I’ve kept quiet on some of the events that have occupied the attention of our world for the past few weeks. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say on the matter – it’s simply that I’ve learned over the years I don’t always have to interject an opinion.
There are certain topics, however, that captivate me in such a way that I cannot remain silent. I will not be shamed into discussing anything online unless I feel really led to speak on it, and in this instance I’ve found that I cannot keep quiet.
A video began circulating this week of Victoria Osteen, wife of Pastor Joel Osteen, speaking to her husband’s congregation of 10,000 about why they should “do good.” The first time I watched the 36 second clip, I laughed out loud. It wan’t an amused, “Oh isn’t that funny” sort of laugh. It was more of an incredulous, “Did she really just say that out loud?!” sort of laugh.
I watched the clip a second time, and I could not keep my jaw from dropping. From the platform of her pulpit, she may have made one of the boldest, most heretical claims of faith I’ve ever heard, and I could not wrap my mind around such thinking.
In the past nearly seven years since I’ve begun blogging, I’ve tamed a lot in my approach to what I see and read online. I realize more now than I did when I began that words and meanings can be taken out of context, and that the internet, while teeming with good things, can also be insidious and wretched, and wildly unforgiving.
In short, I’ve learned to withhold judgement.
So although my first reaction to her video was to feel true indignation at her horrific message, I quickly stopped, and I reminded myself that sometimes I say stupid things, too. Sometimes I mean to say one thing, and something entirely different comes out of my mouth. So I opened up a new window, and I did a little search to see if maybe my assessment of what she just preached was misunderstood.
I’ve long had a weary opinion of the Osteens. I do not believe in the idea of the prosperity gospel in any way, shape or form. I do not think that God is at all concerned with my happiness, or with my every day being a Friday. There is zero evidence in scripture to support such claims, and so I’ve always taken Joel Osteen quotes with a grain of salt. They are feel good fluff – kind of like cotton candy. Fun to eat, but will rot you from the inside out if you consider it nutritious.
I decided to look up a few more videos of Joel and Victoria Osteen speaking, and I read excerpts of their books available online. After doing that research, I feel much more confident in my assessment of that now infamous Victoria Osteen clip.
It is, indeed, blasphemy, and I do think that the Osteens believe that message with all of their hearts.
Dear Church of God, I come to you begging that you use discernment in such matters of faith. We cannot give ourselves over to this belief that God is pleased only when we are happy. We cannot for a second accept the notion that we do good, “not for God, but for ourselves.” To believe that it’s about us is not worship – it is destructive, self-serving and the very worst of a Western faith system.
God wants my yes. He wants my obedience. He wants me to give and love and pour myself out for others, not because it makes me feel good or look good or seem “good.” He wants me to pour myself out as a praise offering to Him – so that He gets the glory. I don’t want the glory – I really do not, because it would be a cotton candy faith that dissolves the second I’m faced with any sort of challenge.
Last year was a pivotal year in my walk of faith. For most of 2013, I fought hard against depression. I was angry and confused, and I clung to my God not because He made me happy, because most of my anger was actually directed at Him. No – I clung to Him because I needed to know that He was real. I needed to know that even in the darkest moments, He was who He said He was.
He did not fail my meager test of faith. Indeed, He has proven Himself faithful not because of me, but in spite of me.
The notion that God is glorified when we are happy is a slap in the face of His true nature and character, and I pray that all of us would have eyes to see, and ears to hear, the false teachings of our time. Do not be deceived, fellow believers, by these fluffy, sugary words. They do not hold weight in a world that is crying out.
They hold no weight for the Christians in Iraq being systematically targeted and slaughtered.
They hold no weight for the children of Israel and Gaza.
They hold no weight for the orphans in Russia, or the poverty stricken villages in Africa.
They hold no weight for the single mom fighting to put food on the table.
They hold no weight for the grieving parents who stand at the fresh mound of dirt that covers the body of a beloved child.
God is for you for no other reason than because of His never ceasing goodness and love. Not because of your deeds, your “goodness,” your happiness, or your false beliefs in yourself. The God of the Universe longs to have all of you so that He may be glorified through you, in both the good times and the bad.
It’s all about Him.
It’s all about Him.
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I have been moved by your words in many ways and on many occasions but never more than today. I could not be more proud to call you my friend and sister in Christ. Your light shines bright with Truth. Wow. Wow. Wow.
Thank you, Vonita, for your encouraging words. Sending big love up your way now! 🙂
I just saw that clip this morning for the first time and couldn’t believe it. Had to have my husband listen to it as well to make sure that I wasn’t mis-hearing it. Their ministry makes me sad on so many different levels, mainly because it such a misrepresentation of Christ and the gospel message. It breaks my heart thinking how many people are being misled (granted, their choice to take the sugar-coated junk) and where they will be when the body of Christ faces difficulty. They won’t know how to handle it because of what they have been ‘eating’ spiritually. (And that makes me sad for the Osteens too because they have a huge ministry and are responsible for that misleading….).
Oh – so much more to say, but this post is spot on. Love you!
Great thoughts, Jolanthe, and you’re right – the responsibility that they bear for this false doctrine is sad, and breaks my heart not only for the people that hear it, but for the Osteens as well. Thanks for chiming in!
Thank you, Kelli, for this thoughtful response that rings true to everything I felt when viewing that clip but may not have the gifting you posses to declare it as succinctly as you have. I agree with you that a line was crossed here that must be confronted and I appreciate your research to ensure this wasn’t just a little video bit taken out of context but is a dangerous philosophy being disseminated in many churches.2corinthians4 is a refreshing read after viewing the video:-)
Thanks for sharing that, Colleen! Off to check it out now. 🙂
Brave, true words here, Kelli. I’ve read your post twice already.
