The Prosperity Gospel and the Truth About Suffering


A sweet friend of mine took to Facebook to share the news of a new and difficult diagnosis she was trying to process. She was grappling with news of a condition that will be a life long struggle with pain and disability, and she was turning to her friends online for some much needed support. 
A few comments down, it happened:

“Don’t speak that over you. You do not have *diagnosis*…I rebuke that in the Name of Jesus! God wants you well. Speak healing over yourself.”

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Just a day earlier a well meaning connection had sent me a private message on Facebook, suggesting I should listen to a sermon titled that exact same sentiment: God Wants You Well. The sermon description included the lines “[Religion] even tries to make us believe that sickness is a blessing. That’s just not true. God wants you well.” Seems like a pretty positive message right? I mean, Jesus DID go around healing the blind and asking the lame to walk, so clearly He doesn’t want anyone to be sick…right? He only wants blessings for His followers: all the good and perfect gifts from the Father, and everything else? Well those are the attacks of Satan – obviously.

Friends, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but as great as that sounds? It’s totally not Biblical – not even a little bit.

Take a seat, grab your coffee and your Bible if its handy, and lets dig in together to see what God REALLY says about suffering. I’m taking on 7 key points where we can compare the teachings of the prosperity gospel side by side with God’s word, and see just how much they don’t sync up.

The Prosperity Gospel says: Rebuke Suffering
The Bible Says: EXPECT Suffering

1 Peter 4:12
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as thought something strange were happening to you.

1 Thessalonians 3:3
…that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this.

1 Peter 4:19
Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good

1 Peter 2:21
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps

The New Testament is absolutely littered with references to suffering, especially if you dig in to the writings of Paul. (There’s a guy who did his fair share of suffering. )We’re reminded time and time again of the truth that suffering is to be expected for followers of Christ. When Jesus told us to pick up our cross to follow Him? He was preparing us for the reality that the Christian walk would in no way guarantee us “health, wealth, and prosperity.” Quite the opposite. Paul tells us in Thessalonians that we are destined for suffering, choosing a word that communicates the idea of the very purpose for which something was created – like a salt shaker is made to hold salt. As appealing as it is to believe that a life following Christ is one where we leave our troubles behind us, the truth of Gods word sheds light on a very different reality.

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I Speak for the Turkeys

Last fall I had the amazing opportunity to share my heart over on Delight and Be. As the calendar rolled over to the 1st of November this morning I found myself urged to share these same thoughts as we dive into the holidays once more. 

It was the day after Halloween and I found myself standing squarely in the middle of my living room letting out a silent scream. A Christmas commercial. Amidst the discarded hulk mask and superhero cape and the crinkled up wrappers from last nights snicker bar binge it was all I could do not to pull out my own hair and curse all things merry and bright. A Christmas commercial – heralding all that was snowy and shiny and on sale for only $19.99.

Im one of THOSE people, you know the type – we are the grinches who complain about the stores decorating too early or who gripe about Starbucks bringing out the red cups in November. Im the Scrooge who loudly declares a moratorium on any Christmas music while any of the leaves are clinging red and orange to their branches; the one who scares her children with threats of bad reports to Santa if they so much as think of starting their wish lists before the turkey and cranberry sauce have been reduced to leftover sandwiches. If you met me in November you’d be convinced that I had experienced some sort of horridly traumatic Christmas past that converted me into an avid rejecter of all things remotely yuletide.

Im going to steal a page from my children’s Dr. Seuss obsession and appropriate the catchphrase of the Lorax for a minute. Except instead of the trees? I speak for the turkeys. Now before you roll your eyes and click that little red x in the corner of this screen, let me clarify that Im not speaking for the turkeys in the picketing for PETA and buying a tofurkey sense. By all means, when it comes to turkeys go ahead and shoot ‘em, pluck ‘em, and roast ‘em up nice and juicy. Im allll for turkeys… when they are covered in gravy that is. Lots and lots of gravy. No, I speak for the turkeys as the adopted mascots of Thanksgiving, which in my humble opinion is the single most important holiday of the year – and also the most under appreciated.

I will go so far as to say that without a Thanksgiving we absolutely unequivocally wouldn’t have any Christmas at all. Aaannnd I know what you’re thinking: she’s gone and lost it now. The baby Jesus couldn’t be laid in His manger and the shepherds wouldn’t hear the angels sing unless… the pilgrims came over on the Mayflower and had a feast with the Indians?

Yep.

Well, sort of.

Ok not at all. But there IS a point to my madness, I swear.

Image Credit: Grace & Salt

You see Thanksgiving is a holiday that boils down to only one thing: gratitude. Underneath the turkeys and the pilgrims and the bundles of wheat on our perfect Pinterest mantles, Thanksgiving is in its simplest form is an entire season wholly dedicated to stepping back from a culture that’s saturated with discontentment and an all out pursuit of more for the sake of more, and calls us instead to look at the abundance we have already been blessed with and utter a prayer of gratitude for having more than we could possibly deserve. Thanksgiving is a season of “thank you’s” in a world of “but I want more’s.” It’s the epitome of counterculture at its finest.

And when the final bite of stuffing is consumed and the last piece of turkey has been placed in the final leftovers sandwich, a new season emerges: Christmas, the season of joy to the earth and goodwill to all men. And its here that we find the thread that seamlessly pulls us from one holiday into the next: because the root of our joy? It has to be gratitude. Without the fertile fall season of gratitude we can never reap our Christmas’ joy. For Christmas depends on Thanksgiving the same way the crops in the fields depend on nutrient rich soil and abundant rains to bring them to life for the harvest. It is only in a heart of gratitude that the seeds of joy can take root, and its only by watering them regularly with prayers of thanksgiving that joy can thrive and grow bring forth something new and beautiful in our lives.

