Joel Osteen - Joy In The Journey
I want to talk to you today about Joy In The Journey. Too often we're going to enjoy life when we accomplish a goal, when the kids are raised, when we get the promotion. "Joel, when I lose 10 pounds, when I get through this problem, then I'll be happy". Our joy is always in the future, when we cross the finish line. The problem with this approach is there's always some reason we can't be happy. Something's going on that's causing us to be stressed, uptight. But the key is to find joy in the journey. You're not there yet, you're still waiting for things to improve, still believing for the promise, but in the meantime you're enjoying where you are, while you're on the way to where you're going.
If you're so focused on the finish line, what's not working out, this trouble at the office, then you'll miss the beauty of this day. You won't laugh at the funny thing your child does, you're too busy, got to get them dressed, feed them breakfast, get them to school. You won't enjoy your spouse, you're too busy trying to fix them, focused on their flaws. When they improve, then you'll have fun together. I know people that hurry through the week, they don't like going to work, dread driving in the traffic, have to put up with this cranky co-worker, they can't wait 'till the weekend gets here. How much of your life are you missing, trying to get to the next thing, what you think is better, then you can be happy? Try a different approach: instead of rushing through what you don't like, trying to get to the next goal, slow down and find the joy in the journey. Look at all the good things in your life right now.
Don't take for granted the people God's given you to love. They may not be perfect, but neither are you. Enjoy this husband, "He gets on my nerves", I bet you get on his nerves too. Some people would love to have your husband, they'd give anything to have that man. I see a lady holding up her husband's phone number, that's how she's going to get joy. "Well, these children, there's so much work, all I do is cook, clean, run them errands". Do you know how many people are not able to have children? They do anything to have those kids. What you see is common is really uncommon. What we think is ordinary is really extraordinary. "Well, it's Monday, I have to go to work". Try a different approach, "I get to go to work. I have a job. I have income. I have resources". "I can't stand driving in this traffic, it's so stressful". How about, "I get to drive in traffic, I have a car, I have opportunity". "I got to clean the house again today, that's the story of my life". No, "I get to clean the house. God's blessed me with a place to live".
If you have the right perspective, you'll find joy in the journey. "Not in my dream house yet, but Lord, I'm grateful for this apartment". "Haven't met the right person yet, but Lord, I'm grateful being single". "This place I'm working is not where I want to end up, but Lord, I'm grateful that I'm employed". See, the enemy would love to deceive us into enduring life, not enjoying life. Having children not enjoying them, being married but not enjoying it, having a house, job, opportunity, but always some reason we're not happy. We've got to get to that next thing, then we'll enjoy life. Now, you have to learn this principle: there is joy in your journey. There are things in your life right now that you can enjoy, if you'll have the right perspective.
Paul said in Philippians 4:8, "Whatever things are wholesome, good, pure, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things". It's significant that he used the word "If". "If there be any virtue". He was saying, "You have to look for the good". In your family look for the good. In your spouse, yes, you can point out 23 flaws, how about looking for the good? In that challenge, maybe a lot's coming against you, look for the good. God is sustaining you, people are encouraging you, this one area has improved.
If you're going to find joy in the journey, you have to look past all the wrongs, and see the rights. And sometimes it's just the fact that you shouldn't still be here, the opposition should have taken you out, the sickness should have defeated you, how you were raised should have held you back, but you can say, "Lord, thank you that I'm still standing. Thank you, that I still have air to breathe. Thank you, that you're still for me." no, it hadn't turned around completely, but you can thank him that you have the grace for this day.
Luke 24, Jesus had been crucified on a Friday. That Sunday two of his disciples were walking from Jerusalem to a city called Emmaus. You can imagine how discouraged they were. The man they had followed given their life to was now gone. As they were on this journey, talking about everything that had happened, the wrongs, the betrayals, the heartache, Jesus came up and started walking with them, but they didn't recognize who he was. He was in a different form. Jesus asked what they were discussing, and why they were so concerned? They said in effect, "Where have you been? Haven't you heard? They've taken our Messiah, and crucified him. Now we're without a leader". Jesus began to talk to them about what the prophets had predicted, how he had to come and be crucified, that he would be raised on the third day. Verse 27 says, "He explained what the scripture said about him".
What an incredible moment this was! They're walking with Jesus who's just risen from the dead, who's helping them to understand passages from the Old Testament, that prophesied what would happen, how this was all a part of God's plan. Well, it was a seven mile walk from Jerusalem, they were about to arrive in Emmaus, it's late at night, they asked Jesus to stay with them. And as they were eating dinner, Jesus broke the bread and their eyes were open. They recognized who he was. Jesus suddenly disappeared.
