A year into my salvation I started to recognize the falsehood of the prosperity gospel, or more specifically the Word of Faith Movement. Since rejecting it, I have held it in contempt, regarding it as dangerously deceptive. For several years I’ve cast it away, not really feeling its lure.
Since that time (over 6 years ago), I have battled with many forms of chronic pain, one form brought on by pregnancy and still part of my daily experience even as I chase my now two year old daughter. I’ve tried many therapies, spent plenty of money, and had little success. The treatment I am trying now is the most expensive and the most painful.
After so much pain, limitation, and failed efforts, I found myself desperately wishing for a guarantee. Searching the scripture for hope I came across Psalm 27:13: “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” This verse convicted me and challenged my thinking. I had, after all, become somewhat of a pessimist. I went into treatment expecting it to fail, simply because there are few feelings in life worse than disappointment after high hopes. Then again, I’d tried giving up, and that felt even worse. I thought “I can only bear to hope again if there’s a guaranteed outcome.” For the first time, a thought came to me: What if I’m missing something? What if there is some promise of health and success that I’ve passed over? What if God could guarantee my healing based on the certainty of my own faith?
So I entertained the possibility- for an evening.
But no matter how I searched the scripture I could not find a promise that my problem must be fixed now. Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” My hope longed for assurance; If I could attain that I would have faith for certain, hear-and-now healing. My desire was for a guarantee, but where was it?
Surely, it isn’t something I deserve. So the only other option is that it is found in the merits of Christ’s death. Now, Christ’s death has the power to reverse the curse- definitely. That curse includes infirmities. So the question isn’t one of power or potential- but of timing.
The New Testament tells me of saints who struggled with sin (Romans 7:21-24), illness (1 Timothy 5:23, 2 Timothy 4:20), poverty (2 Corinthians 8:2), persecution (do I really need to cite that?), limitless hardship (2 Corinthians 3:23-29), and unavoidable death. Why should I expect to be exempt?
So, the bible didn’t change my mind about the prosperity gospel. If it won’t change my mind, then nothing will. So I had to ask, where does this leave my hope?
Well, it takes it off of this life and this world, and puts it right back into where it belongs. Hope longs for guarantees- and thank God, He has granted them!
2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5 “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in the tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened- not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”
A guarantee. Do you know what is guaranteed in the life of the believer, found in these scriptures alone?
1. He is working in you to renew you and make you more like Christ, even when you outwardly waste away.
2. There is an eternal weight of glory for you that will make all the suffering beyond worth it.
3. You await a pain-free, sin-free, groan-free, glorified, resurrection body.
4. You will soon dwell in your eternal home with God.
How do we know this guarantee? We have the Spirit of God living and working in us, just as stated here: “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5).”
That is what my soul longed for; To have a hope that would not prove me wrong, that would not put me to shame. See, mustering up faith to claim something God has not promised to give you now is futile. I can still hope and even ask for here-and-now healing, but I can’t “name it and claim it.” I can rest assured that I will be whole one day in Heaven. My greatest hope needs to be in the things that I can claim, my guarantees, the truths that make up the Christian faith.
That being said, Psalm 27:13 was a necessary confrontation of my pessimism. In the midst of very dire circumstances David believed that God could deliver him and shine forth his goodness “in the land of the living.” That means God could do it here, and God could do it now. God loves His people and He often does move to deliver them in His good time. Therefore the next verse says “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord (Psalm 27:14).”
The prosperity gospel often targets desperate people. People who have tried everything else and failed. People who are afraid to hope any more. The meanest thing someone can do is promise them something God has not promised them, and tell them they can only access it by means of their own faith, finances, or works. Meanwhile, true hope, biblical hope, evades them. Let’s hold out God’s promises for hope to ourselves and to the hurting; Surely all who put their hope in Him will not be disappointed (Psalm 25:3).