Joel Osteen - Dealing With Negative Thoughts
I want to talk to you today about Dealing With Negative Thoughts. No matter how good of a person you are, how much faith you have, you'll never get to the place where negative thoughts don't come, discouraging thoughts, "Your dream is never going to come to pass. You'll never meet the right person, it would have happened by now". Thoughts of worry, "The medical report's not good. Your child's off course. Your business has slowed down, what are you going to do"? The enemy's main tools are deception and lies. Your mind is the bull's-eye of his target. If he can control your thinking, he can control your life. You can't stop negative thoughts from coming, but here's the key: just because a thought comes doesn't mean you have to think it. You control the doorway to your mind. You're in charge of what you give access to.
That's why the scripture tells us to guard our minds, be selective in what you allow in. If the thought is negative, discouraging, bring in worry, fear, do yourself a favor, don't let it in. It's not complicated: don't dwell on it, don't give it the time of day. But too often when these negative thoughts come, we don't think twice. We just allow them access, go around worried, discouraged, intimidated. Start paying attention to what you're dwelling on. When discouraging thoughts come, "Nothing good is in your future. Don't even have your hopes up, you're going to be disappointed again". Before you dwell on that, before you let it take root, ask yourself: where is this thought coming from? If it's not positive, hopeful, encouraging, it's not from God. That's the enemy doing what he does best, trying to plant negative seeds, fearful seeds, inferior seeds.
God said there in Isaiah 26:3, "If you'll keep your mind stayed on me, I will keep you in perfect peace". What is your mind stayed on? What are you dwelling on throughout the day? "Well, Joel, have you watched the news? Interest rates going up, the recession, the stock market, I'm worried". Those are all valid thoughts, I'm not saying to deny reality, I'm saying "Be selective in what you dwell on". The right approach is, "Yes, there's a lot of uncertainty, I don't know how it's all going to turn out, but God, I know you're my provider. Just as you take care of the birds of the air, you feed and clothe them, I know you'll take care of me". Instead of keeping your mind stayed on your problems, stayed on the news, stayed on doubt, stayed on worry, keep it stayed on what God promised you.
Here's the simple principle: when a negative thought comes, erase it and replace it. It's not enough to just not think negative thoughts, because once you dismiss it, once you make the decision "I'm not dwelling on that anymore, I'm not allowing that worry in", that's good, the problem is: it'll be back in a few seconds, "Here I am again, just reminding you, it's never going to work out". Once you erase the negative, replace it with a positive thought. Don't leave your mind empty. The thought comes, "Nothing good's in your future", dismiss it, don't give it the time of day. Then take the next step, "Father, you promised: the path of the righteous, my path, gets brighter and brighter. You said my latter days will be better than my former days".
When the thought comes, "The problem's too big. That opposition is too strong. You will never get past this", you can let that play, live defeated, discouraged, intimidated or you can replace it with what God said, "Father, you said when the enemy comes against me one way, you would defeat them and cause them to flee seven ways. This may be too big for me, but I know it's not too big for you". Or how about when these never-lies come, lies that tell you, "You'll never get well, never meet the right person, never come out of debt". Don't let that play in your mind. If you do, you're defeating yourself, that's keeping you from seeing God's favor. Erase it, that's the first step, I'm not dwelling on that anymore, then take the next step and replace it. "Father, thank you that what you started in my life you will finish. What I'm up against is not permanent. This too shall pass. I know breakthroughs are coming, healing is coming, freedom is coming, victory is coming".
Get your mind going in the right direction, and your life will go in the right direction. You're going to draw in what you're constantly thinking about. If you're thinking can't-do-it thoughts and I'm-not-enough, this problem is too big, you're drawing in defeat. That's making you weaker, your gifts are being pushed down, your faith is being diminished. Why don't you try erasing and replacing? How much further will you go, how much happier will you live, how much more of God's favor will you see if you'll guard your mind, if you'll be selective in what you're dwelling on, if you'll keep it stayed on him?
Joshua 1:8 put it this way, "If you will meditate on God's word, you will prosper and have good success". Meditate means to think about over and over. Really worry is meditating, it's letting the negative play again and again. Some people have this principle down, they're professional worriers. The problem is: they're meditating on the wrong thing, they're letting the negative continually play. Why don't you switch what you're meditating on? It doesn't take any more energy to believe than it does to worry. This one small tweak can make a life changing difference. Instead of going through the day worried about your future, wondering how you're going to make it, a small tweak, "Father, thank you that you have me in the palm of your hand. I know you're ordering my steps. You said no good thing will you withhold because I walk uprightly". Now instead of your thoughts defeating you, draining your energy, limiting your future, you're using your thoughts to encourage you, to empower you, to build your faith.
