I’m sitting this drizzly Thursday morning in what has become one of my favorite haunts here in the Atlanta area, a little coffee shop that opened not long after I moved here called JavaJo’s. There’s free wi-fi (I love “free”, of course!), and the great smell of coffee (though I don’t drink it, I love the smell), some soft blues playing in the background; it’s the kind of place that I was looking for when I moved here, to become a “regular”, to get to know some of the folks, to be a friend and a witness for the Lord. All of those things have happened here.
And now, tomorrow, JavaJo’s is closing. And I’m bummed. Bigtime.
The owner, Marty, was baptized on Easter Sunday. He came to the Lord and is part of a mega-church here in the area, a church that’s doing a good work; a long-time acquaintance of mine is on staff there. Marty put his money, his heart, his soul into this place. He’s a good guy. Everybody loves Marty. He makes good coffee (I guess). And yet it’s going belly-up. And I hate it for me a little bit, but for him more.
And there are people who are teaching the doctrine that, effectively, if Marty had only “believed God for favor”, had seen in his mind a clear mental picture of success, had rejected the naysayers and only hung around with the people who encouraged him, he’d have had success. JavaJo’s would have been a smashing hit. And some of these people are parading this nonsense as though it were what the Bible teaches.
I hope Marty, the new Christian, never runs across one of these charlatans.
Because I’m sure Marty had a dream—that’s why he put his money and heart and soul into this place. And I’m sure he did his homework, and I’m sure he’s prayed, and I’m sure he’s done a lot of the stuff that these teachers say must be done. But in a fallen world, sometimes we don’t get the results we want. Even Christians. Even Christians who pray hard and love Jesus and dedicate themselves to doing God’s will. We don’t get all the cookies. Sometimes we roll a snake-eyes, we don’t get the handsome hunk to wed, we don’t own the big house that we “visualized in our great big God-dream”. That’s what makes a movie like “Facing the Giants” such a frustration; I admire the church and youth pastor that made it happen—that was an incredible feat. But the plot line of the movie was basically, “give it all to God, and in the end, you get everything on this earth you ever wanted.”
But it doesn’t work that way—and you know it (or should), and I know it—and it’s time we stopped lying to the world about the way things are when you become a Christian, or when you “possibility think”. Because for every successful business person who gave his business to the Lord and it prospered, there is another one—or probably another three—whose business failed. For every successful church planter who grew a church of 2000 and now appears on the church-planting circuit and writes cleverly-titled books, there are several who did “all the right things”, and found little or no success, and there are several others who didn’t “follow the rules”, and yet God showed up anyway and did His God-thing, and people’s lives were changed. And for every desperate housewife who believed God for her husband to quit running around on her and getting drunk, whose husband came to Jesus and their lives are now great, there are many more whose husbands remain low-life scum, who beat them mercilessly and ran off with the floozy from the bar.
When we follow Jesus, our eternal problem is solved: we have peace with God; we stand justified before Him; we are new creatures, created in Jesus to do the good works that God designed us to do. Our biggest problem is solved! But becoming a Christ-follower might actually cause us some problems (see the Persecuted Church), and it doesn’t make us immune to cancer, prodigal kids, leaky roofs, or waxy yellow buildup, no matter how much we “positively confess” or become “favor-minded” or raise our “self-esteem.”
And it doesn’t make us immune to our businesses shutting down, even if we trust God and have great caramel lattes.