The copyright pages to both of Joel's books categorize them as "Self-actualization (Psychology)". This motivational advice coupled with the help of a generous God is clearly presented in Your Best Life Now and Become a Better You:
What seems to give Joel Osteen's message of success and happiness the greatest credibility is that he appears to be experiencing the dramatic results of following the motivational advice he gives.
Joel's first national best-seller book, "Your Best Life Now" sold over 4 million copies. His second book "Become a Better You" gained Joel an unprecedented $13 million dollar advance.
The church he pastors, Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, has had incredible growth success. When Joel took the church over after the death of his father in 1999, the attendance was an impressive 7,000. Under Joel's leadership the weekly attendance skyrocketed to an estimated 42,000 by late 2007! Joel's church spent nearly 100 million dollars renovating the Houston Rockets' 16,000 seat Sports Arena which now grosses $73 million dollars a year. Joel told CBN.com (The 700 Club) that "I believe one day they'll be 100,000 people coming between four to five different services."
Joel does give "some" good advice in his books and sermons, such as be forgiving and don't be bitter. Be kind to your wife and be a person of integrity and generous to everyone.
But the theme of his books and sermons is clearly man centered rather than God centered. Positive, feel-good messages of assurance that God always rewards human effort and virtue with happiness, success, health and wealth. His essential message is, "You can have this NOW!"
Sadly, Joel won't preach the heart of the Christian Gospel that Jesus Christ and His shed blood on the cross is the solution to man's moral bankruptcy. Nor will you hear about a Holy God who must punish sin or about a life of submission to Jesus Christ. The gospel that Joel preaches can be summed up in one word, "prosperity".
The Apostle Paul warned of the seriousness of preaching another gospel:
Much of Joel's teaching comes from a misunderstanding and misuse of scripture. This is complemented with declarations that something is true without any biblical support whatsoever.
To obtain God's best Joel says that you must get rid of any bitterness or resentment. "You may even need to forgive God":
It is unthinkable to even suggest that there is some wayward way in God that He would require my forgiveness. God is not required to give us an explanation for anything. Who can accuse God?
Joel ends his book, Your Best Life Now with a reminder that our faith is what activates God's power for bigger and better things:
Rather than man's faith activating God's power or our small-minded thinking limiting God, the Holy Bible reveals that God does according to His will without restraint from anyone:
The Power of Words
Joel teaches not only that we can limit God and activate God's power by our faith, but that our "words" likewise energize God to produce the future we desire. This "Word-Faith" distortion was taught by Joel's father and handed down to Joel. He spends a whole chapter (Speaking Life-Changing Words) on this principle in his first book:
Joel wrote another full chapter dedicated to "Making Your Words Work for You" in his second book, "Become a Better You":
According to Joel, our words can thwart God's plan and curse our future:
Our words will never limit the God of the Holy Bible and His purposes in any way:
Joel teaches that just as we have to rid ourselves of negative influences so Jesus had to rid Himself of a negative environment, which would have ended up holding Him back:
In one example of Joel's glaring misuse of the Scriptures, he turns "the fall of man" into a message of "success":
Scripture is not meant to be used in this way. The meaning here is clear that a radical change had taken place because of sin. Great fear came over Adam as he recognized his nakedness and hid from God. Joel's message of "success in the fall" demonstrates that his guidance is not to be trusted.
Here's a list of some of God's favor that Joel presents:
New home. Move up to first class. Promotions. Incredible gifts. Happiness. Health.
Joel tells you that you can live in the home of your dreams as he did if you "conceive it on the inside". (Your Best Life Now, p. 5)
Joel says you will get "preferential treatment" as he did when he was moved to first class. (Your Best Life Now, pp. 45, 46)
He says you will receive promotions and live prosperously in every area of live. (Your Best Life Now, p. 87)
Joel claims that if you haven't been treated fairly at work for a long time, God will pay you back for all those wrongs and will give you incredible gifts, such as a complete mechanic's shop free and clear. (Your Best Life Now, p. 167)
Joel insists that God "wants every generation to increase in happiness, success, and significance." (Become a Better You, p. 3)
Joel's key to properity is Pray, believe, and declare health and you can be happy, healthy, and whole. (Become a Better You, pp. 45, 46)
If this message is from God, why is it not proclaimed to the starving and poor? Would you take this message to the ghettos or the prison camps where Christians die in confinement? What of the martyrs burned at the stake for refusing to compromise the gospel of the cross? Why weren't the apostles prosperous in the things of this world?
Joel's prosperity teachings are often presented as simple authoritative proclamations - and even his references to the Bible lack responsible analysis and application. The hearer is not convinced by the strength and worth of scripture, but is seduced by the appeal of the prosperity message and confidence in the messenger.
This is man-centered materialism, spawned in the richest country in world. It is appealing to the flesh, but it is not the message of the Bible. Our treasure and delight is in God and His worth; it is not our worldly abundance. Our best life is NOT now but it is yet to come - in glory with our Lord.
God does want us to be happy, but happy in Him:
True Christians are not called to a life of worldly prosperity, success, and health. We are called to lose our lives for the sake of Christ and the reward that is yet to come:
The scriptures do not promise a life of leisure and success but of difficulty:
A pastor's greatest responsibility is to earnestly present the only gospel that can save morally bankrupt sinners. This is the message of inconceivable worth in the shed blood of the Son of God on the cross. Tragically, you won't hear Joel present this message.
The Apostle Paul expressed the sum and substance of the Christian message which is the gospel: