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The Faith Formula (A Short Story)

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There was a young lady named Christine who had everything going for her in life. She had a boyfriend whom she loved, a good career that was getting better, and a happy family who loved her. But with all these wonderful things in her life, she felt that something was missing. There was a hole in her heart.

One day, she decided to have lunch with her friend Lara who was a Christian. She told her how she felt. She was up for promotion and her boyfriend had something planned for them on their second anniversary next month.

She was supposed to be happy but for some reason, she felt very empty.

Lara was overjoyed when she heard these things. She had been praying for Christine for a long time and had been waiting for Christine to finally feel the lack of fulfillment in her life. So Lara responded by telling her about Jesus. She told Christine that Jesus was there to give her great health, sure success and wealth with her career and relationships. Christine thought about it for a moment. With the coming promotion, she DID need some help from God since there was another person competing with her for the promotion. She also wanted to make sure that everything would go well with her boyfriend James. She loved him so much and wanted him to be her future husband. Of course, even if she was already healthy, just the thought of having a guarantee from Jesus Himself seemed like a very good promise. So in that afternoon, Lara happily led Christine to pray the sinner’s prayer.

Christine also felt very happy when she went home that evening. Having a promise from God that she would be healthy, wealthy, successful, and have good relationships for the rest of her life was surely the fulfillment she needed.

Of course, as a Christian, she knew that she had to start going to church and read her Bible. But since the church Lara attended was too far from her, she attended a different church. This church had a pastor who was very clear in preaching about sin and repentance and godly living. So she decided that she would obey the pastor’s preachings since she was after all a new Christian. This was when things began to get complicated.

She went home and told her family that she was now a Christian. She expected her family to be very happy for her. Instead, her family got angry with her. They told Christine that they were born with their own religion and they should die in the same religion. To leave that religion was to leave their God. Her family told her that she ought to renounce this new devotion for Jesus. Christine felt bad but decided not to give up. Perhaps this was just a test.

The next day was Monday so she went to work. She remembered the pastor’s preaching about being holy. So when her boss arrived, Christine decided that she would no longer flirt with her boss. She thought that surely her boss would take her more seriously now and guarantee her promotion because aside from flirting with him, she DID work very hard as well. But after a week, she came home depressed because the boss mentioned something about the promotion to be given to someone else. The promotion she was hoping for was what would give her a salary increase, and this was what her family was counting on for her mother’s medical bills.

Because of her depression, Christine called her friend Lara. With a hint of betrayal in her voice, she asked Lara why these things were happening to her. She was promised health, wealth, success, and good relationships. Now, she just lost her promotion (success) and her wealth (salary increase). Lara told her that it was probably because she either had sin in her life or lack of faith. God does not bless sin or lack of faith. She knew that she had a lot of faith since she even obeyed the pastor’s preaching by faith. She also knew that she didn’t sin in the past few days since she was careful to obey everything that the pastor said. Then, Lara told her about the secret formula to success. It was called “Name it, Claim it!”

Whatever Christine wanted in life, she had to name it and then claim in Jesus’ name. Lara apologized for not telling Christine about this powerful faith formula sooner. Christine felt a little annoyed but quickly forgave her Christian friend. She was very excited to use this faith formula. The promotion has not yet been given so there was still time to claim it! Everything was going to be alright.

The next Sunday, Christine went to church again and the pastor preached about sexual purity as well as godly relationships. She wanted her relationship with James to be blessed by God. Therefore, she listened intently to the pastor. This was going to be the BEST week of her year. Her anniversary get-away with her boyfriend, James, was going to be that weekend in a five-star beach resort and the promotion was going to be announced the Monday after. The promotion was going to be hers for sure. She had named it, claimed it every single day for the whole week and she knew that her heart was full of faith.

The trip to the beach resort was great. They had a wonderful dinner. As they entered their room, James was very excited. He got the BEST room in the resort with the BEST view. Even if it cost him a lot of money, he knew it was all worth it. But Christine felt uneasy. In her mind, the pastor’s voice kept repeating itself like a broken record. Sexual purity was important to God. She was in the washroom looking at herself in the mirror. She was a very pretty young lady, and she knew that James was expecting them to have sex. But she also knew that God wanted her to stop sleeping with her boyfriend. After a quick prayer to name “good relationship” and claim it by faith, she decided that telling James about her faith in God would be a wise decision. Now that she was honoring God, God would surely bless her relationship. She came out of the washroom and saw James waiting for her on the bed. Christine sat on the edge of the bed and began to tell her boyfriend of 2 years, who just spent a lot of money for this vacation, about her newfound faith in Jesus and her desire to honor God by not sleeping together anymore. She told him that God would surely bless their relationship if they obeyed him. She was so sure that James would understand; especially because of what Lara had told her about the faith formula of “name it claim it” and the promises of God that Lara mentioned. Health, wealth, success, and good relationships. To her disappointment, James became very upset. He told her about how much he spent for the resort. He also could not understand why they should stop sleeping together now when they have been sleeping together for the past 2 years. This was a huge change in their relationship, especially for James. That night, on their second anniversary, they had the worst fight they ever had. James fell asleep angry, disappointed and frustrated, while Christine slept confused, tired, and feeling very much betrayed.

