I bought a book by Joel Osteen titled It’s Your Time while browsing through some books at a book sale corner while waiting for a friend. Given my adverse sentiments towards Health-and-Wealth prosperity gospel, one may wonder why I bought a book by a preacher who is characteristically a proponent of such teachings. For one, I am not really sure whether Joel Osteen is the heretic of a run-of-the-mill prosperity gospelist that I have the impression of, and I would to examine it for myself. For two, I wonder whether there might be something that Joel Osteen has to say that might provide insight or encouragement from a Christian standpoint to where I am in life.
One thing from my perusal of the book is that Joel Osteen’s prosperity gospel is somewhat different from the prosperty gospel of other preachers I have heard. For Joel Osteen, periods of ill-fortune are simply another way in which God may work to the ultimate good and success for the righteous believer. He gave the account of a person shipwrecked on an island, and who was miserable at God for not answering his prayers to be rescued. When the hut he had built caught fire and burnt down, he was furthermore upset at God. Just then, a ship arrived to his location. When he asked the shipmen how they found him, they replied that they saw the fire and thought someone was sending a distress signal. I say that this view of prosperity gospel is different from that of another prosperity gospelist I have heard. That other prosperity gospelist was of the view that a righteous believer will never suffer, and things like ill-health are simply not the will of God.
Still, there are things written in the book which causes to curl some of the ingrained traditionalist Christian worldview that I hold. For one, Joel Osteen makes statements characteristic of what I would call trust theology. That is, belief, or trust in God, is the paramount factor in receiving God’s blessings. He would quite encouragingly talk about how God is not limited by things such as one’s financial status, intelligence, talents, social skills etc, but then follow at the end of the passage with a rather ironic and dubious sounding statement that God is however limited by one’s beliefs. It is very much like how some popular self-help authors would quip that an individual is the measure of his beliefs, except that this self-help dogma is packaged in Christian evangelistic terms.
Still, I do take away some encouraging bits for my Christian faith from having read the first few chapters of the book. I am reminded that God is able to work ultimate good through bad. Indeed, I have the predilection of thinking along lines doubting the existence of God when things are not going my way, and my prayers are not getting answered, or that God doesn’t care. I still do have such doubts, but I am open-minded to the possibility that God is real and has a plan for ultimate good for my life, and that things would turn out well for me. As much as I am skeptical of prosperity gospel and find it artificial, I still wish for it to be true because it provides hope of a better life for people while they are on earth.