On the Psychology and the Emotional Health Gospel page, I was addressing a fundamentalist rejection of psychology, based on the notion that it denies that the Bible contains "all things that pertain to life and godliness" (2 Pet.1:2), and that all anyone ever needs is a "dose" of scriptures and "the Book, the Blood and the Blessed Hope". This is based on a string of five basic assumptions, from which a whole philosophy has been set up, which actually promotes coldness to the suffering in counseling! Basically, the formula goes like this:

1)We are sinners, therefore we "deserve" pain, or it is "good" for us (the saved) to cleanse us
2)The circumstances of life is the vehicle through which God sends us some of this pain (yet is obviously withholding most of it for us, and gives "no more than you can bear")
3)Therefore, we must respond to these circumstances with a positive attitude, or we're "sinning" against God
4)It is so easy! Just "choose" to do it, and God does the rest, supernaturally (just like salvation). There is no excuse for not claiming this "victory"! [COUGH]itsreallyahardlongprocessofselfeffortSee#1&2[COUGH]!
5)The person who doesn't is just indulging in some pleasurable sin (of fear, anger, self-pity, etc), and is helpless, and should at first be hit in the face with their "sin", and if that doesn’t work, be left to their own misery until they are willing to "repent".

These sort of parallel or better yet, are corruptions of the "four spiritual laws" (the basic points of the Gospel—God created us, we sinned and fell (which created problems and suffering), He sent His Son to die for us, we must receive Him to be saved); strongly suggesting a different gospel—one that is "no gospel" (good news) at all!

However, this formula, and the various passages it is read into also undergirds almost all of ["new/neo"]evangelical teaching on "the victorious Christian life"(including charismatics, and including even Christian psychologists criticized by the fundamentalists!); with millions of dollars of books, audio, video, speaking engagements, etc. being sold to masses to whom this "victory" still largely seems to evade, as they keep going back to buy more. The fundamentalists such as Biblical Discernment Ministries and the Bobgans (Psychoheresy Awareness Ministries) are simply more consistent with it, since psychology would truly not be needed at all if this "victory" was God just instantly, automatically healing people's emotions and making them content when they simply repent, ask, read the Bible, etc. as this entire teaching suggests. (And there is a bit of a distinction; as many of the new-evangelicals focus somewhat less on the first point, while the separatistic old-liners somewhat diminish the fourth. This is a big part of the criticism of the new by the old. But they all arrive at the same basic conclusions).

The entire concept involving reaction to pain was basically summed up in this typical statement from an internet discussion (and from a discussion addressing a skeptic's question of "Why won't God heal amputees" at that!):

I have chronic pain from two failed back surgeries. There was a time in my life when massive doses of opioid pain medication would not relieve the pain. It was at that point in my life that I prayed that God would take my life. He did. He caused the old man to die and a new one to be born again. My life was never the same. I still have chronic pain. Now my pain reminds me of His sovereign grace and mercy. The pain that used to be the focal point in my life, is not the focal point anymore.... Jesus is. Jesus is so big in my life that pain is only a small part of it. Although the pain is still there, it is as if Jesus has become the pain reliever... as if He takes the pain for me. I am able to bear it. He has healed me.

This type of statement is almost universal in so many "testimonies". (Making it sound like a learned cliché more than actual reality). It totally sums up the philosophy of this entire emotional health gospel. God "makes the pain not matter"; that is, if you have really "given Him your life" as we see it defined here. That's how this "testimonal" approach goes. "I gave my {life, pain, anger, sorrow, lust} to Christ, and, "it no longer controls my life". The crux of the paradox lies in the claim that Christ "takes" the pain from you, yet they'll admit that yes, you still feel whatever is ailing you, and it is "an uphill battle for the rest of your life", and by "faith and not feelings" that you believe you are healed, and then, "miraculously", God "changes" your attitude. Yet, we sensationalize it, making it sound as if Jesus really does take the pain away, as if you wouldn't feel it anymore! But then, when it doesn't work like that, we say it is not about feelings. Since the "testimonies" talk about it no longer being the "focal point", then it sounds dismissive of the pain. Like telling the person "aahh, pain really doesn't matter".

If the person being counseled with this doesn't develop this "peace", then some will go as far as to suggest thaty perhaps the person has not received Christ, or at least not been filled with the Spirit. As we will see, the way this works, is that you have to apply it and make it grow by constantly practicing a formula of certain (mechanical) responses, such as reciting a verse, singing, praying, repenting of the "sins" of certain emotions every time a thought comes up; even "rebuking" thoughts and feelings (among some). We are told by different teachers to tell yourself over and over that you can conquer it, "react the opposite way from your emotions", even to "Say you don't want it, and over time this will change your lustful 'need' for whatever it is you want (and then God will[may] give it to you)", etc.

"Trials" and "Tests"

Much of this trite coldness stems from a very common, but very wrong reading of various scriptures. 1 Cor.10:13, and James 1:2,3. "There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that all of you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that all of you may be able to bear it". "count it all joy when all of you fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience". From these two passages, it is for all purposes taught that the suffering person's pain is good for them! The way the teaching goes; is that if God is allowing this painful circumstance, He knows it is good for what He wants to make you into (His plan for your future, or just "molding you to the image of His Son"), and you can handle it.

Then we get endless analogies. In such "sculpting"; "rough edges have to be knocked/chiseled off, so there must be pain". It is even taught that when you ask God for patience, He responds by "sending" hardships which supposedly "develop patience in you" —if you respond the right way! So we're actually asking for it!
We hear of "omelette theories", where eggs have to be broken to make a dish of food, so "brokenness can be good". And also, analogies of an oyster, which gets a grain of sand in its shell, and through a painful process, makes a beautiful pearl. Then, there is comparison to surgery or dentistry: "the Doctor has to excise that bad organ or tooth; you don't understand what he is doing; so just be still and let him". One book or tract I saw years ago said regarding bad circumstances, "they are hurdles" (and of course God knows how high we can jump, though it is "hard" for us and we feel we can't do it). Another said something like "God stretches us almost to the breaking point" to make us grow. Still another once said "God tests your mettle", or something like that.
Perhaps the most frequent comparison is to "gold"; which "must be heated and melted down, so it can be purified, and the 'dross' removed". This is based primarily on 1 Pet. 1:7 coupled with Job 23:10, Psalms 66:10, 11, and sometimes 1 Cor.3:12, and also the similar treatment of "silver" in Zech.13:9 and Mal.3:2,3; though all of that (as far as physical pain is concerned) is obviously referring to "the day" [of Christ], especially involving Israel; and in some cases, gain or loss of rewards for the people of God now. (In principle, it can extend to us in this life, but as we will shortly see, the "purification" is not about physical pain or "stress", "difficulties", etc).

We are given nice little platitudes like "if life hands you a lemon, turn it into lemonade", "turn you scars into stars", and "turn 'disappointment' into 'His appointment'" one even says. Then, we get the perennial trashing of "feelings": "You may feel you can't handle it; but will you trust God's Word, and not your feelings?" The suffering person's feelings are pitted against God, thus completely invalidating their distress! (yet adding to it greatly, as this places them in a great bind!)
Like with the old-liners, Jer.17:9 is what is being referred to, suggesting that the "wicked heart" is "deceiving" us by making what is really "good" for us seem bad; or as we call it; "painful". (The context says nothing about reaction to pain. And while our hearts can possibly exaggerate sometimes, still, our feelings are not 100% wrong 100% of the time!)
Then, "it is by faith in God's Word that you know that you can handle it, even if you don't feel like you can". More blame is put on the person by saying "it is not that you 'can not'; it is that you will not!" Of course, since it is through "faith" we are saved (or "trust"), and without which "no man can please God" (Heb.11:6) and whatever is not, is sin (Rom.14:23; some more verses often used in these situations); we see the warrant to question the sufferer's salvation for not having the "faith" to get over it or at least change his attitude toward it.

Many do not go this far, but instead dismiss them as "Carnal Christians" who are "not filled with the Spirit". It has been widely speculated that the purpose of pain in the first place is that "without it, we wouldn't need to 'trust God'". But here, "faith", which was the vehicle through which we trust God for salvation, is taken and applied to something it never was directly intended for. —"Trusting God" now becomes a philosophy of positive attitudes in life with some unknown "good" being what we trust Him for! Or if we think we know the cause of the "trial", we speculate that "God is trying to show you something"; "God is trying to get your attention"; "God is trying to 'bring you closer to Him'", etc. So if he still says he can't handle it; then we got him! See; he doesn't want God's help! It's his human pride". He is "exalting himself above God", we even hear! It is the same basic argument as the physical health gospel: "not enough faith"!

The problem in these passages is that "Trials" and "temptations" are read as "painful circumstances". But the word translated "temptation" (peirazo/peirasmos) means just that: temptation. Even "try/trial" (dokimos) used here conveys a similar meaning. (other words; such as purosis, "fiery trial", or thilipsis, "pressure/trouble" address painful situations, but these are not used here! Strong's does say that peirasmos "by impl." means "adversity"; but this is from a projection of the common misunderstanding of the word; and not its actual definition based on how it is used in the text!) If the common interpretation of this being God "sending tests" were right, then the Bible blatantly contradicts itself; because James then says "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed". This is the same word used in Cor. and we see that it means what we commonly understand as "temptation to sin"; not a painful situation. Yet how many times do we see Christian teachers, counselors and books tell a suffering person "God brought this hardship into your life to test you. You can bear it no matter what it is, because He said you could, and He did it for your good". "Accept it from the hand of the Lord". If he rejects it; complains too much, etc, then he is "despising the chastening of the Lord"*. If that is what "test" (tempt) means, then they are the ones contradicting scripture and accusing God, not the sufferer who says the situation is too much for him to bear!

Those who will lean towards questioning people's salvation can try to use 2 Cor.6:1-10: "We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. ...Giving no offense in anything, that the ministry be not blamed." But in all things approving ourselves unto God, In much patience, In afflictions, In necessities, In distresses, In stripes, In imprisonments, In tumults, In labors, In watchings, In fastings; ...By honor and dishonor, By evil report and good report; ...As dying, and, behold, we live; As chastened, and not killed; As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; As poor, yet making many rich; As having nothing, and yet possessing all things". "Approved" in that place is not "dokimos", but rather sunistao, meaning "exhibit" or "commend" (see margin). In the previous chapter, Paul just established the eternal aspect of the hope of salvation, and that we were "abassadors for Christ". V.2, he then quotes from the OT prophecy about "the day of salvation". So we are to "commend" ourselves as the ministers of the Gospel in all of those situations. It is NOT saying you receive "grace" in "vain" if you do not go through [any kind of] suffering with the right attitude.
*(while one of Job's friends originally leveled the "chastening" statement at Job's suffering [wrongly, we see from God's response to them in the end!]; Hebrews places it in its correct context of persecution for the faith; not general pain and rough circumstances that occur to all regardless of whether they are God's children or not --which is what people coming for counseling are usually dealing with!)

"Trusting God" becomes a philosophy of 'positive thinking' with some unknown good being what we 'trust' Him for, rather than the original biblical context of salvation
Now, to use persecution as an example of what "tempting" was; when the Christians were being persecuted; it was a painful circumstance, indeed; but they were at the same time being tempted to either renounce Christ, or return evil for evil. Thus; they were also being "tried" or "tested". The trial or test itself was not the pain or even the circumstance itself (and thus not what was "good for them", or given by God for their "good"), but rather the temptation to do wrong! It's resisting temptation to sin that makes us grow! The very context in the surrounding text of the Corinthians chapter shows us sinful actions that God's people would be tempted to indulge in, in response to hardships. No one is justifying responding to situations with wrong actions.
When a person says "I can't take it"; he is not always justifying doing something sinful. In fact, he may actually be resisting the sinful action, and thus fulfilling the scripture! But that doesn't mean that the situation is not having a damaging effect on him. If this were true; then no Christians would have ever died as a martyr! If God allowed the physical torture; then it could not be more than he could bear, and he would live no matter what was done to him. On the other hand, if he dies; it was apparently "too much" for him to bear! So it is obviously not the "painful circumstance" that is being addressed there! (The temptation to renounce God to save his life is what he can resist or "bear", through faith in God's promises! Thus; he would "pass" the test).

So likewise, the same can hold true for emotional, mental and psychological pain. Many things do occur in this world, that, like physical pain, are too much to bear. And God allows them, and does not fix all of them at this point. Should we tell children that have been molested (who generally have severe emotional damage, that many cannot recover from) that if God allowed this, then it must be good for them, regardless of what they feel? Most would not say that directly; but ultimately, it is what they believe! (If the person complains too much, questions God and doesn't get over it, then they might eventually tell him that when they run out of patience, after all, as we shall see, they are "sinning" by not getting over it!) And they; like the other forms of health gospels, frequently appeal to "testimonials" of other people (sometimes their own) who have overcome similar situations; but people are different, and not all have the same strengths and weaknesses. Other factors can come into play as well. So you just cannot always blame the victim for refusing to heal!

Many teachers go on to insist that every little bad thing that happens to Christian is an "attack" of the devil (and/or, therefore a "test" of God). A commonly used illustration is a driver cutting you off at the intersection; or "attacks" against the job, family members or finances. The average Christian's life then, becomes a great big "Truman Show"! A popular comic style tract even shows a baby crying (in a hectic, backslidden household) because the devil pinches him! Satan "does" these things (with God's allowance), and then Satan puts the negative response, fear, and soforth into your mind. You, of course, have to "resist" this. Satan pulls all of these strings in life, and God just "uses it for your good" and offers you "power" for "peace" and "victory" in it, but only if you display the correct attitude, discussed below. Yet most of these problems are identical to what the rest of the world experiences. Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2002) is perhaps the best selling Christian book of all time; having been on the New York Times Bestseller list for 149 weeks (as of November 2005), and it is based on these same principles of "God sends testing for your good". In the typical fashion, he states:

You will be tested. By major changes, delayed promises, impossible problems, unanswered prayers, undeserved criticism, and even senseless tragedy. In my own life, I have noticed that God tests my faith through problems; tests my hope by how I handle possessions, and tests love through people.

A very important test is how you act when you can't feel God's presence in your life. Sometimes, God intentionally draws back, and we don't sense his closeness. A King named Hezekiah experienced this test. "God withdrew from Hezekiah to test him and to see what was really in his heart" (2 Chron. 32:31 NLT) Hezekiah enjoyed a close fellowship with God, but at a crucial point in his life, God left him alone to test his character, reveal a weakness and to prepare him for more responsibility (p.43)

But like all of the other scripture references used in this teaching, the context is glossed over. It wasn't a feeling of "closeness" that God withdrew from him (and doesn't this teaching say that we are not supposed to go by feelings?) In verse 24, for instance, we see that what God was doing for him was physical "signs" (margin: "wrought a miracle for him") Though many in the Church today focus on supposed signs and wonders, this has nothing to do with what is being claimed in this particular instance, and if one claims that "God's work in us" is the "miracle", they would not say that God would ever stop working in us on His own just for a test. (According to this teaching, if God stops working in us, it is because of our own failing to "yield"). Likewise, the other leading best-selling Christian author, Tim LaHaye in Why You Act the Way You Do (Living Books, Tyndale House, 1984) states, “God sends testings to strengthen us” (p.122), and “your present circumstances…are your training ground” (p.248. This book will be cited most frequently on this page. This is not to single him out. I just ran across these statements in the course of reading his treatment of temperament theory, and they are typical of evangelical teaching and counseling, coupled ironically with an eschatological and political philosophy that contradicts much of what they teach others about contentment! This is just the tip of the iceberg!).
On one hand, this assumption regarding life being used to "test" us is partly based on 2 Tim.3:12 "all that will live godly shall suffer persecution". Instead of taking this in its immediate context of both Paul's day, plus the end-time tribulation being discussed, this is attempted to be applied to every Christian who ever lived. Since most of us (and especially the leaders!) are not facing any sort of real persecution, we had to find something to fill in its place, and this is the everyday situations of life. Also, these are even called our "crosses" (Matt.16:24), (with anecdotes about a person who, tired of carrying "his cross", takes another one, gets tired of carrying that one, then sees a smaller one, picks that up, and finds that it was his original "cross" all along!) But "Cross" is a direct reference to the suffering Christ bore for us, and refers specifically to a burden for Christ, not just any "difficult situation". Then, we are still not consistent as to whether these are just the "trouble" all of man was born unto, or are special "trials" aimed specifically at Christians. You often get both ideas from the same person in the same sermon, book or counseling session. That's probably because this latter denies the obvious truth affirmed by the former. But the former weakens the argument this whole "positive attitude" teaching is based on, so the latter is needed to reinforce it.