But think about that long walk with Jesus: they were so focused on what didn't work out, this great disappointment, their leader is gone, that they didn't recognize the miracle in the moment. All they knew was life was unfair, this wasn't right. They were discouraged, yet that whole time the risen Savior was in their midst. How many times on our journey are we not recognizing what God is doing? We're so caught up in the stress of the day, dealing with his problem, how to set back in our finances, that we don't see all the good things, how God is sustaining us, favoring us, guiding us. We've been through challenges, but in the midst our children are still healthy, we have opportunity, the right person showed up when we needed them. Don't get so focused on what's wrong, that you don't recognize what's right.
It's interesting that these disciples were on a journey with Jesus. One principle it shows us is: there was joy in the journey, but they didn't recognize it. How many of us are seeing the joy in the journey? We see the traffic, we see the struggle, these children are a lot of work, but are you seeing the joy? Could it be like these disciples, that God is doing great things in your midst, but you don't see it? The scripture says, "God opened their eyes and suddenly they recognized Jesus". My prayer is, "God open our eyes! Help us on the journey of life to not miss the miracles of the moment, to recognize your goodness, to be aware that you're at work! To not get so focused on our goals, what we have to accomplish, what's not working out, that we don't see the joy in the journey."
I don't want us to come to the end of the life, "Man, I didn't enjoy my 20s, so stressed raising kids. Didn't enjoy the 30s, pressures of work were so bad. Didn't enjoy my 40s, had financial difficulties. My 50s I had that health issues. My 60s we had inflation, the pandemic, the Texans couldn't win". We look up and our life is passed, but we didn't enjoy it. It's always something: some problem, some person, some delay. You could be in a great moment right now, but like these disciples you're letting what went wrong, so focused on where you're trying to go, that you're missing all the good things. They looked back and thought, "Man, Jesus was walking with us! He was explaining the scriptures! We were right there in his presence! We should have stopped taking it all in, and enjoyed it", instead they were just trying to get to Emmaus, trying to get past the disappointment.
I'm not saying that we don't have difficulties - there's pressure, stress. What I'm saying is: there is good in every season. You had to find joy in the journey. Sometimes like these disciples, we don't see it 'till it's gone. In the moment we don't recognize it. But later we look back and think, "That was a great time". We talk about the good old days, can I tell you? You are living in the good old days. There are great things happening right now: great memories, great people, great opportunities. Don't do like them and miss it.
A few years before my father passed, three of my sisters along with their spouses, their husbands, they've worked on staff with us here at Lakewood. That was four of the five children, my brother Paul hadn't come to join us yet. On Sunday nights, during church, I would look down the row and see Lisa and her husband, Tamara and her husband, April and her husband, then Victoria and myself, I would tell Victoria often "We are living in the good old days. This is an amazing time where we're all here together". Somehow I knew not to take it for granted, "That's just my family, no big deal". I recognized that it was unusual. We made the most of that time. Over the years people moved on, started churches, fulfilling their calling.
The people in your life are not always going to be there. Don't take them for granted. I like to accomplish dreams, achieve goals, go fast. I have to remind myself what I'm telling you: slow down and enjoy the journey. It's easy to live busy, stressed, upset, but today is a gift from God. Don't just endure it - enjoy it. 20 years from now you're going to look back with fond memories of today. You're going to think, "Those were the good old days. Raising my children, working for that company, going to Lakewood". But I wonder if you're living in the good old days and you don't recognize it? You're uptight, focused on what's wrong, trying to achieve those dreams. You know, start finding joy in the journey.
When our son Jonathan was seven years old, we're about to leave for church, and I was in the garage, putting things in the car. And I said, "Come on, Jonathan, let's go". He had one of those label makers that we used to use. You hold it in your hand, and you select the letter on the dial, you click it, you can make labels. He was so focused on what he was doing. I said, "Jonathan, we're going to be late. We have to go". He said, "Okay, dad, just give me another second". I said, "We don't have a second". He kept working, and working as fast as he could. I was getting more and more uptight. He finally finished, pulled the label out, ran over and handed it to me. It read, "Best dad in the world". I thought, "Oh, we have a little more time, let's make a few more of these things". Somehow I wasn't in a hurry anymore.
