Joel Osteen - Healthy Pressure
I want to talk to you today about Healthy Pressure. Sometimes we think we'll get to this place where there's no pressure, no people getting on our nerves, no traffic, no delays, everything's falling into place, plenty in our bank account, healthier than ever, children making straight A's, Texans undefeated, mother-in-law moves to China. If we can just endure, we'll get to this utopia, this perfect place where we don't have any more pressure. The truth is: not all pressure is bad. There is healthy pressure. If you were comfortable all the time, you couldn't reach your potential. If you didn't have opposition, and things you don't understand, problems not changing, you would never develop endurance, and trust, and character. That pressure is getting you prepared. You have to have resistance to get stronger.
God will allow situations where we're over our head, we don't know how it's going to work out, it's taking longer than we thought. He's not making your life miserable, those are opportunities to grow. That's when you have to rely on him. When you're pressured, you learn to stretch your faith, pray bold prayers and believe for what looks impossible. The pressure is causing you to get stronger. Quit fighting it and learn to embrace it. God wouldn't have allowed it if he wasn't up to something.
Maturity is being at peace in the pressure, trusting in the trouble, staying calm in the conflict. And yes, I know, we all love the seasons where there's no pressure and everything's going great, but those seasons are few and far between. There are very few times that we're not dealing with some kind of issue that could have us stressed. You can have a dozen things is going right, but there's one thing you could easily worry about. But that one thing is what causes you to keep pressing forward: it's healthy tension. God knows how to put just the right amount of pressure so we don't get complacent, we don't put our faith on autopilot, but we keep stretching, we keep growing.
Years ago there was fishing for codfish had become a huge commercial success up in the northeast. There was a demand for codfish all over the states, but they had a problem with distribution. At first they tried freezing the fish and shipping it out, like the rest of their products, but for some reason the codfish didn't have any taste after it was frozen. Next they tried shipping the codfish alive in these big tanks. They put them on trains and had them shipped across the country in regular seawater. They thought for sure this would solve the issue, but it only made it worse, because the fish were sitting in the water inactive they became soft and mushy, and once again lost their taste.
Someone came up with an interesting idea: they decided to put some catfish in the tank with the codfish. The catfish is the natural enemy of the codfish. So the whole time they were being shipped, the codfish had to stay alert and active, and be on the lookout for the codfish. Well, that solved the problem. When the codfish arrived, they were as fresh and tasty as they were on the east coast.
Sometimes what we think is an enemy, is really an asset. That person at work that gets on your nerves, you've been praying 27 years for God to take them away: they're a catfish. God's using them to grow you up, to trust him to be your vindicator, to be good to someone that's not good to you, to learn to forgive, not let people steal your joy. You wouldn't be who you are without them. Next time you see them, instead of being upset just smile say, "Good morning mr. Catfish". I want to thank you, you don't know it, but God's using you. Some of the things that we're asking God to take away that make us uncomfortable, causing pressure, if he removed them right now, we would get stuck. He's using them to keep us fresh, keep us growing, keep us stretching. That's why you can't pray away everything you don't like. The catfish, you may not like that pressure, but it's working for you, it's healthy pressure.
A minister friend of mine was very well known and influential, he was loved by people all over the world, but in his hometown the local newspaper didn't like him. For 40 years they never wrote a positive article. It's always something demeaning, something out of context where they were putting him down, showing him in a bad light. It would get him so riled up, so passionate. This went on for years. At the end of his life, a reporter asked him who had helped him the most? What were the pivotal events that kept him going? He said, "What helped me more than anything else was my local newspaper. They were so biased against me, so determined to make me look bad, they didn't realize they caused me to pray bolder, to work harder, to believe bigger, to go further further". He said, "I want to publicly thank them for what they've done to build my ministry".
What was that? A catfish. God could have changed the newspaper's mind, he could have put someone in that loved his ministry, but God uses pressure, he uses opposition, things that are not fair, things that make us uncomfortable. If we'll have the right perspective like him, instead of being sour, discouraged, trying to straighten them out, we use that as fuel for our faith, to pray, to stretch, to believe, then instead of stopping us it will propel us. I've learned: you can't pray away the catfish. God's not going to remove what he's using to keep you growing, stretching and believing. What's interesting is: a few weeks before this man passed, the local newspaper did this huge front page glowing story on how amazing his ministry was, and how he had done so much good for the city. He said: if they had done that 40 years earlier, he would have never accomplished what he did.
