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If God was really pleased with you, you’d be happy, healthy, and financially well off. This is a very common belief among both Christians and non-Christians. It’s an absolute lie, yet it’s also an extremely popular idea and one which is aggressively promoted by many very successful Christian leaders. Whenever we find a lie being promoted by folks who know better, it is because they have found a way to profit by doing so.
Prosperity theology—a system of beliefs which is built on the assumption that God wants us to have happy, carefree lives on earth—is a huge moneymaker. It’s rather like teaching Christians that God commands them to tithe: the folks who teach the lie make bank while the people who sincerely believe in the lie end up in a world of hurt. Unfortunately, many of our leaders in the Church today couldn’t care less about how many souls they trash on the way to lining their own pockets. As an individual Christian, you’re just one more chump who they might be able to make some money off of. If you prove to be reasonably easy to manipulate, they’ll spend effort messing with you. If you aren’t, they’ll kick you aside and find someone else. Welcome to the world of false shepherds in the Church: it’s a merciless scene in which there is no real concern for human souls. This is why it’s so important that you not put your trust in human beings to guide you in life. God Himself must be your Guide, because He is the only One you can really trust. But before you are going to develop strong trust in God, you need to grasp that He is for you in life, and before you can understand what that means, you need to learn a few things about how God operates.
As a human, you want a convenient, comfortable, care free life. You care more about the present moment than you do about the long-term. You’re barely aware of your soul—if at all—but you’re extremely aware of your body or earthsuit. Keeping your earthsuit happy is more important to you than investing in the long-term health of your soul. Since being wealthy, healthy, and happy would really please your earthsuit, you want these things very much.
The mindset we’ve just described is common to all humans. We don’t choose to think like this, it’s wired into us by God. He starts us all off in life with a mentality that considers the well-being of our earthsuits to be more important than the well-being of our souls. He then announces that His priorities for us are a complete reversal of our own. He says that His way is the better way and we all need to conform to it. Here’s where we come up against a test of submission. We either choose to obey God by submitting to His will for our lives, or we tell Him to stuff it and keep trying to live life according to our own priorities. God responds to our response to Him, and round and round we go in an endless war of wills until God finally says our time is up and moves us on to another dimension where we receive the consequences of how we chose to respond to Him. Those consequences could be horrible, they could be wonderful, or they could be somewhere between the two extremes. This is the human experience in a nutshell.
Now problems arise very early on in the game when we don’t understand that God’s priorities are different than our own. Instead, we assume that, like us, God considers the well-being of our earthsuits to be more important than the well-being of our souls. When it becomes clear that God is withholding heath, wealth and happiness from us, we naturally conclude that He must be mad at us. After all, He’s God. Surely it wouldn’t be hard for Him to rain down endless blessings on our heads, and He says that He is a generous Creator who loves to bless. So if He isn’t blessing, He must be mad, and if He’s mad we must have sinned. Here is where we start with the buckshot confessions: start apologizing for every random sin that comes to your mind and hope that you hit the one God is currently holding a grudge over. Or you might go the bribery route and try to coax God into a better mood by throwing a bunch of money into the offering plate. Or you might go the sorcery route and try to get one of His anointed ones to lay his holy hands on you.
But what happens when none of these methods work? What happens when our financial troubles just keep getting worse, the depression turns chronic, and our health continues to deteriorate? Well, it’s a mess, and when false shepherds catch the scent of your distress, they’ll leap on you like hungry wolves with all kinds of useless explanations. Some will tell you that you’re under a generational curse—God’s not mad at you, He’s mad at your daddy. So confess your old man’s sins, rebuke that soul tie, write a check to the moron who’s giving you such rotten advice, and maybe that will get you free. Others will say that you’ve become possessed by a legion of demons. What you really need is to go surrender yourself into the hands of a deliverance minister so he can free your soul from bondage. But deliverance ain’t cheap, so you’d better bring cash. In fact, just have your wallet ready at all times, because the guys who want you to believe God is mad at you whenever your life is going badly have a way of weaving a financial element into all of their spiritual solutions. First it’s “you have to be in fellowship on a regular basis.” Then when you’re in fellowship, the tithing plate keeps getting passed around and you’d better put something serious into it if you expect God to respond. Bring on that sacrificial giving, because even God Almighty can be bought off. These are the many messes we end up in when we don’t understand that God has different priorities than we do.
