Joel Osteen - Recognizing Who You Are
I want to talk to you today about Recognizing Who You Are. It's easy to go through life being defined by how we were raised, what we saw model growing up, what people have said or mistakes we've made. We end up wearing these labels "Average", "Not talented", "Unattractive", "Too short". This distorted image is keeping us from who God created us to be. How you see yourself will determine how high you will go. And it's possible to live your whole life, and never recognize who you really are.
The scripture (Jeremiah 1:5) says, "Before we were formed in our mother's womb, God knew us". Before you showed up on planet earth, God already decided who you would be. He already laid out a purpose for your life. You came through your mother, she gave birth to you, but you came from Almighty God, he gave you life. God didn't create anyone average. He calls you a masterpiece, he put greatness in you. There is potential on the inside, that you've not yet tapped into. But if this is going to happen, you can't see yourself as weak, lacking, inadequate. Tune all that out, and get in agreement with God. How about seeing yourself as a masterpiece, one of a kind, valuable? Instead of lacking, unqualified, "No, I'm equipped, empowered, I have everything I need to fulfill my assignment". Don't let a distorted image of who you are keep you from your purpose.
When I was 20 years old, I went to India with my father. It was my first time being overseas. And one evening I was sitting on the beach by myself, watching the sun go down. It was so beautiful, almost surreal, miles of pure white sand, swaying palm trees, glistening blue water. The sun was huge on the horizon, just about to set. I remember the distinct smells, the salt water from the ocean spray, the smoke from people grilling on the beach, and the marijuana from the hippies getting high. The longer I stayed, the better I felt. It looked like a postcard, I had never seen anything so magnificent. The thought came to my mind about how God is such an amazing painter, such an amazing artist.
And as I was sitting there, just reflecting, and thinking about my life, I heard God ask me something. Not out loud, but just an impression down in here. He said, "Joel, you think this is a beautiful picture, do you?" I said, "Yes, God, it's magnificent". He said, "What do you think my most prized painting would be? My most incredible creation". I thought about it a moment, I said "God it must be this. This is beautiful". He said, "No, it's not this sunset". Earlier that year I had been in the rocky mountains, and they were so beautiful, I said "God, I bet it's the rocky mountains". He said, "No, it's not that". I thought, "What could it be? The grand canyon? The solar system? The milky way"? He said, "No, Joel. My most prized creation, the one I'm the most proud of is you".
I thought "Me? Couldn't be me. I'm just average. There's nothing special about me". He said, "Joel, you don't understand. When I made the solar system, the sun, the mountains, the oceans, that was all good. I'm proud of that. But when I made you, I breathed my life into you, I created you in my own image, I put my DNA on the inside". Don't discount who you are. Don't let life, people, disappointments convince you that you're just a average, nothing special about you. You have royal blood flowing through your veins. God has crowned you with his favor. He doesn't call the rocky mountains a masterpiece. Doesn't call the solar system a masterpiece. He didn't call that beautiful sunset a masterpiece. He calls you a masterpiece. He calls you his most prized creation.
Now the question is: what are you calling yourself? If you see yourself as ordinary, not that talented, and "I don't have a good personality, Joel, I'm dealing with these weaknesses", that distorted image is going to keep you from shining. What a tragedy to go through life and never discover who you really are. Are you wearing labels that are limiting you: "Average", "Not talented", "Unattractive", "Dysfunctional"? Who put those labels on you? Who told you that was you? Quit letting other people define you, and go back to who God says you are. People will tell you that you're not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not talented enough. Why don't you take that label off, and put on a new one: "Fearfully and wonderfully made", "Masterpiece", "One of a kind", "Strong", "Talented", "Successful"?
Judges chapter 6, the Midianites had surrounded the people of Israel. There was a young man named Gideon that was hiding in a wine press. He was afraid and intimidated. He had seen how powerful these enemies were, how they had skill, and expertise, and size, and he knew he didn't have a chance. While he was hiding, an angel came into the wine press and said, "Mighty hero, the Lord is with you". I can imagine Gideon looked around, thought "Who's he talking about? I'm not a mighty hero, I'm afraid, I'm hiding". God was saying in effect, "Gideon, you don't recognize who you are. You're wearing all these labels: 'insecure', 'weak', 'not enough', but I came to tell you who you really are. You're a mighty hero. You have courage, strength, talent, that you haven't tapped into".