"Well, Joel, I'm worried about my child. He's off course, he's running with the wrong crowd, that's why I can't sleep at night, that's why I'm upset". I know that's difficult. I know how much you love your children, but worrying is not making it better. Living stressed is not helping him or you. The reason you don't have peace is your mind is stayed on the problem, your mind is staying on what's not working out. God said, "If you'll make a switch, if you'll keep your mind stayed on me, if you'll think positive, hopeful, faith-filled thoughts, then I'll give you peace in the midst of the problem". Instead of dwelling on all the negative, what might happen, why don't you use that same energy to meditate on what God promised you? "Father, you said my children are mighty in the land. You said the seed of the righteous is blessed, that as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. Father, thank you that my son is in your hands, that he will fulfill his destiny".
Negative thoughts are going to come, but if you'll learn this principle to erase and replace, then you won't give in to the worry, the fear, the discouragement. You wake up in the morning, thoughts whisper "It's going to be a lousy day, I have so many problems, I don't feel like going to work". You can either dwell on that, believe that it's true, you'll go around discouraged, defeated, it'll become a reality, you'll have a lousy day. But a better approach is to say, "No, thanks, I'm not going to dwell on those discouraging thoughts. Yes, they came to my mind, but I know I control the doorway. I don't have to allow them in. I'm going to erase them, and replace them with some better thoughts: this is going to be a great day. It's another day the Lord has made. Father, thank you that I'm alive. Thank you that you woke me up this morning. Thank you that I'm healthy. Thank you that you have a bright future in store for me".
What's playing in your mind? What are you given access to? Paul said in Philippians 4:8, "Think on things that are positive, things that are wholesome, things that are of a good rapport". You can't think negative and have a positive life. You can't think sickness and get well. You can't think lack and have abundance. The battle is taking place in our mind. Be selective of what you allow in.
Imagine someone showed up at your house and knocked on the front door. You opened it, and there was this stranger. He was carrying an ax, a Hammer, a rifle, a bag of poison, all these harmful dangerous things. You wouldn't say, "Hey, come on in. Make yourself at home. Good to see you. Got some food in the fridge". You wouldn't think twice, you would tell him "You are not welcome here, you need to get off my property". You would shut the door, deadbolt it, and make sure he left. Where your mind is your house, it's where you live. There's nothing more valuable, more important, more sacred. Why are you letting destructive thoughts in? Why are you letting fear roam around? Why are you letting worry have free reign? Why are you allowing doubt, and you-can't-do-it, it's-never-going-to-work-out to have a seat on your couch? That's your property. You have complete control over what you let in. You can't stop it from coming, it may knock on the door, but you don't have to give it access.
Next time fear knocks, "You'll never get well, you saw the report. This sickness is the end", why don't you say "No, thanks, you're not welcome here. I will live and not die. God is restoring health back unto me". When fear knocks, let faith answer the door. Next time doubt shows up, "It's too big, it's never going to work out, you don't have the connections", just say, "Sorry doubt, you have the wrong address. There's no place for you here". When insecurity comes knocking, "You're not good enough, you're not attractive, you don't have a good personality, nobody wants to be around you", don't you dare let those thoughts in. Your attitude should be, "Get off my property, you are not welcome here. I know who I am: I'm a masterpiece, I'm one of a kind, I'm made in the image of God, I'm crowned with favor, I'm wearing a robe of righteousness. I have been fearfully and wonderfully made".
Start closing the door to the negative, close the door to these destructive, limiting, defeating thoughts. And sometimes we believe them so long, they've become a part of who we are. We didn't know any better, it's how we were raised, we opened the door and now it's like they've taken up residence, they have their own room. Imagine fear, doubt, worry, insecurity living in your house, dragging you down, stealing your joy, taking your peace. That may be the way it's been, but this can be a new day. It's time to do some house cleaning. You need to evict some tenants that have been living in your mind. The good news is: you're in charge. They may be bigger, stronger, more powerful, but you determine what stays in your mind.
You need to tell fear, "You're evicted. You're not welcome here anymore. I'm not living afraid of what might happen, my future is in God's hands. Nothing can stand against him". Tell worry, "You've been with me long enough, I'm sorry, you've lost your lease". Tell doubt, "Your time is up, I've got some new rules: you have to go". Tell insecurity, "No more place for you. You are out of here, see you, I'm not going to be you". All that negative that's weighing you down, limiting your future, why don't you serve some eviction notices? Keep your mind positive, hopeful, full of faith, expecting good things, believing to overcome, trusting God to do what only he can do.