One televangelist and writer mentions a period when she was concerned about business meetings, and people would be late, not excited, and then half didn't show up sometimes. She asks God "why are You doing this to me?", and God supposedly tells her that He is teaching her a particular lesson. On one hand, I find it funny, because this person criticizes, like the others, our tendency to be asking "why" all the time, and especially having an accusatory attitude toward God. But here, not only does God answer to the affirmative (i.e. he did "do it"), but also even explains why! This person would be the first to tell us that not every thought or voice that comes into our head is from God; but one has to measure it with the Bible, and "cast down" anything that "exalts itself" above Christ (2 Cor.10:5, which would definitely include anything "accusatory" against God/Christ). But since this "word" goes along with this teaching, it is apparently not even questioned, but rather readily taken and used to prove to the readers why they should have a good attitude when they don't get their way! "The world doesn't revolve around you" this person and others like her can be frequently heard saying; but in a case like that, it looks like it does revolve around us; only in a negative sense! I have also heard "God has not failed anyone. You are not important enough for God to make an exception" (e.g. Lahaye, p.165), but we are apparently important enough for God to take some other driver and stick him in front of us, (or allow Satan to do it), and other such forms of "intervention", to test us to see if we have faith in "Him not failing us". Then, they frequently say "God is more interested in changing people than circumstances" (e.g. LaHaye, p.122). But then maybe this might be easier to accept if you weren't teaching that God does often change the circumstances; either negatively, or that he changes them positively most of the time, but refrains sometimes to test us!

"Understanding" dismissed

From here, we get into the other universally trashed perception (next to feelings); our "understanding". "Don't try to understand it", we are taught. Then Is. 55:8,9 "My thoughts are not your thoughts", and Prov.3:5 "Lean not on your understanding" always come up. (The contexts of both are about doing good, and seeking God/forsaking evil; nothing about "dealing with hardships"). Some even cite Christ's statements about "becoming as a child"; and "receiving the kingdom as a child" (Matt. 18:3,4, Mark 10:15). While this is necessary, still, it is also necessary to be able to challenge teachings to see what is biblical or not, like the Bereans (Acts 17:11). (And have many of these leaders ever "come as a child", or do they come automatically assuming the role of "parent"?) For every doctrine in "historic Christianity" that people can't understand and question (The precise formulation of the Trinity, Calvinistic reprobation, the fundamentalist doctrine of good and bad music; aberrant or false groups do it too with their doctrines such as baptismal regeneration and transubstantiation, etc.); this tactic is used. Who can test anything, then? (This is one reason Christianity is coming under fire in debates like Intelligent Design!) But we see in developing these teachings, that they have used their own understanding and thoughts in interpreting these scriptures. Yes, God is ultimately above our understanding, but they are taking this too far when they use it to silence all challenges to their teachings. It seems that they are the ones who have speculated too much into the unknown, in saying that a particular trouble a person is going through was sent for some good but unknown purpose, for instance, and then using that to try to motivate the person to get over their pain through "thanksgiving". It is only when you question or challenge them, that "man's understanding" becomes wrong. So you can't feel it, and you can't figure it out, you just believe it by faith, and once again, if you don't get over your pain, you did wrong.

Once again, the old-line fundamentalists who condemn these modern leaders for even speaking of psychology are more consistent with these teachings in saying that psychology is totally unneeded and unbiblical, if God just zaps your mind with some unfelt "strength" that makes all your pains and suffering not matter when you simply pray and thank Him. (And it is all the more carnal of them to be making such an issue of "separation" over it, when both they and the modern counselors all arrive at the same conclusions and use the same counseling tactics, all based on the same five counterfeit spiritual laws, which they all agree with!) If all of this was so true and so simple; you'd think there would be a mass revival with all the people preaching it today. But basically, the lack of such a revival is all on the people and their "sin". (i.e. It is "so hard for our flesh"). These teachers frequently refer to "all these Christians out there" who are not growing, struggling with the same problems, etc. But these Christians are continuously going back and paying to read or hear more of these teachings! On the other hand, some, especially on TV are frequently making extravagant claims of "revival" by their ministries ("All the lives that have been changed", etc). However, the true spiritual depth of this (in an age where the Church seems to be slipping doctrinally and even morally) is reasonably questioned by many. Stanford sociologist David Gress notes "What has revived is a a social and culturally bound form of religiosity, in which the main purpose of the churches has been to become socially relevant. This phenomenon has nothing to do with genuine religion, and is but another outgrowth of the modernist spirit..." (The World and I, May 1990, p.485; quoted in Horton, Beyond Culture Wars p.74). It is also defined largely by emotional fervor, in prayer, and in positive reactions to pain. This is said to be "the working of the Spirit", and contrary to intellectual understanding.

Some may point to Romans 12:2 "be not conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind". But this is not speaking of getting over all of your problems supernaturally; but the initial change of heart when Christ is received and your basic values and goals change, as we see in the context. Realizing that Christ has saved you, and that the world stands in judgment may help a person forgive others or not be as envious of the pleasurable sin others do, for example; but it still does not erase all the pain. Titus 3:5 covers the same thing, noting "not by works of righteousness we have done; but according to His mercy he saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit". While this is to be evidenced in spiritual growth; we must not change this back into works-righteousness by placing unrealistic demands of growth and judgment on people. Works-righteousness is just as much "conforming to the world" and "walking after the flesh" (Rom.8:1, see context) as indulging in anger and lust is! Anyone trusting in their "positive attitude" as proving their walk with God (and filling with the Spirit) is the one not "trusting" Him; but rather trusting in themselves!

Teachers frequently tell us not to "lean on our understanding", yet they have been leaning on theirs in speculating that hardships are sent to us by God for a good pupose
Once again, many of the scriptures they are using are addressing first century Christians in the unique situation of spreading the Gospel in the world for the first time, in the hostile Roman Empire, under the equally hostile Old Covenant (Temple) institution which still ruled over many people (until its destruction in AD70). One thing I got out of a debate with preterism was a better sense of the "audience relevance" of many of these scriptures. They were written primarily to the people then, and while they definitely carry over to us in principle; we often carelessly transfer every detail to our experiences, when it doesn't completely fit. Today, by comparison, most Christians in the West enjoy a relatively peaceful mundane life, where we try to spread the Gospel, but the situation is nowhere near as volatile or significant as that faced by the New Testament Christians (or Christians in hostile mission areas today). So in such a time of peace, "suffering" in daily circumstances has become the more pressing issue; instead of persecution for Christ, and freedom from the Law which were the main issues of the New Testament. So to portray the daily circumstances of life in this environment as being like as it were, some sort of chess game between God and Satan is quite speculatory, and overgeneralized. In this common theory, it's like any bad thing that happens to us, is; we're walking along one day, and God looks down and says "Oh, [so-and-so] could use a lesson in {patience, endurance, forgiveness, etc} right now", and then allows Satan to stick a driver in front of us to cut us off, or have someone insult us to "test" us, or perhaps a bigger, more ongoing problem, like physical ailment (you or a loved one), or financial problems.

One author, Kay Arthur, Like Silver Refined, linked the rebellion of her oldest son to a lesson God supposedly uses this to give us; of letting us know how He feels when His "imperfect" children (us) rebel against Him. We have all of this figured out; yet if the person complains that it is unfair, or whatever, he is told not to "lean on his understanding", once again. (And once again, special new personal revelation is often appealed to, but not tested with scripture in its proper context). Yes, we can grow by responding to difficult situations, but to portray God and Satan as "doing" everything to us today for some "good" tends to create more of a sense of expectation that may be unrealistic, in the first place. This can short circuit the effect the teachers are trying to have, by making one more likely to think God should prevent bad things, since He is so directly "involved" in them; and thus "demand" from God (especially when he doesn't see the "good end" any time soon), which the teachers all warn against; and ask "Why did You do/allow this?" and be disappointed at Him and think He doesn't care when He doesn't prevent them or reveal the good outcome. Also, on the flipside; it can make one wonder why others, especially Christians, aren't always punished for doing evil; if God is actively punishing or "chastising" all of a person's evil, now. So then; God seems very "unfair". Of course, the suffering person who does or thinks all this is "sinning", and castigated by this teaching. (That "bad attitude" is said to be their whole problem in the first place). But perhaps the teaching is orienting his perspective the wrong way. So we tell them not to try to understand everything, and that in the next life, all wrongs will be made right, and then perhaps we'll understand everything. If it's true that God allows much evil to go unpunished in this life (including from Christians), then do not tell people that bad things in their lives are specifically "sent" by God, because then; it does seem like He's "picking on" them. We may try to tell them something like "God is giving you special attention (so thank Him)" or "He's given those other people over to their sins, so He doesn't bother with them anymore" (one person I know used to cite Ps.81:11,12 for this), but once again, this is all beyond anybody's knowledge, and can lead to judging.

Often fellow Christians following this teaching and using these scriptures make it worse by encouraging someone to "have faith" that God will do something or is doing something, and when it doesn't come to pass, the person is told "well; I guess it just wasn't His will!" What a devastating emotional rollercoaster this can create! (a recent local "testimony" of someone being "miraculously cured" of cancer, and then still dying of it days later comes to mind!) No wonder so many still deep down inside lose faith, despite all of this pep talk! We have speculated too much into the unknown to try to explain what is just common life in a fallen "travailing" world. And when we try to project what we believe God is promising to do, we should remember Deut. 18:22: "when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing follows not, nor comes to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; but that prophet has spoken it presumptuously!" So just changing the story to an embarrassed admission that "Oh, I guess it wasn't God's will after all" will not fix the emotional damage to the person promised something, as well as our testimony and the credibility of Christ to the watching world. We just should not be so quick to pronounce such things. False prophets were ordered to be executed in the Old Testament, and while such harsh measure does not carry into the age of grace now, it should show us how serious an offense this is.
As people often place themselves or allow themselves to fall into bad situations believing in some "promise" that "nothing bad would happen, or it would all work out for good"; this even crosses over into "Tempting/testing God" (Deut.6:16/Matt.6:7). And I don't mean in the sense of "proving" Him in Mal.3:10, where there is a clear promise in its own immediate context. Even this is frequently applied to the present, especially when what else, but the old collection plate is passed around (of course!), ignoring that that was the theocratic government of the Old Covenant nation of Israel, and the Church was not supposed to be a copy of that institution, even though the principle of giving continues. (Giving in the New Testament was truly to bless everyone, particularly those who had lack (1 Cor.16, etc). Today, in utter sharp contrast, those who lack are taught to be "content", while the leaders using these passages get much of the riches for themselves!)

And then we see here that we are not even consistent with these "principles". When things don't turn out right, they remind you that the purpose of life is not pleasure, but serving God, the Cross, etc. but they are all along making it seem as Michael Horton puts in Beyond Culture Wars, is that God's Law "is only there for our own good, our own happiness and fulfillment anyway"(p.114). Some can even cite Mark 11:24, "what things you desire; when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them", in which it becomes like a spiritual "name it and claim it". (The world teaches the same thing, but calls it "the power within", accessed by "believing in oneself" by telling yourself "I can" and then "acting upon it" even if one doesn't feel able--"reciprocal causation" one self-help guru called it). Then, there's "Whatsoever ye ask in my name, that I will do" (John 14:13), "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes" (Mark 9:23), and "if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, 'remove [and be cast into the sea]!', and it shall be removed and nothing shall be impossible to you"(Matt.17:20/Mark 11:23). If you still don't believe that these passages are being removed from their original contexts today, then what about the fact that we cannot today perform such supernatural acts at will? This is of course, blamed on our "unbelief", meaning it's because nobody believes that they can actually do it, hence, this is what prevents such feats. (James 1:6 "ask in faith, nothing wavering" is cited, but it's context is "wisdom", v.5!) But then everyone must be "unbelieving" today, then, since no one 'has enough faith' to actually move a mountain! Or, of course, this is allegorized as, once again, our mundane daily circumstances and wants. But once again, we do not get everything we wish, as these teachers constantly remind us.

The physical health & wealth teachers, on the other hand, have a field day with these passages, with all sorts of extravagant claims of "miracles", that are more hearsay than solid facts. (How many of us have seen them? Of course, you have to "come to the church" to see these things!) Many are outright hoaxes. Horton significantly points out that "In our day, the church resembles Corinth, with its attraction to slick preachers, and signs and wonders, an immature church..." (p.228) Some are pointing out that this obsession with miracles in the name of "faith", betrays actually more of a lack of faith!
Once again, faith is the vehicle through which we trust God for salvation; but it seems that is 'not enough' to most people (or at least not enough for the leaders to lure the crowds in), so we must add on all of these extravagant claims of healing; either physical, by the faith healers, or mental, emotional, etc. by just about all the teachers. Many independant churches have the concepts of "healing", "victory", and other such selling language right on the Church's name and front sign, in flashy colors even. Most may not be deliberately, consciously setting it up that way (though some are); still the way it probably happens is that the success of the teaching is taken as "God's blessing" of "The spreading of His truth", and hence as divine sanctioning of the teaching. Still, many false things can be popular.

Then, the final standby for requested miracles is "it is only if it is God's will". But these passages do not say that! Yes, 1 John 5:14 does, but clearly, that is not speaking of the same thing as what Jesus was telling the disciples. The same with 1 John 3:22, "because we keep His commandments". Still, one can keep the commandments, and a request still not turn out to be "His will". Some teachers have gone on to make a checklist of all of these "conditions" for a prayer to be answered affirmatively, yet it often still does not work out, and we are left resorting to the "unknown higher purpose", again. Likewise, people can make prayers that meet none of those requirements, and it seemingly gets "answered", raising a feeling of "unfairness". So it is wrong to use these passages to practically guarantee that God will give you whatever you want if you have faith, and then say "oh, it wasn't His will this time; don't try to understand it" when it doesn't work out.

While I do believe that God does intervene in some things, still, we don't always know which things, and shouldn't try to speculate on given instances, and only then claim "we can't understand it". Some things are just good fortune and lack thereof. Fortune, or "luck"; I would define as "an unknown principle of a disposition of a situation to a particular outcome especially to benefit or to adversity that is out of control of the person involved"; rather than any magical or mystical meaning commonly associated with the words. The emphasis is on "unknown" and "out of control of the person". Whatever exactly, or directly causes things, even if it is God; no one can deny that much of the circumstances of life fit this description, from our perspective. (Once again, we cannot comprehend God's perspective). So why speculate? Whether it is God, or just a combination of natural forces (that God "controls" in a more passive way), we do not know. God may use it for some good, but this should not be our primary word of "comfort" to the one suffering from it! Neither should be "Seek first His Kingdom, and these things will be added to you" (which once again was directed at the original disciples with their immediate needs). This creates expectations of some immediate good, but when it is not seen, then we have to either conclude the person had not sought God first; or we just keep pushing the "good" further and further back; until we ultimately conclude it must be some "heavenly reward" beyond this life. What good is all this after awhile to the person suffering now?

