Triviality of Trivialities

According to Joel Osteen, if you have the favor of God, you will:

  • Be given premier parking spaces while everyone else is driving forever in circles.
  • Get your child into your favorite school even if he is four days too young.
  • Escape speeding tickets.
  • Find restaurant tables in crowded restaurants.
  • Get waved into the best traffic lane.
  • Find checkouts opened just for you when all the lines are packed.
  • Get blouses for sale prices before the sale starts.
  • Be bumped up to first class seats on airplanes.

In chapter 5 of Your Best Life Now, Osteen says that having the favor of God means that God will “make your life easier,” by giving you similar “special advantages” and “preferential treatment.”

And how do we get such “favor”? Easy:

“Every morning before you leave the house, say something like this: ‘Father, I thank You that I have Your favor. Your favor is opening doors of opportunity. Your favor is bringing success into my life. Your favor is causing people to want to help me.’”

Like Osteen, I’m all for seeing God in everyday life, recognizing His goodness even in the small things of life, and living the whole of life before God. But, when this is the full extent of Osteen’s examples of God’s favor, I cannot help exclaim, “Triviality of trivialities. All is triviality.” It’s all so small, so shallow, so petty, so paltry, so insignificant, so, well, so trivial. If that’s the extent of God’s favor, it doesn’t say much for God. Indeed it says, “Your God is too small, your God is too trivial.”

I have four questions for Osteen based on what he wrote in chapters five and six:

1. What do you have to say to sufferers? To the rape victim, or the abused child, or the 21-year-old with multiple sclerosis, or the gifted and godly father with ALS, or the mother grieving over her son killed in a road accident?

2. Where’s God’s fatherly chastisement in your scheme? Are we not told that being disciplined by God is a sign of His favor (Heb. 12:6)?

3. What about spiritual favor? Why do you have little or nothing to say about God’s favor being manifested in spiritual graces of regeneration, repentance, faith, patience, contentment, and so on? Are these not worth far more than a cheap blouse or even a first-class seat?

4. Do you really think King David proves your point? You wrote:

“David didn’t focus on his faults or on the things he had done wrong. No, he lived favor-minded. It was David who wrote, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Notice, he was expecting goodness and mercy, not part of the time, but all the days of his life. I like the way The Message translation puts it: “God’s kindness and goodness chases me down everywhere I go.” David’s attitude was, “I just can’t get away from the good things of God!”

I’m tempted to ask if you’ve read Psalm 51? Or anything after 2 Samuel 12v13. If you had, you would realize that David couldn’t get away from the sword of God. As Nathan the prophet said, it never departed from his house. Sure, he was forgiven, but God’s loving chastisement for his sin also followed him for the remaining days of his life. And for all the pain of it, David would say that also was one of the good things of God, one of the proofs of His favor.

This is the sixth post in a series on Joel Osteen’s book, “Your Best Life Now.” Previous posts were A Book That Begins With A LiePositive NegativityYour Average Life Now, The Worst Ever (Mis)Quotation Of The Bible, and My Favorite Joel Osteen Quote.

10 Ways To Hate God

“If we are unconverted, one thing is absolutely certain: we hate God. The Bible is unambiguous at this point. We are God’s enemies. We are inwardly sworn to His ultimate destruction. It is as natural for us to hate God as it is for rain to moisten the earth when it falls.” (R. C. Sproul).

Yes, by nature, you and I are haters. We are born haters and hating (Titus 3:3). Which would be great if it was evil that we hated. But it’s not. It’s the epitome of all good that we hate – God (Roman 8:7). In chapter nine of The Holiness of God, R. C. Sproul wrote:

“By nature our attitude toward God is not one of mere indifference. It is a posture of malice. We oppose His government and refuse His rule over us…It is not enough to say what the natural human mind views God as an enemy. We must be more precise. God is our mortal enemy. He represents the highest possible threat to our sinful desires…We despise his very existence and would do anything in our power to rid the universe of His holy presence…If God were to expose His life to our hands, He would not be safe for a second. We would not ignore Him; we would destroy Him.”

You’d think that such unprecedented intense hatred would be obvious to us, but it’s not. It’s one of the greatest triumphs of the devil that he stirs up this hatred in us, while at the same time blinding us to it. What’s worst of all, is that some of this natural hatred remains even in the Christian who has been given a new and supernatural love for God.

