Christian Biblical Counsel: PROSPERITY GOSPEL

Prosperity Gospel

False Teachers—False Hope!

by June Hunt

Wesley Parker was an active eleven-year-old boy—a diabetic taking regular insulin shots. One day at church, after hearing a Word of Faith message to confess and claim their son’s healing, Larry and Alice Parker intentionally withheld their son’s insulin. As a result, Wesley went into a diabetic coma. In spite of warnings, these parents believed the “Prosperity Gospel” teaching: Don’t make a negative confession (don’t say he’s sick). Make a positive confession (say he is healed).

Three days later, Wesley lay dead. Because of the “revelation knowledge” these parents believed they had received through Word-Faith teaching, they held a resurrection service instead of a funeral service. In the end, young Wesley was not resurrected.

Larry and Alice Parker were arrested and jailed … then charged, tried, and convicted of manslaughter and child abuse. Though they believed they were right, their thinking was dead wrong. This passage from the Bible tragically fits far too many people who have let “Prosperity Theology” become central to their thinking. Too many discover too late what the Bible says,

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”

(Proverbs 14:12)

I.     Definitions

If God were to appear before you saying, “Ask Me for whatever you want,” what would you request? Think about it … seriously.

Possessions?… Position?… Popularity?… Power?

There is a king who could ask for anything, but instead he asks for wisdom, and later (in his case) he gets much more.

The Lord appears to Solomon in a dream, saying, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you” (1 Kings 3:5). Humbly, Solomon makes a request that will benefit God’s people, not himself. “Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:9).

Solomon’s request pleases God and moves Him to bestow abundance and honor, in addition to the wisdom sought. Ultimately, no man proved to be wiser than Solomon, who manifested “a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore” (1 Kings 4:29).

The physical prosperity Solomon experienced was clearly not the result of his seeking it; he never asked God for it. It did not come because he sought gifts from God. Nor did it come because he gave gifts to God’s work expecting more in return. It came because he sought the Giver of the gifts and His wisdom that he might fulfill the tasks God had for him. He asked for what he truly needed in order to do God’s will, not what he wanted in order to do his own will. His priorities were right. And God rewarded him for that … without Solomon’s ever requesting a reward at all. This is a picture of what Jesus gave as a principle …

“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

(Matthew 6:33)

A. What Is Prosperity Theology?

And what is Prosperity Theology not? Look at Paul, who was 100% in the will of God, yet weak and in want … but after—and only after—committing his life to Christ. Paul—whose pedigree was impressive (Philippians 3:5–6)—later knew little of health and wealth. And rather than “naming it and claiming it,” God’s premier New Testament missionary spoke of …

“Being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

(Philippians 4:12)

How odd, in light of the current popularity of the “Prosperity Gospel”!

•     Prosperity Theology teaches that every believer should always be healthy and wealthy—never in a state of need. If the Children of the King are in need, it is because they have not properly asked the King for what they want.

•     Prosperity Theology is also referred to as the Health & Wealth Gospel, the Word of Faith Movement, Positive Confession, and “Name It and Claim It” Theology, along with a few other similar labels.

•     Prosperity Theology places guilt and condemnation on those who are not experiencing good health and wealth with statements such as “Poverty is a curse.”

•     Prosperity Theology is based on a premise that faith makes Christians able to “name and claim” whatever they desire. Proponents believe they can create a binding transaction with God in which He is absolutely obligated to bless and provide what is asked of Him.

In contrast to Prosperity Theology, the Book of Wisdom (Proverbs) in the Bible says, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread” (Proverbs 30:8).

Prosperity teaching: Jesus tells us that whatever we ask in faith, we will receive: “I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24).

Biblical Truth: At face value, these verses appear to back up their beliefs. Yet, the apostle John gives us clarification, “If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And … we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14–15).

If your desire conforms to God’s will, He will look upon your request with favor and allow it to come to pass. Christians are not to dictate to God, but to petition (make requests of) Him. In Prosperity Theology, people have become the rulers, and God has become the servant. In the Bible, God is sovereign over the entire universe, and His people are His servants.

B. What Is Prosperity?

In terms of prosperity, Solomon owned 12,000 horses … his daily provisions were a feast befitting of a king—of course, he was the king—testifying to the land’s rich agricultural abundance. And because of his wisdom, Solomon’s fame spread, drawing people from all over the world to come … just to sit at his feet … just to learn. He possessed not just physical prosperity, but also intellectual and spiritual prosperity.

“Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.”

(1 Kings 4:34)

•     Prosperity refers to a thriving, successful, flourishing condition in which a person has all that is needed along with the capacity to enjoy it.

•     Prosper is one translation of the Hebrew word saleah, which suggests “a successful venture,” in contrast to being a failure.

“As long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper.” (2 Chronicles 26:5)

•     Prosper is one translation of the Greek word euodoo, meaning literally, “to help on one’s way” (eu: “well” + hodos: “a way or journey”). Prosperity is not a onetime occurrence, but “successive circumstances of varying prosperity as week follows week.”

“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” (3 John 2 NKJV)

Everyone Prosperous and Healthy

Prosperity Teaching: Since the Bible says that “[Everyone should] prosper in all things and be in health” (3 John 2 NKJV), those who are not healthy and wealthy are not in the will of God.

Biblical Truth: The apostle John begins his third letter with a warm greeting expressing his desire for his friend Gaius. Often quoted by Word of Faith teachers, this Scripture is used to support their stance that it is God’s will for all believers to prosper and that it would be ludicrous not to partake of the prosperity offered. However, this greeting is not a universal guarantee of health and wealth, but merely a standard greeting during that era of antiquity … much as we would say, “I hope everything is going well for you.”

C. What Is “Positive Confession”?

One of the largest religious broadcasting networks stretches around the world with programs on literally thousands of channels and in more than a dozen different languages. In 2004 it collected more than $120 million from its viewers, more than any other TV ministry. Undoubtedly, promises of prosperity helped prompt the receipt of such generous gifts.

According to the head of this ministry, God’s response to sacrificial giving is that “He’ll give you thousands, hundreds of thousands. He’ll give millions and billions of dollars.” This leader states that if people give their fair share, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask God for a reward: “If my heart really, honestly, desires a nice Cadillac … is there something terribly wrong with my saying, ‘Lord, it is the desire of my heart to have a nice car.’ … I believe I can have it.”

•     Positive confession is speaking spiritual or “faith-filled” words with the belief that whatever is spoken will be received or will come to pass. By faith, you can speak or conceive your desires and bring them into existence. Speaking positively releases the power for your desires to come true. This belief is based on many Scriptures such as …

“The tongue has the power of life and death.” (Proverbs 18:21)

•     Positive confession means that what you believe and confess, you get from God. The English word translated as “confess” is homologeo in Greek, meaning “to agree with—literally—to speak the same thing” (homos: “same,” lego: “to speak”). However, instead of confessing to God—agreeing with God about your sin, changing, and doing what He wants you to do—according to “Word of Faith” teachers a positive confession means that by your having spoken your desires, God is agreeing to do what you want Him to do.

•     Positive confession sometimes called a “word of faith” holds to the premise that faith-filled statements have authority over the physical world. Just by speaking, you have the power not only to change the circumstances of life, but you can also manipulate your environment in order to experience the desired results.

Two or Three in Agreement

Positive Confession: According to Matthew 18:18–20, the Bible says when two or three agree on something on earth, God is obligated to meet the need.

“I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:18–20)

Biblical Correction: Based on context, the issue addressed in Matthew 18:15–20 is church discipline, including the steps that Christians are to take “if your brother sins against you” (verse 15). The teaching of church discipline is not a general, across-the-board scriptural promise. The two or three witnesses is an ancient law for the purpose of establishing and verifying or corroborating evidence. (See Deuteronomy 19:15.)

—  If your offender does not respond in repentance when privately approached by you, then you are to take two or more with you (as witnesses) to confront him again (Matthew 18:16).

—  If the offender still refuses to listen, the final step is to take the issue before the church (Matthew 18:17).