Making all of this so much more confusing is that first, we quote to the sufferer passages like Psalms 50:14 "Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay your vows unto the most High: And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me" and Jer.29:11 "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end", making it sound like there will always be some immediately seen "deliverance" from a problem. But then, Phil 4:19 "God shall supply all your needs" and Heb.13:5,6 "Be content with such things as you have: for He has said 'I will never leave you nor forsake you'[from Gen.28:15] so we can boldly say 'the Lord is my helper; I will not fear what man shall do to me'[from Ps.27:1]" is taken basically to mean that whatever you have at any given time is all you 'really' need; so if you are being theatened or abused by someone, for instance, it shouldn't trouble you, because at least they cannot take your soul; and when in danger, don't fear because even if you lose your job, your possessions, etc., that's OK because that would be all you "need" because Christ is "with you". Here, the truer focus of scripture, salvation is used as a "last resort" for when the initial [material] "promises" read into them do not come to pass.
LaHaye (p.362) cites an instance where a person is planning a vacation with him, but then finds he has lost his job. He "trusts God" and goes on the trip anyway. Sure enough, when he gets home, another employer has called him for a job. So "God provided for his needs". Fine. But if this hadn't happened, and he had to foreclose the house, or whatever, then that would have been "God's will" for Him, according to this teaching, and he better not have dared "sin" by grumbling about it! (Right?) He still has other things to "thank" God for, so that is apparently what his true "needs" were! Hence, the definition of "needs" becomes scaled down. So someone else reads this and they expect that to happen for them, but they are not as fortunate, and they will be disillusioned, and of course only get a pat answer about "needs" from these teachers. Our perception of "needs" (along with "love", "fairness", etc) is then even said to be skewed. But they shouldn't have set people's hopes up that high using the word "needs" (out of its biblical context) in the first place!

We are then told "If you have not accepted His full leading for your life, you will complain because you doubt things will turn out all right". (p.123-4) But just what is "all right"? Do Christians never lose everything and wind up on the street? Do they never lose limbs and other body functions? Psalms 34:19 "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all" is even quoted to people in trouble. But look at the next verse: "He keeps all his bones; not one is broken". Do Christians never have bones broken? Obviously, this passage is not being used properly! As we know from the Crucifixion story, it is ultimately a prophecy of Christ; and to us would point to salvation. (Likewise, Satan would hurl a similar "promise Psalm" (91:11, 12) at Jesus in the Temptation! This should definitely caution us about the way we casually throw such verses out at people!)
Continuing; have Christians never died without having "those things" added to them? It is very confusing, because on one hand, the way the verses are initially quoted, it looks like God is promising nothing really bad will ever happen, but when it does; then we must revise the definitions of "need" and "all right", with "food" or even "air" as the last resort to prove that every Christian's "needs" have always been "provided for" no matter what happened! (And then we are at that point reminded again of all the scriptures saying life would be suffering). But then do Christians never starve to death? What is "all right" about that? That their soul will be in Heaven, of course, which is the absolute final resort!

Let's look at this from the other angle and compare life the way it is with this hypothetical situation that God ALWAYS prevents, or never allows: what would it mean for God to not be with us, or not supply our every need, or for Him to "leave" or "forsake" us, then? Since every physical and emotional calamity imaginable has in fact happened to Christians; the only thing we are absolutely spared from is ending up [eternally] lost! That is what these scriptures are ultimately pointing to! While this should give us hope and something to be thankful for, as well as "peace" from any worries about eternity; still, our emotions are based on current situations, and the teachers make it sound like those situations in themselves will be or turn into some later situation (in this life) that is "all right". But that is never promised for this life. So you might as well just say "look to Heaven" as much of the old Church did, but the modern church wants to make it sound nicer and more appealing. That's what brings the masses in, and keeps the huge Christian "teaching" industry going!

Another approach I have heard is "God is doing something special in your life. It is a special test"; which is basically insinuating (admitting) that He is not keeping this general "promise" to the person this time, because this is "different", and "special", and the person should all the more thank Him for it. Amazing they will cite the above verses and Matt.6: "take no thought saying what shall we eat...drink...be clothed with...If God so clothe the grass of the field, shall he not clothe you, O ye of little faith...but seek first His Kingdom..." to laypeople; when these were directed to the apostles (and the OT passages the Heb. verse was taken from address the situations of the likes of the patriarchs, and David), and the contexts are covetousness— wanting something just because someone else has it, not because it's needed), not basic physical and emotional needs. (But then basic needs that are lacking are often considered "wanting things someone else has" by the teachers trying to counsel the person to be content!) Yet many of these modern "apostles" and pastors who quote this today are quite expressive about their 'struggle' for a "living" when it comes to putting financial pressure on their congregations and supporters; especially when they feel people are not giving enough! And they make sure they have far more than their basic needs met! Yet they can so easily say all of these things to the less fortunate.

At this point, an instance that deserves mention is in Luke's version of this, where Jesus tells the man who wants his brother to share inheritance "who made me a judge or divider over you?" (Luke 12:13, 14). This seems like a very cold reaction to a man who seemed to be suffering an unfairness. Jesus then begins speaking of "covetousness", and here we get the wellknown statement "A man's life does not consist of the abundance of things he possesses" (v.15). This at first glance may seem to justify dismissing the needs of the oppressed and downtrodden, on the premise that "material possessions, and this life and world don't matter". But first of all, this was not just any listener, but "one of the company"; those who would be following Jesus. So of course, that person should not be worrying about some inheritance his [most likely lost] brother is keeping for himself. All of that would of a necessity be left behind. Just like the person who wanted to go back and bury his father or even bid farewell to his household (9:59-62; more seemingly "cold" statements when not understood according to their contexts). Notice, Jesus then goes into the parable of the rich man whose life would be required of him that night (and then, followed by the "take no thought" statement). All of this was for those who were to be literally, physically following Him as His band of disciples; not for everyone today, though the principles of avoiding covetousness certainly continue. But we must be fair in not dismissing people's genuine needs as covetousness based on a misreading of these scriptures. (If you want to take that scripture that way, then conservatives should think of that the next time they pray for God to make the government stop taxing them so much).

What would it mean for God to "leave or forsake us"? Since every calamity imaginable has happened to Christians, the only thing absolutely promised is we will not end up lost
This issue really does parallel the Calvinistic concept of "preterition", where because we credit God for saving us, we are to "accept the unpleasant from Him" too by assuming that those lost were deliberately "passed over" by Him, because "they deserved Hell anyway". This seems so "unfair", but then our perceptions are skewed, and we are told to "just bow" and "accept it" and not try to figure it out. It even shares the common reference to the "potter and clay"; and this issue even touches upon foreknowledge/foreordination, with the citing of Romans and the question of how God creates future good from pain and misfortune. The difference is only in the scope and duration of the "good" (mercy) and "evil" involved (temporal or eternal). Many if not most of these teachers are not even Calvinists, but do not realize how much they have been influenced by this type of thinking regarding God's sovereignty, which greatly shaped Augustinian and Reformed Christianity, and is related to many of the Church's historic problems. In both cases scriptures are taken out of context, and then people's negative reactions to them are taken as proof that it is "just the hard truth").

Some may point to James 4:13-5 "Go to now, all of you that say, To day or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas all of you know not what shall be on the next day. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away. For that all of you ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that", to try to prove that everything that happens was deliberately planned by God. But this then gets into "the absolute predestination of all things", which not even all Calvinists claim to believe in, labeling it "hyper-Calvinism". (Puritans and others in the past used concepts like this to justify all sorts of evil, or at least copying harsh measures that may have been allowed in the OT, but were contrary to the New testament Gospel, labeling it under the banner of "Divine Providence". So it was "God" who gave the heathen land into our hands, or delivered that witch or "heretic" for us to burn at the stake!) This ignores that God has what is called "a permissive will", and what the passage is addressing, is, as was mentioned above, circumstances that are beyond our control.

God may permit us to do something tomorrow (good, or evil; in the latter case, it is definitely not apart of His other kind of "will"), or he may permit something to stop us, and simply leave it up to the other factors in the matter. (This especially may be the case in the day-to-day situations of life, where nothing spiritually significant is involved. We can speculate that there may be something significant that we don't see; but then we cannot really know this, and should not build a doctrine out of it). He may possibly be more active, and cause something to stop us, or cause things to make sure that we we succeed. The point is; we know nothing about these processes, so how can anyone say with such certainty "I am going to do this tomorrow"? It just may not be apart of even His permissive will.
What many people are doing instead, is that very thing (presuming); only pasting "God's promise" on it; (rather than "IF it is God's will", which is pushed to the background as if only a remote possibility) in which it now becomes "certain" as a "matter of faith". But as we see, this too still ends up wrong a lot of the time, and the person is shown to be violating this scripture as much as the people James is speaking of, and misusing God's name on top of it. So in any way, this scripture cannot be used to speculate on events in our lives being directly "sent" by God. Just like the predestination issues (discussed here), we cannot make such pronouncements that are beyond our knowledge and build "hard teachings" off of them, and only then tell the questioner "God's ways are higher than our ways".

Various Scriptures

As for Rom.8:18, "worthy" means (like "temptation") just what it sounds like: "deserving". This compared to the "glory" (honor) that shall be revealed in us. This is in no way dismissing people's suffering as unimportant, insignificant, or having no detrimental effect. 2 Cor.4 also has as its immediate context the conflict with those advocating the Law as we see at the end of the previous chapter. So verses like 8ff "we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not destroyed, always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord" and "all things are for your sakes that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God, for which cause we faint not, but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction which is for but a moment works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" are also not dismissing the pains we suffer today. The old covenant system was on its way down, and that particular suffering would pass soon! There would continue other persecutions from the Romans, but this was not the same as the persecution from the Temple system, in which believers' status as children of God was called into question. (Rev.2:9, 3:7-9)

Perhaps the most frequently cited, 8:28 "All things work together for good to them who love God and are called according to His purpose", is discussing the "no condemnation" in Christ (v.1) which figures in our "adoption" (v.15) and "predestination" (v.29). It is not saying all our suffering is good because "God uses it for some hidden plan"--as if the suffering is what in itself gets us the inheritance being discussed throughout the book. Many other scriptures used also have a similar, particular context. Much of the Christian persecution referred in these verses was not just from the pagans, but also from the Jews, (see for example 2 Cor.10:24-26) whose Old Covenant system of law and condemnation, was passing. They either tried to bring Christians back under the Law; or opposed the cause of Christ altogether, and even got the Christians in trouble with the Romans by excluding them from the immunity to emperor worship the Jews were granted.
It all hinged on the "Salvation" from the curse of the Law. In the overall context of Colossians, we see that freedom from "the handwriting of ordinances that was against us" (2:14) is the cause of the "peace" in 3:15, as well as Romans 5:1. People take Gal.2:20, which says "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless...not I live, but Christ in me" to teach "Don't say you can't do something; because it is really Christ 'in you' who does everything" (and perfectionists use this to say that those who have not completely overcome all sin must not have "Christ in them"), but the context here, once again, is "Dead to the Law that I might live unto God", which speaks of the legal freedom we were granted.

So likewise, in Phil.4:6-7 "Be anxious for nothing...And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus", also is pointing ultimately to freedom from being under the Law; which naturally had caused a lot of anxiety. (the Law is discussed a bit in the previous chapter, though in principle this does teach us the virtue of patience. But it should not always be thrown to those in need). This is another passage leveled at sufferers, and it is taken to mean some sort of supernatural "serenity" that comes over you and makes your pains not matter.

Or of course, there's the "thanksgiving" mentioned in the verse. Some will try to say "You're not thanking God for the problem; just thanking Him in it". (e.g. LaHaye, p. 360. Yet he has an entire section in the same book p.280, titled “Formally give thanks for anything that bothers you”!) They'll give a sample prayer like "Lord; I don't understand this, but I trust that You're doing this for my good; so I thank You for your care" or "I thank God he is in control of my life! I don't understand his dealings with me right now, but I trust his promise that he will never leave me and he will supply my every need" (LaHaye p.121); but that for all purpose is thanking Him FOR the problem!
Likewise, when a loved one dies, "meekness", Arthur tells us, is "bowing the knee and saying 'Lord, You're sovereign. So if it pleases you; it pleases me'". (So of course, to not say this, is to fail to "bow" to God, "in humble submission and faith and acquiescence to His control"!) This takes it beyond mere "contentment". It is for all purposes telling you to positively confess liking what you don't like! This is how we are said to "conquer", and it brings a "return of peace". (But isn't this a "feeling"? Others tell us not to go by feelings! If the "peace" is just "by faith", or is something that develops over time, then we are being promised something that is really not what it sounds like).

We are told not to "fight" or even "try to adjust" these "afflictions, trials, disappointments, oppressions, humbling situations" instead of "allowing" them to "accomplish what God wants to accomplish in your life", because "God is in control", and He "is in us" and "has us in training". This sounds like it is encouraging fatalism, but the teachers will all deny this, and then we will eventually get "serenity prayers" about accepting what we cannot change and changing what we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. That's a good thing to have, but all of this language can be confusing enough to make the head swim. Much similar double-talk abounds in this teaching. And remember, all of this is based on the faulty foundation that all bad things are deliberately "sent" or "allowed" for our good. It cannot be repeated too often that it is highly wrong to keep demanding people to put aside their "understanding" in order to react these ways, when the whole premise is based all on human speculation on how exactly God's "control" is being manifested in these situations, (all based on human misinterpretations of scripture) in the first place! And as teachers and counselors steeped in this way of thinking respond to their suffering bretheren, it ends up that this teaching puts a great emphasis on being "humble" towards God —at the expense of being cold and condescending towards each other! (The concept of "Humility" is thus only used to try to control another person's emotions). Do we really think this is what God wants from us?

We quote the promise that God will never leave us to sufferers on one hand, but then if they are still fearful rather than thankful, then we claim God DOES actually leave them! This places our trust, basically in ourselves!
"Anger" is often called a 'sin' based on Eph.4:31 and Col.3:8. Yet v.26 of the Ephesians passage says "Be angry and sin not"; (showing it is possible to be angry without sinning) is explained away. What they don't tell you is that there are two different (though related) words being used, and "anger" in those first two verses basically means "violent passion", not just plain anger at some offense (as is the case in the latter verse). The verse says we should not let the sun go down on our anger, and this is of course what we should strive for. But problems remain, and this instruction is used to suggest people should never be angry about a particular situation again.
"Fear" as it is used in the NT also concerns mainly the Law and the pressure from those persecuting Christians over it. It's amazing that many of these teachers try to quash out of existence two basic emotions and use accusations of "sin" to manipulate everyone into Stepford Christians, when many of them get fearful and angry at things they feel threatened by (as we shall see shortly; even though this is disguised and not admitted, or excused as "righteous anger"), and this is somehow OK! And they are trying to motivate people to overcome a "fear" and "anxiety" not being discussed by these passages, by using the very "anxiety" and "fear" these passages ARE discussing (condemnation by the Law: i.e. charges of "sin")!

LaHaye goes as far as to paste together verse 18 and 19 of 1 Thess 5 and write that the person who prays "I don't understand why" rather than a thankful prayer "flunks the test", and "has already quenched the Spirit through fear"! (p.121,2) Such a rash judgment is precisely the very type of fear tactic I just addressed! The Spirit leaves us THAT QUICKLY! What happened to “I will never leave you or forsake you”? It's applied to something else: God supposedly 'using physical circumstances for good', while God's actual being "with" us is apparently all placed in our hands; (“trusting Him” in those physical circumstances!) and if we fail in this, He actually does leave us! The teachers have turned God's true promise on its ear, and this places our trust, basically, in ourselves! Anyway, each verse in that immediate passage (Thess.) is a separate issue being addressed.
Then, in a sample prayer given, a pair of parents are wrong (forfeiting "peace"), just for so much as pouring their hearts out pleading to God how much their dying child means to them! (Instead of another sample prayer confessing how they don't understand it, but believe it will "work out for good" and God will "supply all her [the child's] needs"). Why should people even come to God with their problems, then? (Whatever happens is God’s will, and just happens, and our only recourse is to make ourselves accept it with a good attitude!) So the person hurt by someone or something in life, rather than the victim of a circumstance, is actually the offender (i.e. "sinning against God")! No wonder there has been so little compassion sensed in the Church!. If the person "groans or complains inwardly", even, this can be "immediately remedied" by "calling his doubt-induced complaining exactly what it is--sin". (ibid.) But just what exactly is it that is being "doubted" then? That it is good for him!

