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Watch 2022 online sermons » Joel Osteen » Joel Osteen - Pass the Test

Joel Osteen - Pass the Test

Joel Osteen - Pass the Test

I want to talk to you today about Past The Test. We all face situations that are uncomfortable: we're not getting our way, someone's not treating us right, our dream has taken longer than we thought. It's easy to get upset, live frustrated, wondering why it's not changing. But much of life is a test. You don't really know what's in you until you're put under pressure. It's easy to have a good attitude when everything's going your way, people are being good to you, doors are opening, the driver next to you politely let you in, you'll feel the joy of the Lord, "Thank you Jesus for your favor". And that's good. Praise, gratefulness is inside you. But how about when the driver isn't so polite? In fact they make sure you don't get in, stay right on the other person's bumper. You may find out there are some other things in you, besides praise and thanksgiving. You weren't speaking in tongues, but another language started coming out.

Peter told Jesus, "I'll never deny you. I'm your most faithful disciple". His heart was right, he had good intentions and standing with the other disciples. In that atmosphere of faith that wasn't difficult. But when he was put under pressure, when the Roman soldiers were arresting Jesus, when the heat was turned up, the young lady said, "He's one of the disciples". Peter said, "No, I'm not, you have the wrong person". Three times he denied he knew Jesus. The pressure brings to light weaknesses in our character, areas we need to deal with. If we'll be willing to change, make adjustments, start passing those tests, then God will trust us with more of his favor. But just because Peter failed that test that didn't stop his destiny. God doesn't give up on us, he gives us another chance.

It's significant that Peter is the one that wrote, "Don't be surprised at the fiery trial, that is to test your quality". The purpose of the trial is to test your character. God already knows how you're going to respond. It's not to show God, it's to show you what's in you. Every traffic jam, every person that gets on your nerves, every time you're tempted to be jealous, critical, pay someone back. That's not a random challenge, that's God testing your quality. That's an opportunity to grow, to come up higher, to show him what you're made of. The problem with failing the test, being rude to someone that's rude to you, getting upset every time you're stuck in traffic, being jealous over a friend that got the promotion. When you don't pass, you're going to have to take the test again. It's not going to go away, God is going to keep testing your quality.

He loves you too much to let you stay at that one level. That's why you can't pray away everything that's uncomfortable. "God, get this co-worker out of my life. They're irritating me, they get on my nerves", that's a test. Why don't you be an eagle and rise above their pettiness? Stop letting them steal your joy, stop giving them your power. When you let someone else determine whether or not you're going to stay in peace, you're handing them your thermostat, you're letting them control your temperature. They say something rude, you get upset. They leave you out, you get offended. They ignore you, your day is soured. Do yourself a favor, take your thermostat back. Quit letting other people control your atmosphere, determine your mood, your peace, your joy. You can't control what they do, but you can control how you respond.

Start passing that text. Next time they rude, just smile and go about through your day. When they leave you out, just stay in peace, "God, thank you that you're fighting my battles. You're my vindicator". When they try to make you feel small, just ignore it and move on. They don't determine your destiny. You're not who they say you are, you are who God says you are: you're a masterpiece, one of a kind, crowned with favor. Instead of trying to pray them away, try a different approach, and be happy despite what they're doing. Bloom where you're planted. The scripture (John 16:22) says, "No person can take your joy". They can't take it, you have to give it. Make up your mind, "I'm not going to give this jerk... I mean this co-worker my joy". Don't go the next 20 years letting the same things upset you, same traffic, same delays, it's a test. If you'll grow, if you'll respond differently, sometimes God will remove it, but here's the key: even if he doesn't, because you've changed, because your character has come up higher, it's not going to affect you.

I've found when God is not changing the circumstances, he's using the circumstances to change me. I'm a very goal-oriented person. I have a plan, I'm focused, I like to get things done. That's a nice way of saying that I struggle with being impatient, but it seemed like the more in a hurry I was, the more I would find myself in situations where I would have to wait: at the grocery store there would be three registers to check out, I'd make sure I'd get in the shortest line, I would calculate it, count the number of people in line, study how much was in their car. I was on a mission: I wanted to get in and get out as fast as I could. Invariably the person in front of me would need a price check, they can't find an item, computer is malfunctioning. One time the clerk, this lady was new, she was so slow, the supervisor had to come over three times. The whole time I watched people in other lines pass me by. That get me so stressed. I never realized it was a test. I thought it was just a bad break, I chose the wrong line.

