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Joel Osteen’s False Hope

My fellow residents of the Nashville area have probably seen the billboards around town.  If not, maybe you have noticed the Facebook ads, or caught the recent Tennessean article.  All of these are advertising “A Night of Hope.”  The speaker for this event is Joel Osteen.

Joel Osteen is a well-known “preacher.”  He has a best selling book and is the “pastor” at one of the largest churches in America. Joel Osteen is a Word of Faith preacher, or commonly called a “Health and Wealth” preacher.  His sermons combine pop psychology with a sprinkling of Scripture.  The message is positive claiming that God desires for Christians to be wealthy and healthy and the key to unlocking these blessings from God is to empower your faith.

I could write a whole series about the problems with the word of faith movement (and I think I will at some point), but I want to focus on the idea of hope in this post.  Joel Osteen is supposed to have an evening of hope.  Hope is something people are looking for in all times, but more so during tough times.  I have no doubt Joel will have a large group buying tickets for this event.

I am saddened though because if the event is anything like the other material I’ve heard and read from Joel, what is being offered is false hope.  False hope to people struggling with money, that if they would use their faith (as if faith is some magical force) that God would make them rich.  False hope that they could be healed if they just read the right verses and declared God’s promises for them.  Preying on individuals during tough times, or anytime, is despicable.  The truth of the matter is Christians get sick and die.  Christians lose their jobs.  Putting hope in these things is false hope.

The true hope that all Christians have, and all people need is the hope offered in the gospel.  The hope that our sins are forgiven and that we have peace with God and joy no matter our circumstances.  This hope allow us to endure anything this life has to offer.  It is the hope, that Paul states in Philippians, allow us to be joyful both when he have more than enough, and when we have less than is needed.  It is the hope that even if we die of sickness that God will raise us from the dead to a land without sickness.  It is the hope that there is a better life awaiting us all.

True hope is in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  That God became flesh, lived a perfect life, died, was buried, and was raised on our behalf.   Don’t buy this false hope.

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31 Comments

  1. It burdens me how people like Joel take the sin and the forgiveness of that sin out of the central theme of the gospel. It just shows you how much value they put in their vapor of life on earth. Let us be kingdom minded and never fear to call sin what it is.

  2. Wesley

    March 18, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Well said Matt. I think we are not fully convinced of the power of the gospel to provide true hope, so we go to other things. These are false wells. God’s hope is found in the gospel.

  3. Osteen needs to read the book of Jeremiah often. Jeremiah did not send his listeners home feeling “warm and fuzzy.” He was a “preacher’s preacher” and told it like it was.

  4. Nice article. Osteen’s always made me cringe. Good to have it clearly stated in rational language why.
    (p.s. Typo, penultimate paragraph: “when we have less than needed” reads “when he have less than needed.”)

  5. Call Joel Osteen for what he is, a heretic. Christians have gotten soft in calling sin a sin and heretic a heretic. Because we are too worry about offending people or other politically correct reasons.

  6. I have watched the intro to Olsteen’s show (can’t call it sermon or ministry as it is all smoke and mirrors) and his holding up the Bible and speaking a mantra. It is like mind washing control to get the people hooked on his words. He may be sincere in his beliefs, however, he is using the Bible instead of teaching the Bible. When he “preaches” he isn’t using the scriptures for examples just feel good words that will do absolutely nothing to your eternal life or your soul/spirit. Complete sham.

  7. Wesley

    March 21, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Bob,

    Thanks for the compliment and for picking up the error. It has been corrected.

    Ray,

    If you read many of the articles on this sit, then you will, quickly learn my goal is not political correctness. However, the point of this post was to deal with the message preached more than the man himself.

    Anita,

    That is the sad part. Many people are too undiscerning to see it for what it is.

  8. The Jay-Walker

    March 21, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    If you read your Bible, and believe in prophecy, you should’nt be suprised. 2nd. Timothy 4:3 – For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires;
    I believe God has been warning the good ole U.S.A. with the forces of nature but we won’t repent. Even supposedely christian folks are not heeding the warnings. Preachers are preaching the “prosperity gospel” and not preaching on sin and hell enough. I believe God is fixing to drop the hammer on America for worshiping our idol the “ALMIGHTY DOLLAR”. I’m not looking for Jesus in the Rapture anymore – “I’M LISTENING FOR THE TRUMPET TO BLOW, ANNOUNCING HIS ARRIVAL”. Hallelujah!!! Even so come Lord Jesus!!!!!!!!!!

