Joel Osteen - Victory Begins In The Dark - (Stronger Than You Think)
Most of us have faced a challenge that left us thinking, "This is just too much". Too much pressure, too much heartache. It's in those moments God whispers, "You're stronger than you think". The scripture says, "God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can endure, but he will make a way of escape so you will be able to bear it". You'll never know how strong you really are until you face pressure that you've never faced. It may seem unbearable, but the fact that God allows it means that you can handle it. God didn't say he would make an escape so you can run from your problems. He said it was so you can bear it. You can look back at times in your life when you didn't think you could go on, the pressure seemed unbearable, but somehow it didn't defeat you. Why didn't it break you? Because you were stronger than you thought. God designed you to handle that pressure. He wouldn't have allowed you to get in the pressure, if he hadn't already put in you what you needed to handle it. You will always be able to bear whatever comes your way.
I read about a little fish called the Mariana snailfish, lives at the bottom of the ocean, almost five miles underwater. No other fish can survive at that depth. The pressure at that depth is more than a thousand times than at the surface. It would crush any other fish. But when God designed this snailfish, he made his bones flexible so they could withstand the pressure. They have special cells and a unique digestive system. Most fish have one gene to stabilize proteins, but this fish has five. Because they're designed to handle the pressure, they don't live burdened, struggling, overwhelmed. They thrive there.
In the same way when God designed you, he knew the pressures you would face: financial pressure, relationship pressure, raising children pressure, dealing with an illness pressure. If that pressure was going to crush you, if it was going to be unbearable, God wouldn't have put you there. He doesn't make mistakes. Whatever you face remind yourself you can handle it. You've been designed for it. You wouldn't be at that depth if the pressure was going to defeat you. Now, we have to get in agreement with God. If we go around thinking, "This is too much. Can't raise these children. The pressure at work is overwhelming", that's going to defeat us.
The scripture says you are full of can-do power. You are well able to overcome opposition, to outlast adversity. But I've learned that can-do power doesn't do you any good if you have a can't-do mentality. Quit looking at all the things you can't do, have a new perspective, "I can do all things through Christ. This obstacle may be big, but I can overcome it. This trouble is taking longer than I thought, but I can outlast it. I've been designed for it. I'm strong. I'm anointed. I'm equipped". Don't have a weak mentality. You weren't created to fall apart when the pressure comes, you are stronger than you think. When you start seeing yourself as strong, empowered, well able, you won't live overwhelmed. You'll discover strength that you didn't know you had.
This is what happened to Gideon in judges chapter 6. He was hiding in the wine press as he threshed the wheat, afraid of the Midianites who had surrounded his city. You can imagine the pressure he was under, how he felt overwhelmed, worried, wondering what was going to happen. Just when it seemed like he couldn't bear it anymore, an angel showed up and said, "Mighty hero, the Lord is with you". Other translations say, "Valiant man of fearless courage". Gideon didn't feel like a mighty hero, he was hiding. He didn't feel courageous, he felt weak, intimidated. The angel was saying in effect, "Gideon, you are stronger than you think. You're letting this situation overwhelm you. You think it's unbearable, too much to handle, but I'm here to tell you that you have what it takes. You're courageous, you're talented, you're favored, you're well able".
Gideon didn't know what was in him. He saw what was around him, enemies that looked too big, opposition that seemed insurmountable. But the angel showed up to remind him of what was inside him. The angel said, "Gideon, you are to lead the people of Israel against the Midianites". Even though he saw an angel, Gideon wasn't convinced. He said in effect, "Are you kidding? I've come from the poorest family. I'm the least one in my father's house". He was saying, "You're calling me strong, you're calling me a hero, but do you know my background? Do you know where I come from? Do you see what I'm up against"? Gideon didn't understand that God won't let you get in a situation if he hasn't already equipped you for it. If it was going to be too much to bear, too big of a challenge, God wouldn't have allowed it. The fact that you're in it means you can handle it. Just like Gideon, God is saying to you, "Mighty hero rise up. Mighty hero, stands strong. Mighty hero, you are well able".
