It feels good at first. When you’ve been feeling bad about yourself or a bit depressed about how your life is going, it feels good to hear someone tell you that there’s a different way to live. When your hear that you’re a good person, an amazing person and that you can have anything in the world that your heart desires—well, that’s heady stuff. It’s like coming in from a freezing cold blizzard and being wrapped up in a great big warm, fuzzy blanket. It feels SO good.
And that’s a problem. It’s all about making you feel better, and nothing about making you a saint. This brand of Christianity is popular in America these days. You can find it on your tv any time day or night. It goes by different names, but it’s generally called some version of the “prosperity gospel.” It bears little resemblance to the Gospel of Jesus Christ laid out in Holy Scripture. Most Christians profess that Jesus came to save us from our sins through His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. We believe that His love and mercy was poured out for us on the Cross and we look to that same Cross as the source of our hope, And we know that Jesus tells us “…whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).
One of the tenets of this prosperity movement (and how it got its name) is that your faith will bring you worldly wealth and happiness. You are told to speak to God about your wants and to claim them as your own.This “naming and claiming” is a very modern twist on God’s benevolence. Throughout the history of Christianity, believers who did as Jesus tells us and took up their crosses, found sanctity through His example. Jesus was poor, homeless, humble, despised, tortured and brutally killed. All but one (St. John) of His Apostles were tortured and killed for their faith in Christ. Over the centuries thousands of Christians have been put to death for believing in Jesus Christ. It is happening this very day.
The lives of these martyrs make no sense if you look through the lens of earthly prosperity preachers. Try to imagine applying “name it and claim it” as you face torture and death. You can’t do it because it isn’t part of God’s plan. If we pick up that cross and follow Him, we must expect to walk the path He walked. We must expect to suffer and to embrace suffering as a key to our sanctification . St. Paul tells us that suffering goes hand in hand with following Christ. “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him, but also suffer for His sake”(Phil 1:29). Are we to believe that St. Paul got it all wrong? And not only Paul, but the other Gospel writers and Apostles as well?
This is why you’ll rarely hear the prosperity preachers talk about the Cross, the Crucifixion, suffering, sin, pain, repentance, or sacrifice. None of this fits with their vision of God, whom they have reduced to a kindly uncle with an unlimited bank account. This is a small god and not the God of Calvary, Who requires nothing less of us than everything. But in that Cross IS everything—eternal life in Christ. The Gospel isn’t about making you feel good about yourself. The Gospel is a call to lay our lives at the foot of the Cross and to enter into the life of Christ. The Gospel is meant to transform our lives in this world so that we may share God’s eternal life in the next world That transformation, if we believe the Gospel, is going to be painful. Sanctification, becoming like Christ, is worth walking that broken road with Him. It’s what the Apostles and the Saints have done. And their reward? So much more than a big house and earthly wealth. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Don’t allow them to try and make God over in their own image, into some kind of personal shopper. Turn off the tv and read the Gospels. Discover the love of the great I AM and His plan for your life. Do not be afraid!
“They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the Cross.”