Joel Osteen - The Miracle of Endurance
I want to talk to you today about the Miracle of Endurance. When we think of miracles, we think of when God suddenly turns things around. Jesus touched the blind man, and instantly his eyes were open. Prayed over five loaves of bread and two fish, they multiplied, and fed 5,000 people. Moses held his staff up in the air, and the Red Sea parted, suddenly things changed. But not all miracles are instantaneous. Sometimes we're praying and believing, but the problem's not turning around. Our health isn't improving, our dream isn't coming to pass, and we think, "God where are you? Why aren't you doing something?" we don't realize: God is doing something, he's sustaining us. He's not letting the opposition take us out. He's pushing back forces of darkness. He's keeping you from getting discouraged, bitter and giving up.
You're in the middle of a miracle, but you can't always see it: it's the miracle of endurance. One day you'll look back and think, "How did I make it through that season? How did I raise this difficult child? He should have driven me crazy. How did I not get bitter over that breakup? How did I keep going when I lost that loved one? How did I have the strength to outlast those people who were against me?" God didn't deliver you from it, but he gave you the grace to go through it. Without his hand of protection, favor and blessing, you wouldn't be where you are. And yes, we all love the instantaneous miracles, the suddenlies, I believe in that, but it's no less of a miracle when God takes you through what should have taken you out. Instead of complaining, "God, why won't you answer my prayers? Nothing good's happening in my life", have a new perspective, "Lord, thank you for sustaining me. Thank you for giving me the grace, the strength, the favor to keep moving forward".
The Israelites had been in the desert for 40 years. There were no grocery stores, no malls, no DoorDash, no In-N-Out Burgers, yet the scripture says, their clothes never wore out, their shoes never got old. How could they go 40 years and not wear out? That wasn't natural, that was supernatural. Every morning in the desert they had food to eat, manna, something like bread appeared on the ground. They never missed a meal. They weren't trained to live in the desert, they didn't have any survival skills, they had been slaves. They faced armies and bandits that had more weapons, more expertise, but against all odds the Israelites defeated them. They weren't in the Promised Land, they were waiting for that miracle, that day they finally made it to the land of the abundance.
But it was taking longer than they thought. They were uncomfortable, and they started to complain, "Moses, why'd you bring us out here in the desert? Nothing good is happening", they didn't realize they were in the middle of a miracle. God was sustaining them, protecting them, not letting enemies defeat them. Every miracle is not instantaneous. Are you in the middle of a miracle, but you don't realize it? You're not in the Promised Land yet, your child hasn't turned around, business hadn't taken off, you're still taking the treatment. God didn't deliver you from it, but he's taking you through it. He's sustaining you right now. There's a miracle taking place. You can't always see it, it's uncomfortable, there's still opposition, kind of feels like God has forgotten about you, but behind the scenes God is the one who's holding back what should defeat you. He's protecting you from what should take you out.
Like with Job, he has a hedge around you that the enemy cannot cross. You're not at the mercy of other people, sickness, loss, bad breaks. That doesn't determine your destiny, God does. What he has purposed for your life will come to pass. Now you have to trust his timing, and trust his ways. He may take you through some desert seasons, you thought you'd be in the Promised Land by now, but have you noticed? Your shoes haven't worn out, there's been provision, those enemies, that sickness, the addiction seems stronger and bigger, but they couldn't defeat you. There's protection, there's angels watching over you. That closed door, the delay, the disappointment should have caused you to get bitter, discouraged, but look at you: you're still believing, you're still praising, you're still expecting things to change, you're still being good to others. That's not natural, you didn't just decide to have a good attitude, decide to be hopeful, that's the Most High God breathing on your life, empowering you to stand strong so you can reach your destiny.
In the book of Daniel, king Nebuchadnezzar made a statue that stood 90 feet tall. He put out a decree that everyone had to bow down and worship this idol. If anyone didn't, they'd be thrown into a fiery furnace. Well, there were three Hebrew teenagers (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) that only worshiped Jehovah, they refused to bow down. When the king heard about it, he was furious. He gave them one more chance. They said in effect, "King, no matter how much you pressure us, we're not going to bow down. We know our God will deliver us. But even if he doesn't, we're still not going to bow". This made the king so angry, he had the guards heat up the fire seven times hotter than normal. They tied the teenagers hands and feet, and threw them into the furnace. Sometimes God would deliver you from the fire, other times he'll make you fireproof, and take you through the fire.
In a little while, this king came to check on them, he looked through the furnace window, said, "Didn't we throw three men inbound? I see four men loosed, and one looks like the Son of God". The only thing the fire burned were the cords that were holding them back, they came out with the the smell of smoke. King Nebuchadnezzar said, "From now on we're all to worship the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego". But here's my point: God is all powerful, he could have just as easily kept them from going into the fire. He could have changed the king's mind, he could have sent a lightning bolt and took him out, he could have made those teenagers invisible, there were a thousand ways he could have kept them out of the fire. But sometimes the fire is the pathway to our destiny. There are two kinds of faith: the delivering faith, and sustaining faith. Delivering faith is when God instantly turns it around, he keeps you out of the fire, parts the Red Sea, changes the Pharaoh's mind.
