Of course, such an idea sounds all well and good. This idea of drawing near to the Lord is a common one, and in short instances and specific experiences, it might be understood what it means to draw near to God. Most likely, you have felt what it means to be close to the Lord, but such feelings tend to be fleeting, and I do not think that Jesus intends for us to live out every moment of our lives based on whether or not some warmth exists in our hearts.
Seasons of life will come when the presence of God and his favor could not seem further from our experience. In such moments, any sort of “prosperity Gospel” appears to be nothing more than flimsy haberdashery. You say God brings monetary well-being? Well, that sounds pleasant, but I am surviving on dry rice and a few crumbs of bread is a luxury. Feelings of joy and peace accompany the Spirit of God? How uplifting, but my dearest loved one can comfort me no longer because he has died or else has decided that I am unfit for his life. Would you like to speak to me about eternal hope? I would very much like to hear of it, but I cannot get past my present sorrow.
These are the seasons you have either experienced, experience now, or will experience in the future. In the midst of such pain comes doubt, and what will be there to assuage your hurt? If all that you know about God is the prosperity sermons preached at you, then you will find God to be a great cosmic joke.
Suffering is real. Until agony has touched your life, the previous sentence carries little meaning for you, but if you have walked through some intense fire, then those three words shoulder an immense weight. For suffering is an unbearable load.
Culture at large does not consider the peace- or wealth-seeking ideas enveloped in the prosperity message to be a foreign thing. In fact, the culture kills for those things which might offer it exactly that prosperous hope, and culture hides very well the fact that suffering has touched everyone.
Think about the stars, those rich and famous. Can you tell me a time when you remember seeing them visibly upset, shaken, or hurt? Perhaps you know some celebrity personally. I am not speaking about personal interactions here but rather about the images of celebrities that are broadcast through the media. Unless they are acting on the screen, you rarely ever see them crying or upset. Not to make it sound like some sort of conspiracy, but our culture generally does not want you to see them unhappy. Because if you were to see them as anything less than thrilled to be alive, then you might recognize the truth that the prosperity that they have, the prosperity which culture encourages you to seek, has not fulfilled them.
Sadly, such deception is not limited to the secular culture. The Christian “sub-culture” is usually not nearly as “sub” as some might think of it. The only real difference between the secular culture and the Christian culture is branding (in the United States at least). The distinguishing symbol is that of a cross, and the only real difference is in its marketing. The product is the same.
The fourth and final part to this article will be posted on Monday.