Don't fight the catfish, don't fight the pressure - embrace it. Use it as fuel to go further, to believe bigger, to trust that God is in control. But practically, at every stage of life there are going to be some catfish: people that are not for you, neighbor that gets on your nerve,a problem that's not going away. That catfish is not really your enemy, it's a tool that God allowed to keep you fresh and growing. Potential is released when you're under pressure. It's nice to be comfortable, not have any opposition, know where all the funds are coming from, all the people lined up. That's appealing, but it's limiting. The greatness God put in you is going to come out by stretching, by going beyond what you're used to, by being good to people that are not good to you, by not letting that pressure cause you to shrink back, but instead you dig down deeper, knowing that God is getting you prepared for something greater.
When my father went to be with the Lord, I knew I was supposed to pastor the church. I had never ministered, I was nervous, I didn't have the training, but I took that step of faith. A few weeks later, one Sunday morning after church, I just finished ministering, I was in the front lobby walking behind these two ladies, and they didn't know I was there. I overheard one of them say, "He's not as good as his father". The other answered back, "Yeah, I don't think the church is going to make it". You know what those ladies were? No disrespect, they were catfish. Have you noticed catfish have a big mouth? You can't become who you were created to be without resistance. That resistance is not working against you, it's healthy pressure. It's designed to make you stronger, but you have to handle it the right way. Pressure can defeat you or pressure can propel you.
At first what those ladies said discourage me. I thought, "You know what? They're probably right". But then something rose up on the inside, I thought, "They don't determine my destiny. They didn't know me before I was formed in my mother's womb. They didn't call me, anoint me, crown me with favor, plan out my days for good". Instead of defeating me, I turned it around and used that pressure as fueled to go further, to study harder, to pray bolder, to be more determined, more passionate, more discipline.
David said in Psalm 4:1, "God enlarged me in my distress". He didn't get enlarged with good breaks, open doors, the right people showing up. Those were the good times. He was enlarged when his father didn't believe in him, when his brothers were making fun, when king Saul was jealous and trying to kill him. He had a lot of catfish, a lot of things he didn't understand, situations that weren't fair, family turned on him, a son that tried to take the throne. Here's the key: he used that pressure as fuel for his faith. He didn't get bitter, he didn't try to pay people back, prove to his father who he was. He didn't give up in the shepherd's fields, when it didn't look like his dreams would ever come to pass. He saw it as healthy pressure. He had big enemies, yet he wrote "The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear". King Saul was chasing him. David had done nothing, but good for Saul. So loyal and honoring, but Saul was a catfish. He wasn't there to destroy David, but to develop David, so David could show God what he was made of.
One time out in the desert Saul and his men were sleeping, and David snuck up on him. This was his big chance he could have killed Saul, but he wouldn't do it. He knew Saul was anointed as king, and God said to touch not the anointed. Even though Saul was trying to kill David, David wouldn't kill Saul. All that pressure wasn't defeating David, it was developing David. He was growing with greater character, proving to God that he was ready to lead the people. Saul looked like an enemy, really he was an asset.
You don't really know who you are until you're put under pressure. You don't know your true character until it's tested in the fire of affliction, adversity. You're not getting your way, maybe you're dealing with a catfish at work, catfish at the gym, a catfish at your school. Perhaps you're married to a catfish. We're not going to go there, but quit letting that pressure defeat you, make you sour, give up on your dream. Do like David, keep the right perspective, you'll be able to say, "God enlarged me in my distress. He took what was meant to stop me, and turned it around and used it to increase me".
The catfish is a tool, it's an opportunity to come up higher in our character. Anyone can treat people the way they treat us. Anyone can take revenge, talk bad about who's talking bad about you, that's the easy way out. But to reach your destiny you have to do some hard things, you have to take the high road, stretch when you want to stay comfortable, be more determined than what's trying to stop you. You have to ignore the negative voices and do what God put in your heart.
When you do this, God will enlarge you in your distress. Won't be the good breaks, the people cheering you on, the doors that open that cause you to see new levels: it will be the catfish, the Sauls, the local paper that wouldn't acknowledge you, the two ladies that said you couldn't. Take that pressure and turn it into power. Our mindset should be, "I will not shrink back, be talked out of my dreams, settle for mediocrity. I'm going to stand stronger, believe bigger, pray bolder, be more determined. Yes, this catfish looks like like an enemy, but I know the truth: it's an asset".