Complete Coldness in Counseling!/(Scriptures, cont'd)

Fear is said to have at its root "selfishness". (LaHaye, p. 223) A person is afraid of various situations such as losing a job or standing before an audience because of the sin of "interest in self" that causes fear of "looking like a fool" or "looking like a failure in the eyes of family or not being able to provide family and self with necessities of life". While a lot of fear can be from selfishness, this is way overgeneralized and taken to an unscriptural extreme. Just what is this "unselfish" ideal, then? Are we supposed to want to look like a fool or failure or not providing for the family? Or I guess it's not want them, but simply not mind if they do happen in the future, once again, because if God does allow these things, it's good for us. Then why don't these leaders then put themselves in these situations? They would say they "don't depend on their possessions and comforts", but then we don't see any of them ever doing without it! (As it is, you would really wonder if they would fit the description of 1 Cor.15:19: that if Christ was not risen and our faith turned out to be vain, then would they, like the NT Christians, be seen as "the most pitiable of all men"; or would they still be looked at as having "made it" in the world, despite their industry in such case being based on something false--which the world believes anyway?)

Then, I just wonder what about the fear of Communism? Or atheism and humanism? Or the Antichrist? Are those somehow different? Here is a person who "worried" about the Panama Canal giveaway enough to say that it was a proof that non-Christians were not fit be elected to public office by Christians, and sees America's problems as coming from "humanistic Europe", and has thus aided in the Church's rabid sensationalism over the sins of the left, and made a fortune out of a storyline based on the premise that the Great Tribulation is too much for Christians to go through! (hence a "secret rapture", because God just would never put us through such trouble. But it is the "righteous" who are persecuted in these scriptures they cite, rather than being physically prosperous! This should make us think!) Yet it's some person already in such types of situations, or in the gutter, or any other suffering person who isn't "content" who is "selfish"! It gets worse!

Mentioned (LaHaye, ibid.) is a case of a Christian psychologist telling a person struggling with fear that she was just a "very selfish young woman"; a "turtle hiding under a shell of selfishness. Just throw it away and start thinking more about others and less about yourself". She went away crying, but eventually "overcame" it. Still, the utter cruelty of this approach is astounding! Even if there might be some truth to this, do we need to be so blunt; at least at that early point in the counseling? (She had just come to him asking about her fears, and he probed into them with about six questions and then made that judgment. This seems to be a very common method in Christian counseling offices!)
Because a "hard way" works on some people doesn't mean it is right, or from God. If done to the wrong person; you can push them right over the edge, and possibly even put yourself in danger! It could devastate or destroy some people! But of course, then, we would just say it was their own fault! A person who did not "confess their sin" of their fear, for instance, is said to be "incurable". (ibid, p. 225, 280) How encouraging! Just consign them to utter hopelessness on top of their problem! Of course, "they did it to themselves"! (and as shall be asked again, how did any non-Christian--who rejects vehemently even the idea of "sin", EVER overcome fear, then?)
This basically parallels the secular cliché of "God helps those who help themselves"! (LaHaye even calls what he offers "Christian Self-help". The old-liners would justly criticize this, but they use the same exact philosophy about people who don't "repent of these sins" being "incurable"! Such "motivational" speaking, with its "no nonsense" tough talk, is a bit of a fad in secular culture these days; witness Dr. Phil as an example). The woman supposedly enjoys "abundant life" now, but you still don't really know what's going on in her heart every day. Especially since this walk is compared to pushing a boulder uphill for the rest of your life, as we shall see. Just as long as the counselors don't hear about the negative anymore, but only hear positive, they are satisfied with the outcome, and that seems to be what this is all about. If you hear someday of her having a heart attack or dying from stress from suppressed fear (it was still there; she simply "didn't act upon it anymore"), then what?

Not only that, but "anger, worry and self-pity" are lumped in with "lust" as "fun temporarily" and "emotional satisfactions"! (p.117; also, “Worriers usually enjoy wallowing in their misery”, p.120, emphasis added) No wonder there is so much coldness to the suffering in much of today's counseling! The person's emotions are seen as some sort of game he's playing, or doing for kicks, like with lust. He's getting some sort of enjoyment out of it! No wonder people counseling others think they should be so cold and tough with them! Many of the people teaching this have never been in a a place where they felt the deep cutting pangs of rejection and lack of love to the point the only pity they can get is from themselves, or they are threatened by something terrible, like where their next paycheck or meal will come from! But they know to judge what's in these people's hearts (based on "the Bible" meaning their interpretations of it, seen through their own experiences!) Anger, worry, and self-pity in such cases may bring some sort of temporal relief or comfort, but that is not fun!

All we are doing is stabbing our wounded right in the heart and making prooftexted justifications for it, and then traveling the world boasting about these tactics to others in conferences or sermons because "it works"! The end is not justified by the means!
Dwight L. Carson is dead right that Christians do "shoot their wounded"; believing this "Myth that Christians Should not have Emotional Problems", which "assumes that if you have repented of your sins, prayed correctly, and spent adequate time in God's Word, you will have a sound mind and be free of emotional problems", and which is "communicated by some of our most listened-to leaders" (Christianity Today 2-9-98, p.29)
Perhaps the biggest proof that God is not actively measuring out earthly "hardships" as "chastisement" every step of the day for our flaws is the fact that He has not struck some of these leaders down with biblical plagues or taken everything away from them for such crass, callous insensitivity! (or allow a hostile regime to take us over, which was one of their sin-"induced" fears! Instead, He has allowed them all to enjoy a comfortable "American executive"-class lifestyle, and THIS is how they "thank" Him!). I have even seen a teaching that whoever has a hard time dealing with difficulties is "refusing to accept being man", and instead "trying to be God"! ("man" once again defined in terms of "pain"). Accusation after accusation is hurled at the sufferer, and the counselor claims to be speaking the Word of God. Why should anyone even come to God for the comfort and peace they are saying He gives if that apparently is His word to them, and He is so critical of them?

We have copied lock, stock and barrel the philosophy of Job's friends, and don't even realize it! Not a clue! We have only rehashed, repackaged, and prooftexted it, and then taken it even beyond their level! God may have corrected Job when his words got too out of place, but He was really angry at his friends who "did not speak right concerning Me". Job was ordered to offer sacrifices for them! That was apparently a very serious offense to Him! Just look at the fact that it was actually their "comfort", with all its charges of sin that made Job sink so much lower into such negative thinking in the first place! (He actually started out more positive, in two of the very verses (1:20-22, 2:10)often used as the model of how we are to react to pain and loss! Their "silent treatment", similar to many Christians "we'll just pray about it", but without any solace, is what started it all off). Yet these leaders today think what they're doing is different because it "worked" on some, who happened to be convinced/convicted of sin through it!
I have seen Christians around me walk around criticizing themselves for slipping in their anger and other attitudes, or devotional time, or whatever, (as well as being hard on others over these things) and they "repent of these 'sins'", and ask God's "forgiveness"; but none of this even made them grow any faster. They just continued to struggle with it and grow gradually as they always had, and most everyone else does. (Some I knew in the past had this strict "attitude" on themselves and others like that, and then still fell altogether completely when the right circumstances occurred). It's just a guilt trip, that may or may not bring results, but Christian growth is about quality; not quantity, and such methods are not necessary, but are contrary to God's love.

We actually think people's negative reactions to their pain are "fun" to them, and chastize them as "selfish" for not wanting to look like a fool or not be able to provide for their family. No wonder there is so much coldness in counseling! We have copied lock, stock and barrel the philosophy of Job's friends, and think this is right because it appeared to "work" on some people
There have been too many would-be Elijah's and not enough of Jesus in the Church. He never rebuked any of the people "wallowing in sin" like that, but gently instructed them to repent (of their physical sins, not fear or self-pity). Instead; the tough approach was always reserved for the religious leaders! What a reversal! What these teachers are doing is just a more cordial version of the Hellfire preaching of old, which brought tremendous fear on people, and ultimately provoked much of the atheism and humanism people complain about, though it initially may have seemed to have worked on some, creating "revival" for awhile! Once again, all based on the idea that man is made for suffering and pain.

People will dismiss the horrible effect the Church's guilt tactics have had in the past by saying "the reason people are overcome with guilt is because they are guilty". (e.g. LaHaye, citing another person, p.220, 1) True, but God does not give us the job of trying to manipulate them through it into repentance. Repentance is the work of the Holy Spirit. We are to be lights and tell them the basic truth in love. Yes, we are sinners, but a born again person is forgiven his sins, which are no longer legally imputed to him.
Chastisement is actually conviction, as we will see. Only in one particular severe case—abuse of Holy Communion; was it sickness or death as described in 1 Cor.11:30 (and other isolated instances, such as Ananias and Sapphira in Acts); and then we shall stand before the judgment Seat of Christ after this life to "that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor.5:10), if we yield to or ignore the conviction or "gentle treatment" now. An unsaved person faces judgment after this life if he doesn't repent, so they are not receiving "partial punishment" through life circumstances now either. Neither is the whole nation.
We can see here where this line of reasoning leads evangelicals and fundamentalists alike to declare everything bad that happens to this country as some judgment from God for our "sins" of turning from our "Christian" roots (for one thing, ignoring all of the sin in the past —either different in nature from the issues of "morality" that get the attention of Christians today; or even many of the same issues, but only covered up, and not broadcast over any media).

This has brought much disrepute on evangelical Christianity; especially when many of the Christian leaders turned out to be scandal-ridden themselves. We had the same thing in the sinful, but self-righteous generation of Jesus' day, whom He chastized for thinking that other people's destruction; such as those whose blood was used in sacrifices by Pilate, or who a tower fell upon, were "worse sinners" (Luke 13:5). And yet, we continuously read all of this, and still have never learned! This world is NOT a place where everyone is always simply receiving their just desserts, such as little pieces of the Hell we deserve! Instead, "the sun and the rain fall on the just and unjust" (Matt.5:45, and "rain" in such an environment was as good and essential as the sun, not negative as we might think). Likewise we all suffer the curse of the hardships of the fallen world as well. But this is not the same as God sending hardships to "test" people!

In the Old Testament, God handed out earthly "blessings" and "curses" to the Israelites through manipulation of the environment around them. So rival armies would fall or be empowered, giving Israel either victory, or defeat and captivity according to Israel's obedience. In this context, we have Deut. 32:39 "I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal" and Isaiah 45:7, "I form the darkness, and I create light; I make peace, and I create evil [calamity]: I the Lord do all these things" (and also Amos2:6); other passages that are used, by both this emotional health gospel, and Calvinism to teach that God causes evil, but for a good purpose, of course. Many people think this just continues on, but all of that was a shadow of spiritual blessings and lack thereof, not the everyday ups and downs of life. Part of our blessings is that God does not still deal with us that way; or in all of the earthly analogies cited earlier about pain being good. Else, as Philip Yancey says, "our planet would sparkle nightly like a Christmas tree" (from all the lightning bolts and fire from Heaven, given the continung actual reality of our sins; Disappointment With God p.84). He and Dr. Paul Brand in their treatments of pain have pointed out that "God is in you (the sufferer), not in it (the suffering)". But if it is true that all of our suffering is sent or even allowed by God to fill a deficiency of Christ in us, then God is more in the suffering than in us, since the suffering apparently is what "Christ" is imparted to us through (i.e. it "makes us more like Him")! That approach to the bad circumstances is almost as if "It is, therefore; it's from God" (except for atheism, humanism, leftist politics, of course).

Then, notice how just about the only acceptable use of the name of "God" in official secular documents is "acts of God"; meaning natural disasters! So the world, which has all but removed any real notion of God from the public conscience (as we complain); sees God only as responsible for disasters (like when many non-Christians, or at least nominally Christian people cry out to Him only in disasters). Why shouldn't they? "Pain" and "calamity" are about all they have heard about God, from the conservative Church! Even though a lot of it has been softened down by contemporary mainstream leaders, this teaching, (by many who complain the loudest about secular society) is actually helping support this notion!

The difficulty of faith today

Almost all universally even repeat yet another memorized cliché: "don't look at the problem"; "don't look at the circumstance"; "just look at Jesus". 2 Cor. 4:18 is then quoted: "while we look not at the things that are seen, but the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal". Often, the incident with Jesus and Peter on the sea in Matt.14:30 is appealed to: "When he looked at the waves, he began to sink, but when he looked at Jesus, then he could walk on it". First of all, it was Peter who rather foolishly asked to be in that situation (v.28). At least one person, LaHaye, said it was not foolish, but rather very brave, and a sign of faith. (p.356) But obviously, he bit off more than he could chew. Not so with the sufferers of today this is quoted to. Plus, while there is a principle here; still, it is not really a fair comparison. Peter did actually see Jesus, not believe in His very existence "by faith" thousands of years later, after the entire world has called into question the validity of the Gospel. (And once again, the context of 2 Cor. like others is the impending fall of the Old Covenant system). So you cannot just expect all of the sufferers of today to "just trust" like Peter could in that specific instance of physical "trust". That would correspond today, with salvation, and even then, it can still be very hard to some.

Jesus Himself said "to whom much is given, much is expected" (Luke 12:48). Many of the Christians addressed in the epistles, also, saw Christ, or were at least a generation or two removed from those who saw Him. It has been suggested that God's "invisibility" today is actually a form of mercy! Many who struggle with faith wish to see Him, but back when people did see visible manifestations of Him, there were much heavier requirements of them, and demands on their faith and obedience, with harsher judgments. Also, when the end-time scenario begins to unfurl, there will be more visible signs; and therefore the burdens on the people then will increase. (The fact that this is so is evidenced in that from this many people conclude that it will be a reversion to the Old Covenant that we will be "raptured" out of. But there is no mention of any such reversion, but there is the principle of "to whom much is given; much is expected"). This is one reason why Christ said "blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe" (John 20:29). It was not a "pie in the sky" ("you'll get 'bigger rewards' for your harder effort") tactic for today, while we place on those who do not see all the burdens of those who did see (and then conveniently prophesy ourselves out of the future time when things will be seen again). Unfortunately, preachers today do transfer all of that to us today, when no one has seen any visible manifestation of God for 2000 years (despite all sorts of claims), and then they wonder why so many lose heart or criticize Christian preaching for its harshness and the fear tactics it often becomes apart of.

Most people today are not Josephs ("God meant it for good") or the Old or New Testament Hebrews who were playing a significant part in God's plan of redemption (and thus warned about "murmuring"). Sometimes, people's extended suffering has been compared to Israel's forty years in the wilderness, which was supposed to be a short journey, but was made longer by their sin, once again blaming the person. Of course; I'm not saying that people should go on murmuring and complaining, but it will be harder for them to find healing if they are loaded down with all the tremendous guilt and fear of these statements--two of the very things they're supposed to be overcoming in the first place! Faith is hard today, and once again, turning scripture verses into glib clichés is not helpful to the suffering today.
In yet another blaming of the sufferers for their problem, one booklet once said that "low self-esteem" is from "pride" because "the person exalts his own low opinion of himself above what God says about him" (i.e. that he is forgiven, and worth dying on the Cross for). Once again, this completely reduces the problem down to some bad choice that has some sort of "satisfaction". But low self-esteem comes from a number of external factors throughout the person's life. Believing that Christ loves him ideally should counter that, but you are comparing something he believes by faith with a lifetime of clearly seen and heard negative input, so it will obviously take time for the "faith" to counter all of that, and heal it.

Evangelists often compare "faith" in Christ to "faith that a road continues on over the next hill", or "I don't understand how a TV works, but I believe it works". There may be some truth in these analogies; but they still will only carry but so far, as they involve things that are daily "seen", and we can there measure the odds that the road will abruptly end, and with no warning. Once again; many of the principles about peace and victory apply to condemnation from the Law anyway. So if a person is undergoing a problem, that problem is going to work itself out to whatever its natural outcome is, regardless of whether the person fears, complains, or just swallows it "quietly" (i.e. "peacefully"). The former route may be bad for them, but we need not burden them down with further stress, by accusing them, if they have responded that way, or are "struggling" with it.
Another common inadequate illustration is "A crowd is gathered to watch a tightrope walker cross a deep canyon. It is a little windy, so not everyone believes that he can do it. Some say confidently that of course he can, he does such things all the time. As the crowd watches, the performer steps onto the cable on the far side of the canyon from them, pushing a wheelbarrow. He crosses with hardly a bobble, and the crowd cheers wildly. 'Who believes I can do it again?' he asks. Everyone raises their hand, yelling, 'I do!' Then he asks, 'Who will get into the wheelbarrow?' Faith is getting in the wheelbarrow". While this certainly would apply to salvation; it is more often extended to "life circumstances", and once again, there is no promise that God will always make life circumstances turn out for any particular "good".