You would think that after the angel called him a mighty hero, Gideon would be full of faith, ready to take new ground? But he still wasn't convinced. God could have thought, "Gideon forget it. I'm done with you. If you don't know what you have, if you see yourself as weak, then I'll find somebody else". But God never gives up on us. He's going to keep telling you that you're stronger than you think. He's going to keep pushing you forward, showing you signs of his favor.
Gideon and one of his men snuck down to the enemy's camp to see what was going on. Several armies had united with the Midianites to fight the Israelites. Gideon only had 300 men, seemed impossible. But just as they crept up to the camp they overheard one of the Midianites telling about a dream that he had. The other Midianites said, "I know exactly what that means. God has given Gideon and the Israelites victory over us". When Gideon heard that, something came alive on the inside. He returned to the camp, he said to his men, "Get up, the Lord has given us the victory". He no longer felt weak, overwhelmed, intimidated. He knew he was well able. At midnight they attacked the enemy armies. Even though they were greatly outnumbered, Gideon and the Israelites won the victory.
I don't think we would be talking about Gideon if the angel had not called him a mighty hero, if the angel had not challenged Gideon to see himself differently, he would have missed his destiny. God is saying to you, "You are stronger than you think. You are bigger than what you're up against. You were created to overcome. Born with what you need to defeat what's trying to stop you". You may feel weak, intimidated, overwhelmed, that's okay. God made us with feelings, but your feelings shouldn't have the final say. You have to go by what you know, not by what you feel. When you're weak, you need to say, "I am strong". When you feel overwhelmed, you need to say, "I can do all things through Christ". When you feel intimidated, you need to declare, "I am a mighty hero". When the pressure feels too much, you need to say, "I can handle it. I am well able to bear it. I am stronger than I think".
Joel Osteen: I think about, Paul, how you were the cheapest surgery in little rock at the Baptist hospital there for many years. And you know, your career was going great, you'd become this, you know, great doctor. And when our dad passed, you called and, you know, said God was dealing with you about something.
Paul Osteen: Yeah, it was an interesting time, Joel. I've very much felt intimidated, because for a couple years while I was practicing, I felt like God was impressing on my heart there was something different, and I wasn't sure what that was. And lo and behold driving home from daddy's memorial service, I can tell you the place: u.S 59 in the Cleveland exit, I felt these three sentences come to my spirit: give up your practice, move to Houston and help. The hard part was after God spoke to me, because I didn't know what to do. Jen and I were debating what should be the next step. And I waited for a few weeks before I told anybody, and then I told my pastors. My pastors were good people, loved God, but they thought maybe that I was reacting to my dad's death. Other people were saying I was having a midlife crisis. And all those things were very valid, I thought, "Well, maybe those things are happening to me", but in my heart of hearts I knew what God had spoken to me. And I've decided one day, I'd call Lisa, and I was standing out on the driveway, underneath the basketball goal, I'll never forget and I said, "Lisa, here's the deal. I feel like God's spoken to me to give up my practice move to Houston to help". I'll never forget what she said. She said, "Well, Paul, that's easy". I go, "How? Why is that easy"? And she said, "Well, you have a choice to obey or disobey". It it was just such a word for me at that moment, because I wanted to obey, I didn't want to disobey. So, anyway we took the journey of faith and, you know, last 21 years there's just been nothing more than just a dream come true. Not only do I get to help you guys, and we've seen what God's done with the ministry, but also being able to use my gifts and talents and medical missions. It's just only he could have put it together like he did. So yeah, it was hard, it was difficult, you have to do everything prayerfully, and you have to do it very deliberately. And you know, if it's the bigger the decision, the slower you need to go, but I'm really glad that Lisa gave me that encouragement. Really I'm glad I obeyed.
Joel Osteen: It's interesting to me, Paul, that people didn't understand when you were going to leave your practice. I mean you were the head of surgery there in little rock. And sometimes God asked us to do things that don't make sense. You may not get all the encouragement from the people that you think would be encouraging you, but I love the fact that you took the step of faith, because, you know, you love people, you respect their opinions, you know, we get good counsel and all that, but there's times where you know, you just got to take this step of faith and trust God with it.