The angel went on to say, "You are to lead the Israelites against the Midianites". Gideon answered back and said, "How can I rescue Israel, I come from the smallest tribe, and I'm the least one in my family". Here God had just called him a mighty hero, he had just told him he was going to do something great, but Gideon had let how he was raised define him, what family he came from, his education, his size. In modern terms, "Joel, the economy, the pandemic, my boss doesn't like me, I didn't get the scholarship". His perception of who he is is keeping him from becoming who God called him to be. If the angel were here today, he would look at you and say, "Mighty hero, the Lord is with you". How many of us would do like Gideon, "Not me. I'm not a mighty hero. I come from an ordinary family. I'll never do anything great. I can't defeat this giant. I don't have the skill, the courage, the expertise". No, don't let your wrong perception keep you from your greatness. Get in agreement with God. Take off all those negative labels, "Unqualified", "Wrong family", "Intimidated". How you see yourself is going to set the limits for your life.
Well Gideon finally changed his thinking, he finally created a new image of who he was, and he went out and defeated the Midianites. He saved the people of Israel. But sitting in that wine press afraid, feeling inferior, he never dreamed we would be talking about him today. He never dreamed he would become a hero of faith. But if the angel had not shown up to speak to his destiny, to tell him who God created him to be, he would have lived and died, and never discovered who he really was.
Maybe God sent me like that angel to tell you who you really are. You are not who people say you are. You are not limited by how you were raised. You are not what your feelings say you are. Your feelings don't always tell the truth. You may feel weak, insecure, not valuable, not qualified, but don't let your feelings determine your identity. Feelings are fickle, feelings will come and go. You have to go back to what your Creator says. He calls you a mighty hero. He calls you a barrier breaker, a giant-killer, a masterpiece, a prized possession. I can imagine in the wine press, Gideon was praying for God to send a great leader, believing for the right person to show up, "God, send us a deliverer. Send us someone strong, talented, with your favor, with your blessing". He didn't realize, he was the one he was praying for. He was the answer he was asking God for.
Now, I wonder if like Gideon you're the one you've been praying for, you're the one to do great things, to set a new standard, to take your family to a new level, but perhaps you don't recognize who you are. When we're always looking to others, always counting on somebody else, it's because we're overlooking what God put in us. There is greatness in you, there is leadership in you, there is talent, wisdom, creativity in you. Don't overlook yourself. Don't discount who you are, thinking, "Everyone else is so talented, they can deliver us from this army, they can get me out, they can go further". No, God has destined you to do something awesome. He's destined you to leave your mark.
When God told Abraham and Sarah they were going to have a baby, they were way too old, and in the natural it was impossible. Years went by, and no sign of a child, so Sarah told Abraham to sleep with her maid, that way they could have a baby. They had a child through Hagar, but that wasn't the promised child. God said to Sarah in effect, "I didn't put the promise in someone else, I put the promise in you". Sarah was discounting ourselves thinking, "I'm too old. There's no way. You can't have a baby at my age". As long as she saw herself as barren, not able to have children, she was limiting her destiny. She had to start seeing herself as a mother, seeing that baby in her arms. When she changed the perception of who she was, when she quit counting on other people to make it happen, she believed "I'm the one to give birth to this child", that's when she conceived and gave birth to baby Isaac at 90 years old.
And God will put promises in your heart that seem impossible. Thoughts will tell you all the reasons it's not going to happen. And if you look at it only in the natural, you'll talk yourself out of it. How do you know that you're not a Sarah, that God is going to do something out of the ordinary, uncommon? How do you know that you're not a Gideon, a mighty hero, someone that will take your family where they've never been? It's easy to think, "Well, that's not me, Joel, that's for someone younger, more talented, more attractive, more influential". No, God put the promise in you, not someone else. You have to do like Gideon, do like Sarah, recognize who you are. You're a person of destiny. You're a mighty hero. You have the favor of God. You've been raised up for such a time as this. Don't discount who you are. It's good to celebrate others, but you need to recognize you're gifted, you're talented, you're valuable, you're fearfully and wonderfully made.
A friend of mine grew up in a small town in Kentucky. And they didn't have too much, they were very poor, but as a little boy he always had a desire to help children in need. He saw on television how you could support a hungry child in another country for 50 dollars/month. He didn't have any money, but at eight years old he started mowing lawns in the neighborhood so he could help, had such a burden for these children. Well, by the grace of God he was able to go to college, and he went on to medical school, and became very successful in his practice. All the while he was still doing what he could to help take care of children. One day his medical suppliers heard about it, and they started donating medicines, vaccines, and antibiotics. A shoe company donated a hundred thousand shoes to him. It got so large, he had to rent a warehouse to hold it all.