  9. A first time visitor to Joel’s church was excited to be at one of their Bible study classes. She expected to hear volumes of wisdom from people who attended the largest church in the USA. At the end of the class she was very disappointed… not one time during the whole class was she asked to open her Bible. Nothing they discussed actually came from the Bible.

    There are thousands or even millions of people being deceived by “preachers”like Joel Osteen. They all believe that being a Christian has nothing to do with Gods Word(maybe not all). Jesus warned us of people that would twist words around, she would always remember this.

  10. The first and only time I’ve seen Joel Osteen on TV was on the program “The View”. When pressed by Barbara Walters as to whether Jesus is the only way to heaven, Osteen whimped out and would not speak the truth for fear of offending the audience; kind of like when Obama was asked by Rick Warren in a Q&A with him and McCain as to when life began, and he answered that it was “above his paygrade”. After watching Osteen deny the truth, I knew this man was Ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.

    We need to steer clear of these individuals.

  11. Hebrews, C. 11

    Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

    Ponder this.

  12. Can’t wait for that series, Wes. Please post it as soon as you do! I’ll be checking every month or so.

    As far as spiritual content of Joel’s sermons, yeah it’s a bit light, I’ll admit. What he does have in spades is a positive attitude: something severely lacking in the church today. Why? Because we’re too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good! Let’s put our “money” where our mouth is: if we’re about the Gospel, let our joy in the Lord overshadow the ‘smoke and mirrors’. False hope is preaching the Gospel of joy, peace and love then showing the world how mean spirited and malicious we can be. It’s hypocritical, quite frankly. For what it’s worth, how many children of God do you know that have a great sense of humor, honor their bodies by eating nutritious food and exercising?
    Joel has read Jeremiah, I believe. God forbid he dwell on Chapter 29 and verses 11-12. He may only have a different interpretation of “prosper” than some.
    I have only countered negativity with negativity, and that I regret. Some self righteous statements just hit a raw nerve. This is not what you intended, Wesley. I know you were merely voicing concern. And Mark, I do agree for the most part, I’ve heard many similar stories from those visiting Hillsong here in Sydney. It’s sad.
    I’ve written this ‘challenge’ (call it what you will) to add another perspective to this conversation. I’m not defending pastor Osteen, he’ll have to give an account before the throne: as will we all. What will the Lord see as the key theme of our brief time on earth?

  13. Very good. This further implies that if you are still broke or in a hard situation, you must somehow be lacking as a Christian. More lies of the enemy that are turning more and more people AWAY from God. Glad you posted this one.

  14. It is definitely true that God wants us to increase in faith, with our feet on Earth and our eyes in Heaven (3 John, 2). This overarching godly approach requires mental, emotional and spiritual maturity and scriptural consistency. It sacrifices and crucifies our egos, which would prefer to obsess over just Heaven or just Earth. Like anything that involves humans, it is developed over time. Joel Osteen’s attention to the concerns of Earth would be great and very balancing if it did not compromise with the concerns of Heaven. It does, and is tragic. Still, God is providentially using his big error to call us to to the wholesome Christianity of Jesus Himself, who cared for both the soul and the body. It also calls us to share his godly optimism, courage and sense of humor, which is palpable in some of his remarks to his bumbling troupe of clumsy, clueless apostles. God sometimes uses someone in error to call our attention to our arrogance, sin and superiority attitude because the core of the amazing strength of Christianity is humility.

  15. I am constantly amazed and appalled by the judgementalism of supposed “Christians”. I am not a regular watcher of Rev Osteen, but in the 20 or so viewings I find no fault with his basic message. There is no reason for anyone in America to live impoverished lives. Poverty is a self-fulling prophesy. I praise God in my circumstance. The deeper my faith, the higher my selfesteem. God loves me. I await the return of Jesus when my perfected soul will live in His presence. I found this artical totally lacking in Christian love. Who are you to hold yourself above Rev Osteen? I love you; but examine your arrogance.

