A close friend of mine loaned me her copy ofÂ Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen. I read the front cover, flipped through the book for a second… and thought, ’sure, this looks like it will be right up my alley’.
I cracked open this book with a positive attitude and an open mind. Right away I liked the basic concepts that Joel taught in regards to enlarging your image and developing a healthy self-image.
Knowing that Joel has a large following, I thought how great it would be if he could encourage Christians to take hold of faith and love and live lifestyles that caught the attention of people everywhere - making them think “boy, I want some of what they’ve got!” (ie peace, love, happy marriages, obedient children, etc) and compelling the masses to fill up the churches and devote their lives to serving God.
But the more I read, the more I realized that this book was not going to accomplish that at all… and that it encouraged people in an entirely wrong direction. In fact, I only made it to page 46 before I had to put it down altogether.Â By page 42Â I was having to force myself to continue reading and was in extreme disagreement with the book - which is why I finally just had to close it.
Throughout the pages Joel gave examples of people who went in prayer for certain things, were persistent in expecting those things, and had faith that they would be freely given. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself… faith is a wonderful thing, and Jesus taught that we should exercise faith in prayer.
But let’s take the example of the parents who wished to enroll their son in a private school a year before they would allow him, because his birthday fell four days after the cutoff date. They used the “Joel Osteen Approach” and they persistently went over one person’s head after the other until they accomplished their mission - their son was enrolled a year early.
Did this serve God, or did this serve them? And did it even serve their son? The fact is, we should seek God’s will in everything that we do, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in making decisions in our lives.
Let me take you to page 42 in Your Best Life Now:
Not long ago, Victoria and I and our two children drove down to Hermann Park near downtown Houston. But when we got there, the place was totally packed; people and cars everywhere! We hadn’t realized it, but we had arrived smack-dab in the middle of spring break.
At first, it didn’t appear that we were going to be able to find a place to park. A half dozen cars were circling the parking lot, waiting for somebody to back out so they could pull in. I was having a good time, cutting up a bit with my family, so I said to everybody in the car, “You watch Daddy. I’m going to get a front-row parking spot. I can just feel it. I’ve got the favor of God all over me!”
On and on I went, really making a big deal about it. Then, to everyone’s surprise, just as I steered our car past the front row of parked cars, another car backed out as I approached. It was almost as though we had timed it perfectly; he pulled out, and I pulled right into the open spot. I hardly had to slow down. Better yet, it was the premier spot in that parking lot.
I leaned over to Victoria and quipped, “Victoria, reach over here and get some of this favor off me. I can’t stand it all!”
Victoria just rolled her eyes.
I turned around to our little boy and said, “Come on, Jonathan, touch Daddy. You need some of this favor. Just get it.”
It was at this moment that I was sure Joel had sold his soul to Satan for worldy power! Seriously - this is NOT biblical. The thing that bothered me most about this particular page was his constant use of the word “I” or “me” and that his family should touch him to gain ‘favor’.
It put me in mind of a the story at the beginning of the book of Haggai. God had told the Jews to finish the temple in Jerusalem, but after 15 years they still had not completed that task. This is the word that God sent through the prophet Haggai (NIV translation):
“Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored. You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why? Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.”
Other scriptures to consider:
- 1 John 2:16-17 (NIV): Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does - comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
- Galations 6:7-8 says (NIV): Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
- Proverbs 29:23 (KJV): A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.
- Proverbs 16:18 (KJV): Pride [goeth] before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
- Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV): For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.
Hebrews chapter 11, in it’s entirety, teaches us much about faith. It starts out by saying (NIV): “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” It doesnt say that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain that we will see it.
Some people feel like they need to see signs and miracles from God. But Jesus says we are blessed if we can believe without seeing (John 20:29).
Both worldly possessions and blessings from God are to be used to help others and to serve God. They are not to be hoarded or used selfishly. Read the story that Jesus told in Luke 16:19-31, he tells of the rich man who burned in Hell and the poor beggar who laid outside the rich man’s gate was taken up to heaven. The rich man didnt go to Hell because he was rich. He went to Hell because he didnt take in the beggar or care for him. He didnt even so much as give him the crumbs from his table.
