Numerous people are earning themselves a fortune as teachers of the prosperity gospel. God wants you wealthy, healthy and happy, they say, and show you just how wealthy, healthy, and “happy” they are…
Don’t say anything negative, because you will be stopping God from working in your life to make you all that you would like to be. You, say these stars of the Christian stage, can speak your amazing dream world into existence, so long as you maintain positive confession, oh, and keep sending in the money. It’s all about you.
Any serious read through the New Testament gives a very different impression. In fact, to be honest, it offers the very things none of us want: hardship, persecution, lives lived out in a fallen world, and yes…trouble. Jesus Christ told his disciples:
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33b).
Jesus. after saying that he had overcome the world, proceeded to be arrested and executed. His disciples faced a life of persecution and being hounded by those who hated the gospel. John the Baptist, who paved the way for the revealing of the Christ, and who was, according to Jesus, the greatest man who had ever lived (Matthew 11:11) was beheaded by Herod, with no intervention from Jesus. Lazarus, who Jesus raised from the dead, died again of old age, or at least, he isn’t around now.
Have you noticed, that when Jesus was given the news that Lazarus was ill in the first place, he stayed away from the house for days, and allowed Lazarus to die and be buried? (John 11:1-14). Yes, this was a special event in which Jesus wanted to show the world that he had power over death. But have you ever considered how Lazarus’ sisters felt when their brother died, and Jesus hadn’t come to heal him or at least visit him? Wasn’t it a little harsh of Jesus to wait and make them suffer: a little inconsiderate, to say the least?
What about the healing of the man born blind, also in John’s gospel. The man was already full-grown when Jesus healed him, and yet Jesus said that, “This happened (the man being born blind) so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 11:3).
So think about this: this man was born blind, and lived into adulthood. He didn’t get healed until he was grown. Think of the trouble and struggle he and his parents had had with him, and the sadness. Why didn’t God heal the man when he was born? Why doesn’t God work much harder to solve the world’s problems and to make us all happy? Suffering is given as the number one reason (or excuse) for unbelief and for atheism: surely God could do more to improve his image and get more followers? Are all these examples evidence that there is something suspect about the New Testament; something dark?
I’m a believer in prayer. I’m sure that God not only cares about our problems, but works to fix them….sometimes. I even believe that the prayer of faith will raise the sick person…sometimes. I believe in healing, but not healers in our age. Yes, I said “sometimes”, because, contrary to the health-and-wealth gospel being preached today, the truth is that God himself is the one who has cursed this sin-filled world. It wasn’t Satan, and it wasn’t bad luck-it was God:
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:17-19).
I said “sometimes”, because it isn’t God’s plan to make us all healthy, wealthy and happy in this world, all the time. But no, the problems that occurred and remained after the sacrifice of Jesus are not evidence that there is any sinister or dark intent behind the New Testament or behind the plan of God. God’s plan for us is humility, and reality, and struggle, so that we can see what the effects of sin are, and so that we can be changed, from human pride and vanity-empty thinking-to a right relationship with Him. He wants to make us like His Son, who suffered to the point of death. I’ve written a lot on suffering and the work of trials in our lives before, but here’s one little example of God’s perspective. Paul the apostle, a man who could display all the signs of an apostle including healing, said that he was suffering some on-going malady which was the bane of his life. But he wrote:
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness… (2 Corinthians 12:8-9).
You see, it isn’t all about us and our betterment: it’s about God, and His glory in our lives. Do we pray for help and healing? That’s great. But failing that, are we looking for God’s glory in our brokenness-physical and spiritual and mental?
It’s no good claiming that Christ has taken away our curse by his death and resurrection. He has, but as fallen humans we are still under it until we’re resurrected. If the curse had really been lifted from humanity in this world, the stars of Christian TV would be living forever; they would be young and youthful and would not age. They would not need wigs, face-lifts, boob-jobs, and doctors, and neither would we. The curse will not be lifted until Jesus Christ steps into this world again and proceeds to return the world’s government to His own will and that of the Father:
On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse (Revelation 22:2-3).
Until that wonderful day, it’s our duty to bear one another’s burdens, and to humble ourselves in the bodies we are trapped in for now. Covid? Toothache? Money problems? Loneliness? Let’s pray for help and for healing, but look forward to that great day, when we will be everything we should be.