When we were trying to acquire this building, the former Compaq Center, there was this very influential business leader here in town that everyone knew, and he was against us, he was very vocal about it, he did not want a church in the Compaq Center, and especially Lakewood. A friend of mine was at a business lunch in downtown with several hundred people. He was seated at a table with this man. The subject of the Compaq Center came up, he didn't know this man was my friend, he laughed and said sarcastically, "It will be a cold day in hell before Lakewood gets the Compaq Center". This man meant it to be discouraging, degrading, but God knew I needed that as fuel for my fire. He didn't realize it, but he was a catfish, a pawn in the hand of God. I don't even blame him, God used him as healthy pressure.
God caused my friend to hear that. This was a setup, not meant to defeat us, but to empower us. And it all depends on whether you recognize the purpose of the catfish. If you take the pressure, the opposition, the setback is negative, "Man, we don't have a chance, it's not going to work out, I'm so overwhelmed", then the pressure is going to defeat you. You have to realize: that catfish is there for one reason, to stir your faith up. The right at attitude is, "God, I know you're bigger than what we're facing. You being for us is more than the world being against us. We may not see a way, but we know you have a way". Let that pressure fuel your faith to where you stretch, and grow, and believe.
But there were plenty of times during our three-year battle trying to get enough council members to vote for us, dealing with the lawsuit, opposition from a huge company. I was tempted to get discouraged, think it wasn't going to work out. Every time I did, I would hear those words "A cold day in hell". I would see that man's face, I would pray harder, stand stronger, be more determined. He doesn't realize it, but he's a big reason we got this building. If I ever see him, I'm going to buy him dinner, some fried catfish.
I wonder if there are some catfish in your life that you're not recognizing? You're seeing the pressure the wrong way, thinking it's too much, the problem's too big, it's been too long: you're letting it defeat you, causing you to lose your passion. Have a new perspective: it's healthy pressure. God's going to use it to enlarge you in your distress. He's about to do something new, he's getting you prepared for something you've never seen.
Paul said in Romans 5:3-5, "Let us rejoice in our trials, knowing that the pressure is producing unswerving endurance. Endurance is is developing maturity of character, and character is producing hope, confident expectations of God's goodness". Paul was saying, "If you'll see the pressure the right way, the difficulties, the delays, the Sauls, if you'll stay full of joy and not get bitter, then that pressure is making you stronger. It's doing something on the inside, getting you prepared for what God has in store". Here's a key: pressure is going to produce something, either faith, hope, endurance, or it's going to produce discouragement, weakness, can't-do-it. My question is: what is the pressure in your life producing? Are you seeing it as negative, not fair, letting it defeat you? Have a new perspective, see it as healthy pressure. God wouldn't have allowed it if it was going to stop you. That catfish may be annoying, you don't like it, but it's serving a purpose. It's there to help you grow, to stay fresh, to build your faith.
And every time you get rid of one catfish, God brings you through with a victory. You get rid of Saul, and you take the throne. Those two ladies are gone, and you're up ministering. The cold day in hell has happened, because you have the Compaq Center, and the catfish has to drive by and see it on the way to work. All those victories are fuel for your faith. Next time you face pressure, the next time a Saul shows up, you're tempted to be overwhelmed, you can look back and say, "God, you brought me through in the past, I know you're going to bring me through this time. You healed my mother of terminal cancer. You changed that city council member's mind, and gave us the Compaq Center. You caused me to walk into a Jewelry store and meet Victoria. You taught me how to minister when others said I couldn't".
Now, when those voices whisper, it's never going to work out, my answer is: I'm sorry, you got here too late. I've come too far to not believe. I've seen too much of God's goodness to be talked out of it. Too many doors have opened, too many giants have fallen, too many divine connections, too many ways where we didn't see a way. And I know, none of us like pressure, but your potential is released when you're under pressure. You really don't know what you can do until you're put under greater pressure.
I saw a man on a video, this car had fallen off the jacks onto his friend. This man was just average size, he ran over and lifted the car by himself, so his friend could get out. He never dreamed he could lift a car, but something happened under pressure. And sometimes God will let you be under more pressure than you think you can handle. It's not to discourage you, but so you'll discover what's in you. God created you, he's the one that put the potential, the gifts, the talents, the greatness in you. The only way it's going to fully come out is through pressure. Don't fight the pressure, embrace it. It's not the time to get bitter, live overwhelmed, "This is too much for me". Quit talking like that, you're defeating yourself. When you're under pressure, your declaration should be, "I can handle this. I am well able. I have strength for all things. I am strong in the Lord". That's what's going to cause you to stand strong and endure.
