Are Prosperity Preachers Proclaiming the True Gospel?

 

 

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!   Mt 7:11

If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?   Lk 12:28

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.   3 Jn 1:2

The above three verses from God’s Word should be enough to convince even a diehard of a traditional Christian that the prosperity preachers are preaching the right good tidings.

But these verses aren’t convincing enough for the traditionalists.

Prosperity-promoting evangelists are derisively referred to as ‘health-wealth-stealth’ preachers by the poverty preachers (I don’t have an official term for the non-prosperity preachers). The ‘stealth’ is not verbally articulated by the traditionalists, but it is loudly declared in their attitude toward their fellow evangelists in the prosperity party of the gospel, because they think this is how health-wealth preachers inveigle themselves into the hearts of gullible people looking for some God-divulged way to escape their penury.

I have three children. I want them to be in the pink of health, have elegant homes with ornate stairways in the midst of beautiful surroundings, with lots of money so they need never be in want and get into debt. I want them to wear clothes that are chic, made of the best fabric and styled by the best designers. I want the best of everything in life for my kids. Why? Because I love them more than my life.

But God says he too loves to give my children good gifts, except that in his case he wants to give them ‘much more’ – beyond what I humanly could ever do. And my Father has already proven to me ‘how much more’ he is willing to give good gifts to my kids, and of course, to me as well.

This is exactly the message that prosperity preachers like Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Jesse Duplantis, T. D. Jakes, Kenneth Hagin, Oral Roberts, and thousands of others of their preaching ilk, are telling their congregations week after week, telecast after telecast. So why are they attacked en masse by other equally earnest Christians?

So, am I too a prosperity preacher? Not quite.

Is Joel Osteen influencing his congregation to commit sin or is he encouraging them to keep God’s commandments?

What exactly is the ‘prosperity gospel’?

Wikipedia gives a blunt but reasonably factual description of this relatively new theology, which I believe is true in the majority of the cases of prosperity preaching I have observed:

Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the prosperity gospel or the health and wealth gospel) is a Christian religious doctrine that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will always increase one’s material wealth. Based on non-traditional interpretations of the Bible, often with emphasis on the Book of Malachi, the doctrine views the Bible as a contract between God and humans: if humans have faith in God, he will deliver his promises of security and prosperity. Confessing these promises to be true is perceived as an act of faith, which God will honor.

Wealth is interpreted in prosperity theology as a blessing from God, obtained through a spiritual law of positive confession, visualization, and donations. This process is often taught in almost mechanical terms; Kenneth Copeland, an American author and televangelist, argues that prosperity is governed by laws, while other teachers portray the process formulaically. Journalists David van Biema and Jeff Chu of Time have described Word of Faith pastor Creflo Dollar’s teachings about prosperity as an inviolable contract between God and humanity.

The doctrine emphasizes the importance of personal empowerment, proposing that it is God’s will for his people to be happy. The atonement is interpreted to include the alleviation of sickness and poverty, which are viewed as curses to be broken by faith. This is believed to be achieved through visualization and positive confession, and is often taught in mechanical and contractual terms. Positive confession is the doctrine that believers may claim whatever they desire from God, simply by speaking it. Prosperity theology teaches that the Bible has promised prosperity for believers, so positive confession means that believers are speaking in faith what God has already spoken about them. Positive confession is practiced to bring about what is already believed in; faith itself is a confession, and speaking it brings it into reality.

Prosperity churches place a strong emphasis on the importance of giving. Services commonly include two sermons, one of which focuses on giving and prosperity, including Biblical references to tithing; a second sermon on another topic follows the offering. Prosperity church leaders often bestow a specific blessing on the money being donated, some have even been reported to instruct worshipers to hold their donations above their heads during the prayer.

Churches in which the prosperity gospel is taught are often non-denominational and usually directed by a sole pastor or leader, although some have developed multi-church networks that bear similarities to denominations. Such churches typically set aside extended time to teach about giving and request donations from the congregation, encouraging positive speech and faith.

