It’s interesting that the debate about what we call the “Prosperity Gospel” continues. I’m not surprised because anything that sounds like hope is a tough thing to walk away from – whether it’s true or not. I have some mixed feelings because I understand that preachers of the post-World War II era rightly wanted people to understand that God is a good God.
It’s hard today for us to understand the vibe from that era. Back then, most people believed more in a “God with a stick” than any real sense of grace. Writer Philip Yancey has written very eloquently about the toxic church he grew up in and the harsh view of God they taught. Many churches of the time were very dead places.
But today, on the other extreme, it’s really gotten out of control. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah said, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord.” C.S. Lewis rightly understood that what seems to us good may not actually be good in God’s eyes, and what seems to us evil may not actually be evil. Therefore pain, suffering and disappointment may not be as bad or harmful as we assume.
Likewise, prosperity, success, and accomplishment may not always be as good for us as we wish. Lewis always reminded us that we need to let God be God. Our thoughts are not His, and his judgments will often be dramatically different from ours. He admitted that we really know infuriatingly little about God and the way he works in the world.
Does God want what’s best for us? Of course. Will “what’s best” always line up with our expectations? Not hardly. I read a statistic recently about lottery winners. It said that within a few years, a significant number of big winners are right back where they started. In some cases, vast sums of money actually ruined their lives. I know many people who were much better off – and happier – when they were far less prosperous than they are now.
Let God be God. Encourage people, but seek a balance. Believe for His best for your life, but be careful assuming that God should live up to your expectations.