Joel Osteen - Approval Addiction
I want to talk today about Approval Addiction. Too many people make decisions based on what other people will think about them. They run everything through a filter: how's this going to make me look? How will my friends and coworkers perceive me? Will they be impressed? Will they applaud? Or will they look down, will they think less of me? Instead of being confident in who God made them to be, they let the opinion of others determine what they do. They don't realize they're addicted to approval. Psychologists call this FOPO. F-O-P-O: Fear of Other People's Opinions. And yes, we all want approval, we all want to be liked, but you can't become dependent on what other people think about you. Everyone is not going to understand you. Everyone won't celebrate you. There will be seasons where people are for you, giving you approval, then times when they're not.
If you have that filter, "I have to keep pleasing them. I need them to approve me to feel good about myself", then you're letting them be in charge of who you are. But your destiny is not predicated on other people's opinion of you. Whether they like you, approve you, does not stop God's purpose for your life. When God laid out your plan, he didn't have a committee, he didn't form a group chat, called 12 of your friends, let's get together and decide who they're going to be. No, by himself he called you, equipped you, gave you favor. If you live trying to please people, and gain their approval, keep everyone happy, you're going to be frustrated. That's going to wear you down.
You have to break free from what people think about you. You don't have to have their approval, you have Almighty God's approval. Don't live to please people, live to please God. He's the one that holds your destiny. Promotion doesn't come from people, it comes from the Lord. How much time and energy are you spending, trying to get approval, trying to be well liked, trying to keep this friend impressed, stay in this coworker's favor? Take the pressure off. You can't follow what God put in your heart if you're always trying to play up to people, "What will they think? What if they don't approve"? A much better question is, "What will God think"? I'd much rather spend my time pleasing him, than trying to please people.
The apostle Paul had all kinds of opinions about him. At one time he was the biggest enemy of the church, then he became a believer. Some people loved him, others were skeptical. But despite all this opposition, he wrote almost half of the New Testament, impacted the world in amazing ways. He gives us a secret of how he handled the pressure, how he dealt with all the opposition. He said in 1 Corinthians 4:3, "It matters very little to me what you or anyone else thinks. I have been faithful". Paul was saying, "I'm not looking to you for approval. I'm not basing my decisions on what you think, whether you like me or don't. That doesn't change who I am". He wasn't trying to please everyone, he was trying to please an audience of one, the one who called him, the one who gave him breath to breathe. He went on to say in the next verse, "My conscience is clear". He was saying, "I've done what God put in my heart. To the best of my ability, I pursued the goals and dreams that he's placed in me".
Some people didn't understand, some didn't approve, but he wasn't ruled by their opinions. He wasn't insecure to where he needed people to validate him. He didn't have to fit into their mold. If he was addicted to approval, we wouldn't have half of the New Testament. Don't miss your greatness because you're dependent on people approving you. Don't shrink back and let your dreams die stillborn, because you're worried about what they may think, what they may say, how they may not accept you. Now, that's an addiction that needs to be broken. You have to be bold like Paul, have that attitude, "It matters very little what people say or think. I don't need their approval to do what God's called me to do".
If you're getting your approval from people, then you're letting them control you. I'm not talking about never taking advice, and not listening to counsel. I'm saying don't let their opinion become more important than what God put in your heart. If you can like Paul, "My conscience is clear. God, I've searched my heart. To the best of my ability I believe this is something you want me to do, that this is a part of my purpose", then you don't need 12 people to confirm it. You don't need all your family to cheer you on, your friends and coworkers to approve. You may not get that. Sometimes God will cause people to withhold their approval, it's a test: are you going to let their lack of approval, their opinion keep you from becoming who you were created to be?
When my father went to be with the Lord I stepped up to pastor the church, and I was insecure, I didn't feel qualified. I was trying to figure out everything, and who was I going to be, and how was I going to lead, which direction was the church going to go. And there were a lot of different opinions. My personality type is I want to please people. I'm kind, I'll do anything for you. And that can be good, but it can also be a weakness. There were all these different opinions, and I found myself tempted to make decisions on what people would think. There was this man that had been with us in the church on staff for many years, good friend of my father, and I've known him since I was a little boy, and always liked him. And one day he called and started telling me everything I needed to do: how to minister, how to run the church, how we should do more of this and less of that. He was very opinionated, very strong. He said, "If you don't do these things, Joel, it's all going to go down".