My father told about this man out in the country that was walking home at night. He took the shortcut through the cemetery. He didn't realize, they had dug a hole for a grave in the path that he normally walked. It was so dark, he couldn't see it, and he fell in the hole. It's about 10 ft deep. For 2 hours he hollered, and screamed, and kicked, and clawed, but nobody heard him. He tried grabbing onto the sides, climbing out, but he fell back again and again. Finally he just sat in the corner, realized he'd have to wait till morning. About midnight this drunk man came wandering through the cemetery, and he fell in the same hole.
He didn't see the other man, he just sat there watching silently, watching it all take place, and the drunk man begin to panic, he started hollering and screaming at the top of his lungs. The man sitting in the corner decided to have some fun. He said in a real deep, scary voice, "You can't get out of here", but you know what? He did. You don't know what you can do until you're put under pressure. "Joel, you can't take over your father's church and minister, in front of thousands of people. You don't have the training", but you know what? I did. "You can't raise $100 million to renovate the Compaq Center, you don't have that experience", but you know what? We did. "Dodie, you can't beat terminal cancer with no treatment available", but you know what? She did.
Look back over your life at all the things you did under pressure. You defied the odds, you broke barriers in your family, you raised that child that people didn't think you could raise, you reach goals you never dreamed you'd reach, you overcame obstacles that even surprise you now. Would have never happened without the pressure. The pressure was necessary to release your potential. The pressure is what God used to bring out of you what he put in you. The catfish had a big mouth, but it was necessary. You needed Saul to be jealous. You needed those people to not believe in you. You needed to not feel qualified, to not have the training. That pressure prepared you, it developed you. That's what's caused you to blossom into who you are. God enlarged you not in the good times, but under pressure, in that distress.
The people of Israel had been in slavery for many years, and God told Moses to go tell the Pharaoh to let the people go. Well, Moses was intimidated, insecure, he had a problem with stuttering. He was already under enough pressure, way over his head, going to do something he didn't feel qualified to do. The scripture says, "God hardened the Pharaoh's heart, so he would not let the people leave". Here God just told Moses, "Tell him to let the people go", but God caused the Pharaoh to be stubborn and say, "No". What was that? The Pharaoh was a catfish. God was using the Pharaoh to create the right environment, so he could show his power in a greater way. The pressure was a setup, God wanted there to be more opposition, more adversity, so when he turned it around it would be a greater miracle.
There are times God will tell you to do something, he'll lead you down a path, open a door. You know it's his hand of favor, then he'll increase the pressure, people come against you, a setback in your business, a betrayal, a closed door. Now, you're right where Moses was. "God, where are you? I did what you said, but it didn't work out. The people said NO". The pressure is intensified. You could give up on that dream, give discouraged and lose your passion. But the increased pressure is a sign that God is about to show out in a greater way. He wouldn't have caused the Pharaoh to say "NO" if he wasn't about to do something unusual, uncommon. God did miracle after miracle. Not only changed the Pharaoh's mind, but the Israelites left with abundance. Pharaoh's people gave them all their treasures. They saw the Red Sea parted, they saw their enemies drowned. Plagues destroying crops right next door, but never touching theirs. All that pressure was ordained by God to bring them out of captivity into a victorious, abundant life.
Don't fight the pressure, embrace it. You don't know what God is up to. "Telling Pharaoh to say NO, God, we need him to say YES". No, the pressure is a setup, it's getting you in position for God to do something that you've never seen. You may be under a lot of pressure now, you could feel overwhelmed, discouraged: God has you in the palm of his hand. He did not bring you this far to fail you now. Stay in faith, that pressure is doing a work on the inside, it's getting you prepared. Pharaoh said no a few times, but your YES is coming. That catfish was ordained by God, it's causing you to stretch, to believe, to trust, to dig down deeper.
God sees your faithful, he sees you doing the right thing when it's hard, being at peace in the pressure, staying calm in the conflict. You are passing the test. I believe and declare: that pressure is about to be turned into power. God is about to launch you to a new level of your destiny. Like Moses, you're going to see Red Seas part, doors open, enemies defeated. The pressure is releasing your gifts, your potential, talents, favor, the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus name. And if you receive it, will you say amen? I receive it as well!