Most people who adhere to the Prosperity Gospel (and some who are genuine, evangelical Christians who are sadly misguided in biblical interpretation) quote this famous coffee-cup bible verse to justify their pursuit of temporal abundance and success:
”For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) [ESV]
First of all to clear the air and rectify any misunderstanding, Yes, I believe that God wants us to be filled with Joy. Christianity is not Masochism. I believe that God desires his people to be satisfied and to ‘live life and life to the full’ (John 10:10). God has wired us to be pleasure seekers, to want to have fun and enjoy the life that we live. I think too many of us assume that God is a joy-stealer, a being who demands our fullest attention, at the expense of our enjoyment and delight. This is not the God of the Bible. Jesus came so that he might restore in us the original design of mankind to be satisfied in our creator. Paul even prays that we might know the fullness of God’s love for us (Ephesians 3:19).
But the question that we must beg to ask is this: What is the source and basis of our enjoyment and satisfaction?
To assume that the toys and trinkets that we desire in life are the source of fullness and joy, is, I’m afraid, an unbiblical assumption. If one would only sit down and read through the Book of Ecclesiastes, they would find that the author clearly says the treasures of this world is: ‘vanity of vanities, all is vanity’ (Ecclesiates 12:8). The temporal things of this world, whether it may be our own physical health, our financial dispositions, our broken relationships, our failed careers, and the like, are all illusions that ultimately trick the Christian into thinking that, somehow if these things are not the way they want it to be, then either they have done something wrong to displease God, or they are somehow lacking faith.
One only needs to look to the plethora of scriptures to understand that joy is founded in Jesus Christ and Him alone.
I am going to try to contextualise the verse which was mentioned in the beginning. In the text, The Lord was referring to the eventual deliverance of the People of Israel from Assyrian and Babylonian Captivity. In his mercy and grace, God was giving hope to a people who felt like God had abandoned them to the tyranny of a foreign nation. God was promising His people that He would bring them back from exile and restore the nation of Israel, one with future and hope. Rather than ignorantly taking this passage out of context and trying to believe that God is a means to an end of becoming prosperous in this present day and age, I believe that there is a better application of this passage in light of the context.
Yes, I acknowledge and sympathise fully that Life is difficult. Life is hard and arduous. We struggle with sin and brokenness in our flesh. We might be poor in material wealth and riches. We are, as Paul puts it, afflicted, perplexed, persecuted and struck down. (2 Cor. 4:8-9). But, just as God gave hope to his people that He would restore Jerusalem to its former glory, We can look to Jesus, who is coming back soon, and with his second coming, He will restore the New Jerusalem, where He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be any mourning nor crying, nor pain in this moment, for the former things would have passed away (Rev. 21:4)
So, if you are a Jesus believer, who knows were I am coming from, then Keep running the race. He is so worth it.
And those who may have trouble coming to grips with the falsity of the Prosperity Gospel, please. Look to Jesus. He is coming back for his Bride, and yes, he has plans to prosper us and not to harm us, he has a plan to give us a future and hope. But not in this life, nor this age, but in the age to come, when the King of Glory will restore all things to himself. We, as Christians, put our hope, not in physical health, material wealth, restoration of relationships etc, but in Christ.
Because He is enough. And He is coming back.
Soli Deo Gloria.