What's wrong with the prosperity gospel?
First of all I do believe God’s will is that we prosper in our mind, our hearts and our bodies. We are the temple of the Living God, after all. I believe it is God’s will according to 3 John 2 that that we prosper and be in health, even as our souls prospers. This speaks of health, joy, peace, overall well being in our bodies, our thinking and our hearts, along with the peace, joy and love that are ours in Jesus.
But to say that because we are Christians we will be wealthy, have large homes, and fancy cars is where I think we may have lost the focus on what our mission and purpose is as believers. I do believe that wealth ultimately comes from God, and that he richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. I think where we’ve missed it is thinking God wants to make us comfortable and raise our standard of living when God is actually trying to get us out of our comfort zone and into his mission field of generous living.
No doubt about it we live in a prosperous time in American history where our nation has been blessed in many ways. But I am afraid that we’ve brought the American dream into our relationship with God and expect that because we are Christians, life will be easy, free of trouble, everyone will like us, and we’ll live materially prosperous. For anyone, believers and unbelievers in America it certainly is possible to prosper given the right opportunity, relationships, and timing, but to teach that’s what we are to live for as Christians is simply shallow and not all God has for his children. I think it leads to false expectations and people tend to become disillusioned when things go wrong and troubles come. They think God has left them, failed them, or is angry with them. If we properly prepare disciples for trials when they come, we won’t be so negatively impacted by them when they do come.
Place yourself in another country, at any time throughout history and you’ll see how difficult some believers have it. Material prosperity was not the norm and following Jesus could cost you not just a job, it could cost you your very life. So to say that God’s main aim is to make you comfortable is not in line with the teaching of the New Testament.
God allows trials and tests to refine us. I do not believe the tests or trials have anything to do with our physical bodies, our peace, or prospering in our souls. The trials and tests that Peter wrote of in 1 Peter 4:12, is speaking about external circumstances, persecution, abandonment by friends and family because of your faith, loss of relationships related to your profession of faith, loss of money obtained through immoral or selfish gain, and loss of opportunities when a believer makes a commitment to follow Jesus. To follow Christ can be very costly in many parts of the world.
Peter wrote, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”
The trial of faith tests our commitment to the Lord and his word and proves us genuine in our faith. 1 Peter 1:7 says regarding trials, “These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
So if you're going through a trial today and not sure what to do next, know you're in good company and keep your head up. God hasn't left you, you'll come out the other side proved genuine by the fire of trials and be an instrument God can use.