Sound Teaching

A Tale of an Agony of Prosperity “Gospel”

A few days ago I received a letter from an old friend. We first met in secondary school and one thing that brought us together was our religion then, Rastafarianism. However, the Lord was gracious to both of us. The Lord saved my friend a year before he saved me. After our secondary days, we parted ways and never knew what was going in each other’s life until recently when my friend through his brother traced me and sent me this letter. When I finished reading it, I was angry but also sorrowful at the reality of the agony that prosperity “gospel” is bringing to many in my motherland, Malawi.

Dear friend,

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It has been a long time…Time really flies. But memories are still fresh of us eating chiwaya pa Bright pa break. Kale lokoma ndi losayiwalika (during break time we used to go and have pieces of fried potatoes commonly called chips at a place owned by a man simply known as Bright).

Anyway, the main reason for writing this letter is to share with you what has happened in my life. Probably, you heard that I was arrested and charged with three accounts: abuse of office, corruption and theft by public servant. As I am writing now I am in one of the prisons in our country waiting for trial. For you own information, I will plead guilty to all these charges because I am indeed guilty, and I don’t intend to contest against them when my trial begins.

It all started that time when the Lord saved me. I began to go to this other church where our pastor always preached about prosperity gospel. Again and again, he emphasized that God’s will for us is that we should enjoy His blessings to the full. We should have better jobs or own big businesses, big and beautiful houses, and very expensive cars among other blessings from the Lord. The verses he often cited were 2 Corinthians 8:9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” and 3 John 2 “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.”

We believed and incessantly absorbed this “truth.” He challenged us to pray and claim these blessings for ourselves in Jesus name. Indeed it seemed to work. Many of my friends began to do well. They secured better- paying jobs. Some started business which within a few years were growing and thriving wonderfully. But it was not so with me. I prayed and fasted but things didn’t seem to work. I approached my pastor a number of times and asked him why I was not prospering like my friends. He replied and said that that my faith was weak. He challenged me to fast more and pray more. He also observed that I was probably not faithful in my giving to the church.

“You cannot have God’s blessings if you do not sow faithfully and abundantly,” he challenged me.

Friend, from that time onwards, I prayed harder and fasted even more. I remember one time, I took a one-week leave from my organization to go to a mountain to fast and pray for three days also called Esther’s fasting. That month and the following months, I took almost half of my salary and gave it as “tithe” to the man of God. I sowed the seed faithfully and waited for the harvest but to my surprise no single blessing came.
Every Sunday when I went to church I felt like a failure as I listened to my friends giving testimonies of how God was blessing them. I felt that I was not a true Christian since most of my friends were driving nice cars, but I was still walking to church.

“You are of little faith, my brother. Put your faith into action. Trust the Lord more and give more and he will bless you,” my pastor challenged me again after I poured out my frustrations to him.

The pressure to appear that I was also receiving blessings from the Lord was huge on me. In no time, I started getting involved in various malpractices at my work place. As my job involved handling finances I started swindling my organization. It all began with small amounts and after noticing that I was able to get away with it, I stepped on the accelerator even harder. Soon, I was driving a nice car and started building a mansion in one of the city suburbs.

My pastor was very happy with me. I remember meeting him one Sunday after service when I had just given a lot of money to the church as my tithe and he said, “You see now…your faith has grown and you have sown the seed faithfully. The blessings are now pouring. The Lord has showed me that this tap of blessings will continue to flow and never dry because you are faithful.”
I was very happy, even though deep down my heart I wondered, “Can’t this man of God tell what is happening behind the scenes for me to have these blessings?”

My church friends who were shunning me before because I was not doing better financially finally began to befriend me again. We called ourselves “Sons of the Wonderful and Answering God (SWAG).” There was literally competition among us as we aimed at outdoing each other in “God’s blessings.” I continued to defraud my organization so that I could be on top of SWAG. Almost every Sunday, the man of God gave me the pulpit to share the testimony of God’s blessings in my life.

So, all was well until last year when the cat went out of the bag and all the skeletons in my closet were exposed. I was arrested and charged as I have already mentioned. Anyway, to cut the long story short, I have been in this prison for over eight months now because I was denied bail. My pastor is no where to be seen. He has never visited me. All my property was seized by the authorities and my bank accounts were frozen. Every day, I cry for my wife and my two beautiful little daughters. I have put them in a great predicament all because of my sin and the so called prosperity gospel.

Now, you may wonder why after this long time my first letter should be of this sort. Well, I have heard that you are studying for ministry. Please my brother, if God wills that you become a preacher of the gospel make sure that you preach the gospel of Christ alone. You should know that preachers have great influence on their members; therefore, please, please, use this God-given influence to lead your members to Christ and not to false hood and selfish ambitions.

Lastly, please remember me and my family in your prayers. I have repented of my sin and I believe Christ has forgiven me, but I am ready to face the consequences of my sin which might be spending a number of years in this prison.

Greetings to your family.

Your old-friend in Christ,

JK.

 

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Sound Teaching

Meditations Toward Christmas: Genesis 12:1-3

Another Old Testament passages that points us to the coming or birth of Christ is Genesis 12:1-3: “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’”

In this passage God promises to bless Abraham. The Lord also promises to bless the families of the earth through Abraham. There is no better commentary to this passage that the Bible itself. In Galatians 3:16, Apostle Paul looks back at this passage and writes, “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.”

God’s promise to bless all the families of the earth was ultimately fulfilled through his offspring, Jesus Christ. Today many families of earth have been blessed through Christ. Families that were once not a people, but now are God’s people; once they had not received mercy, but now we have received mercy (1 Peter 2:10).

Today, every nation, race or tribe has people calling upon the name of Christ. John confirms this truth in his vision of heaven. “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,” (Revelation 7:9).

This is the real meaning of Christmas namely that in Christ God is pouring out his rich blessings of justification (forgiveness of our sin and declaring us righteous in Christ) and sanctification (transforming us more and more in holiness after Christ). These blessings will climax in our glorification in which we shall be completely like Christ without sin, and we shall live with him in glory eternally. What a blessing!

For sure the hymn writer was right when he penned:

Ponder nothing earthly-minded
For with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descend
King of kings, yet born of Mary…
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly glory.

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Christianity and theology

Blessings through SMS?

One Thursday evening while home my mobile phone beeped indicating I had received a new message. I did not know the number of the sender but the message read:

“Jesus loves you. Send it to seven people. Believe me after seven days your wish will come true but if you ignore it. You will be on your own seven years. Please do it with faith because it works.”

At first the message seemed nice and spiritual but my theological antennas sensed something amiss. The message suggests that my wishes will be granted by forwarding the message to seven people.

This means that Jesus will answer my prayer because I have sent short message service (sms) to seven people. If I don’t, he will punish me with a lonely life for seven years.

I have also received similar messages in my email inbox. Usually, they are forwarded messages asking me to also forward them to at least seven people and then God will bless.

Do we have biblical backing for this? Doesn’t Scripture tell us to pray in Jesus name for our needs and wishes? Has prayer become less powerful that God is now in the business of blessing people through sms? These are some of the questions that sprout in my mind.

I also wonder if this is not another form of idolatry. It should be a different god (and not the Father of my Lord Jesus Christ) who blesses people only because they have forwarded an email or an sms. What about those who don’t have cell phones or computers. How will he bless them? This kind of God for sure in not the one we find in Scripture.

Any way, back to my story,  I called the sender and told him that I don’t need to send sms to seven people for God to bless me and I can’t be on my own not even for a single second because God has promised in his Word never to forsake me (Hebrews 13:5).

God also promises: “Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving; present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6, 7).

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