About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Prosperity Or Covetousness
"Is The Prosperity Gospel Biblical?"

 

 

Contents

Introduction
1  - Can We Ask Jesus For Whatever We Want?  

2  - Ask For Fruit

3  - Be Humble

4  - A Lean Soul

5  - Jesus Was Poor So We Can Be Rich

6  - Poor Paul

7  - Should I Give Everything Away?

8 - What About The Rich Young Ruler?

9  - Am I Promoting Poverty?

10 - Giving To Get

11 - The Abundant Life

12 - Poor But Content

13 - There Were Rich People In The Old Testament 

14 - Humanistic Thinking

15 - Positive Thinking

16 - The Reformation

17 - Speaking Prosperity Into Existence  
18 - I Don't Have Enough Faith  

19 - Speaking Of Healing And Heath

20 - Was Paul Ever Sick?

21 - Timothy Had Stomach Problems

22 - Our Bodies Decay

23 - My Own Experience

24 - In Conclusion

 

 

 Introduction

 

The following pages are dedicated to what has become known as the Prosperity Gospel.  I realize that this term may mean something different to you than it does to me.  There are variations of the Prosperity Gospel but for the most part it states that if we have sufficient faith we should expect to prosper materially, physically, as well as spiritually.  We should claim what we want from the Lord and act as if we already have it.  We are Kids of the King and we deserve it all, or so some say.

 

I am legally blind.  If I embrace this teaching I would claim my healing and act as if I could see.  Would I then drive a car, even though I still can't see?  According to North American standards I am poor.  Should I claim monetary prosperity and spend to the limit on my credit card?        

 

I believe the Prosperity Gospel is unbiblical.  I believe it's a product of our western world hedonistic culture that parts of the western world church have adopted.  It is one of the most harmful doctrines that has infected Christianity over the last few decades, something that Jesus warned us about when He told us to beware of greed (Luke 12:15).      

 

From my perspective the Prosperity Gospel is all about entitlement, and entitlement is a western world hedonistic mindset today.           

 

 

1 - Can We Ask Jesus For Whatever We Wish?

On a number of occasions Jesus said something like "Ask and you will receive."  Does this mean we can ask and expect to get whatever we ask for?   Prosperity teaching says we should expect to get whatever we ask for.

 

First of all, as Christians we are servants of the Lord Jesus (John 13:6).  Servants serve.  They donít demand.  Yes, we do serve a loving Master, but loving doesnít mean foolish.  Parents don't raise their children by giving them everything their little hearts desire.  That would be counter productive to raising a child.  So why would our heavenly Father act like an unwise parent? 

 

In John 14:14 Jesus said this.  "You may ask for anything in my name and I will do it."  Does ask for anything mean ask for anything?  That sounds great.  There are all sorts of things I'd like to ask for; like more money, a new car, good eye sight, and all sorts of other things.  My list could be endless. 

 

I don't believe Jesus is obligated to give me everything on my list as if He were Santa Claus.  Santa Clause might even shake his head at my wish list.  Look closely.  Jesus didnít say ask for anything you want.  He said ask for anything in my name.  What does that mean? 

 

Hereís an analogy to explain what Jesus meant.  My friend Ken is a plumber and let's say I work for him.  When he sends me out on a plumbing job, I work for him, not myself.  I represent Ken and I had better represent him properly if I want to keep my job.  If while on a job I need some plumbing pipes, I can call Ken and he'll give me the pipes so I can do the job he wants me to do.  If, however, I ask Ken to buy me a new car, I donít think he is obligated to do so.  Buying me a new car has nothing to do with working for Ken.  It has nothing to do with representing Ken's good name in the community.  He will give me everything I need to do the job he wants me to do, but beyond that, he is not obligated to give me anything I want.

 

Christians bear Jesusí name as we represent Him to the world.  We work for Him.  He, therefore, will give us what we need to properly represent Him.  Beyond that, I donít believe He is obligated to give us anything our little hearts desire.  Thatís what John 14:14 means. 

Iím not saying Jesus will never give us nice things because He might and He often does.  Iím saying He is not obligated to do so, and we shouldnít expect Him to do so.  We certainly shouldn't demand anything from Him because we think we are Kids of the King.  It is His prerogative to do as He wishes.  He is our boss.  We work for Him.  He does not work for us.    

