Myth Busters #2 – Suffering and Hardship

There appears to be a misunderstanding that needs to be cleared up.

Within the global Christian community there is widespread teaching that is completely opposed to anything that the Bible teaches.

I am, of course, referring to suffering, and hardship.

I have noticed that when we discuss with other believers some of the tests of endurance we have been through, there is a clear tendency to assume that we must be doing something wrong. There is a look, a glance, that tells me that those listening don’t believe that God would be the one behind any kind of trouble or hardship. That all trouble comes from Satan and that if you are experiencing trouble it is because God is not with you.

Now, I have posted on this subject a number of times previously. Take The Pain and A Job Lot Of Trouble are two that come to mind. But, after a recent conversation with a good friend, I felt the need to expose one root that appears to have taken hold in the fertile soil of modern Christianity.

It started with an innocent enough question.

“Did you watch Joyce Meyer last night?”

I intervened immediately. As a rule, I don’t watch her. Or the rest of them that openly fly their own flags beneath the banner that is the Word of Faith movement.

“No, we didn’t. To be honest, we’re not convinced by her teaching, especially with the lifestyle she leads.”

Now, I had best clear something up from the outset. You will be thinking that I am judging poor old Joyce. I don’t want to dress it up, because I do have an opinion. But, rather than judgement, I am inclined to say that I have some questions about what she teaches and how that can be reconciled with the $10,000,000 private jet. But, hey! That’s between her and God. It has absolutely nothing to do with me! However, the Bible clearly teaches us to have discernment when it comes to what people teach us. In fact, just about all of the epistles of the New Testament contain warnings against being led astray by wrong teaching and false doctrine. And, may I make a suggestion before you read any further? Right now, ask the Holy Spirit to give you discernment over what I am writing here. Because, if it doesn’t line up and all point to the person of Y’shua (Jesus), then stop reading now.

If you Google ‘word of faith’ , you will find plenty of websites telling you all about it. You will see some very familiar names associated with this teaching. You will surely notice that many of these names have large congregational churches, as well as extensive TV ministries. Sure, they are all doing loads of good stuff for the poor and orphans etc. But, it may have escaped your notice, so too are hundreds and hundreds of other non-Christian organisations. But, it is not their good works that I have issue with. It is their teaching. And, in particular, just what they are teaching to their large congregations and worldwide TV audiences.

Please don’t take large congregations and wealthy TV ministries as a sign of divine favour. Just because a lot of people subscribe to a preacher’s point of view or doctrine, doesn’t make what they say right before God. God is interested in people’s hearts, not how many people attend on a Sunday or tune in to a TV show.

Before we look at the substance of their teaching, let me first make an observation about TV ministries as a whole. I have noticed that when people first come to follow Y’shua, they are often drawn to feasting on the likes of GOD TV, TBN, and anything else they can force down their spiritual throats. This is perfectly normal. However, I have noticed that Christians who developed the kind of maturity in Y’shua that enables a Spirit led life tend not to watch these channels so much. This is because the TV preachers all preach spiritual milk, all of the time. You might get the odd show where you hear of some new teaching or revelation, but it will generally be on the subjects of wealth, health, and happiness. No real suprise there. After all, they have to keep the money coming in somehow, why not make the promise of the triple dream something that everyday folk can grasp. Cynicism? You bet!

It is true that people who are new to following Y’shua do need milk to get them going. In fact the apostle Peter advocates such a course in his first letter, and the second chapter. Like newborn babies, we need to get the right stuff at the beginning. But, once we have mastered the basics, we need to move onto spiritual meat.

I am inclined to believe that what is actually happening with many people who turn to Y’shua for salvation is that they get so used to the milk week in, week out that the thought of being weaned onto solids is simply too much for them.

And, it’s not just those who are watching the God channels. It is happening in our churches right across the globe. It is always milk, every week, just in case someone finds the meat too hard to swallow and doesn’t come back. The churches operate on a Sunday in a two-fold fashion. Primarily, it is a meeting designed to maintain having more meetings just the same. Most modern churches have an inner circle that everyone else desires to be a part of. The inner circle keep everyone else interested in that goal by giving out small roles of responsibility, such as working the sound system, or pouring tea. Keep everyone happy. It makes people believe that they will, one day, be invited into the inner circle. The circle of trust. And, if that succeeds, it makes having a tithing policy a whole lot easier. But, the tithing policy isn’t in order to honour God (He doesn’t need our money by the way, He owns everything), it is simply to maintain the existing establishment. Whether it be the wage bill, or the building itself, they need the money coming in to it keep going. In order to keep the money coming in, they need people, preferably new believers whom they can mold to fit in. In order to make sure that they can get new people coming in, all the services only ever have teaching that, at best, can be described as warm milk.

Of course, the giant TV channels also require money to keep going. So, they preach health, wealth, and happiness. They promise to pray for you personally to break the devil’s hold over your finances. Just donate $10. Please.

The trouble is, even those who preach this milk aren’t even aware that they are being deceived.