Of course, even all of this "reasoning" should be "rebuked" say some, and it's "by faith" we believe that our trials are "different" from the rest of the world and sent by God for our good, if we just "trust" and don't try to "understand" or "worry". On and on it goes; and then we wonder why many on the world have become skeptics who dismiss faith as an untestable "abstraction".

Are the Teachers consistent with their own Teaching? Can They Even Relate?

The utter irony of all of this, is that decades ago, as I've mentioned, the mainstream conservative Church was teaching this same stuff, but certainly did not have peace and a "joyful, submissive spirit" when it came to their reactions against the "threat" of communism, how the "godless" and liberals were supposedly destroying this country from within, and the rise of "cults" and other religions ("alien gods") on our turf. (I can think of at least two prominent Christian counseling teachers who are leading voices in this teaching, who also have been leading voices in Religious Right rhetoric with it's obsession with the Left!) Even if the leaders did not sit around shivering or seething about these things; all of this was certainly defensiveness over a perceived loss of power and influence, with fear of a possible resulting loss of comfort in the future (when they all "take over" and "persecute" us), and not just a concern for what these movements do to people's souls.
Some of these very same evangelical leaders were even involved in organizations as radical as the John Birch Society, which was well known for its Cold War fearmongering, to the point of opposing civil rights! (So we protect ourselves from those who we think would destroy our rights and freedoms as a premise for denying other people their rights and freedoms! Thus, the self-proclaimed "victims" become persecutors themselves! —And telling the less powerful that fear and anger are sins, and that they should "just trust" and be "content" played right into the whole scheme of things!) And a hypothetical takeover of the country by godless, as well as the attacks we have in recent times actually suffered, was always seen in terms of the evil of others (including judgment to the "sinners" in this country), rather than God "testing" us, or "allowing it for some higher good we don't understand". No; it had to be feared and resisted at any cost! These leaders would have a lot to lose if such a "takeover" happened. But then, the situation would more closely match what these scriptures are discussing, and I wonder then if they would still be preaching so simplistically on overcoming the "sins" of anger and fear!

LaHaye responds to the comment "If you had my background, you would be afraid too", with "You may be right, but all that would prove is we are both wrong". (p.225) But this misses the point. It is easy to "confess" (presume, more accurately) the idea of being "wrong" in such a situation, when you are not going through it, as it is to call others wrong who are going through it. As he even says, "It is no victory to live without worry when there is nothing to worry about" (p. 120, meaning we are given worrisome situations to test us so that we can gain "victory"). Of course, nobody lives completely without things to worry about, but still many do have much less than others, and it is too easy to judge others' reactions as "wrong" by setting up such a lofty ideal in the first place (and interpreting the Bible to support it) when you are not in their shoes. (Once again, it is believed that fear is just some "fun" act of gratification, anyway). But it seems political matters are a different story; at least in practice. Many of them believe God spared us and allowed us to win the Cold War because of the "righteousness of America", or at least the Christians in America. So this line of reasoning does sort of exalt most of the leaders, once again, by inadvertently suggesting that all their success compared to others comes from some higher level of maturity of character. They have apparently already "proven themselves" before God, and don't need His "Hand of correction" in as many blatant, visible ways (such as being poor, imprisoned, captive and oppressed by a godless government, in an abusive relationship, lonely and dejected, overlooked and stepped on by others, etc. They've "grown beyond" that stage, and have apparently "sought first His kingdom, and He added these things". The way they judge others seems to confirm it!)

—So it seems that protection from suffering are the rewards for "goodness", but these are the same people telling us that God gives us pain and we should accept it because we're sinners, or on the other side, because we are godly, and the godly are promised suffering! (All of this is highly inconsistent, and changes according to who is being discussed. When the wicked succeed, then riches are the reward of an unfair world, and it's all passing away anyway. When it's their own successes (and also sometimes those of non-Christians they defend in politics), riches are rewards for hard work and/or service to God. However, when the wicked suffer, it is just reward for their sin. When everyday Christians suffer, it is a combination of "just the way the world is", and for some deficiency; either sin, and/or to make them more like Christ. Plus, again, the material world is passing away anyway, so they should not want things to be better if God decides they don't need it. The teachers only include their pains as being for God's good to make a point to their readers. But otherwise, when it's an overall threat to their wellbeing (like hostile regimes attacking, or movements taking over this country), then it is a great evil that must be opposed; OR if it is "divine punishment" it is all the fault of the "sinners"). It's only because of the common grace of God that we have been spared from what many others go through, and grace is not something "earned because of goodness".

All of this further makes me really think that we should question whether or not people who live first-class lives that easily provoke envy (right or wrong); many of them (from local pastors of successful churches, to national and world-famous teachers) having celebrity status; with all the fortune, honor and glory they receive, are ill equipped to be preaching to the poor, struggling and suffering about "contentment". They say it doesn't matter, because if you are confronting them with "truth"; that does not change; no matter what. Oh, but it does; in one sense! The whole problem here is that people's interpretations are often colored by their perspective and background (experiences). And that is definitely what we see with many teachers. So many have obviously shown themselves to be totally without understanding and empathy. (Perhaps they needed more "trials" in their lives to make them more understanding —e.g.2 Cor.1:4, if their theory were true?) Much of their preaching, while having parts of the truth, basically boils down to pacifying people, and this can obviously be at least partly to ease their own consciences for being so well-off in such a world of great needs. It is the same pattern as slavery, racism, the Dark Ages, and every other example of abuse of church control, all of which were similarly prooftexted!

"Turn the other cheek" is the classic example of a statement that was taken completely out of its original context (once again, the persecution of the day) and used to teach that Christians should not defend themselves or even their families. (Especially blacks in US racism. When you hear the preaching of Malcolm X and the early Nation of Islam, what was their biggest complaint? "They would have you fighting in their wars, but when you come home, and they or their sherrifs come attack your wife and daughter, you have to go hide under the table praying for God to save you!" And the preachers preaching this would often have guns at their own bedsides! And many today continue to push for lax gun laws, even though it helps raise violence in other areas far from them).
Then you had radical physical-health gospel teachers that preached against going to doctors. "Faith" was appealed to, and scriptures like 1 Pet.2:24 and James 5:14 were cited. Some people (especially children) have died over this. (What was worse was when it was found that some of these preachers would have their own loved ones seeing doctors!) Most have realized this is wrong, but it has brought complete disrepute on Christianity as a religion where you cannot even protect your family or your own life! "This life is but a vapor; it's the next one that is important" was the unanimous cry in all of these issues, while the leaders enjoyed this world as much as possible.
"Faith" was then turned into the backronym "Forsaking All, I Trust Him", as well, and defined as "not just belief in, but trust in, cling to, rely on, etc.", and while it is true when it comes to denying our own works and trusting Christ alone for justfication, "forsaking" and "trust" again, must not be twisted into something else used to deny people's basic human rights (at the same time as making salvation of works!)

The reason many of my pages on these types of subjects may sound angry is because leaders have profited off of feeding the world this stuff, but not only does it cause untold anguish for the average layman struggling with various problems (even if he is eagerly buying the books and trying to apply the principles), but then those of us who deal with the people of the world every day and see the error of all of this, are left with the tremendous task of having to try to clean up this mess by trying to convince the misled masses outside the church that all of this is not what true Christianity really is! We ourselves have done more damage to the cause of the Gospel than any humanist, atheist, or liberal could ever dream of doing! The church (most of it, anyway) has reluctantly and silently repented of those sins, but the same spirit still continues through these responses to the miscontent less fortunate, as even Malcolm X and Martin Luther King realized at the end of their lives, the issue was changing from race to class, and who wants to hear the complaining of the less fortunate? Whether it is right or wrong for them to have all their wealth and power (they all defend themselves as "earning it", and those without as not earning it, and/or God is testing them. See how this works!), still, this is from our God-given conscience reacting to seeing so many in need. For this reason; I wouldn't want to be in their situation (see James 5:3), and all the deep down guilt that must go with it. Many will say, "yeah, there's all these stresses we have that come with our money and position; we [or "they"] don't have it better". But if it is so stressful, you can give it all up, and return to a normal lifestyle, or anywhere in between. People with nothing cannot cross out of their bracket like that.

Once again, they say they do not trust in these riches, because they "don't bring happiness anyway", but still, in this society, money and power do make things easier. Once again, let's see them set an example and give up what they have, and adopt a lower middle class life of living "from paycheck to paycheck", and having to struggle to pay all the essential bills. They all teach people to be "content" in situations like this, and that is a goal people should aim for. But these leaders can be so cold and trite about it, and it naturally makes you think that they just cannot relate to it. They can have a prayer meeting with the board members of their church or ministry organization to ask for a raise just about anytime they feel they need one. If the board can't raise the money, they can always start putting pressure on the laymembers or supporters. Pastors often then just leave, placing a guilt trip on the congregation, as they find more money elsewhere. But the average worker cannot just get his employer to give him more money like that. So they are taught to "just pray about it, and leave it in God's hands", with that "dose" of Phil.4:6, of course. The leaders claim to be practicing the same thing, but as we see they have plenty of strings to pull in in the world, to make it much more likely that "God" gives them what they ask for. (Then, or course, this is taken as "reward" from God for good service*).

While preaching to the less fortunate masses that wealth and power don't 'satisfy', many Church leaders have shown in their own lives that there must be something to those things after all. This clouds their perspective, and it becomes so easy to accuse those in worse situations of "sin" for not being 'content', when you have never been in their shoes
Then, many of these leaders have loudly stood up for the rights of the rich and upper middle class in their political message (or at least defended them as unfairly taxed or labeled as greedy by the liberals). And let's not forget the uncritical praise many of these leaders have heaped on capitalism over the decades, even though it is decadent and promotes many of the sins in society they condemn (which are blamed on others, anyway), as well as making it ever so hard for those with less money, as prices go up, quality goes down, and jobs are even downsized or relocated. But financially; it has been the Kingdom of God to many Christian leaders! (And while they once again, tell the poor to be content and don't covet from the rich; you don't hear them tell the rich to be content, but rather they have defended the rights of the rich, from government programs for the poor! And the only time they criticize the lifestyles of the rich is when preaching to the poor or middle class about how riches "don't satisfy", and the rich are "still miserable").
So while they portray all of their fame and fortune as "nothing" and that they don't trust in it; many show in their lives that it really must be "something" after all, and for many, this comes out in the form of their overblown fear of some big-bad leftists taking it all away from them.

Likewise, why do so many in the world still hoard these things, even though "it doesn't make them happy"? Deep down inside; it's not about "happiness"; it's about comfort (or convenience) and pride, and these Christians leaders, as being as human as everyone else; must remember they are just as susceptible to hoarding these things for the wrong reasons, and using rhetoric to justify and protect it. Everyone knows how "to whom much is given, much is expected", and other teachings from the Gospels and epistles on riches, and that doing without may gain bigger rewards in Heaven, and having a lot now makes it harder to get into Heaven (they certainly preach it to others). But don't you find it funny that the leaders, as well as most people who are able, are all willing to choose that "lesser reward", or "slimmer chance"? (especially in light of James 3:1! Or perhaps feel that all their "Service and work for the Lord" will make up for it). What does this tell everybody (in the Church and out)? They must not really believe it themselves. So better "get yours" now (the "seen"), because (deep down) who really knows what is after this? (the "unseen"). This of course, is exactly the human tendency they preach against. But they are human too, don't forget.

A whole generation (and much of a racial group) was driven away from the Church because they were promised "pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die", while the leaders laid claim to the best of both worlds! Now the scene is a total mess, with an emotional health/wealth gospel teaching you are "faithless" and "grieving the Spirit" if you don't accept poverty and lack; and on the opposite extreme a physical health/wealth gospel that says you are faithless if you do accept it! (and some who combine elements of both, by framing their messages around the concept of "ask and wait"). But they're all using the same "faith" tactic, which blames the suffering person. So let the poor and suffering preach to the poor and suffering how to deal with it! One thing about God's Gospel is that it is incarnational. God comes down to our level and redeems us. He does not just sit "up there" aloof, uninvolved, thundering down only lofty, unreachable ideals and judgment at us. He did it that way in the Old Testament, and that was a whole lesson showing that that way did no good for man's condition! But once again, the church continually goes right back to that approach, in various ways.

*They have basically applied earthly business success principles (such as marketing) that have worked for them —still subject to factors of opportunity, advantage and good fortune (talent/skill, being in the right place at the right time, etc) that are not shared by everyone else. (So it is very convenient for them to dismiss this and say "no; it's not 'fortune'; it's because God gave us what we have, and if you don't have it it is because He didn't give it to you because it is not His will". Later, they will begin talking about the need for BOTH "trusting God" and "applying wise principles"). So in that sense, they have "reaped what they have sown". But that is still in an earthly sense; just like all the other big business and govt. leaders. We must not confuse this with the Heavenly sense. We all know the scriptures that say that what is of importance in man's eyes is foolishness to God!

The Best-selling Formula: Blurring "Hard" and "Easy"

The teachers on one hand butter this path to "victory" all up into some simplistic "choice", with ready quips such as "let go and let God"; but then begin speaking about how "hard" a "process" it is. A typical book on the subject (e.g. LaHaye p.116) will cite these passages, and then say that people with "pet sins" of fear/doubt or anger will gradually change and be "assured" by the Lord if they get filled with the Spirit, and immediately "confess" and "ask for forgiveness" each time they have one of those emotions, and of course, do all the disciplines: prayer, Bible study, etc. (If they don't, and continue "thinking negatively or doubtfully"; they're once again "grieving" or "quenching" or "losing the filling of" the Spirit!)
Since these feelings had developed over years, it will "take time", as "the Spirit is given access to and control of the mind" and replace these thoughts with virtues such as love, kindness and gentleness, before it becomes "permanent". He even admits that after years of writing and teaching on this "thankful attitude", he still has to "work on it, constantly".
Where is this "supernatural change", that eventually becomes "permanent" we were promised, then? Not to deny any work of God in his life; if what he is describing in this particular instance is supernatural, then why does it take so long? (How can we ever be “used by God” if these things must be “overcome” first, as LaHaye says on p.216?)

It's usually blamed by this teaching on us and our sin, once again. But then why is something so supernatural apparently so subject to our sinfulness? "God has granted us sovereignty in our choices"! (Here is where this teaching departs drastically from its first-cousin Calvinism! It is the same argument many non-Calvinists use in that debate, and it is a very weak one, leading Calvinists to conclude that "free-willers" do not believe in a sovereign God!) So still, this makes you wonder how "supernatural" this really is, then. Especially since many non-believers who see a need to grow, go through the same "lifelong process" of struggling with attitudes and other problems, too. He compares this to "pushing a boulder uphill"! —And this is supposed to be that "simple choice" of receiving supernatural power or "letting God", remember! It supposedly gets easier as you "walk in the Spirit and try to be grateful by thanking God for His goodness in the things I understand; and thanking him by faith for what He is going to do in the things I don't understand" (p.245; once again, the assumption that every bad thing has some specific deliberate intention from God, that already goes beyond what we can understand). But has it gotten easier, when it is admitted that the minute you make a slip in this routine, it "rolls back down"? What happened to "just throwing it [the bad habit or emotion] away", as one person was so sharply instructed earlier?