SOUL BEFORE EARTHSUIT
So now let’s talk more about God’s priorities for you. Why doesn’t God put your earthsuit first? Because it’s just a temporary machine—it isn’t the real you. Your earthsuit is like the car that a man drives to and from work. Your soul is like the man. What matters more: the condition of the car or the condition of the man? Clearly the man is more important than some earthly machine. And to God, your soul is far more important than the earthsuit it’s cruising around in today. God designed your soul to last forever. He designed your earthsuit to only last for a mere blip in time. Ten or eleven decades at most—but likely a lot less. And once God pulls your soul out of your earthsuit at death, that’s the last you’ll ever see of your suit. It will rot away and be gone forever—you won’t need one of those in eternity. To understand God’s priorities for you, you need to understand how He defines who you are: you are the soul inside the suit—you’re not the suit.
When God says that He loves you and He wants what is best for you, He’s using His definition of you. When you look in a mirror, what you see is your earthsuit. You say, “That’s me—I’m the suit.” So when God says that He really wants you to be happy—which He does—you interpret that to mean that He wants your earthsuit to be happy because that’s how you define yourself. But no, God means that He wants your soul to be happy, because that’s how He defines who you are. To God, your suit is expendable. To you, your suit totally defines you. This is a major difference in perspectives that needs to be dealt with if you are going to get on God’s page. The process of God teaching you to view yourself as He does is one aspect of spiritual maturity.
So then, God wants your soul to be happy. Not just sort of happy, but utterly delighting in the experience of being alive. And just as God decided which foods your physical tongue most enjoys the taste of, He has decided what will cause your soul to feel utterly satisfied and joyful. You don’t get to choose these things—they’ve already been chosen for you by God and you cannot change the way He designed you. This means that the only way you’re going to ever experience that fabulous joy that God wants you to have is by totally submitting to His will for your life.
God is not an aloof Creator. He’s totally in your business all of the time. He never backs off, He never leaves you alone. He’s very much an “in your face” God. He didn’t design you to sit off in the corner like some lump. He designed you for the purpose of having an interactive relationship with Him. This is why you are incapable of doing anything without Him. You need His help to breathe, to move, and to think. You can’t learn anything unless He teaches you. You can’t experience anything unless He sets that experience up for you. There’s no sense in which you can ever legitimately say that you did something all by yourself. It’s always you and God doing stuff, even though most of the time you’re totally discounting His involvement. This is how God has set things up: you absolutely cannot function without Him. You can’t get happy without Him, and you aren’t sad without Him. If it’s happening to you, it’s because He wants it to be happening to you. But before you can properly interpret why He is keeping you poor, sick or sad, you have to remember that His top priority for you is the long-term well-being of your soul. It is with that goal in mind that God arranges the many experiences He brings into your life. Some of those experiences are pleasant, some are miserable, but they’re all designed with the same goal of pushing you down the path that will be best for your soul in the long-term.
WHY WE NEED TRIALS
Give a child everything he ever wants from the day he is born, and you’ll end with an entitled, impatient, selfish monster on your hands. This is by God’s design: He is the One who has made it so that getting our own way 100% of the time is guaranteed to wreck us. Why did God do this? Well, remember how He set you up to want the wrong things in life when you first start out? The only way you can thrive in the long-term is if you undergo a whole lot of rather unpleasant changes. To help prepare you for the necessity of those changes, God fixes it so that you cannot have your own way all the time in this world. You need your parents to discipline you as a child if you’re going to end up enjoying your own company. God teaches us from an early age that we will have to endure some misery in order to obtain greater happiness, because this same principle is going to be a major theme in our relationships with Him.
