Thursday, February 07, 2008

Counting the Cost

"Everyone has a plan 'til they get punched in the mouth. "

- Mike Tyson

The other day, I got an email from a friend of mine talking about prosperity through faith. It was from one of those cats who makes it a common practice to pimp the Word for personal gain. Her email annoyed me for a couple of reasons: (1) in a job where I receive and respond to hundreds of emails a week, this was the last thing I needed to see and, more importantly (2) the implied message of the email; suggesting that following Christ translates to prospering financially.

I think that one of most critical mistakes that people in the Body of Christ make is in believing that following Christ will somehow lead to a materially prosperous life; while minimizing the true costs associated with being a follower. Living a life in Christ was never meant to be easy. Let we've allowed for a few ministers wearing flashy clothing and jewelry, driving in expensive cars and jets, and living in beautiful homes to convince us that their material accumulation was the direct result of their devotion to Christ. But I assure you: following Jesus is not the guaranteed get-rich-quick scheme it's often portrayed to be.

As far as I can tell, the only guarantee Jesus gave us concerning our decision to follow Him was that following Him would only lead to more troubles we would face; not less. In Matthew 6:34, He states:

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


Paul also chimed in when he offered the following commentary from II Timothy 3:12:

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.


That doesn't sound like a cake walk life in Christ to me. Instead, it sounds like following Christ may require us to take a few of those punches that Mr. Tyson mentioned in the quote above.

Often, many believers (new and experienced) have been inadequately prepped for the punches that are sure to come from being a follower of Christ; whether those hits come from life's conditions, the Devil, or even from other believers. We've been appeased or appease others by chanting a few prosperity catchphrases; mindlessly used to assuage the situation. But little do we realize that God may have indeed allowed certain situations to get ahold of us so that we can shape our character and remind us on how much we need Him to sustain. Most of all, facing difficulties that come with following Christ cause us to reexamine our faith. Can we stay committed to Christ when it becomes unfashionable to do so? Certainly, suffering for Christ is not the same now as it was back in the day (Don't be fooled by the speculated prowess of the religious right. It's not at all fashionable to be a Christian these days). But following Christ does have its share of costs that must be counted.

Are you willing to count those costs or are you just looking for the huge mega-lottery pay day? If it's the latter, you might be pretty disappointed in the end.

- ACL

12 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

Malik said...

I've always thought to myself, "didn't Jesus define 'blessing' as the exact opposite of comfort and wealth?" I could be wrong, but I thought that's what the beatitudes were all about, the glory of hardship suffered in the path of God.

Andre said...

@ Malik: One of the problems with some of the doctrine being taught today (mostly by pimped out clergy) is that there is an implied correlation between our walk with Christ and finanical prosperity. But if believers follow the direct teachings of Jesus, they would see that we are not to be defined by status or security. Now, I ain't gon lie: that doesn't necessarily mean that we're shunned from "living the life". I mean, a person's opulence doesn't disqualify them from being a true follower. But we should never follow God with the expectation of getting broke off for our struggles.

Joslyn said...

Hmmm,

I believe that living a Godly life will lead you to be able to manage your finances well, but I have to agree with you that it will not automatically make you rich.

I think it's also critical to understand that God allows us to experience thorns in our side. (reference Paul as he preached about the things that were constantly ailing him)

Since we're talking issues, I'll also say that I hate the reference of not claiming something bad, ie:

"Girl, don't claim that headache!"

"Girl, don't claim that cancer!"

"Girl, don't claim that bad credit!"

How can God fix it if you don't acknowledge that it's there? One thing for sure: It's mos def claiming you!

Back to the subject: Good post, Louis! I have to say that I really appreciate my new Pastor, as he is constantly forcing the congregation to do better and be better; not for monetary reasons, but because it's what God wants you to do.

Joslyn said...

Sorry, the pastor is forcing, he's pushing the congregation

:)

The H.C. said...

Hey Dre,
I think asking for something for yourself is a way of showing God how selfish you've become. I try to make it a point to only pray for others or to say thanks. To ask for anything else when I already have so much, while other people in this world have so little, seems so ungrateful.

heiresschild said...

