The real gospel is better than the prosperity gospel

“Don’t just accept whatever comes your way in life. You were born to win; you were born for greatness; you were created to be a champion in life.”
― Joel Osteen, Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential

The next time when you are sick, lonely, verbally abused, addicted, defeated, or even dying, remember that you were born for greatness. You were created to be a champion. You dunce, where did you screw up anyway? You can take comfort that you have so much room for improvement! You are not a champion now, but you could be! You should be!

I read an interesting statistic one time in Billy Graham’s Decision magazine: one out of one people die. Maybe we should chart that out:

So at some point, things are going to get so bad for you, you are going to be so un-winning and so un-champion-like that you are going to die. I’m sorry to break it to you! Nothing is worse and less champion-like than dying – but we will all die. I hope you can remember whatever those 7 steps are to living at your full potential when you are on your death bed. They will help you feel all the worse about all the champion things that you didn’t do well.

Paul proposes a very different idea in the book of Philippians:

8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ,
9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,
10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
(Philippians 3:8-11, NASB).

Real grace frees us from the trap of having to be champions. We are losers. We are liars. We are weak. Our best efforts only dig a deeper hole. We can only pretend to ever be champions anyway. Our best righteousness is only idolatry and self-justification. Our best moment will be when we die. We go to Christ, we trust only in His blood, we are beloved forever, whether we are healthy or hurt, whether we are rich or poor, whether we are eloquent or ignorant.

When we are in heaven and we see the the Lamb of God standing as if slain, we will understand what His scars and wounds mean – we will remember our own light affliction, and we will know. We are forging our understanding of those scars right here and now. He has gone to the uttermost lengths to say: I want you. I love you. I would rather die than live without you. The prosperity gospel would take this away from us, would have us take our afflictions as temporary irritants to be quickly cast aside. But we are more than conquerers, and our hope is not set on our temporal success. We can thus have a supernatural level of joy in the midst of our defeat and weakness, because our hope is fixed completely on the grace to be brought to us in Christ (1 Peter 1:13). The real gospel says, rejoice! You can’t lose! When you lose you win, and when you win … you win. It depends on what you hope for, and the prosperity gospel’s hope is simply too small. We are the bride of Christ, and even our sufferings bring us greater fellowship with Him. For us, there is no prosperity except Christ, and Him crucified!

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