Paul Osteen: You know, Jesus said, "My sheep know my voice". And it's clear, and there's nothing confusing about it. I mean, it may be intimidating somewhat, but the voice is clear. And so, I had to go back to that. I felt like I knew God's voice, and I felt like he really spoke to me. And I felt like I was at a juncture to obey or disobey, you know.
Dodie Osteen: Lisa, glad you did.
Joel Osteen: Lisa, what about somebody, you know, that feels like they're Gideon, and they're hiding, they don't feel like they have the gifts and the talents. And you know, you've stepped up and done great things too.
Lisa Osteen Comes: Well, I just I think think about Gideon, and how fearful he was. And not only was he fearful, but when God told him to step up he said, "I want you to do a way with all these men", he just drilled it down to 300 men, and that's all Gideon had. But you know what? It's all Gideon needed. He and those men brought the victory, but God is the one that defeated the enemy for them. And I think it comes down to, you know, when God calls you to do something, you may not feel qualified, you may not feel ready, but if you will just step out and take that step of faith, like Gideon did, you will find that on the other side of fear is victory. On the other side of fear is your purpose and your calling. And you will, like Paul did, you sense the birth of God, you sense that anointing and that grace to do whatever God has called you to do. But it it takes courage. It took courage for Gideon. And you know, another thought I had is that God will give you a word, and it may not be for right now. I've seen him do that in my life. But see, the Bible says that God confides in his people. And so, he gives you a word to let you know, "This is what I want to do for you. I'm not going to tell you everything that's going to happen, I'm not going to tell you the way I'm going to do it, but I'm just going to give you that little secret, so you pray about it, and you let me prepare you", and at the right time, just like Paul, at the right time he'll say, "Now's the time".
Joel Osteen: Yeah, you know, Gideon didn't see himself like God saw him, but when he did take that step of faith, I mean now we're talking about him thousands of years later. I mean, I wonder what's in all of us that people could be talking about us like if we just take that step of faith? I mean he literally saved the Israelites. And you know, let's not let fear hold us back, let's not let intimidation, and talk about what we're not, and what we don't have, and as we step out, you know, what we can change our family, change our city, maybe change the world.
Think about a little seed. It's just a quarter of an inch long, doesn't look like much. When you bury that seed into ground, the dirt that's on top of it is thousands of times heavier, far more powerful. The little seed could think, "Just my luck. I was doing fine, then someone put me in the dirt. Someone buried me". But what that seed doesn't know is that God already took into account that one day it would be buried, that one day it would feel overwhelmed, be surrounded by pressure and forces that were much greater. So, God put in that seed supernatural life, supernatural strength, supernatural ability. After it's been buried, trapped in the dark, looks as though it's over, that seed will germinate, it will open up and somehow begin to push the dirt out of the way. That seed didn't realize it was designed to be buried, that it was designed to have dirt put on it. God knew it would face opposition that looked much bigger, that's why he put the strength to push up the dirt, strength to move something many times stronger out of its way.
God is showing us, it's not the size of what you're up against. What matters most is what the Creator put inside you. Don't be intimidated by how big the opposition is, by how bad the medical report looks, by how powerful your enemies may be. Like that seed, you have the life of Almighty God, you have the favor of God, you have can-do power. You are stronger than you think. God has already put things in you that you can't see now, but at the appointed time you're going to push back the dirt, you're going to come out of what's holding you back. But not like you were, you're going to bloom, you're going to blossom, go to new levels, accomplish greater goals. Don't be fooled by the dirt. The dirt is getting you ready to flourish. There are things in your destiny that can only happen with the dirt. If you weren't buried so to speak, you would never see what's in your seed. You wouldn't reach your full potential.
So, you can keep an apple seed on the shelf for years. Looks nice, doesn't have to get dirty, doesn't have to be uncomfortable. But that seed would never become what it was created to be. There are apple orchards in that one seed, but it will never produce a single apple without the dirt. The challenge is: when we get dirt on us, when we face things that we don't understand, feels overwhelming, it's easy to get discouraged, give up on our dreams, live sour, "God why is this happening"? But here's the right attitude, "This dirt is not stopping my destiny, it's taken me into my destiny".
