I have a weakness. I guess that isn't news to anyone. Truth be told, to say I have a weakness is not fully true. If I am to be perfectly candid, I have many weaknesses.
Alas, such is the condition of the fallen human heart.
The Bible says, "The heart is deceitful above everything else and desperately wicked, who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9 NKJV).
Personally, I think that if we Christians always keep this in mind, we would be more likely to respond to people in grace.
That being said, I have a problem. My problem is not so much with those who are non-Christian as it is with certain Christians. Sorry, like I said, it is my weakness.
This weakness prevents me from watching most modern religious programs and from sometimes listening to some religious radio programs. My problem and weakness is an irritation with a message that is growing in popularity, but a message that is totally erroneous. The message is that if you are a faithful Christian, you shouldn't have any problems, difficulties or suffering.
Such a message is popular because it has tremendous appeal to our sinful, selfish natures, however, it is not beneficial by any stretch of the imagination to our spiritual well being.
Don't get me wrong. I believe and know that the Christian life is a happy, meaningful and purposeful life. What I do not believe is that the Christian life is without hardships or suffering.
As a minister, I have seen the devastation that the message of prosperity brings upon those who go through suffering. I recall one individual who agonized emotionally and became a cripple spiritually because he was led to believe that a physical illness he was enduring was upon him because there was some hidden sin in his life, and God couldn't heal him because of it.
Then there was the elderly couple, who had sold everything they owned, closed their retirement fund, and were on their way to California with everything they owned in a cashiers check to give to the televangelist who promised a healing for the man's cancer for a large (specified) donation.
The couple was excited. This was their last hope. My heart broke for them as I knew they were being bilked out of their life savings by a charlatan in spiritual clothing.
These are just two of a myriad of examples I could give of people who have walked away from the church and from faith because they were led to believe a message that is not biblical.
When you believe an illusion about the Christian faith, you will always eventually become disillusioned with the faith. The sad part is (and thus my weakness here) that the message of prosperity in this life is not a message in keeping with God's truth.
So much heartache and pain could be resolved if we simply stuck to the truth of God's Word and stopped filling peoples minds and hearts with messages that only prosper those who proclaim it.
The Christian life is not without it's troubles. The Bible says, "Jesus has the last word on everything and everyone, from angels to armies. He's standing right alongside God, and what he says goes. Since Jesus went through everything you're going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you'll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want." (1 Peter 3:22-4:2, The Message).
Suffering is not something out of the ordinary for the faithful Christian. Read the book of 1 Peter and you will discover that suffering is, in fact, the expected lot of the faithful Christian.
That shouldn't surprise us. God's command is that we set our hearts on heaven, and any message that sets our hearts on earthly gain is certainly not of God.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. He can be heard on the radio on WMVV 90.7 (FM) at 8:30 p.m. Thursday nights. For more information, visit the Gateway Web site at www.gatewaycommunity.org.