One day it Dawned on me that I always got behind the slowest person: on the freeway, at the airport, in the grocery store. Why is that? You'll be tested in the area of your greatest weakness. I'm not tested in being focused, being responsible, taking risks, those are my strengths. I'm tested and being impatient. If you struggle with being jealous, don't be surprised if you see every friend that gets something that you want. Your co-worker makes half as much as you, they drive up in a brand new car. You take your family on a vacation for a few days to lake conroe, you were happy until your neighbor calls from Paris, they're spending two weeks there. You're believing for a spouse, to meet the right person, your best friend gets engaged, your cousin, your co-worker, your 90 year old grandmother... You're the bridesmaid, six weddings, smiling so big, "I'm so happy for you", down deep you're thinking "I am so upset. God, this is so not fair".

I'll tell you, something funny: a pastor friend of mine was believing for this new building for a church. And for several years he had been praying, working hard, looking everywhere, raising fun, nothing was available. A new pastor moved in town, hadn't been there two months, called my friend said, "I want to come pick you up and take you somewhere". My friend was excited, he thought maybe he'd found my friend a building, new place to lease or rent. He drove into this beautiful building, prime location, great parking. He said, "The owner of this property just told me I could use it five years rent free. Isn't this awesome"? My friend says, "Yes, it's really awesome".

He didn't mean a word of it, he was so discouraged. But God blessing someone else doesn't mean he's not going to bless you. God didn't run out of favor, that's a test. He's watching to see how you're going to respond. "But they don't deserve it. I've been here longer than they have. I don't understand it". No, pass that test. Be happy for them. That's an opportunity to show God what you're made of. If you will celebrate others, then God will have plenty of times where people will celebrate you. Pay attention to the areas that you're tested in. It's not a coincidence. When God brings things to light, you have to be willing to deal with it. These impurities in our character keep us from rising higher. They don't come out in the good times, they come out when we're under pressure. Don't ignore it, don't keep responding the same way. God wants to entrust you with more favor, more influence, more resources. That's why he's testing your character.

One time I had a meeting at the church, and at that time it was a 30-minute drive from my house. I left a little late, but I knew, if I didn't hit any traffic I'd get there right on time. I prayed, "Lord, thank you for your favor, making my crooked places straight". There was a light leaving my neighborhood, in three years I had never seen it red, it was always green, but that day right when I got to the intersection it turned red. It was the strangest thing. I got on the freeway and took off, praying that God would give me discernment, to know which hill the policeman would be sitting over. I was doing fine, I still had time to make it, then the traffic started slowing down, got slower and slower, as my blood pressure rose higher and higher. It went down to 20 miles an hour. Never that slow at that time of day, and I was frustrated.

Well, the lane next to me was going a little faster. I tried to get over, but nobody would let me in. I waved, smiled, blew kisses, held up a 20, nothing. Finally someone paused and let me in. Thank God, I got over. Right when I did, that lane stopped, I sat there and watched the lane I was in passed me by. I was so uptight, I just knew that was the enemy attacking me, trying to make me late. Now I realize: that was God attacking my impatience. That was God allowing me to be in an uncomfortable situation, to bring to light impurities in my character. It didn't happen overnight, but I started dealing with it, ruling over my emotions, not letting that upset me. Now, I've learned to stay in peace that God's ordering my steps. I don't get frustrated by the delays, traffic, interruptions, I've learned to go with the flow, to believe that God's in control, that I'm at the right place at the right time.

Are you trying to pray away what God is wanting to use to refine you? Instead of trying to change everything, why don't you pray, "God, help me to change. Help me to come up higher. To be more patient. To overlook the offense. To not be jealous. To not let people steal my joy". Sometimes the test is to be good to someone that's not being good to you. It's easy to treat people the way they treat us. They're rude to us, we're going to be rude to them. They put us down, we're going to put them down. They stab me in the back at work, I'm going to get revenge. But if you're going to reach your destiny, you have to be the bigger person, and let God fight your battles. If you sink down to their level, get baited into conflict, revengeful, paying people back, then God can't trust you with more influence. That's a test. Prove to God that you'll stay on the high road. Be an eagle and rise above it.

This is what David did. He was one of king Saul's main armor bearers. When Saul wasn't feeling well, David would come in and play the harp, Saul would get better. But Saul was jealous of David. He could see the favor on his life, and instead of being happy for him, he let that jealousy get stronger and stronger, made him bitter toward David. One day David, while he was playing the harp, being good to Saul, saw through a spear and barely miss David. Here David was doing the right thing, trying to help Saul, but Saul was trying to kill him. David could have fought back, tried to get even, but he knew Saul had been anointed to be king, he respected the authority he was under, so he ran to the desert, Saul came chasing him. At one point David found Saul and all of his men sleeping, was David's big chance to get even, pay him back. In one moment he could take Saul out, but he wouldn't do it.

