Joel Osteen - Winning The War Within
I want to talk to you today about Winning the War Within. There's a battle taking place on the inside of each one of us. It's a battle between the flesh and the spirit. The flesh represents our carnal nature, it's things like jealousy, pride, compromise. It's the easy way to live. You don't have to be disciplined, you just do whatever you feel. Someone's rude to you, you're rude back to them. If you don't feel like having a good attitude, go through the day sour. When you see that coconut cream pie, you don't think twice, you eat your fourth piece. The flesh wants to rule, it wants to have control.
The scripture says (Romans 8:13), "Those who live by the dictates of the flesh". Notice the flesh is described as a dictator. What does a dictator do? They make all the decisions for you, they tell you what to do, when to do it, you just follow orders. You get stuck in traffic, your flesh will tell you, "Get upset, this is ruining your day". Many people follow the dictates of the flesh. Like a good soldier, "Yes sir, right away". They get upset, sours their day. At work someone leaves you out, doesn't invite you to the meeting, the flesh says, "Get offended, this is not right". They get offended, chip on their shoulder. The problem is: if you keep giving into the flesh, that verse goes on to say, "You will die". That doesn't mean physically, but your dreams will die, your relationships won't flourish, your gifts won't come out like they should.
What's the problem? You're letting the flesh win the war, anytime you're tempted to compromise, be lazy, give into temptation. There's another option: that is to walk in the spirit. That means you do the right thing when it's hard, you bite your tongue when someone's rude, you stay faithful in your relationships, when someone is trying to lure you away. What's limiting some people is not that they're not talented, not that they don't have God's favor, it's that they keep sowing to the flesh. Don't keep giving in to the same things that you know are holding you back.
Next time you're tempted to be jealous, find fault, say something critical, tell your flesh "No, I'm not going there. I'm going to be happy for them. I'm going to see the best in people". When you feel like staying up all night, playing on the computer, tell your flesh "Not tonight. I'm going to bed. I'm going to take care of myself". Next time those friends call that are pulling you down, causing you to compromise, tell them, "Sorry, something has come up. I can't hang out tonight". Quit letting the flesh be the dictator. You have to take charge of your life. The flesh is not leading you anywhere productive.
Paul said in Galatians 5:17, "These two forces are constantly fighting each other. Your choices are never free from this conflict". I don't want to depress you, but this is a battle that will never go away. You can be a believer for 50 years, you've grown, you've matured, but you will still have to deal with the flesh. You don't overcome it one time and it's defeated, it will come back again. This is something we have to get skilled at, "No, I'm not going to let my flesh say everything that it wants. I'm not going to take the bait and get offended by that person that did me wrong. Not going to let my guard down, and be dishonest in this business deal". Are you winning the war within? Are you living by the spirit, making decisions that honor God? Or are you letting the flesh win, doing whatever you feel? You need to take the flesh off the throne. Quit letting it determine your decisions.
We've seen in foreign countries where there's a dictator, this person in charge is oppressing the people, pushing them down, there's no democracy, they can't vote him out, so they have to take drastic measures. The people rise up and overthrow the dictator, they have to forcefully remove him, that's the only way they'll be free. It's the same way with the flesh: it wants to stay in control of your life, telling you what to do, where to go. The only way it's going to come off the throne is if you forcefully remove it. It's not going to go easily. Someone does you wrong, and you choose to forgive, the flesh will say, "Come on, get even, pay them back, this is not right". You have to put your foot down and say, "Sorry, you don't control me anymore. I've taken you off the throne. You've lost your authority. I walk by the spirit and not the flesh".
It's time to dethrone the flesh. Quit letting it dictate how you live, how you respond, how you handle adversity. Start sowing to the spirit, start taking the high road, doing the right thing when it's hard. That's when you grow. That's when God can trust you with more. It's very shallow to live by how you feel, giving into carnal desires, that's going to keep you from the greatness God put in you. The scripture says (Hebrews 12:11), "No discipline at the time seems pleasant, but later on you will reap a harvest of good things". Being disciplined is not easy. Walking away when someone is rude, not giving into the temptation, getting up early to excel at work, that's difficult.
Your flesh wants to be comfortable. Your flesh wants the easy way out. But you can't be comfortable all the time, and reach your destiny. If you'll do the hard thing now, later on you'll see blessings and favor that you've never seen. But the flesh always wants instant gratification. "If I tell this person off, it'll make me feel good right now. If I buy this item that I can't afford, if I sleep in and skip work I'll feel good right now". But it's important to think about later-on. We should be growing, we should be further now than we were five years ago. If I'm still dealing with my temper the same way as years ago, then I'm leaving the flesh on the throne. If I'm still getting offended, upset, jealous the same way as years back, then I'm letting the flesh dictate my life. I'm not saying we have to be perfect, but we should be improving.
