John G. Lake, Zion City evangelist and co-founder of the Apostolic Faith Mission in South Africa, laid out one of the strongest pentecostal cases for the superhuman ability to overcome sickness. Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, in her 1875 manifesto Science and Health, disavowed the reality of sickness and death–arguing suffering comes from mental errors. E.W. Kenyon believed physical healing is God’s intention for humanity. Kenneth Hagin claimed: “I have not had one sick day in 45 years.”
Creflo Dollar urged Christians to cure poverty with dollar bills hidden in their shoes. A.A. Allen claimed a fat woman lost 200 pounds before his eyes at a healing crusade. Bill Johnson of Bethel Church has said it is always God’s will to heal people. Gloria Copeland encouraged her readers to die a glorious death at age 120 by “divine appointment.” Oral Roberts mailed out thousands of handkerchiefs with an imprint of his anointed hand to bring healing.
In contrast, Scripture teaches suffering is often God’s will. Here are 30 reasons it is good:
- Suffering is one way God shows His love toward his children (Hb. 12:6).
- Suffering reveals a guilty conscience (Ps. 38:3).
- Suffering prepares us for heaven (2Co. 4:17-18).
- Suffering teaches us humility (2Co. 12:7).
- Suffering will make us like Christ (Phil. 3:10).
- Suffering may be judgment upon our sins (Ps. 107:17).
- Suffering produces perseverance (Rm. 5:3).
- Suffering is an opportunity to express joy (2Co. 8:2).
- Suffering helps others see Christ in us (2Co. 4:11).
- Suffering gives us assurance of our salvation when we persevere (2Th. 1:5).
- Suffering helps us to obey God’s word (Ps. 119:67).
- Suffering is used by God to give us a broken spirit (Ps. 51:17).
- Suffering reminds that our life is short (Ps. 90:10-12).
- Suffering is used by God to save the lost (2Tm. 2:8-10).
- Suffering is used by God to accomplish good (Gn. 50:20).
- Suffering reminds us that God keeps his promises (1Pt. 4:12-13).
- Suffering is the road all true Christians must take to reach the kingdom of God (Ac. 14:22).
- Suffering helps us to relate with Jesus Christ (John 15:18-20).
- Suffering reminds us that there is a better world yet to come (Rom. 8:18).
- Suffering is one of the requirements of being a disciple of Jesus (Lk. 9:23-24).
- Suffering is used by God to display his work in us (Jn. 9:3).
- Suffering teaches us how to grow in our obedience towards God (Hb. 5:8).
- Suffering shows us our need to rely on God (1Pt. 5:7).
- Suffering leads us to repentance (2Co. 7:9).
- Suffering increases our endurance (Jms. 1:2-3).
- Suffering teaches how to comfort others who are suffering (2Co. 1:4).
- Suffering binds Christians together in a common goal (Rv. 1:9).
- Suffering in the present reminds us that the future is far better (2Co. 4:17).
- Suffering followed by perseverance will bring us rewards (2Tm. 2:12).
- Suffering gives more glory to God because of our weakness (2Co. 12:9).
Missionary Minds is a series of exchanges with missionaries around the world.
Joel Porcher, his wife Deanna and their four small children minister in Ghana, West Africa. They are in the midst of a church plant started by a missionary friend who is now stateside. The work is called Anchor Baptist Church, which is located in a village community just outside Cape Coast, Ghana.
1. Finish the sentence: Do not become a missionary if ____. You think the developing world is more open to the gospel than the West.
2. What are the most common errors that missionaries make? They do not pray enough for the work and often neglect their own walk with the Lord and their family. We cannot move people, God can. They shortcut the process of leadership training wanting to move on to the next work or their next season of ministry pre-maturely. They do not get close enough to their church members to actually know what is going on in their lives. Continue reading
This list is not necessarily the 10 best books I’ve read, just the most instrumental for that time in my life. (The hyperlinks are to my book reviews).
- Hudson Taylor (2 vol.), Mrs. Howard Taylor – Read these on the flight to and from Ghana in college. They confirmed God was calling me into missions.
- Foundations of Grace, Steve Lawson – Ransacks nearly every passage in Scripture addressing the doctrines of grace, thus convincing me of their joy and veracity.
- How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler – Adler taught me that reading a book well is hard work. Pastors should master his fifteen rules of reading. Read the sequel too.
- The Calvary Road, Roy Hession – read this in Boulder, Colorado in my early 20’s and was the tool God used to shine the spotlight on a lot of pride in my life.
- Paul the Missionary, Eckhard Schnabel – this biblical and insightful book challenged me to reevaluate my missionary goals and methods in light of the apostle Paul.
- Shadow of the Almighty, Jim Elliot – Elliot became my hero in the two years before my departure to South Africa. He made we want to follow hard after God.
- Money, Possessions and Eternity, Randy Alcorn – read this with Lindy while in Mozambique. Helped shape the way we view, give and spend our money.
- The Doctrine of Repentance, Thomas Watson – no one has made me yearn to know the word and the Word more than Puritans. Watson’s vivid imagery is preeminent.
- John G. Paton Autobiography – expectedly, Paton filled me with courage and devotion. Unexpectedly, he gave me a contemporary model for church planting.
- Ephesians, Harold Hoehner – a tour de force; this commentary reminded me that doing word studies the old-fashioned way is the best way to find the text’s meaning.
My recent post on various causes of poverty in rural Africa stemmed from Scripture and my own experience in the village setting.
My point was that while there are many villagers who are honest and hardworking and have survived terrible crimes in the past (e.g. apartheid), the predominant cause for poverty in the rural areas is one of morality, not victimization. Ultimately, it is only the gospel of Jesus Christ and the principles within the Word of God that can free people from their poverty, either in this life or the next.
