“If you will just sow a seed into this ministry, God will bless you.”

“God is showing me that there is someone out there that needs a new car, and someone else who needs a new house. God said, if you will sow an offering in this season then He will pour out the blessing of that new car and home.”

“God desires for you to be rich, in prosperity – health and wealth!”

These are all common statements often made by televangelists and proprietors of what has been coined “The Prosperity Gospel,” of which, sadly, some even right here in our city preach. However, is this the faith that Jude spoke of that we must earnestly contend for? I think not.

The actual quote from the Book of Jude is thus, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 1:3).

It was needful for him to write because Christianity, even since the time of the Apostles, has been at risk of hijack and our day is no exception.

The Apostle Paul said, “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.” (Acts 20:29).

Now, I agree that God loves us, and He definitely wants the best for us. All of us probably yearn for a little more positivity and for life to be a little easier, but for blanket statements to be made pertaining to every single professing believer, that “health, wealth and prosperity” in the earthly sense is God’s will … this is a lie and false doctrine.

Many duped lay ministers and pastors preach this because they genuinely believe it, but it’s the men at the top of the pyramid that receive the most gain. They extort money from many that don’t have it with promises that never come to pass. Think about it. Didn’t they promise the same thing last year and the year before that, and it goes on? No doubt their “prophecies” are so general you can almost interpret in any way and twist it into being “true” or “coming to pass” is some broad way.

Concerning this, the Apostle Paul wrote: “For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.” (Titus 1:10-11).

Preachers of the prosperity gospel are unruly and vain talkers and deceivers who teach things they shouldn’t for the sake of filthy lucre (dishonest gain/dirty money). Why do I write about this in my column today? Because their mouths must be stopped. Do not believe them, saints! Do not be deceived.

These vain talkers postulate that this message is not new, but that it’s been the will of God from the beginning. Oh really? I wonder if the cloud of many witnesses believed in a prosperity gospel?

Here is the record from the Bible on their “prosperous” life: “And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:” (Hebrews 11:36-39).

Now, the first part of Hebrews, chapter 11, does record the successes of these men as well, however, they are not world acclaim or earthly treasure. They are spiritual wins of faith, righteousness, love and deliverance. The inheritance to be obtained? These men in the hall of faith died having not received it, but they had faith that God would provide it, even if that meant in the resurrection; of which we shall be a part of if we run our race with patience and faith just as they did.

The truth is, saints, the inheritance is eternal life through the forgiveness of sin by Jesus Christ – by grace through faith! We must enter into the Kingdom of God (that is to come) through much tribulation (Acts 14:22). Suffering is our call on Earth, not prosperity. I know that’s a hard pill to swallow, but the servant is not above His master (Matthew 10:24). Jesus suffered in the flesh, the cloud of many witnesses suffered and we also shall suffer.

But why? Why suffering? Primarily because of sin. When sin entered the world, it brought in brokenness and hatred and every evil work with it. Who is responsible for this? The devil partly, but man himself. Because sin is in the world and therefore brokenness; suffering is continually perpetuated by sickness, disease, and the evil workings of men. God dealt with the root sin problem when He brought justice on our evil ways at the cross. His just wrath was poured out on His only begotten son instead of us.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

Oh, how He loves us!

Again, this grace is how God dealt with the sin problem, but His plan has two phases. In the first phase (first coming of Christ), sin was handled, and in the second phase (His second coming), all wrongs will be righted and suffering will finally cease once and for all. Nevertheless, suffering will be a part of the Christian walk.

Alternatively, suffering is harnessed and used by God for our good. I believe the devil institutes it, but God grabs it and turns it around for our good … because He is a good Father. God uses the trials to build faith, to strengthen us, and to sanctify us. He purges out impurities in us by the trial of fire (like with silver or gold). He teaches us eternal lessons, like any father would his child.

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (1 Peter 4:12-13).

I do not have a grim or cynical outlook on life. This is scripture and this is the truth. I am not down cast or depressed, but in the midst of this world (of which I am not of), I have hope because I am looking for a city that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10) and I know in whom I have believed (2 Timothy 1:12). Further, I know Jesus’ promise to me (and to all those who believe): That He would provide every need (not want), for He knows what I have need of before I even ask it (Matthew 6:8) and that He would be with me even to the end of the world (Matthew 28:20)!

I have no doubt that in life God has allowed some people to be very prosperous for very specific purposes, but this is not the overarching call of all believers.

Beware, for “how hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” (Luke 18:24).

I want to encourage you today, beloved, don’t fall for this false gospel message, it is accursed (Galatians 1:8)! Instead, patiently endure through faith and you shall obtain the promise and the inheritance that is to come (Hebrews 6:15). Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the Earth, but in heaven, for there your heart shall be (Matthew 6:19-20).

“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” — Matthew 24:13

Steven Croft is the senior pastor of Boyd Memorial First Church of God in Athens.

Steven Croft is the senior pastor of Boyd Memorial First Church of God in Athens.

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