We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all who know joy in Christ said AMEN
“In the short, 37-second clip that has gone viral and led to intense criticism in recent days, Victoria Osteen, who co-pastors Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, along with her husband, Joel, is seen telling congregants that, when people obey the Lord and go to church, they’re not necessarily “doing it for God.”
“I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God we’re not doing it for God — I mean that’s one way to look at it,” she said from the pulpit. “We’re doing it for yourself, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy. That’s the thing that gives him the greatest joy this morning … just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy.”
She added, “When you come to church when you worship him, you’re not doing it for God, really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy.” (1)
Steve Camp, pastor of the Cross Church in Palm City, Florida, who said that Osteen ”honestly believes that God exists to make us happy rather than holy.” 1
OK, in a sense, are we necessarily going to worship to make God happy? No, God is entirely complete, within Himself. Nothing we are going to do, nothing we could do is going to change God’s mood, as it were. God is going to act according to His holiness, to His plan, to what He would do according to His sovereignty and not according to some kind of sentimentality or fuzzy emotional out burst. Frankly that is just a straight out pagan idea that Mrs Osteen is propounding. Human emotions constantly change, it is never a good idea to make decisions based on your emotional state, many people have. Thinking they are in love, when they’re really in lust. Thinking they’re being smart, when they’re just angry and want to strike back out of revenge. Thinking they’re being shrewd, when they’re just being greedy.
There are days when I would not describe myself as happy, but there is a joy I feel. If I just went back and forth with every emotion, every up and down, as most people do today, after awhile I would be a wreck and that’s what you find with most people today. “Well I’m not happy today, why aren’t I happy, what will it take for me to be happy.” That’s a prescription to drive you even further into unhappiness, even depression. Yet that’s where our society is, take a pill and you will be happy. Sorry, but neither Victoria or Joel Osteen have any real understanding of what “joy” is. Paul is writing from a Roman prison, on the face of it, by the standards of today’s society, Paul has no reason to be “happy”. Being in a Roman jail is not a pleasant experience, it is downright unpleasant. But Paul knows who he lives for, not for his “happiness” but as he says “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Our “happiness” is not in this life. Sure we will have happy times, studies show that devoted Christian believers have a much higher quality of life. Dr Harold Koenig, a medical doctor, Director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at the Duke University Medical Center writes: “…what does the research say about Jesus’ statement that His coming would give us a fuller, more abundant life? … YES! Indeed, those who are more actively involved in a Christian life experience greater life satisfaction, more happiness and greater well-being than those who are less actively involved. This is also true for other constructs such as optimism, hope, meaning and purpose, gratefulness and numerous positive emotions and virtuous traits. That fullness of life also goes beyond mental health to include relational health and possibly even physical heath…”2 Dr Koenig goes on to point out that he bases his statement on 326 separate studies, mostly involving Christians that over and over show the same results.
Our meaning in life is not about us, it is how we are sons and daughters of the Lord. It is about how we are part of the Body of Christ. God has given us the faith to trust in Him, in His plan, not in our expectations, not in what we see in the world around us, but in what God is doing in us.
Paul is in a Roman prison. For the regular old person in the world, what would they be doing in a Roman prison? For that matter, what would a Joel Osteen type be doing in prison? “Hey this isn’t the deal, this isn’t what it’s about. I’m supposed to have the big house on the shore in Caeserea, bunch of servants waiting on me hand and foot, the newest shiniest chariot with the biggest fastest horses.” What is Paul camped on? “…so that it has become known through the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.” Soldiers may not like this odd-ball Paul, but for those who deal with life and death, who aren’t getting big money, they do respect integrity and honesty. Soldiers lives depend on what those around them do or don’t do. If you have to fight for your life next to a guy who is kind of flakey, has nothing going for him except that he is or isn’t happy-clappy, a soldier will be concerned. In Paul they see someone who has integrity and bravery. Paul is faithfully and with joy, under difficult circumstances, has thoughtful and genuine concern for those around him, witnessing to the soldiers in the Imperial Guard about Jesus. Imperial Guard soldiers would be comparable to U.S. Secret Service today. Imperial Guard were responsible for the safety of the Emperor, his family and the elite of Roman government. These were intelligent, highly trained people who were to be taken seriously. These were men who knew who should be taken seriously and those who were playing. Frankly the Osteens are players, not to be taken seriously. For those who take the Osteens seriously because of the numbers, Chuck Swindoll has something to say: “Large numbers don’t necessarily reveal God’s blessing. They could, in fact, reveal error. They could reflect an ear-tickling ministry that panders to people and tells the crowds what they want to hear. A growing number of churches and denominations today have found the four essentials [teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer] unnecessary, burdensome … Archaic traditions of a bygone era … they have hired … ‘teachers in accordance to their own desires … to affirm them in their selfish and carnal lifestyles. No wonder the crowds expand … it’s as if God has officially approved their sin!”3
Hey those words are from the man, Chuck Swindoll, he goes on to observe something that I’ve said, that these “churches” set people up for failure. When something goes wrong with their lives, it becomes God’s fault, they reject God. For what? They don’t know, but as far as they’re concerned, this God thing doesn’t work either. Swindoll’s observation: “The tragedy is that these empty individuals think they have already tried God … and He has left them just as unfulfilled as the world has. It’s downright tragic.” 4
If I said the things Dr Swindoll has said you might write my comments off as sour grapes, discontent because I don’t have a congregation of thousands. But Chuck Swindoll has started a couple of churches that have gone into the thousands and he knows that numbers don’t always tell the story. That just because there’s a big crowd doesn’t mean what the speaker says is right, in any sense of being right.
There is not a cross, a crucifix, the symbol of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, anywhere in sight in the Osteen’s auditorium. That would deny the worldly happiness they preach, that tickles the ears of the world and gives them big audiences and big bucks.
God wants us to be “happy”? No! We want us to be “happy”, we are our “god” and idol and we want our “god”, us, to be happy. What God wants is maturity, integrity, strength, joy. Happy is la, la, la, skipping along through life. It’s really not living, not life and life more abundant, but is waste, lost chances, missed opportunities for an abundant life. “Joy”, especially as we see Paul living it is “Wow! There’s a whole big world out there, a lot of living to do.” The world tends to watch, let life pass it by. They can’t figure out why they’re always mired in an emotional, spiritual, physical rut. Paul has joy, he certainly hasn’t been sitting around. You don’t hear Paul saying: “Hey, entertain me, make me happy, waw, I worked a whole forty hours last week.” Paul’s been doing on a massive scale, his joy is to see people saved, from physical and spiritual death, to life and life more abundant. Not sitting around in Texas listening to someone who has no clue telling you how great you are and how happy you should be. Yea, PT Barnum was right. Imprisonment made Paul stronger, as he said more bold to speak the word without fear. How can you live that abundant life, how can you put away what the world tells you about ‘happiness’ and find true joy and life in Jesus Christ?
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.