When Victoria and I were first married, and we were about to go somewhere, I would ask her if she was ready. She said, "Yes I'm ready", so I'd go get in the car and I'd wait, and I'd wait, and I'd wait, she would get never come. I'd get so stressed out, I'd go back in, "I thought you said you were ready". She said, "I am ready". I said, "Well would you mind like come into the car"? I didn't like to wait. I used to pray, "God you have to change her, help her to go faster". But what's funny is God never changed her, but he used her to change me. God doesn't remove everything that's uncomfortable. If he did, we would never grow. Instead of praying, "God, change the other person", I've learned to pray, "God, change me. Help me to come up higher. Help me to be more patient. Help me to stay in peace". Even now when I get stuck in traffic, or there's a long line at the airport, that impatience still tries to get back on the throne, still tries to dictate my life.
You don't win the war within one time and you're done. These forces are constantly opposing each other. That's why the apostle Paul said (1 Corinthians 15:31): I die daily. Now, Paul wrote half of the books in the New Testament, he's one of the heroes of faith. You would think he's so powerful, so mature, he wouldn't have to deal with these issues. Yet, he said, "Every day I take my flesh off the throne. Every day I have to put down my carnal desires". You never come to a point where you're so mature you can go on autopilot, "I'm just going to coast", there's always room to grow.
After a couple of years of being impatient, letting things frustrate me, I learned a new tactic. When Victoria says she's ready, it's like the two-minute warning in football. The clock says two minutes, but you know it's going to be 20 minutes, with the timeouts, the replays, the commercials. Now, when she said she's ready I'll go sit down, make a sandwich, work out, go to the grocery store... I'm not looking at her either, but many of the things that frustrate us are really opportunities to grow. Take the flesh off the throne. Don't respond the same way you've been responding the last 20 years, being impatient, frustrated, arguing with your spouse. Start dying daily. Like with Paul we all have these areas we're letting the flesh dictate. If we'd start walking by the spirit, being willing to be uncomfortable, keeping our mouth closed, waiting with a good attitude, that's when you're growing, that's when God can trust you with more influence, more favor, more resources. I know there's a lot of battles on the outside, but my question is: are you winning the war within? Are you walking by the spirit and not letting the flesh determine your decisions?
See, when you gave your life to Christ, when you got born again, the scripture says (2 Corinthians 5:17), you became "A new creation, the old has passed away". I would love to tell you that means you'll never have any more carnal desires, you never want to be jealous, rude, complain. Now, the old man may have died, but I've learned a secret: sometimes he'll resurrect. Lazarus wasn't the only one that came back to life, your old nature will rise from the dead. Ephesians 4:22-24 says, "Put off the old man and put on the new man". Even though you're a new creation, you have to put off the old. Every day the old man is trying to get back up and run your life.
We see this with Peter he was a faithful disciple, loyal, committed. Jesus said, "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church". God had great confidence in Peter. When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus Peter was so loyal, so determined to stand up for him, he pulled his sword out and cut off the soldier's ear. But a little later, when Jesus was taken to the high priest house, Peter denied that he knew Jesus. Young girl said, "I know, you're one of his disciples". Peter got angry, he started cursing, he said, "I don't know the man". Like Peter we all have these two people on the inside: the old man and the new man. That's why the scripture says, "Put off the old man. Put off the pride. Put off the bitterness. Put off the compromise and put on the new man".
"Well, Joel, I'm trying to, but I can't control my temper. I can't break this addiction. I can't keep my eyes on the right things". No, quit telling yourself that, your old man is not that strong. The reason he's controlling you is you keep feeding him. Whatever you feed is going to grow. Every time you give in to the temptation, you're feeding it, it's getting stronger. Every time you get offended, you're impatient, you say things you shouldn't, you're feeding the negative. Do yourself a favor: quit feeding the old man. If you'll start starving the bitterness, starving the jealousy, starving the compromise, it will get weaker and weaker. That desire may not totally go away, God may not totally remove it, this is when discipline steps in, this is when his grace shows up.
Don't use the excuse, "I've tried and nothing has changed", you have the power to overcome. Don't let that old man get back up. See, I still deal with being impatient, that old man has been trying to get back up for 30 years. I buried him, had a funeral, thought he was finished. You've heard of the walking dead, sometimes it gets back up. Here's what I've learned: anything you defeat quickly is not your real enemy. What you overcome in a short time, you don't have to be concerned about that. Your real enemy doesn't go away overnight. I'm not tempted to be dishonest, cursed, do drugs, by the grace of God those things are not a struggle for me. But being impatient is a different story.