  16. The humility required of hard core, stern faced, straight speaking Christians is also required of the big smile, happy, motivational, Joel Osteen. Pastor Joel is as guilty of arrogance as the first group. Never has he stopped to consider that his popular version of the Gospel may be lacking or unbalanced. His traitorous behavior at the TV program “The View” would wake up his soul if it were in strong connection with the Holy Spirit. Both sides of this issue hold fanatically to their ideas as their ego-based pet project. The commercial approach to Christianity where “my product is better than yours”, needs to end. We need to submit to and come together in Christ. Jesus would both strongly and openly condemn today’s love for sin, fame, pleasure and possesions and also receive those who repent with great compassion and help them with their worldly needs. Jesus’ been there and done that. Time for split brain Christianity to be over.

  17. Right on, James Dyer. Too much cynicism from most of those sharing. Some “fire and brimstone” sermons turn off those that are beginners in faith in the Lord. If Joel Osteen and others can “open the door” and bring begineers to the Lord through a mellow and honest approach, then so be it, more power to him. This “pleasant new beginning” has happened to many I know and they have become stronger in their new found faith. I’ve also know many begineers who are turned off to experiencing the truth being “crammed down their throats!!!” thus rebelling and shelving the teachings of the Bible for another day…or never !!
    Jesus wanted us to “love him AND one another as we do ourselves”.
    The Bible is a continual learning process, and we in our environment are very fortunate that we can share our beliefs, Thanks be to God.
    I asked Jesus to guide me while writing this letter…..

  18. Amen, James and Alan! We are here to plant seeds and let Holy Spirit grow them into mature Christians. As for this author, sounds like my Papa. I love him dearly and know that his upbringing derived him of the wonderful life God wanted him to have. My family was northern baptist and didn’t believe the Holy Spirit stayed with us. They believed He left with the death of the 12 along with miracles and God’s constant hand on our lives. While I have never watched Olsteen I do know God wants the best for His children. I am living proof. No I am not a millionair or in absolute perfect health but I am a work in progress. God changes the heart first aligning it with His will. As we progress in that aspect He graduates us to the next level. I now want nothing more than to talk to Him or sit in His presence every second. He has blessed me with a HELOC that I had just been turned down for and desperately needed. He has saved my little dogs life, healed family members, given me favor at work, given me physical strength I don’t posess when I needed it most, answered all my questions and encouraged me and most of all He spoke to me and pulled me back from the edge. Yes my salvation is the best blessing but I don’t for one second believe it stops there. He loves me and I love Him. He wants the best for me and will give me anything I need once He has shown me how to handle it in His will. The Bible constantly tells us to have hope and faith. Jesus says to ask anything in His name and if we believe it, it will be ours. So if you stay in God’s will, He WILL bless you! That’s what faith is. Surrender your life to Him as a living sacrifice and then have faith, expectantly wait on the Lord!

  19. Wesley

    March 23, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Jennifer,

    I do not think that God has left the world. He is still working to ensure His purposes.

    The problem though is we assume, and the word of faith preachers state, that God’s purpose is to make you healthy and wealthy. This just does not jive with Scripture. For instance, Peter states that Christians are called to do good and suffer. Think about that statement. As a part of our calling from God we are going to face suffering.

    Also look at the life of the apostles, they were certainly doing God’s will, but they were not healthy and wealthy. Instead, they stated they were fools by the world’s standards and all but one suffered violent death. Look at James, He states that the majority of the church were poor. There were Christians with means who used that means to help others who were without. However, to say that God’s will is for us to be healthy and wealthy ignores too much of the New Testament’s teachings.

    Also we interpret what is “best” through the lens of American materialism. What is best for us is that our faith be proven genuine and that we are counted worthy of God’s Kingdom. Both of those are linked to suffering (2 Thessalonians 1; 1 Peter 1; James 1; Romans 5). Sometimes what is best (and I might say many times what is best) is not us being healthy and wealthy but us enduring hardship. In fact Luke indicates that there are inherent spiritual dangers with being rich.

    As to your last few sentences, think about the implications. So anytime someone does not get what they receive they are not in God’s will? The way Scripture defines it is not whether the person is doing God’s will, but whether the request is in accordance to God’s will. Sometimes God says no, because it is not a part of His plan.

    “Wait on the Lord” seems to mean your paragraph that you are waiting for the physical blessings. This is sad to hear, because that phrase is used in Scripture to refer to the blessing of Christ’s Returning. That is what Christians are to wait expectantly on the Lord for, not something that moths destroy and rust eats (1 Thessalonians 1:10; Matthew 6).