Many times it's the small things in life they give it real meaning. Yes, it's great to accomplish big goals, get married, have a child, move into the new house. Those are mountaintop moments. Some people live for them. That's when they're going to be happy, but those are few and far between even. The heroes of faith: Moses parted the Red Sea, delivered the Israelites out of slavery. That was amazing, but what was it a month of his life? What about the other 120 years? You have to learn to enjoy the journey while the Red Seas aren't partying. While you're waiting for the next big things, you're enjoying the small things. You're finding the good in your everyday life. Taking time to laugh with your children, taking a walk with your spouse, seeing the sunrise in the morning, hearing the birds sing. Not too busy, not too stressed to enjoy the simple things in life.
I learned a lot of this from Victoria's side of the family. They love to laugh, they take time for each other, to enjoy each other. We were having lunch one Sunday a while back after church at our house, and Victoria's mother was there, Georgine, Victoria's brother, and all their family, a whole bunch of us. We sat down together. 30 minutes later I was finished eating. I got up, went to the back to watch the ball game. Three hours later I watched the whole game, I came back and they were still sitting at the table in the same seats. I said, "Are y'all eating dinner now"? Victoria said, "No, we're still sitting here from lunch". I looked at her kind of puzzled. She said, "Joel, we're just enjoying each other". I thought, "Man, I can't enjoy my brother Paul in a couple minutes", but you know what they were doing? Finding joy in the journey.
Wasn't a mountaintop moment, they weren't celebrating a birthday. Sure they had challenges, difficulties, but they took time to see the good, to enjoy what God had given them. Sometimes we're waiting for these big miracles, but there are miracles in the mundane. The fact that you're alive is a miracle. You have people in your life to love, that's a miracle. You have your health, sound mind, opportunity. Let's not be like those disciples and miss the moment, because it looks common. "That's just my family, Joel". We see it it's just another ordinary day, but the fact is there are no ordinary days. Each day is a gift from God. He could have chosen anyone to be alive at this time, but he chose you and me. We can see all the wrong, what we don't have, live pressured, stressed, or we can focus on the good. We can appreciate even the simple things in life.
Some of my fondest memories growing up is when we were kids, my parents used to take us to the airport to ride the trains that went from terminal a to terminal b. This was before they had all the security. We'd go on and all ride for free, we thought we were at Disneyland. Just a simple thing, yet I talk about it today. They were finding joy in the journey. The scripture says (Genesis 28:16), "God was in their midst but they didn't recognize him". How many times has God been in our midst, but we didn't know it? We were waiting for the Red Sea to part, we were waiting for Goliath to fall, we didn't know he'd be walking on the road to Emmaus, that it would seem ordinary, common.
2007 a major newspaper did an experiment to see how people perceive the uncommon in a common environment. Would they recognize talent out of context? Would they appreciate music not in a concert hall? They took this world-renowned violinist, a former child prodigy, one of the most amazing violin players in the world. People had spent hundreds of dollars for a ticket to hear him play, in some of the most distinguished venues. His violin was worth four million dollars, a 17th century Stradivarius. Early one Monday morning he went to the subway station during rush hour, had a ball cap on, jeans, tennis shoes, look very ordinary. Stood over by the wall and began to play. He performed six of the most well-known classical pieces. In 43 minutes 1100 people passed by, only seven paused to listen. Most just went about their day busy, preoccupied. They heard the music, but it seemed common, people play out there all the time.
The researchers came to different conclusions: one being when something uncommon is in a common place we don't recognize it. Maybe the people were too busy, in a hurry, focused on other things, but it begs the question: if we're in such a hurry that we don't recognize one of the best pieces of music ever written, by one of the best players in the world, on one of the finest instruments ever created, what else are we missing? What else are we rushing by, not appreciating? There are things in your life that may seem common. It's an ordinary environment, but there's nothing ordinary about your children, nothing common about being able to breathe, the gifts God's given you, the doors he's opened. When Jesus showed up and walked with the disciples, he seemed common, just another man joining us. Wasn't until later they said, "We knew there was something special about him". Don't wait 'till later to recognize the uncommon in your life.
This is where the Israelites missed it. God brought them out of slavery, defeated Pharaoh and his army, now they were headed to the Promised Land. They had a destination, a dream, a promise that God has spoken to them. They were out in the desert on this journey, there were no hotels, no grocery stores, pharmacy, water towers, yet God provided for them day after day. The scripture says "Their clothes and shoes did not wear out for 40 years". You would think they'd be grateful, they'd see the hand of God. But all they saw was what was wrong. "We're not in the Promised Land. Where are those huge clusters of grapes? Where are those houses that we didn't build, that were promised us"?
