Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. [Philippians 2:4-11]
I happened to walk past this book in a book store a few days ago.
I know that Joel Osteen has a lot of people in his church and a lot of fans world wide but everytime I see or hear his name it reminds me of the hatred I feel for the prosperity gospel. It makes me understand exactly why Paul wrote in Galatians 1 that anyone who preaches a false gospel ‘let him be eternally condemned’.
The gospel – the true gospel – is not about me. Its about Jesus. But Joel doesn’t seem to get that. It’s your time. YOUR time?
After the title that’s all about me, the next thing I noticed was the tag line underneath.
Activate your faith, Achieve your dreams, and Increase in God’s Favour. Since when does achieving your dreams lead to increasing in God’s favour?
I have been reading the first chapter of the book online. Here’s just a couple of things I take issue with.
God wants to breathe new life into your dreams. He wants to breathe new hope into your heart. You may be about to give up on a marriage, on a troubled child, on a lifelong goal. But God wants you to hold on. He says that if you’ll get your second wind, if you’ll put on a new attitude and press forward like you’re headed down the final stretch, you’ll see Him begin to do amazing things.
Well, I’m not quite sure where God says that. 1 Peter 1:3 says ‘In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’. This living hope is not about a solution for a bad marriage, the secret to raising trouble free children or a promise of achieving a life long goal. It is a the hope of assured eternal life, and an inhertiance that will never spoil or fade, that is kept in heaven (vs 4). The hope is that we will share in the ressurection of Christ. This hope reflects an eternal perspective.
Tune out the negative messages. Quit telling yourself: I’m never landing back on my feet financially. I’m never breaking this addiction. I’m never landing a better job.
Instead, your declarations should be: I am closer than I think. I can raise this child. I can overcome this sickness. I can make this business work. I know I can find a new job.
Oh where to start. You can turn on the positive thinking all you like, but don’t be naive. Following Jesus will bring you joy, but it will also bring you suffering. “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” (1 Peter 4:12-13). Expect it. But there IS comfort for us. “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13). Its not that our suffering will always be taken away, but that God will give us strength to endure it.
You must get up each day knowing this could be the day you get the break you need. This could be the day you see your health turn around. This could be the day your child comes back home. This could be the day you meet the man or woman of your dreams.
That’s true. This might be the day. But it might not. And if today your health doesn’t turn or your child doesn’t come home or you don’t meet the man or woman of your dreams, then Joel has no hope for you. But Jesus does.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9).
#4 – When you learn to be content that’s when someone will come along
One problem with this piece of ‘advice’ is that it sends people into an unhelpful spiral of working for contentment so that they will find someone to marry. This creates a works-based understanding of God’s grace, which is unhelpful because it’s wrong. Here is a quote from Carolyn McCulley’s book ‘Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye’?
I’ve often heard married people say to singles that we won’t get married until we are content in our singleness. I’m sure that it is offered by well-meaning couples who want to see their single friends happy and content in God’s provision, but it creates a works based mentality to receiving gifts, which can lead to condemnation. The Lord doesn’t require that we attain to a particular state before he grants a gift. We can’t earn any particular gift any more than we can earn our own salvation. It’s all of grace. However, we should humbly listen to our friends and receive their input about cultivating contentment. We just shouldn’t attach it to the expectation a blessing.
I think its also important to remember that singleness is not the only thing that leads to discontentment. Married people also struggle with contentment. In fact I would go as far as to say that discontentment and marital status are unrelated. It’s actually about God.
I’m pretty sure I have no authority to speak on the secret of contentment. But here are some words from a man who does –
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12 – 13
Paul (who was single by the way) learned the secret of contentment. And he never married.