The “health and wealth” gospel continues to wield a powerful influence on many people around the world. This movement is fraught with theological danger and should be resisted and opposed by thoughtful Christians. Al Mohler addresses this troubling trend:
Prosperity theology is a false gospel. Its message is unbiblical and its promises fail. God never assures his people of material abundance or physical health. Instead, Christians are promised the riches of Christ, the gift of eternal life, and the assurance of glory in the eternal presence of the living God. In the end, the biggest problem with prosperity theology is not that it promises too much, but that it promises too little. The gospel of Jesus Christ offers salvation from sin, not a platform for earthly prosperity. While we should seek to understand what drives so many into this movement, we must never for a moment fail to see its message for what it is – a false and failed gospel.
In contrast to the “health and wealth” gospel, the Bible calls followers of Christ to suffer. We are called to suffer together (1 Cor. 12:26). We are called to patiently endure suffering (2 Cor. 1:6). We are called upon to suffer for Christ’s sake (Phil. 1:29). In 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5, we learn that God has ordained that we will suffer.
The fact that we are called to suffer is one of the clear themes of Scripture. The Bible says, “For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:20–21, ESV).
The apostle Paul challenges us to “rejoice in our sufferings …” (Rom. 5:3). This biblical mindset requires us to set our hope upon the risen Savior. It requires us to pay close attention to God’s revealed word. We know that suffering is not an end in itself. We know that God is using suffering for his purposes. And we know that suffering is ultimately for our good and for his glory. Listen to Paul’s God-centered perspective in his letter to the Corinthians:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:16–18, ESV)
We are a people of unshakeable hope. Even in the midst of a global pandemic, we have much to rejoice in. Indeed, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.
The great Welsh pastor, Martyn Lloyd-Jones reminds us, “Faith produces hope, and the more clearly and consciously we have that hope, the more we shall know the love of God to us, and the more, in turn we shall love God.” Yes, we are called to suffer. Yes, we will experience adversity. But we cast our hope on a sovereign God who controls it all and will one day make all things new!