Prosperity theology has been criticized by leaders in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, as well as other Christian denominations. These leaders maintain that it is irresponsible, promotes idolatry, and is contrary to Scripture. Some critics have proposed that prosperity theology cultivates authoritarian organizations, with the leaders controlling the lives of the adherents.

That, in essence, sums up the doctrine and ministry of prosperity preachers.

I have listened to many preachings by such preachers and have studied literature sent out by their churches. In fact, I think God used one of them, Kenneth Copeland, many years ago to warn me of an urgent course of action I needed to take to avoid danger to my health. I enjoyed listening to Jesse Duplantis’ hilarious anecdotes and could never have enough of his messages. Even today, if I had the time, I would enjoy listening to him; I think he is the most entertaining preacher in this generation – one of the extremely few who do not cause me to involuntarily doze off in the middle of their sermons.

From all that I have heard and read from them, I can vouch that to this day I have not found any prosperity preacher teaching a single doctrine that would keep them out of the Kingdom of God.  I have not heard a single one of them condoning the breaking of any of God’s commandments. I have yet to hear any of them condoning, say, abortion, or homosexuality, which some great traditional churches, including the Anglican church and many Baptist churches, condone or even warmly embrace.

In 2002, the Diocese of New Westminster, in the Anglican Church of Canada, permitted the blessing of same-sex unions. In 2003 the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire elected an openly gay priest, Gene Robinson, as a bishop. This came shortly after a similar controversy in England when a gay priest, Canon Jeffrey John, was appointed to become the Suffragan Bishop of Reading. Eventually, however, John agreed to withdraw in order to avoid division. In 2004, in the aftermath of Robinson’s election as bishop, John was installed as Dean of St Albans, the cathedral there being the site of England’s first Christian martyr.

In a 2007 speech to theology students in Toronto, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, argued that conservatives have failed to consider the wider context of Romans 1:27, which states, “and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for error”. Williams pointed out that although St. Paul and his contemporaries viewed homosexual behavior “as obviously immoral as idol worship or disobedience to parents”, the main thrust of this passage is that humans must not judge one another for being sinful.   Wikipedia

When an Archbishop declares from his ecclesiastical high seat that what the Scriptures wrote was St. Paul’s and his contemporaries’ view, and by implication not necessarily the view of all Christianity, and that the main thrust of Paul’s message is not to condemn homosexuality but rather not to judge, we have a terrible Christian situation which the wealthiest of prosperity preachers will never put themselves in.

Now, here is my counsel to all people of God, who ‘desire the pure milk of the word’ 1 Pe 2:2 and who are eager ‘to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints’ Jude 1:3.

Understand that it is not the prosperity doctrine or their preachers themselves that is the problem. We don’t know their motives and only God knows how many of them are preaching out of their lust for wealth and fame, and how many out of their sincere conviction of God’s Word. But we can look at the fruits, and judge the fruits, for only by the fruits we can know if such teachings are good for us or not.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.   Mt 7:15-17

The fact is, the followers of prosperity preachers are producing both good fruit and bad fruit in their lives.

They produce good fruit when they understand that certain decisions and positive courses of action in their lives can lift them from a chronic sense of failure and hopelessness. Many are the testimonies of God’s people, including me, who have benefited from the teachings of these preachers. There is encouragement, there is upliftment, there are positive steps to counter negative influences in a person’s life. If that person sincerely strives to apply the teachings of their prosperous pastors, they too are likely to receive a measure of physical and financial blessings. And some of the more talented ones among their followers can themselves eventually become prosperous purveyors of the heath-wealth gospel.

God has nowhere forbidden his servants from owning one or more of the top of the class executive jets. But, then, Jesus did not prefer a sleek silver chariot to make his celebrated entrance to Jerusalem but chose a young donkey. Shown here a Cessna Citation X, preferred by some of the wealthier prosperity preachers.

Most prosperity preachers today are prosperous servants of God because they learned the art from the pioneers of this modern theology. Perhaps there are some who, after a deep study of the Scriptures and after much fasting and prayer, were given the revelation of the wealth-health gospel by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps.

