With the advancement of the health, wealth, and prosperity messages on T.B.N. and similar networks, it seems foolish for Christians to go to jail for the cause of Christ! After all, if we follow the theology of the Word Faith movement today, we will hear a clear message of healthy living and prosperity being taught as God’s will. If we experience anything less than that – we must be living in some form of sin that has brought upon judgment from God.
The problem with that type of theology is that it doesn’t square with the teachings of Scripture. The Word of God reveals the true Christian life as a life of surrender, sacrifice, danger, self denial, and even death. Jesus said:
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 Forwhoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. – Luke 9:23-24 (ESV)
Therefore, true Christianity is foreign to the world, T.B.N., and sadly, to many churches today. The type of message we are often hearing is about a grandfather type of God who would never demand anything more than we can handle. He wants the absolute best for us and desires for us to possess everything our hearts desire in this life in order to please ourselves! Is that the God of Scripture?
George Offor on John Bunyan’s arrest, November 12, 1660:
“[T]he constable and his attendants came in, and exhibiting a warrant, ordered him to leave the pulpit and come down; but he [Bunyan] told him that he was about his Master’s business, and must rather obey his Lord’s voice than that of man. Then a constable was ordered to fetch him down, who, coming up and taking hold of his coat, was about to remove him, when Mr. Bunyan fixed his eyes steadfastly upon him; having his Bible open in his hand, the man let go, looked pale and retired; upon which he [Bunyan] said to the congregation, ‘See how this man trembles at the Word of God.’ . . . But being commanded in the king’s name, he went with the officers, accompanied by some friends, to the magistrate’s residence.”
Bunyan spent the next 12 years in prison, leaving behind a wife and 4 young children, the oldest of which was blind. While in prison, he didn’t spend his time complaining about how he had been wronged. Instead, he wrote the most printed book in the history of the world (excluding the Bible), The Pilgrim’s Progress. Those who read this blog often know that I have a great deal of respect for Bunyan’s life, dedication, doctrine, and writings. However, as I look at history, I see men like Bunyan who spent time in prison, but not for crimes of sin, but rather – crimes of preaching! Is that the judgment of God or is that the strange providence of God?
The Apostle Paul said the following:
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. – Philippians 1:12-16 (ESV)
Paul spent much of his ministry in prison. He was placed in jail for preaching the gospel on several different occasions. Was Paul under the judgment of God? Was Paul suffering as a result of hidden sin in his life? Was Paul the victim of free-will bad luck? Was this the sovereign will of God? It seems clear from Scripture that Paul spent time in prison because of the sovereign will of God in order to advance the gospel.
Can God use the bad choices of people to accomplish His divine will? Yes! That has been God’s pattern throughout history. It was the case with Joseph in the Old Testament, Paul in the New Testament, and eventually Bunyan in church history. The health, wealth, and prosperity message is nothing more than a denial of God’s Word and a perversion of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must deny the Word Faith movement that has become so prevalent in our modern day. It has overtaken the television programs, radio, internet, and is invading the pulpits of many churches. God’s will is not always prosperity and health – in fact – He may choose a different path for our lives in order to accomplish His divine will for His eternal glory!