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).
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).
One of the characteristics of false teachers is that they “entice unsteady souls” (2 Pt. 2:14). As the angler baits the hook, so do false teachers adorn their promises to fool the unsuspecting crowd.
Pastor Lesego recently grabbed headlines in South Africa when he convinced his people that eating grass would help them get closer to God. We have at least one example in Scripture of a human grass-eater, but this was a sign of God’s judgment (Dan. 4:25). The only hope God gives for the King Nebuchadnezzars and Pastor Lesegos of this world is deeply felt repentance.
Not to be outdone, pictures have come out of Pastor Alex jumping on people. The Rabonni Centre Ministries Facebook page said: “Pastor Alex showed great faith when he paced towards the congregants, who were earlier called to sleep by the Man of God, and stepping and jumping upon them. He was handed a microphone and thereafter the sleeping congregants began to wake up and sleep as he commanded them.”
Some observations from the picture tell us much of what the Prosperity Gospel is all about.
- The audience is full of women and children. Paul warned us long ago that false teachers would worm their way into the households of women who lack spiritual insight and moral substance (2 Tim. 3:6). The men in this culture are certainly not a paragon of virtue, but even they don’t fall for this level of cretinism.
- There are no Bibles. Prosperity preachers may open with a verse, but only as an aid to launch into an appeal for money. Paul praised the Berean church when they checked and double-checked everything Paul said (Acts 17:17).
- There is lots of laughter. I can assure you that a common text among prosperity preachers is not the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:4. “Blessed are those who mourn [over their sin].” They do not teach about hell, judgment, repentance, and sin. Rather, they are like “irrational animals” (2 Pt. 2:12) that follow their fleshly desires by promising health and wealth.