This post is a response to a friend of mine on Facebook about the comments Victoria Osteen made in a recent viral video seen here. Note: the paragraphs with the blue lines out by them or in italics (depending on your platform) are his original comments to which I am responding. Also note this is not an exhaustive response, nor is it a formal, scholarly response. Much more could be said but for the sake of brevity and due to the context of our conversation this shall suffice. Now to the post:
So that Joel Osteen and his wife. My goodness. Semantics folks. Please show me in the Bible where God does not want us to be happy? Sure maybe not stereotypical hedonistic happiness but I’m pretty sure he wants us to be happy in obedience. Which is obedience not one of the highest forms of worship? God saves our soul but then are we not saved and made new and better every day through our obedience? I know that personally, the happiest I’ve been was when I was closest to God and being obedient. I did not do this for God so that he would make me happy. I was simply happy IN HIM. Kind of reminds me of John 17:13. And I’d like to believe that his Joy in me that I chose to allow him to share with me, makes him happy.
Friend, there are several things one can address regarding Victoria Osteen’s comments, but I shall focus on four: happiness and joy, obedience, worship and God’s glory.
I don’t know of a place in Scripture where God wants people to be “happy,” particularly in the sense that that is God’s chief concern. Our happiness is not a theme throughout the whole narrative or Scripture nor does any Biblical writer spend any time at all talking about “happiness,” only about 30 times in the Bible whereas joy is talked about over 300. The Bible makes the distinction between happiness and joy. There could be many reasons for that; namely that happiness is cheap. It is a shallow emotion and is dependent on [outside] circumstance. You can be having a great day, and then get cut off in traffic, and in a moment, your happiness turns to anger. You flip the car off or cuss the driver, or do whatever it is you do when you are angry. It is shallow. Nowhere in Scripture do we see God doing all things for our happiness. Our self-centered, individualistic culture has instilled that in us. Commercials, movies, music. Advertising tells us that “it’s all about me,” which isn’t a biblical notion. Joy, however, that is a deeper emotion. Joy is unshakable. Something rooted internally that cannot be shaken despite circumstance. Joy only comes through repentance and following Christ. The “God wants us to be happy” idea doesn’t fit well with the last 2,000 years of Church History because persecution for the Christian faith was a norm for most of the world. It still is today. In the last 100 years alone, over 50 million Christians have been killed. Today, Christians are being beheaded and burned and raped and killed and people like Victoria and Joel Osteen teach a non-biblical, prosperity gospel that tells these faithful, persecuted Christians, “God wants you to be happy.” Only Christians in Western cultures can identify with such a notion of comfort and ease, and a lot of Christians here struggle with poverty and broken relationships. If the Bible is relevant and transcends cultures and time periods, which I believe it does, then it’s teachings must be applicable to all. The self-centered God wants *you* to be happy theology doesn’t apply to the Church universally because so many live in Third World countries. I can only imagine how Christians living in poverty and turmoil would react if you attended an underground church service and told them, “God wants you to be happy.” They would respond, “No, God wants us to be faithful and find our joy and comfort in Christ.” This response can be seen and heard through all kinds of mediums like letters and video. Happiness and hardship do not coexist. Hardship and joy do. Paul, who wrote several letters in a Roman prison, wrote 16 times that we should “rejoice” because of Christ despite our hardships. Peter is writing 1 Peter to persecuted Christians to exhort them and further their joy in Christ. True joy, the joy found in Christ, remains at the center of one’s heart in the midst of hardship and persecution; This is how people who are about to be slaughtered because they won’t deny Christ remain faithful and some with a strange calmness about their imminent death. They have joy and the Holy Spirit. Paul writes often, such is the case in Philippians 4, to “rejoice in the Lord,” not in ourselves and for ourselves, as Victoria Osteen stated. Jesus said in John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you [speaking of abiding in and following Him- v.1-10], that MY joy may be in you, that your joy may be full.” Jesus is saying joy comes from HIM, not ourselves, and because we find our joy in Him, we are satisfied. We see this language all throughout the New Testament, especially in John and the rest of the Epistles.