God is absolutely not going to give you everything you want in life, because much of what He’s designed you to want when you first start out is not what’s best for you. God is going to give you what He knows you need right from the start, and right from the start He’s going to be prioritizing the well-being of your soul over your earthsuit. Did you have a bunch of really rotten experiences before you even knew who God was? That wasn’t wasted time—it was careful prep. When God has people grow up in abusive homes, or when He puts them through early life traumas, it’s all part of laying the groundwork for some major soul benefits down the line. It’s like a farmer who plants seeds in his field. If no seeds are planted, there won’t be any crops. But just planting the seeds isn’t enough—they must be watered as well. It’s the same with you. From the moment you are conceived, God begins laying the groundwork for a harvest of soul benefits later on down the line, but you’ll never experience that harvest unless you choose to sufficiently submit to Him in life. If we rebel against God too long and hard, He intentionally withers the harvest we experience. If we really tick Him off, He ends up giving us no harvest at all, and instead we end up in Hell with the total opposite of soul joy.
Submission is critical to you reaping the benefits of all the trials God has put you through, but you need to realize that we’re talking about soul benefits here, not material goodies or earthsuit joy. God isn’t anti-earthsuit happiness, but He won’t sacrifice soul progress for it. The more you submit to Him, the more ruthless He’ll be in prepping you to receive His absolute best. This is why some of the most miserable people on the planet today are Christians who have fully surrendered to God. Spiritual refinement can be a truly hellish experience. But we’re not all made for the same purposes. Just as there are many different occupations in this world, God has designed each of us to have different kinds of futures with Him. It’s not about better and worse, it’s about God’s obsession with variety. He doesn’t want us all to be clones of each other. He doesn’t want to relate to us all in the same way. The goals He has in mind for you are different than the goals He has in mind for another Christian. This means that you need a different kind of prep than they do.
It is because of God’s obsession with variation that we see seriously committed Christians having such a wide range of experiences on earth. Ten souls could be totally pleasing to God, yet one has a sweet time of it while another is slogging through some miserable valley season. God is constantly talking to one, while He’s giving another one total silence. This isn’t a case of rejection versus acceptance, it’s about God giving each unique soul the specific prep they need to really thrive with Him in the long-term.
When we don’t understand that God has different plans for each of us, we end up doing a bunch of useless comparing. You pray and pray and God never talks to you. Meanwhile your friend Mary is constantly seeing Jesus in prophetic visions. What are you doing wrong? Well, wait a minute—who says you are doing anything wrong? What are you basing that conclusion on? Mary isn’t the universal standard for all Christians to be measured by. What’s going on between God and Mary has nothing to do with you. Here’s a classic trap that all Christians fall into: trying to figure out if God has a beef with them by studying what He’s doing with someone else. Such a system gets us nowhere. If God is blessing Tom more than you, it doesn’t mean He’s pleased with Tom and mad at you. It could be just the opposite—He could be mad at Tom and pleased with you. Or He could be mad at both of you. Or He could be pleased with both of you. So how do you sort it out? First, get Tom out of the picture because he is irrelevant. You need to keep the focus on you and God. Now if you are concerned about your standing with God, talk to Him about it. “Lord, are we doing okay? If not, tell me.” It’s just this simple. You ask God directly, and you wait for Him to answer. If there’s something wrong, He’ll tell you.
The presence of a trial in your life is not proof that something is wrong—you only think it is when you assess your life by the wrong priorities and think that God expresses His pleasure with you by keeping your earthsuit happy. He doesn’t. God expresses His pleasure with you by leading you down the path that is best for your soul, and in your case, that path might have some really rough patches.
Spiritual growth can be viewed like a road that leads from point A to point B. You’re cruising along smoothly for the first three miles, but then you hit a major swamp. Now you’re really struggling to slog through the muck and it’s downright miserable. Many Christians would say that the very fact that a swamp exists in your road is evidence that God is mad at you. But no, from His perspective, the swamp is a critical part of your development. You need to go through that swamp to learn certain things that will help your soul in the long run. A critical part of not losing heart is remembering what the goal is: it’s to reach point B, it’s not to have a smooth journey. As you inch forward, you are still closing in on that goal. It doesn’t matter that it’s a rough journey because having a smooth journey is not part of the goal.