@ hi H.C.,
i don't think it's selfish to pray for ourselves, but it also depends on what we're praying for and why. James 4: 2-3 talks about selfish prayers for greed and gain--wrong motives. likewise, Mark 11:24 lets us know that whatsoever things we desire.... which means i can ask something for myself, just not with selfish motives. if my body needs healing, i'm definitely going to ask God for it, or if i need finances, i'm definitely going to ask for it. i think it gets selfish when it's all about me and no one else, and when i'm praying and asking for selfish, greedy, and covetous gain.

@ Andre,
i definitely agree with this post. unfortunately, many people measure the Christian walk by things--materialism, but we're told not to lay our treasures up here on earth, where thieves can break in and steal, and where moths, rust, and worms consume and destroy (matthew 6:19), but rather, we're to store up treasures in heaven, for where our treasure is, is where our heart is (matthew 6:20-21).

to further add to what you're saying, we're told in john 16:33 that we will have tribulation, trials, and distress in this world, but we're to be of good cheer, taking courage because God has already overcome the world.

heiresschild said...

@hi Joslyn,
good to see you! i agree with your issue--it's not even that we're claiming or owning anything bad, but the only way we can pray and have others pray is to acknowledge the problem so we can effectively pray for it. plus by mentioning it to people, we can get some wisdom and sound advice to help us out. good point!

Jared said...

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winnah!

This is an excellent post, Andre. You make a point that much of the Church is either too deluded, or too sheepish to make, in the face of the Creflo Dollars and Joel Osteens out there. A faith built upon the expectation of worldly gain isn't only prone to destruction upon the first storm that should happen to hit, it's a decidedly poisonous witness to the rest of the world.

What's more, we ought to be just a little bit worried when we start deciding that God owes us something in the realm of material wealth. We tithe, for instance, as an act of obedience and of worship - giving God a portion of what's already His. When we begin to act as if our stuff, our lives, or our joy truly belong to us, we begin to walk down a path made up of serious misconceptions about the nature of both this world, and our relationship with Christ.

You preach the truth.

Joslyn said...

Jared,

What an excellent and well thought out comment. You really made me think.....

The H.C. said...

Hi Heiress!
Maybe it's just me, but I feel so lucky just to be breathing when almost all my friends have died. (mostly drugs) I have managed to escape drugs, the guetto, cancer, and alchoholism to get where I am today. I respect your right to ask (especially if you've never gotten much) for God's help. But I no longer feel I (personally) have that right. There are so many who need so much, how could I ask for His attention?

Andre said...

@ Jos: "How can God fix it if you don't acknowledge that it's there? One thing for sure: It's mos def claiming you!"

I feel you on that one. Whenever I hear people not claim things that are clearly there, I tend to wanna get psychiatric help for them.

"I have to say that I really appreciate my new Pastor, as he is constantly forcing the congregation to do better and be better; not for monetary reasons, but because it's what God wants you to do."

Dope pastors who haven't replaced the almight dollar with the Almighty. Don't cha love it! :)


@ HC: Sylv addressed the point that I was going to make myself. I don't think that asking God for personal blessings is at all a bad thing. In fact, a significant person in the Bible -- Jabez -- made it a point to specifically ask God to bless him; and to bless him abundantly. Ultimately, it was his desire to be blessed so he could bless others. As long as your intentions are for serving God through your deeds toward others, you're given a license to be "selfish".

@ Jared: "A faith built upon the expectation of worldly gain isn't only prone to destruction upon the first storm that should happen to hit, it's a decidedly poisonous witness to the rest of the world."

Great point. People who drop good cash in the offering basket with the expectation of getting it back usually wind up broke and disappointed. But as you put it, the true joy comes in worshipping God through obedience, sacrifice, and blessing others.

@ HC: "But I no longer feel I (personally) have that right. There are so many who need so much, how could I ask for His attention?"

I wouldn't exactly say that. In fact, according to God's standards, even the most 'upright' person is a dirty and vile sinner in God's eyes. Whatever you feel makes you unworthy of God's love and blessings is no better or no worse than the next person. So instead of thinking about how much you don't deserve things, be thankful for the things you have -- and think about how those things can be used to bless others.

Joanne said...

Beautiful post, Andre. Thanks for the reminder about the price that can be paid for following Christ.

The disciples were all persecuted and killed for their decisions to follow Jesus. But somehow we feel like we deserve an award for doing so. But as its been said, our rewards are not of this world.