The Prosperity Gospel?

Here is a wonderful excerpt from J. C. Ryle, written 130 years ago, about the story of Jesus calming the storm ().[1]

“Following Christ will not prevent our having earthly sorrows and troubles.

“Here are the chosen disciples of the Lord Jesus in great anxiety… The fear of death breaks in upon them like an armed man. The deep water seems likely to go over their souls.

“Perhaps they had not reckoned on all this.  Perhaps they had expected that Christ’s service would at any rate lift them above the reach of earthly trials.  Perhaps they thought that He , who could raise the dead and heal the sick and feed multitudes with a few loaves and cast out devils with a word, He would never allow His servants to be sufferers upon earth.  Perhaps they had supposed He would always grant them smooth journeys, fine weather, an easy course and freedom from trouble and care.

“If the disciples thought so, they were much mistaken.  The Lord Jesus taught them that a man may be one of His chosen servants, and yet have to go through many an anxiety, and endure many a pain.

“It is good to understand this clearly…  If you are a believer, you must reckon on having your share of sickness and pain, of sorrow and tears, of losses and crosses, of deaths and bereavements…  He has undertaken that all who come to Him shall have all things pertaining to life and godliness; but He has never undertaken that He will make them prosperous, or rich, or healthy…

“I have the privilege of being one of Christ’s ambassadors.  In His name I can offer eternal life to any man, woman or child who is willing to have it…  But I dare not offer that person worldly prosperity as a part and parcel of the gospel.  I dare not offer him long life, an increased income and freedom from  pain.  I dare not promise the man who takes up the cross and follows Christ that in the following he shall never meet with a storm.

“I know well that many do not like these terms.  They would prefer having Christ and good health, Christ and plenty of money, Christ and no deaths in their family, Christ and no wearing cares, Christ and a perpetual morning without clouds.  But they do not like Christ and the cross, Christ and tribulation, Christ and the conflict, Christ and the howling wind, Christ and the storm.

“How would the great work of sanctification go on in a man if he had no trial?

“If you profess to be a child of God, leave to the Lord Jesus to sanctify you in His own way.  Rest satisfied that He never makes any mistakes.  Be sure that He does all things well.  The winds may howl around you, and waters swell.  But fear not, ‘He is leading you by the right way, that He may bring you to a city of habitation’ ().”


[1] Ryle, J. C., Holiness (Hertfordshire: Evangelical Press, 1979), 192-194.

37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

He led them by a straight way
till they reached a city to dwell in.