2 - Ask For Fruit 

Just in case you need another "ask me for anything verse," hereís one.   "Ask for whatever you wish and it will be given you" (John 15:7).  Maybe I should pull out my wish list again.  My wife suggested that I ask for a few new pairs of underwear; ones without holes in them, but I figure I can take care of that myself.  Iím interested in bigger things, like a new car, a big bank account, and all the exciting things I see on television commercials.  Of course, we all know that advertizing company's feed upon our lust for always wanting more than what we need.    

 

Let's put John 15:7 in its context.  If you read verses 1 through 8 you'll note that Jesus said that He is the vine and we are branches.  If we don't remain in Him we will be cut off from Him and die.  If we remain in Him and His words remain in us we can ask for whatever we wish.  The context of asking for whatever we wish is all about asking Jesus to produce fruit in our lives. Topping our wish list should be producing fruit, otherwise known as the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22 - 23).   

 

If youíre wondering what remaining in Jesus means, verse 9 provides the answer. "If you obey me, you will remain in me."  Remaining in Jesus means obeying Him which in turn produces fruit.  That's not what the prosperity teachers teach.  The Prosperity Gospel has more to do with covetous accumulation of material wealth than it has to do with producing fruit of the Spirit in obedience to Jesus.  Asking Jesus for whatever you wish goes hand in hand with obeying Him.         

 

3 - Be Humble

When Jesus was on earth He only cared about doing what His Father wanted Him to do.  The only wish list that Jesus had was His Father's wish list. Jesus made it clear that He did everything in His Fatherís name (John 5:43).  He did not name, claim, or demand, anything from His Father.  He only wanted what was necessary to perform His Fatherís wishes.  This is humility.   

 

In my opinion, thinking you are entitled to material prosperity is arrogance, and we know that arrogance precedes destruction (Proverbs 16:18).  This is one reason why our western world's destruction is inevitable.  If you want to ask anything from Jesus, ask Him to help you to be humble and not so demanding.       

4 - A Lean Soul

In Psalm 116:14 and 15 we see that Israelis gave into their selfish desires instead of obeying God.  As a result

God gave them their requests, but sent leanness to their souls.  God gave them what they asked for but "sent a wasting disease upon them" as the NIV puts it.  Israelis got their wish but it came with a terrible price.  It came with a sick soul. 

 

Do you want a sick soul?  Is this why much of the western world church has lost its effectiveness?  What will it profit you if you gain the world in covetous living but lose your soul in the process (Mark 8:36)?  We all want a lean mean body, but a lean soul is something no one wants.  Be careful what you ask God for.  If you bug Him enough, you might get what you want.  You might also get a sick soul.  That doesn't sound very nice.    

 

5 - Jesus Was Poor So We Can Be Rich

Paul tells the Corinthian believers in 2 Corinthians 8:9 that "though Jesus was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich."  The context of this statement concerns material wealth, especially money.  So there you go.  Paul's statement totally destroys everything Iíve just said so far, or does it? 

 

Before His incarnation into humanity Jesus was very rich in every aspect imaginable.  When Jesus lived on earth He was materially poor, but He was spiritually rich.  There is no doubt about that.  According to Paul, Jesus' poverty can cause us to be rich.  In context, Paul is still thinking of monetary wealth.  So, should we expect and claim material riches from Jesus?  Is the Prosperity Gospel right after all?  

 

The context of 2 Corinthians 8:9 explains what Paul is saying here.  Paul was writing to Christians in Corinth who appeared to be financially prosperous.  On the other hand, Christian Jews in Judea were extremely poor due to persecution.  Paul's intent in 2 Corinthians 8 was for the materially well off Corinthians to give to the poor saints in Judea.  As Jesus forsook His wealth to help us, so, the Corinthian believers should forgo their financial wealth to help the poor Jewish believers. 

 

Paul was concerned for these poor Jewish saints so he traveled far and wide raising money for them.   In 2 Corinthians 8:2 he says that the Macedonians gave to this cause beyond their ability to give.   Despite the extreme poverty of the Macedonian believers, they still gave in abundance.  

I find it interesting that these Macedonian believers, and the Jewish believers as well, were poor in the first place.  Why was that?  Did Paul not preach the prosperity message to these believers?  Did they not embrace the Prosperity Gospel?  Maybe these Macedonian Christians were following Jesusí footsteps.  Material wealth was not their priority.  Spiritual wealth was more important, as it was for Jesus.

