“. . . God wants to make your life easier. He wants to assist you, to promote you, to give you advantages. He wants you to have preferential treatment.” Joel Osteen—Your Best Life Now
This quote is an example of a concept known as “prosperity gospel.” There are several variations on the theme, but the main idea is that the Bible’s references to promises of blessing and prosperity are a contract between God and His children. All Christians have to do is confess, or “speak into existence” God’s promises, and He is bound to deliver on them. Both proponents and critics of prosperity theology sometimes refer to it simply as “name it and claim it.”
Indeed, there are many examples of God promising blessings in the Bible. Here are just a couple of them:
The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:10 NLT)
And the Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. (Deut 28:11 ESV)
We have both the right and the position to ask God for anything in prayer, but remember this. He doesn’t owe us anything, and we owe Him EVERYTHING! If we don’t keep that reality in clear focus, then we are likely to approach God with an attitude of entitlement, rather than one of humility. The result is that, in our minds, God becomes a supernatural ATM, spitting out the blessing whenever we insert our “believe to receive” card.
But wait a minute. Isn’t “believing to receive” the whole point of faith? When we ask, we are supposed to believe and not doubt, and God does promise blessings to those who believe, so what’s the problem with believing that God will keep His word regarding prosperity?
Actually, there’s nothing wrong with trusting God to keep His promises. What’s wrong is the American definition of prosperity.
Let’s face it, y’all. We are SPOILED in this country.
As I write this, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Most American’s can’t live on that. Just about nobody can raise a family on that. Fast food workers are demanding more than twice that in some areas.
And yet, our federal MINIMUM wage yields an income higher than that of 92% of the world.
Think about that for a minute. If you are working full-time and making federal minimum wage (many states are higher), then you are already doing better than six billion people are.
But do you FEEL rich? In most cases, I would expect that would be a no.
And what about those other six billion people who make less? 2.1 billion of them are Christians. Are they prospering? Is God keeping His promises to them?
Here is a verse that is NOT frequently quoted by prosperity gospel adherents, “Beloved, I pray that with respect to all things you may prosper and be healthy, just as your soul is prospering (3 John 1:2 DLNT).”
The folks that would have you believe that it’s God’s job to make your life easier are putting a period in place of the comma in the verse above. Prosper and be healthy in all things! Sounds great!
But there’s something else there—a “just,” sometimes translated as “even.” John’s assumption is that physical and material prosperity will follow and accompany spiritual prosperity.
So what does that look like?
You need look no further than Paul. First, consider this rundown of his physical circumstances:
Five times the Jews have given me their punishment of thirty-nine lashes with a whip. Three different times I was beaten with rods. One time I was almost stoned to death. Three times I was in ships that wrecked, and one of those times I spent a night and a day in the sea. I have gone on many travels and have been in danger from rivers, thieves, my own people, the Jews, and those who are not Jews. I have been in danger in cities, in places where no one lives, and on the sea. And I have been in danger with false Christians. I have done hard and tiring work, and many times I did not sleep. I have been hungry and thirsty, and many times I have been without food. I have been cold and without clothes. (2 Cor 11:24-27 NCV)
And yet, the same man says this:
I’m not saying that because I need anything. I have learned to be content no matter what happens to me. I know what it’s like not to have what I need. I also know what it’s like to have more than I need. I have learned the secret of being content no matter what happens. I am content whether I am well fed or hungry. I am content whether I have more than enough or not enough. I can do everything by the power of Christ. He gives me strength. (Php 4:11-13 NIRV)
Contentedness is the secret to a prospering soul. And this comes from trusting not that God will give you everything you want for your purposes, but that you will have everything you need for His.
So how about it? Is your soul prospering? If so, then you are already living “Your Best Life Now.” You don’t have to “believe God” for the biggest house in the neighborhood to make it better.