If you don't find the joy in the journey, you'll find all the negative, you'll start complaining. They didn't recognize how God was sustaining them, how he was giving them provisions. Seemed common: "We have this manna every day, no big deal". God was in their presence, but they didn't see him. And they complained so much, that God finally told them that they were never going to make it in. Only their children would go into the Promised Land.
Like with them, much of our life is spent waiting: waiting for the promise, waiting for a health to improve, waiting to meet the right person. We see the destination, we know what God put in our heart, now we're on the journey. The key is: what are you seeing on the journey? What's wrong, how long it's taking, why did they leave me? If you do like them and focus on all the negative, doubt will come, you'll start complaining, and miss God's best. What you may not recognize is God is on that journey with you. All along the way he's doing things, sustaining you, protecting you, providing for you, ordering your steps.
Don't do like them and not recognize his goodness. Take time every day to thank him for what he's doing. "Lord, thank you that you brought me this far. Thank you that you're making my crooked places straight. Thank you for fighting my battles". You can complain or you can praise, but you can't do both. If you complain you're going to remain, if you praise you're going to be raised.
There was this very wealthy family. This wealthy father wanted to show his seven-year-old son how the poor people lived. They left their big fancy house, and drove out in the country, spent the night on a farm. Just a little wood frame house, no TV, no fancy furniture, not even carpet, just a farmhouse. But at night this family would go out on the porch, tell stories, laugh and sing.
After a day and a half on the farm they headed back home. Father wanted to see if his son had learned his lesson. He asked him very curiously how he enjoyed the trip? Son said, "Oh, dad, I really loved it". He said, "Well, did you see how poor people can be"? The son said, "Yes, dad, I did". He said, "Well, tell me exactly what you mean, what you learned"? Little boy said, "Dad, I learned that we have one dog at home, and they have four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our backyard, but they have a stream with no end. We have fancy lanterns on the house, but they have the stars. We watch TV at night by ourselves, but they sit around and laugh and have fun together". The dad was shaking his head, he couldn't believe it. The son finished up by saying, "Dad, thank you for showing me how poor we really are".
Here's the point it's the simple things in life that bring the most joy. You may not have a lot of resources, but if you have family you're wealthy. If you have your health you're wealthy. If you can look up at the stars at night you're wealthy. It's not whether you have a lot or a little, it's all you're finding joy in the journey. Are you recognizing God's goodness seeing the blessings along the way, or you focus on what's wrong, what you didn't get, what you don't have? Waiting to reach that destination, then you'll be happy. You're missing the beauty of this day.
Make the decision you're going to enjoy where you are while you're on the way to where you want to be. "Not there yet, but I'm happy where I am. Not married yet, but I'm happy being single. Have some challenges, but I'm enjoying life while God's working it all out". Don't put your joy on hold. Paul said in Romans 5:3, "Let us be full of joy now". Not tomorrow, not when you reach the goal, not when the problem turns around - now is the time to be full of joy.
A young lady I know is one of the kindness, most friendly people you'll ever meet. Anytime you're with her, she always brightens your day, always has a smile, laughing, good-natured, fun to be around. But a few years back she was diagnosed with cancer. It's very serious, she began taking the treatment, going through all the tests, and there were major ups and major downs. But every time I would see her she was the same. Visiting her in the hospital, Victoria and I'd walk in, she'd have that big smile, that joyful laugh. We leave there encouraged. There was an older woman that was a patient where they both took treatment. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday she asked the nurse to leave the door open, so she could see out into the hall. The nurse asked: why? She said, "Because that young pretty girl is going to come by and wave at me. Her smile is what keeps me going".
Even in my friend's most challenging hour she was still joyful, being a blessing, recognizing each day is a gift. Sure she could have been bitter, depressed, "When I get well, then I'll be happy", but she found joy in the journey. She saw the goodness of God in the midst of the adversity. A hundred years from now we're all going to be gone. Don't live another day defeated, discouraged: get your joy back. I've heard it said it's not that life is so short, it's that we wait so long to begin. We're waiting for this challenge to be over, waiting to raise the kids, waiting for the promotion, waiting for retirement. My prayer again: God opened our eyes! Help us to see the uncommon in everyday life, to appreciate the people you've given us, to value the simple things!
It's very powerful when we can look back and say, "I enjoyed my 20s! I enjoyed my 30s! I enjoyed my 40s! I didn't endure life, I enjoyed it". Let's not be like those disciples and have God in our midst and not recognize it. Right now he's sustaining you, providing for you, giving your breath to breathe. And do your part: find joy in the journey. If you'll do this, I believe and declare: you're going to live happier, have better relationships, see more favor, those negative situations will turn around, and you'll reach the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus name. And if you receive it, can you say amen?