I was asked today about a certain big named preacher today. This preacher promises prosperity and success through positive thinking and following God's commands. Now positive thinking is a powerful tool for success. In basketball if you envision the shot going in before your free throw attempt you will have more success than if you are fantasizing about missing the big shot; it's somewhat of a self-fulling prophesy. If you follow God's commands you will live life in a way that God has designed it to work and you will likely flourish more than if you did the alternative. That all being said, I told the person that I thought this big named preacher, while not entirely bad, misleads people into thinking Christianity is a means for personal success, prosperity and comfort.
The question I'm always left asking is some variation of this: "Where did the Christians in Nigeria mess up to have Boko Haram get in the way of their comfort and success? Where did the Christians in Iraq go wrong that instead of prosperity they have persecution and poverty?"
God's ways are best for human flourishing and having a positive outlook on life may benefit you in life, but Christianity is not necessarily about comfort in the here and now. Let me show you a couple of passages to highlight this.
"You have made us a reproach to our neighbors,
the scorn and derision of those around us.
You have made us a byword among the nations;
the peoples shake their heads at us.
My disgrace is before me all day long,
and my face is covered with shame
at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me,
because of the enemy, who is bent of revenge.
All this happened to us,
though we had not forgotten you
or been false to your covenant.
Our hearts have not turned back;
our feet had not strayed from your path." Psalm 44:13-18 (I could have used the entire psalm.)
From Hebrews 11, known as the Faith Hall of Fame.
"Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated... the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground." Hebrews 11:35b-38
"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33b
The words above were from Jesus to His eleven remaining disciples and ten of them were murdered for the faith and John was banished to an island.
If the Gospel of Jesus is about living our best life now you would think these verses to be a little peculiar. But if the Gospel of Jesus is about something better than our best life now then we see evidence of that all over the Bible. So, next time you hear a sermon that sounds like prosperity here and now rather than about treasures laid up in Heaven, try to remember that the Gospel is for more than suburban America. The Gospel also belongs to our brothers and sisters being slaughtered in Indonesia.
Prosperity, success and comfort here and now would be nice and I hope God gives you that. However, the eternal joys of Heaven far surpass any level of comfort my ninety years in this life can offer. Ponder and pursue the greater joy today.