I hate travel ads. I hate it because it always portrays the sea as beautiful and sunny and calm. “Go to the sea and recharge yourself!” they say, with images of coconut trees, turquoise water, and a person relaxing on a hammock. They distort the image of sea to better suit their quarterly revenue growth target.
The sea is not always calm. There are storms there. Ugly creatures. It can be menacing or even life threatening sometimes.
Those people don’t realize that it is what it is, or worse, don’t care that they are misleading people. They disconnect people from reality. It is dangerous! People can have unrealistic preconceived notion about the sea and they can be disappointed when they find storms there. Worse, they can be so discouraged to the point of hating the sea.
In reality, the sea is sometimes beautiful and enjoyable, while at other times terrible and somber. Don’t ever expect the sea to be a tame poodle dog which always waggle its tail when you come, and don’t think of the sea as merely a large pool of water. It has its own emotion and reason.
I hate prosperity gospels. I hate it because it always portrays Christian life as beautiful and successful and, well, prosperous. “You are God’s children and you shall be prosperous in this world. Hallelujah!” With their fancy dress and charm they ensnare thousands of souls while collecting a lot of money. They make people feel good about themselves and they mislead them into thinking that all is “well” in the future if they believe in God. They distort God into a merry Santa Claus who gives toys to well-behaving children.
Christians are not always merry and successful and prosperous in this world. There are times of affliction, poverty, suffering, or even persecution.
Those people don’t realize, or worse, don’t care that they are misleading people into thinking that the gifts are better than the Giver. They cunningly interweave words like joy, peace, righteousness, or confidence in Christ into their core message of worldly success and material wealth. They always talk about you will get this and this and that. They don’t even talk about counting the cost of following Him. They disconnect people from the heart of Christian life. It’s all about you, not God. It is dangerous! People can pursue the gifts but not the Giver and they can be disappointed when they are not successful or prosperous in their lives. Worse, they can be so discouraged to the point of hating God.
In reality, Christian life can sometimes be merry and prosperous, while at other times sorrowful and hurting. Don’t ever expect God to be a jolly Santa Claus who always gives you what you want. He is who He is. He has His own discernment and wisdom. He has supreme understanding and sovereignty of what is good for His people, which is not always aligned with what His people want.
Dear courteous readers, this sailor of yours sometimes misleads himself (unintentionally, of course). Being a novice sailor, he is apt to make wrong decisions now and then. Life is a journey, they say, and so is Christian life. Sometimes he fits the concept of God to suit his worldly desire. In this case, this sailor of yours is no better than those prosperity seekers. That’s what makes prosperity gospel—or any other material pursuits—very dangerous, because it appeals to our most universal desire of being selfish. Every sane person wants their desires to be fulfilled, therefore everyone is prone to make use of God to get what one wants.
But sailing he goes, and he has learned a lot and still has a lot to learn in order to love the Giver more than the gifts. He tries to connect more and more to the ultimate reality and not delude himself of wishful thinking. He begins to see that this wonderful dance called life has its ups and downs, just like the rhythmic change of weather in the open ocean. He starts to accept that even though human beings are powerful, but they are of no comparison at all with God’s power. After all the mess he has made, he no longer wants to be the master of his fate and the captain of his soul.
The ocean can be cruel. Fortunately, there is a good Captain for all sailors out there. You may not hear Him now, but He is there. His wonderful message of hope does not always arrive in explicit form. Sometimes there are bizarre ways through which He communicates His presence, rather like semaphore code, or Morse code. So whatever wave it is that strikes your ship, however big and scary it is, take heart that it will come to pass.
Post tenebras lux (After darkness, light)