In my case, after a several-year period of fascination working out the steps and laws and keys to the abundant life as taught by the merry preachers, I was eventually forced to my knees in fasting and prayer to seek on my own the real gospel from God’s Word. And what I write here is the result of what God has given me after I had fully surrendered my life to him.

So, beloved child of God, listen carefully to what I say here, and may God open your eyes as he did mine.

I mentioned that followers of the prosperity preachers can reap good fruits in their lives if they sincerely and consistently apply the teachings. If you are a founder of a company or a ceo, you will definitely benefit much from heeding the management advice of successful entrepreneurs such as Herbert Kelleher, or Peter Drucker, or Jack Welch, Lee Iacocca (to mention a few of the esteemed management teachers). The principles they espouse do bear fruits in the physical and financial spheres.

Kenneth Copeland pointed his finger at me from the TV screen, many years ago, and told me to “stop taking sugar in your life”. Even as I listened to him, I knew in my conscience I should begin to heed his advice immediately, but I postponed. Chocolates and ice-creams and cakes were the favorite foods in my life. Within a couple of years I became a diabetic, and today I have to consume tablets in the morning and pills in the evening to keep my blood glucose level normal. How I wished I had acted immediately on hearing God’s admonition through Copeland.

But many other teachings of the prosperity preachers I listened to in those days proved unfruitful, and had I continued to practice them, they would have had a spiritually disastrous effect on me and my family.

Now let me mention some of the bad fruits of prosperity preaching.

As I mentioned, I could not find one doctrine among the many prosperity teachings I heard that did not have the Bible as its source. That is, they are all factually and technically true.

Yes, the Bible says it is God’s will to bless you with abundant life. Yes, many of God’s greatest servants, like Abraham and Job were highly prosperous people. Yes, the book of Malachi encourages you to prove God’s faithfulness by offering your tithes to him, and you are promised that if you do, you will receive such a measure of blessings you won’t have room enough in your barns to receive them all.

And there lies the crux of the danger of prosperity preaching. It is not the truth or untruth of what is preached, but the focus and defocus of what is given to the congregation.

Have you considered the content of a prosperity sermon? It is 99 percent, probably more so, focused on how to be wealthy, healthy, happy, and successful as a Christian. It is not dissimilar to a self-improvement seminar presenter elaborating to his audience about the seven laws of financial success.

But didn’t Christ come for this very purpose?

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.   Jn 10:10

But there is a path every single born-again Christian has to walk before he or she can enter that abundant life. And no matter how many laws of abundance and success you earnestly apply in your life, that initial path is promised to be full of troubles and difficulties. It is a narrow path on a dangerous ledge, and if you are a normal human being, you are going to slip on that path many times, be badly bruised often, even seriously injured a few times, and perhaps once or twice even totter dangerously on the brink of a precipice. A few, like me, might actually even fall over the ledge into a deep abyss and think they are as good as dead.

If you want the abundant life, you are have to first walk the path that Christ walked.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”   Mt 16:24

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.   Lk 14:26-27

Maybe some prosperity preachers do quote these verses now and then, but if they want to reap all the benefits of preaching the prosperity gospel, they cannot dwell long on this troubling aspect of the gospel. Who wants to donate a thousand dollars to their favorite evangelist so he could buy a $20 million Cessna Citation X executive jet and go to other nations with the good news, or build a mansion with bathrooms equipped with gold-rimmed washbasins, if he going to keep telling his congregation that to receive this promised life of abundance they have to first give up even the few remaining abundance in their lives before they can follow Christ? If they preach that, they would see their offertories bringing hardly enough tithes even to hire a single-seater Piper aircraft.