Therefore, in this context, the two or three gathering in the Lord’s name is for the purpose of reproving another brother’s or sister’s sin, not for agreeing about any material prosperity.

D. What Is “Negative Confession”?

•     Negative confessions, whether made by speaking or even thinking negative thoughts, are believed to produce negative realities.

•     Negative confession, which includes doubts and disbeliefs, are forbidden by Prosperity proponents.

•     Negative confessions result in bad consequences including disease, tragedy, and death. Undesirable situations can be avoided merely by refusing to speak of them—refusing to make a “negative confession.”

If the concept of “negative confession” is truly biblical, how could so many godly, positive people in the Bible—including Jesus—make negative statements? Consider the following:

Negative Confessions by Godly People in the Bible

•     Job—the godly man whom God called “blameless”—suffered so much physical pain that he cried out to God with a death wish …

“I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul.… Why then did you bring me out of the womb? I wish I had died before any eye saw me. If only I had never come into being, or had been carried straight from the womb to the grave!” (Job 10:1, 18–19)

—  Did Job’s negative confession bring about his death? No, in fact after many trials, Job’s trust in God was strengthened, and he lived many more years.

•     Elijah, the godly prophet who had been given the death sentence by evil Jezebel, not only ran for his very life, but also verbalized a death wish …

“I have had enough, Lord.… Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” (1 Kings 19:4)

—  Did Elijah’s negative confession result in his death? No, he went on to serve God in mighty ways.

•     Jeremiah, the godly, weeping prophet, said to Judah,

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing.’ ” (Jeremiah 30:12)

—  Did Jeremiah’s negative confession cause Judah’s punishment? No, Jeremiah spoke what the Lord God told him to say; therefore, it was sanctioned by God Himself.

•     Isaiah, the godly prophet, verbally acknowledged Hezekiah’s illness and said that he would die … he wouldn’t recover.

“Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah … went to him and said, ‘This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.’ ” (Isaiah 38:1)

—  Did Isaiah’s negative confession seal Hezekiah’s fate? No, God extended his life another 15 years.

•     David, who became King of Israel, verbalized his many negative thoughts and fears including being poor and needy.

“I am poor and needy.… O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.… Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.” (Psalm 86:1; 22:2, 13–15)

—  Did David’s negative confessions result in his being poor? No, he had abundant wealth. In fact the Bible calls David “a man after God’s own heart.”

•     Paul, the great Apostle, spoke about his illness and his many trials …

“I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.… I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10)

—  Did Paul’s negative confession cause his trials and hurt his ministry? No, the Bible says his trials caused him to live in dependency on Christ and ultimately impacted him to become what many call “the greatest missionary in the world.” What others deemed as “negative,” God designed for good. (See Galatians 4:13.)

•     Jesus made these negative statements …

About Himself: “My heart is troubled.… How distressed I am!” (John 12:27; Luke 12:50).

About people: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).

—  Did Jesus’ negative words cause His “troubled, distressed” state? Did His words cause us all to have trouble? No, if Jesus had spoken only positive words, He still would have been troubled and distressed at the end of His life.… Likewise, He knew we would all face trouble in our lives.

Does Jesus’ negative confessions give promoters of speaking only positive confessions the right to say that Jesus was wrong, misguided, or not living up to his full potential? No, since Jesus is God and since we are to be like Jesus, speaking truthful negative statements as Jesus did is not wrong, but right.

E. What Is the “Name It and Claim It” Practice?

If you want it, when you name it (believing that it’s yours), and claim it (in the name of Jesus), then your desire will come true.

•     This belief is an example of positive confession through which you can write your own ticket with God.

•     According to Prosperity Theology, Christians have a blank check from God. This belief is based on Scripture such as, “Ask and you will receive” (John 16:24).

Name It and Claim It

Positive Confession: Since the tongue has immense power, anything your tongue asks for—in the name of Jesus—you will receive. If you need $10,000.00, just name it and claim it—in the name of Jesus—and it is yours!

Biblical Correction: Ask yourself: Is this teaching transcultural? Will this teaching work anywhere in the world? Will “name it and claim it” work for godly Christians in godless countries who for years have been imprisoned because of their faith? The answer is obviously no. Bundles of $10,000 will not be lacing the prison cells in places like communist China or the former Soviet Siberia no matter how often you name it and claim it.

F.  What Is the “Seed-Faith” Principle?

Positive Confession: Donors who give to the work of God will reap rich returns on their monetary investment—even 100-fold.

Biblical Correction: The Seed-Faith principle is looked upon as “giving to get”—as sowing some money and then reaping much more money. Several verses are combined by Prosperity Gospel teachers to support this principle: “If you sow a seed, even as small as a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20), you will receive a hundred times as much in this life” (Mark 10:29–30).

Giving in order to get is foreign to the Scriptures. Generosity of your money toward God does not guarantee material success. This principle suggests that God is a cosmic genie, whose favors can be bought. Human greed makes the principle appealing.

“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

G. What Is the Meaning behind “The Mustard Seed”?

Prosperity Teaching: As long as I have faith as tiny as a mustard seed—which is able to move mountains—I can name what I want—no matter how much money—and receive it by the power in Jesus’ name.

Biblical Truth: First look at the context for the mustard seed in Matthew chapter 17. A desperate man approached Jesus’ disciples and begged them to heal his son who was oppressed by demons and disease, but they were unable to help him.

Earlier Matthew 10:1 says, “He [Jesus] called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”

Now Jesus rebuked his disciples for their lack of faith and encouraged them to rely on the power He gave them to accomplish this task. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20–21).

Jesus is saying the issue is not how much faith you have, but rather that even if your faith is miniscule, as long as He is the object of your faith—as long as you depend totally on Jesus—He is all powerful to do through you whatever is His will to do. As long as you are totally dependent on Jesus and as long as what you do is according to His will, nothing is impossible for you, because nothing is impossible for Him.

This promise cannot be used to get whatever you want. First, this verse has nothing to do with “sowing a seed.” It has everything to do with recognizing that your faith—no matter how small—must be totally in Him in order for you to do what He calls you to do. Second, we have not been given authority to heal all illness as was specifically given to His twelve disciples. Third, since it was clearly in the will of God for the disciples to aid this man, Jesus rebuked them for their failure. Fourth, suffering is often a part of God’s good will for us so that we can learn to depend on Him.

“Those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (1 Peter 4:19)

H. What Is the Meaning of the “100-Fold Return?”

Prosperity Teaching: Jesus said whatever amount of money you sow to the work of God, you will reap 100-fold.

Biblical Truth: This teaching is a distortion of what Jesus said in Mark chapter 10. In this chapter Jesus is talking with “the rich young ruler” instructing him to sell everything he has and give it all to the poor (verses 17–22). Then He says,

“No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mark 10:29–31)

He is not promising material or physical possessions to His followers. To those who have been rejected by their own families for following Him, Jesus is promising something of much greater value: a permanent relationship in the family of God with all the privileges, protections, and even persecutions that come along with that. Notice the promise of persecutions that many false teachers avoid mentioning.

Prosperity teachers are known for their emphasis on homes, cars, money, and opulent lifestyles. These prosperity teachers possess many “things” because of the financial gifts given them. However, they would have great difficulty explaining why they themselves do not sell everything they have to give to the poor.

It is deceitful to use this passage to make a one to 100 comparison. It ignores the rest of the passage in an effort to teach that God wants His followers to be wealthy.

 

II.    Characteristics of the Health And Wealth Theology

Seven-year-old Angela suffered excruciating pain with appendicitis for two months. … Ten-day-old Keenan struggled with a bowel obstruction.9 … Baby Ishmael was stuck for several days in his mother’s birth canal.

The pain and suffering of these little ones is now over: Each one died … each one having been denied medical attention. Surgeries and medicine could have restored health to these children, but their parents passed all that up in favor of prayers alone.

