It is easy to point out the mistakes of the Joel Olsteen “Your Best Life Now” theology. The prosperity gospel is far removed from the NT teaching on the cost of discipleship (Matt 16:24-26) and the reality that suffering is something that Christians will endure in this life (Phil 1:29). Most in my circles (evangelical, Calvinist) rightly steer others away from Olsteen’s prosperity gospel. But I think often get tricked into embracing what I call a watered-down version of the prosperity gospel. It’s a miller-lite, or coke zero, version of the prosperity gospel that is watered down enough to make us think we are NOT drinking it, but at the end of the day it really is just a diluted version. It is the prosperity gospel-lite version.
We see it in action when our response to suffering or trials is one of shock or outrage. Our health crumbles, our finances collapse, ministry doesn’t go the way we think it should, our loved one struggles with something we never predicted. These things happen and we respond with astonishment and are shaken in our faith, because we thought that our trust in the Lord and obedience should not have resulted in trials or hardships.
We would not have said we believed it, but deep down we thought that because we are committed Christians, we should be exempt from such difficulties or hardships. But this means that we’ve drunk the juices of the prosperity gospel-lite, a gross tasting drink that makes our stomach and faith sour.
I write about this because I see how much it happens to me and believers in my circles. And since this is the case, I would say we must preach passages like 1 Peter 4:12-16 to ourselves often:
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.