America’s single largest local church is one that preaches the “prosperity gospel”–a false message promising material and social benefits in this life as a reward for the right blend of faith and works in the life of the believer.
By my lights, the best explanation for this is this: people recognize that there is more to life than they are currently experiencing. People know that their current experience is not optimal; there is something better out there.
The Bible says that the optimal life experience begins when a person repents and trusts in Jesus Christ. Rather than promising material blessings, Jesus said that this life would be marked by hardship and pain. In the midst of these trials, the new Christian begins to experience the peace and reconciliation of Christ in this life. These are a foretaste of the everlasting experience of pleasure and bliss in the presence of Almighty God promised in the Bible to everyone who receives God’s free gift by faith.
On the other hand, the prosperity gospel preachers promise the good life (physical health, happy families, personal success) as the reward for good works (yes, speaking words of faith and victory over your life, all day, is a work) on this side of the grave. According to their false teaching, the believer can attain to his or her “best life now” and “break out” to “new levels of glory,” by following the right practices. Of course these are empty promises. Turns out, God never did promise wealth and health to Christians. And even if He had guaranteed that believers would all be given new linen suits and Egyptian cotton sheets, there’s the whole moth-and-rust problem. The treasures of this world aren’t meant to last.
It doesn’t take a prophet to predict the kind of heartbreaking disappointment that inevitably comes from realizing that one has put all one’s eggs in the wrong eschatological basket.
Whether you have faith in Christ or not, this life is going to be hard. So we’d all better just get used to it.
Yet for the Christian, filled with the Holy Spirit, the tribulations of life here on earth have real significance. Every 24 hours of hardship brings the believer one day closer to the true prosperity of Heaven.
Jesus Christ suffered and died the death your sin deserves, not so you wouldn’t have to suffer and die yourself, but to redeem from death everyone who would ever trust in Him. He says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”
Life after death. Forgiveness of sins. Knowing God, forever. These promises blow earthly prosperity out of the water.
Talk about your best life.