 

So Paul wanted the Corinthian believers to be just as generous as the Macedonian believers.  That's why he compared these two communities of Christians.  According to Paul, poverty was no excuse not to give.  It is clear then that giving is better than getting, and if giving is better than getting, then asking Jesus for material abundance for the sole purpose of being materially prosperous is not what Paul was getting at in this passage. 

 

The reason why Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians that Jesus was poor so that they could be rich was so they would understand that their present prosperity was meant to help the poor saints in Judea.  Let me make this clear.  There is nothing inherently wrong with material prosperity.  There is, however, something wrong with hording material wealth for yourself, and that's Paul's point here in 2 Corinthians 8:9.        

  

6 - Poor Paul

Was Paul poor?  Before Paul was a Christian He was a Pharisee.  Pharisees were wealthy and influential men in the Jewish community.  Paul knew what material prosperity was all about.  Some historical research tells me that Paul was raised in a wealthy Jewish family in Tarsus.  That all changed when Paul met Jesus.  In Acts 9:16 Jesus told Ananias that Paul would suffer for His name.  Part of this suffering was financial.  That's obvious from a brief look at his life.    

 

In Philippians 3:7 to 8 Paul said this.  "Whatever was to my profit I now consider as loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things."  Paul used the words "profit and loss" here.  These are financial terms.  Paul was not merely saying that he lost his religious life.  He is saying that he lost everything, including the wealth and prestige that came with being a rising star in Judaism.  Some suggest that he even lost his wife.  Paul wasnít kidding when he said he lost all things.  The flip side to this loss is that He gained Jesus. 

 

After meeting Jesus, Paulís life took the opposite turn to what the Prosperity Gospel teaches.  In Paulís case, prosperity teaching, as it relates to material wealth, didnít work.

 

A pastor once told me that Paul was poor by choice.  That wasn't the choice of the pastor who told me that.  Did Paul really have a choice in the matter?  Read the events of Paul's conversion in Acts 9 to see if he really had a choice.  

 

In 2 Corinthians 5:14 Paul said that the love of Christ compels Him.   Paul felt compelled to preach the gospel and live the life that Jesus set out for Him, which included a good amount of poverty.  The Greek word "sunecho" is the word translated here as "compel" in this verse.  "Sunecho" means "to fasten, secure, hold fast, or confine."  It is like Jesus yanked Paul out of his world and glued him to Himself and in a stern voice said, "Youíre serving me now, buddy."  I believe Paul did have a choice.  We all have a choice, but for Paul; there was no logical choice other than to serve Jesus, even if it meant a life of poverty. 

 

Paul gave His life completely to Jesus and His will.  He did not ask or demand any part of it back. If I can prove that  some godly New Testament men and women did not live the life of covetous prosperity, then I can prove that the Prosperity Gospel is not Biblical.  Also, if poverty is to be interpreted as a curse or a lack of faith, as some prosperity people claim, then Paul and other first century believers were clearly out of God's will and faithless, and I certainly don't believe that.        

 

7 - Should I Give Everything Away?

Should we leave an affluent lifestyle and become poor?  Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7:17 to 25 answers this question.  In verse 17 he said this.  "Each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him."  In verse 20 he said this.  "Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him."  Paul even said that if you were a slave when you got saved, donít try to gain your freedom unless it is offered to you.  All this means that if you are rich when Jesus calls you, stay rich, but be generous, unless Jesus says otherwise. 

 

I donít believe the Scripture is opposed to material riches in itself.  It is opposed to expecting and demanding such riches from Jesus.  It is also opposed to putting material riches ahead of Jesus.  The present day prosperity teaching encourages us to be materialistically motivated and not Jesus motivated. 

8 - What About The Rich Young Ruler?

In Luke 18:19 and following Jesus spoke to a rich young ruler who seemed to live a pretty good life.  Jesus told him that he was lacking one thing.  He needed to sell everything he had and give the proceeds to the poor.  Should we do the same? Not necessarily.  It is bad Biblical interpretation to say that because Jesus told this one man to do something we should do the same.  This was an isolated incident of one manís call on his life from Jesus.  His calling in life is not our calling.  That being said, we can learn something from this event and what we learn is that the accumulation of wealth without helping the poor is not right.  We also learn that it might just be possible that Jesus might ask us to do relinquish our wealth to fulfill His mission He has for us.    

 

As I said earlier, money is not the problem.  The love of money is the problem.  If we are bent on prosperity apart from doing Godís will, then we have a problem.  Our pursuit of the good life is covetousness.  

 

9 - Am I Promoting Poverty?

Iím not promoting being rich or being poor.  Iím promoting a life given to Jesus and checking off His wish list and not our wish list.  A poor person can be just as selfish as a rich person.  As in the case of Paul with the Corinthians and Macedonians, it wasnít whether they were rich or poor.  The issue was giving to the poor saints in Judea , no matter how much money they had or didnít have.  It just so happened that the Macedonians were extremely poor while the Corinthians seemed to be well off.   

 

The issue at hand is giving, not getting.  In my thinking, prosperity teaching promotes getting.

 

10 - Giving To Get

I know youíve heard this on television.  "Just send my ministry money and youíll get a hundred fold blessing in return."  Or, "triple your tithe and youíll be blessed out of your socks."  That would be great for me since my socks have been seen with holes in them.   

 

Giving to get is not Scriptural.  I donít think I need to find a verse to prove that.  Scriptural giving is simply "giving to give."  Just give because Jesus has put such a spirit in your heart.  Paul called this the grace of giving in 2 Corinthians 8:7.   I admit, even with the Holy Spirit such giving is hard to do, but that's why Paul called this an act of grace.  In this instance, grace is the divine ability to do what is hard for us to do, and is to give without expecting anything in return. 

 

11 - The Abundant Life

In John 10:10 Jesus promised His disciples life more abundantly.  Some people interpret this abundance very broadly to include material abundance.  If this interpretation is correct then weíve got a problem.  Jesusí disciples never got rich.  If Jesus promised these people wealth and they didnít get it, how can we trust anything Jesus says?    

 

In John 16:1 to 2 Jesus predicted that the eleven apostles that they would be kicked out of the synagogue and would eventually be killed.  To be cut off from the synagogue meant financial and social disaster for Jews.  We see the result of this excommunication in Acts 3:6 where Peter and John verbally confessed their poverty, something that good prosperity people would never do.   They confessed, "silver and gold we have none."  No wonder Peter and John were poor.  You should never speak a negative confession, or so they say.    

 

John 10:10 cannot be used to name, claim, and expect material prosperity because Jesus was speaking about spiritual abundance, not material abundance.  Material abundance will come in the next life and what ever that looks like, I'm not sure.    

   12 - Poor But Content

At times Paul lived in moderate comfort.  Other times he lived in poverty, as he did in a rat infested prison in Caesarea for two years.  That jail cell was far from the Caesarea Hilton.  That didnít matter to Paul because he learned to be content in every situation he faced.  Godliness was great gain for him, as he said in Philippians 4:11 to 13.

 

We should be preaching contentment, not the pursuit of wealth.  If a foundation of contentment is lacking in your life, youíll always want more, and this wanting will produce frustration.  On the other hand, if you are content with what you have, and when the tendency to desire more rises within, you will not be frustrated.   Let's remember what Paul said.  "Godliness with contentment is great gain" (Philippians 4:11-13).

 

13 - There Were Rich People In The Old Testament

Abraham, Solomon, David and some other Old Testament men were rich.  Let's put this thought into some hermeneutical perspective.  We should be careful in how we emulate these men of old, unless you want to dance naked in the street as David did (2 Samuel 6).  We should emulate things like Davidís heart for the Lord.  We should emulate Abrahamís faith.  We should not emulate Abraham or David's adultery. 

 

The real point here is that we are New Testament Christians.  First and foremost we are to be molded into the likeness of Jesus, not Abraham or David. These men lived prior to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which should enable us to live more righteously before the Lord.    

 

So yes, Solomon, Abraham, David, and others were wealthy, but to me, that means little to the topic at hand.  There are lots we can learn from these great men, but our learning should be filtered through the pages of the New Testament.  Besides, and as I've said before, there is nothing inherently wrong with wealth.  If you have been blessed with wealth, thank the Lord.  It's what you do with that wealth that is important.   