Thanks, Kristin, for reading and sharing and encouraging!
This is something I wrote today in response to someone questioning whether or not there’s some truth to the idea that God wants us to be happy. Hopefully it gives more clarification on my thoughts on this matter, because I don’t think God wants us to be sad, either. God wants the glory. That’s really all there is to it.
And He deserves the glory.
Anyway – here is what I wrote:
“I also struggle with the idea of always being joyful, though. I think life is harder than that, and I don’t think my faith in God should rest upon the contingency that I always be happy, or even joyful. In my saddest, most heartbroken moments, I do not feel joy. This is, however, when I cling most desperately to God, because I believe that He is for me even in that darkness. That’s the “peace that passes all understanding.” But joy? It’s not always there. Not every moment of every day. Sometimes I’m angry. Sometimes I’m sad. And I’ve even questioned His goodness, and I’m thankful that I have a God who can take my “why,” my anger and my sadness, and He can redeem it for His glory. I feel joy more than I feel sadness. And I do feel happiness quite often. But my God does not find pleasure in me because I’m happy or even joyful. He finds pleasure in me because I am His creation. That’s the only place I can rest at the end of the day. I worry that if we place our hope in our own happiness, believing that that alone is what gives God the greatest pleasure, then we are setting ourselves up for an empty Jesus. This is a scary thought, indeed.
I hope that makes sense!!”
I don’t know whom to credit with this quote, but it rings in my ears quite often, and especially now: “God is not concerned with our happiness. He wants our holiness.” I wish the O’Steens got that. I pray for people to wake up and stop following a false gospel that is all about what appeals to their flesh. I understand the appeal, but in the end it is so empty. Cotton candy is a pretty good analogy.
Standing ovation. Well said, Kelli.
Thanks for sharing 🙂 I don’t like the word “Happy” in general. I like the word “Peace” better 🙂 Shalom. Being whole, even in the midst if a storm.
I like that word, too, Lisa. In fact, I even prefer it over Joy. Because I can feel peace without feeling joy. 🙂
Wonderful post, Kelli! I’m so glad that you are willing to be a voice for God’s truth in this culture where many people don’t think twice about twisting God’s holy truth.
It just makes me sad, because I’m not sure they know they’re twisting Truth. That may be the scariest part of it all.
I agree with you. We’ve just finished a study in Ephesians where Paul is writing to encourage other Christans…while in jail. He encourages us while he is not in the lap of luxury, but wants to give us Unity in Christ. He shares how God loves us and to share that love. Did I mention he was in jail?
He gives the perfect example of what you’re saying.
Sharing Jesus’ love through anything and everything, for His glory, is the gift of faith, hope, love and perseverance!
I pray that Christians will feed on scripture for themselves that they may know and not just rely on what others say.
For His Glory, thank you for sharing your post!
Amen, Summer! Thanks for the comment!
Usually when I bring up the subject, the one thing I am told is that I should not judge. The bible warns us about false prophets and that we need to use discernment. My Aunt, who listens to Joel, says that she likes his positive message and that she doesn’t like “that famous pastor over at THAT church, because he only talks about the bible and makes you feel bad”. Hmmm, my mom and I both said : “That’s what he is supposed to do, teach from the bible. I then began to tell her that the bible says “If you do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, you will not inherit the kingdom of God”.
I continued….”One day, I was watching the Larry King show. The Osteens were on. A lady called in and asked Joel if he believed that Jesus was the Son of God. Joel made some comments but never answered the question. So, the lady repeated her question. “Joel, do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?” Joel made some more remarks, but again, did not answer the question. (I couldn’t believe my ears. Why is he dodging that question ?)Then, the lady said ” Thank you……that’s all I wanted to know. That answered my question”.
I have to say, from that moment on, I was convinced about what I had been wondering for a long time.
So interesting, Mira. Thanks for sharing!
What you just said? THAT’S truth. Thank you for standing for it my friend 🙂
So true, sister. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for reading and affirming, Kristen! 🙂
Amen. I am in the middle of my own struggles with three ministries that my church supports,ones that I have grave questions about. I believe in present day miracles but I also believe that our experience needs to be filtered through the grid of Gods word, as do all ministries teachings. Thanks for standing up for His Truth.
I love the idea of filtering all we hear through God’s Word. That’s so true, Bob! Thanks for sharing!
I’m impressed you should think of something like that
I found you through this post and am so very glad. I applaud your words and the way in which you conveyed this message. One of my favorite posts ever! I wanted to write on this last week but couldn’t get many words out of any kind, let alone this. Sharing yours and standing with you. AMEN!
Thank you, Jolene!
I found your post through Jolene Underwood’s #blogitforward link up, and wow! Makes me think (a LOT). It saddens my heart to hear someone say that worship is about us, because it isn’t. Well, sometimes it might be, but it shouldn’t be. Obedience isn’t about us. Sometimes what we’re asked to do looks like the opposite of what we want, or what we “should” be doing.
I just can’t buy into this “do it for yourself” thing.
The thing is, we often do reap blessing from our service. That’s the grace of God. We serve Him out of obedience, we worship Him out of obedience, and we are blessed in return. But blessings can’t always be measured tangibly, and that’s where the “prosperity gospel” is so grossly flawed. The measure of God’s grace on my life isn’t dictated by a job, financial wellness, material possessions, health or anything of that nature. This is why it’s so dangerous to preach such an ideology. It leads people to believe they deserve blessing.
No. Blessing is grace. God is grace, for no other reason than because He is God.