Reading the first chapter of 1 Thessalonians today, I noticed this verse: “You suffered much, but still you accepted the teaching with the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6). I suppose it jumped out at me because for a while lately, I’ve realised I haven’t felt as close to God. It’s not that I’ve stopped believing in Him or been particularly venomously angry with Him. It’s been more a sadness really. When you see friends or family going through trials, sometimes you feel disillusioned and you can think so much about the problems, but not enough about the difference God makes.
This post I wrote for Alex is one example of the difference God’s made in my life, just this year. When I went up Table Mountain in Cape Town, I prayed the night before about which guide I’d have on the day. It’s really important to pray in faith about the little things, as well as the big things. I really believe God will help you if you involve Him in your life and your plans, but conversely, if you don’t involve Him so much, it can have a negative effect. When I’m not as zealous in my heart about the difference God can make, I don’t cope as well with situations. Like Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing”.
I went out last night to hear some Christian songwriters share their stories and perform some of their music. One thing somebody said was: “We can change, but God never changes” – so true. We might feel great; and six months later we might not feel so good, but God stays the same. We were encouraged to remember what we’d already come through, and that’s what I want to do.
I want to be like those Thessalonians. When suffering comes my way, or my friends’ or family’s way, I still want the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit. I want to remember the difference God’s made to me and keep close to Him. That’s my prayer. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).
A friend on Facebook pointed me to this video. I had too much to say to just write a comment, so thought I’d blog about it instead. It’s an interview with 82-year-old Kenneth Copeland. I knew of him because he got involved with a project I used to support. He’s what Christians call a ‘Prosperity preacher’. I’ve come across so much criticism of the prosperity gospel and because I’m far from a millionaire myself, I also couldn’t see how it fitted in with Christianity.
One of the journalist’s main points seemed to be the question of why Kenneth Copeland’s ministry had private jets and he wouldn’t fly commercially. He spoke about the atmosphere on commercial flights and about alcohol. Was that the best place to be, he said, when you were about to preach to thousands? I certainly don’t believe the majority of people on a plane are drunk, but I do agree that alcohol can have a stronghold in people’s lives which is demonic. I’ve seen how it’s negatively affected people I know, and I’m sure they would live happier lives without it. If you want peace and quiet on a flight, you could put a pair of earplugs in and close your eyes; but if you can afford a private plane, and it leaves you feeling more comfortable and refreshed when you get to your destination, what’s wrong with that? He said in the interview that other ministries use the planes, not just his own, and that’s what God asks of people who are rich in this world – to be generous and willing to share. As far as I can see, he isn’t doing anything unbiblical. In fact, when he quoted the Bible, I thought he got his points across fairly well. I had never thought of Galatians 3:29 as a verse that connected Abraham’s wealth with us as Christians.
I don’t like the way he treated the journalist though. I found it annoying and quite sleazy. ‘Sweetheart’? ‘Babe’? ‘I love your eyes’? Straight onto first-name terms, and launching into prayer without asking whether she was comfortable with that? She came over as by far the most respectful of the two of them, which is very sad. I hope his wife’s had words with him about it, but are any of us flawless? Perhaps the interview helped her, as it helped me, come to a better understanding of the Biblical basis for the prosperity gospel. As I said, I’m far from a millionaire; but then, as far as I know, I haven’t been instrumental in one hundred million people coming to faith in Jesus. Maybe this is his reward for devoting his life to the cause of Christ. Jesus does talk about rewards now and in the age to come.
I may not be in a hurry to donate to Kenneth Copeland’s ministry, but shouldn’t respect and tolerance be within the church, as well as for those who aren’t church-members?