- 1 Timothy 6:17 (NIV): “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”
If you read back over that scripture, you might find it confusing. Understandably, not everyone interprets things in the same way. Here Paul was saying that ‘wealth and richesÂ in this world are uncertain so you shouldnt put your hope in them’. But in the same verse he also tells us that God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
To understand the context, you have to go back and read the beginning of that chapter (1 Timothy, Chapter 6) which talks about ‘men who think that godliness is a means to financial gain’ (verse 5). In the next verse (6) it says “But godliness with contentment is great gain” (NIV). It goes on to say:
But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.Â Â Â
We are not to adapt to the world’s value system which is based on money, power and pleasure. James 1:26-27 says (NIV):
If anyone considers himself religious and yet dose not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
- 1 Corinthians 10:24 (NIV): Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.
- 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV): So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
- Philippians 2:3 (NIV): Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
- Luke 12:15 (NIV): Jesus said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Jesus then told the ‘Parable of the Rich Fool’ which ends with: “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
These are just some examples to give you starting points with which to study for yourself. I encourage you to look these scriptures up and read the context in which it was written.
We should pray for spiritual blessings, not worldly blessings. We should pray for God’s will, not our will. We should serve God (and not ourselves) in everything that we do.
Flipping through the book further, Joel says:
Somebody may be saying nasty things about you behind your back. Your attitude should be: No big deal. God’s got me covered. He’s going to make it up to me. (p 168)
No, Joel! Your attitude should be: I will pray for them, and I will love them anyway.Â
In Matthew 5: 21-26, Jesus teaches us how we should handle anger and disagreements. Also see Matthew 5:38-48 where Jesus teaches us how to respond to evil people and how we should love our enemies. In verse 44 He tells us to pray for those that hurt us.
Matthew 5:46-47 specifically says: “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” (NIV)
In Luke 6, verse 35, Jesus says “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back…”
Joel would have us believe that we should get our rewards during our lifeÂ here on earth. In Chapter 2 of his book, Joel Osteen quotes Colossians 3:2 as :”Set your mind and keep it set on the higher things.” In this particular section he is telling his readers how to “program their mind for success” and says that we should expect people to go out of their way to help us.
Now I’m not sure which translation of the bible that Joel is quoting there… but here are the KJV and NIV translations of ColossiansÂ 3:2…
- (KJV) Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
- (NIV)Â Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
In Matthew Chapter 4 Satan tempts Jesus and offers him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor if he will just bow down and worship him… In this same chapter, Jesus says “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” (verse 7). The devil even tried to use Scripture to tempt Jesus to sin.
And YES,Â theÂ bible doesÂ say not to judge or condemn… but the bible also instructs us toÂ ”test the spirits” and to beware of false teachers and false prophets.
- 2 Peter 2:1 (NIV): But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be fasle teachers among you…
Verses 2-3 continues with: Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up…
1 John Chapter 4 begins by telling us to test the spirits: (NIV) ” Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” In verse 5 John says, “They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.”
False prophets are popular with people because they tell the people exactly what they want to hear.
Read Jeremiah 23, starting with verse 16. Similar to the verses in 1 John, we learn that false prophets come to us “in the name of the Lord” and appear to speak God’s message. In my study bible, there is a list of the four warning signs of false prophets:
Four Warning Signs of False Prophets
- They may appear to speak God’s message, but they do not live according to his principles.
- They water down God’s message to make it more palatable.
- They encourage their listeners, often subtly, to disobey God.
- They tend to be arrogant and self-serving, appealing to the desires of their audience instead of being true to God’s Word.
Distinguishing between spirits, or discernment, is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:10 as a spiritual gift. We arent all given the same gifts - some wisdom, some healing, some faith… some discernment. For this reason it is important that we go to the Word for answers, that we fellowship with other Christians in the body of Christ and that we join in prayer on matters we are unsure about.
Studying and knowing the Word is your best defense against being misled.
Reviews of Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen
Also see the comments here on
Joel Osteen’s Appearance on Larry King
Don’t get me wrong… I do believe in blessings, abundance and answered prayers. I just dont agree with the teachings in this book by Joel Osteen which I feel take our focus off of God and direct it towards ourselves. As the Apologetics Index puts it, “Indeed, his primary emphasis is on positive thinking, success and wealth - not on the gospel of Jesus Christ.”