Today our friends, Dr. Todd and sue price have donated over billion dollars in supplies and medicines to help children around the world. He told how the time from he was a little boy he always prayed that God would send a wealthy person to help those children in need. He said, "Joel, I never realized I was the person I was praying for". He was the answer to his own prayer. What am I saying? Sometimes we don't recognize who we are. We have all this potential, all these God-given dreams and abilities, but often our circumstances, other people, our own thoughts tell us that we're ordinary, limited, we can't do anything significant, so we go through life with little dreams, feeling unqualified, praying that somebody else will make a difference, somebody else will push our family forward.
I'm saying: you're the one you're praying for. You're the one that can leave your mark. You have greatness in you. You have ideas and creativity. There is favor on your life. There are doors that God will open that will thrust you forward. You may not see how it can happen. Every thought will tell you, "You're stuck. This giant's too big. This dream's too great". That's okay, that's when God steps in. He'll breathe in your direction, give you favor, ability, blessings that take you where you can't go on your own. But it's significant that the angel said to Gideon, "Mighty hero, the Lord is with you". He could have just said, "Gideon, God wants you to go deliver the Israelites". God knew he had to convince Gideon to see himself the right way. He had to help him discover who he really was, a mighty hero. As long as he saw himself as weak, limited, from the wrong family, we wouldn't be talking about him. Don't miss your destiny because you don't recognize who you are.
After college, I came back from Lakewood and worked 17 years behind the scenes, doing the television production. And my father tried to get me up to minister many times, but I didn't know this was in me. I thought, "I wouldn't know what to say. I can't speak in front of people, I'm too quiet, too reserved". But when my father passed in 1999, I knew I was supposed to step up and pastor the church. I felt it so strongly, but these fears and insecurities came louder than ever, saying "Joel, you don't know how to minister. Nobody's going to listen to you. You're going to get up there and make a fool of yourself". All these voices were trying to push me down, convince me that I wasn't smart enough, talented enough, trained enough, experienced enough. Like Gideon, I had to make a decision: am I going to sit here, and let my fear and doubts talk me out of stepping up? Or am I going to believe what God says about me, that I'm a mighty hero, that I'm strong in the Lord, that I can do all things through Christ?
There was a battle taking place in my mind over who I was going to become. I heard people talking, "He's not as good as his father. He's never going to make it with, Joel". Was I going to be what people said? What my doubt said? What my feelings said? Or was I going to believe I am who God says I am? I am a masterpiece, I'm valuable, I'm talented, I'm well able. I took that step of faith and never dreamed where God would take me. I thought I knew who I was, but I'm still discovering who I am. I've learned: once you think you know, God will take you higher. He'll trust you with more, he's taken you from glory to glory.
In the scripture there was a young man named Mephibosheth. He was the grandson of king Saul, and the son of Jonathan, David's best friend. He was born into royalty, destined to one day take the throne. But when he was around five years old, his grandfather and father were killed in a battle on the same day. After the enemy finished off king Saul, they headed into town to find Saul's family. When Mephibosheth's nurse heard the news, she grabbed him, and took off running as fast as she could to try to spare his life, that she was going down the stairs, she Tripped and dropped Mephibosheth. And he fell so hard, that both of his legs were broken. He became crippled and would never walk again. He ended up living in hiding, in a place called Lo-debar. It was one of the poorest, most run-down cities of that day. Here he's the grandson of the king, he had grown up in the palace, in royalty, but now he's in the slums, barely surviving.
When we've been through disappointments, loss, bad breaks, it's easy to forget who we are, and let that become our identity. "I've been dropped, Joel, I've been hurt, I've gone through loss, I've been betrayed, I have a good excuse to be this way". But what you've been through didn't change who you are. You are still royalty, you are still a masterpiece, you are still a child of the Most High God. He's promised to give you beauty for those ashes, to pay you back double for the unfair things. But you have to get your passion back, get your vision back. The enemy would love for that bad break to define you, to where you see yourself as a victim, "Nothing good is in my future, let me just endure life". No, payback is coming. God saw what happened. He saw who left you, he saw what you didn't get, he's a God of justice, he's going to make it up to you.
Years went by, and the Mephibosheth is now a grown man. One day king David was thinking about his good friend Jonathan, how much he loved him, and how much he missed him. He asked his staff if any of Jonathan's relatives were still alive? They said, "Yes, he has a son, but he's crippled". David said, "Go find him". The king's men showed up in the slums of Lo-debar. You can imagine the commotion, everyone was talking, "What are they doing here? Who are they looking for"? They found Mephibosheth's makeshift hot, knocked on his door, sternly. He's alarmed, he scoots over, and slowly answers the door. When he sees the officials, his heart sinks, thinking, "Oh, man, they found me. I'm in big trouble". The main leader says to him, "Mephibosheth, the king is looking for you". He can't walk, they have to pick him up and carry him to the palace. You can imagine what's going on in his mind. His grandfather, king Saul tried to kill David. He's the one that threw spears at David, he chased David through the desert. Mephibosheth is thinking, "Oh, man, he's about to get revenge. This is going to be the end".