There's a fine line between advice and manipulation. And I'm always open for new ideas, but the problem was: nothing he was telling me bore witness in my spirit. It was just the opposite of what I'm feeling. What I've learned is: you can hear God's voice for your life more than anyone else. God is not going to speak to someone else about your destiny, and not tell you. Other people may confirm it, they may encourage you, but if it doesn't agree with your spirit, then you need to dismiss it. Don't let people squeeze you into their mold. Now, I looked up to man. It was like a father to me. And I thought, "If I don't do what he wants, then he's not going to approve me, he may not support me, he may tell others and try to stir up all this trouble". These reasons said to me, "Joel, you need his approval, you better take his opinion, you better not rock this boat". These are tests we have to pass: am I going to please people or am I going to please God?
I was afraid of what he would think, and afraid he might be offended, afraid he might not like me. But the scripture says, "Fearing people is a dangerous trap". Doesn't say, "It's a bad trap", "It's not healthy", it uses the word "Dangerous", it's because if you fear people you can miss your destiny. If you let the opinion of others, "What will they think, what if they don't approve me", if you let that hold you back, then you can miss who you were created to be. And something rose up in me, like a holy boldness. And I was respectful, I was kind, but I was very strong. I said in effect, "Thanks, but no thanks. I'm not following your plan, I'm following what God put in my heart".
And sometimes you have to go alone, you have to do it without the approval of those that you thought would be for you. Other people may not see what God put in you, they can't feel what you feel. He wasn't happy, he told me how it wasn't going to work out, how I was missing it. He ended up leaving the church, and I was so thrilled... I mean so disappointed. But I learned: I didn't have to have his approval. You and God are a majority. He didn't approve me, but Almighty God shined down his favor. But had I listened to that man, that the fear of people determined my decisions, had I let the opinion of others dictate my life, I wouldn't be here today. We put too much emphasis on people's approval, but people didn't call you, people didn't crown you with favor, people didn't know you before you were formed in your mother's womb. The Most High God did. Quit worrying about their opinions, and get your approval from him.
In the scripture, God told Jeremiah that he was set apart before he was born, that God had called him to speak to nations, and that he would be a prophet that would impact the culture. Well, Jeremiah was a teenager. He felt unqualified, but God told him he would give him the words to speak. Wherever he went, his hand of favor would be on him. After God spoke all these incredible things to him, told him how he'd be a history maker, God finished by saying this one last thing. He said, (Jeremiah 1:8), "Don't be afraid of the people". God knew that people wouldn't understand him, that friends may not agree. He was saying, "Don't let the opinion of others hold you back. Don't let what they think, what they say keep you from fulfilling your purpose". God is saying that to us, "Don't fear the people. They don't approve you, that's not going to stop your purpose". What will stop you is if you let their opinion become more important, than what God put in your heart.
The late 1950s, my father was pastoring a successful church. They just a built a new sanctuary that held a thousand people, and that was unheard of back then. He was on the state board for his denomination, life was good. Then my sister Lisa was born with something like cerebral palsy. The doctors told my parents that she would probably never be able to walk or feed herself. And of course they were devastated. My father went to a hotel downtown to get alone for a few days, and read his Bible, and pray. And he saw how all through the scripture Jesus went about healing people, how the Holy Spirit brings power and victory. He'd been taught that God doesn't heal now, that was just for back then, but that day his eyes were opened. He came back to his church with this new fire and new faith, and he begins Sharing with them. He thought everyone would be so excited, but it was just the opposite. It didn't fit into their tradition. My father could have shrunk back and thought, "I don't want to rock this boat. I don't want people to not like me. I'll go back to what I used to be". He could've feared the people, let their disapproval override what God put in his heart. Instead, he chose to please God.
And some people didn't like it. They got upset, they ended up my parents to leave the church. But the scripture says, "It is better to obey God, than to obey people". There will be these times, where you have to make a decision: am I going to stick with my convictions? Am I going to be who God mad me to be? Or am I going to let the approval of people? Am I going to let their opinion determine my destiny? If you suffer from approval addiction, if you're not confident in who you are, and you need people to validate you, you'll always shrink back and let them control your future. But what God has for you, it's going to take boldness, he's going to take you where no one in your family has gone. You're going to be a pioneer, a trend-setter. Like my father, everyone is not going to understand, everyone won't approve you. You may have critics, people that try to discredit you. The ones that used to cheer you on, now they're finding fault. That's when you have to dig your heels in and say, "I'm not moved by who's not for me". Jesus told the religious leaders in John 5:41, "Your disapproval means nothing to me". He wasn't dependent on who liked him, who didn't support him, who used to be for him. He got his approval from his Heavenly Father.