To help both believers and unbelievers better detect and root out this hatred from our hearts, here are ten ways in which we hate God.

1. We Deny Him: We deny his existence, or, like Peter, in certain circumstances we deny we know Him.

2. We Belittle Him: By ignoring Him, sidelining Him, not talking to Him, or not listening to Him.

3. We Contradict Him: We argue with His Word, His works, and His will.

4. We Disobey Him: We just blatantly and knowingly and stubbornly do what He forbids, or don’t do what He commands.

5. We Insult Him: We speak evil of Him, we use His name in curses, or use it in vain and frivolous ways.

6. We Blame Him: We accuse Him of ill-will, unfairness, injustice.

7. We Refuse Him: We refuse His help, His hand, His salvation.

8. We Distort Him: Ignoring God’s love, mercy, grace, salvation, we focus only on God’s holiness, wrath, justice, and sovereignty – or vice versa – and end up with a distortion of God.

9. We Use Him: We expect Him to come to our aid when we’re really desperate, but ignore him all other times.

10. We Take From Him: We just take and take, but without a word of praise or thanks.

Beginning to see a problem? So did the Apostle Paul, which is why he described us as “foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Titus 3:3).

But in the very next verse, Paul also announced the solution, a solution that’s provided by the very same God that we hate.

“But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:4-5).

Yes, there’s a Lover for haters! More than that, this Lover turns haters into lovers!

My Favorite Joel Osteen Quote

“He’s called El Shaddai, the God of more than enough. He’s not El Cheapo, the God of barely enough!” (Joel Osteen)

Pretty good quote isn’t it.

The problem is that like so much of what Joel Osteen writes in Your Best Life Now, it’s followed by a deduction that is totally false. Here’s the fuller quote:

“He’s called El Shaddai, the God of more than enough. He’s not El Cheapo, the God of barely enough! Don’t let anybody convince you that God wants you to barely get by in life.”

So from “the God of more than enough” we suddenly jump to God wants you to have more than enough, that barely getting by in life is not God’s will for you. Quite the personal guarantee, isn’t it!

Breaking The Barriers of the Past
But let’s back up a bit to the beginning of this fourth chapter, “Breaking The Barriers Of The Past,” because the chapter starts with a powerful and persuasive illustration of how mental barriers can hinder progress.

Osteen describes how, for hundreds of years, no one thought running a four-minute-mile was possible. Roger Bannister didn’t accept that thinking, and within ten years of him smashing the four-minute barrier, 336 other runners had done the same. Osteen concludes:

“The barrier to running a four-minute mile was in the athletes’ minds. For all those years, runners believed what the experts were saying. They were convinced that it was impossible to run a mile in less than four minutes.”

Osteen then applies this to our own lives and says:

“You will never go beyond the barriers in your own mind. If you think you can’t do something, then you never will. The battle is in your mind. If you are defeated in your mind, you’ve already lost the battle…The barrier is in your mind.”

Devastating Negativity
We have to admit, there’s a lot of truth in this. If we haven’t experienced the disabling power of negativity ourselves, then we certainly know people who have, and still do. No question, a pattern of negativity and defeatism devastates human potential.

Sometimes we are not entirely to blame for this. As Osteen explains, if we’ve had a terribly critical person in our upbringing, or if we are constantly around such a person, their negative words are going to damage us.

Other times, we are entirely to blame, and we have to take ourselves in hand, rebuke ourselves, and challenge ourselves to think more positively by thinking more truthfully, accurately, and realistically, a pattern we also see in the Psalms (e.g. Pss. 42, 73, 77).

A Necessary Challenge
A large part of the counseling I do with depressed Christians is focused on this particular area; the battle in the mind to break untrue and damaging patterns of thinking and replace them with true and energizing patterns. As Osteen says, we must work not to let our past determine our future:

“You can’t have a victim mentality and expect to live in victory. You can’t live in a perpetual pity party and then wonder why situations aren’t improving in your life…No matter what anybody in your family has or hasn’t done, don’t let that impose limitations on you. Make up your mind that you are going to be the one to set the new standard. Be the one to affect generations to come.”

Osteen’s right to challenge people to take responsibility to change the pattern of their lives, even of their family and of future generations, by refusing to pass down an attitude of failure and defeat to the next generation.

The problem is what he does next, which is promise if we do that, we will definitely see massive change in our lives and in that of future generations. Some examples:

“If you’ll break through the barriers in your mind and start stepping out in faith, you will go beyond those old barriers, and the same thing will happen in your family…Your children, grandchildren, and future generations will continue to race past those barriers.”