It’s misunderstanding the goal that leads to so much anxiety for Christians who really care about pleasing God. He brings them to a rough patch and they think, “God wouldn’t have me here unless He was mad at me.” Well, that logic only works if God’s goal for you was to have a smooth ride. But that isn’t His goal at all: His goal is to do what is best for your soul. Since you don’t understand what is best for your soul, you can’t advise God about the best methods to use on you. Instead, you’re stuck having to trust in His good Character and superior wisdom. This is exactly how God wants it.
Spiritual growth is like you assisting a chef who is making some special dish. The chef is God. God says you’ll really like what He’s making, but He doesn’t tell you exactly what it is, nor does He show you a picture of it. He just says you need to follow His instructions as He walks you through the recipe. He doesn’t show you the recipe, so you have no idea how complicated it is or what God will have you do next. This is how God wants it. He doesn’t want you trying to anticipate His next move, He wants you to focus on doing what He’s telling you to do right now. Stir this. Add that. Pour this into that. Measure out a cup of this. God doesn’t explain the importance of each step to you. He doesn’t say why you have to beat the egg before you add the flour. He doesn’t say why you must only pour in half the milk now and set the rest aside for later. He just gives you specific instructions that often seem nonsensical to you and He wants you to trust that He knows what He’s doing and obey.
So what’s the point? Why does God insist on keeping us in the dark so much? It’s about crafting the right relationship dynamic. He’s God Almighty, not your peer. This isn’t a relationship in which both parties are of equal rank. This is a dot of a creature learning to bond with the One who sustains all things. God demands a whole lot of submission and trust from you. He is the Leader. He is the Alpha. He is the King. It takes us a humans quite a while to get comfortable learning how to live under God’s domination. Yet if we stick with His program, we discover that being fully dominated by God is actually what we were designed to love. Once you get through the pride grinding period, you end up in a place where it’s simply fabulous being the one without any power in the relationship. It’s hard to picture how this works, because in human relationships, a major imbalance of power always leads to misery. But with God, it’s quite the opposite. With God, our soul joy and satisfaction is greatly increased through deeper submission.
A screwdriver thrives in the role of screwing in screws, but it makes a very mediocre hammer. Everything God creates was designed for a specific purpose. When that purpose is embraced, the thing thrives. When some other purpose is embraced, the result is a clunky, subpar performance. We humans were designed for the purpose of serving and pleasing God. We were designed to love Him, know Him, and interact with Him within the context of total submission, deep reverence, absolute trust, and a celebration of our total dependency on Him. The closer we get to doing what we were designed to do, the happier we are. But here is where we need to realize that this earth is merely a preparation period for the rest of our lives with God. So if we’re miserable today, does that mean our submission is lacking? No. It means we’re still working our way through one step in a multi-step process.
You can’t assess your standing with God by examining your current health, wealth and happiness. God brings blessings and trials into the lives of both the obedient and the rebellious. He uses both pleasant and painful methods to spank His brats and mature the souls that are pleasing Him. So your circumstances alone will tell you nothing. Instead, you have to stand on some basic principles. God is good and He is for you. He is going to do what is best for your soul in the long-term. When there is some change that He wants you to make, He will make that clear to you. Otherwise, He’s going to keep working with you one step at a time to bring you out to a positive place. Your journey will not be an exact clone of anyone else’s. What matters is that you get the most out of the difficulties that God puts you through and that is a simple matter of asking Him to have His total way in your life. When we hold back with God, we end up going through trials without any gain. When we put it all on the line, He guarantees that He will bring us out into a wonderful place. It’s going to take some time, and there will be some misery involved. But in the end, we will conclude that He was more than worth it.
Assessing God’s Pleasure with You: Three Useless Tests
What it Means to be Aligned with God