My parents went out and started Lakewood, on mother's day in 1959. Instead of a beautiful new auditorium, they had this old, run-down feed store. Had holes in the floor, dirty, smelly. They cleaned it up, some little Wooden chairs in it. One of my father's good friends came by and said, "John, what in the world are you doing out here, pastoring this little church"? He couldn't understand it. Some people made fun of my father, they laughed. These are tests we have to pass. Are we going to depend on people's approval to do what God's put in our heart? Are we going to let their opinions, "What would they think? How will I be seen? What if they look down on me?" determine who we become? It's dangerous to fear the people. On the way to your destiny there will be people that don't celebrate you, they don't get the support, the encouragement, it's just between you and God. That's where you have to set your face like a flint and say, "God, I'm not living to please people, I'm living to please you".
People love my father back then as long as he was in their mold, as long as he stayed who he was, but when he stepped into a new level, that's when certain people didn't like it. The opposition, the critics came. When God takes you higher, don't be surprised if you don't get approval from some of your friends, some of your family. They'll tell you, "You've changed. You're not who you used to be". They want to keep you in that same box, but God is taking you where you've never been. The fact is: all of your friends can't handle where you're going. All of your relatives can't handle the favor and influence. And it's tempting let their disapproval, their negative comments, their doubt to cause you to get stuck. "Well, man, if they'd only support me, if they'd only change their mind, if they'd only be for me" - you don't need their approval. When they tell you you've changed, you're not who you used to be, tell them, "You're right. I'm growing. I'm stepping into new levels. My gifts are coming out in greater ways". It's not a bad thing to change, but some people can't handle it. If you're depending on them, it will keep you from moving forward.
Those critics that told my father that Lakewood would never make it, that he was making a big mistakes, here we are 64 years later still going strong. Here's what I'm saying: God knows what he's doing. He knows where he's taking you. I think about if my father would have been addicted to approval, he'd never rocked the boat, he would have stayed there and let people's opinions control him, my sister Lisa wouldn't be healed, I wouldn't be up here, he wouldn't have seen the fullness of his destiny. And sometimes we're so concerned about what people would think, what would they say. "Well, they have a good opinion of me"? We're spending all this time and energy trying to perform for people, win them over, make a good impression, hopefully they'll validate us. We're getting our approval from the wrong place. Was never meant to from people, but from God. When you're secure in who he made you to be, then you know you're valuable, talented, attractive, masterpiece. You don't have to have all this outside validation.
And really we're living in a day, where people can express their opinion easier than ever. Not just in person, but on social media. Now you have friends on Facebook, you have followers on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, some people you never met, living 1000 miles away, yet they have an opinion on what you wear, what you believe, how you raise your kids, what you had for dinner last night. They never talked to you, they've never got to know who you are, never sat down and had lunch, why are you worrying about what they think? Why are you trying to impress them, giving time and energy, responding to their comments, trying to explain what you meant? Some people are determined to misunderstand you. Their comment is not really about you, it shows what's in them.
They have issues they haven't dealt with, they're angry, they're upset. They don't like themselves, don't be surprised if they find fault with you. No offense, but they're not going where you're going. If you try to please everyone, win their approval, you'll not only miss the new levels that belong to you, but you'll miss the joy, the peace, the victory of this day. The problem with living for approval is we can lose who we really are. We're so busy trying to be what everyone else wants us to be, that's when life gets confusing. You have to do like Paul, and search your own heart. When your conscience is clear, when you know where God is leading you, follow that still small voice, don't get distracted trying to get everyone on board. It's a lot of pressure living to try to please people, convince them to be for you, so you can pursue what's in your heart.
After high school I went off to college, and always knew I wanted to work at the church and start a television ministry. From the time I was like 10 years old I loved cameras, and editing, and lighting. As a teenager I used to run cameras during the services. I'd come down on the weekends and play with the equipment. I studied television production that year in college, but after that first year I felt very strongly that I was supposed to come back and get started. And I'm all for education, my brother Paul, he's a surgeon, he went 47 years to college, and all my sister got their degrees, and I have friends that graduated Summa Cum Laude. I finished that first year, and thought, "Lord, have mercy". I knew this was where God was leading me, but I wondered what people would think if I come back? Would they look down on me? Would they think maybe I wasn't able to finish? What if they discount me? There was a struggle in my mind.