David defeated Goliath in a few minutes, that wasn't his real enemy. King Saul ... David for years, threw spears at him in the palace, chased him through the desert. God could have delivered David from Saul in a moment, like he did Goliath. He could have taken care of him in an afternoon, no big deal. But some enemies God doesn't remove, some temptations, some desires may not go away. If God doesn't remove it, that means the grace is there to stand strong and deal with it. God wouldn't have allowed it if it was going to keep you from your destiny.
Ask him to help you, ask for his strength. When you admit your dependence on him, you humble yourself and say, "God, I can't do this on my own. I can't defeat this giant. It's not going away", God will step in and help you conquer what's holding you back. You have the power to keep the old man down. Don't let him keep you from your greatness, don't let the flesh stay on the throne. The force in you is greater than any force that's trying to stop you. Start putting on the new man, "Father, thank you that I am strong, I am disciplined, I am anointed, I am favored, that I make decisions that honor you".
1 Samuel 25, David and his men had been protecting the property of a man named Nabal. Nabal was a wealthy man that owned a lot of sheep. It was the time of year that they were shearing the sheep, they had all this wool, a great harvest, they were having a big celebration. So David sent a few men to Nabal, and asked since they had been watching over his property, if he would give them some food and water. Seemed like Nabal would be grateful, glad to do it, but it was just the opposite, he was very rude and disrespectful to David's men. Commentaries say that Nabal was a harsh man, stubborn, hot tempered, that he spent most of his time drunk. He said to David's men: I don't owe you anything, I never asked you to protect me, what are you doing on my property? He sent them away empty-handed.
When David heard how Nabal had insulted them he was furious, he told his men to get their swords, they were going to go attack. Nabal's wife, a young lady named Abigail was not only beautiful, but she was very wise. She loaded up animals with food and water, and headed out toward David. They met on the road, Abigail bowed down low in humility. She said "David, my husband is a fool. I'm sorry for how he treated you, I brought you all these gifts for you and your men". She calmed David down, kept him from wiping out their town. David thanked her and turned around went back home. Ten days later Nabal had a stroke and died. David sent word and asked Abigail to become his wife. Now that the old man was dead, she could meet the new man.
Nabal is symbolic of our old nature: hot-tempered, rude, ungrateful, addictions. The name Nabal means fool. As long as the old man is alive, you'll never meet the new man. I'm not talking about your husband, somebody thought they got a word for the Lord today. I'm talking about the old man that lives in us: the bitterness, the bad attitude, the compromise. Start starving the old man. Your destiny is too great, your assignment too important to let the same issues keep you from seeing the new man. It's interesting that Nabal died 10 days after Abigail did the right thing. There will be these times when you dig down deep, and do the right thing when it's hard, that you will come in to your tenth day. Something will suddenly break. That addiction won't have the power over you. That bad attitude, that temper may not totally go away, but it doesn't control you anymore.
I wonder how much higher we would go, how much more of God's favor we would see if we'd start putting off the old man, if we'd start saying no to things that we know are holding us back? And sometimes a little thing is keeping us from big blessings: little pride, little compromise, "Just this one friend I party with, is this one temptation I give into, just this one person that I won't forgive". No, it's time to get rid of Nabal. Nobody likes him, nobody wants to be around him. Put the old man down and put on the new you, the free you, the blessed you, the happy you, the victorious you.
In the scripture Jacob was known for being dishonest, cheating people. His name means trickster, con man. He lived up to it: he tricked his brother out of his birthright, went around deceiving people. After living this way for years, he went down to the brook to be alone. I'm sure he was reflecting on his life. He had an encounter with God, he wrestled with an angel, it was there that God changed his name from Jacob to Israel. His new name means "Prince with God", his old name meant "Deceiver". He spent the rest of his life dealing with these two names. You would think the scripture would now refer to him only by his new name, Israel, after all God changed his name, was a significant moment, he had a new beginning. But the scripture goes back and forth between Jacob and Israel, one moment he's Jacob, in the same passage the next moment he's Israel.
