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Previous Message From Virtual Church

The Health and Wealth Cancer

There is an image people have of a shepherd in a quiet place looking out over his flock of sheep. The setting is serene and tranquil.

The reality of a shepherd’s life is dramatically different from the tranquil setting most people have in their minds. The reality is that a shepherd is out in the wind, rain, snow, freezing cold and blistering heat. The reality is that sheep get themselves caught in stickers, in mud, in water that traps them and from which they cannot escape, and numerous other scrapes over which they have no control. Sheep are totally defenseless and have no way of protecting themselves, so it is the job of the shepherd to fight off predators. When a young lamb is attacked, the ewe (or mother), has no way of protecting the lamb. In Jesus' time, the shepherd carried a rod or club to fight off wolves and other predators. Shepherds also carried a staff to pull sheep out of dangerous places. Today, predators want to devour your spiritual life. These predators want to rob you of the love of God. In this essay, we expose one of the most dangerous predators you face.

In The Garden Of Gethsemane

The garden of Gethsemane is filled with Olive Trees. This is why it is called the Mount of Olives. Today, as it was in Jesus time, you will find wild flowers growing there. It is much today like it was 2000 years ago. The trees in the garden today are descendants of the trees that grew there when Jesus went to the garden to pray after the Last Supper.

Mark 14:32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch." 35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36"Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." (Father, not my will, but thine be done.) 37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." 39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. 41 Returning the third time, he said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!" (NIV)

Luke 22:39Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." 41He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (NIV)

Present Day Realities

Employers, whether they are non-profit agencies or for profit companies face a common difficulty with employees in today's workplace. The problem is not in finding people who know how to do their job. The biggest problem today is with people who do not know how to handle themselves or how to handle their life. On our jobs, or in our vocations, we are supposed to be responsible. In some professions people are not only responsible for their own lives…they are also responsible for the lives of others. However, people who are not responsible do not put their lives before the lives of others.

Irresponsibility

Men and women who are not responsible will drink on the job because they are thirsty for a drink of alcohol. These persons have their needs and their wants, so caring not for others, they drink. Men and women who are not responsible do not show up on time or are late for work. These persons have no regard or concern for the investment of time, money, and effort by the management of the company or agency. Irresponsible employees have no regard or concern for the people who are paying their wages. The only concern irresponsible men and women have is for themselves and what they think they want and need.

People who are not responsible persons ignore situations that need attention, and sometimes openly ignore people who need attention.

A Growing Cancer

There is today a cancer growing in the body of the church that is making Christian and non-Christian people irresponsible. This cancer is called health and wealth theology. This cancer in the faith threatens your spiritual life. This cancer is also eroding the moral character of our nation and our world.

What Health And Wealth Theology Tries To Do

This theology tries to focus your attention away from the requirements and sweat required by your godly employer in heaven. This theology tries to focus your attention away from the lives and struggles of others. This theology tries to focus your attention in areas that do not deal with the time, investment, and sacrifice by Christ. This theology tries focus your attention upon yourself at the expense of the other persons in your world.

Here Is The Danger

Any theology that tells you directly or indirectly, by omission or commission, that you are so important that you come before others is heresy. Any theology that tells you directly or indirectly by commission or omission that you can care about yourself first, before you care about others is contrary to the teachings of Christ. Any teaching that tells you directly or indirectly by omission or commission that you can put your own wants before the wants of others is anti-God.

This theology is the health and wealth theology. The health and wealth theology cancer is like a cancer. The health and wealth theology is sneaky, underhanded, and devious.

What You Are Told And Not Told

Note the devious nature of this cancerous teaching. This theology does not tell you to ignore others it just does not tell you to put others first. This theology does not tell you to ignore God’s requirements of sacrifice and perseverance that God demands of His servants, the teaching just does not tell you that you have to sweat and sacrifice as a servant. This theology does not tell you to ignore others; it just does not tell you to put others’ lives and their struggles before your own. This theology does not tell you to meditate and pray about the investment and sacrifice of Christ, it just does not remind you to put these things first in your heart. This theology does not tell you to ignore others around you. Instead, you are encouraged to focus only upon yourself.