 

14 - Humanistic Thinking

Websterís Dictionary defines humanism as the "doctrine, philosophy, attitude or lifestyle dedicated to human interests."  In itself, humanism is not bad, but apart from Jesus it's not Biblical, even though it may have beneficial results. 

 

Humanism taken to its extreme, as we have taken it in our western culture, becomes self centered and hedonistic (the pursuit of personal pleasure).  Our culture is obsessed with the love of self.  This love of self has found its way into the western Christian culture and can be seen in the name, claim, and make me prosperous movement.

 

Concerning the newest innovation in televisions, one recent commercial put it this way.  "When TV is this real, life is good."  As Christians, that should be a bit disturbing because Jesus said that a manís life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses (Luke 12:15).  

 

From my perspective the western world church, at least in general terms, is bent on the accumulation of material possessions.  That gets expensive.  One church in our city has spent $10,000.00 on electric drums, $50,000.00 on a new sound system, thousands more on expanding and paving their parking lot, as well as an addition to their building. 

Have all these expenditures helped to spread the Kingdom of God to our community?  What it has done is create an atmosphere of competition between churches.  I have recently heard that the church with the new sound system should attract the best Christian musicians to its congregation.  Where would these good musicians come from?  They'd come from other churches of course.  Iím a musician.  I like good sound, but let's put things in Biblical perspective.  Taking musicians from other churches is not building the Kingdom of God. 

 

It takes lots of money to run a modern day church, but I don't think it needs to be this way. The New Testament church spread the gospel with very little money.  Many third world churches today are spreading the gospel better than our first world churches with little to no money.   

 

The pursuit of prosperity is humanistic.  Prosperity in church life should mean people coming to Jesus, finding their place in the Body of Christ, and becoming effective representatives of Jesus.  Prosperity shouldnít be defined by the size of your building and the height of your steeple.  

 

I'm not against church buildings.  They can be and should be used as a tool of the Lord but so often they're a tool to serve Christians.  The day will come in our western world that church buildings will be no more.  We'll be like the Christians in Iran, China, and other nations that do not have such a luxury.  It's best to think this through before that day comes.  In the meantime, make good use of your church building.         

 

 

15 - Positive Thinking

The "positive thinking" movement has risen from the ranks of humanism.  Like humanism, positive thinking in itself isnít bad.  The problem occurs when we promote positive thinking as a means to material wealth.  Another problem is when we substitute faith with positive thinking.  Positive thinking is not faith. 

 

Positive thinking teaches we should never utter a negative comment lest a great calamity befalls us.  We should only speak positive confessions which bring forth positive results.  Read the Bible.  Paul wasnít always positive, and neither was Jesus.  They spoke the truth as they saw it, whether it was positive or negative.  Too much emphasis on the positive confession is not Biblical.  We need only to refer back to Acts 3:6 and Peterís confession of being poor, and look at the results of his negative confession.  A lame man was healed.    

     

Believing that the positive confession itself will bring wealth is more humanistic than New Testament thinking.

 

16 -The Reformation

I do believe that a Christians should live a better all around life because he follows Jesus.  Itís simple and logical.  If you donít steal, you wonít end up in jail.  If you donít commit adultery, you wonít find yourself in divorce court with AIDS. 

 

This is also the case with those nations that embraced the Reformation of the 1500ís, which is seen in their higher standard of living.  This is evident, not only in business, but in education, law, politics and other aspects of culture.  This is because of the Reformationís Biblical influence on our culture.  Those nations that have not allowed the Reformation to take hold in their culture are in much poorer shape in all areas of their culture.  This accounts for some of the disparity we see between the west and other nations today. 

 

Our western world nations have been progressively been moving away from its Reformation influence.  We are now reaping the negative results as seen in the deterioration of our systems of education, law, government, and finance. 

 

We benefit greatly from following Jesus, but we donít follow Him for the benefits.  We didnít give our lives to Jesus to get from Him.  We gave our lives to Jesus because we came to know that He is the central truth of the universe and we have no other logical choice than to give ourselves to Him.     

 

17 - Speaking Prosperity Into Existence
 

Over the years Iíve heard prosperity teachers teach that if we have enough faith we can speak things like prosperity into existence with our positive confession. It works this way.  You confess the existence of a new car, even though a new car is nowhere to be found.  Thatís okay; you just keep speaking the positive confession and act as if you have your new car.  When your friend notices your old car in your driveway you respond with your positive confession and tell him thatís your new car.  He scratches his head and thinks, "Youíre crazy!  Thatís your old car."      