What will the prosperity preacher preach to the children or the father of the woman who recently had to give up her life to follow Christ? Just three days before I began to write this message, I got the following news:

A Christian widow has been shot dead in her home in northeast Colombia by guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN).
On 7 January, as the family’s pastor finished an evening devotional in the home of widow, Alicia Castilla, assassins entered the home and opened fire on her with pistols, killing her instantly in front of her three children and her father. The attack occurred four months after the militant group sent Alicia their first demand to abandon her home in Colombia’s volatile Arauca department.
Before leaving the home, the guerrillas told Alicia’s son, 18-year-old Hernán, that the rest of the family had three days to leave the region. After that, the killers warned, they would return and kill other family members one by one.
Alicia’s death follows the murder of her husband, lay evangelist Nelson Ramos, two years before, in January 2011, also at the hands of the ELN. Ramos, who had come to faith in Christ two years before his death, often shared the gospel in Saravena, a town near Colombia’s border with Venezuela. A few months after his conversion, the ELN issued its first expulsion order against him and his family.   World Watch Monitor

What will the prosperity preacher preach to the young woman, Esther, whose father Graham Staines and two little brothers, Philip and Timothy, aged 11 and 9, were burnt alive in their vehicle by a mob of Hindu fanatics because they were preaching Christ to the villagers? Would the abundant life promoters tell her that had her father been applying the laws of visualization and positive confession in his life they could have averted the tragedy?

That greatest of all preachers after Christ…what was Paul’s focus in all his preachings? ‘but we preach Christ crucified’, he declared bluntly. 1 Cor 1:23.

The Christian life begins with not physical and financial euphoria. It begins by taking up the very cross that Christ himself carried and then following the path to Calvary, where you end up being crucified and liberated from your old life.

Sometimes the crucifixion ends with the literal death of the person, as in the case of Ramos and Alicia, and Staines. But far more often, the crucifixion ends with the death of the old self of a person, and this could, in the lives of some people, be as painful as a physical death on the cross.

He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.   Jn 12:25

To give up all your desires in life, and, if need be, even your wife and children if they stand as obstacles in your walk on the Christ path, requires a transformation of your attitude which is possible only by the working of the Holy Spirit in you. No man or woman can naturally die such a death so e can enter the eternally abundant life.

Prosperity preachers are not preaching the wrong gospel. But they are not preaching the full gospel. And they have got the order of God’s blessings in a Christian’s life all mixed up.

Preach the cross of Christ first. Let that be the first and great focus of all your sermons. Preach repentance from the self-life. Without surrendering the self-life, the prosperity gospel serves only to satisfy the cravings of the heart for worldly success and profane pleasures. When you give up all your personal desires to live for Christ and Christ alone, you enter a new dimension of prosperous living – spiritually, physically, and mentally, and, eventually, materially and financially as well.

There is another wonderful truth about the full gospel. Prosperity preachers can preach success and happiness to a person as long as he or she is not under severe affliction. But their teachings become pathetically ineffective in the time of their followers’ adversity. But the abundant life promised by Christ to those who follow him faithfully all the way to his crucifixion is lifelasting and remains steadfast in every circumstance.

Sometimes it takes many years before a true follower of Christ reaps financial and physical abundance. A very few receive it earlier. Many, like my friend, Britto Antony, a Godly quadriplegic and a cretin of about two feet – who had to be carried around like a baby from place to place by a caretaker – never received it in this life and will receive it only when his Lord returns.

But the vast majority will receive many, many blessings in this life itself, some 10 times, some 100 times, more than they had given up to follow Christ.

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold…NOW IN THIS TIME – houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions – and in the age to come, eternal life.   Mt 19:29 merged with Mk 10:30. Emphasis mine

And the very few who do not receive back in full or greater measure what they had given up? The loss doesn’t trouble them anymore, for they rejoice over the far greater spiritual blessings they now have, such as joyous family relationships, peace of mind, sense of absolute security that all their needs will be taken care of, good health, work satisfaction, and much more!

