Or God's Wrath?
Q. Some TV evangelists and authors say Christians should be like Joshua when he entered the Promised Land - having only a positive attitude and no fear about anything. They say we should never say or think negative things because it's against God's will. So we should expect the Lord to give us money, a nice house, a good job, and success in our lives. We should only talk about nice things and a good future to unbelievers because they won't listen to us if we talk about judgment. What do you think?
This question seems to come up only in wealthy, free areas of the world. It's in marked contrast to Chinese house churches who feel blessed if the gospel is spreading, or in Moslem countries where there is rejoicing when one more soul is added to the church. Christians in Vietnam, Laos, and other places never know from day to day if they will live long enough to preach the gospel to their families or friends.
Paul Requested Spiritual Blessings
It's amazing that the apostle Paul never asked for personal riches or comforts. All of his requests were for spiritual blessings. He even reached suicidal despair at times.
Paul said, "For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death" (2 Cor. 1:8-9).
Paul then went on to explain that this was "to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again" (v. 9-10). Paul clearly explained that we are comforted in our own afflictions so that we can comfort others (2 Cor. 1:4).
The Battle is not Yours but God's
It's true that we need to have faith in God. The Bible repeatedly tells us not to fear. But, it also tells us that the battle is the Lord's - not ours.
2 Chronicles 20:15 says…"Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's" (ESV). Joshua 10:25 commands "Do not be afraid or dismayed. Be strong and courageous. For thus the Lord will do to all your enemies against whom you fight."
All Things Work Together for Good
We are also reassured that God works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). But, this does not mean that we will necessarily be successful by the world's standards. Some of the finest prophets and people of God were subjected to terrible torture. Hebrews 11:35-39 says,
"Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated - of whom the world was not worthy - wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised…" (ESV).
Turning Scars to Stars?
I realize reading this passage is upsetting to some. It certainly does not fit Reverend Schuller's "Turn Your Scars to Stars" or Joel Osteen's "Your Best Life Now" slogans - does it? (Reverend Schuller's church is bankrupt today, by the way)…
I think we need to occasionally remind ourselves that after King David was anointed he spent many years running from crazed, jealous King Saul. Life wasn't easy for him. Moses didn't live on "easy street" after he delivered God's message to the Egyptians. Joseph found that being the favored child didn't make his life a "breeze." He suffered false accusations, rejection from his own brothers, and spent many agonizing, hard years in jail before he reaped good from the evil his brothers intended for him.
Our Obedience - not Successes
We need to remember that it is our obedience that counts, not our earthly successes. True faith and "positive thinking" is to have faith that God will work all things together for our good no matter how it appears to us at the time.
Our On-the-job Training
Remember that God is training us for reigning. He is giving us on-the-job training for our eternal career of reigning with the King of the Universe. The Apostle Paul tells us "if we endure, we will also reign with Him" (2 Tim. 2:12). Enduring implies suffering or hardship.
Rewarded in This Life?
In one sense we need to pity those Christians who are extremely wealthy and successful in this life, because it is in this life that they receive their rewards. They have riches, comforts, and need nothing. Do you remember Yeshua's message to the Laodicean Church?
"Because you say, 'I'm rich. I have become wealthy, and need nothing,' and you don't know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, and white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent" (Rev. 3:17-18).
Or Will We be Rewarded in Heaven?
I would much rather hear the Lord say to me, "Well done, good servant, because you were faithful in very little, have authority over ten cities" (Luke 9:17).
Jesus says "To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations" (Rev. 2:26).
This summarizes true "positive confession." We are not giving others hope by preaching only wealth, riches, and blessings. Jesus himself preached more about hell than he did about heaven. Our goal is to lovingly point others to true, eternal life - that "if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Ro. 10:9). It is the gospel message that enriches one's life - eternally!