Faith–a beautiful and challenging act of complete trust and confidence. It is a choice that grows stronger the more we decide to choose that mindset. The human psyche is phenomenal in that sense. The more we fuel faith, the more natural it becomes until it is practically second nature. However, this nature of faith is easily manipulated by humanity (ourselves included) if we also do not fuel a spirit of discernment. You see this manipulation in boisterous political leaders, passionate religious speakers, and founders of cult and religious movements of all sorts. Sadly, Christianity is not short on pastors and movements embracing distorted truths on matters of faith.
I contend that one of the most dangerous threats to the true Gospel of Christ is the Word-of-Faith/Prosperity Gospel/Faith-Healing movements. And it is this face that most of the world knows Christianity by. To be clear, there is power in prayer and communion with the Creator. And God does reveal Himself powerfully through healing and meditating on His words, but historically the Church has never taught the naming and claiming attitude and lavish lifestyles of these “faith” movements. Having much of its roots in the New Thought metaphysics movement, (See Phineas Pankhurst Quimby, Mary Baker Eddy, Essek Kenyon, Kenneth Hagen) these humanistic systems wrapped themselves in christian thought and birthed a distorted christianity that elevates self power and self actualization over humility and trust in the Creator. In this era of consumerism and self enlightenment, these power-of-faith movements have taken a strong foothold in the minds of many believers and mainstream churches. The power of visualization, calling things into existence, positive thinking, the promise of material prosperity, “activating” your faith for success – they are all enticing techniques born of scriptural distortions. The same techniques taught in motivational seminars.
When faith is exchanged for these psychological techniques, not only do we open ourselves up to deception by passionate self-proclaimed prophets, we keep ourselves from truly trusting and relinquishing control to God. The list is long of leaders, pastors, and evangelists that have lead people astray and entered in to a Folie a deux with their followers in their pursuit of material prosperity and power.
“Folie a deux” is an idiomatic French expression meaning “craziness of two.” This fascinating syndrome is referred to diagnostically in the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-IV-TR as Shared Psychotic Disorder, one of several types of psychosis.
…And, as such, it demonstrates the dangerous degree to which the human mind is capable of massive self-deception. It proves the awesome power of psychology.
…A concrete illustration of this dynamic can be seen in cults of various kinds, in which passive followers fanatically internalize the charismatic leader’s grandiose and paranoid delusions.] – Stephen A. Diamond, Ph.D “Essential Secrets of Psychotherapy: Truth, Lies and Self-Deception” – Psychology Today
What has emerged are generations of good-intentioned, sincere believers, and preachers that have known nothing else but these teachings on faith. Thus this distorted message with pieces of truth flourishes – leaving fallen, guilt-ridden, and spiritually abused people in its wake.
-Losing a family member to cancer or sickness is not a sign of a weak faith.
-Material prosperity is not proof of God’s blessing.
-Poverty is not proof of sin or losing God’s favor.
-We are not promised more money by sowing “seed” money.
-Not experiencing a dramatic “second baptism” of speaking in tongues and being slain in the Spirit is not a sign of a lack of faith.
-Failing to get the house we want, or car, or job isn’t proof of our failure to believe hard enough.
Our goal as the Church is not to learn powers of positive visualization or the keys to become successful.
As N.T. Wright notes in his book, Simply Christian,
“In particular, it would deny the very purpose for which the church was called into being. According to the early Christians, the church doesn’t exist in order to provide a place where people can pursue their private spiritual agendas and develop their own spiritual potential.”
Our true purpose is proclaiming to the world that through the Christ, the Creator has revealed Himself as the God of all and we no longer are separated from Him. The new Kingdom is here and God is in the process of restoring all of creation (Acts 3:20-21) to Himself. We must have faith that He is faithful to complete what He has started.
In the moments of uncertainty. In the mind of the refugee. In the life of a successful business person. In the areas of the world where certain religious beliefs bring death. In a new marriage. In a disintegrating marriage. In cancer ridden bodies. With the orphan. The hungry….
Faith in God’s goodness.
Faith in God’s power.
Faith in God’s faithfulness.
Christ said “I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” -John 14:20
What a mystery! Dwell in the Christ. You aren’t secretly missing out by not activating your superpowers, chasing the newest “anointing,” or calling your desires in to being.
“God, Your will be done” is not a weak prayer as many teach.
There is unfathomable power and mystery in this boldest of prayers, for in it we are continually relinquishing control to the One from whom all existence flows.
It is a bold act of trust and confidence.
There is no weakness there.