News from the Tennessee Valley Religion

Rev. Kevin Ward

A note missing from the song

If the Christian faith is a song, which notes are you missing?

A song can be beautiful, but if you miss main notes from the melody, it can turn ugly. Leonard Sweet, professor of evangelism at Drew University, says that the Christian faith has missed a note for many years. That note is joy.

A recent message by the successful minister and television preacher Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Dallas was "God Has a Blessing for You." He is in a long line of people who have preached and taught that God gives good things to the believer.

He preaches about the blessings, power and joy that God has for every Christian. I believe that his message follows one of the main themes of Robert Schuller, "possibility thinking." But Schuller was only one of a number teaching similar messages. Norman Vincent Peale wrote "The Power of Positive Thinking," "The Amazing Results of Positive Thinking" and other books.

The note these ministers have played and sung is one note in our song of faith.

It is true that God's blessings are given to Christians. God has good things in store, so look for them, expect them, pray for them. Living the life of a Christian should naturally be a blessing as we love and forgive rather than hate and carry grudges. Spiritually, we receive much from God.

"Ask and it will be given you, seek and you will find," Jesus said, according to Matthew 7:7.

We need to be joyful and thankful for blessings from God.

But where the singer falters is viewing faith as "all about us." It is about God and his desire for a relationship with us, and our response.

When blessings become our entire message, we become a Johnny one-note.

If the blessing is all that is proclaimed, then we have missed much of the song. The focus on blessings we hear from Osteen, Schuller and others is a necessary correction to negative themes of religion. We have been too much a "woe is me," "what a worm am I" church. Our song of faith has missed important notes that kept it from being beautiful as God intended.

So, joy is a high note in the melody that we should not miss. When we seek the natural and spiritual blessings of God, we tend to be more joyful and we can sing the song in a more complete and beautiful way. Giving thanks is a note that is deeper and needed for support. To sing the song of Christian faith, we have to hit the notes of joy and thanksgiving for all the blessings God has for us.

The Rev. Robert Sparkman Jr. is senior pastor at Hartselle First United Methodist Church. He is one of several local ministers writing religion columns for The Daily. Area ministers interested in writing a column should call Melanie Smith at 340-2468.

Rev. Robert Sparkman Jr. Rev. Robert Sparkman Jr.

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