In my own life and my wife’s life, which till very recently were filled to the brim and overflowing with troubles of a magnitude that most Christians do not experience, hundredfold is too small a multiple. I think God has given me about 100,000 times what I had to give up for him. And I did give up almost everything that I had been holding on preciously in my life so I could be a faithful follower of Christ. I had to give up my traditional church, my lifestyle, my wife and children (not physically, by God’s mercies, but emotionally and geographically for many years), my reputation, my freedom, my job, my financial security, a glamorous career as a model, an incredible offer to be a movie actor, and more. And I consider them all but rubbish in comparison to what God has given me in their place today.

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ   Phil 3:7-8

Today, this verse that I quoted at the beginning of this message has special relevance to me:

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

But I still have a lot of troubles and persecutions and expect to have them till my last day on earth. But they do not overwhelm me anymore, for I know I can overcome every one of them as they come up by standing aside and letting the Captain of my life battle them all for me. I just stand on the sidelines holding and waving triumphantly the red banner of victory dyed in my Lord’s blood. I have absolutely no part in this battle against my physical and spiritual adversaries, there is absolutely nothing I can do to contribute to the outcome of the battle, except to keep waving the banner and trusting my Helper’s ability to crush my deadly enemies to dust. After the battle is over, I help my Lord clear the debris strewn on my path as a result of the great conflict that had been waged.

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do NOTHING.   Jn 15:5. Emphasis mine.

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies…He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support. He also brought me out into a broad place…You have subdued under me those who rose up against me. You have also given me the necks of my enemies, so that I destroyed those who hated me…Then I beat them as fine as the dust before the wind; I cast them out like dirt in the streets…It is God who avenges me, and subdues the peoples under me; He delivers me from my enemies.   Ps 18

Today, I don’t have yet the material abundance that prosperity preachers exult about – I don’t even own a home of my own, nor have even a car – but I am busy living the abundant life so much that all my days are filled with wondrous excitement and anticipation. I feel I am prosperous beyond measure. And that’s something everyone who has given up given everything for Christ will always feel – that they are prosperous beyond measure – irrespective of the amount they have in their bank account.

Even materially, I am being provided all my needs, and many of my desires – miraculously – even though I personally could not afford any of them by my own income. Someone has taken an elegant apartment for us and paid the rent in advance, without we even mentioning to anyone, except to our Father, our need for a place to stay. And whenever we want to go to a place beyond what our own legs could take us, someone always comes forward and offers to convey us there in his car. Someone even gave me, without my asking for it, this latest expensive Apple computer on which I am now writing this message. Prior to this heavy-duty marvel, I had only a lowcost teeny laptop to do all my vast ministry work.

But the best part is only coming. And I will keep declaring to my brothers and sisters and children in the Lord worldwide all that that our Father is doing for me and through me. I feel in my very cells that the Lord will grant me even the whole world as my field of ministry if I ask him for it.

Most assuredly, I say to you, WHATEVER you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be FULL.   Jn 16:23-24. Emphasis mine.

That’s something everyone who has given up given everything for Christ will always feel – that their joy is full, and that they are prosperous beyond measure.


Prosperity preachers are not preaching the wrong gospel. But they are not preaching the FULL gospel. And they have got the order of God’s blessings in a Christian’s life all mixed up.


Now, lest any child of God fear that he or she does not have what it takes to surrender their self totally to Christ and go through all the initial tribulations of carrying Christ’s cross, here is my testimony for your encouragement and enlightenment.

In over 40 years of my following Christ, I have suffered innumerable trials, about some of which you may read in my other messages in this website. But even as I went through each flood and fire, God was there holding my hand firmly and never letting me go, no, not once. I thought on many occasions he had slackened his firm grip on me, or even abandoned me, only to find later he was there all along holding me as firmly as ever, and sometimes, when I felt too weak to walk, carrying me in his bosom.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.   Is 43:2

He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.   Is 40:11

He will never abandon you even for a second, no matter what great trouble befalls you either because of your follies and sins, or because of persecutions.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?   Rm 8:35

But the most comforting assurance for me is that he never once let me suffer any trouble that was beyond my ability to endure, but he always provided a way for me to somehow bear it until it was past.

For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently.   1 Cor 10:13  AMP

As that great woman of God, Mother Teresa, stated it,

I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.