  20. Wesley

    March 23, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Allen,

    A person cannot become a Christian unless they understand a few important truths. This would include their own sinfulness (you don’t necessarily have to do it in the fire and brimstone matter), they need to recognize they have sinned and are lost. Then they need to understand who God is and what He has done on their behalf. Finally, they need to know how to respond to this message of hope (true hope).

    I think you have two extremes. One is we do not talk about sin (Joel’s statement). The other is we are rude and pugnacious about people’s sinfulness. I think it is best to speak the truth (man is sinful and needs a Savior to save them from Divine wrath) and to do so in love.

  21. Wesley

    March 23, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Well put.

  22. Wesley

    March 23, 2011 at 10:21 am

    I agree with you to a point. We need to focus on the here and now. However, the teaching that Joel states that our life on this earth is going to be some sort of paradise, where we are all healthy and wealthy is not biblical.

  23. Wesley and Jennifer….
    Thanks for the added comments.
    Allen…..

  24. I actually enjoy listening to Joel Olsteen. I think many people get confused by his message. First, we are to believe in the word of God and not the man. Don’t be a fool and believe that Joel Olsteen never has problems and that his life is perfect. No ones life is. What I get from him is that we must not only believe and read the word of God for ourselves, but we also must have hope that God will do what He has promised us in the bible. All we have to do is activate it by Faith, Believing, having Hope! Read the entire book of Matthew and see what Jesus did, but take time to read Chapter 9: 20-21. The woman with the issue of blood activated her Faith by touching the hem of Jesus’ garment. We must believe and have faith. Hebrews 11:1 – Now faith is the substance of the things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. We must have faith and believe and trust in Him. In order to have faith, we can’t doubt Him and His promises, become discouraged, give up. We must stay excited and happy about what is to come through Jesus Christ that is not seen. I believe that He has great things in store for me. That’s the attitude Joel Olsteen wants us to have. I watch his show, but I read the bible for myself, so there is nothing he can say to make me think outside of what I already know and believe in. Also, instead of trying to talk down on him and what he is doing, find people that you can help, uplift, and encourage. Help to lead them in the right direction, if needed, and spread the word of God to them and others. You can also praise and thank God that we have remote controls to our televisions now where you can simply change the station.

    God Bless you all! :)

  25. I watched Joel’s interview with Ophrah. It is a shame that he is leading so many people down the path to destruction. He made it sound like all sinners go to heaven because we all sin. What about the repentance part of going to heaven? What about having a personal relationship with Jesus part? No matter what the sin is, we need to accept it is sin and repent from that sin. Homosexuals will not be saved without a relationship with Jesus and a realization that what they are doing is sin and repenting of that sin. I did not make the rules God did. I do not want to see anyone go to hell. Being compassionate and caring is speaking the truth if you really care about lives being saved.

  26. It is the negativity and arrogance of “Christians”, such as this poster, that has kept me from going back to church. Do you gain joy from beating down others? Does believing in God mean one must be void of hope and a positive attitude? Must Christians dwell in the negative to be considered close to God? I thank you for proving me correct in staying away from church and “Christians”.

    For the record, Osteen encourages a relationship with God, to find a Bible based church and to look upon what may appear to be a negative situation as being a part of God’s greater plan.

  27. Jessica Henson

    May 16, 2013 at 11:04 am

    I disagree if people don’t have hope they wont care to read the Bible. People want to get something in return because we’re selfish.God would like us all to be like Jesus and listen. However we don’t we do what we want its much easyer to give up when your broke or sick. If you have hope and a since of joy that in the morning it will be alright God will do some amazing things. At least Joel trying to give a hopeless suicidal person enough hope to live another day. James town massacre God he talked about but fear he was able to kill and steal. What are you doing judging you have no power or idea what Gods plan is with Joel.

  28. Wesley

    May 16, 2013 at 11:40 am

    The problem is not that hope is being offered, but rather that it is false hope. True hope is found in Christ, not in misrepresenting what God will do.

  29. Doesn’t the bible say not to judge Joel is one of gods creations too. We should all love one another. And if we were all general in every way we could be and tryed to be kind to one another. We should t decide or make decitions for other people we need to except people for who they are and not put anybody down in this life for who are we to judge.

  30. Mistake and if we were all general is the word not general

  31. Oops again the word is gental

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