One of the most destructive forces that has faced the church in recent years is the teaching that God gives Christians faith so they can exercise it to their own benefit. This gospel of health and wealth teaches that our faith allows us to demand from God whatever we desire and that He is beholden to give it to us. If only our faith is strong enough, we can have whatever we want or need. God will give us money, power, or good health if only we ask in faith. This teaching is destructive on many levels. It focuses the attention of those who claim to be Christians on themselves rather than on Christ and teaches that God exists for our benefit and enrichment. It leaves men and women broken by their supposed lack of faith when they summon the heavens for riches or healing and are met with only silence. It also brings forward into this life benefits that God has reserved for life eternal. Nowhere in the Bible does God promise us that we will live lives of complete fulfillment on this side of eternity. Rather, the Bible tells us that only in heaven will we have our every desire satisfied and only then will we escape the sin, pain and suffering of this life. God, in His grace, will bless us with desires that far exceed what we desire now, and will be gracious in meeting those desires.
The fact is that this Word Faith gospel seems to promise what it just does not deliver (but, apparently, for a select few). We cannot escape pain in this life. We cannot escape suffering and cannot escape poverty, drudgery and discomfort. This life is difficult and sometimes seems to just drag on and on, day after endless day. So much of life and faith comes down to routine, to the day-to-day tasks that repeat themselves endlessly. Depending on a person’s vocation this may be doing dishes or changing diapers, repairing brakes or changing oil, choosing songs or preparing sermons. There may be a sameness to life that just seems to never end. So much of life is consumed with drudgery–hard, monotonous, routine work.
I was talking to my mother the other day, and we were discussing various and sundry aspects of the Christian life. Mom spends a lot of time thinking about issues related to biblical womanhood and has a gift for being able to lovingly exhort and encourage other women, and young women in particular, to serve the Lord. As we spoke, she was talking about a book she had read recently and I’m quite sure she said it was The Pastor’s Wife by Sabina Wurmbrand, the wife of Richard Wurmbrand who founded Voice of the Martyrs. She told how Sabina wrote about women who had been arrested for their faith and how, as they languished in prison, they so regretted ever begrudging the routine, the drudgery of daily life. As they sat in prison they would have given nearly anything to be able to scrub dishes or wash their husbands’ socks. Only in retrospect did they find a new appreciation for the routine, for those small but unheralded parts of life that they had so often complained about. One of mom’s challenges to young women is to embrace even the drudgery of life now and to see it as a time for joyful service. After all, a time may soon come when there is nothing you desire more and it would be terrible to have to live with regret for wasted days and bitter evenings.
What is true of life can be true of faith. It often seems like drudgery to wake up early in the morning to spend a few minutes or an hour reading the Bible and coming to the Lord in prayer. Going to church and worshiping with the Lord’s people or spending time reading an edifying book can seem hard and monotonous. This Christian life can become routine and we can begin to despise the monotony of it. And this is precisely where the gospel of health and wealth appeals to people. It promises a glorious life, a carefree, fulfilling, abundant life in the here and now. But this is a mere counterfeit of Christian doctrine. It bypasses hard work and offers short-term, selfish fulfillment and calls it godly, abundant fulfillment. It is a fraud.
I’ve found that I need to seek to embrace the drudgery of life, thanking God for the comfort of routine and the security of sameness. And I’ve found that I need to embrace even the hard work of becoming a godly man, even when it can seem like monotonous drudgery. I know that the perceived monotony is only a product of my own sin and selfishness. I know that even the day-to-day task of reading the Bible and praying to the Lord should be glorious and wonderful. This is how it should and can be. Sometimes it is. Often it is not. But even in the routine of pulling my tired body out of bed to spend time with the Lord, I know that God uses these opportunities to open my eyes to His glories and to see past grumbling and fatigue to the glories of Jesus Christ. By the time I have read the Bible and poured out my heart to Him, I find that I have to repent of ever having grumbled about the beautiful routine of spending time with Him.