Another scripture that is sometimes used to substantiate this is Phil.2:12,13 "...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you, both to will, and to do of His good peasure".
This passage is frequently misused by many different groups. Works-righteousness advocates, of course take it as their ultimate proof text and read it basically as "Work FOR your salvation". Of course, what it is really teaching is that one is already saved; now work it OUT; behave like you are saved. The rest, try to turn it into an explanation of the apparent "paradox" I have been addressing. Calvinists of course use it to say that when you believe and repent, it is really God doing it, or "enabling" you to do it; thus supposedly supporting their notions of "total depravity" regenerated only in the "unconditionally elect" by "irresistable grace", and some even turn it into the same for-all-practical-purposes works-righteousness as the other groups (as I mention on the Predestination page regarding "Perseverance").

Then, all the groups, including the Arminians, also apply the verse to "Christian growth", and basically teach "just do it--even if you feel you cant", and when you do, "it is God who really did it" (however, if you don't do it; it was you who "resisted"!). And again, Gal. 2:20 "...not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God". This would lead one to believe, since as they put it, "He takes your pain", that you wouldn't feel it. But then, they all acknowledge that you still do.
The classic illustration of this is the popular "Footprints" poster and poem; in which you are walking and feel you couldn't go on, but make it anyway, but find that Jesus was really carrying you all the time.
But again; there is no reason to read any such confusion into the passage. God is convicting us, and as we yield, we grow, and hence God has still "worked" in us, even as we "work ot our salvation".

Then we frequently come with "My yoke is easy, and My burden light" (Matt.11:29, 30) on top of it, but that sounds like the total opposite of what is being described here! We justify making people cry with statements like the above, when we know good and well is it not as simple as tossing away an old hat, as that makes it sound like! A couple of temperament types are warned by LaHaye that their fight against negative thought patterns will be "particularly hard", but then "with God's help you can learn to be a thankful, content person, but you will have to work on it all your life". (p. 264,5) But if it's that long, you won't really BE a thankful content person until Heaven! I am not arguing against fighting bad thoughts, but what makes it even harder is that we are framing it in a way that names an ideal that is (in practice), admittedly unreachable, and making it look like God supernaturally brings us there, but then only later do we admit you probably don't really reach it; it's a "lifelong struggle" of our own effort.

We are promising way too extravagantly, and then letting the people down. He says "pressure reveals your spirit. What a man is under pressure is what he is!", meaning that even if you seem composed to the outside world, at places like the home "if you explode under pressure you are admitting that underneath a carefully constructed facade you are an angry person". (p. 268) But under this system of just "fighting" the anger with positive thoughts, yet the anger still has to be suppressed like that, the anger is still there; only pushed further out of sight (and that seems to be what this teaching really aims for). If this is what we would then call "crucifixion of the self"; it is shown to be a mechanical act of suppression, not any supernatural act of God. (Eph.6, from where that comes, also is speaking mainly of the legal freedom, which is of course, supernatural).
Drawing upon this, and the "die daily" reference (1 Cor.15:31), others also speak of this process as our "daily choices", reminding us that "the Christian life begins with a simple choice", thus insinuating that these "choices" are connected with salvation, like if you're not doing one, you should question whether or not you have done the other! I'm not saying this discipline is not needed, but let's not confuse things. Let's call it what it really is from the beginning.

This verse is actually one of the most egregious examples of tearing a phrase (not even a verse; just three words!) from its context. Paul is talking about "stand[ing] in jeopardy every hour" (v30) for the cause of the Gospel, and continuing in the following verse with having to fight beasts. In other words, he faced death daily, or was put in situations where he potentially would be killed. And it's in conjunction with people who questioned resurrection, and yet were baptized for the dead.
It has nothing to do with any "growth process", as mainstream theology has taken it, some calling it "sanctification", even.

This is from pairing it with Eph 4:22 "That ye put off...the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man...", (as well as the earlier mentioned 2 Cor.4:16 "though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day"). But these are really not talking about any "process". One is speaking of the transformation from being "in Adam", to being "in Christ" by behaving in a manner befitting Christ. This is what gets it connected to "growth", but a process is not what's being taught; he's just telling them which set of behaviors fit which state of man. It's the other two passages that mention "daily", so there's the "process" for you, in their view.

It should be pointed out that in Col.2 and Rom.6, the "new man" concept is associated with baptism (initially, the mark of conversion, and never a process).

The teachers often speak loftily, acting like they have it all licked. But then when you really look closely; they do not always have this "peace" they talk about, and many of them know it and some are even honest enough admit it, as we have just seen, and attributing it to their "sin nature", "old self", etc. when they come around to discussing their ongoing struggles with impatience, short tempers, unfulfilled wants, etc. They say this is because "our old man has to die daily", and some speak of going back and forth between "in the spirit" and "in the flesh" or a state of being "prayed up" that wears off; but if it is so supernatural, and we could just "throw away" bad emotional habits, then wouldn't it be less of a "struggle"? Or are we reading overblown ideals and in practice, a pattern of positive thinking into passages that are not even addressing the mundane problems we experience today?

The Formula part 2: Making "growth through difficulty" unique to "the Power of God in Christians" and eliminating "understanding"

If anyone thinks all of this sounds like a Satanic "accusation" of these "brethren", just remember all the accusing these people have done of their brothers and sisters who come to them (often paying them, at that!) in their time of deep need. "As you judge, you shall be judged".
How can you accuse them of "sin", or call them "incurable", when you're not even really completely "cured" yet? The basic difference is that you're "trying" harder, and thus further along on the "growth process" than they. Fine; good for you, praise God! But this does not call for such harsh judgments of those still down in the pits of self-pity, fear, or any other problem. (And 2 Cor.10:12 is often given to those envious of the possessions of others; but it is really talking more along the lines of comparing spiritual maturity, based on "outward appearance"-v.7!)

But a growth process is not what those scriptures on trials are describing! There is NO "slow process" there! It was a special grace for those suffering particularly for Christ's name. Just like all the physical miracles we see then, but not now. (Though some claim to continue these things. The more conservative, however reject this the strongest). Those scriptures were referring to something "supernatural" that surpasses understanding; remember! What people are describing now is a natural growth process that is very understandable, and even possible to those without the Spirit!

We speak of this victory over negative attitudes as so easy, like throwing away an old hat, but then admit it is really like pushing a boulder uphill for the rest of your life. Then, we make this 'growth through trials' unique to Christians and self-righteously wonder "how non-Christians do it". But we have confused natural growth for the supernatural power of God in salvation
I have seen quite a few times writers and teachers recall some trial in their or others lives, and comment "I don't know how people without Jesus Christ go through trials like this". (e.g. LaHaye, p.123) But the fact is, they DO! They have their positive thinking self-help principles without God that can get them through things, and other factors such as personality, inner strength of character, and support; and like us, not all make it, of course. (And it would be highly arrogant and presumptuous of us to deny that anyone has ever grown or overcome without being a born again Christian).
The power of God is not simply taking that process and slapping God’s name on it, by substituting “have faith in God”, in place of “believe in yourself”; but otherwise, it is basically the same thing. So what people are attributing to some mysterious "peace" from God is really a human capability provided all through common grace. Christians are more likely to benefit from this, because the non-Christian is more likely to deny that certain actions or reactions are "sins" that need to be overcome to begin with. Plus he doesn't have the Holy Spirit to convict him (to the extent that Christians do). So many Christians are claiming to be doing so much better than non-Christians, when the difference is not really as great as they think. (Then, they even put down other Christians as not "being filled with the Spirit" because their attitudes aren't right, which is supposedly only possible with the power of God!)

We call our growth processes "miracles", comparing them to actual miracles in the Bible, and then speak as if this is completely out of reach to non-Christians. This is based on an assumption that they never deal with growth and character, since (many of us think) all any of them do is indulge in whatever they want (an unfair overgeneralization). Yet we self-righteously continue to wonder "how they do it". But people see our sins and problems more than we realize, so we are not fooling anyone but ourselves. The entire Christian teaching industry, and much of televangelism is driven by extravagant claims of "the mighty work God is doing today", (defined as "changed lives", overcoming problems, etc.), but which do not match the actual day-to-day reality of people's daily lives, (which are more of a "struggle" as is admitted) and the world sees this!

Many Christians love to cite John 9 and the blind man Jesus healed; saying "See, Jesus told him he had to go and wash in the pool of Siloam to receive his sight. This 'didn't make sense', and Jesus could have just opened his eyes right there; but the man had to do something 'in faith', to receive the blessing; so that is how it works today". (And this can be anything from "thanking God 'in faith' when we are hurt", to sending ministries thousand dollar "vows of faith"; depending on who the teacher is). But still, if a nonbeliever washed in the pool, it would not have worked. What Jesus did for him was still a supernatural miracle, not something natural any man can do that is made supernatural just because you do it "in Jesus' name". That was the whole point of it being a miracle! (And from just taking the context alone; it would seem that washing in the pool was necessary because the clay needed to be removed from his eyes).

Even better is the account of Naaman in 2 Kings 5, who was instructed by Elisha to wash 7 times in the Jordan to be healed of his leprosy. In. v.11, he was angry, wondering why the prophet didn't just call on the name of the LORD and wave his hand over the spot and cure it. Once again, this is taken to prove that God puts us though more diffcult processes then necessary just to "test our fath" because they don't make sense to us. But once again, the context sheds light on this. Naaman was a commander of the king of Syria, who often conflicted with Israel. We see even on v.12, where he resents the command on the basis of the rivers of Damascus being "better" than the waters of Israel. Sure enough, once he does it and is healed, this results in him proclaiming that "there is no God in all the world except in Israel" (v.15) So it was obviously his contempt of Israel (and lack of first hand knowledge of God) that was being broken, not his "understanding" on the most practical way to be healed. (Especially given that he was coming to Israelites to be healed in the first place).

It is just saddening how widespreadly, passages like these are used, not only by evangelical "abundant life" teachers to support their "no understanding" doctrine, but also by heretical works-righteousness advocates, such as Catholists, Campbellists, some sabbatarians and other cultists to teach baptismal regeneration and other denials of salvation by faith alone. We condemn the heretical movements, but what kind of example are we setting when we ignore contexts just the same way as they do? The doctrines we come up with from such handling of scripture end up being just scaled down versions of their doctrines!

All who use such examples fail to realize that the principle God was dealing with Israel through is what we see in Isaiah 28:10: "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line, here a little, and there a little". God dealt with them as "babes", as we can see with the "milk" reference in the previous verse which is used in the NT. That is why God often instructed things that "seemed silly", and "people might not have understood it in their own wisdom, but only through through faith", as the argument generally goes. But that was how God was dealing with Israel, not with us, and it is wrong to carry these principles over to us under the New Covenant as if we are carnal Israelites without the Spirit.

Our Testimony, and Non-Believers

Using these ideas; "testimony" and "making us perfect", and "making us like Christ" are other reasons given as to why God "gives" us pain. When people see how we "respond differently", then it will "prove to them the power of God", and that "there's something awesomely different about you". Also, we are "Christ's epistle", and since the world doesn't read the Bible, "God shows the world pictures of Himself and of the sufficiency of grace through your life", as Arthur put it, meaning us, as we "partake in Christ's sufferings" when God "puts us in the same kind of fire" as the rest of the world, which is the mundane experiences such as rejection, living with a difficult person, or a financial blow.
1 Pet. 4:13, where "partake in His sufferings" comes from, and 2 Cor.4:10,11 "...Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh" is appealed to. Of course, the suffering person who doesn't respond the right way is rebuked for "failing" the "test" and giving a bad testimony.

But once again, it is admitted that most Christians, including the teachers themselves, have not grown to a level of perfection where they show this "supernatural power" all the time, but are as they call it "a work in progress". But meanwhile, once again, it is possible for the unsaved to respond to a bad situation with a positive attitude. They may not be doing it for Christ; but they can and many do use the same positive thinking processes ("this is for a better good down the road", though this may be in this life only and not in the next), to overcome situations. Some psychologists, philosophers and motivational speakers even speak of "delayed gratification", a concept you would think Christians had a monopoly on! How do you think people in the world ever overcome drinking, smoking, being overweight (the latter two becoming somewhat of popular obsessions), then? This is one reason why so many non-Christians retort back to Christians "oh, you're supposed to be this way ["loving", "giving", "peaceful" etc], but people of other religions have often done better than you, so you're no better than any other human", thus having the opposite effect of the "testimony" all our suffering was supposed to produce.

Another result of confusing natural growth for supernatural spiritual growth, is that as this is reflected in our teachings, we end up with: "Many sermons are moral exhortations, which can be heard delivered with greater skill at the Rotary or Kiwanis Club. Many sermons offer personal therapies, which can be better provided by well-trained psychiatrists. Why should anyone come to the Church for what can be better found somewhere else?" (John Leith, The Reformed Imperative, Westminster Press, 1988, quoted in Horton, p.76, who points out that this was originally aimed at mainline churches, but now just as accurately describes evangelicalism!)
This remarkably describes much of the preaching and teaching you hear in churches, books and broadcasts today. While it maybe good in its own right as "self-improvement", to confuse this with the Bible's teachings on the power of God only clouds the issue. But it does sell, however. (The answer to Leith's rhetorical question would be because the Church is going further to spruce it up with entertainment, other marketing features, and extravagant claims, such as "Look at what God will do for you if you just ask!")

From Warren, we see once again the casting of Christian spiritual growth in mechanical, circumstantial terms:

Fruit always ripens and matures slowly. God develops the fruit of the Spirit in your life by allowing you to experience circumstances in which you are tempted to express the exact opposite quality! Character development always involves a choice, and temptation provides that opportunity

For instance, God teaches us love by putting some unlovely people around us. It takes no character to love people who are lovely, and loving to you. God teaches us joy in the midst of sorrow, when we turn to Him. Happiness depends on external corcumstances, but joy is based on your relationship to God.

God develops peace within us by not making things go the way we planned, but by allowing times of chaos and confusion. Anyone can be peaceful watching a beautiful sunset or relaxing on a vacation. We learn real peace by choosing to trust God in circumstances in which we are tempted to worry or be afraid. Likewise, patience is developed in circumstances in which we are forced to wait and are tempted to be angry or have a short fuse.

God uses the opposite situtation of each fruit to allow us a choice. You can't claim to be good if you've never been tempted to be bad. Youc an't claim to be faithful if you've never had the opportunity to be unfaithful. Integrity is built by defeating the temptation to be dishonest. Humility grows when we refuse to be prideful. And endurance develops every time you reject the temptation to give up. Every time you defeat a temptation, you become more like Jesus.(p.202-3)

While the premise of resisting temptation making us grow is true, all of this still seems to tie these circumstances specifically to special acts (or acts of omission) of God in the life of Christians. This would make one think that non-Christians must get everything they want, and have perfect circumstances, then. (And of course, they are still miserable, anyway, "because they don't have Christ"). After all, not getting what one wants is only a divine "test" for God's children, not a normal part of life, isn't it? (But then, they will point this out, somewhere down the line). (And once again, we must remember the scripture that God does not tempt us. Warren later points out that temptation comes from within. Yet here, he seems to be suggesting it comes from God).

In a day where "divine purpose" is being attacked like never before, from those condemning "Intelligent Design" in favor of "empirical" naturalism (based on a presumption of total randomness of existence), divine "purpose" is an important concept. (It has been suggested that this current attack on ID and the Bible and Christian religion in general comes as a sort of Satan-inspired reaction to the widespread success/popularity of this series of books!) But these statements go too far, and actually fulfills the mystical caricature the naturalists have painted of us and whose rhetoric thrives off of, and thus makes that battle all the more difficult!

But once again, blame always ends up heaped upon the Christian whose imperfections show for apparently not "allowing God" to work through him enough. It also has the opposite testimonial effect when this teaching causes us to become cold and judgmental toward other Christians for not responding to problems the way we think they should, (as well as looking down on the non-Christians' problems as being from rejecting Christ, who we speak of to them as well, as if He will instantly "change your life", when we are yet unhealed), and lacking compassion, which is one of the biggest complaints of the world about us!)