When Saul found out how David spared his life he wept. He said, "David, you're a better man than me". The reason God could trust David with so much influence, honor, resources as he kept passing these tests. All these times he was under great pressure, what he could have done what he felt like, told Saul off, got revenge, made his life miserable. David wouldn't do it. He took the high road, he let God fight his battles. He was kind to someone that wasn't kind to him. When you treat people right that don't treat you right, you're proving to God that you can handle more influence, more responsibility. This is a major test, because most of us will be good to people that are good to us, but to go where God wants you to go, you have to be good to people that are not good to you. When you let God refine, you you don't let the offense get in, you don't live thinking about paying people back, you stay in peace, you're going to see God's favor and blessings in great ways.

Don't be surprised if you find yourself in situations that are not fair, people that didn't keep their word, they played politics, made you look bad, they betrayed you. You have every right to get even, your flesh says, "Do to them what they did to you". No, pass that test. Be a David. That's God seeing what you're made of. It's easy to tell people off, it's easy to be rude when someone's rude to you, but that will keep you at the same place. God wants to take you higher, to places that you've never seen. He'll allow you to be in uncomfortable situations. The scripture calls it the fiery challenge is to test your quality. Sometimes God will put you in the middle of the fire, under that pressure impurities will come up, revenge, two can play at this game. Pride, I don't have to put up with this. Sarcasm, you really think you're that hot? No, stay in peace, let God fight your battles. The Psalmist said, "Remain calm in times of adversity". That's passing the test. That's what allows God to take you where you've never dreamed.

"Well, Joel, these people at work, they get on my nerves. I've been praying for God to move them". Have you ever thought about, maybe God has you there on purpose? Maybe that's a test? If he removed everything uncomfortable, you would never grow. Instead of being sour, why don't you try a different approach, and keep a good attitude? "Well, my spouse aggravates me. She knows just what buttons to push, that's why I say things I shouldn't, that's why I get upset". No, that's a test of your character. In that fire impurities are coming out. Under pressure you're seeing what's in you. Next time that happens, respond a different way. Proverbs 21:23 says, "If you'll keep your mouth closed, you'll stay out of trouble". One way to pass the test is real simple: keep your mouth closed. Quit letting your emotions control your mouth. Your tongue can start world war three, your tongue can get you fired, your tongue can have you sleeping on the couch at night.

Next time you feel like saying something hurtful, disrespectful, telling someone off, take a deep breath, pause for 10 seconds, under your breath say, "God, help me control my tongue, help me to pass this test". If you'll keep your mouth closed, the next time it will be easier, the next time even easier. Don't go year after year responding the same way, that's an opportunity to grow. You can change, you don't have to be sarcastic, say hurtful, critical words that wound people, bring strife and conflict. What if my spouse doesn't change? If you'll change, they'll change. Sometimes we're waiting for the other person to move first, then we'll do better. You have to be the bigger person. You be the one to keep your mouth closed. You be the one to walk away from conflict. You be the one to pass the test.

The scripture (2 Timothy 2:20-21) says, "In a house, there are vessels of wood and clay for ordinary use, but there are vessels of gold used for God's highest purposes". We can stay vessels of wood and clay, that's fine, we're still God's creation, he made us, we can live with these impurities, still make it through life. But I'm not talking about just making it through, I'm talking about seeing the greatness God put in you, being a vessel of gold, used for God's highest purposes. That's what happens when we keep letting God refine us, we keep dealing with what he brings to light. You can't rebuke everything you don't like. You can't pray away every grouchy person, the delays, the clerk that's rude, the spouse that gets on your nerves, those are tests. They may not change, but you can change. Now, key to seeing God's best is to stay pliable, walk in humility, be willing to change. What can you do better to get along better in relationships? What improvements can you make, not your spouse, your boss, your children, what areas can you come up higher in to have better relationships? Don't pray for God to change someone else without first praying, "God, show me where I need to change".

I used to play basketball at the YMCA. And when I'd come home from playing a couple of hours, full court, high intensity, I'd be really sweaty. Well, the closest sink from the back door was the kitchen sink. I would always stop and wash my hands. Well, Victoria didn't like me using the kitchen sink when I was so sweaty. She didn't want that around all the food. She asked me not to wash my hands in there. It was a small thing, no big deal, use the other sink, that makes sense. But it's funny how we can come up with excuses. This was a reasonable request, but I thought of all the reasons why I shouldn't do it, this is the closest thing, I'm tired, I don't want to walk to the other sink. Here I've just run up and down the court for two hours, now I don't want to walk another 30 feet.