This brings me to the next point, and in order, yours: obedience. What does it mean to be obedient? The biblical notion of obedience is certainly not rooted in our happiness, as Mrs. Osteen says. She says we should be obedient and “do good works” for ourselves, not for God. The whole notion of obedience is that our good works point to God. For example: In Matthew 5:13-17, Jesus says “… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Also, this “light” we are to be is solely rooted in knowing Christ because, like the Moon reflects the Sun’s light, we, having Christ, reflect Him as the one true Light to the world. Paul speaks to this in Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” So we see that the very root of obedience and good works is Christ and FOR Christ. In fact, Christ modeled obedience (Philippians 2:5) and it wasn’t for His happiness, it was unto death on a cross. This is key because it vividly illustrates what Jesus meant in Luke 9:23 when He said, “if anyone would come after me, let him DENY HIMSELF and take up his cross daily and follow me.” That isn’t a pretty picture of obedience. Victoria Osteen said we should be obedient “for ourselves.” Why would anyone willingly, meaning for themselves, just deny themselves and take up a cross daily? If you aren’t doing that for Christ, then why do it? Is it fun? Are we Pharisees in the sense that we want people to see us a some “holier than thou” folk? Of course not. We do it in glad submission to Christ because Christ commanded obedience and we seek to follow Him. Also, on this note, if a person is claiming to be a follower of Christ and their motive is temporal/earthly blessing, then that is the opposite of denial of self, it is a motive based on self, as the temporal blessing is self-serving. The Bible makes clear that we show our love for Christ in being obedient: “if you love Me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Of course, we cannot do this perfectly, and this is why we worship and praise God for His grace and mercy. Were it not for Christ, we could not even be obedient (Is. 64:6). We are all train wrecks; totally imperfect and fallen, and that is one reason why Jesus is such good news. Without staying here too long, we are obedient to Christ for Christ and that reveals our love and faithfulness to Him, and the real intent of our hearts. For further references see 1 John 2:3-6, 5:2-3;1 Peter 2:12 (I’m sure there are more, but I’m trying to be brief).
Next, worship. Victoria Osteen suggested that worship is for ourselves. This is ridiculous and yet again, not biblical. Worship is giving God the praise and honor that He deserves. Of course, music is included but so is our daily lives (Rom. 12:1-2). Here is the motivation to worship: “the mercies of God” (Rom. 12:1). God’s mercies are everything He has given us that we don’t deserve: eternal love, eternal grace, the Holy Spirit, everlasting peace, eternal joy, saving faith, comfort, strength, wisdom, hope, patience, kindness, honor, glory, righteousness, security, eternal life, forgiveness, reconciliation, justification, sanctification, freedom, intercession and much more. The knowledge and understanding of these incredible gifts motivate us to pour forth praise and thanksgiving, e.g. worship. Hebrews 12:28 tells us that we must “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” The Greek word translated “serve” here is a form of the word “worship” and is used 21 times in the New Testament in the contexts of service and worship. Other Greek words translated “worship” are prokeneuo meaning “paying homage” (1 Cor. 14:25), sebazomai, meaning “to render religious honor” (Rom. 1:25), and sebomai meaning “to revere or adore” (Acts 16:14). We see this same word used by Jesus to describe the vain, hypocritical worship of God (Matt. 15:9), leading us to the conclusion that not all “worship” is acceptable to God. The biblical notion of worship is not “for ourselves.” It is for a God who is worthy and is to be done, as mentioned earlier, reverently. This means it is to be done with the understanding of who it is being worshiped. God is holy, just, righteous, perfect, powerful, loving, wrathful etc. Those who wish to worship Biblically must worship God as He is revealed in Scripture, and with the right motive: God’s glory, which brings us to my last point. [[note: I’m not a Greek scholar. I just have good resources]]
Worship, obedience, and joy are not inherently “for ourselves.” It is for God’s glory. We find our satisfaction, we worship and obey because He is worthy of being glorified. Why did he create the earth and create human beings and animals and all sorts of other stuff? For his glory. Isaiah 43:7 says, “… everyone who is called by name, whom I CREATED FOR MY GLORY, whom I formed and made.” Psalm 19:1-4 speak to why God created anything at all: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork (Ps. 19:1).” Isaish 42:8 says, “I am the LORD; that is my name; I give glory to no other; nor my praise to carved idols.” God is serious about all of creation being about Him, and that includes us as created beings. Paul talks about the jealousy for His glory in Romans 1:21-25: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” The notion of God being about His glory is evident in Romans 9-11 when Paul talks about God receiving glory in saving sinners.
So I don’t understand this attack one bit. I do however understand the attacks on the Osteen family about all the things they DONT preach. That to me is sugar-coating and making feel-good faith or whatever. But this most recent thing, I don’t buy it. I know it’s been the popular thing to call him out over the past 10 years or more but let’s keep it over the substantial things.
God’s glory is a “substantive thing.” It should be the chief aim of our lives. I also would say it’s not an “attack on the Osteen family,” just Joel and Victoria, and rightfully so for they are heretics and deceivers, perhaps apostates. You can tell a tree by its fruit. The comments by Victoria should be placed in the larger context of their ministry and theology. What these two say and do in the name of Christ is blasphemous. They have created a god that is an idealized version of themselves, a happy-go-lucky, non-judgmental, prosperous god, and that is idolatry.
Like 20 of you guys have posted about this so I am not singling anyone out in a passive aggressive way. Feel free to discuss this with me at length, preferably on this thread for the benefit of all. Though if you are disgusted and think you would rather just delete me then you should tell me you think I am wrong privately and attempt to bring me back in to the fold.
It’s possible I’m not understanding something.
I tried my best to be brief and straight to the point. I know my response is lengthier than one would hope but I felt that if I didn’t say at least this much, I shouldn’t respond at all.
And friend, please know, by responding this way (lengthy and direct), I am in no way accusing or implying you agree with the video’s comments or the Osteen’s heretical theology in general. I just wanted to try and put forth what Scripture says about the things she mentioned and the questions you asked. I hope I have answered your questions. If not, feel free to private message me.