If we grossly underestimate our God-given talents and abilities, then it’s unlikely that we will fulfill our potential.
If we grossly underestimate God’s power and love, then it’s unlikely that we will pray much, expect much, or do much for the Lord.
In chapter 1 of “Your Best Life Now,” Joel Osteen latches on to these two truths and then twists them so far that they become falsehoods.
He begins with a story about a modestly successful man who saw a large mansion while vacationing in Hawaii and said to himself, “I’ll never live in a great place like that.” Osteen comments:
“As long as you can’t imagine it, as long as you can’t see it, then it is not going to happen for you. The man correctly realized that his own thoughts and attitudes were condemning him to mediocrity. He determined then and there to start believing better of himself, and believing better of God.” (p. 3)
Do you see the grains of truth in there? The need to fairly evaluate one’s talents and abilities and the need to believe in the goodness and power of God?
But from these truths, Osteen makes the massive leap to “Imagine whatever you want about yourself or God and it will happen.” He calls us to “enlarge our vision” of self and of God:
“See your business taking off. See your marriage restored. See your family prospering. See your dreams coming to pass. You must conceive it and believe it is possible if you ever hope to experience it. To conceive it, you must have an image on the inside of the life you want to live on the outside. This image has to become a part of you, in your thoughts, your conversation, deep down in your subconscious mind, in your actions, in every part of your being.” (p. 4)
You don’t need to read much of Osteen to identify this recurring habit of starting with a truth – which builds our confidence – before sliding off into a falsehood
Look at some of his true-then-false statements
“What you keep before your eyes will affect you. You will produce what you’re continually seeing in your mind.” (p. 5)
True: “What you keep before your eyes will affect you.” (True because Jesus taught that the light of the body is the eye and what we let in the eye-gate will determine if we are full of light or full of darkness)
False: “You will produce what you’re continually seeing in your mind.” (False because no matter how much I imagine myself looking like Mr. Universe I cannot produce even a two-pack never mind a six-pack).
“But God wants us to constantly be increasing, to be rising to new heights. He wants to increase you in His wisdom and help you to make better decisions. God wants to increase you financially, by giving you promotions, fresh ideas, and creativity.” (p. 5)
True: “God wants us to constantly be increasing, to be rising to new heights.” (True because God calls us to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ).
False: “He wants to increase you in His wisdom and help you to make better decisions. God wants to increase you financially, by giving you promotions, fresh ideas, and creativity.” (False because nowhere are we told that God wants us to be richer, more successful, and more innovative).
“You must stop dwelling on negative, destructive thoughts that keep you in a rut. Your life is not going to change until you first change your thinking.” (p. 7)
True: “You must stop dwelling on negative, destructive thoughts that keep you in a rut.” (Obviously true and consistent with Philippians 4:8. Although as we saw yesterday, some negativity is good for us.)
False: “Your life is not going to change until you first change your thinking.” (False because, thankfully, God often mercifully changes our lives before we change our thinking).
First, false teachers never ever teach 100% falsehood. There’s always just enough truth in their message to deceive a sufficient number of people. And, sadly, many people seem to be of the view that if there’s any truth in a message, it’s worth hearing.
Second, throughout these pages we look in vain for anyone asking God, “What do you want for me?” or “What’s your vision for my life?” God knows far better than I do what’s best for me and I’d much rather leave the envisioning to Him.
Third, even if my view of God is less than it should be, and it is, my Bible reassures me that God is not limited by my vision. He does exceedingly abundantly above what we ask or think (Eph. 3:20).
Fourth, the worldliness of it all is appalling. The beatitudes speak of hungering and thirsting after righteousness. In this chapter, all Osteen seems concerned with is hungering and thirsting after money, houses, Miss America crowns (though not for himself), and other secular promotions.
If we want to enlarge our vision, how about “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” God blesses holy hearts with the largest and most satisfying vision of all.
Finally, where does “You shall not covet” fit into all this? Osteen says:
“You need to make a decision that you are not going to live an average, mediocre life.” (p. 8)
What happened to contentment (Heb. 13:5)? What’s so bad about an average, middle-of-the-road kind of life if it’s the life God wants us to live? There are lots of average Christians earning average salaries with average families. They are not to be despised, but encouraged, prayed for, and even admired as they serve God faithfully in their ordinary everyday obscurity.