Our Downfall

Our downfall as Christians, in the eyes of God, comes not so much when we come up short in serving others. Our downfall comes when we forget others because we are focusing only on what we want and need for ourselves. Being responsible in the faith is just as mandatory as being responsible on our job, in our family life, or anywhere else our journey through life outside of our faith takes us.

The Root Of Fear, Frustration, Anxiety, And Dependence

Our fears, our anxieties, our frustrations, our weaknesses and our dependencies inside and outside our faith all come from putting ourselves first. This statement is so important it that is repeated here. Our fears, our anxieties, our frustrations, our weaknesses and our dependencies inside and outside our faith all come from putting ourselves first.

Stated another way, putting yourself first causes you to experience fear, anxiety, frustration, weakness, and/or dependence. Taking care of number one is a survival instinct. It is natural. Fear is natural, normal and God put fear in us to serve as a survival mechanism. As a Christian, we are supposed to act in spite of our fear. Acting in spite of our fear is called courage. After the Last Supper, we find Jesus alone in the garden. His fear and anxiety are so great the fear and anxiety caused Him to perspire or sweat blood. Jesus' words represent our own battles. Jesus said, "Not my will, but thine be done". All of us are torn (or should be torn) between doing our will and doing the will of our Father in heaven. Our natural fear tears us away from God. This natural fear of what was ahead of Christ is why Jesus was praying. Jesus wanted to be near His father in Heaven. In His humanity, Jesus did not want to go to the Cross. This is what is meant by Jesus statement "Not my will, but thine be done". An angel did not come to take away the Lord's fear but to strengthen Him.

Even when Jesus spoke the words ""Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you." Even these words (which are so popular with the deceivers in health and wealth theology) spoken by Jesus, did not rescue Jesus from the Cross.

Health and wealth theology sounds great, it tastes great, and it looks great. The health and wealth people will tell you "everything is possible with God" and the implication is you can have it. Whatever you want, it will be easy, fun, quick, free, new and improved. You can have the very latest…

Health and wealth theology sells books that people want to read. It keeps them buying more books and it keeps the pews full of people who give money because they want to hear more about being healthy and wealthy. This theology gets higher television ratings because people want to hear this kind of message. This teaching has seeped into every part of the Christian faith in the civilized world.

What Health And Wealth Theology Will Tell You

Health and wealth theology will tell you that you can have what you want. However, there is a problem in having what you want. No responsible parent is going to tell a child you can always have what you want. As a child of God, and as a member of the Lord's flock, you should not be told you can have what you want in Jesus name. The focus of your faith must never be on what you can get but upon what you can give.

What We Should Tell Our Children And What You Should Be Told

These truths are what we should tell our children: You will not always get what you want and need in life so get used to it. Not getting what you want is a part of life. Learn to live without. When you learn to live without you learn to really live and appreciate all God has to offer.

These truths are what we should say to our children to enable them to live a happy and abundant life. We should say these things because they are true. It is the height of immature and immoral behavior to tell people if you want it you can name it and claim it in the name of Jesus. This kind of candy is being put into the mouths of Christian believers because this is what believers want to hear.

The End Result

The result in the believer is no courage, no backbone, no servanthood to others or Christ, no humility, no contrition, no love for others, and no real cleansing love from Christ. In our faith, we are to be responsible for the people around us. Health and wealth theology ends up making people afraid, fearful, and even terrified because health and wealth focuses our attention not upon others but upon ourselves. We cannot have all the health and wealth we want in life, but Christ’s love is enough to get us through. Health and wealth theology is like telling a football player or a basketball player you never have to practice, you never have to work, you never have to sweat. All you have to do is show up on the day of the game and you can be a star.

Health And Wealth Destroys Courage

We are plagued with fear about all kinds of things because we naturally put ourselves first. Our survival instinct puts us first. It was Christ' own survival instinct that caused Him so much distress in the hours before going to the Cross. However, Christ sacrificed His life for us anyway. When the early church followed Christ's example the members were attacked and persecuted. People have sacrificed lives and fortunes for the last 2000 years to follow Christ. As Christians, we have a choice or choices about who we put first. We can choose to put Christ first, and then others first before ourselves. Putting Christ first means that our wants and needs are small in comparison to what Christ wants for our lives. If we truly stand in the shadow of the Cross, then our wants, our needs, our desires, and our pleasures do not exist anymore.