Finally told my father, and he was all for it. He said, "Joel, just follow what God put in your heart". My mother not so much. She took prayer and fasting. God's plan for your life may be different than others in your family. Maybe out of the ordinary, not a traditional approach. Only you can hear that voice. There'll be that temptation to stay in the box, "People aren't going to approve, just do whatever one else is doing". No, you have to be bold and step in to who God made you to be. When you do the right doors will open, you'll discover talent, ability that you didn't know you had. Don't let the fear of what people will think keep you from your greatness.
2 Samuel chapter 6 David, and his men had just recovered the Ark of the Covenant. That represented word God lived. It had been stolen, and now some 20 years later it was being returned. The priests were carrying it into Jerusalem. There was this huge celebration, shouts of joy, trumpets blowing, crashing symbols, this was the day they had dreamed about. Well, David was wearing a long priestly robe. He was so excited, he danced with all of his might. He was this distinguished leader, but he didn't hold back. He was out there celebrating the goodness of God. Well his wife Michal, this was king Saul's daughter, she was watching from an upstairs window. She saw him dancing and leaping, and at times his robe would open up, you could see his legs. The scripture says (2 Samuel 6:16), "She was filled with contempt, and she despised what David was doing".
When she came home she let David have it. She said (2 Samuel 6:20), "How glorious the king of Israel looked out there today, dancing like a fool, letting the young women see your legs". David said, "Listen Michal, I wasn't dancing unto you, I was dancing unto God. I'm willing to act like a fool to show my gratefulness for what he's done". David was saying, "What you think of me is not going to keep me from being who I am. Your disapproval is not going to stop me from fulfilling my purpose". David wasn't controlled by other people's opinion. He didn't worry about what other people thought.
We all have some Michals in our life. You're honoring God, you'd be in your best, and they're finding fault, they're looking down on you, "Why don't you come party with us anymore? Why do you go to church each week? Why do you stay faithful in your marriage? Come on, lighten up a little bit". Be a David, have the attitude, "I don't need your approval. I'm not making decisions based on your opinion to me, I'm going to keep God first place, I'm going to live with integrity, I'm going to take the high road, I'm going to do the right thing when it's hard". Don't let people talk you into compromising, lowering your standards. They may not approve you, but God approves you. He's the one that matters.
There was another leader named king Saul, he was the first king of Israel. In 1 Samuel 15, God told him to completely destroy the Amalekites, to not spare any of them: the people, the livestock, not take any of their possessions. Saul went out and defeated the enemy, but he spared the king, and kept the best sheep, the best cattle, gathered up some of the spoils. The next morning Samuel went to Saul, said "Why didn't you do what God told you to do"? Saul said, "What do you mean? I did. I wiped them out". Samuel said, "Then why do I see those sheep? Why do I hear those cows"? Saul said, "Oh, Samuel, that's nothing. We kept those animals so we could sacrifice them to the Lord. We kept a little bit of the plunder". Samuel said, "Saul, God would rather have your obedience than your sacrifices". Saul ran out of excuses, he finally got honest and told the real reason. He said in verse 24, "I disobeyed because I was afraid of the people, I did what they demanded".
One reason Saul lost the kingdom was he was addicted to approval. He based his decision on other people's opinion, what they would think about him. The scripture says in verse 10, "The Lord said to Samuel, 'I am sorry that I made Saul king'". That's one of the saddest scriptures in the Bible. It's the only place where I can find that God says, "I'm sorry I give them my blessing. I'm sorry I showed them my favor". What did Saul do that was so bad? He didn't deny Jesus like Peter. He didn't betray Jesus like Judas. He didn't mock him like the soldiers. What made God sorry was Saul let other people's opinions keep him from obeying. He lived for the approval of people, rather than the approval of God.
Look at the difference between Saul and David. David danced with all of his might. He didn't care what people thought, but Saul said, "I'm afraid of the people. I need their approval". David went to become the greatest king that ever lived, Saul had this throne taken away from him. Is the fear of other people's opinion holding you back? Are you sacrificing who you are, because you're addicted to approval, worried about what everyone thinks? Listen, this is your day to be free! God is doing a new thing. Where he's about to take you is going to take boldness, courage. Everyone's not going to understand, some won't give you approval, that's okay, you're not a Saul, you're a David. You're not living to please people, you're living to please God. Because you're getting approval from him, I believe and declare: you're about to step in to new levels of favor, new doors are about to open. Like David, you're going to rise higher, accomplish dreams, and reach the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus name. And if you receive it, can you say amen? Amen!