To truly receive the joy of Christmas it is essential to dive in fully and embrace the season of Thanksgiving with our whole hearts. To begin to make room for the presents the yuletide season brings, we must first spend time emptying ourselves onto the altar of gratitude, recognizing the overabundance we’ve already been given. For it simply wouldn’t be Christmas without Thanksgiving. The world around us may try to hurry us along, beckoning us across its ramshackle bridge straight from the halloween candy right into a Christmas tree farm and long lists to Santa. Don’t go my friends. Take the long way – under the falling leaves of red and orange, through the fields of golden wheat being brought in for the harvest, and by the long table of abundance shared with those we hold most dear as we remember the incredible blessing of even having these people to walk life’s journey with. Take a stand against the “Christmas Creep” and build up those boundaries around a season increasingly taken for granted. Speak for the turkeys.

And don’t forget the gravy.

Guest Contributor – Anna Filly

I am pretty darn excited about our guest poster today. She is one of the most infectiously joyful souls I have ever been blessed to meet. Her smile is downright contagious and she has a beautiful knack for sowing encouragement wherever she goes. I asked Anna to share something from her heart this Valentine’s Day and what she delivered is so chock full of wisdom and insight that I could hardly wait for this post to go live. So without further ado, here’s Anna!

Photo Credit | Moriah Elisabeth Photography

Photo Credit | Moriah Elisabeth Photography

This blog is absolutely stunning – isn’t it?  I just love how I’ve been able to watch it come together over these last few months.  The colors, the patterns, the vibes– it’s so joyful!  Which got me to thinking about the name Stephanie chose for her business: The Joy Parade.  How fun is that?!  

There’s so much truth it and true joy is welcomed with gates of praise.

One of my favorite stories happens to be tucked between the pages in one of the oldest books of history this world has to offer.   It’s a tale that tells of adventure, glory and triumph.

Let me set the scene for you.

Three armies are about to go to war- It’s two against one.  Our team- the underdog of it all- is the smallest army let by a man named Jehosophat.

Yep.  

His name is Jehosophat.

(Kinda like geez-hes-so -fat)

Anyways.

Back to the battlefield.

Jehoshaphat is about to lead his small army into battle and he’s slightly shaken.  The odds are against him and he knows it.  But he also knows that the Lord God has called him to fight this battle.  So, knowing that, he does something totally crazy by human standards, something that no commander of any army would ever dare to do.

He calls for his praise and worship band and tells them to lead the army to battle.  That’s right.  These men are unarmed.  Some hold instruments instead of weapons, others hold nothing in their hands at all.

He positions the musicians in front, and instructs them to lead the army in praise:

“…Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the Lord,

   for his love endures forever.”

“ -2 Chronicles 20:21

e38e0dd32c5be26728ab072ca0b3c074The army begins to make it’s way into battle.  Being lead -quite literally- by the music.  Then, when they arrive to the place that overlooked where the battle was planned to begin, what they saw left them speechless.  

The other two armies had turned on themselves and all that was left were the bodies of their enemies- not a single enemy soldier had survived.  

Immediately Jehoshaphat led his army to collect the plunder that had been left behind.  So much was left that it took three days to collect!  The army returned to their town of Jerusalem continuing in songs of praise, abounding in joy and completely overwhelmed by the Lord’s provision.

The reason that story is one of my favorites is because regardless of if Jehoshaphat had won or lost the battle he did something incredible:  he lead his fight with songs of                                                                                                        praise, proclaiming and glorifying none but God.  

He didn’t wonder or worry, or spend hours trying to figure out how he could win– he knew all of that was pointless.  In the end it wasn’t about winning or losing.  It was about trusting what God had called him to do.   Only God could give him the victory, and if God chose to, Jehoshaphat would lead his people to battle in praise, and if God chose to not give Jehoshaphat victory, he would still lead his people to battle in praise.

So much of our joy depends on knowing who God is.  Joy only fades when we lose sight of his sovereignty.  I mean it.  Life isn’t about us, its about proclaiming how good God is in spite of us.  We are imperfect creatures stained by sin, and yet we burden ourselves with the idea that our lives have to be a certain way in order for us to be happy.

If you believe that you’re right.  annaquote

Happiness requires only one set of circumstance to exist.  But joy -oh joy- joy requires no specific circumstance because it isn’t based on circumstance.  Joy is based on something that never changes- and that’s God himself.  Joy takes the pressure of us feeling like we have to “have it all together” or “know all the right answers”.  Joy isn’t based on those things, it comes from knowing that we are protected and covered by the arms of Jesus Christ, and he filled our imperfections, he drowns our worries, and he covers our anxieties with his perfect grace and love.  Our lives don’t depend on us- they depend on him.  Sweet friend, I want to live a life abounding in joy.  I want to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that who I am and what I do far exceeds me.   I want to have peace in all circumstances and know my savior.  

Joy, is welcomed with gates of praise.  So, if you want that to, start today, but praising Jesus for who he says he is– not how you feel– because then, joy will abound in your circumstance because you know whose you are.

xo
AnnaFilly

** If you would like to read the story of Jehosophat for yourself– and you should– check it out here : https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+chronicles+20&version=NIV