“Do not touch My anointed, and do My prophets no harm” (1 Chron. 16:22, MEV).
First and foremost, I believe that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. No errors, no excuses. It is perfect because God guided the hands and minds of those that created it.
And it is because of that belief that I want to preface this–my first blog in the Christian realm–by saying that I do not want to malign any fellow believer, any leader that has been anointed by God.
I’ve never had nor do I personally have anything against Joel Osteen, the lead pastor at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. I’ve read some of Joel’s books, and I’ve watched his television program and received many a good and encouraging word from both.
As a matter of fact, more than three years ago after I lost my job at Anthem Motorsports in Daytona Beach, Florida (my wife Patty lost her job the very next day as well), I began to get frustrated after a series of failures in trying to obtain another job. I flipped through the channels one night, mad at the world and mad at God (mainly due to my still immature relationship with Christ).
I passed by Joel’s program, but God spoke to my heart and said, “Shawn, go back to Joel Osteen. You need the good word I will give you through him.” I did as I was told, and indeed Joel, as he usually does, was preaching on hope. He conveyed, among other scriptures, Proverbs 13:12 which says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life” (MEV).
After a really bad day, I was greatly encouraged to go on, knowing that the Lord had my back. I had been through this before, and when I have laid my problems completely at God’s feet and left them there, there has always been good results.
My confidence in Joel’s ministry was strengthened. Indeed there is a place in God’s kingdom for preachers like him. I’m fairly certain that I am not the only person that has ever been encouraged by the Lord through the mouth of Joel Osteen.
By the way, less than a couple of weeks later, Charisma Media called me in for an interview, and Steve and Joy Strang decided to hire me, for which I am absolutely grateful. Indeed, God is good.
In the three years that I have been employed at Charisma, I have grown by leaps and bounds in the Lord. My heart has been softened in so many ways, and a lot of the anger I once held on to about a great many things in this life and culture has left me. So has the selfishness that once kept me in a self-imposed bondage. Indeed, I am a changed man, and I owe it all to Jesus. “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8, MEV).
As I said before, I never found fault with Joel Osteen’s ministry. But that has since changed, especially after a phone call I received a few days ago.
Since I had given financially to his ministry previously, I am on their list. I can deal with that. And, I do get a call from them every once in a while. Most, if not all of the time, it’s a live person and then they send me off to a message from Joel or his wife, Victoria. And, most times, I do not have the time to listen, so I hang up on the recording. Better to do that than the real person; I would never be that rude.
But this time, it was a live person, and she started going through her spiel and, of course, asked for money. I simply told the person that my family was going through a bit of a financial crunch, and that I could not give anything at this time. The zealous person, however, kept going and asked me if I could give less. I told her again, politely, that I could not at this time. This time, she acted as if she were put off, like what’s wrong with this guy. Hmm; that’s a red flag with me.
How in the world, with a personal worth of more than $40 million according to pennlive.com, does Joel Osteen need my $25 or $15 to keep his ministry going? And how in the world does this worker get put off by me refusing her? Is that what they are doing, training their telemarketers to simply take no prisoners and to not take “no” for an answer?
If that’s what prosperity is, I want no part of it. This is the exact type of thing that puts people off and makes them want to cringe about Christianity, isn’t it? Isn’t that part of the reason why people are leaving the church in droves, and turning to other interests?
I know that God wants us to prosper. John 10:10 says, “I came that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” It can’t be any clearer than that.
However, we also know that we are going to face trials and tribulations in this life, and that we, as believers, must suffer (James 1:2-4, MEV). 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5 says, “So we boast about you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you are enduring. This is evidence that God’s judgment, being righteous, will count you worthy of the kingdom of God for which you are suffering.”
Evangelist John Bevere, in his book, How You Can Shut the Devil’s Door, says, “Just as Jesus did, we learn obedience by what we suffer. This prepares us for His kingdom because spiritual growth progresses as we obey in the midst of suffering.”.
Once again, not trying to malign him, but that is something that I NEVER hear coming from the pulpit of Joel Osteen. While God wants you to blessed, it’s not all about receiving your blessing. It’s not all about rainbows and unicorns and a room filled with Hershey’s chocolate kisses. It’s not about iPhones, iPads and big-screen televisions in a 10,000 square-foot mansions. It’s about obedience that comes from understanding God’s Word and seeking a more intimate relationship with Him. You’re not going to get that by reaching for your blessing every day.
Remember Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter at the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who are going through it, because small is the gate and narrow is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
If you don’t think there’s going to be suffering in this life, then perhaps you might want to start listening to someone else. “… and if children, then heirs: heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:17).
In The Devil’s Door, Bevere goes on to say that the apostle Paul, “longed to participate with Christ in His sufferings, for he came to understand that in Christ sufferings he found intimacy with Jesus.” Have any of us really suffered WITH Christ? I would think not many truly have, including myself. No one wants to suffer, but if it gives you a better understanding of our Lord and Savior, then it’s something we all should be willing to endure, right?
I am certainly grateful for the encouraging word that God gave me through Joel Osteen that night. It helped me to plow forward and to realize the path that God wanted me to take with my life. After years as a sportswriter and editor, I was finally ready to begin my destiny working for the Lord, doing the things He wanted me to do to spread the gospel.
However, the milk that prosperity gospel teachers are feeding us no longer sustains me. While their encouragement is good for a season, it falls far short of the meat of God’s Word we need to do the job for which God commissioned us.
And as I always say, “there is that.”