Today when members of the Church of the Firstborn, based in Colorado, become ill, the elders go to their homes and anoint them with oil, lay hands on them, and then offer up “prayers of faith.” But their practice is based on a narrow and misapplied interpretation of Scripture in James 5:14–16, from which the Church concludes that “the prayer offered in faith” (James 5:15) is the only way to pursue healing—even if the outcome is death.

The death of a person is accepted simply as God’s will. The dead are characterized as “asleep” until Judgment Day, at which time they will awaken and join the Lord and their families in heaven.

According to the Church of the Firstborn, Desiree Camren is asleep right now. She died at the age of three in 1987 after her parents refused the medical treatment that could have saved her life. Her parents, Dean and Sheila Camren, went to trial and testified that they knew their daughter was dying but believed her death was punishment from God because Dean had stopped going to church.

In May 1989, Desiree’s parents were both sentenced to prison for second degree manslaughter.

Jesus was always protective of little children.… We should extend to children the same protective care that Jesus did.

“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”

(Matthew 18:10)

A. What Are Primary Positions of Prosperity Theology?

Consider these two very different churches: One boasted of wealth but was spiritually bankrupt—the other felt the pangs of poverty but was pronounced rich!

These two churches are among seven addressed in the Bible … in the first chapters of Revelation. The church in Laodicea was wealthy, without a worry in the world. But Jesus saw the church and the people differently.

“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”

(Revelation 3:17)

And for the church in Smyrna, Jesus had these words,

“I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich!”

(Revelation 2:9)

Regardless of their financial poverty, this godly church and its people were truly prosperous.

Six Primary Positions of Prosperity Theology

#1  Position: “Sickness is always the result of sin.”

Biblical Position: This false belief was directly refuted when the disciples asked Jesus about a man blind from birth.

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered,

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned … but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” (John 9:2–3)

#2  Position: “Poverty is always the result of sin.”

Biblical Position: This false belief was directly refuted by Jesus when He replied,

“Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)

#3  Position: “Sickness is a curse.”

Biblical Position: This false belief was directly refuted by the illness of Job, who was not cursed but was allowed by God to be physically afflicted by Satan.

“Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.’ ” (Job 2:3)

#4  Position: “Poverty is a curse.”

Biblical Position: This false belief was directly refuted by the honor Jesus paid a poor widow for her meager offering for God.

“He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘I tell you the truth,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others.’ ” (Luke 21:2–3)

#5  Position: “Sickness is of the devil.”

Biblical Position: This false belief was directly refuted by Jesus when He responded to the illness of his good friend Lazarus.

“Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.’ ” (John 11:4)

#6  Position: “If you have enough faith, you will be healed.”

Biblical Position: This false belief was directly refuted by the experience and testimony of the apostle Paul.

“There was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I [Paul] will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7–10)

B. What Is the Materialistic Checklist?

Jesus spoke words of wisdom concerning the material and the spiritual … but they were met only with sneers by the materialistic religious leaders.

“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

(Luke 16:13)

The Pharisees, “who loved money” (Luke 16:14), only made a pretense of loving God. To find out your own view of materialism, ask yourself the following questions (mark yes or no):

Is your mind preoccupied with creating material things?

Do you feel good when you have something bigger and better than someone else has?

Is it hard for you to wait to receive a new item once you’ve decided to purchase it?

Are salary and benefits more important to you than the work itself?

When you buy something, does it have to be known as being the best?

Are you envious of your friends who have more than you have?

Now, Ask Yourself …

•     What do I most value?

•     What do I most fear losing?

•     What gives me the most pleasure?

•     What takes most of my time?

The Bible puts “prosperity” into perspective …

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

(Matthew 6:19–21)

Does God really intend for all of His children to be physically healthy and materially wealthy in this life … to be wrapped from head to foot in the world’s temporary clothing? Or does He intend that we be spiritually healthy and wealthy, wrapped up in His invisible, eternal blessings? Carefully observe what the Bible presents as God’s top priority …

“To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

(Ecclesiastes 2:26)

Prosperity Theology: Based on verses in the first chapter of Joshua, the promises of God indicate that all believers are to prosper.

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:8)

Biblical Truth: God delights in blessing His children … but His children sometimes misinterpret the context and intent of verses. Regarding Joshua 1:8, consider this …

•     Context: In context of the Bible, God directly gives Joshua a military assignment and a guarantee of victory.—Remember, Joshua was a military leader, not an entrepreneur.

•     Intent: The success that the Lord is promising is in relation to Israel’s conquest of the physical land of Canaan.

C. What Is the Problem with the Word-Faith Teaching?

The main problem has to do with the word “faith” itself. To Word-Faith preachers and teachers, faith is a force, a spiritual energy, or spiritual power. Their faith is in faith, which at times appears to work like magic. The thinking is that if one believes something strongly enough, it will come to pass. Thus, the key to getting what is desired lies within the person.

•     Basically, faith means “trust.” In the New Testament, the verb pisteuo has the idea of “an absolute transference of trust from ourselves to another, a complete surrender to God.” Biblically, the power of faith is found in its object, namely God or Christ.

•     These Prosperity Gospel teachers believe the human mind and tongue contain a supernatural ability or power. Since Christians are children of God and since God spoke and the world was created through His words (Genesis chapter 1), we can create our own reality through our words. One’s thoughts and expressions produce a divine force capable of producing success, wealth, and healing.

•     However, according to the Scriptures, the power of faith does not reside in the faith itself, but in God, who blesses a believer’s faith when it conforms to His will. The primary problem with the “faith” of the Word-Faith/Prosperity Gospel is that faith is improperly understood and applied.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

(1 John 5:14)

D. What Is the Truth about Prosperity Teaching?

The church has always had to deal with perversion of the Gospel of Christ even from its earliest days. The Apostles identified those who were perverting the Gospel in their day as treacherous, false teachers. In fact, the early Christians were encouraged to steer clear of them and even exclude them from their congregations. The apostle Paul gave this powerful warning …

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.”

(Galatians 1:6–7)

Prosperity Theology conveys as a principle the believer’s right to present demands to God as heirs before God.

Biblical Truth presents the believer as an heir before God to receive the spiritual blessings provided by a new identity in Christ. However, the believer will also share suffering, rejection, and deprivation as Christ Himself did.

“If we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:17)

Prosperity Theology teaches that faith is a formula by which we manipulate the spiritual laws that the Prosperity teachers believe govern the universe. A favorite term among adherents of Prosperity Theology is “positive confession.” The term refers to the belief that words have creative power.

Biblical Truth teaches that, rather than our being in control of the events and circumstances of our lives, our Lord is in control.

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13–16)

Prosperity Theology teaches that what you say determines everything that happens to you. Your confessions must all be stated positively and without wavering—then God is required to answer.

Biblical Truth teaches that trials will come, and when they do, we are to be dependent on Him in all things.

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.… So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (1 Peter 4:12–14, 19)

Prosperity Theology teaches that God’s ability to bless us is dependent on our faith—that without our faith, God is unable to act.

Biblical Truth teaches us that God has all power to act on our behalf, regardless of anything we do or fail to do.

“He [God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.… For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (Matthew 5:45; Romans 9:15–16)

E. What Are Characteristics of “The Secret”?

Initially released as a video documentary and sold over the Internet, the book version of The Secret became a runaway, international best seller and cultural phenomenon. Rooted in Eastern mysticism and the occult, the movement’s success reflects yet another desperate attempt to bypass God on the road to self-serving satisfaction. The Secret is a secularized version of the Prosperity Gospel.

What’s the Big “Secret”?

The Secret’s three fundamental tenets are the following:

1.   Thoughts Become Things.

The Secret says: You can exert control over every area of life by using your thoughts and feelings. For example, a woman claims to have cured her breast cancer in three months—without chemotherapy or radiation—by visualizing herself well and watching funny movies on television.

The Truth: God controls events and circumstances.

—  Scripture says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

2.   “The Law of Attraction.”

The Secret says: The physical universe will respond to your thoughts by bringing to you whatever you are thinking about. For example, “Food is not responsible for putting on weight. It is your thought that food is responsible for putting on weight that actually has food put on weight.”

The Truth: If we could meet all of our own needs, we wouldn’t need God.