Eminent African-American economist, Harvard grad and Hoover Institution professor Dr. Thomas Sowell has much to say about poverty. He grew up poor and without a father. He’s a high school dropout. And yet, he became a great success and has spent his life challenging the Left’s often futile solutions to help the poor. Here are some of his greatest quotes on poverty:
Deep thinkers who look everywhere for the mysterious causes of poverty, ignorance, crime and war need look no further than their own mirrors. We are all born into this world poor and ignorant, and with thoroughly selfish and barbaric impulses.
The vision of the anointed is one in which ills as poverty, irresponsible sex, and crime derive primarily from ‘society,’ rather than from individual choices and behavior. To believe in personal responsibility would be to destroy the whole special role of the anointed, whose vision casts them in the role of rescuers of people treated unfairly by ‘society’.
If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 60 years ago, a liberal 30 years ago and a racist today.
The biggest and most deadly ‘tax’ rate on the poor comes from a loss of various welfare state benefits – food stamps, housing subsidies and the like – if their income goes up.
What ‘multiculturalism’ boils down to is that you can praise any culture in the world except Western culture – and you cannot blame any culture in the world except Western culture.
Another of the magic feats of political rhetoric in our time is to blame “a legacy of slavery” for problems in the black community today….[This] argument is not just a convenient excuse for bad behavior, it allows politicians to escape responsibility for the consequences of the government policies they imposed.
The perverse incentives of the welfare state have all too frequently enticed the poor, blacks included, away from finding remunerative work and toward a mentality of dependency and entitlement.
- There’s no explanation needed for poverty. The species began in poverty. So what you really need to know is what are the things that enable some countries, and some groups within countries, to be prosperous.
The Prosperity Gospel heresy is so dangerous because it contains elements of truth. If it were completely false, no one would believe it. God does sometimes bless people with material prosperity and well-being.
But Scripture also warns of the dangers of promising health and wealth, especially when it is used to draw people to God. We could define the Prosperity Gospel message thus: Jesus came into the world to make people prosperous, not to remove God’s wrath upon them. God’s will is never suffering, but always health and wealth.
Some advocates of hard prosperity (explicit) are Benny Hinn, Shepherd Bushiri, Kenneth Copeland, and TB Joshua. Some upholders of soft prosperity (less explicit, just as dangerous) are Joyce Meyer, TD Jakes, Joel Osteen, Miles Monroe, and Paula White.
Jesus despised this message. How do we know?
- Jesus promises his followers persecution, betrayal, and beatings (Mt. 10:16-20).
- Jesus says it is hard for a rich man to enter heaven (Mt. 19:23-24).
- Jesus demands his followers be willing to relinquish everything (Lk. 14:33).
- Jesus called the Apostle Paul to a life of incredible suffering (Ac. 9:16).
- Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for concluding suffering always comes from sin (Jn. 9:1-3).
- Jesus rebuked those who love money and neglect their own soul (Lk. 12:16-21).
- Jesus warns people to guard against covetousness (Lk. 12:15).
- Jesus says prosperity coaxes professing Christians to leave the faith (Mk. 4:18-19).
- Jesus said poverty of spirit is necessary for eternal life (Lk. 6:20).
- Jesus is often despised when money and possessions are taken away (Mk. 5:17).
- Jesus told a lover of money the way to heaven is by leaving his money (Mk. 10:17-22).
- Jesus urges his followers to lay up treasure on heaven, not on earth (Mt. 6:19-20).
- Jesus says giving should be private, not ostentatious (Mt. 6:1-4).
- Jesus was not wealthy but born into a poor family (Lk. 2:22-24; 9:58).
John MacArthur, Thomas Nelson, 2013, 352 pages, 4 of 5 stars
As one author put it: the Prosperity Gospel is Christianity’s version of professional wrestling–you know it’s fake but it nonetheless has entertainment value.
As a missionary in Africa, I value this book because the errors it addresses are deeply embedded among our people. The slogan “What I confess, I possess” was first coined in the early 20th century by a white American Baptist but is repeated thousands of times over in innumerable 21st century African churches.
Think of Strange Fire (2013) as the sequel to Charismatic Chaos (1992). Same topics but tighter arguments and updated names. A conference with the same name launched the book. Heavy praise and criticism followed. In typical fashion, MacArthur goes right for the jugular. He rebukes dozens of authors and preachers (e.g. Hinn, Copeland, Osteen) in nearly 600 footnotes. He tackles nearly every key passage from the opposing side, and—contra media allegations—does not address just the extreme cases. He pinpoints the errors of orthodox men he would call friends, like John Piper, Don Carson, and Wayne Grudem. Continue reading
Living in a rural African village for over a decade has taught me that poverty doesn’t come by accident. There is a reason rural South Africa is poor. Often, it stems from sin.
This does not mean the poor are always at fault. Ultimately, the Lord himself causes poverty (1Sm. 2:7; Dt. 8:17-18; Job 1:21). The poor will always exist on earth (Jn. 12:8). Jesus commended the godly church in Smyrna and they were very poor (Rev. 2:9). Many of those in deep poverty are honest, devout, and hardworking.
But the modern notion that Africa is poor because of colonialism or forced inequality is not true. Consider the following causes for poverty in rural South Africa.
- Tribal Ownership
In many African villages (like my own), the tribe or community owns the land, not individuals. This kind of communal ownership only traps the people into poverty because it gives the residents no incentive to improve the land and businesses no incentive to establish commerce. Others own the land.
“Do not steal” implies personal ownership. Thus, people must be able to own things. This is why graffiti and broken windows are common in public schools but not individual homes. Continue reading