Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Favor of God

Maybe you're wondering why the urge to blog has come upon me so much this week.... well look at my to do list: clean apartment, go out in rain to mail letters, write lesson plans and test questions.... blogging has never looked so attractive!

I received a book for Christmas from a very well-meaning friend. It's a book by megachurch leader Joel Osteen called Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential

If you know me well, you'll know that I'm the kind of person that will deliberately NOT read or watch something, just because everyone else is doing it...
Anyways, I saw smilin' Joel on Larry King Live a couple weeks ago, and their church services are broadcast in Taiwan on the Christian channel.. so I did a little google 'research' which tells me what I kinda suspected just from reading the title of the book.... they lean a little (or a lot depending on the source) toward the "health and wealth" gospel.

But I figured, since I have the book for free, I might as well give it a try.... It has a good basic message, but a lot of red flags come up, usually when he puts in part of a bible verse (footnoted so verse references don't clog up his text) and I think... I don't remember that verse having that meaning!

I can see both sides of it, and he does have a lot of positive things to say. But the danger comes when people who don't have very deep theology/understanding of the bible read this pop spirituality stuff without a discerning mind.

Here's a quote from the book:

"The Bible clearly states, 'God has crowned us with glory and honor.'(Psalm 8:5) The word honor could also be translated as 'favor' and favor means 'to assist, to provide with special advantages and to receive preferential treatment.' In other words, God wants to make your life easier. He wants to assist you, to promote you, to give you advantages." (Page 39)

Ok, God wants to have life to the fullest, we are his creation and he cares about us, I can agree with that, but God wants to make your life easier? Trying to think of a biblical character this principle might be found in... Job..nope. Ezekiel..nope. Jeremiah...nope. Hosea....Paul....Jesus... nope, nope, nope they didn't seem to have easier lives, they all faced persecution and suffering.....
He later goes on to talk about getting parking spaces, talking his way out of speeding tickets, and getting job promotions all as examples of God's favor.
He does note that the favor is not because of anything we've done but because we are precious children of God.. ok I can track with that. But it seems like God's favor doesn't always come in the form of material blessings....

Joel Osteen says: "you will often receive preferential treatment simply because your Father is the King of kings, and His glory and honor spill over onto you." (Page 40)

Jesus says:
1"0Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matt 5:10-12)

Warning his disciples on their way out to minister:

"22All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes." (Matt 10:22-23)

Talking about the end times:

9"Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me." (Matt 24:9)

And it's not just in Matthew... check out Luke 21:12-19
and finally John 15:18-20
18"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If 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. 20Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.'[b] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.

Ok I think I've made my point... the truth is, God DOES bless his people, but he also tests them. He tells us to expect persecution, not a bigger house. When God said "set your mind on higher things" he wasn't talking about a job promotion (Though Osteen would have you think so).

Now I have to admit, I have readily seen God's favor in my own life, but he uses it for the purpose of increasing HIS kingdom, not MY wealth. If he heals me, it's not for the sake of my inner spirit realizing I'm a winner, it's so I can go out and declare his healing to others.

I just have a real problem with the health and wealth gospel when I see third world believers living in poverty, Christian leaders dying of cancer and the persecuted church... it's popular in North America where the Christian "club" is looking for any way it can to get members (and donations) but God is not a good luck charm or a magic genie, and bad stuff will happen to you, even if you "conceive it, believe it, and declare that God has more in store".
He mentions this problem a little but doesn't deal with it very satisfactorily. Granted I'm only on page 40, but already enough objections have been raised in my mind that I couldn't recommend or give this book to someone else.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for your comments, Charlotte. It sounds like an "interesting" book... pretty sure I'm going to find some other reading. lol :) My parents gave me John Piper's "Let the Nations Be Glad" for Christmas, so I'm working on that. I hope that you enjoy the rest of your book!

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  2. Great post! You make a lot of excellent points. A lot of people have fallen victim to this whole "health and wealth" theology over here, as I'm sure you've noticed.

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  3. this is very refreshing. it is very similar to Catholic teaching BTW. wo ye jingpei ni yinwei ni xue zhongwen. yiban lai shuo, jiao yingwen de waiguoren dui waiguoyu mei you xingchu. and what a pity that is.

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  4. Char: Great insight. We should probably each read that book because many people here watch his show on Good TV and ask about him at times. Personally, I just watch the praise and worship segments, as I don't agree with his teaching, which may only have one verse mentioned.

    Are you going to read past page 40?

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  5. hey, thanks for stopping by. i studied chinese after teaching English in Japan for a few years and started traveling to China on my breaks. I love Japanese too, but Chinese is a bigger and more important deal. But if you want a real challenge, try Arabic. I have been working on it off and on for about 12 years now. To me the difference between Spanish/French and Chinese in terms of easiness is the same difference between Arabic and Chinese. Arabic grammar and the task of learning and remembering words in Arabic is much harder than in Chinese. Islamic cultures are also closed, unlike East Asia, and so you don't have a chance to practice the language as much. Anyway, I like your blog and I will pop in from time to time. My real name is Todd BTW. I use a pseudonym because I live in kind of a weird country.

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