It is simply better to keep these passages in their contexts of suffering directly for Christ; especially in the first century; when they were granted a special grace for that situation. The unsaved world; so turned off by years of outward sanctimoniousness from Christians, would see more of Christ in an admission that "I'm human just like you are, and this situation is very hard, and though I have trouble dealing with it, and lose my cool; Christ has forgiven me" (and of course; "...is still working on me", because they do see us gritting our teeth as we talk and try to live up to these ideals). That is the real "testimony", that will withstand any accusation; which is Satan's true "attack"! And we need to really make sure what we are talking about when we make statements to them like "Jesus will change your life".
Some will add that God sends pain because of a work He has for us to do, such as compassion ("comfort with the comfort you've been comforted"), challenging an injustice, etc. While God may use these things for that, it still does not warrant assuming He sent certain situations, when they have been coming at us (and everyone else in the world, even the unsaved) all along. We ideally should excel the world in handling difficult situations, but let us not confuse this with suffering for Christ, when all suffer these things.

What God's power is and is not; and Judging those with bad attitudes towards pain

God helps us by giving conviction that a problem needs to dealt with. This conviction is felt, and then by following it, you are "letting God" (contrary to "you don't go by feelings, but just do this, this, that, that, and the other —"follow these steps", "in faith", and then believe you have the power, and maybe then after years of struggle through this, you will feel something"). But, as these teachers will always only later admit; "God doesn't do it for you". So why initially say He does (as in the "Christ, not you, really does it" claim)? This is almost dishonest! How can anyone judge someone else for not making it in this as well as he? (That's when the "just ask for it" part comes in; but this is cyclical: just do; just ask, just do, just ask. The doing will not be possible until you ask, but the asking won't be granted until you do. Round and round goes this merry-go-round, and once again, we wonder why people don't get it).
They are pulling the wool over people's eyes trying to make it sound so simple and easy, yet emphasizing its hardness in the same breath. But even this "difficulty" is attributed to our "flesh", and then said to be designed by God because it is "good for us", or "if we grew up instantly, we wouldn't need to depend on God anymore". With that reasoning, (none of which is taught by the scriptures) we can conclude that we will be made to suffer forever, in order to "depend on God" for eternity! Taking the "trials" that we should "rejoice in" because they "bring perseverance" to mean "physical/emotional pain" just becomes "toughening us up", "giving us thicker skin", etc. (some even boldly call it these things!), but once again, this is a natural effect, that can be experienced by saved or unsaved, and not any particular supernatural change.

But it then it can be discouraging because it sounds like we are given these "painful experiences" just to prepare us for more, even greater "painful experiences". The "promise", of a future "use God has for you" can be appealed to. But what happened to "tomorrow is never promised"? It could possibly be used for a future use of our gifts or testimony, but this too is speculating on the unknown. It is said to be to "prepare us for the Kingdom", "make us perfect", etc, but this "toughening" sounds almost like we are being prepared for Hell! But most believe we will instantaneously be perfected when we are resurrected to glory. Or, "as much as the person allows God to use these things to shape him, he will gain greater rewards". (Once again, if all of this doesn't convince a person, the counselor himself loses patience, and throws out "don't try to understand it"). Still, all of this takes scriptures out of their contexts. The Holy Spirit is sufficient to cleanse us. That is the "power" we have the world doesn't have. What we also have that the world doesn't have is salvation, and along with the "power of God" (the Holy Spirit) unto sanctification, and hopefully, the "peace" that comes from being out from under condemnation (This is what we "believe we have" or "claim" by "faith" even though it may not look like it--unless we have exchanged this true "peace" for something else; particularly some performance-based program!).

We hear all this talk about "abundant life"; but life in those statements of Jesus, meant eternal life, not a positive attitude towards circumstances in this life. If "victory" is just "overcoming" problems (especially internal), then you should just admit that this final "victory" is really in Heaven! But if it's victory over spiritual death from judgment for sin from the Law, then we see we are being sold something not discussed in these scriptures, although it may be a good thing in itself. (These just well may be the modern day "money-changers"!)
As Horton points out (p.114)

But we have confused the Law and the Gospel in our day, just as the Galatians had done, and the medieval church had done. The Law is only there for our own good, our own happiness and fulfillment anyway, right? [i.e the pragmatic approach of much of this teaching!] Of course, we do not use the term "law", but choose rather words like 'principles; 'steps', and 'formulas'. We would know better than to say 'We are saved by our obedience to the Law', but we find it more difficult to detect that 'We will achieve victory by following these principles or steps' is a new way of saying just that.*
(Especially when you take into consideration the judgment leveled at those who do not seem to be achieving this "victory"! If a person who has a reaction of fear or anger is failing to "trust in Christ", and has "quenched" (Gk: "extinguish") the Spirit, then the key passage of Romans 8 (verse 9) tells us "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his"; and the correlation of those two statements becomes quite apparent!)

Also, regarding the "spiritual armor" in Eph.6, (p.233)

Each piece of the armor has something to do with the objective Gospel. Not one piece of this armor is something we have fashioned. Nowhere in the list, for instance, is 'the pistol of piety', or 'the boots of a good heart and cheerful attitude.' Not because piety is unimportant, or because our inner experience is insignificant, but because when the enemy comes, he is not coming to 'bind' our house or give us generational curses; he is coming to strip us of our faith in the Gospel. He is coming to try to persuade us that we are too sinful; too unholy...We have not advanced enough in the Christian life; we have quenched the Spirit...
[sound familiar? Makes you wonder who the devil is really speaking through these days! He can use bits of the truth, and even quote scripture!]
It is faith that unites us to Christ and all His benefits, so if the devil can take away our confidence in His atoning work, he couldn't care less about wreaking temporal havoc on our family line.
[or our own personal lives]. He is the accuser of the brethren, primarily, not necessarily a "pain-giver".

This teaching accuses God of "tempting" people, and then accuses those tempted of "sin", and even questions their walk in the Spirit for not responding a certain way. It thus paints God in a way that makes it so much harder to bow to Him as a loving Father, by raising people's hopes too high, and then dashing them (causing disappointment and disillusionment), and then giving them blunt "word[s] from God". This makes some people more likely to give up or turn completely away from God, and then it condemns them for this and for not bowing! It then reciprocates itself by making a process sound quick and easy, when it really isn't, and then the people (who keep plugging on in it) are supposed to just blame themselves as they "fail and keep trying". It has Satan's name all over it; yet it looks so "biblical" just because it's "tough" and "offensive to our feelings", and tosses around the word "sin"! Can anyone say it is unrealistic to think that all of these things are what Satan would want to do? Can we see that it is not God saying that He makes things hard for us because it is good for us, and our becoming discouraged at this is just our own sin, proving then that it is a "test" from God; but rather Satan saying that God makes things hard for us, because of the fact that it makes it more likely to become discouraged, and this is his whole plot?
*The same would hold true for some Calvinists who might replace the "victory" jargon with "we will show ourselves approved (unconditionally/sovereignly elected) if we persevere in bearing fruit", which is their version of the same thing!

Belief in an invisible God is a powerful tool that can become dangerous when misused. Trusting God can become trusting men when teachers use their own interpretations, experiences, etc.
Since some will even go as far as accusing Christians struggling with bitterness of "having a form of godliness, but denying the power" (2 Tim.3:5; the context is false, but influential teachers!), then where do you draw the line? The only difference is that they just basically suck it up, grit their teeth, pretend everything is OK, and teach us to do the same, calling this "the supernatural power of God" and "the peace that surpasses understanding". Throwing up the "surpasses understanding" part at this point turns it into a shallow platitude. You can't feel it; you can't understand it, you don't even always see it in others, but it is there.

They even frequently say "do not do it in your own strength", or "it feels so hard because you are relying on your own strength", and of course; you gain this "strength from God" by praying for it. But then it doesn't feel any easier, and the teachers affirm this, (often with a special contemptuous emphasis on the word "feel" from some, as if just to rub it in all the more). However, it is by "faith" that you believe "God got you through", they tell you. Again, with the "Footprints" poem: Why did not it feel like you were being carried then? I guess, it's made that way deliberately because discomfort is supposed to be good for us, or it's just our "needy" sin nature that makes us hurt so much, or something like that. I often wonder listening to some teachers, "what are our feelings for, then?" To torment us because pain is good for us, because we're still "imperfect"? Is God in a perpetual state of "walking contrary to us" because of our sinfulness?

It's like we go to people experiencing pain; teach God is doing or "allowing" this to them for their good (ultimately because of their sin), which all the more provokes negative feelings, and then spend all of this energy emphasizing to them how they need to go against these feelings, and top it off by accusing them of more sin if they don't! Like life just isn't hard enough for us! People will justify it with the concept of "Self-denial", but the Christian life has enough self-denial without this. Many unbiblical burdens have been justified as "self-denial", and while teaching people about coping with this one may sell books and tapes, it still doesn't make it truth.

Scriptures like Job 5:7 "man is born unto trouble", and John 16:33 "in the world you shall have trouble, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (the context once again is what was going on then, as you can see in the previous verse), are always cited, but those are describing the way the world is. So there is no reason to then claim that it is God or the devil "doing" all of this [directly, though the Devil of course is the father of sin through his influence on people], or the flipside; that God is continuously preventing bad things, but sometimes "allowing" them to test us. If these things are the way life "is", then neither God nor Satan have to "send" bad things, when they are already coming at us, along with everyone else!

God is in "control" of it in the fact that He has allowed the world to go on like this, and a Christian is saved, and that was the most important issue in human existence; so for what ever reason, God has not stepped in and fixed the physical world by establishing His visible Kingdom yet. But "control" does not mean that we speculate that every bad thing that happens to a Christian is God doing it because it is "good" for them; and then accuse them of not "bowing" to His "control", or "trusting", "resting in", "abiding in", "yielding to", etc. Him when they don't respond the way we say they should.
This idea that pain is particularly good for us is taken from a grain of truth in scripture, but then overgeneralized into a type of asceticism that is purely Platonic, passed off, like every other so-called "hard teaching" people conjure up as "the offense of the Cross". The offense of the Cross is that we are not saved by our own righteousness (this was certainly offensive to the Jews in the NT, as it is to those in the world and in false legalistic religious movements today), not all these other burdens people place on others (that you wonder if they would lift with one of their fingers). And if our hurt feelings are only from our sin nature, then what about Jesus? He was without sin, and was very distressed emotionally. (Of course they may say "well, since He's sinless; it was OK for Him". But His suffering is the very thing we are pointed to as an example!) Pain tells us something is wrong; not that it's right! It's amazing how much "feelings" are dismissed and put down here, but then the "victory" and "peace" is initially described in a simplistic way that that makes it sound easy and appealing to our desire for quick solutions, ease and good feelings!

More scriptures: The True Meaning of "Contentment", "Sufficient Grace", "Chastizing", "Pruning" etc.

So ultimately, what is the method being taught here, then? Basically (considering that "peace" in the passage means among other things "quietness"); just shut up, suck it up, block out the bad feelings by giving thanks instead of complaining, and don't bug anyone with your problems. Keep it to yourself; "Give it to God" they often say. (They make it sound, once again, like a quick, easy once-and-for-all transaction; but of course, the bad feeling "comes back", and then you have to "keep giving it back to Him" they later admit. Just like the "victory" is to "bow to God", and then you receive the "peace"; but it may not be felt right away. It's only as you "continue to trust". All of this is like lulling people in for something harder than it sounds).

By the way, 1 Pet.5:7, where "give it to God" is derived from, also has in its context the persecution of the day, as do the contextual verses in Philippians, v.11: "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content" ("content" here is more like "contented", or "self-satisfied", than the common meaning of being satisfied with the external circumstances in themselves); and 13: "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me" (used to support, once again "you can take whatever it is no matter what").
Of course, you have nearby verses 6 and 7 (already mentioned), and then also verse 8 and 9 "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true...honest...just...pure...lovely...of good report; if [there be] any virtue, and if [there be] any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you." This is what is used to cast God's activity in us as a "growth process".
So again, we see how this complex philosophy is built up from various scriptures put together. So it's a dismissal of problems + mental "steps" to positive thinking + learning a positive attitude (contentment) itself + a "'can do' spirit" + divinely given "strength" = God's "peace", which at the same time is supposed to be the cause of this "growth" in the first place (which is basically a catch-22. This is what's then likely attributed to "God's power", and a "God gives a little, and then as we are 'faithful' with it, adds more" process). Looks surely like it fits, but that's just adding God to mundane principles of growth, and all of this is not what these scriptures (and their discussion of God's power) are aiming to build up to.

But getting back to the original context, Paul had mentioned "the concision" (3:2) and from there how "we" were the true "circumcision"; and his own past as in the movement persecuting the Church. The "all things" refers to v.12: "I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need."

So it's not about a general "accepting your lot in life" with some "can do" attitude of being able to "accept the pain of hardships" as it is made to seem like. (Notice, he mentions the opposites of the hardships as well: being "full", and to "abound". He's actually addressing the Corinthian church's "care" of him (v.10), which had dropped off due to "lack of opportunity", but then flourished again. Rather than being a "hired" professional "position", church leadership was taken care of (not a fixed "salary", or even just monetary, but also food and shelter), and this was not very stable (unlike the later organized Church's paid professional fixed positions. Ironic that those whose "offices" in the Church have today been made into stable positions where they rarely suffer need would use this passage to tall others to accept need).
Hence, the strength of Christ in the sense of the spiritual validation of doing His work, despite the naysaying Christ-rejecting countrymen, was what he had to rely on to be able to be content, whether in abundance or in need. Like everything else, this should not be quickly thrown at just any person, in just any time or situation, facing difficulties.

Also the passages on being happy in the suffering, such as Acts 5:41, Rom.5:3,4, Heb.10:34, 1 Pet.4:12-14, and James 1:2, mentioned above, along with v.9. (But notice also v.10, which tells the "rich" that he will be "made low", "as the flower of the grass passes". Once again, most of the leaders fall into the category of "rich", and while giving the previous verse to the poor, don't seem to notice this. They will point to Jesus' qualifier on it being hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom, "with God all things are possible" (Matt.19:26). But it seems too many are counting on being the divine "exception", having riches both here and in heaven!)

The commonly used 2 Cor.12:10 (“thorn in the flesh to buffet me”) involves a heavenly vision Paul was given, which might have caused self-exaltation. The ["sufficient"] "grace" used there actually is the same "charis" meaning "unmerited favor", involving once again salvation from the curse of the Law. It is certainly not something worked up by trying to squelch one's feelings through "opposite reaction" or pretending the pain doesn't matter.

Paul's Thorn in the Flesh

In order to understand "sufficient grace", we should have a better understanding of the subject of the context, which is the "thorn in the flesh". Much speculation abounds regarding what it is, with everything from a literal thorn to his wife. In the end, they will all agree the principle is that God allows pain, and this "Grace" is generally interpreted as some sort of invisible power (through the Spirit) that makes it easier to cope with life and pain and change your attitude. When explained further, by some, is that just the "thankfulness" from being saved from the eternal Hell we really deserve should outweigh any temporal pain we have here, and thus make us content.

Paul had just been given a vision, which by his own admission might have made him "haughty" or "exalted above measure". As this page: http://www.gotquestions.org/Paul-thorn-flesh.html says: "Anyone who had encountered Jesus and was spoken to and commissioned by Him (Acts 9:2-8) would, in his natural state, become 'puffed up.'"

The "messenger" came from Satan, who is "the Accuser" and accusation is based on violation of the Law. And "the Flesh" is our natural state under the Law, in which many try to justify themselves through works.

So what it looks like, is that this "thorn" is some highlight of a moral or spiritual "WEAKNESS" of his, and doesn't that word sound very familiar also? His weakness (likely some transgression marring that perfect "Pharisee of the Pharisees" image he had once maintained) would be an embarrassment, and make him look like he is in bad standing with God.
And also keep in mind, bad situations and "infirmities" and such things as imprisonment, stripes, shipwrecks, and stonings, etc. he mentioned were taken by many as proving God was against a person, because he was too much of a sinner. This was basically the whole argument of Job's friends, and disciples and others Christ warned about thinking some calamity that fell on others was due to them being "bigger sinners". This thinking pervaded the entire nation of Israel (looking for deliverance through moral perfection, and it has crept right through the covenants into the Church in different ways). It was all about who God loved and accepted; who the true "Israel" or "Sons of Abraham" were, presumed to be proven by prosperity and power. (Rev. 3:9 is an example of Christ speaking to this).

