A book going by this name was produced in 2004 and to date has sold 4 million copies. In the secular market this would be considered relatively successful, but in the Christian market these numbers are astronomical. The book is written by the oft criticised pastor of Lakewood Church in Texas, Joel Osteen.
But after reflecting on the title of this book, I wonder if there isn’t some truth in it. God does want us to live our best lives now. He doesn’t want us to delay living until the next life. It’s just that what that “best life” looks like may not be the rainbows and unicorns that Joel Osteen suggests that it will.
Consider the Apostle Paul. No doubt there are none among the living who had the faith of this man. He believed in Christ, though he never met the Lord in person. He had a vision of the risen Lord Jesus and on the strength of that miracle, Paul repented and became a follower of Christ. He gave up everything to follow Him. Now in Joel Osteen’s theology that should have resulted in wealth and health. But this is what Paul says about himself in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
This does not sound like the victorious Christian life that prosperity gospel authors promise. But make no mistake:-
Paul is living his best life now.
It might not be wealth and health, but it is grace and glory. Paul might not be living a comfortable life, but he is living a cruciform one.
The way to live our best life now is not by thinking positive thoughts, or by acquiring wealth on this earth. It is by glorifying God in all that we do.
For some of us, that means acquiring wealth in a God glorifying way, so as to bless the nations, not just ourselves. For some of us that means afflictions and persecutions. For some Christians living their best life now will mean fearlessly preaching the gospel in hostile lands and dying as a result. For some of us it will mean dying a ripe old age with our great grand-children around us.
The problem of these authors is that they define “the best life” in such a way that it only applies to a small fraction of the population. Everyone else is told that they just don’t have enough faith. But as we’ve seen in the life of Paul our best lives are lived when we live them for God, not when we live them for material gain.