I can fully understand the desire to get more and more people into the kingdom. Time does appear to be running short in the whole scheme of things. For all we understand of the situation, Y’shua’s appearance in the sky could be imminent. I can also understand why Sunday services have become entertainment shows designed to get new people interested. That was a natural progression for a church not seeking God’s way of doing things. But what I don’t get is why the gospel is watered down with a message entirely of grace in order to draw a larger crowd. There will be a consequence for that. I am certain.

The entry on Wikipedia for the Word of Faith movement says this:

“Word of Faith teaching holds that God wants his people to be prosperous, which includes finances, good health, good marriages and relationships, i.e. to live generally prosperous lives in all areas. Word of Faith teaches that God empowers his people (blesses them) to achieve the promises that are contained in the Bible. Because of this, suffering does not come from God, but rather, from Satan. As Kenneth Copeland’s ministry has stated, the idea that God uses suffering for our benefit is considered to be “a deception of Satan” and “absolutely against the Word of God.” Additionally, if someone is not experiencing prosperity, it is because they have given Satan authority over their lives. God will not do anything at all unless the person invites him to.

It is argued that Jesus and the apostles were financially wealthy, owning homes, having monetary resources and businesses. The following arguments have been offered for this claim:

1. Jesus’ ability to travel without apparently working to earn a living for three years
2. References by Jesus and the apostles to owning homes
3. Jesus had a treasurer (Judas Iscariot)
4. Jesus consorting with the upper echelons of society
5. The businesses that each of the apostles apparently owned/worked in

This is contrary to the traditional view of Jesus, who is often viewed as being a poor, wandering teacher. Based on the concept that Jesus and his apostles were arguably wealthy, as well as the historical examples of his people having great wealth, and the promises for financial prosperity throughout the Old and New Testaments, Word of Faith proponents teach that modern believers also have access to the “blessing” and may also become financially wealthy.

Teachers like Kenneth Copeland assert the concept of total prosperity is validated by the teachings of the Apostle John: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (3 John 2). Copeland posits that “as the seeds of prosperity are planted in your heart, in your will and in your emotions…they eventually produce a great financial harvest.” ”

If this truly is the bedrock of the teaching that comes out of the mouths of the likes of Kenneth & Gloria Copeland, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, and Benny Hinn, then no wonder they are teaching what they are. Now, please hear me. I believe that each of these people genuinely love the Lord Y’shua. But I also believe that they have allowed false doctrine to tickle their ears and turn them from the true path.

We all want to be secure and financially blessed. But the reality is that God doesn’t teach that we can all have this. Not anywhere. If the quote above can be correctly attributed to Kenneth Copeland that God doesn’t make use of suffering to our benefit, then he is reading a different Bible to the one I have open in front of me.

I don’t intend on getting into a tit-for-tat exposé of what any of these Word of Faith guys are teaching. There is no point. But I do want to bust the myth that they are perpetuating that it is all about the money. Suffering and hardship are all part of the deal. There is no choice. Please allow me to show you why.

The book of Deuteronomy (or D’varim in Hebrew), is quoted more often in the New Testament than any other of the Old Testament books. Y’shua, Himself, quoted from it exclusively when dealing with the devil’s temptations in the wilderness (see Luke 4). So, I hope you will see that it has a certain gravity that means we should take good note.

Written by Moses, Deuteronomy is both historical and practical in nature. It was written as a summary of the Hebrew’s journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, just before Moses died. Moses makes reference to several key events and reminds Isra’el what God taught them so that they wouldn’t forget the lessons when they crossed the Jordan into Canaan.

In chapter eight Moses reminds Isra’el of a particular event in their journey and expounds God’s heart towards them in taking them through it. Here’s what Moses had to say:

“Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and posses the land that the Lord promised on oath to your forefathers. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands.

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.” [Deuteronomy 8:1-5 NIV]

Please note that God led them to this place in the desert. This was despite their obedience to Him – He didn’t lead them to this place to punish them for not obeying Him. He lead them there in order to make them hungry and teach them how to trust in His provision. Remember also that they came out of Egypt with much gold and silver given to the by the Egyptian women before they left. They were rich and yet their money couldn’t buy them bread and water.
God used the experience to teach them to trust in Him. It was not a punishment.

This example is one of many where the Bible shows us the true nature of God. It describes Him as a father who disciplines His children. Our understanding of discipline is often incorrect because of our own experiences. But God’s discipline is always for the best for us. It is in order to help us. Please don’t ever confuse discipline with punishment.

And, if you want confirmation that God uses adversity in order to conform us to be more like Him, then read the book of Job, carefully.

If you are enthralled with the teachings of any of the Word of Faith preachers, or those who promote prosperity as a divine right, then please take a moment to ask the Holy Spirit to show you the truth. God uses suffering to refine us. His will for all of us is to be made into the likeness of His Son, Y’shua (See Romans 8:29).

I will leave you with this gem, from the heart of God. He is talking to the Hebrews, who He loves.

“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” [Isaiah 48:10 NIV]

If you feel like you are in the furnace of affliction then rejoice and surrender. God is at work in you. Don’t fight it. Don’t turn aside to false teaching that brings false hope. Trust in God.

Shalom.

Previous Myth Buster:
#1 Revival

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