—  Scripture says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5–6).

3.   Ask.… Believe.… Receive.

The Secret teaches that you can get anything and everything you need or want by the magnetic power of your thoughts. Why? Because you are God, who masters the universe. For example, The Secret states, “You are God in a physical body. You are all powerful … all wisdom … all intelligence … perfection.… You are the creator, and you are creating the creation of You on this planet.”

The Truth: We are the creature—and only the Creator above is Master over all.

—  Scripture says, “I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God” (Isaiah 45:5).

The Conclusion: Regardless of popular appeal, guard against being led astray by any errant “feel-good” theology.

—  Scripture says, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

 

III.   Causes of Conflicting Paths to Prosperity

Seth Ian Glaser was only seventeen-months-old, but he was acquainted with suffering.

The child contracted the serious but treatable illness of bacterial meningitis. His parents did not know that he had meningitis because they did not take him to a doctor. They did observe, however, his severe symptoms of a high fever, coughing, accelerated heart rate and breathing, vomiting, and even turning blue. Rather than taking him to a hospital, they chose to take their infant to a Christian Science “Healer.” Later, they stated that they really never even considered taking him to an emergency room.

They had to wait for two hours to see the “Healer,” and in the meantime the baby went into convulsions lasting ninety seconds each. His body and limbs became rigid. The Christian Science Healer was so shocked by the infant’s critical condition that she contacted the church’s legal advisor to determine legal liabilities and responsibilities. The legal advisor assured the “Healer” that the parents were not required by law to make sure their baby received medical attention. Almost two hours later, Seth was dead. At this point another Christian Science Healer who could supposedly raise the dead attempted to bring the child back to life but was unsuccessful.

No miraculous resurrection occurred, and Seth’s mother was charged with manslaughter and child endangerment. Sickness and suffering is real—not a figment of the mind to be done away with by positive thinking or confession. The causes of sickness and suffering are also real and need to be clarified, understood, accepted, and responded to appropriately. Jesus Himself said,

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”

(Matthew 9:12)

A. “Ask and You Shall Receive.”—Why Can’t I Get That Promise to Work?

This biblical promise is one of the most frequently quoted by those in the Prosperity Movement. When taken out of context, this passage can appear to be a blank check for Christians to fill in for whatever amount they want. Therefore, the answer to the question (Why can’t I get that promise to work?) is crucial to all who seek to accurately know and understand what God intends us to ask of Him—and what He asks of us.

Positive Confession: You should receive whatever you ask God for. He will give it. Isn’t that what he promises in Matthew 7:7–8: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”?

Biblical Correction: If that is the case, then you should be able to become an instant billionaire, drive around in a chauffeured Rolls Royce, and jet around the world (except that your chauffeur may have prayed to become a billionaire too)!

—  This passage is often quoted in Prosperity Gospel pulpits to support the belief that we can ask anything we want—in faith—and it will “come to pass.”

•     The problem is this: It seems to work only some of the time, not all the time.

•     The bigger problem is this: If God promises we will receive whatever we ask and we don’t get what we ask for, then that makes God a liar—a wishy-washy God who relishes in getting our hopes up just to dash them against the rugged rocks of reality.

—  Is the problem our lack of faith?

•     Surely anyone can muster up faith the size of a tiny mustard seed, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you” (Luke 17:6).

•     But when we have complete faith that God will give us what we ask for, yet we don’t receive it, why would He toy with our devotion and emotions like an abusive father who is kind to his children one day then cruel the next day … and for no other reason except to exert power over them?

•     So where does that leave us in our quest to understand the meaning of this seemingly clear but problematic passage? Surely there is some logical, sensible explanation!

—  The solution lies not in the character of God or in the amount of our faith, but in the interpretation of this passage.

•     Does it make sense that an infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful God would make an unconditional promise to give us anything and everything we ask for? Surely not!

•     Would God tell us to pray for whatever we want and then in Romans 8:26 say that, “We do not know what we ought to pray for”? Of course not!

•     The solution, then, must be that “if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14–15).

—  The way to receive whatever we ask of God is to ask whatever is according to His will. The “prayer of faith,” then, is the prayer that asks that His will be done.

•     And, of course, that is the way Jesus taught the disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

•     It is how Jesus Himself prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane as He faced the cruelty of the Crucifixion. Wanting to be spared the shame and pain of what lay before Him, yet He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done (Luke 22:42).

•     Also, when Paul was compelled by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem and others could not dissuade him from going, they ultimately said, The Lord’s will be done (Acts 21:14).

Rather than asking for health, wealth, power, or position, instead, focus on walking dependently on the Lord, and He will give you the good things He has prepared for you … even without your having to ask.

Be assured …

“The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”

(Psalm 84:11)

B. What Is Positive Confession versus Biblical Faith?

In 1912 a premiere ocean liner set out from England on its maiden voyage headed for the United States. Everyone on the Titanic had a positive mental attitude as it sliced through the icy North Atlantic waters.

Late one night a message came over the wire, warning all ships of treacherous icebergs—multiple warnings soon followed. Because the Titanic had been heralded as “unsinkable,” the captain and crew had a positive mental image of their ship, and consequently, they discounted the warnings wired to them and continued without reducing the ship’s speed.

This positive attitude motivated the captain to maintain the course that eventually cost more than 1,500 people their very lives. Why? The positive thinking of a captain with a positive image of an unsinkable ship was not linked to reality.

On that freezing night in 1912, what kind of attitude was needed on board the Titanic? Certainly not a positive mental attitude—that’s what had caused the prominent ship to sink! The need was for a realistic mental attitude based on a realistic mental image. Since an image is basically a picture, the captain should have pictured the sinking of an untested ship on her maiden voyage, a ship that “could possibly sink,” given the right set of circumstances.

Consequently, what should be the basis for the decisions we make in our lives? Obviously, not positive thinking alone because negative repercussions can occur when we are thinking positively. Ultimately, our decisions should be based on reality. The Bible speaks to the uncertainties in our lives. Therefore, we need to look to the Lord to reveal His will, instead of our declaring or even demanding our own will.

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ ”

(James 4:14–15)

What Is the Source of Your Self-Image?

In Positive Thinking

 

vs.

 

In Biblical Faith

 

•     The Source of your self-image is   your imagination (what you think about yourself).

 

 

 

•     The Source of your new self-image   is God’s Word (what God says about you).

 

•     The Teaching: You believe that   “Anything the human mind can believe, the human mind can achieve.”

 

 

 

•     The Teaching: Faith is taking God   at His Word. “Faith comes from hearing   the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans   10:17). You can have faith in the realistic image that God has of you.

 

•     The Method: The use of “I am”   statements based on what you can imagine—“I am successful. I am a winner.”

 

 

 

•     The Method: The use of “I am”   statements based on what God’s Word says about you because you are in Christ.   “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new   creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

 

•     The Illustration: Suppose you feel   that you have not achieved what you could have in life … your significance   has not been maximized. You know that someone will be elected president of   your favorite organization—why not you? So, you repeatedly say, “I am   president, I am president” in order to achieve that goal.

 

 

 

•     The Illustration: Suppose you feel   that no one cares about you … that you don’t belong. At that time, you apply   the faith you have in God’s Word and repeatedly say, “I am a child of God.” “How great is the love the Father has   lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we   are!” (1 John 3:1).

 

•     The Problem: It may not be God’s   will for you to be president of this organization. So, you are believing a   fallacy. The source of your self-image is in your ability to believe in what   you can imagine.

 

 

 

•     The Problem: It is God’s will for   you to know that as a believer, you belong to Him. It is God’s will that   every believer knows that he/she is a child of God. “To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave   the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Therefore, the source   of your self-image is the truth of God’s Word.

 

What Is the Power for Your Self-Image?

In Positive Thinking

 

vs.

 

In Biblical Faith

 

•     The Power comes through your   words.… You have a power of belief “necessitated through the power of the   spoken word.”

 

 

 

•     The Power comes through Christ’s   life within you. The power is through a person, not a process.

