Jesus’words don’t lead to Aso Rock but to the cross.
If you cook a prophet his favourite meal and he prays for you, what kind of prayer is he likely to pray? He might pray that God should give you the desires of your heart. He might pray that God should prosper your business. He might pray that God should heal you of your infirmities. He might pray that God should give you your own husband; your own wife; or your own children.
But what if you were to ask Jesus to pray for you? That might be a little dicey. Jesus just might ask God to kill you. He might say: “Father, please let Lazarus die of his sickness.” He might say: “Father, let Peter be crucified.” He might say: “Father, let the rich young ruler lose all his wealth.” Would you say “amen” to any of this if it applied to you?
Are Jesus’ words shameful? If they were not, today’s preachers would not avoid them like the plague. Jesus told one man if he followed him he would have to live under the bridge. He told another man to sell all he has and give the proceeds to the poor. He told others to hate their husbands, wives and parents. These unpleasant requirements don’t recommend Jesus’ discipleship.
Why would Christians follow a “rock of offence” like Jesus? Why would we choose to live in a house built with stones experienced builders like Julius Berger rejected. Why follow a Jesus the world hates? Why believe in a saviour who refuses to save his own life?
Because Jesus’ words are inconvenient, the prosperity messages preached in today’s churches cannot be his words. Jesus’ words lead to defeat and death. His words spell trials and tribulations. His words don’t lead to Aso Rock but to the cross.
Jesus makes the strangest of promises. How is this for a promise? Jesus says: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). This makes tribulation a promise of God to believers.
Many can only identify the work of God when it affects our stomach or wallet. God is at work when someone gives us money. He is at work when someone gives us food. But is God at work when there is an earthquake? Is he at work when there is a flood? Can we see God even when we are in the fire? Can we see him if Lazarus dies?
Jesus does not say: “Blessed are you when men shall give you money. Shout and leap for joy, for great is your reward on earth.” Those are the words of men and not the words of God. However, such words of men are preferred and parlayed in the churches of today, ensuring that many Christians end up frustrated with shipwrecked faith when these vain promises fail to come to pass.
Christianity has become akin to playing the lottery. The few winners preach a gospel of their testimonies. But for every man who wins, there are thousands who lose their shirts and whose hopes are dashed. Nevertheless, the Christian lottery continues as a very lucrative business, raking in lots and lots of money for crafty pastors and televangelists. Hope in the Christian lottery disappoints. But hope in Christ never disappoints. A true believer might be a loser in the world. But he can never lose in the kingdom of God.
If we are in Christ but don’t feel blessed, we only have ourselves to blame. It can only mean we are looking for so-called blessings God did not promise. The expectations of the righteous are never cut off. (Proverbs 23:18). Some who say they are blessed talk of things that have nothing to do with the Lord. They often talk about wealth and riches. However, the blessings of the Lord are not riches. But the blessing of the Lord make rich. (Proverbs 10:22).
Jesus says blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6). Had we hungered and thirsted after righteousness, we would have been fulfilled by the blessings of goodness. But when we hunger and thirst after other things, we have ourselves to blame if we feel empty afterwards. Jesus says blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8). But some can only see what the devil is doing.
The gospel of the kingdom is bad news to the rich but good news to the poor. Even to the poor, it holds no promise of immediate alleviation of poverty. What it provides is peace in the midst of tribulation. That is kingdom dynamics.
Peter disliked the gospel. It was not what he bargained for when he decided to follow Jesus. Jesus seemed a good bet for a life of luxury. A disciple of the “bread of life” can be sure of getting three square meals a day. But even though Jesus used five loaves and two fishes to feed over 5,000 people; nevertheless his disciples were sometimes so hungry they had to pluck the ears of corn in the fields to eat.
Jesus’ disciples had great expectations. The Zebedee brothers saw him as a great statesman who would soon take over the government. They quickly recruited their Mama to lobby for choice positions in advance. But Jesus disappointed them by pointing out that there would be no ministers in his government; only servants and house-helps. Instead of being celebrated and extolled, Jesus warned them that persecution was what he had in store for them.
Peter soon became discouraged. Why could Jesus not stick to the bread-and-butter prosperity messages? He took the Lord aside and told him to preach another gospel. “Lord Jesus, why don’t you preach about showers of blessing or about breakthroughs? Why do you keep talking about the cross and dying?”
But Jesus rebuked him sharply. He said to him: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23). Jesus said, in effect, prosperity messages are demonic. They elevate the desires of men over those of God. Prosperity preachers insist on man’s will. They do not want God’s will to be done.
Hatred of Life
Jesus told his disciples whoever desires to go to the Father must deny himself, take up his cross and follow his example of laying down his life. Then he dropped the bombshell: “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (Luke 17:33).
We are back to radical Jeremiah here. Jeremiah prophesied that those who try to save their lives from the king of Babylon would die. But those who agreed to serve him would live. (Jeremiah 27:12-13). Salvation must come from agreeing to lose. It must be based on total submission to the will of God.
The conclusion here is inescapable. The believer is not called to enjoy life but to hate life. (John 12:25). We are called to endure suffering and persecutions for Christ’s sake. We are called to die to self that we might live for God.