That is the real gospel, the true Christian walk, that is the true abundant life – far more overflowing, far more joyful and peaceful than that any prosperity gospel can offer.

So am I saying never listen to prosperity preachers? Not at all. Listen if you have the time for it, and see if there are any nuggets of practical wisdom you can use to your benefit as you carry the cross of Christ.

But take every care not to be lured by the prosperity promise of immediate wealth and success. God is more interested in your faithfulness to him than your earthly success. For him, faithfulness in the midst of a life of troubles is the greatest success in the universe. Focus your life solely on being daily faithful to him, even in the least areas, and he will take it upon himself to give you success in his own way and in his own time.

But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.   Mt 6:33  AMP

I always keep foremost in my mind what Mother Teresa said and exemplified by her life:

God didn’t call me to be successful; God called me to be faithful.

We cannot know the inner motives of any preacher. He may preach a hundred percent doctrinally sound gospel, and yet be a ravening wolf inside. He may preach many errors, but be highly esteemed in God’s sight. I believe that many, perhaps, most, are earnest and faithful servants of Christ who, for reasons only God knows, have not received the understanding of the full gospel of Christ. Remember what Christ told his disciples about a preacher who was not one of Christ’s known followers:

Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side.”   Mk 9:38-40

If the preacher is on the Lord’s side, if he is not propagating that Jesus is a mere prophet and not the Son of God, if he does not condone homosexuality or any other sinful acts of his people, if he is proclaiming there is only one Way and one Name by which man can be saved – then he is accepted of Christ – whether he is a screaming Pentecostal, or a strange Mormon, or a mitered Orthodox, or even a prosperous plump preacher flying in his own Gulfstream IV jet.

When you give up everything to follow Christ, you will find abundant life and excitement even in the simplest living circumstances.   Courtesy: Namlhots

One of the tragic outcomes of focusing on the prosperity gospel without a far greater focus on the cross of Christ is that followers will embrace with gladness the teachings of the preacher, but when the testings of the true Christian life begin, they draw away, disillusioned not only with the preacher but with Christ and Christianity itself.

These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.   Mk 4:16-18

Prosperity preachers had told me, ‘When God is pleased with you, he prospers you’. After decades of trying to please him in all sincerity and earnestness, and yet sinking further and further into financial debt and personal weaknesses, I gave up altogether not only the prosperity gospel but the entire package, including Christianity and Christ. I tried to find refuge in another religion, and today would have been preaching an anti-Christ gospel instead of this message. But, Christ, who promised that he will never abandon us or forsake us, even when we forsake him, pulled me out of my deadly spiritual situation and embraced me with such intense affection and assurance that I decided I want to do nothing else in life but just tell people around the world what awesome love and mercy, and incidentally, what great prosperity, God is waiting to fill our lives with.

Today I can preach both the cross and the prosperity message because I have received in full measure both the tribulations and jubilations of Christ in me.

Today I can comfort the afflicted and I can also encourage the prosperous, because I have been comforted and encouraged by our Father.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.   2 Cor 1:3-5

As for the prosperity preachers, if you aren’t happy with their gospel, don’t judge them, don’t condemn them. Leave them alone. God will reveal their motives on that day when every preacher will be tested for their faithfulness to Christ.

Thus says the Lord concerning the [false] prophets who lead my people astray;
When they have something good to bite with their teeth,
They call out, “Peace,”
But against the one who gives them nothing to eat,
They declare a holy war.
Therefore it will be night (tragedy) for you – without vision,
And darkness (cataclysm) for you—without foresight.
The sun shall go down on the [false] prophets,
And the day shall become dark and black over them.
The seers shall be ashamed
And the diviners discredited and embarrassed;
Indeed, they shall all cover their mouths [in shame]
Because there is no answer from God.
But in fact, I am filled with power,
With the Spirit of the Lord,
And with justice and might,
To declare to Jacob his transgression
And to Israel his sin.   Mi 3:5-8 AMP

Pappa Joseph

 

 

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