7 Biblical Truths Countering the False Gospel of “Emotional Health & Wealth”
Author: Bob Kellmen
Category: Biblical Counseling, Blog
First, “The False Health & Wealth Gospel”
The vast majority of Evangelicals reject the “health and wealth gospel.” This is the false gospel that claims that if you obey God, then He will bless you with physical health and material wealth.
- This false gospel makes God like a Genie in a bottle who grants us all our wishes.
- This false gospel seeks to manipulate God by being good in order to receive good things.
- This false gospel worships physical health and material wealth instead of worshipping God.
God does not promise us material blessings. He actually promises us suffering: “In fact everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). God promises His peace and His presence and His power in the midst of our suffering, but He does not promise physical and material blessings.
Second, “The False Gospel of Emotional Health & Wealth”
Today’s post is not about the false health & wealth gospel.” Everyone posts against that.
Today’s post is about a much more subtle, much more insidious, much more hidden false gospel—a gospel that all too easily creeps into the Evangelical world: the false gospel of emotional health & wealth.”
This false gospel teaches that:
- If we pray hard enough, then our emotional struggles will vanish.
- If we obey all of God’s commands well enough, then our emotional struggles will dissipate, diminish.
- If we are godly enough, then we will experience constant victory over emotional struggles (rather than teaching that God will give us His power, presence, and peace in the midst of our emotional struggles).
This false gospel of emotional health & wealth claims eternal promises as if they are present-day promises.
Revelation 21:4 is God’s promise for heaven, not His promise for today:
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Today, God collects our tears (Psalm 56:8).
Today, we all die (Hebrews 9:27).
Today, we all mourn (Psalm 34:18).
7 Biblical Truths Countering the False Gospel of Emotional Health & Wealth
- Jesus: The Perfect Man of Sinless Sorrow
The perfect God-man, Jesus, in a perfect relationship with the Father, experienced excruciating emotions. For an entire blog post on Christ’s emotional life, see 10 Biblical Principles About Emotions Drawn from the Emotional Life of Christ.
- Jesus was the Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3).
- Jesus wept. (John 11:35).
- Jesus was angry and deeply distressed (Mark 3:5—sinless anger and sinless distress, but anger and distress no less).
- Jesus’s soul was troubled (John 12:27).
- Jesus was sorrowful and troubled; His sinless soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death (Matthew 26:37-38).
- Jesus was deeply distressed and troubled; His perfectly mature, godly soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death (Mark 14:33-34).
- Jesus was in anguish, and his sweat was like drops of blood (Luke 22:44).
The emotional life of Jesus exposes the lie of the false gospel of emotional health & wealth. Godliness does not guarantee the absence of painful emotions. In fact, godliness increases the likelihood of painful emotions because of the persecution and suffering that comes with godly living in a fallen world, and because of the intense godly longings and groanings for heaven.
This is why Jesus promises us “trouble” in this fallen world (John 16:33). “Trouble” pictures being pressed in on every side, physically crushed and emotionally suffocated. In Jesus, we can experience a peace that passes understanding, but not the absence of excruciatingly painful emotions…
- Holy Spirit: The Groaning Spirit
The Holy Spirit, Who is our Encourager and Comforter, does not promise “happiness all the time.” In fact, the Holy Spirit promises that in this fallen world we will groan in pain and He will groan with us.
For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that[ the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God (Romans 8:19-27).
When a brother or sister is emotionally struggling, we tend to rush them to Romans 8:28—and God working all things together for good. We end up rushing them past Romans 8:19-27.
The false gospel of emotional health & wealth now refuses to wait on God. It refuses to hope in God. Instead, it hopes in the false promise of happiness now, instead of fullness of joy forever in eternity with God. Today, we groan as in the pain of childbirth right up until the present day!
- Father: The Father Compassionate Comfort
God the Son, God the Spirit, and God the Father never promise the end of emotional struggle now. Instead, the Father directs us to the promise of His very nature: He is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Compassion is to experience the passion and pain of another as one’s own. The Father does not take away our pain—that’s the false gospel of emotional health & wealth now. Our Father of Compassion takes on our pain, even as His Son does—our sympathetic High Priest—Hebrews 4:14-16.
- Paul: Far Beyond His Ability to Endure
The great Apostle Paul. The spiritually mature Apostle Paul. Did he experience victory overdistressing emotions? Let’s listen to his own words in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9:
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
Paul did not feel the emotional health & wealth gospel. Instead, he felt the sentence of death. Please don’t tell Paul that Jesus promised him victory over debilitating emotional pain. But do tell Paul that Jesus promises resurrection hope in the midst of emotional struggles.
- Jeremiah: I Remember My Affliction and Bitterness
Read almost anything Jeremiah wrote, and then tell someone that God promises that His mature saints are exempt from emotional distress. Read, for example, Jeremiah 20:7-11—and Jeremiah’s horribly painful lament. Read Lamentations 3:1-19, as another example, and feel Jeremiah’s emotional distress.
Yes, his pain drives him to remember the Person of God, but the Person of God does not drive out the pain of Jeremiah.
- David: Forgotten by God
In Psalm 42:9-10, David cries out to God, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning oppressed by the enemy. My bones suffer mortal agony.” David suffers body and soul—as an embodied soul. David is in pain physically and emotionally. His soul is downcast and disturbed within him (Psalm 42:11). He puts his hope in God—not for the removal of emotional pain, but for the power to praise God in the midst of emotional pain.
- The Lament Psalmists: More Psalms of Lament Than Psalms of Praise
Read all 150 Psalms and you will discover that there are more Laments Psalms than Praise Psalms. Go to most Evangelical Sunday worship services and you will hear about 99% songs of praise, and maybe, just perhaps, 1% songs of lament. We demand that even our Worship Services provide us with happiness now!
Far too many Evangelical sermons are solution-focused 3-steps to victory over pain and problems, rather than gospel-saturated laments that worship God in the midst of the groaning and pain of life in our fallen world.
Try telling the lament psalmists that God promises happiness now and victory over situational problems, emotional pain, and soul distress.
They would wonder what world we are living in.
They would wonder what Bible we are reading.
Clinging to True Promises
God does not promise happiness now.
Let’s cling to what God truly does promise.
God does promise Himself now—His presence, power, comfort, compassion, groaning, sympathy.
And let’s groan for and long for His future promise: no more tears, crying, pain, mourning—forever and ever, Amen!
Posted on November 13, 2023