This was the title of a blog entry from a corporate New Age guru on the internet. I can only say that coming from the world, this statement makes a whole lot of sense and I seek not to critique that perspective in this entry. They say we are to pursue whatever makes us the happiest, the fullest of satisfaction. And it is no wonder that this message is money many times. Or maybe not even in money itself, but the satisfaction of your job that you love to do, money just may come along with it. So for the unbeliever of the Gospel, this is an understandable perspective. Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and money” (Luke 16:13).
However, it is odd to me this is the very statement we hear from many so-called evangelical leaders, not just from the health and wealth prosperity people, but other teachers as well. Many times the message is veiled by phrasing it in a different way, and usually goes something like this, “Follow God – the Money Will Come!” or even more specifically, “Follow Jesus – the Money Will Come!” Other times, the message will be veiled further, and instead of using money, because that’s too Biblically idolatrous sounding, to something vague like, “Follow Jesus – the Blessing Will Come.” It’s just that you get to decide what that blessing is for you. It could be money, relationships, satisfaction in the here and now. Regardless, the focus and center of your faith is, “You, your feelings, desires, felt needs, your satisfaction, your pleasure. You are the center of your own universe! God can just help you get there faster!” Really? God can help you find pleasure in everything else except Himself? Youch. That does not sound right.
I cannot seem to forget Jesus’ (and other Scripture passages) clear statements about those who would truly follow Him. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). That’s kind of a gruesome image in relation to yourself if you really ponder it. Think about The Passion, the movie. “When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Also, “Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered” (Psalm 44:22).
These aren’t necessarily pretty, metaphorical pictures for the followers of Christ who would honestly take up and pursue Him. This journey of faith in Christ, to be conformed to His image, is rigorous. We are expected to be uncomfortable, fight against sin that would seek to mute the witness of the Spirit in our lives, stand against the world and culture in love, for His glory, in hopes they too would be saved by God’s power in Christ. We are to relentlessly pursue the knowledge of Him in the Scriptures, for this is eternal life, just as Jesus said (John 17:3). We are to pursue Him knowing that ahead of us, most certainly, lies a broken road in which our fleshly, prideful selves will be shattered, and our regenerated, new selves will come out of the rubble shining like the stars in the night sky, only because of the work of Christ in us. And we pursue Him not in our own strength (like the rest of the world does in pursuing their idols), but rather in His provdential strength, power and love of the Gospel.
Jesus and the writers of the Scriptures did not say we would be spared trials upon following Him, but that we should expect them. And not only should we expect them, we should rejoice in them! (Romans 5:2-5, James 1:2-4). In rejoicing in the trials, it is not some masochistic, sadistic picture being painted, that we find pleasure in the pain itself, but rather that through the trials, we find ultimate, final, divine pleasure and joy not in the things of this world, but in Christ alone.
We follow Christ knowing very well that He can (and will) permit and bring trials that overwhelm our souls, but that in and through them, we are refined like gold going through the fire to get rid of impurities. In fact, the very granting of the trials by God in our lives is actually His mercy. How? Because He brings us into closer fellowship with Himself through them! What could be better than that out of anything in the world? This is the opposite of how the world speaks about trials. In their eyes they are to be avoided at all costs through some form of risk management (and no, I’m not against insurance, or preparing for disasters financially, it’s just we need to be honestly ready and expect trials to come into our lives).
Because of this, it is no wonder Christianity is fading in the West, because our churches are filled with pastors proclaiming that Jesus wants you to have your best life now through finding pleasure in the Disney Land we call America, not enduring trials for His sake (Psalm 44:22). That really saddens my heart. How does that message handle the death of a child? An earthquake where all of your family members are lost, except you? It can’t.
The message of the world says, “Find your joy, peace, and final happiness in the here and now!” The Scriptures say, “Find your joy, peace, and final happiness in Christ alone. Anything else is idolatry and will lead to hell.” It is sad many sermons being preached today are telling people to commit idolatry by making a hybrid statement out of the two, “Find your joy, peace, and final happiness in the here and now, God’s way!” This message is an embarrassment. When witnessing, this is usually one of the first stumbling blocks I have had to debunk apologetically so people can actually hear what you are saying when talking about the Gospel.
It would be nice if maybe the overall church leaders helped its people out by proclaiming the message the world actually needs to hear: the Gospel itself, instead of the prosperity Gospel, even those versions of the properity Gospel that are further veiled in Scriptural terminology to make them appealing to church-goers. I mean if the world is going to reject our message of peace with God through Christ, let them reject it. But don’t let them reject the true Gospel that isn’t being preached because a false one is preached in its place.
“For the time is coming [and might I add, is here] when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:2-4). We desperately need Gospel-recovery in the church as our first priority of change, otherwise, what in the world do we have to offer the poor, the broken, the abused, the homeless, but a bunch of good works, while their souls are left in danger of the fires and torments of hell? I cannot think of anything more unloving than that. Rather we should couple the two together: works in the service of others with the primary intent of witnessing the whole counsel of God, the Gospel, and the works testifying to our genuine desire to see them saved.