It seems like more and more of the church is getting swept up in what I’m going to start calling the Positivity Gospel. Think of it as the Prosperity Gospel’s emotional cousin. It’s a stick your head in the sand spirituality where everything is AH-MAZING and everyone is beautiful. Everything’s epic. Everyone’s a legend. And it’s killing our joy in Christ.
The Positivity Gospel spreads like wildfire on social media. If I had to figure out what it meant to follow Jesus based on my Instagram feed, I’m pretty sure I would think Christianity is a recipe for handcrafted lattes, exotic travel, great parties and a lot of exposed light bulbs.
None of which does me any good in my real life. I don’t have epic hangouts every day. I eat dinner with my wife and two rambunctious toddlers. It’s a win if we can keep everyone at the table for 10 minutes. I don’t spend time with the Lord overlooking misty morning mountains. I sit in a chair with a tear in the fabric on the arm well before the sun comes up praying that those two rambunctious toddlers stay asleep long enough for me to actually connect with God. I ride in a carpool to the office. I answer a lot of emails, work really hard on sermons and lead a lot of meetings. All in all, the life of a pretty average pastor.
And I’m not angry about it. I love it.
Don’t write me off as some bitter guy who’s just ticked at life. I’m not. I’m all for celebration, gratitude and giving God credit when He moves in undeniable ways. I love a good day at the lake and I love it when God moves in undeniable power at our church. Every once in a while, I post photos of our kids on Instagram because they’re just so stinking cute. We don’t need to feel badly about enjoying God’s blessings. I just have no interest in a trendy spirituality where we put more confidence in the power of positive thinking than in the power of the resurrection. If your spirituality doesn’t help when life gets hard, it isn’t worth anything.
The Bible never glosses over the difficulty of life. If anything, the Bible is disturbingly real about what to expect in this world. Consider just a few verses:
- “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)
- “How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire?” (Ps. 89:46)
- “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,” (James 1:2)
The Bible is honest about the heartache of life. It knows nothing of sticking your head in the spiritual sand. If anything, it causes us to take a long hard look at the brokenness of our world and the sickness of our souls.
Yet it does speak of peace and hope. Even a peace and hope that are found in the midst of trials. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) It does tell us that we are more than conquerers.(Romans 8:37) And we are commanded to rejoice always.(Philippians 4:4) The gospel is an announcement of unthinkable hope and immeasurable joy. After all, ours is the story of eternal life with our resurrected King.
So, how do you know if you’re falling for the Positivity Gospel? Here’s the real test: Does difficulty shatter or strengthen your relationship with Jesus? The Positivity Gospel falls apart in the hospital waiting room. The true gospel speaks hope into that moment. The Positivity Gospel has nothing to say when you get laid off. The true gospel does.
I’m not just playing semantic games or splitting theological hairs. I can see ways that my soul is susceptible to the Positivity Gospel and I want to fight back. I want to anchor myself in a true understanding of the world and the promises of God. I want a foundation that will endure disappointment and heartache.
That’s my prayer for all of us, “Lord, pull our heads out of the sand and into the Scriptures.“