It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was the 1960s, a time which ushered in what sociologists would identify as “The Consciousness Revolution.” America was due for an awakening. Just as 80 years prior had been the “Third Great Awakening,” which followed the “Second Great Awakening,” decades prior and the first “Great Awakening” of the 1720s-30s which eventually formed the basis of the American Revolution. Every generation of Americans goes through some kind of an awakening. Perhaps this trend began with the “Puritan Awakening,” which itself came from the previous generation’s “Protestant Reformation” in Europe.
For centuries before and after the American Revolution, these awakenings seemed to revolve around the Christian worldview. When I look at the Reformers, Puritans, and missionaries who came out of the previous awakenings, I recognize that, on many issues, we aren’t on the same page, but at least we are all generally reading from the same book. This is not true of the Consciousness Revolution of the 1960s. For some reason, America was breaking its long held tradition of Biblicism and we are paying that price today.
Houston 1: The God-Centered Faith-Rest Drill
Fortunately, not everyone bought into the ideology that was becoming popular. While the world was proclaiming, “Don’t trust anybody over 30!” there were still those who recognized the ancient wisdom of God’s Word as being authoritative. Among them was a cutting-edge church in Houston that pioneered a missiology that many have come to adapt. Barachah Church was one of the first to distribute recorded media to the masses, even sending thousands of tapes to soldiers in Vietnam every week. They formed satellite churches where people would gather around the country to listen to the doctrinal teaching of pastor-teacher, R.B. Thieme.
Thieme wanted Christians to know how to live. He rightly saw the Bible as being the manual for us to turn to in what he called, “The Christian Way of Life.” As he developed a doctrinal approach to Christian living, he wrote a brochure that has helped many called, “Christian, At Ease!”1 in which he advocates a faith-rest drill to help Christians find perfect inner-peace. It is a three-step process:
Step 1: Claim a promise to stabilize your soul.
Step 2: Use the promise in a doctrinal rationale.
Step 3: Reach doctrinal conclusions.
The drill depends on knowing Bible doctrine. We claim a promise that is written in God’s Word, we relate that Scripture to a doctrinal rationale behind it, then we make a doctrinal conclusion that relates our problem to God’s big picture. For example, I suffer from back pain, which is being especially ornery right now as I write. So, I can claim a promise from 1 Corinthians:
So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Cor 15:42-55 NKJV)
God promises me a new, glorified, body without back pain. Step 2 is to use this promise in 1 Cor 15:42-55 in a doctrinal rationale. Perhaps I could think of the plan of God, how God intends to restore creation and how much greater that glorified body will be when I’m able to recall painful days like today. And therein lies Step 3: Reach doctrinal conclusions. What a joy it will be in that day to praise God in a glorified body and remember the pain that I’m going through now!
The end result of the faith-rest drill is that my back still hurts, but I have a peace about it that I’ve come to as a result of recalling and considering biblical doctrine. As Thieme puts it:
After using the three steps of the faith-rest drill, your mind is stabilized; you know the ground you stand on. You then can turn your attention back to the problem at hand. Now you can see how your little problem fits into the big picture of God’s faithfulness. Now you can genuinely rest, relax, and trust in Him for solutions as you move on in your life. (14-15)
Putting the Bible to use in our personal lives is a wonderful thing.
Houston 2: The Self-Centered Prosperity Gospel
Thieme has since then gone to be with the Lord and there is a new guy in Houston who is even more popular, but he is teaching a different way to claim things from God.
Joel Osteen is teaching the Prosperity Gospel, which focuses inward rather than Godward. Instead of turning to promises which God has actually made, the prosperity gospel invites Christians to hold God to promises that they can make up on the spot. For example, Osteen writes:
Let me encourage you to start expecting and declaring God’s favor in your life. […] Anytime you get in a situation where you need favor, learn to declare it. You don’t have to loudly broadcast it to the world. You can whisper it, if your prefer. The volume of your voice is irrelevant; it’s your faith that makes the difference. Even in the mundane aspects of life, you will not be imposing on God’s goodness by declaring His favor. He wants you to act on it. For example, maybe you’ll find yourself in a crowded restaurant, with limited time, and you need to get a table as soon as possible. You can say, “Father, I thank You that I have favor with this hostess, and she’s going to seat me soon.”2
Notice that as opposed to the Faith Rest Drill, the Prosperity Gospel approach does not involve Scripture. Under the Prosperity Gospel, if you want something, then you just assume that God will give it to you if you believe. Name it and claim it. Blab it and grab it. Our words become reality and therefore should be treated as prophecy.
The Prosperity Gospel is more than a neglect of Scripture; it is an assault on the character of God. Osteen has been quoted as saying things like, “It’s our faith that activates the power of God,” and “You can cancel out God’s best plan by speaking negative words.” Is this true? Is God only omnipotent if our faith activates Him?
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him (Ps 37:7a KJV)
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:7 KJV)
It is normal to want peace and rest in the Lord, but the rationale should always be based on what He has said rather than we say. It should be no surprise that the world is moving in a self-centered direction, but it is truly scandalous that the church is following the world. As C.S. Lewis said:
We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.
Perhaps on the issue of Prosperity, Houstonians (and the Church as a whole) would benefit from making an about-face and replacing “name it and claim it” with the “faith-rest drill,” which ultimately drives people to the Word of God itself.
- Available online here
- From Your Best Life Now