A Subtle Prosperity Gospel | Psalm 73 | Part I

All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands of innocence -Psalm 73:13

A few years ago I had faith crisis. It wasn’t that I doubted the existence of God. I knew God was there in the midst of my tragedy. Instead, I questioned the character of God. The justice and sovereignty of God were truths that I had learned and loved in Bible College and from my own personal study. I could, with conviction, preach a sermon on the goodness of God in the midst of suffering. But for the first time these pillars of truth were tried under the weight of real life pain.

When you find yourself in a place like that, know that you are in good company with the biblical writers. Take comfort in the reverent yet honest wrestling of these saints. One Psalm that has been an encouragement to me in times of trial is Psalm 73.

Asaph is recounting a time in which his feet almost slipped from the foundation of faith in God (v.2). When he looked around he saw wicked people prospering while he was constantly stricken and rebuked (v.14). He envied what they had because he thought he deserved it. After all, he was a faithful servant of God. Shouldn’t he have something to show for it? Asaph’s faith crisis was so serious that he cried out in a moment of deep doubt, “all in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands of innocence.” (v.13)

Notice what Asaph is implying in this verse: “God, you owe me because of what I have given you. I don’t deserve this. I’ve been faithful. I feel like I’ve wasted my time by following you.” This reveals an understanding of God that is more like the Prosperity Gospel than the true message of Christianity.

The prosperity gospel says, “God, I’ve done for you. Now you do for me.” We hear it from preachers who promise us that if we would only sow a seed of money to the church, God will multiply our blessing ten fold. It’s lethal, false, and we think we can smell it form a mile away. But have you ever considered the possibility that you are more susceptible to the Prosperity Gospel than you realize?

If you question the goodness, justice, and sovereignty of God every time difficulty comes, you are telling God that he owes you something. If you try to bargain with God for a comfortable life by listing your spiritual contributions, you have succumbed to subtle yet equally dangerous prosperity gospel. This is where I was: “God, I’m in ministry. I’ve sought to faithfully serve you, and this is what happens?”

If we find ourselves guilty of believing a subtle prosperity gospel, we need a fresh vision of the Cross. Why did Christ die for you? He did not die to secure a life of temporal ease. He died to reconcile you to God (2 Corinthians 5). In the Gospel, Christ promises you and I something far greater than a trial free life. He promises himself. This understanding of Christ as our deepest treasure is what sees us through seasons of trial and doubt.

In the next post we will see how Asaph came the realization of God as his greatest treasure.

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