The second biggest hit from Coldplay’s album Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends is the single Lost! In this song, Chris Martin writes of a character who laments that his efforts often are frustrated by the world around him. In the first chorus, he sings,
I just got lost!
Every river that I tried to cross
Every door I ever tried was locked
Oh and I'm just waiting ‘til the shine wears off
What a great line that is… “I'm just waiting ‘til the shine wears off.” He’s saying that every time things look good, he knows that there will be a time that it no longer will be good. Like a shiny new toy, everything will inevitably end up being a disappointment. Every time he has tried to do something, he ends up lost and frustrated.
This is not just his personal experience; he warns us, his listeners, that it will be our experience as well –
You might be a big fish
In a little pond
Doesn't mean you’ve won
‘Cause along will come
A bigger one
And you'll be lost!
Every river that you tried to cross
Every gun you ever held went off
Oh and I'm just waiting ‘til the firing’s stopped
Oh and I'm just waiting ‘til the shine wears off
The Christian worldview explains why this is so. Everything was created good, humans and creation were in a synergistic harmony, but something awful has happened to this universal flourishing, this “shalom.”
Christian theologians call it “The Fall.”
The deep relationships that humans were meant to have with God, with each other, and with the rest of Creation have been deeply wounded. The Fall explains why we are “alienated from and enemies with God” (Colossians 1:21). The Fall explains why there is “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy” (Galatians 5:20-21). The Fall explains why “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:22).
The Fall is a universal experience. It seems that no matter what we do, we are frustrated by the Fall. No matter what, no matter how new and improved we make things, we end up resigned to waiting ‘till the shine wears off.
What is the Christian response?
There seems to be two differing responses vying for the American Christian’s devotion. One says that since Christ has come and empowered Christians with His Spirit, we can reverse the results of the Fall for ourselves through our God-given ability to think and speak things into existence. The thinking is that since we are made in God’s image, we have the ability to create by way of our words. If we think positively, if we envision a different, better life, if we speak positive truth, then we can reverse the results of the Fall.
The other Christian response says that since Christ has come and empowered Christians with His Spirit, we can reverse the results of the Fall for ourselves and the rest of God’s Creation through our God-given ability to discern how to cooperate with God to bring redemption. This differs from the other in that it faces squarely the fact that life difficult, that there are forces that seek to bring death and decay to the world around us, and that it will be a battle to bring redemption to the world. This also differs because it believes that ultimate redemption cannot be achieved until Christ the King returns to make all things right.
It should be apparent that I think the latter worldview is the true one. It seems to match the biblical storyline and the reality of existence much better than the former one. However, many Christians evidently do not see it the way I do, because they have made Joel Osteen’s book Your Best Life Now a best-seller.
Let’s look at how Osteen feeds the reader lies about how to deal with a fallen world.
After encouraging the reader to “Enlarge your Vision” (Part 1), and to “Develop a Healthy Self-Image” (Part 2), both of which seem pretty nice things for a Christian to do, Osteen goes straight into the Word-of-Faith teaching of his Prosperity Gospel. Part 3 is entitled, “Discover the Power of Your Thoughts and Words.” Osteen tells the reader,
“When you think thoughts of failure, you are destined to fail… But when you align your thoughts with God’s thoughts and you start dwelling on the promises of His Word, when you constantly dwell on thoughts of His victory, favor, power, and strength, nothing can hold you back. When you think positive, excellent thoughts, you will be propelled toward greatness, inevitably bound for increase, promotion, and God’s supernatural blessings.” (p. 104)
Osteen’s biblical evidence that this is true? He cites Proverbs 23:7, which he quotes as saying “As a person thinks in his heart, so he will become.” Sounds like an open-and-shut case… until you look up the verse in the Bible. Proverbs 23:7 does not say what Osteen wants it to say – it is about how we should avoid eating a stingy man’s food because within himself he is not thinking with a pure heart toward you. Not exactly a name-it-and-claim-it formula there.
Not only are you to think positively, Osteen says that your words have actual power.
Sadly, many people are living discouraged lives because of their words. They say things such as:
- “Nothing good ever happens to me.”
- “I’ll never be successful.”
- “I don’t have what it takes. I can’t do it.”
- “I’ll never get out of this mess.” (p. 122)
What is Osteen’s biblical mandate on this teaching? He goes to James 3:4.
“The Bible compares the tongue to the rudder of a huge ship. Although the rudder is small, it controls the direction of the entire ship, and, in a similar manner, your tongue will control the direction of your life.” (p. 122)
Now, I know that I went to Seminary and I always have my antennae up to hear these misinterpretations of Scripture, but doesn’t normal Joe Christian not recognize that major leap of logic? Since the Bible warns us that our tongues are evil in that they “boast of great things,” then, according to Osteen, we should use them to not say negative things, but to boast of great things. Hmmm…
Not only are we to stop the negative talk, Osteen wants us to go on the offensive.
“The Scripture says, ‘With the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10). This same principle is true in other areas… If you are facing sickness today…say something such as, ‘Father, I thank You that you promised me in Psalms that I will live and not die and I will declare the works of the Lord”… If you are struggling financially, instead of talking about your problems, you need to boldly declare, ‘Everything I put my hands to prospers and succeeds!’ Friend, when you make those kinds of bold declarations, all heaven comes to attention to back up God’s Word.” (p. 130)
So, to Chris Martin of Coldplay, Joel Osteen would say,
“Friend, your problem is because you are not thinking positively and saying bold words of prosperity! You must stop saying these negative words! Instead of dwelling on and talking about all the negatives in life, you need to choose to dwell on the positive! You need to sing, Every river that I try to cross I will cross successfully! Every door I ever try will be opened for me!"
So, Chris listens to the advice, but he still feels “lost" - the shine continues to wear off. Things continue to feel fallen and life often feels discouraging: Somebody else gets the promotion, a loved one dies suddenly, the bills continue to pile up, and there is still all the brokenness in the world around him – hunger and disease, terrorism, war, etc.
When Chris goes back to Joel Osteen or one of the other Word-of-Faith teachers, and complains about all this, he is shut down immediately. “Do not speak negatively! Your words have power! Your lack of faith will continue to bring you tragedy! Think and say only positives!”
Hopefully, Chris will see the folly of this worldview.
Hopefully, he come to sober judgment about himself, the world that is in perpetual struggle, and what he is called to do about it.
And Jesus is there, offering him grace to move from being a part of the problem to becoming a part of the solution.
“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)