What I've learned is: when your mind is filled with the positive, there's no room for the negative. When you're full of faith, praise, gratitude, believing for the best, when the negative comes, you don't even answer the door. You don't even pay it attention. Fear knocks, but there's a "No vacancy" sign. Can't they hear me? No, this mind is full of faith. Complaining knocks, discouragement, "Sorry, no vacancy, this mind is full of praise. Father, thank you for what you've done. Thank you for fighting my battles. Thank you for surrounding me with favor". When worry comes, "What about these gas prices? You see the news, inflation" - "Sorry, no vacancy. Father, thank you that you're Jehovah Jireh, the Lord my provider. The economy is not my source, my job's not my source, I know you're my source, I know I'm connected to a supply line that will never run dry".
This is not just being positive, this is releasing your faith. This is what allows God to do awesome things. When your mind is stayed on him, you're going to have peace in the middle of a pandemic, favor in a famine, strength in this storm. You're going to go up when you should be going down. What's playing in your mind? Are there some tenants you need to evict? Are they destructive, discouraging thoughts that you need to stop allowing in?
This is what my mother had to do. You know her story, she was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer in 1981, and given only a few weeks to live. She was only 46 years old at the time. She had been perfectly healthy, always active, working in the yard, pastoring the church, traveling the world with my father. Suddenly she gets this terrible news. She became so frail, she only weighed 89 pounds. Her skin was very yellow. The doctor said there was nothing more they could do. You can imagine the thoughts that came knocking at her door, "This is it. Sorry, you're done. Make plans for your funeral". In the middle of the night, when she couldn't sleep, the thought came, "You can be buried in that new pink dress you just bought".
My mother had good reasons to feel worried, afraid, hopeless, but she understood this principle: when fear knocked, she didn't let it in. When worry knocked, "It's over, quit believing", she said, "You're not welcome here". When doubt knocked, "You heard the report, these are the best doctors in the world, there's nothing more they can do", she said, "No, thanks, there's no room for you in my thinking". She guarded her mind. She was extremely selective of what she allowed in. She knew she was in a fight, she wasn't about to give her valuable real estate, her mind, any room for negative, discouraging, defeating thoughts.
When you're in a battle, when forces are coming against you in a great way, that's when you'll be the most tempted to believe the lies, get discouraged, "It's never going to work out. Just accept it", more than ever you need to keep the door closed. Don't give those lies access. You need all your energy to believe, to stay strong, to overcome what's trying to stop you. Be diligent. The scripture says (Ephesians 4:27), "Give no place to the enemy". That means don't give him any rooms in your house, don't give him any place in your thinking.
My mother didn't just erase the negative thoughts, but she replaced them with God's word. The best defense is a good offense. She kept her mind filled with God's promises. All through the day I'd hear her, she went around quoting the scripture, "I will live and not die. God is restoring health back unto me. With long life he will satisfy me". If you leave your mind empty, it's going to naturally gravitate toward the negative. Especially when you're in difficult times, that's when you need to be very disciplined in what you allow in. And on purpose think thoughts of hope, faith, healing, victory.
A friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer. He had played professional football, and he had to stop playing to take the treatment. He had this, you know, he'd worked so hard to get to this point, and you know, this big dream come true, now this huge disappointment. He could have been discouraged, given up on his dreams, but his attitude was "This illness is not going to defeat me. It's just a bump in the road, I will play football again. I will fulfill my God-given dreams". He was so disciplined to guard his mind, he wouldn't let anyone use the word cancer in his house. He told his family, his friends, even his doctors he didn't want them speaking that word over him. He didn't want it down in his spirit. When he was taking chemotherapy, the whole time, "Father, thank you that I am healed, that this too shall pass, that greater is he that's in me than what's coming against me". Two years later, against all odds, he was back in the league, playing professional football. Thoughts told him all the reasons it would never happen, but he didn't answer the door. He gave no place to the enemy.
Don't let those lies take root. Don't give them access by believing them, dwell on what God says about you. My mother kept doing this, and it didn't happen overnight, but little by little she got better and better. Medical science even tells us that when people are positive, hopeful, they believe they'll get well, they're much more likely to recover than those who are negative and discouraged. My mother is 88 years old today, healthy, whole, from a few weeks to live to over 40-something years. God has the final say. Why don't you get in agreement with him? Don't let those lies play in your mind, start erasing them, and then take the next step and replace them with faith-filled, favor-filled, victorious thoughts.
