When I trusted Jesus as Lord as a 15-year-old I found myself in the midst of depression and disappointment with everything I had done and everything I was. I had been trapped in a prison of perception for years. It was a prison to both my perception of my circumstances & value but it was also a prison to how the watching world saw me. That could be as good as someone calling my armless self “inspiring” or as bad as someone calling me “gross.” My teenage years were definitely a roller coaster of self-worth for me. Some ups, lots of downs.
After trusting Jesus as Lord, the days that followed were ones where I slowly & steadily began to grow in joy and contentment. The interesting thing was that my circumstances had not changed at all. I was still armless. People were still occasional jerks to me. My doubt and insecurity always seemed to prey on me in the most vulnerable times. But what changed was my means by which I went to war on my self-worth demons.
The groaning of this world (Romans 8:22) wasn’t going to instantly change because Jesus was now my Savior and Lord. That’s the promise ONE day, not TOday. While the circumstances of my life were not categorically changing and improving – my hope and my help had. I now had a Friend, a Strength, a Shepherd and an Advocate. He was what I really needed.
As I grew in Christ over those first few months, I started to hear about this “gospel” being preached. It was the prosperity gospel. The health and wealth gospel. The name it and claim it gospel. The “have enough faith and you won’t get sick and you won’t be broke” gospel. But when I looked at the gospel laid out in Scripture, there was one clear answer.
The prosperity gospel isn’t gospel.
The prosperity gospel is a lie. It is self-care dressed up by preachers in silk suits. I went into great detail into the falsehood of the prosperity gospel years ago for a piece I wrote at For The Church. You can read that piece HERE.
At its core, the prosperity gospel doesn’t give hope to anyone. It creates a performance based, works-oriented faith that has people trying to fill the holes in their own faith with their own actions. However, that sort of philosophy is doomed to fail. There’s no way you or I can live so faithfully that we avoid heartache, hurt, depression, darkness or insecurity.
Yet, the allure of the prosperity gospel is strong. We all want to “live our best life now” and to have a life free from worry and fear, but our works will not produce a life like that. Our best life is the one to come. Our best life comes in eternity, not when we are earth bound. We long for something better than that.
“For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” ~ Hebrews 13:14-16
The promise of Scripture is that this world will be as bad as it gets. There will be groaning, darkness and fear. But the promise of Scripture is that we have One who cries with us, loves us and leads us in the midst of it. All the while He is producing the tangible fruit of joy, peace, patience and faithfulness to help us weather the storm. It is because of that powerful presence that Paul can declare, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” Basically, my life is carried by His grace and my death affords me the chance to see the One I love.
By His grace I live and laugh. By His grace I can cry and mourn. But by His grace, I know there’s something better coming and this world is not it. I know that my King is coming and that’s what I look for. Until then, I live as one who has received a grace that gives me a hope now and a hope to come.
As those who have tasted grace, we also have a responsibility. As stewards of grace, we don’t hoard it unto ourselves. We share it so the world may know a better kingdom and a better King. We share what we have seen and come to know. We point people to where their best life lies and it is not in a what or where or when. Our best life lies in Who and we’ll live our lives trusting, loving and declaring the One who loved us first. That’s the best life for us to live.