So what was the solution for Paul? Well, Christ had borne his sins on the Cross, and forgiven him through GRACE. THIS was "SUFFICIENT" to counter this nagging flaw in his character and realize his troubles were not some sort of punishment from God.
Hence, Peter compares suffering "as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody..." in which case, you have something to worry about, with suffering "as a Christian", in which case you should "not be ASHAMED" (NOT "not feel hurt, or desperately want the pain to stop, or have a less than 'cheerful attitide'") but let him glorify God on this behalf" (1 Pet. 4:15, 16, eventually leading to 5:7).
None of these passages are telling us to have a masochistic outlook, or that our pain is insignificant or good or given by God to make us better people.

So NOW, it all fits together! Paul had a vision of Christ, but to prevent him from becoming puffed up, he was somehow reminded of his sinfulness, but Christ's Grace is sufficient to cover this "weakness" and His "strength" is manifest through this, and also ensure that he was on the right track, despite his persecution!

Salvation is the invisible change in us that is believed by faith and not sight or feelings (as it is based completely on legal imputation, anyway) and is gradually worked out in growth. Let us not overgeneralize something like this. Heb.12 "run with patience the race set before us", and "chastening of the Lord", doesn't even say it is speaking of physical tribulation. The previous chapter is the "faith hall of fame" which mentioned some saints who suffered as inspiration; along with Jesus Himself right in v.2 and 3; but the immediate context of this passage seems to be personal sin. (in fact, v.4 says their struggle hasn't even come to "shedding of blood" yet!) The "chastisement" is to be "rebuked", meaning conviction (see Greek). Even "scourge" allows a figurative meaning, so this is spiritual, not physical or emotional torment! This is illustrated in 2 Cor.7:7-12, where several virtues of the sort often said to come from physical "trials" are wrought by the "godly sorrow" brought about from Paul's first epistle! (Beginning with "repentance", and ending even with showing themselves "approved". "Fear" would be "of God" (reverence); "indignation" would probably mean "indignation against sin", and "revenge" means "punishment", referring to church discipline).

Some even quote Psalms 119:67, 71, 75 "Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept your word. It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn your statutes. I know, O LORD, that your judgments are right, and that you in faithfulness have afflicted me." assuming this was referring to David's physical troubles. But "afflicted/ion" in the Hebrew means mostly "depression", and not necessarily depression from bad circumstances (which is criticized here anyway), but "looking down or browbeating; abase self; chasten self, humble self, deal hardly with" and even "gentleness" is in there! This speaks of the strong conviction David had from God for his sins, more than the physical consequences of them!
Then, there is John 15: "I am the true vine, [you are the branches] and my Father is the farmer. Every branch in me that bears not fruit he takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, he purges ("prunes") it, that it may bring forth more fruit". The key word there, "kathairo", means "to cleanse", or to "prune"; fig. to "expiate" (it's where the word "catharsis" comes from). This is interpreted with an analogy that "pruning is a painful process where the pruning hook cuts off dead branches and anything else 'unfruitful' so more fruit can grow; so this is God using unpleasant circumstances to make us grow". But the passage says nothing about "unpleasant circumstances". That was ASSUMED based on the interpretations of the other scriptures. (Scripture does interpret scripture; but you have to make sure various scriptures are referring to the same thing before you paste them together into a systematic doctrine).

Once again, conviction is what God prunes or cleanses us with, (and it can be painful in a way), but there is nothing in this to suggest God manipulating circumstances in the material world just to get at us. Heb. 4 shows "rest" from "our works" is the fulfillment of the old sabbath commandment! Yet ironically; we see these scriptures are used to turn this "peace" right back into work (they even admit it as such!) that ultimately (to many) can help indicate our standing before God! (i.e. developing good attitudes in these situations). No wonder so many are confused and don't get it!

What was Job really corrected by God for?

People look at God's response to Job, beginning with "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?" and "where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth", and it is universally read as "you have no right to complain about your pain because I am God and you are not". And "Who do you think you are? Don't tell God how to run the universe", suffering people are told from this, just because they are tired of painful situations, and say things out of depair. Thus, to "accept being human" defined as to humbly accept pain with a positive attitude.
But Job's main sin was not the "bad attitude" or even his great words of depair; but rather, according to the narrative, that he "justified himself rather than God".(32:2) The counselors will quickly affirm this about their counselees, such as the woman who "did not think of herself as a selfish person". This can be true, as a person deep in suffering will be less likely to be thinking about their own sins. But the thrust of God's response was about "reproving God" (40:2). This was not necessarily the complaints about the pain, but rather, what Job himself actually repented of (42:3,6,7): "I uttered what I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not...I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eyes see you. Wherefore I detest myself, and repent in dust and ashes".

It isn't not understanding, and complaining or asking why or trying to understand that is being corrected here; but rather presuming and making general speculations on what causes calamity to fall on a person! This is precisely what the counselors of today are doing; only on a general rather than individual level, and then telling individuals to "accept" it! Job may have said a lot of brash things in depair; but remember, this included the idea of God "denying me justice" in light of his [Job's] "righteousness"(27:1-4), and that He "left him", also in light of all of his good deeds (ch.29). It was when Job, who already affirmed (with his friends) that God was responsible (1:21, 2:10), then took that point and conclued he was "just" and God was not, that he was corrected.
Everyone loves to cite these two verses: "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return: the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD"; "What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" as the quintessential example of the "positive attitude" we're supposed to have or develop in our suffering; but it seems no one notices that this is in the beginning of the book, not the end! So it is not the "lesson" he had learned! While it itself was not part of the sin either, as the text affirms; its premise was still twisted into something that was sinful, especially once his friends arrived. This is the problem we have been facing in this set of teachings in the church.

He and the friends were basically in agreement that pain, above a certain level, was for "sinners" only. The argument between them was whether he was a sinner to the extent of deserving that. THIS is the assumption that was knowledge "too wonderful for me, which I knew not", and was what all four men were corrected for! The modern teaching that God sends us pain to cleanse us of sin or otherwise "purify" us, is in a subtle way suggesting the same thing, even though most will deny it, when it is viewed from this perspective.

While God did "allow Satan" to inflict the pain, this was a lesson for us; not an illustration of the cause of every Christian's pain today. So the overall message of Job is NOT "being man means you were made for pain, and to not like pain is to try to be God", but rather the contrary, as we see again in the Gospels where the Jews (including the disciples) tended to blame people born with infirmities, which they attributed to some "sin"; and Jesus corrected them. This type of cold judging must hurt God's heart! Perhaps the morale of the book of Job is compassion, as opposed to "tough love"!

Unfortunate Clichés from this Teaching

We can see the connection with the way this teaching can cross the line with some silly statements that even border on blasphemy at times! Occasionally, a book will tell us to "forgive God", for the pain He allows, since it's for His good purpose. But forgiveness is for wrong, and such teachers are not trying to say God is wrong, but it does come across that way. So it is understandably blasted by the more conservative. But once again; those conservatives who criticize believe the same thing (that God "creates evil", or at least interpret scriptures to that effect; even if they deny it in other contexts, so "forgiving" then is logically consistent).

Then, there is the easily misunderstood slogan "God is my co-pilot". The way I heard this laid out, it was basically meant to emphasize "God is with you", and the "peace" that comes from this; in a relationship of surrender and trust, as everyone teaches. God "leads us through life" with its difficult situations. He leads; we follow. He reaches out His hand; we take it and let Him take us "through the storm" or whatever. We make one step, he leads us to a bigger one, and so on. Thus, we "cooperate" with Him in "piloting" our lives. (Calvinists may erroneously apply this to an Arminian's description of salvation, but that's not the way I believe it is supposed to be taken).
This right away struck me as the epitome of the buttering up of the hard aspects of following God in a way that appeals to us. This life of "submission" is put in a way that makes us sound equal to Him! Thus this is also criticized by those outside pop-evangelicalism. One bumper sticker tries to respond by saying "If God is your co-pilot, switch seats!" So then, we are God's co-pilots? That is basically the same thing, with us as almost His equals this time! (One pilot may be senior, but they are still both in control). I would think it would be more accurate to say "If God is your co-pilot; get out of the cockpit!" If any of us were co-pilot; we wouldn't go through any storms at all; so it is like a mockery to try to make it sound so pleasant, as if we have some sayso when we really don't.


People are so used to hearing tough talk like "just do it", "just keep trying", "that's life; deal with it", "just let it roll off your chest", "you're your own worst enemy"; we hear both in the world, and also (often disguised) in Christian teaching. Only now, we say it is "different" because we put God's name into it, and paste scripture verses over it. We are told to "go to God"; "give it to God"; as the solution, yet it becomes quite "obvious" —from "God's own spokesmen", what His answer will be: God says all these same things! In fact, when we hurt or are worried about something, He is probably just angry at our "sin" of doubt! (until we "confess" it, of course). Might this be what makes it so hard for people to trust God and pray, in the first place? I just cannot help but hear a similar ring in "His Grace is sufficient" the way it is often thrown out to suffering people, and one mayor's "Well, at least they're alive" (meaning, basically, a certain group of people in the city do not deserve the level of care that others get).
--And this is what they call "encouragement"!

To some prospective counselors, sympathizing is even warned against as "feeding" people's "self-pity". It is even pointed out that "encourage", and "comfort" mean "to make strong" (hence, just convincing a person they "can do" even if they feel they can't), and it is assumed that this is done through the bluntness of "tough love". But that is a worldly method that may be good on some people, but not to everyone, and it is precisely the "comfort" of Job's friends! Much self-pity is fueled by the lack of compassion prevalent in a world and church driven by such cold pat answers! "Hard truth" it is, indeed. Talk about asking for bread and being tossed a rock!

Many scriptures involved in this issue have been misapplied. Many involved the particular situation of first century Christians, and for us today, even words like "trials" and "chastizement" mean tempation and conviction, not bad circumstances. But the resultant "hard teaching" sells, and helps keep the Christian teaching industry going; with its often extravagant claims of "victory" and "miracles"
So none of these passages supports the trappings of the emotional health gospel: the cold dismissing of the suffering and mental and/or emotional distress of people in the mundane situations of today; or just throwing out trite verse quotes, spiritual clichés and platitudes, expecting that alone to lead people to healing; and the judging that often occurs when the person still doesn't overcome the problem (causing them further mental anguish and hopelessness). This makes the Christian life far more harder than it actually is. Once put in context, this whole system of tough talk collapses like a house of cards!

Don't get me wrong; there are many Christians who do have a gift of peace in suffering. I am not saying we should not be thankful or content. It is an ideal we all should strive for. (It's people's prooftexting for cold reactions toward the suffering I am really getting at here). But everyone is different, and cannot always be forced into that mold, and in circumstances that have nothing to do with these scriptures. There was a special grace for those persecuted for Christ (Matt.5:10-12). We must not confuse this for natural growth in our natural struggles of today. Failing to separate the two just invites more disillusionment when people try it, or watch us try it, and it turns out not be as definite or as simple as people make it out to be.

Some may try to defend the teaching as Arthur does, by pointing to the parable of the sower (Matt.13), and the state of people's hearts, saying that "the Word" falls on "hearts that are hard ground, where Satan has his way, shallow hearts (rocky ground) where there is no perseverance, thorny hearts occupied but the worries of the world", as well as "good ground" that "receives it with meekness". But if that's the case, then the way this "seed" is dressed up and then shows its true colors later on either pushes peoples hearts to the hard wayside, or encourages those with shallow or thorny hearts to receive it under false impressions, and then be less likely to have a real change of heart later on!

If "new life in Christ by the power of the Spirit" is just a series of "slow painful growth processes", then the nonbeliever can justly conclude that it is just "another philosophy of life; no better than any other, and if it works for you, fine, but I'll use something else". Building a house is no more "done by God" because a Christian does it, than when a non-Christian does it, though the Christian of course thanks God for the provision.
Yes, the Christian life is "the narrow way" and a "cross" because the growth is no longer optional as it basically is in the world of moral relativism. But let's not butter this up as some particularly "supernatural" work of God. The thankfulness we are to have is to thank God for the good in life without speculating that the bad things were then "sent" by Him as well, and then try to use that to shake people into “peace” with charges of sin and quenching the Spirit. Every good thing is from God (James 1:17), and evil is what is not of God; not some equal "pole" that must be credited to God in order to make Him "sovereign". God tuned our senses to perceive things as pleasant, so right there, that is why we can thank Him.

So I think more straightforwardness is needed-- that Christian growth in the midst of difficult times is very hard and often disheartening, with no simplistic formulas, clichés, or pat answers, and realize that this will call for more tolerance of those who struggle with negative emotions or lose faith. (Writer Philip Yancey in his treatments of pain is an example of someone who really displays compassion and affirmation to the suffering reader. Shamefully, he too is criticized by the more radical conservatives like BDM, for among other things, just so much as the name of one of his books; Disappointment With God! ("How dare anyone suggest such a thing", was the gist of their criticism. I wonder if God turned Mr. Miesel or Mr. Beardsley's world upside down; if they really would just "accept it humbly from God" and have no disappointment at all, as they and other such leaders seem to be mandating for everyone else! People like this would probably just direct the blame for everything they see wrong in their lives at other people, rather than God's "correction" anyway).

For far too long, the church has tried to silence all questions or logic, and pacify people who suffer or question the Church's concepts. It was done more forcefully in the past (which caused many who are now unbelievers to give up on the faith, and conclude we have no real answers, but only want to control people), but now we have just found more polite ways to do it.
Belief in an invisible God is a very powerful tool, which can potentially be dangerous in the wrong hands, since it holds great emotional sway and fear over many, yet cannot be readily proven or disproven (sort of parallels the power wielded by early men who discovered fire). It should be used with great caution, humility and love; knowing our human tendency to control others. So we are not to use it to silence people about the "unsearchable counsel of God" when we have been making extrabiblical speculations on what He is doing all along!
"Trusting God" ultimately winds up meaning trusting men, when teachers use their own interpretations of His promises, and personal experiences (and even revelation) read into them to instruct people on the "walk of faith".

So we should learn more how to try to meet people's needs instead of ripping passages out of their contexts and hurling them at them to justify brushing them aside so we don't have to be bothered with anyone's problems.
James 2:15, 16; the very passage speaking about faith without works being dead; speaks clearly about simply wishing someone "peace" (precisely what people are doing by only citing scriptures on peace and pointing them towards our eternal destiny), and without trying to give the person what he needs in the physical realm. 1 John 3:17, 18 speaks about "shutting up our hearts" to them (what we do when they don't respond the way we think they should). Christ said "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God". That does not say "man doesn't really need bread at all, so if he doesn't get much, that is God's will for Him, and all his true 'needs' are still being met by 'the Word of God' regardless of what it looks like", as it often seems this is being taken to mean. If that were the case, we would not have such an emphasis in scripture on giving to those in need.

We chide the world for thinking "living life to the fullest" means materialism and pleasure in good times, and point to Jesus' teaching in these types of statements that it is really "spiritual"; but we actually compromise half-way, by substituting mental/psychological positive attitudes in bad times (and then some reintroduce the material "blessings" after an "ask, serve and wait" process), when the true spiritual "life to the fullest" is salvation. When Christ tells those who hunger and thirst, that He will fulfill their need (e.g. "the bread of life", "living waters"), He is telling them their foremost need of salvation. It is not something to be thrown at those already saved to negate their literal physical needs.
And when we tell people to forgive, we should point out that God wants us to forgive, like He forgave us, and we keep His commandments out of love. Not using fear ("you're sinning/quenching the Spirit"), pragmatism ("forgiveness and contentment are good for you, anger and bitterness are unhealthy"), and contradictory platitudes ("God will change you, but it is a daily choice, and God doesn't make those choices for you")

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