“The Bible promises that God will give us ‘a twofold recompense for our former shame’ (Isa. 61:7). That means if you’ll keep the right attitude, God will pay you back double for your trouble. He’ll add up all the injustice, all the hurt and pain that people have caused you, the abuse and embarrassment, and He’ll pay you back with twice as much joy, peace, and happiness. That is God’s desire for you.”

He describes those who are accepting sub-standard marriages, health, jobs, and income and says:

“This is not the lifestyle God intends for you. God wants you to live an overcoming life of victory, He doesn’t want you to barely get by. He’s called El Shaddai, the God of more than enough. He’s not El Cheapo, the God of barely enough! Don’t let anybody convince you that God wants you to barely get by in life.”

Recognize that quote? Doesn’t look quite so good now, does it? God can give us more than enough, and often does. But His promises extend only to sufficiency (2 Cor. 12:9). Osteen then goes from bad to worse:

“Don’t just accept whatever comes your way in life. You were born to win; you were born for greatness; you were created to be a champion in life.”

“Many times, we pray almost as though we are inconveniencing God. We say, ‘God , would You please give me a bit bigger apartment? I don’t want to bother You for too much.’ No, God wants to give you your own house. God has a big dream for your life.”

Ungrounded Promises
As these are merely Joel Osteen’s promises, not God’s, they have no foundation whatsoever. Yes, God calls us to great faith and to expect much in prayer, but there’s nothing in the Bible that warrants us giving others such personal guarantees as:

  • Your children and grandchildren will do even better than you.
  • God does not want you to barely get by in life.
  • You were born to win.
  • You were born for greatness.
  • You were created to be a champion in life.
  • God wants to give you your own house.
  • God will give you twice as much joy, peace, and happiness as pain you have suffered.

Yes, it’s right for a Christian to have a positive, optimistic, hopeful attitude (if it’s based on the character of God and the Word of God). And yes, such an expectant outlook of faith will generally lead to a better life: spiritually, physically, relationally, and even financially. However, we can’t go around guaranteeing ourselves or anyone else that. Every prayer and desire must be prefaced and postscripted with, “Not my will, but your will be done,” or “If it be your will” (not “Because it’s Joel’s will”).

As many Christians can testify (and many have testified), sometimes the best thing that could ever happen for us spiritually is to lose our friends, our finances, our health, and just about everything else too. When we lose everything, but win Christ, God has truly repaid us double and even triple for our losses.

“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yes indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8).

This is the fifth post in a series on Joel Osteen’s book, “Your Best Life Now.” Previous posts were A Book That Begins With A LiePositive NegativityYour Average Life Now, and The Worst Ever (Mis)Quotation Of The Bible.

Check Out

Best Book Deals

Introducing the New Testament: A Short Guide to Its History and Message by D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo ($7.99)

Gospel-Centered Teaching: Showing Christ in All the Scripture by Trevin Wax ($2.99)

Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved by J. D. Greear ($2.99)

Wednesdays were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, And God by Michael Kelley ($2.99)

John A. Broadus: A Living Legacy by David S. Dockery and Roger D. Duke ($1.99)

Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole by Eric Mason ($2.99)

Heresy by Alister McGrath ($1.99)

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. edited by Clayborne Carson. ($8.89). I’m just about finished this one. A huge eye-opener for me.

The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin ($1.99)

Leave No Man Behind: The Saga of Combat Search and Rescue by George Galdorisi and Thomas Phillips ($2.99)

Best Blogs

Credo Magazine » Reflections on the Documentary “Patterns of Evidence: Exodus” (Timothy Raymond)

Thursday is for Thinkers: Not Caring About Diversity is Not an Option | The Exchange | A Blog by Ed Stetzer

Should Christians Be ‘Getting Better’? – Borrowed Light

Six Observations about Speaking to Pastors Right Before They Preach

5 Radars Every Preacher Needs | Biblical Preaching

5 Radars Every Preacher Needs – #2 | Biblical Preaching

What to Know When You Are the Guest Preacher

9 Things You Need to Know About Widows | TGC | The Gospel Coalition

Faithful Expository Preaching Is Christ-Centered Preaching | Prince on Preaching

An Introduction to Orthodox Christology: New Testament Christology by Keith Mathison | Ligonier Ministries Blog