 

Prosperity people point to Romans 4:17 in defense of their thinking.  It says, "God Ö calls things that are not as though they were."  Ultra faith and prosperity people say that God speaks things into existence by thinking something is really there when it isnít.   The mere thinking of it will produce its reality.  Of course God spoke things into existence at creation.  Prosperity people say we can do the same.

 

You canít find this teaching in Romans 4:17 or anywhere else in the New Testament.  This form of humanism is merely an attempt to trick oneís mind into a false faith and hope.  I call this doctrine "mental gymnastics."  Prosperity people call it faith, but itís not.    

 

A contextual study of Romans 4:17 will tell you that there is only one thing Paul had in mind concerning God calling things into existence that weren't.  Hosea 2 tells us that God divorced Israel .  The Jews were no longer the people of God.  The context of Romans 4:17 tells us that the Jews, those who were no longer the people of God; those who were not, have now become the people of God by faith in Jesus.  In other words, the Jews who were not the people of God are now the people of God.  In context, the specific thing God called into existence that weren't are the Jews.  They were once not His people.  Now they are. It's not logical to take this specific meaning and apply it to us and teach we can speak things into existence.  This is simply a matter of good  hermeneutics.       

 

We should never take one phrase from its context and broaden its application to include all sorts of other things.  For example, if you ask me "how are you doing?"  Iíll answer, "Iím fine."  What I mean, is at that moment of time Iím fine.  It doesnít mean Iím always fine.  It doesnít mean Iím fine with same sex marriages.  It doesnít mean Iím fine with my neighborís loud music.  IĎm only fine in the context of your question.  To suggest I feel fine about all sorts of other things isnít logical.  The same applies to Romans 4:17.   

  

The Bible doesnít teach we can speak prosperity into existence.  If it did, I'm sure the Apostle Peter would have done so.  Peter could have given the lame beggar in Acts 3 lots of money as well as healing, but he didn't.  He had no money to give.  

 

18 -  Donít Have Enough Faith

When I first meet people I often tell them that I am legally, not totally, blind.  That tells them why I don't respond to them when they wave at me on the street.  I just don't see them.  This also tells them that I'm not smelling my watch when my nose rubs against it as I attempt to see what time it is.  It's why the tip of my nose is sometimes black with ink after scraping it across the printed page.

 

One day an ultra faith man cornered me after a meeting and began preaching to me about my lack of faith.  He told me that if I had real faith, my eyes would be healed.  He didnít realize that itís not our faith that really heals anyone.  Itís Jesus that heals.  Our faith only gives Him the opportunity to heal if He so desires.  

I told this man about the three Hebrew men in Daniel 3 who were thrown into the fire.  They said, "if we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand,  O King.  But even if He does not we want you to know, O King, we will not serve your gods" (Daniel 3:17 NIV).  

 

"But even if He does not" is not exactly a positive confession.  Hyper faith people would call this phrase a lack of faith and a bad confession.  They would say that these men were speaking a positive confession until they inserted the word "but" into their confession.  The word "but" suggests doubt to the hyper faith person, but it doesn't in this case.

 

These three men did not express doubt.  They had great trust in God.  They trusted God no matter what happened.  They trusted God whether God saved them from the fire or not.  That's real faith.  That's faith that an untimely death cannot destroy.  

The same applies to me.  I trust Jesus, knowing He can heal my eyes, but if He doesnít, Iíll still trust Him.  This is real faith.  Iíve been trusting Jesus for decades, and still do, even though He hasnít always done everything I thought He should have done.  Iím not trying to trick my mind into thinking I can see when I canít.   If I took positive confession thinking to its logical extreme, I, a legally blind person, should drive you home in your car.  We'd see who had real faith then. 

 

The three Hebrew men trusted God and they were saved from the fire.  In Acts 7, Stephen trust God as well but the rocks killed him just the same. 

 

The bottom line to all this is that we trust Jesus no matter what, whether rich or poor, healed or sick.  We donít trust Him for what we want from Him.  We trust Jesus because He is the ultimate universal truth, and, we have no other logical choice but to hand our lives over to Him.  That's trust.  That's faith.   