They bring him in front of David. The first thing Mephibosheth says is, "Why would you even bother with a dead dog like me"? Notice how he saw himself. Not valuable, unworthy, a victim, "I don't deserve anything, look what I've been through, I'm at a disadvantage". When in reality he was the grandson of the king, he was royalty. Just because someone dropped him, that didn't change his name. He didn't suddenly not become king Saul's grandson. The problem was he let life change his name, he left that bad break define his identity. He forgot who he was. I can see him trembling there, so worried about what David was going to do. But David said in effect, "Mephibosheth, I'm not here to harm you, I'm here to remind you who you are. Your royalty, you're the grandson of the king. Your father was my best friend. From now on you're going to live in the palace with me. Every night you will sit at my table and have dinner. All that land that belonged to your grandfather, I'm giving it back to you". I can see Mephibosheth wiping the tears from his eyes. His face begins to brighten. He says, "You mean I'm not a dead dog? I'm not unworthy? I'm not washed up"? David said, "No, that's not who you are. You don't belong in Lo-debar, you belong in the palace with me".
Had David not told him who he was, he would have spent the rest of his life in defeat and mediocrity. I wonder how many of us, kind of like Mephibosheth have that dead-dog mentality? We see ourselves the wrong way. We've been through disappointments, we've made mistakes, now we think we're not worthy, we can't expect anything good. Can I tell you? The King is looking for you. God sent me down your path to get you out of Lo-debar, to remind you who you are: a masterpiece, a mighty hero, a king's child. There's royalty in your blood. There's a crown of favor on your head. Now, get rid of that dead-dog mentality, and start having a child-of-the-king mentality, worthy, valuable, forgiven, blessed, abundant.
When my nephew Jackson was a little boy, just a little toddler, my sister-in-law Jennifer, Paul's wife, would take him to bed each night. And after they prayed, she would go through this long list of superheroes, telling Jackson who he was, just to make him feel loved and valuable. She would say, "Jackson, you're my Superman. You're my Rescue Hero. You're my Buzz Lightyear, you're my Lightning McQueen, you're my Power Ranger", on and on. He would lie there with a big smile, take it all in. One night they got home late, and she put him to bed in a hurry, and she didn't go over that list. In a few minutes she heard this voice calling loudly, "Mom, mama". She rushed to the room, said, "Yes, Jackson, what's wrong"? He said, "Mama, you forgot to tell me who I am".
Too many people have never been told who they are. They've had negative voices playing over and over, they believed the lies, "Well, you're average. You're not talented, you're unattractive, you'll never do anything great". Now, let me tell you who you really are: you're a child of the Most High God. You're beautiful, you're talented, you're strong, you're successful, you're one of a kind, a history maker, a giant killer, a mighty hero.
Paul said in Romans 8:19, "The entire universe is standing on tiptoe, yearning to see the unveiling of God's glorious sons and daughters". Paul's saying in effect, "All of heaven is waiting for you to recognize who you are". They're standing on tiptoe, thinking "Maybe today they'll get it. Maybe they'll realize they're a masterpiece, they're a mighty hero, a king's son. Maybe today they'll realize they don't belong in Lo-debar, they can step up to the table, that they're royalty". You want to give heaven something to cheer about? See yourself the way God sees you. Quit discounting yourself, thinking you're at a disadvantage, you're lacking, you're not qualified. Get out of Lo-debar, get out of that negative mindset, and come over to the palace. The King is looking for you. He sent me to help you discover who you really are.
See, many of us like Gideon, we have so much more in us, but we're stuck in an old version of who we are. I didn't know this ability was in me, to get up and speak in front of people. I was stuck in who I used to be, behind the scenes, doing the production. That version was fine for the time, but it wasn't the final version. There are new versions of you coming, that are stronger, wiser, more successful, greater favor. You don't see it all at once, it happens in stages. If you'll stay open, you'll discover a greater version of you.
My challenge is: don't get stuck in who you used to be, letting limitations from the past, and what someone said keep you from stepping up to who you really are. This is a new day. I'm calling out the mighty hero, the barrier-breaker, the masterpiece. Take off all those negative labels, and get in agreement with God. If you'll do this, I believe and declare: like Gideon, you're going to discover talent, courage, creativity, favor that you never knew you had. You're going to accomplish dreams bigger than you thought, overcome obstacles that look impossible, and become all that you were created to be, in Jesus name. And if you receive, it can you say amen?