“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.”
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.”
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 Lie, Positive Negativity, Your Average Life Now, and The Worst Ever (Mis)Quotation Of The Bible.