 

 

19 - Speaking Of Healing And Health

 

Prosperity teaching isnít only about the pursuit of wealth.  It's also about being in good health.  Many prosperity people expect Jesus to keep them in continuous good health.  Itís only our lack of faith that prevents Him from doing this.  3 John 2 is often quoted to defend this thinking.  "I pray that you may enjoy good health, and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well" (NIV). 

There are three parts to this verse; two parts prayer and one part fact.  The fact is that Johnís friend Gaius is doing well in his soul, meaning, spiritually heís doing well.  The two other parts are prayers for good health and a good life.

What we learn from this is that John wants to see Gaius healthy and so he prays to that end.  Once John prays, the answer to his prayer is in the hands of Jesus to do as He pleases.  Just because John prays for good health for Gaius doesnít mean the Bible teaches that we are to expect good health all of the time. This is a prayer, part of Johnís wishful greeting to a brother in the Lord.  It's not a declaration of truth.  This is a common Greco-Roman greeting of the day in which John lived.  We cannot use a common greeting to name, claim, demand, or expect, perfect health from God.  Nor can we use it to formulate Christian doctrine.  That's bad hermeneutics.     

 

20 - Was Paul Ever Sick?

Galatians 4:13 and 14 said that "it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you.  Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn.  Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel from God, as if I were Christ Jesus Himself" (NIV). 

 

Paul was clearly sick at least one time as a Christian.  Some say his illness had something to do with his eyes because of the reference to his eyes in the next verse.  We know that his illness was severe enough that the Galatians could have scorned him and been embarrassed to be around him.  If prosperity people believe sickness is a lack of faith, then Paul had a lack of faith.  I don't believe that for a second.   

 

21 - Timothy Had Stomach Problems

Timothyís persistent poor digestive system always comes to mind when thinking about this subject.  See 1 Timothy 5:23.  Why did Paul suggest wine as a remedy for Timothy's illness instead of prayer and faith?  Obviously Paul thought wine would help.  By the way, this was real wine, not grape juice. 

 

Timothy is another example of a Christian in the Bible with a health problem.  The remedy was wine.  I'm not saying Paul or Timothy didn't pray.  I'm sure they did.  That being said, their prayers didn't nullify the fact that Timothy drank wine for medicinal purposes.  Timothy, a man called by God to promote the gospel, was not always in perfect health. 

 

 

22 - Our Bodies Decay

 

2 Corinthians 4:16 says that "though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed."  The Greek word "diaphtheiro" which is translated as "wasting away" means "to utterly destroy, ending in death."  This sounds like a bad confession of faith spoken by one of the most important Christians in history.  Why would Paul speak such a negative confession?    

 

Our bodies are in the process of decay.  It's a fact of life, a product of man's fall from God's grace seen in Genesis 3.  That didn't bother Paul because inwardly, or spiritually, he was healthy.  Death and decay is common to all of us until God creates a new and earth as seen in the book of Revelation.   

 

23 - My Own Experience
 

At the age of five I was diagnosed
with Juvenile Diabetes.  One
Sunday morning I found myself kneeling
at a little altar in the  basement of a house where a local Free Methodist congregation met.  Even at this early age I recall people laying hands on me and praying for my healing.  To make a long story short, Jesus miraculously healed me and the doctors at Sick Childrens Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, confirmed it.  Suddenly, all my sugar levels were good.  Being in and out of a coma-like condition was history, and best of all, my dad gave his life to Jesus as a result.  If not for Jesus I would have died at the age of seven.  

 

Why didnít Jesus heal my eyes back then?  He certainly could have.  Why He didnít is still a mystery.  Iíve tried every so-called Scriptural technique to find healing, but healing has never come, at least not yet.  So like the three Hebrew men in the book of Daniel, I trust Jesus whether I'm healed or not healed.  

 

My poor vision has made it difficult for me in many ways over the years.  Iíve often thought that my life would have been more productive for Jesus if I could have seen better, but what can I but continue to trust Jesus.  Salvation history is not yet complete.  Salvation is a process that will find its completion on the new earth.   

 

Have I just spoken a bad confession?  I donít think so.  No matter what happens to me, I trust Jesus.  I donít trust Him just for my salvation.  I trust Him with my whole life which includes my salvation.  Thatís what the Christian life is all about.  God forbid we proclaim a selfish gospel of believing in order to get, as in, get Heaven, get forgiven, get healed, get prosperous, and on it goes.  Salvation is far more than getting from Jesus.  Itís a matter of giving to Jesus.  