God was showing us that the old man, the carnal desires won't totally go away. The key to living in victory is to respond like Israel, not like Jacob. There's a Jacob in all of us, there are things that can hold us back. The good news is: there's an Israel in all of us, there's a prince in you, there's a holy, righteous, favored, strong, world changer in you. Let me warn you: even though Israel is in there, even though God has changed your name, Jacob will try to come out. Those carnal desires may be dead, but people will do things that will wake up the Jacob in you. You were driving to work, singing praises, enjoying the day, Israel was feeling good, then someone cut you off in traffic, out of nowhere Jacob showed up. You quit praising, you started saying some other things. You think, "Where did you come from"? Jacob smiles and says, "I'm in here too. I may be dead, but I can be woken up".
Jacob wants to complain, Israel wants to praise: who's going to win that war? Jacob wants to hold a grudge, "They hurt you, don't speak to them", Israel wants to forgive, "Let it go, move forward in faith". Jacob wants to argue, be condescending, say hurtful things. Israel wants to be kind, overlook the offense, keep the peace in relationships. Jacob wants another Krispy-Kreme Donut, chocolate icing, sprinkles on top. Israel says, "No, 12 was enough". I'm asking you to be the Israel, not the Jacob. They're both in there. God changed your name, but he didn't get rid of Jacob.
When Jacob was about to pass at the end of his life, Genesis 48:2 says, "When Jacob was told that his son Joseph was there to see him, Israel gathered up his strength and set up in bed". He started off as Jacob: tired, weary, thinking he was done. Then something kicked in, he thought, "My son is here, the one I thought was dead, the one I waited for. I'm not going to die yet", Israel sat up, the prince in him came back to life. When you wake up in the morning you get to choose: am I going to be Jacob today? Am I going to complain, "I don't want to go to work, traffic's bad, they close the intersection, these people get on my nerves"? Or are you going to be Israel, "Lord, thank you for another day that you've made. I'm grateful to be alive. Thank you for the gift of this day"?
When things don't go your way, you have delays, disappointments, people that do you wrong, are you going to be Jacob: get upset, offended, try to pay them back? Or are you going to be Israel, "Father, thank you that you're my vindicator, you're fighting my battles, I'm going to stay in peace, knowing that you're in control". With your family, are you going to be Jacob: critical, harsh, contentious? Or are you going to be Israel: loving, kind, treating them with respect and honor? Both people are in us: the flesh and the spirit, the old man and the new man, Jacob and the Israel. You'll go so much further in life if you'll start being Israel. Keep the flesh off the throne. Don't let that old man get back up, keep him buried.
I was at the drive-through the other day, just minding my own business. Life was good. I'd waited about 10 minutes in the line, I pulled up to place my order on the microphone, the people were there in the building. I rolled down my window, and the man was so upset. He said, "Sir, there are other people waiting. If you don't place your order, you're gonna have to get out of line". I just pulled up, I hadn't been there two seconds. Out of nowhere Jacob showed up. I was so surprised, I said, "How did you get here so fast"? He said, "I live here too". He gave me some great ideas what to tell this jerk... I mean this man. I said, "Jacob, I thought you were dead"? He said, "I was, but I got back up for this one". I had to make the choice: was it going to be Israel, the pastor, with a smile? Or was it going to be Jacob and get even? I did what I'm asking you to do, I thought I'm going to be Israel. I said very politely, "No problem, let me give you my order". After I ordered, I thanked him, said "God bless you. Hope you have a great day. Hope your children are fine. Tell your grandparents I said hello".
When I pulled up, he had all his workers gathered around staring at me. He said, "I thought that was you, pastor Joel". I said, "Yes this is me, Israel". I wanted to say, but Jacob's here too, he wants to say something. Every day you have to make the choice: am I Jacob or am I Israel? Am I going to hold on to this offense or am I going to let it go? Am I going to hang out with these friends, that cause me to compromise or am I going to stay on the high road, be a person of excellence? Am I going to cut corners at work or am I going to have integrity, and give it my best? I'm asking you to be in Israel. Put off the old man. Don't let the flesh dictate your life, let the spirit rule. Honor God with your decisions. The choices you make don't just affect you, they affect your children, and even generations to come.
Jacob's brother Esau, he sold his birthright for a bowl of stew. He was so hungry, he let his carnal desires dictate his decisions. He sold something incredibly valuable for a pot of stew. He was the firstborn son. We should talk about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Esau, not Jacob. But Esau let his flesh take the throne. Don't let that be you. You can win the war within. God is calling you up higher. Whatever you know is holding you back, this is the time to make a change. This is a moment of grace to do what you couldn't do before. Your decision can save your marriage, can take you to a new level in your career. It can break mediocrity, and launch you into abundance. If you'll do this, I believe and declare: like Israel, you're going to become the prince you were created to be. You're going to break bad habits, resist temptation, and see the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus name. And if you receive it, can you say amen today? Amen.