My challenge to the prosperity Gospel preachers who promise “Your Best Life Now” is simple. They should go and live in the Middle East or in Asia for a year or so. As well, they should try convincing the local believers, through a series of messages from the Bible, that affliction and persecution could not be a part of the life of a follower of Christ. How do you talk to a mother whose young sons have been brutally beheaded by terrorists? How and what do you say to the parents of young girls who have been abducted to serve as sex slaves of Jihadists? How do you share your power of positive thinking to a group of Christians whose ancestral villages have been looted and burnt? How do you console young orphans whose parents were brutally massacred in front of their eyes?
I am confident that the worldview and theology of the preachers of prosperity gospel will be altered in just a few days. Instead of preaching what they have been over the years, the suffering believers would teach them at least the following two things:
1. Persecution is a given; it is expected and even anticipated in the life of a follower of Christ.
For example, the local believers would point out to these preachers a few forgotten verses of the Bible, such as the following:
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also” (John 15: 18-20).
“…In fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.” (John 16: 2).
“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (I Peter 2: 21).
2. God makes persecution serve His kingdom.
These believers outside the western world continue to experience persecution in everyday life. They would show the preachers of prosperity gospel that in the past God did make persecution serve the Great Commission and he continues to do so today:
“That day [of the Stephen’s martyrdom) a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.
Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word” (Acts 8: 1-4.)
Michael Green puts it succinctly when he describes this phenomenon of believers’ evangelism saying, they went about “gossiping the gospel.” God used the persecution to move his people into the mission he gave them for the world:
“Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the word to no one except Jews” (Acts 11: 19).
In Acts 8: 1, Luke mentions that in Antioch many of these scattered believers also shared the gospel with Greeks also. Thus, persecution led to fulfilling the Great Commission by sending the people of God to not just to Jerusalem and Judea, but also to Samaria and beyond to the Gentiles.
Are you personally involved in sharing the gospel with others? Is your church readily engaged in evangelism and witnessing? Or is the mission only confined to writing a check for an unknown missionary somewhere in the “third world”?