The next day, on the way home, James gave Christine two choices. She had to choose between her boyfriend whom she loved for 2 years, or Jesus whom she knew for only 2 weeks. It was James or Jesus. Christine asked for time to think it over, to which James agreed. A week to decide or they would break up. Christine arrived at her house crying and her family asked her what happened. Her family liked James because he had a good paying job and was very smart and charismatic. After explaining what had happened, Christine’s family blamed everything on her faith in Jesus. If she had not given her life to Jesus, none of this would have happened. But after Christine explained the faith formula to her family, assured them that she would get the promotion and the salary increase to pay for her mom’s medical bills, they left her alone. Surely, the next day would be better.

Monday. The promotion was going to be announced. This meant a 70% salary increase. This meant her mom would get medical attention she needed from the private hospital. This meant her family would accept her faith in Jesus. She had named this and claimed this faithfully. She had obeyed the pastor. She had not sinned. She did not lack faith. This promotion had to belong to her. Her boss entered their department and called everyone’s attention. Christine’s heart was pounding fast. She could already hear her name being called. But to her dismay, her boss called Nathan instead. Nathan was the other guy. The competition. Why was it given to him? He was a suck up, always playing favorites, and all he really did was make coffee for his boss. Christine couldn’t help it. She rushed to the washroom and cried. Maybe if she just continued flirting with her boss, she would get the promotion. Maybe if she only slept with James, they would still be together. Maybe if she never trusted Lara’s promises, her family would still accept her. Christine began to doubt her faith. She began to doubt herself, then her friend Lara.

There were a few possibilities: either she sinned, lacked faith, God lied or Lara misrepresented God.

She went home very bitter and angry. She called Lara and asked for an explanation. Lara didn’t know what to say. Before Lara could comfort Christine, Christine hung up the phone. She got into her car and drove straight to the church she attended. The pastor, Pastor Hank, was in his office. She asked for some time. Pastor Hank, with his wife Julie, happily welcomed her into the office. There, she explained with bitter tears her whole story. They listened to her, prayed for her, then explained to her the error of what is known as the PROSPERITY GOSPEL and the FAITH FORMULA. Pastor Hank and his wife Julie explained to Christine that the Christian faith is about carrying one’s cross (Lk 14:27), devotion amidst persecution, faith despite the situation (Jn 15:19-20), and that the reward of our faith is NOT what we were asking God for. Instead, the reward of faith is knowing that God was PLEASED with our faith (Heb 11). Christine asked Pastor Hank and Julie about Lara. If this was really what Christianity was about, why did Lara misrepresent God? Why did Lara give her false and empty promises? Pastor Hank and his wife Julie explained that God DOES bless His people. But His blessings are more about love even for enemies, joy in the midst of trial, peace in the midst of adversity, patience for others, goodness for others, kindness even for enemies, gentleness in our daily life, faithfulness to God in all things, and self-control against sinful temptations. God’s blessings had more to do with salvation, eternal life, eternal hope and unexplainable joy in CHRIST instead of material blessings (Gal 5:22). Lara was deceived by the Word of Faith Cult. She believed the prosperity gospels and faith formulas from cults (2Tim 4:2-4). Christine, now understanding the TRUE Gospel, repented to God for believing in the lies that her friend Lara told her. She also forgave Lara in her heart and committed to talk to Lara about the True Gospel. Christine went home with a sense of peace, understanding, and joy. She knew that she may have lost her boyfriend, her promotion, and even her family, but she had JESUS and SALVATION. It was more than enough.

2 Timothy 4:2-4 “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

Galatians 1:6-9 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!”

John 15:19-20 “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.”

Luke 14:27 “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

My friends, I wrote this note because I have witnessed friends and even entire families get pulled into this kind of false gospel preaching. The end result is a lot of pain, bitterness, and a feeling of betrayal. Although some people actually DO get what they want -such as material blessings and worldly success- it makes me wonder if they go to God because they love God or if they just go to God to get stuff from Him. I wonder if their devotion is to Jesus or to their own worldly desires and ambitions.

Not many people will like this story. In fact, I’m certain that many people will DISlike both this story and its author. Probably because I’m not as good a writer as Rowling, Tolkien or Meyer. Probably, also, because (as in the case of Jesus whenever He told parables) this parable exposes the hearts and motives of many who read it. They read this parable and realize how much they have cheapened Jesus. They have become followers of certain false teachers, preachers and pastors who have no business standing behind a pulpit. When their favorite ear-tickling doctrines are exposed, they become defensive.

Yes, this story is simply a parable but I hope you take it to heart. In this story, are you the pastor (Hank) who is faithfully preaching the Gospel? Are you Christine who is trying out the faith formula? Or are you Lara who is misrepresenting Jesus? Or perhaps, are you James and Christine’s family who stand between them and Christ? Whoever you are in this story, I pray that God speaks to you clearly. May you hear what God wants you to hear through the story.

Shalom!

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