If you really love someone and want to help them, you tell them the truth. If you don’t really care about others and just want to help yourself, then you tell them a lie. Regrettably this can happen even in the pulpit. We have plenty of preachers and teachers who tell people only what they want to hear, not what they need to hear.
This indicates not only a lack of love, but a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The true Christian leader always proclaims the whole counsel of God, and does not cherry pick Scripture in order to please his listeners and tickle their ears. He tells it like it is, regardless of how hard the word and how unpalatable the truth.
There would be plenty of examples of those who exist simply to please men and make them feel good. Let me mention just one. Joel Osteen has the largest church in America. And that should come as no surprise, since he has made a career out of telling people exactly what they want to hear.
He of course is the author of numerous bestsellers which all have the exact same message. Here are some of them:
Your Best Life Now
Your Best Life Begins Each Morning
Become a Better You
It’s Your Time: Activate Your Faith, Achieve Your Dreams, and Increase in God’s Favor
You Can, You Will
Every Day a Friday: How to Be Happier 7 Days a Week
The Power of I Am
Think Better, Live Better
Just think happy and successful and wealthy thoughts and you will be happy and successful and wealthy. All this is Norman Vincent Peale and positive thinking on steroids. All this is identical to New Age thought which says we can script our own destiny and create our own reality. All this is Christian Science mind-over-matter mumbo jumbo.
Osteen has spent decades telling his faithful followers that they can be happy, wealthy, healthy, successful, and have anything they want. They can have a great career, a great life, a great family, a great self-image, a great bottom line, and even a great waistline.
But one simply has to go back to the Bible to see just how far off the rails all this is. Anyone reading the New Testament without rose-coloured – or Osteen-coloured – glasses on will know that a pain-free, easy-going life is nowhere promised to the disciple of Christ.
To illustrate this, let me simply offer some quotes from three sources; Osteen, Jesus and Paul. You decide who to run with here, and who to give a wide berth.
Here are some promises and claims of Osteen (all taken from his 2013 book, I Declare: Proclaiming the Promises of God Over Your Life):
He promised He will not only bring your dreams to pass but He will give you even the secret desires of your heart.
I will give birth to every promise God put in my heart.
I DECLARE God’s dream for my life is coming to pass. It will not be stopped by people, disappointments, or adversities. God has solutions to every problem I will ever face already lined up. The right people and the right breaks are in my future. I will fulfill my destiny.
I will be in the right place at the right time. People will go out of their way to be good to me. I am surrounded by God’s favor.
I am full of power, strength, and determination. Nothing I face will be too much for me. I will overcome every obstacle, outlast every challenge, and come through every difficulty better off than I was before.
I am a breakthrough person and I choose to live breakthrough minded. I am expecting God to overwhelm me with His goodness and amaze me with His favor.
I am blessed. I’m strong. I’m healthy.
I choose to live my life happy, bloom where I am planted, and let God fight my battles.
Just act like you’re blessed, talk like you’re blessed, walk like you’re blessed, think like you’re blessed, smile like you’re blessed, dress like you’re blessed.
You need to prepare for an exceeding, abundant, above-and-beyond life; a life where people go out of their way for no reason to be good to you; a life where you get promoted even though you weren’t the most qualified; a life where you find yourself in the right place at the right time.
I’m not speaking defeat into my future. I’m not speaking failure over my life. I will turn it around and speak favor into my future. I will declare, “I’m blessed. I’m strong. I’m healthy. This will be a great year.” When you do that, you are blessing your future.
Here are some promises and claims of Jesus:
Matthew 5:3-4, 10 Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 10:16-18, 21-23 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles…. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.
Mark 13:9-13 You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
Luke 6:20-23 Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
Luke 21:16-17 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me.
John 15:18-21 If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.
John 16:2-4 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you.
John 17:14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.
Revelation 2:10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.
Here are some promises and claims of Paul:
Acts 9:15-16 But the Lord said to Ananias [concerning Saul], “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Romans 5:3-4 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
1 Corinthians 1:27-29 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
1 Corinthians 2:2-3 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.
1 Corinthians 15:30-32 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained?
2 Corinthians 4:8-12 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 Therefore I 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.
Galatians 6:14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Philippians 1:12-14 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
Phil 1:20-21 I eagerly expectand hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body,whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Phil 3:7-8 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ
Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.
1 Thessalonians 3:4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.
2 Timothy 3:12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
So who do we run with here?
As should be quite evident, the New Testament nowhere guarantees a life free of hardship, difficulty, trials, opposition and persecution. It promises them over and over again. And it nowhere talks about believers seeking to be happy – it does talk a lot about believers seeking to be holy.
Sure, the NT does speak of being filled with the joy of the Lord. But such joy is the result of being in Christ, doing his will, and being obedient to him. And doing his will and being obedient usually results in great suffering, hardship, persecution and tribulation.
Let me conclude with a sobering headline making the rounds the past few days. As one write-up on this puts it: “During the year 2016, some 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith around the world, according to a new study from the Turin-based Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR).”
Try telling these believers, or their families and friends who are still alive, about having your best life now. Try telling them if they just think happy and positive thoughts they can be winners and grinners every day. Try telling them if they just had more faith and put aside all negative thinking, they too could be wealthy and successful and obtain all their dreams.
I have said it before and I will say it again: the health and wealth gospel in general, and the bubble gum theology being pushed by folks like Osteen, are leading millions of people astray. Indeed, they are leading millions of people to a lost eternity.
We can either run with Jesus and Paul, or we can run with folks like Osteen. I know which ones I will be sticking with.