Numbers chapter 11, Moses felt overwhelmed. He was leading the Israelites through the desert, some 2 million people toward the Promised Land. They were complaining, "We're tired of eating the same food. We liked it better in Egypt. Why did you bring us out here in the desert"? Moses said, "God, why did you lay the burdens of all these people on me? They're not my children. I'm not able to bear this on my own. It's too heavy for me". He felt so pressured and so stressed, that he said, "God, I would rather you kill me than to have to carry this heavy load". Felt unbearable, he couldn't take it anymore.
God told him to call 70 men, 70 elders of the people who could help him. God said to Moses, "I will take some of the spirit that's on you, and put it on these men. They will help you carry the burden". One principle is to delegate, because you can't do everything by yourself, but it's interesting that God didn't say I'm going to take some of my spirit and put it on these men. He said, "Moses, I'm going to take some of your spirit and put it on them". Do you see how strong Moses was? Even though he couldn't do the work of all seventy, God said, "You have so much potential. You have so much you haven't tapped into, that I'm going to take from you and give it to them". Imagine God taken from what's in you, and giving it to 70 people, and you are still able to do great things. That's how strong you are, that's how powerful you are, that's how anointed you are.
I want you to see yourself as a mighty hero, as someone who's well able. The reason you face big challenges is because you have a big destiny. When I was growing up we had a dog by the name of Scooter. My father used to ride his bike through the neighborhood, and Scooter would run alongside him. He was so proud of Scooter, he was a big German shepherd, strong and powerful. Scooter would take off a hit of daddy and run through the neighbor's yard, check everything out, like he was the king of the road. One day as they were riding, this little bitty chihuahua saw Scooter coming down the street, started barking and barking. Scooter didn't think twice, he took off toward that dog at full speed, like he was saying, "How dare you bark at me"? My father thought, "Oh, no, Scooter's going to tear into that dog. One paw on him and that little dog would be done".
He sped up to try to calm Scooter down, but the closer Scooter got, the louder the dog barked. Finally Scooter got right up to him, the big showdown, my father was waiting for Scooter to show him who was boss, but Scooter rolled over on his back, put all four legs up in the air, like he was saying, "I give up, please, don't hurt me". My father was so embarrassed, he said, "I wanted to just kick Scooter all the way home". Scooter was a lot bigger on the outside than he was the inside. That little chihuahua may have been small in size, but he was stronger than he looked, more powerful than he looked. I've learned: it's not the size of the problem, it's the size of the person.
Think about David. He was a teenager, taking care of his father's sheep in the shepherd's field. One day he took a supply of food to his three brothers who were in the army. When he arrived at the camp, he heard Goliath taunting the Israelite soldiers. Something rose up in him. He told the king that he wanted to fight Goliath. They all tried to talk him out of it, telling him that he was too small, not qualified, that he had no experience. But David was determined. When Goliath saw how small David was, he began to laugh, he said, "Am I a dog, that you would come at me with a stick"? He was saying, "Is this the best you've got"? David looked at Goliath and said in effect, "I may be small, but I'm stronger than I look". David took a slingshot, and with one stone brought down Goliath.
You may have some Goliath telling you what you can't do. You have to do like David, tell that giant, "I may look small, but I'm stronger than you think. You haven't seen the best of me. You haven't seen the courage, the fortitude, the greatness. You just see a Gideon, what you don't realize is you're looking at a mighty hero". That problem is not going to defeat you. That trouble is not how your story ends. That loss is not going to define you. You're going to discover things in you that you didn't know you had. I believe even now strength is rising up, courage is rising up, dreams are coming back to life. You're about to see God do things that you couldn't do. He's going to turn situations around that look permanent. He's going to open doors that no person can shout.
I believe there's a mighty hero waiting to come out of you. There's a giant killer, there's a history maker, there's an overcomer. You may have some dirt on you, you're going through some challenges, but just like that seed, that dirt can't hold you down. You have the life of Almighty God. You've been designed for this time, equipped for what you're facing, empowered to fulfill your destiny. Now don't live with a can't-do mentality when you have can-do power. Get in agreement with God. If you'll do this, I believe and declare: you're about to discover strength, courage, ability, favor like you've never seen. You're not going to just survive, you're going to thrive. You're going to overcome every obstacle, defeat every enemy, and accomplish every dream. You are stronger than you think.