What We Do Not Want To Hear

When we put Christ first, we put our self in His hands. When we put all of our life in His hands, we essentially do not exist any more. People today do not want to hear, "NO PAIN, NO GAIN" when it comes to their life or their faith. People do not want to hear that you have to sweat and work out in life and in the Christian faith. People do not want to hear that you cannot have anything you want in the name of Jesus. People do not want to hear that faith is sometimes weak. People do not want to hear that even Jesus sweat blood in the garden before the Roman soldiers came to take him to be flogged, beaten, and crucified.

What We Want To Hear

In our health and wealth world, we want to be told you can have it all…you deserve it all…go ahead and take it all. We want to hear that it is quick…it is simple…it is easy…it is fun and profitable. People want to hear that you don’t have to wait…you don’t have to hold back…you don’t have to sweat…you don't have to work hard…if you need it, charge it…don’t wait till you really have the money…you can have it all now….charge it.

This is advertising hype. The pervasive cancer of health and wealth theology has taken a few Bible verses to go with the hype. Brothers and sisters in the faith have come to believe the hype and have applied it to their lives and faith. Health and wealth theology has taken Bible truth and twisted this truth into meaning, "All you have to do is believe", or "Believe in the name of Jesus and you can have what you want, you can be healed, all your problems will go away, you will have money come to you, you will be prosperous."

We must all be careful about being drawn into this kind of thinking. None of us is immune because we live in this kind of health and wealth world.

Col. David Hackwork in a recent article noted that the selfish health and wealth idea that says you do not really have to sweat and put out has even infected our military. In the military today, the drill instructor is no longer the drill instructor. Now the D.I. is a counselor, a therapist, and an understanding father figure. The D.I. permits, in a permissive atmosphere, whining, complaining, and the making of excuses. All of this has accumulated to the detriment of the physical lives of the recruits who will not know how to sacrifice as is required in battle. Not only have the lives of these recruits been put in jeopardy but your life, your national and personal security has also been compromised. The "Whatever you want you can have" idea has seeped into college athletics. It is common today to see college athletes talk back to the coach. The health and wealth theology has seeped into our faith, taken a handful of verses out of the Bible, and is eating away at us like a cancer.

In the faith, in our society, and in the world, everything may look good on the outside. However, the cancer cells are spreading like wild fire on the inside. Everything can look healthy on the outside but a horrible disease has overtaken the body of Christ and a cleansing awaits the Body.

The Easy Way Leads To Fear

When we want the easy way, the result is fear. Fear is natural. Fear is real. Courage is the ability of a human being to act even though afraid. Courage is the ability to stare fear in the face and act even if we are terrified of what is in front of us. Courage is lacking in the faith today. Fear or anxiety to our health and wealth believers is something that must be eradicated. To health and wealth believers, courage is not necessary because if you name it and claim it, all your fear will be gone. This is false doctrine. According to this doctrine, the only reason Jesus was so overcome with distress in the Garden was because He did not name it and claim it. We want to hear that there is an easy way to make the fear go away. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to facing fear. There is no easy way of evaporating our anxieties and doubts. The hard way, the only way, of making our fear go away is to have courage during the battle and to face that which terrifies us. The early martyrs must surely have been afraid but they believed that their bodies were only transitory houses in which their eternal souls resided. To find the courage they needed and we need, they did and we must always go to the Cross.

John 19:25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," 27and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. 28Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." 29A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. 30When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (NIV)

At the Cross, we find courage and we find our problems melt away because when we join the three Mary's, we lose our selves. When we lose our selves, we have no need for health or wealth, except that which He needs for us so we can do His splendid will.

 

 

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Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (RSV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Copyright © 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Shepherd's Care Ministries author and webmaster, Rev. Patrick Kelly, is affiliated through ministerial ordination with Church of God Ministries, Anderson IN 46018