Here's the key: you're moving toward what you're constantly thinking about. This can be helpful or it can be harmful. What are you thinking about your future? "Joel, I never get any good breaks. This pandemic has set me back. I wish I had more talent", you're moving toward defeat, lack, mediocrity. Try a new approach, "Favor is in my future. Good breaks are chasing me down. The right people are headed my way. Father, thank you that the best part of my life is still in front of me". When you think like that, you're moving toward favor, increase, open doors, abundance. What do you think about your health? "I've had this addiction for years, everybody in my family struggles with this depression, I'll never get back in shape", that's moving you in the wrong direction. Change starts in our thinking. How about this approach, "This addiction is not permanent, chains that have held me back are being broken. I am free, I am whole, I am healthy, I am in shape, I am attractive, I am full of energy, vitality, strength. My youth is being renewed like the eagles".
Get your mind going in the right direction. Your life is going to follow your thoughts. The scripture tells us in Colossians 3:2, "Set your mind and keep it safe". At the start of the day, you need to set your mind. When you get out of bed, "Father, thank you for the gift of this day. It's another day that you have made, I'm going to choose to be happy today, I'm going to see the best, I'm going to be a blessing to others, I'm going to live this day to the full". If you don't set your mind, the enemy will set it for you. You'll wake up and think about all your problems, everything you've done wrong, "I'll never break this addiction, I should have eaten better yesterday, can't believe that co-worker was rude to me". Don't start the day off negative, don't bring yesterday's trouble, yesterday's disappointments, yesterday's failures into today, start the day of fresh and anew.
The Psalmist said, "God's mercies are new every morning". Not every afternoon, not every evening. Each morning you need to receive the new mercy. How you start the day many times will determine what kind of day it's going to be. Don't ever start the day in neutral. Don't wait to see what kind of day it's going to be, determine what kind of day is going to be. Make up your mind, "This is going to be a great day. I'm going to be productive, I'm going to enjoy my family, I'm going to honor God, I am grateful to be alive".
That's setting your mind, that's making plans for a blessed day. Then it says to keep it set. That implies things will happen that will try to unset it: challenges, delays, people that are rude, doors that close. You can't stop that from happening, but you can choose to not let it get on the inside. When worry comes, "No, my mind is set. God is still on the throne, he's in control of my life". When offense comes, you can get upset, live bitter. No, "God is my vindicator, he's fighting my battles". Contract didn't go through, you didn't get the promotion, you could be down, disappointed, but your mind is set, "God, I trust you. I know this door wouldn't have closed unless you had something better in store". Don't let the challenges during the day unset your mind - keep it set, keep it stayed on him, keep it full of praise, keep expecting good things, keep believing for what God promised you.
I talked to a man that was moving to Houston from another city. He got a promotion here, and he'd been believing for it for a long time, was a dream come true. They had to sell their house before they could buy a house here. The problem was, the real estate market in their city was very depressed, hardly anything was selling. On his street alone there were four houses for sale, many more in the neighborhood. Thoughts came telling them all the reasons their house wouldn't sell, the job market wouldn't work out, "Hey the market's too soft, too much inventory, this isn't the right time". They were tempted to get discouraged, not think that could happen, but they understood this principle: when doubt knocked, they said "No, thanks, you're not welcome". When thoughts of worry came, "What if it doesn't work out? What if you miss this great opportunity? What if you can't move to Houston"? They said, "Sorry, worry, you don't belong here. We don't have any space for you".
They kept their mind filled with faith, "Father, we know you can make a way where we don't see a way. Thank you, that you're causing our property to stand out. Thank you, that your favor surrounds us like a shield". Their real estate agent told them that on average it was taken over a year for properties to sell, to not get their hopes up. All the facts said it would be months and months, but two weeks after they put their house on the market it sold for full price.
They met with the new owners and asked them, why they chose their house out of all the others? They said, "We looked at over 30 properties, but when we walked in yours, something just felt right, we knew it was supposed to be ours". God knows how to bring the right people to you. He knows how to open doors you can't open. He knows how to turn your child around, how to free you from that addiction. Don't believe those lies that it's not going to happen, it's too late, the odds are against you. Say, "No, thanks, you're not welcome here. I'm going to keep my mind stayed on him".
Are your thoughts limiting you or your thoughts empowering you? Are you thinking thoughts of defeat, worry, can't-do-it or are you thinking thoughts of victory, favor, breakthroughs, abundance? There's a battle taking place in your thinking. I'm asking you to start closing the door to the negative. You control the access. Be selective. Don't just let anything in. Wrong thinking will keep you from your destiny. Start erasing and replacing. Erase the negative, don't give it the time of day, and then replace it with God's word, with positive, faith-filled thoughts. If you'll do this, I believe and declare: because your mind is stayed on him, you're going to have more peace, more joy, more favor. Forces that have held you back are being broken right now. You're going to rise higher, accomplish your dreams, and go further than you've ever imagined. I declare it in the name of Jesus. And if you receive it, can you say amen this morning? Amen.