4 ways prosperity preaching stunts christian growth
I’ve taken a break from blogging for the past couple of months, and in that time there has been major change in our family. Change we didn’t want. Change we were hoping that God would spare us from.
But God doesn’t always spare us from the hard things. He doesn’t always keep us from the fire or lead us away from the pit.
I can’t tell you why He would lead us here or tell you the reason for the pain we all suffer while we’re here on this earth. I don’t know why He allowed us to fall into this pit, but this I do know, God is here.
Just like He promised He would be. He provides manna in the desert, and quenches our thirst from the Rock Of Ages.
The prosperity preachers would say we’re not supposed to be here. They say God’s beloved children are not supposed to suffer. That’s the basis of prosperity preaching, of name it and claim it theology.
I’ve seen the memes that say just believe and it will be yours, and posts that tell us that God only want’s good things for us. I even saw a Facebook post once where the author used dollar signs to show just what kind of blessings Jesus supposedly promised His followers. Yes really.
Except Jesus never promised anything of the kind.
Jesus never said, “follow me and I’ll give you the American dream.” Jesus said “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mathew 16:24)
Jesus also said if we are not willing to take up our cross, we are not worthy of Him. (Matthew 10:38) That sounds harsh I know, but Jesus was telling His disciples that the path He was taking would be a hard one, and that they needed to ready for hard, or stay home.
Yes, He promised to meet our needs, but the gap between what we think we need, and what we actually need is wide enough to hold the contents of a small galaxy.
When we let ourselves get drawn in by the flowery words and overly white smiles, we’re short changing ourselves and causing our growth to be stunted in a couple of important ways.
1. It keeps our thinking focused on temporary things.
We often hear verses like Jeremiah 29:11, and Romans 8:28 quoted in the context of temporary and earthly things, like wealth and happiness, but God thinks in terms of the heavenly and the eternal.
When we read these verses in their proper context, God is showing us the plans He has for us.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:28-29 (Emphasis added)
God’s purpose for each and every one if us is to bring others to Him. That’s where our joy is found. That’s the good he has for us. All of the suffering we endure here on Earth is shaping us into tools God can use to build His kingdom. Jeremiah 29:11 shows us similar plans:
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. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13 (Emphasis added)
God’s expected end for us is to know Him fully. But we can’t know Him fully until we are searching for Him with our whole hearts. When our hearts are tied to the things of this world, there’s a part that we aren’t seeking God with.
That doesn’t mean that God isn’t concerned with our earthly needs, or even wants. It just means He has bigger and better things planned. Things we can’t even imagine.
One of the things the prosperity preachers miss, the thing that all of who are clinging to earthly things miss, is how often God wants to meet our needs with His presence.
When we have the presence of God, why would we want anything else? When we know that the God of the universe calls us sons and daughters, why would we think there could be anything better?
When we know that we deserve the fires of Hell, and are only spared by Gods enormous grace, why would we complain when He leads us into to hard places?
Maybe going into a pit is what it takes to get us to look to the eternal instead of the temporary.
2. It keeps us bound in our selfishness.
Prosperity preachers are appealing to our selfishness, and greed. When we’re listening to their wild promises, we’re entirely self focused. The Joel Osteens of the world speak to one of the worst parts of us. Not to encourage us to let God mold us and shape us into something better, but to encourage us to stay stuck as spiritual babies. They profit from our unwillingness to move beyond seeing God as nothing more than our fairy godmother.
Do we stop to consider why God should give material blessings to first world Christians, while letting Christians in the middle east be tortured and killed for their faith? Does God love us more here in the United States?
If God is good at all then that’s not possible.
Are we more righteous than those Christians suffering atrocities?
Then why do we expect not to suffer? Why are we offended and turn our backs on God when hard times come our way?
Maybe God has allowed us to be blessed with so much, so that we can bless others in return.
God is calling us to look outside of ourselves to the world around us, and maybe denying us something we think we need is the only way we He can get us to leave our bubble.
3. Our faith doesn’t get exercised.
But wait, isn’t prosperity preaching all about faith?
Prosperity preachers may talk a lot about faith, but the faith they preach is a pretend faith.
Several Sunday nights ago our church hosted a stage production based on the life of Corrie Ten Boom. One line from the play has stuck with me. At one point Corrie’s father tells a family friend “It’s wrong to base faith on wishes.”
If I’m honest, I’ve been guilty of basing my faith on wishes more times than I care to admit. Faith isn’t believing that God will do what we want Him to do. Faith is trusting God to always do what’s best. Faith is trusting God when He does the opposite of what we wanted.
The hard truth is that it’s not faith at all to expect God to only do what we want. It’s just wishes.
If we want to grow our physical muscles we have to exercise them. It’s often very hard work, and we can’t accomplish our goals if we stay in our comfort zone and never do the hard things. The same is true with our spiritual muscles.
Faith doesn’t grow when we are always in our comfort zone. God knows this, so He allows things that will bring us out and give us chance to work those muscles.
He knows that sometimes helping us through the hard places will be much better for us than helping us avoid them.
Christ isn’t our means of avoiding the hard places; He’s the Light we take with us when we go.
4. It connects love with indulgence.
Parenting experts generally agree that parents who give their children whatever they want whenever they want it, are not acting in the best interest of their child. Children don’t need to have their every desire fulfilled. Children need to be taught limits and self control, they don’t need us to indulge their every whim.
But that’s exactly how we want God to treat us.
I can hear you now, “but I’m not a child!”
In God’s eyes we are all children. And like any good parent, God loves us enough to tell us “no” every once in while. His concern for our happiness comes second to His desire for us to grow and mature into a perfect image of Christ.
Yes, God wants us to be happy, but that’s not His main goal for our lives. Happiness isn’t a goal; it’s the result of trusting God with every aspect of our lives.
Sometimes we need to hear a firm “no” and experience a little discomfort so that we can grow and mature in the ways that God has planned for us. Sometimes our heart may break, but our heavenly Father is always there to give the grace and comfort we need to endure our trials.
These are just a few ways prosperity preaching stunts our growth. Have you been taken in by this false doctrine? I invite you to take a step back, and look to scripture and find the truth.
Maybe you were once a follower of some of these preachers, and are waking up to the true possibilities God has for your life. Join the conversation in the comments below and encourage those who may still be a little reluctant to let go.
We need to remember as we go through life’s trials, that our lives here are not about us, our lives about bringing glory to God and others into His kingdom.