praise Him and His greatness, goodness, and generosity can be showcased. He has not done this so that the created can expect more or demand more.
Being delivered from the chains of condemnation and being given new Hope where there was none is indeed being given an abundant life. We should note that teaching that more should be expected might stem from two errors.
The first is lacking a full understanding and appreciation for exactly what it is we have been delivered from. The second is lacking understanding of the cost of such a gift.
The initiation and completion of the gift of salvation will indeed bring changes, as it may seem that there appear to be more difficulties or hardships. This results from those who have been brought near going from Satan’s friend to his enemy. Therefore, attacks, trials, and other hardships should be expected as Satan and his demons work to keep those who are now the bride of Christ from making choices that honor God and choosing to live in obedience.
The process of salvation will be an exercise in tremendous growth and change; as a result, it will seem like life has become incredibly difficult. Praying in Jesus’ name does indeed not mean that we will receive whatever we want. Teaching like this often does not lead us to Christ but away from Him.
Keep in mind that Jesus challenged the rich young ruler and told the disciples that those who give it all away to follow Him would get it back in eternity, not here. It is through deep suffering that God brought freedom through the tomb. Often, it will be through suffering that He will indeed show the way to joy and freedom.
If we were to pursue blessings, then we would surely find this to be one of Christ’s pursuits, right? Yet, Jesus said, “that he did not have a place to lay his head and that life does not consist in the abundance of riches.” He also instructed those listening not to store up treasures on earth.
Does the Bible offer further insight about a life lived in the pursuit of things? Do the words of a man, who if alive today, would still be the wealthiest, smartest man in the world, shed further light?
After acquiring much wealth, prosperity and fame, this man still deemed it all foolishness. This was the assessment of King Solomon after chasing wealth and more.
We see Paul telling Timothy to beware of such men as their pursuit brings them great pain and, as a result, he warns Timothy that such a path is a dangerous path to go on. Paul also warns about covetousness; in fact, he calls it idolatry.
How would God feel about those who claim to be His children and yet who desire more, want more, seek more, and are not satisfied with Him and Him alone? Did God redeem us to Himself in order that He can give us more, or so that He can make life easy? Was that really the reason, or was it so that He might hold us up as His masterpiece to the praise of His glory?
What about sickness? Are sickness and ill health a thing of evil, or is there another purpose?
Christ, when asked who had sinned when He healed the blind man, answered, “Nobody had sinned but that it was so that God could be glorified.” Solomon said, “That God was not only responsible for the good times but the bad as well.” Isaiah said, “That God is responsible for happiness and sorrow.”
Therefore, if God is responsible for the good times and the bad, sickness and sorrow, how can we say someone is sinning, or is not being obedient enough or that they do have enough faith. Perhaps there is another reason why God does these things.
We should note that what is often considered as the physical healing phenomena that often falls with these movements may or may not be of God. While God can and will heal miraculously, it should never be considered as part of the atonement.
God heals miraculously today when it is His perfect will to do so. When He does, it is for His sake and glory and never for man's glory. In fact, we would consider that, a sure fire way to tell if it is from God or not, is to look for who is getting the glory and lifted up.
At times, it is God’s will for sickness to remain. Though we do not know what Paul's particular thorn was, we do know that he prayed three times that it would be removed, and we know that towards the end of His life he was losing His eyesight. We also need to keep in mind Christ's words as they pertain to the blind man in John 9 "that it was for God's sake and glory."
Some may say that it would glorify God for us to be happy, healthy and wealthy. Sometimes that is true. God is often glorified by the success, happiness and wealth of someone.
However, even in that case it is rarely because it was asked for, but because it is within God's design and purpose. The best, in man's eyes, always involves easy, whereas our best, in God’s eyes, always involves our becoming whom we were created to be, which will undoubtedly bring a measure of pain, heartache and grief.
When it comes to God’s promises, they are not grab bags to claim to see what awaits, nor are they piñatas waiting to be smashed open so that it can be seen what treats fall out of them.
They also are not meant to be used is such a way as to put God to the test. They are meant to point us to deeper truths about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, God’s Word, and Man.
They reveal the character of God and the lack in man. His promises are there, not to reveal the smorgasbord of great life happenings, but to reveal the grace, mercy and love that awaits those God has brought near.
This is the beauty of grace, a beauty that allows suffering, pain, loss and hurts to be viewed not as the ending, but rather the beginning. A beginning that increases within each believer the understanding of the sufferings of Christ and where God’s unmerited love for us is indeed found to be life giving and heart transforming.
The gospel of grace teaches the gravity of chasing things that lead to a smaller return. Choosing to serve something other than God is always smaller and will always end up bringing more pain.
The truth is that a greater return comes from a life of sacrifice towards kingdom advancement. Christ taught that life was not found in the pursuit of things, but in the willingness to give up things for Him.
This does not mean that we should not pray for our needs, the needs of others, or bring every care, concern, burden, weight of life, the pains of everyday living to God. For, He is indeed a Father who knows how to give good gifts.
One of the gifts He has given is the ability to cry to Him as we would our earthly father with such things. He instructs us to bring every care to Him because He loves us.
God is a good God who eagerly wants to show us that love through His generosity and goodness, which He may or may not show through material blessings. Sometimes He shows it through the comfort of friends, love of our brothers and sisters, comfort of His Holy Spirit, the ability to now live as we were created to be, through His grace, which is the greatest gift we have been given.
Exodus 4:11; Deuteronomy 32:29; 2 Samuel 12:15,18; Job 2:7, 10; 42:2; Psalm 135:7; 147:18; Proverbs 16:33; Ecclesiastes 2:1-11; 7:13-14; Isaiah 30:8; 45:7; 46:9-12; Jeremiah 10:23; Ezekiel 36:22-38; Daniel 4:35; Amos 3:6; Matthew 6:19,24; 7:11; 8:20; 19:16-30; Luke 12:15; John 9:3; Romans 8:15,28; 9:16; 2 Cor. 12:8-10; 2 Corinthians 12:7; Ephesians 1:11; 2:4-10; 5:5; Philippians 1:29; 3:8; 1 Timothy 3:3; 6:6-12; Hebrews 13:5; 1 Peter 4:12; 5:7; James 1:2-4; 5:14-16