So much of how we feel about our lives is based on how things are compared to our expectations of how they should be. Expectations are shaped and influenced by the subliminal noise we are constantly subjected to, and most often unaware of. It is no wonder that for many, life is lived with a feeling of vague frustration that often leads to hopelessness or a frantic search for “something more.” False expectations can give way to extreme busyness, addictive acquisition, more frustration, or worse.
More Stuff. Better Life?
Because of the pervasive presence of our advertising-driven, materialistic culture, we are constantly bombarded with messages that tell us what we have isn’t good enough and that something better “out there somewhere” will bring us happiness. This is a stealthy and powerful force. The key to a good and healthy perspective of life is contentment, the polar opposite of what our culture promotes.
The “More Stuff Syndrome” is subtle, yet exacerbated among Christians by the mostly unseen or acknowledged presence of prosperity gospel. While there are relatively few “name it and claim it”, or “Word of Faith” proponents, the message has been co-opted by the mainstream church, “leavening” many who would be horrified if they were confronted with the charge.
The Prosperity Lie
The perverted message in today’s culture tells us if we do everything just right, i.e. commit our lives to Jesus, read the Bible daily, pray, tithe, attend every service, go on short term mission trips, and maybe teach Sunday school; God will make our lives perfect! It is a dangerous lie. God’s purpose for us is not a life filled with an ever increasing bunch of “stuff,” perfect health, perfect relationships…not in this world. His Will is a life of joy and dependence in Him in the midst of a never ending cycle of trial and respite, challenge, and rest.
As Christians, we hope that life in this world can be permanently “fixed.” We strive to overcome whatever need or trial we find ourselves confronting with the hope that whatever it is will “fix” our lives. The problem is it never works, at least not long-term. There may be a temporary lift in our burden by accomplishing a goal, acquiring a new toy, or an uptick in the economy. Inevitably, what we have proves to be less than we hoped for.
The truth is that life will never be “fixed” here on Earth. Until we arrive in Heaven, we have to accept we will live in a series of trials, disappointments, and painful changes mixed with periods of rest, comparative peace, and grace.
The Bible says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Living in the constant state of unmet expectations creates unbelievable stress and can lead to illness and disorder. In the book, Leadership is an Art, Author Max DePree states, “The first job of a leader is to define reality.” We are bombarded by the world, the flesh, and the devil pressing against us every moment as water presses against a dam.
So, as Christian leaders, how do we respond?
- Accept life for what it is, a series of ever-changing seasons and challenges designed or allowed to conform us to the image of Christ.
- Trust in the total truth that God is good and loves us perfectly. Trust in His promises that He will cause everything to work together for good in the lives of those who love Him, be confident in this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will complete it until the Day of Christ, because it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Romans 8:28)
- We can’t fix life, but we can fix our hope on Jesus, and step off the treadmill of our culture’s vain striving for the promises it will never deliver.
- Reject the “stuff is enough” culture and the lie of prosperity gospel.
- Embrace life in reality. We can simplify our lives and focus on what is eternal and truly important.