Sometimes pride can blind us. We can come up with lame excuses to not do what we know we should do. My mind kept going, "This is my house too, that is not right that I cannot use that sink". I think about it now and it seems so strange. What was the big deal? Sometimes we're just being contentious, we just want our way. Our pride says, "I can do what I want to do". I'd wash my hands in there time to time, "Joel, please, use the other sink". "Victoria, it's not hurting anything, I'm not going to contaminate the food". Sometimes the test is just to honor your wife, honor your husband, to be kind to the people that God put in your life.

How can God trust you to lead others, if you don't treat your own family with respect? How could he trust David to lead the Israelites, if he wasn't honorable to king Saul? Maybe it's just a test to see how obedient you'll be. Whether you'll do the right thing when it's a small thing, whether you'll go the extra mile when you don't think it's fair. This is the difference between being a vessel of wood, for ordinary use, and being a vessel of honor, for God's highest purposes.

One day I came home from playing and Victoria wasn't there, she was out running errands and I thought, "Oh, great, I'll go in the kitchen, she won't see me, nobody will know". I was about to wash it by hand, and I heard this voice down in here saying, "Joel, when are you going to start honoring your wife, and not wash your hands in here"? I thought, "Is that you, Lord or is that the devil"? She couldn't see me, but the one who matters could see me. He controls the universe. It's not always the big things that are keeping us from God's best, it's the small things. If I can't honor my wife, show respect by doing a small thing, how can God trust me to lead Lakewood? Don't let a small thing keep you from your greatness. How we treat people matters. You can't be harsh, contentious, hard to get along with, and reach your potential. The scripture (1 Peter 3:7) says, "Husbands, if we're not treating our wife right, then our prayers will be hindered". You shouldn't treat anyone better than you treat your own family. Be kind, loving, respectful.

Paul said in Colossians 3:23, "Whatever you do, do it unto God, and not unto people". Sometimes there are things we don't feel like doing, doesn't seem fair, work you're not getting credit, someone's not treating you right, why should you be kind to them? Why should you keep a good attitude? Why should you go the extra mile? God is saying, "Will you do it unto me? Will you keep your mouth closed for me? Will you be kind to that person that doesn't deserve it for me? Will you not wash your hands in the sink for me? Will you be your best at work for me"? Do it unto God, he's the one that matters. Promotion doesn't come from people, it comes from him. When you do the right thing when it's hard, you're passing the test. Like with David, you're going to go to levels that you've never imagined.

God is getting you prepared now for the new things he has in store. Anytime you're going to go higher, your flesh has to go lower. God is going to require greater obedience, things that you'd rather not have to deal with. Those tests are not there to stop you, that's a sign that God is refining you, getting you prepared for something greater. When these impurities come to light, don't push it down, "That's just me, I'm always impatient, contentious, I always wash my hands here, we always argue, I've always been jealous". No, make the adjustments, respond differently. You wouldn't be hearing this if God didn't have new levels in your future, that's why he's getting you prepared to handle the weight of glory.

God told the Israelites, "I led you into the wilderness for a purpose: to test you and to prove you, to see if you would keep my commands". Before you go into the Promised Land, there will be times of testing, times of proving, where you have to show God you'll do the right thing when you don't feel like it, you'll keep a good attitude when it's not fair, you'll deal with the impurities he brings to life. But when the Israelites came under this pressure, they kept failing the test, they complained about the giants, and complained about the food, complained that it was too hot. That group never made it into the Promised Land.

What would have happened if they would have dealt with that negative, complaining spirit? Instead of saying, "These giants are too big, we're never going to make it in", what if they'd have said, "Yes, these giants are big, but God, we know you're bigger. Yes it's hot out here, but Lord, thank you for bringing us out of slavery, thank you for making ways where we didn't see a way". They could have gone in, yet they let those impurities keep them out. It wasn't God's fault, he gave them chance after chance to change. But God is not going to make you do the right thing. He'll allow the pressure, show you what you need to deal with, but you have to do your part and be willing to change. Make the adjustments, don't keep responding the same way. The delays, traffic, people that get on your nerves, those are not random, those are opportunities to come up higher. Those challenges are to test your quality.

Now my challenge is: show God what you're made of. Prove to him that you can handle more influence, more favor, more responsibility by passing the test. If you'll do this, I believe and declare: new doors are going to open, your relationships are going to get better, you will rise higher, accomplish dreams and become all you were created to be, in Jesus name. And if you receive it, can you say amen? Amen!
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