 

•     The Teaching: “Everything you say   will come to pass.” “By the spoken word we create our universe of   circumstances.”20

—  Proponents of this teaching claim that   success, happiness, and perfect health can be yours as you speak them into   being.

 

 

 

•     The Teaching: In God’s Word, Jesus   says, “All authority in heaven and on   earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). This power is in every true   believer.

—  Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ   lives in me. Therefore, if   Christ lives in you and He has all power, then you also have access to His   power because He is within you.

 

•     The Problem: Every person who has   reached adulthood could admit to having conceived something could happen, having believed   something should happen, and having   spoken   something would happen … but it   didn’t! Faith in the spoken word failed.

—  Consequently, this process or “law of   success,” as it is called, is not a law. And as such, this power of the   spoken word is totally undependable.

 

 

 

•     The Promise: “I can do everything through him [Jesus] who gives me strength”   (Philippians 4:13). This means that everything God leads you to do, you can   do through His strength … through His power.

—  It is “Christ   in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

 

What Is the Focus of Your Faith?

In Positive Thinking

 

vs.

 

In Biblical Faith

 

•     The Focus is on self.

 

 

 

•     The Focus is on Christ.

 

•     The Teaching: “You can make your   life what you want it to be.… Self-confident faith in yourself is an   indispensable ingredient for good living.… ‘I know I am the master of my   fate, I am the Captain of my soul.’ ”

—  You make the world into anything you choose.   “Yes, you can make your world into whatever you want it to be.”

 

 

 

•     The Teaching: God’s Word says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and   perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

—  Jesus explained that you are not to make   independent choices, but that your dependency needs to be on Him. “Apart from me you can do nothing”   (John 15:5).

 

•     The Problem: If the focus of your   faith is yourself, then you set yourself up for failure. We all fail; we have   all been weak; we have all sinned (Romans 3:23).

—  Even if your faith is sincere, sincerity is   not the criteria for success. You can be sincere, yet sincerely wrong. “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.…   For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is   Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:31; 3:11).

 

 

 

•     The Promise: As Jesus Himself   said,

—  “I am   the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)

—  “I am   the bread of life.” (John 6:35)

—  “I am   the light of the world.” (John 8:12)

—  “I am   the gate.” (John 10:7)

—  “I am   the good shepherd.” (John 10:11)

—  “I am   the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25)

—  “I am   the true vine.” (John 15:1)

 

Is There Acknowledgment of Your Problems?

In Positive Thinking

 

vs.

 

In Biblical Faith

 

•     The Acknowledgment of problems is   not permissible.

 

 

 

•     The Acknowledgment of problems is   not only permissible, but necessary.

 

•     The Teaching: Only a positive confession is permitted   (speaking positive words). You must “claim” your health and wealth even if   your circumstances appear to be negative. A national televangelist says, “God   wants His children to … wear the best clothing. He wants them to drive the   best cars and He wants them to have the best of everything.”

—  A negative confession is not permitted. In   fact, to acknowledge anything negative is to seal the fate of your desire.

—  Another radio preacher, supposedly quoting   God, said, “I am not the one causing your problems. You are under an attack   by the evil one and I can’t do anything about it. You have bound me by the   (negative) words in your mouth.”

—  Thus God is powerless when a problem is   verbalized.

 

 

 

•     The Teaching: In our real world   there are both positive and negative situations.

—  Job said, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10).

—  The balance in life is presented in   Ecclesiastes 3:4 … “[There is] a time   to weep and a time to laugh.”

—  First Peter 4:19 says, “Those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to   their faithful Creator.   Therefore, apparently suffering is sometimes God’s will for us.

—  Jesus certainly did not promise a life   without problems. He said, “If they   persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20).

—  From God’s point of view, it’s not if   we encounter problems, but when we encounter problems. James   1:2 says, “Consider it pure joy, my   brothers, whenever you face trials.”

 

•     The Illustration: A person is not   permitted to say, “I am very ill because of a heart attack.” Instead you must   say, “I am healed of the heart attack.”

—  Tragically, thousands of people have died   because they were taught that seeking medical help is a “sin” and a “denial   of faith.”

 

 

 

•     The Illustration: Problem drinkers   need to admit that they have a problem. The first step in treating alcoholics   is helping them to acknowledge, “I am an alcoholic.” Then they can move from   the problem to the solution.

—  Jesus calls everyone to “repent,”   acknowledging that there is something negative within each person that needs   to be changed.

 

•     The Problem: Reality is denied.   Life is filled with problems: the man who lost his job, the woman whose   husband abuses her, the parents who have lost a child to suicide.

—  A healthy self-image will not erase these   situations. Refusing to acknowledge reality is not only unbiblical, but at   times it can be life-threatening.

 

 

 

•     The Promise: Problems in your life   may be used by God to build character so that His character can be reflected   in you. “We know that suffering   produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope   does not disappoint us” (Romans 5:3–5).

—  Such a hope can carry you through any   problem. “Our light and momentary   troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”   (2 Corinthians 4:17).

 

C. What Are the Causes of Sickness and Suffering?

Trophimus had served in the trenches with Paul. In fact, he had traveled with Paul on his missionary journeys. And as an Ephesian, he had been the target of a Jewish uproar that falsely accused Paul of bringing a Gentile into the temple area and defiling the holy place.

Although Paul had performed many miraculous healings in his ministry, when the two parted ways, Paul pronounced, “I left Trophimus sick” (2 Timothy 4:20). Obviously, Paul couldn’t order healing on the spot … because it hadn’t been ordained from above.

•     Sin can cause sickness: Sometimes illness is the normal consequence of sin.

—  Adam and Eve’s disobedience before God (original sin) brought the reality of sickness, pain, and death into the life of everyone. (Read Genesis chapter 3.)

—  Our wrong choices and our sins can carry consequences of sickness and death. (God does not cause sickness as a punishment, but He may allow it as a natural consequence.) The Lord’s Supper (Eucharist or Communion) represents the forgiveness received because of Jesus’ having died on the cross for our sins. Yet the Bible describes possible repercussions on those who have taken the Lord’s Supper greedily and treated it as a pagan feast.

“Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep [died].” (1 Corinthians 11:27–30)

•     Satan can cause sickness: God can allow Satan limited power to cause affliction.

—  Although Job was called “blameless” by God, still God allowed him to be afflicted by Satan.

“The Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.’ ‘Skin for skin!’ Satan replied. ‘A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.’ The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.’ ” (Job 2:3–6)

—  Although Paul was a man of great faith, God allowed His servant Paul to be afflicted by Satan.

“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7)

•     Spiritual Growth can be God’s plan for sickness: God’s purpose for suffering is the strengthening of faith.

—  The Lord uses affliction to help us learn what He has said.

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” (Psalm 119:71)

—  The Lord uses affliction to teach us to obey what He has said.

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.” (Psalm 119:67)

•     Spiritual Glory can be God’s plan for sickness: The result of suffering can bring great glory to God.

—  As a Christian, your right response to illness will bring honor to God. (Job’s integrity, throughout his suffering, brought glory to God.)

“Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, ‘Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!’ He replied, ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’ In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.” (Job 2:7–10)

—  God is honored through the blessing of a supernatural healing. (The blind man’s healing brought glory to God.)

“He [a blind man] called out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ … Jesus asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Lord, I want to see,’ he replied. Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.” (Luke 18:38–43)

D. Is Miraculous Healing “in the Atonement”?

Many Word-Faith leaders teach that any illness will be miraculously healed by Jesus as long as a person has enough faith. Why? Because they say, “Healing is in the atonement.” They state that because Jesus healed all the sick who came to Him when He was on earth, all people who come to Him today for healing will be healed. The scriptural justification given is Matthew chapter 8, where Jesus is recorded as healing all the sick.

“When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.’ ”

(Matthew 8:16–17)

•     This passage in Matthew chapter 8 refers to an Old Testament Messianic prophecy from Isaiah chapter 53 that describes the life and death of Jesus, the Messiah.

“He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities: the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4–5)

•     The meaning of the word “fulfill” in the Matthew passage resolves the misunderstandings about this verse. Therefore, consider the following illustration to clarify the meaning of this passage in Isaiah:

Illustration: If you have bought a house and signed a 20-year mortgage contract, after you make the last payment, the contract will have been fulfilled.

—  If the company calls requesting you to continue paying the monthly rate, would you comply? Of course not! The contract was “fulfilled” and no longer binding upon you.

—  In the same way, Isaiah’s prophecy was “fulfilled” in Matthew 8:17. Just as it would be incorrect to expect you to keep making mortgage payments after the contract had been fulfilled—after the debt had been “paid in full”—it would be incorrect to assume that Jesus would keep healing all the sick after He fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy.

•     The Messianic prophecy of His healing all the sick had been fulfilled in the
person of Jesus in order to prove to the people that He was indeed the promised Messiah.

Prosperity Theology: Based on Christ’s death on the cross, God’s will is that Christians always be healthy and well.

Biblical Truth: Some who proclaim the Prosperity Gospel believe that all sickness and disease are from the devil and that it is not God’s will for Christians to have physical maladies. If their followers become sick, it is either because they do not have enough faith or because they are in sin. If their followers go to a doctor, it is an indication of a lack of faith.

Prosperity teachers employ two parallel verses to back up their beliefs that all Christians should be healthy:

1)   “He [Jesus] was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds [or stripes] we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

2)   “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds [or stripes] you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

The healing mentioned in these passages refers to sin rather than physical ailments.

•     Through His death, believers have been healed from sin.

•     Jesus authenticated His message through signs and wonders, one of which was healing.

•     Jesus both demonstrated and fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 53:4–5 by healing infirmities and diseases. This physical healing was a physical picture of the spiritual healing that He would perform on the cross as He paid the price for the sins of the human race in full.

—  In a fallen world, Christians get sick. Nowhere in the Scriptures is complete healing taught as a “right” for true believers. Neither Paul nor his associates experienced perfect health. And their sickness was not attributed to a lack of faith. Furthermore, God is not obligated to, nor does He promise to heal anyone.

E. What Is the Root Cause of Confusion about Prosperity?

They were all “prosperous” men … but their prosperity could be seen only through spiritual eyes. PaulTimothyTrophimusEpaphroditus.… They possessed nothing that would catch the attention of the world. Their prosperity was spiritual, not physical. Their wealth was internal, not external. And each man—each committed Christian—heeded Jesus’ call …

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.… Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”

(Matthew 6:19–20)

Wrong Belief:

“As a child of God, I have the right to ask of God whatever I want and, in faith, expect to receive whatever I request. Since God intends for His children to be healthy, wealthy, and prosperous, I will exercise my faith in what I want, and I know that I will receive it.”

Right Belief:

“As a child of God, I know I can trust Him to meet my deepest inner needs and fulfill His plan for my life. Since I am no longer ‘my own’ but I belong to Christ, my deepest desire is to be conformed to the character of Christ … to love with His love and care with His care.”

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20)

 

IV.  Steps to Solution

Jesus told a parable … a parable that flies in the face of Prosperity Theology, being completely counter to it.

Lazarus was a righteous man who knew nothing of “health and wealth.” He was a beggar who lay at the gate of a rich man “longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table” (Luke 16:21). His body was covered with sores that dogs came and licked.

The unrighteous rich man—dressed in the finest garb of regal purples and fine linen—lived in continual luxury. However, eternity for the two men would be just as different as how they spent their days on earth. The rich man was told …

“Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.”

(Luke 16:25)

A. Key Verse to Memorize

“Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.”

(Proverbs 30:8)

B. Key Passage to Read and Reread

This powerful chapter not only refutes the Prosperity Teaching, but it also goes as far as to declare that false teachers proclaim, “Godliness is a means to financial gain.”

1 Timothy 6:3–19

•     False teachers are conceited and   understand nothing.

 

vv. 3–4

 

•     False teaching leads to envy, strife,   malicious talk, evil suspicions, and friction.

 

vv. 4–5

 

•     False teachers have been robbed of the   truth.

 

v. 5

 

•     False teachers think that godliness is a   means to financial gain!

 

v. 5

 

•     Godliness with contentment is great gain.

 

v. 6

 

•     We come into and leave this world with   nothing.

 

v. 7

 

•     We can be content with only food and   clothing.

 

v. 8

 

•     Those who seek riches plunge into ruin   and destruction.

 

v. 9

 

•     The love of money is a root of all kinds   of evil.

 

v. 10

 

•     Those eager for money have wandered from   the faith.

 

v. 10

 

•     Those who love money bring grief into   their lives.

 

v. 10

 

•     Those who belong to God are to flee   riches and pursue godly character.

 

v. 11

 

•     Those who belong to God are to fight the   good fight of the faith.

 

v. 12

 

•     Those who belong to God are to keep   themselves pure until Christ returns.

 

vv. 13–14

 

•     God is the blessed and only Ruler, King   of kings, Lord of lords.

 

v. 15

 

•     God alone is immortal, and to Him belong   honor and might forever.

 

v. 16

 

•     God commands the rich to not be arrogant   or to put their hope in wealth.

 

v. 17

 

•     God commands us to put our hope in Him,   who richly provides for our enjoyment.

 

v. 17

 

•     God commands that we be rich in good   deeds and share generously.

 

v. 18

 

•     God desires that we lay up treasure for   the coming age and take hold of true life.

 

v. 19

 

C. Does Taking Medicine Demonstrate a Lack of Faith in God?

No, medication is biblical. Our Creator placed medicinal properties within His creation—within nature. You can certainly exercise faith in God and, at the same time, be grateful to God for designing medicine for healing. Though not all people who take medicine are healed, the Bible clearly states that God made leaves for healing” (Ezekiel 47:12).

While we look to God for our healing, the Bible also presents numerous types of natural remedies that have been obviously helpful, even in biblical times.

•     Balm: Spoken of in a positive way by Jeremiah, a “balm in Gilead. Gilead was a region of ancient Palestine known for its fragrant oleoresin balm that was produced by the small African and Asian evergreen trees in Gilead. Generally, a balm is that which soothes, relieves, or heals. Specifically a balm is a balsamic resin or an aromatic healing ointment known for its soothing, restorative properties.

The Lord speaks through Jeremiah to the people of Judah, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?” … Later the Lord speaks against the Egyptian army, “Go up to Gilead and get balm.” … And finally, the Lord speaks about Babylon … “Babylon will suddenly fall and be broken. Wail over her! Get balm for her pain; perhaps she can be healed” (Jeremiah 8:22; 46:11; 51:8).

—  Jacob, seeking to buy grain, asked his sons to take to Egypt “some of the best products of the land … a little balm … some spices and myrrh” (Genesis 43:11).

—  After the Israeli army received a strong reprimand from a godly prophet for unjustly killing and plundering their kinsmen, the captives were released and “provided … clothes and sandals, food and drink, and healing balm” (2 Chronicles 28:15).

—  In conclusion, while God is the ultimate Healer, He also recognizes and speaks positively about physically healing balms.

•     Aloes: Valued medicinally because they are known to be effective …

—  as a laxative because of their high fiber content

—  in healing burns and superficial wounds

—  in preventing infection of wounds

—  as a topical treatment for sunburn, frostbite, radiation injuries, some types of dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, cuts, abrasions, and other dermatological problems

—  as a remedy for coughs, ulcers, gastritis, diabetes, and headaches

•     Myrrh: Mentioned in the Bible many times along with aloes and has a wide variety of medicinal values …

—  for wounds, bruises, bleeding

—  for increasing circulation, heart rate, and strength

—  as a treatment for amenorrhea, dysmenorrheal, menopause, and uterine tumors

—  as a treatment for loose teeth, gingivitis, and bad breath, also as relief for toothaches

—  as one of the most effective disinfectants

—  as an antifungal to treat athlete’s foot and candida

—  as an incense burned to repel mosquitoes

•     Salve: Angel’s instruction to the Church of the Lord in Laodicea to buy “salve to put on your eyes, so you can see” (Revelation 3:18).