 

I do believe in a good positive attitude, but letís be real about this.  Let's call things for what they are, not for what they arenít.  Thereís nothing wrong with asking Jesus to be healed.  Just keep in mind that we are His servants and servants don't demand from their master. 

24 - In Conclusion

A few years ago I heard a man explain how he visualizes his desires into existence, like a new car and a new house.  He believed that visualizing these things would produce their reality.  Visualizing prosperity (a derivative of positive thinking) as a concept has crept into Christian circles.  You can trace modern day prosperity teaching, hyper faith, verbalizing positive confessions, back to the last half of the 19th century when a metaphysical, new age like, philosophical approach to life crept into Christian theology.

 

Does the Bible teach that we should crave all the material wealth we can get cream up?  The answer is "no."   My dad used to say that you never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer to the cemetery.  In other words, "we brought nothing into this world and it is certain that we can carry nothing out" (1 Timothy 6:7 KJV). 

 

Dad had three guitars that he cherished over the years.  One was a triple neck National Steel guitar that he bought in the early 1950ís.  He sold it once when I was young to raise funds to buy our family a refrigerator.  He missed that guitar and a few years later he had the opportunity to buy it back.  Dad also had a 1974 Martin D 35 and a 1979 Dobro that were his prize possessions. 

 

In March of 2001 dad developed severe back pain and the steel guitar was too heavy for him to pull out of its case and play.  He didnít think his back was getting any better so he gave the steel guitar to me.  Once again this guitar left my dadís house, but this time it wouldnít return.  I couldn't hold back the tears as I carried the guitar home.    

 

Six weeks later we found out that dad didnít have back problems.  He had cancer, and it was rapidly stealing his life.  It was the first week of May 2001 when I helped dad into the bath tub, something quite humiliating for an independent man.  While dad was in the tub I pulled out the Dobro.  He now realized his guitar playing days were over so he told me to take the Dobro home.  That was another sad moment.  Your perspective on things changes when youíre on the doorstep of death.

 

Two guitars were gone; one left to go.  The Marten guitar was dadís favourite of the three, thatís why it was the last to go.  Three weeks after the Dobro went home with me, and one week before dad died, he told me to take the Martin home.  As sad as it was for me, my father knew that he brought nothing into this world and he certainly wasnít going to take anything out.  Dad's Martin D35 now sits beside mine.

 

On June 7, 2001, dad went to be with Jesus, within ten minutes after my wife and I prayed that Jesus would take him.  Dadís funeral was on June 11, 2001.  On June 12 we took my mom to the nursing home to live Ė the second saddest moment in my life. 

 

Mom had accumulated a life time of memories in her home and at the prearranged time on June the 12 I told her that it was time to leave.  Surprisingly, without hesitating and not saying a word she just got up from her favourite chair and left her home for good.  Thatís it.  She just rose to her feet and walked to the door, never to return.  Mom left with two large green garbage bags full of things, along with her favourite chair.  Eighty one years of memories were compressed into two garbage bags.  

 

Over that summer we gave away, sold, and distributed, mom and dadís things.  The house was emptied and sold.  They brought nothing into this world and they left taking not a thing.  Mom passed away on January 9, 2003.

 

I like material things just as much as the next guy.  I have my stuff.  I have my guitars and more.  Iíve got more to leave behind than dad had.  I brought nothing into this world and I too will leave with nothing.     

 

We know what Jesus said about all of this.  He told us to lay up treasures in Heaven, not on earth (Matthew 6:19-20).  He maintained that where your treasures are your heart will be also (Luke 12:34).  He said that a manís life doesn't consist in the abundance of the things he possesses (Luke 12:15).    

 

When we became Christians we gave our lives to Jesus because we realized that He is the supreme authority and truth in the universe.  Once knowing this, we had no logical choice but to give ourselves to Him, which included all of our stuff.  We gave it all to Jesus, or at least we should have.  Our stuff belongs to Him for Hime to do as He wishes.  

 

I could go on but I'm sure you get my point.  I trust my life with Jesus no matter what happens or doesn't happen.  I am His and He is mine.

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