Locating Atonement in Romans 8 #LATC15 | Reformedish

The New “New Orthodoxy” | Wesley Hill | First Things

The Impassible God of the Bible | Wesley Hill | First Things

Have You Tried Ligonier Connect? Get a 30-Day Free Trial by Tyler Kenney | Ligonier Ministries Blog

Puritan Studies Program (Postgraduate Work) | Meet The Puritans

5 Scientific Problems with Current Theories of Biological and Chemical Evolution | TGC

A Roman Catholic at Death (with Luther near by) – Reformation21 Blog

Ammunition for the Fight Against Porn | Desiring God

On the Day I Married Her | Challies Dot Com

Why I Don’t Date Men Who Are ‘Willing’ To Save Sex For Marriage

5 Simple Ways to Teach Your Kids Theology – The Wardrobe DoorThe Wardrobe Door


Kingdom Note: Free Lunches – R.C. Sproul Jr.

Hate Mail : 9Marks

15 Surprising Secrets to Waking Up Early. | Scribblepreach

Smartphones Don’t Make Us Dumb –

Christian Lawyers and Doctors Need Not Apply | Cardus Blog

Even for the active, a long sit shortens life and erodes health – LA Times 

Your Messy Desk Is Ruining Your Career | TIME

How Ordinary Things Look Insanely Cool Under a Microscope

Best Videos

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: 9 months in 4 minutes

When Books Taste Like Vegetables

Stories of God’s Grace: Meet John

Sledge Hockey

Productivity Hacks From Sproul and Pagan

When we think of philosophers or theologians, productivity and efficiency do not immediately spring to mind. They’re thinkers, dreamers, meditators; not doers. But a couple of recent posts on Ligonier’s website reveal R C Sproul to be one of those rare birds –  a theologian and philosopher who is also concerned with maximizing return on his time and talents.

Productivity: Redeeming The Time

Productivity: Simple Tricks

A few other recent posts on productivity from James Clear:

The Eisenhower Box:  Do, Decide, Delegate, or Delete?

The Two-Minute Rule: See especially how Clear applies it to learning new habits.

Warren Buffet’s 2-List Strategy: “The most dangerous distractions are the ones you love but don’t love you back.”

And here are three videos on productivity from Eben Pagan.

The Worst Ever (Mis)Quotation Of The Bible?

The more we read and study the Bible, the more painful it becomes when we hear a verse quoted out of context and even used to advocate for the exact opposite of the verse in its context.

In reading through Joel Osteen’s book, Your Best Life Now, this pain is fairly constant. But the worst context-ripping and heart-rending example is Osteen’s use of Colossians 3:2 in Part 1: Enlarge Your Vision. Verses 1-2 read:

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”

If this verse is teaching anything, it’s calling the believer to seek satisfaction and enjoyment in the spiritual realm not the material, in the eternal not in time, in heavenly pleasures not earthly pleasures, in spiritual wealth not in financial wealth, in Christ not in self.

Which, of course, is the exact opposite of what Osteen teaches.

So, how does he solve that “problem”?

Easy, just butcher the verse.

Osteen’s (per)version is, “Set your mind and keep it set on the higher things.”

Osteen manipulates and distorts this verse in three ways in order to make it fit his carnal agenda in total opposition to the Apostle Paul’s intent.

  • “Things above” has been changed to “higher things.”
  • “Where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God” has been conveniently chopped off.
  • “Not on things on the earth” has also been eliminated.

With these three swift and not-so-subtle slashes of the knife, Osteen carves out the words he needs to justify equating “higher things” with greater money, possessions, power, popularity, promotions, and so on.

If we were in any doubt as to what Osteen is trying to do here, the remainder of Part 1 dispels them by his praise for example after example of rampant discontent, greed, and materialism.

The audacity of using a verse in God’s Word to promote exactly the opposite of what God intended that verse to teach is shockingly breathtaking. You’d think Osteen could find a verse or two that would be less obviously perverted and manipulated to support his deceit. But no, he takes one of the most “spiritual” verses in the Bible and mutates it into the most carnal agenda imaginable.

Perhaps it’s little wonder that verse one begins, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things that are above.”

In this case, it’s a big “if.”

This is the fourth post in a series on Joel Osteen’s book, “Your Best Life Now.” Previous posts were A Book That Begins With A LiePositive Negativity, and Your Average Life Now.