Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of David Jones and Russell Woodbridge's recent book, Health, Wealth, and Happiness (Kregal Publications, 2011).

A popular message is influencing many Christians today. It’s often called the prosperity gospel, because it claims to give believers good news: If they just have enough faith, they can get the kind of lives they want from God, including good health and significant wealth.

But the prosperity gospel is actually bad news because it twists biblical teachings so much that people who trust in its message may miss out on the hope that the real Gospel offers. Don’t let the prosperity gospel fool you. It’s only when you place your trust in the real Gospel – the one proclaimed by Jesus in the Bible – that you can have the life that’s best for you.

Here’s how you can avoid the prosperity gospel’s dangerous message and follow Christ’s Gospel instead:

Seek God Himself rather than His blessings. Yes, God loves you and wants to bless you, but He’ll do so in His own ways, according to His will – not yours. Contrary to what the prosperity gospel claims, God hasn’t promised to bless all people with good health and plenty of wealth if they ask Him for it in faith. Instead, God has promised something better: His presence. You can count on the fact that God will be with you, no matter what. But trying to manipulate God into giving you want you want simply won’t work.

When you focus on the blessings you want God to give you more than you focus on God Himself, the blessings you’re hoping for become idols in your life, drawing your attention away from God and toward your own desires. Never place your trust or sense of security in anything or anyone other than God Himself, because only God has the power to ultimately fulfill you.

Recognize the limits of your own power. While the prosperity gospel tells you that you can make success happen by focusing your thoughts on what you want and praying in faith, in reality you don’t have the power to create whatever you want through mental and spiritual effort. The Bible and history are full of examples of great thinkers who had great faith, yet still endured sickness and poverty. God didn’t choose to spare those people from suffering, despite His love for them. If you think you can change your own circumstances simply by declaring in faith that you want different circumstances, you’re exalting yourself to a godlike level that is inaccurate and spiritually dangerous because it causes you to trust in yourself more than in God.

Understand the value of suffering. Since God accomplishes good purposes through suffering, it has value and you shouldn’t try to avoid it at all costs. Even Jesus chose to suffer during His life on Earth, so it’s reasonable to expect that the Christian life’s main goal – becoming more like Jesus – will involve some suffering. In fact, Jesus says that you should expect trouble in this world. But when you trust God as you go through suffering, you can also expect to learn valuable lessons and emerge from it as a better person.

Consider why you want to be saved. The prosperity gospel is simply a self-help philosophy designed to try to save you from undesirable circumstances. But the real Gospel declares that through a relationship with Jesus, you can be saved from sin and experience eternal life. Realize that you can’t truly be saved by depending on your own efforts to succeed in life; you must repent of your sin and trust in Jesus’ power to save you from it. Jesus died for your sins, not so that you can become prosperous, but so that you can die to selfish and destructive sin and live in a right relationship with God.