•     Wine: Has numerous medicinal effects.

—  Wine acts as an antiseptic. The Good Samaritan takes pity on a beaten and wounded man—he “bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine” (Luke 10:34).

—  Wine aids the digestive track. Paul tells Timothy, “Use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses” (1 Timothy 5:23).

D. Is Divine Healing Guaranteed for Everyone Who Has Faith?

Faith Tabernacle was founded in 1987 in Philadelphia during a religious revival. What had promised fresh new life rings with cruel irony, for what the 18,000-member church has actually delivered is death.

The church states that the Bible opposes all surgical and medical procedures. Perhaps no family’s “faith” has been put through the fire of testing from this skewed doctrine more than that of the Winterbournes. Five of the family’s children died from pneumonia between 1971 and 1980 due to a lack of medical attention.

Roger Winterbourne, the children’s father, steadfastly supported the church’s dangerous doctrine following the deaths. “When you believe in something, you have to believe it all the way. If you only believe in it part way, it’s not a true belief.”

Dennis Nixon may have enjoyed a little prestige as the pastor’s son at Faith Tabernacle, but he probably found none of it in prison, where his “prayers alone” philosophy put him. He and his wife, Lorie, contributed to the deaths of two of their 12 children, both of which could easily have been prevented.

Their eight-year-old son died in 1991 from an ear infection, and their sixteen-year-old daughter died in 1996 from diabetes acidosis when her blood sugar levels rose twelvefold.

One major tenet of the Prosperity Gospel asserts that physical suffering will always be alleviated with the proper amount of faith in God’s healing power. With a “name it—claim it” mindset, all we need to do is name the needed healing and, in faith, claim the healing in the name of Jesus, and we will be healed. However …

#1  The apostle Paul was not miraculously healed.

Paul records that he had a “thorn in my flesh” and “three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.” However, the Lord’s answer was no. Instead, He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:7–9).

—  Paul, considered the world’s greatest Christian missionary, was not healed when he asked God. Obviously, it was not because Paul did not have enough faith. Neither was it because God lacked the power to heal him.

—  Healing did not occur because God had a purpose for Paul to experience this malady. Paul’s explanation of the purpose was: “to keep me from becoming conceited” (v. 7).

#2  Timothy was not miraculously healed.

Paul told Timothy, his son in the faith, “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses” (1 Timothy 5:23).

—  If the cure for all physical problems is prayer, why did Paul recommend the medicinal cure of that day for that ailment? (Wine has medicinal properties.)

—  If Timothy simply did not have enough faith, why did Paul not address his lack of faith?

—  Paul recommended that Timothy take wine because he knew that God does not heal every sickness and ailment that occurs.

—  Since Timothy had “frequent illnesses,” why didn’t Paul heal him completely?

#3  Epaphroditus was not miraculously healed.

Paul told the people in the Philippian church, “Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs.… Is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him … also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.… And I may have less anxiety.… He almost died for the work of Christ” (Philippians 2:25–30).

—  If Epaphroditus simply did not have enough faith, why didn’t Paul address his lack of faith?

—  If Paul had the power to heal in the name of Jesus, why didn’t Paul immediately heal him?

—  Instead of Paul’s allowing Epaphroditus to be ill and to feel “distressed” because they “heard he was ill” (v. 26), why didn’t Paul instantly heal him?

—  Instead of Paul’s taking a passive position toward his brother’s illness saying, “But God had mercy on him, and not on him only, but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow” (v. 27), why didn’t Paul mercifully heal him?

—  Instead of Paul’s thinking, much less saying, that he was spared “sorrow upon sorrow” (v. 27), why would he need to be “spared” if he could name and claim healing?

—  Instead of sending him back so that Paul would “have less anxiety” (v. 28), why didn’t Paul completely heal him?

—  Instead of allowing his friend to get to the point of death—where “he almost died” (v. 30), why didn’t Paul initially heal him?

#4  Trophimus was not miraculously healed.

Paul traveled on his last missionary journey with his companion Trophimus. But then, Paul wrote to Timothy, “I left Trophimus sick in Miletus” (2 Timothy 4:20).

—  If Paul had the power to heal in the name of Jesus, why did he refuse to heal his friend?

—  If Paul believed positive confessions would bring about healing, why didn’t he say, “I left Trophimus healthy in Miletus”?

—  If Paul knew that healing cloths would heal people, why didn’t he use a healing cloth to heal his friend?

—  If Paul believed negative confessions would seal a person’s doom, why did Paul state, “I left Trophimus sick in Miletus”?

Question: “When people pray in faith for divine healing and then over time the person slowly and progressively gets better, is this considered an act of miraculous healing from God?”

Answer: In the Bible, every illustration of “miraculous healing” results in immediate and complete healing. Consequently, “progressive healing” is not in the same category as miraculous divine healing.

—  By God’s design, the physical body has the marvelous capacity to heal and restore itself over time.

—  Although God always has the power to heal anyone, at any time, He does not always choose to heal—even in spite of their total faith.

—  The scriptural promise is this: When we ask anything “according to God’s will, we will receive what we ask of Him.

Therefore, the answer to our prayers (whether a yes or no) is not based merely on our faith, but more so on God’s will in the situation.

“This is the confidence that we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:14–15)

E. Questions about Healing

Colleen Bates was pregnant with her thirteenth child when her thirteen-year-old daughter died.

Amanda died needlessly, neglectfully, from complications related to untreated diabetes. After the county coroner confirmed that her death was directly due to the withholding of medical treatment by her parents, her death was classified as a homicide.

The Bates couple had previously lost another child (three-month-old Gerald, who died of sudden infant death syndrome), but they had not been held responsible because his death could not have been prevented with medical care. Amanda’s case, however, was different.… Her massive infection was unmistakable.… It could have been readily diagnosed and treated by physicians. Instead, as in the case of so many other children, her parents provided only prayer and oil.

The remaining 10 Bates children subsequently underwent physical examinations, and it was determined that four had strep throat that, if left untreated, could have led to serious consequences … possibly death.

The apostle Paul exhorted his beloved Timothy to …

“Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.”

(1 Timothy 5:23)

Question: “Is going to a medical doctor demonstrating a lack of faith in God to heal?”

Answer: Going to see a competent doctor is not wrong when a medical evaluation or treatment is needed. Why? Read the Bible with a discerning spirit, and then let your decision making be based on what the Lord God says.

—  Nowhere in the Bible is getting help from a physician forbidden.

—  In Genesis 50:2 Joseph obtained help from “physicians” to embalm his father.

—  In Jeremiah 8:22 the Lord poses three questions to the unrepentant people of Judah: “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?”

The implication of this word picture is that the very ministering presence of medical doctors serves to promote true healing.

—  Colossians 4:14 reveals the profession of the writer of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts—“Our dear friend Luke, the doctor.” According to the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, the rabbis required that every town have at least one physician.

—  In Matthew 9:12 Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Although the context of this passage is actually spiritual—as Jesus alluded to Himself as a doctor—still, the implication is only positive about the role of medical doctors.

—  To present a balanced picture …

»    Mark 5:26 makes it clear that doctors—in practicing their skills—at times were unable to bring about healing. Nevertheless, their profession was not belittled in the Bible.

»    The man named Job says about his three worthless friends, “You, however, smear me with lies; you are worthless physicians, all of you!” (Job 13:4).

»    In 2 Chronicles 16:12, we see that the focus of King Asa was misplaced: “Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians.” How short-sighted he was! If some physical condition seems abnormal, seeking an evaluation of treatment from a medical doctor is in no way unbiblical. Pray for discernment as to what the Lord is leading you to do.

“The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction.” (Proverbs 16:21)

Question: “I expected a miracle when I prayed with faith. Why am I not healed?”

Answer: God can heal anyone, at any time, in any way. However, many godly people of genuine faith do not receive physical healing. When was the last time you met a Christian who was two, three, or four hundred years old? God’s will, not our own, must be accomplished, and our focus is misplaced if we are preoccupied with physical healing.

“To him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20–21)

Question: “If I truly follow Christ and pray with total faith, doesn’t the Bible say that I will be blessed with health, wealth, and problem-free living?”

Answer: No. The Bible clearly reveals that Jesus and the Apostles, who truly gave their lives to Christ, did not experience health, wealth, and problem-free living. But Scripture does state that when you “share in the sufferings of Christ,” you are blessed by God.

“Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” (1 Peter 4:13–14)

Question: “I have been told that the death of my child was a result of my lack of faith—but I did have faith she would be healed. Did I really cause her death?”

Answer: If death is caused by a lack of faith, then was the death of Jesus a result of His lack of faith? Was the death of all the heroes of the faith due to a lack of their faith … or a lack of their parents’ faith? Obviously not.

The answer to your question is no; you were not the cause of your daughter’s death. The Bible says,

—  God holds the keys to death.

“I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:18)

—  God had already determined the exact length of her life … even to her last day.

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)

—  You could not have extended her time here on earth.

“Man’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” (Job 14:5)

Question: “Is it okay to pray for miraculous healing?”

Answer: Yes, absolutely. It is biblical to present your request to God for full restoration. It is also biblical to pray as Jesus prayed, “Father … not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). If it is God’s will, you will receive what you asked … but, again, only if it is God’s will.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:14–15)

Question: “Why would a loving God want me to suffer?”

Answer: God does not delight in your suffering, but He allows suffering in order to refine your faith, to develop Christ’s character in you, and to bring glory to Himself.

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6–7)

F.  Afflictions: A Blessing or a Curse?

She had hoped to walk away from the healing service, but instead she was whisked away.

Joni Eareckson Tada, wheelchair-bound but holding out hope for a miracle, believed her moment had come. At some point during the service, perhaps while testimonies were shared or choruses were sung, she surely would sense a powerful surge permeating and restoring her body, prompting her to walk away from her wheelchair—forever. That diving accident in 1967 would become an oh-so-distant memory.

But the words of an usher soon dashed expectations, not only for Joni, but also for about 40 others in wheelchairs or on crutches who were hoping for healing. “Let’s escort you all out early so as not to create a traffic jam,” he directed as other ushers joined in to assist in the exodus.

It was a very solemn stream of individuals who left the arena that day. All the while, the service droned on behind them and Joni remembers thinking, Something’s wrong with this picture.

After years of praying for healing and wrestling with Scripture, Joni has found peace and a resolute commitment to the lordship of Jesus Christ in her life. “Suffering is that good sheepdog, always snapping at my heels and driving me into the arms of my Shepherd. For that, I am so grateful. I am so grateful.”

Joni is the founder of Joni and Friends, a ministry geared toward facilitating the evangelizing and discipling of people with disabilities.

Although sometimes faced with extreme adversity in this temporal world, the Christian can find not only meaning and purpose in that adversity now, but also an eternal glory in the next life.

“Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

(2 Corinthians 4:17–18)

•     Afflictions soften your heart toward obeying God’s Word.

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.” (Psalm 119:67)

•     Afflictions open your heart to make you more teachable.

“I know, O Lord, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” (Psalm 119:75)

•     Afflictions humble your heart to
keep you from being conceited.

“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7)

•     Afflictions uncover your heart’s weakness so that Christ is your strength.

The Lord said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul then responds, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

•     Affliction gives your heart a desire for eternal values.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

(James 1:12)

G. How Do You Participate in God’s Plan?

After examining God’s Word, it is evident that God’s will is not that every believer experience good health or possess great wealth. Our bodies and our things are destined to turn to dirt! God’s plan for us is that we entrust our lives to Him and let Him work in and through us to accomplish His purposes for us. We are to trust Him with our lives, and His Spirit works in and through us to accomplish His will.

“It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

(Philippians 2:13)

Trust Him

Thank God for what He has given to you.

“Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19–20)

Rest in God as your Provider.

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Timothy 6:17)

Uphold God’s perspective on possessions.

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

Seek God’s provision in each and every circumstance.

“The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen.” (Isaiah 43:20)

Trust in God and not in what you possess.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7)

Honor God with what He gives to you.

“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.… Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” (Acts 4:32; 2:45)

Invest in heavenly treasures not in earthly things.

“You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.” (Hebrews 10:34)

Manage well what God entrusts to your care.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” (Luke 16:10)

H. What Is the Right Focus on Faith?

Faith is paramount to those who have adopted the Word of Faith Theology. Therefore, what do we learn when we look in the Bible for those known for their faith? Did those mentioned receive extraordinary health, wealth, and success?

The premier place to see faith in action is the Hebrews chapter 11 passage, often called “The Hall of Faith.” A closer look reveals that most of those mentioned were ultimately persecuted, poor, or imprisoned. Verse 36 says, “Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.”

These biblical heroes of the faith in no way received the wealth promised from Word-Faith teachers—they in no way succeeded with Word-Faith success. Hebrews chapter 11 continues to describe those honored with distinction for their faith …

“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. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.”

(Hebrews 11:36–39)

•     Our faith is to be placed in Jesus Christ, as we yield our will to His will.

•     Our faith is not to be in our faith!

When Jesus faced death, He prayed to His heavenly Father, “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Therefore, if we want to be Christlike, we too should pray for God’s will, not ours, to be done.

Conclusion: This man knew both plenty and poverty. His goal was not to accumulate earthly possessions, but heavenly treasures. Single and almost always on the go, he didn’t take time to enjoy “things,” but he certainly enjoyed special people in his life. His investment wasn’t in the “stock market” of his day, but in the souls of those with whom he came in contact.

He once commanded myriads of servants … the wealth of the world was his to enjoy, but he left his magnificent residence and became a whittler of wood. Yet his fame reached around the world, and his name continues to be revered. His name is … Jesus.

“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

(Proverbs 22:1)

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Alcorn, Randy. Money Possessions and Eternity. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1989.

Closson, Don. “The Stairway to Heaven: Materialism and the Church.” 2001. Probe. http://www.probe.org/docs/stairway.html

Crabb, Lawrence J., Jr. Understanding People: Deep Longings for Relationship. Ministry Resources Library. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987.

Getz, Gene A. A Biblical Theology of Material Possessions. Chicago: Moody, 1990.

Getz, Gene A. Real Prosperity. Chicago: Moody, 1990.

Hunt, Dave, and T. A. McMahon. The Seduction of Christianity: Spiritual Discernment in the Last Days. Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1985.

Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008

MacArthur, John, Jr. Mastering Materialism. Panorama City, CA: Word of Grace Communications, 1983.

McGee, Robert S. The Search for Significance. 2nd ed. Houston, TX: Rapha, 1990.

Schneider, John. Godly Materialism: Rethinking Money and Possessions. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1994.[1]

 


[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Prosperity Gospel: False Teachers-False Hope! (1–35). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

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2 thoughts on “Christian Biblical Counsel: PROSPERITY GOSPEL

  1. Vincent Duncombe

    Thanks for this post. I do think that there are a lot of pitfalls in the traditional prosperity doctrine. However, I also think that as Bible believing Christians we have done a poor job at explaining how the texts that the prosperity teachers use actually relate to the Bible’s overall teaching on the subject of money. Because of this the prosperity preachers have been given a free pass because we have only been saying they are wrong and not explaining how we should understand the texts about prosperity. This must change in order to win those back from such a dangerous doctrine.

    Reply
    1. Truth2Freedom Post author

      Thank you for your comment and timely suggestion. I do agree with you on the point you’ve made regarding the proper theological explanation of the bible verses that are used by the prosperity teachers. Unfortunately, many who become ensnared by this false doctrine of the prosperity gospel, as well as other false doctrines, are those have not taken the responsibility to explore or examine the scriptures for themselves. They have entrusted this task along with their gullible and naïve confidence to the teachers and proponents of these false doctrines. For many, the charismatic and attractive nature or teachings of the false teacher becomes a much easier or attractive god to believe in than the one found in scripture.

      Reply

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