But most of the time we're going to need sustaining faith, that's when God takes you through the fire, that's when you're in the desert on the way to the Promised Land, when you don't see anything improving, when it's taking longer, the opposition's bigger. You'll be tempted to think, "God, where are you? I got thrown into the fire, I didn't see the breakthrough". The good news is: God is in the fire with you. He's the one sustaining you, that's why you're not burning up. That's why you're not overcome, that's why the sickness can't take you out, that's why that trouble hasn't defeated you, that's why you haven't panicked and fallen apart. There's a force at work in your life, protecting, providing, favoring, not letting you be defeated. Greater is he that's in you, than he that's coming against you.
David said it like this, "By this I know the Lord is on my side, for my enemies could not defeat me". He didn't say, "The way I know God's on my side is by how many fires he keeps me out of, how many storms I avoid, how many deserts I don't have to go through". No, he said, "The way I know God is on my side is the fire couldn't take me out. My shoes didn't wear out in the desert. The sickness couldn't end my life. The opposition couldn't stop my purpose". There's a fourth man in that fire sustaining us, pushing back the darkness, causing us to stand strong, to outlast, to persevere. You don't know God's on your side by how many dreams you accomplish, how many goals you achieve, how much success you have. That's all great, but the way you really know is you look back and see how he sustained you when you should have gone under, how he lifted you when you should have stayed down, how he gave you the grace to keep going when you should have been stuck.
When my father went to be with the Lord, I got thrown into the fire so to speak. I was praying, "God, deliver me from the fire, heal my father. You healed my mother, I know you can heal him too". But this time God did it another way. 25 years ago, last Tuesday, daddy went to be with the Lord. We were best of friends, I'd worked with him for 17 years, travel the world together, now he was gone. I knew I was supposed to step up and pastor the church, but I'd never ministered before. And I was trying to learn how to put a message together, and keep the church going. We had a three-month old baby, I'd never faced a storm that big. I should have been overwhelmed, but I felt this peace. On the outside everything was chaotic, but on the inside I had this quiet confidence: I knew everything was going to be okay.
And I missed my father, I mourned his loss, but it wasn't what I thought. I didn't fall apart, I didn't get depressed, I knew God was in control, I knew he was still ordering our steps. And I didn't feel qualified to minister, I didn't have the training, I like being behind the scenes, but all of the sudden I had the desire to pastor. Deep down I knew that I could do it, I felt a faith and a boldness that I never felt before. And yes, it was difficult, I was uncomfortable, I would prefer to not be thrown into the fire, but I can see now that fire was leading me to my destiny. If God would have kept me from the fire, I wouldn't have stepped into the fullness of what he had in store. I can't promise you that God will deliver you from every fire, but I can promise you God will be with you in that fire to sustain you, to protect you, to empower you, to enlarge you, to move you towards your destiny.
When I look back now, I think: how did I make it through that time, learning to minister, losing my father, everything turned upside down? That was God sustaining me. You can look back over your life and see times where you should have been overwhelmed, you should have become bitter over that loss, you should have gotten stuck after that bad break, you should have given up on your dream after that door closed, but somehow you kept going, you believed anyway, you hoped on in faith and you saw new doors open, you had the grace to forgive, you outlasted the trouble. You couldn't see it then, but you were in the middle of a miracle. God was sustaining you. Without his strength, without his mercy, without his favor you wouldn't have made it to where you are. God may not have delivered you from that fire, but you can see now he made you fireproof. Maybe you haven't seen the miracle, you were praying for yet, but you're seeing the miracle of endurance, you're still here, you're still favored, you still have a destiny to fulfill.
When we look at the life of David, he had these big moments that we celebrate: prophet Samuel showed up at his house unannounced, chose him out of his seven brothers to be the next king of Israel, a destiny moment. He defeated Goliath, a giant twice his size. Overnight became a national hero. King Saul sent for David to come to the palace to work for him. These were mountaintop moments where God suddenly promoted, blessed and favored. That's delivering faith, where God quickly changes things. And God has some of these moments of favor for you too, but most of David's life was not the exciting moments where everything was going his way, he could see God's hand at work. There were times didn't look like God was doing anything, times that were lonely, unfair, uncomfortable. After he was anointed to be king, he went back to the shepherd's fields, and spent years taking care of sheep, feeding them, shoveling waste, chasing away wild animals.
I'm sure he thought, "God, I have so much more in me, why am I stuck out here"? If it wasn't for the grace of God, David would have gotten discouraged and given up on his dream. He eventually went to the palace to work for king Saul, but Saul was jealous of David, tried to kill him. David had to flee for his life. He spent years on the run, hiding in caves, trying to outmaneuver Saul. Here he had done nothing wrong to Saul, was unfair, didn't make sense, but somehow David didn't get bitter. He didn't try to pay Saul back, he didn't say, "God, I'm done, this is not right". How could he keep a good attitude, and not be revengeful? That was God working behind the scenes, sustaining David, giving him the grace to handle what was unfair. David defeated Goliath in a few minutes, but this conflict with king Saul would go on for years. It's great when you defeat your Goliath, those instantaneous miracles, but most challenges in life will be the Sauls, the things that don't go away easily. This is when God steps in and gives you the miracle of endurance.
At one point king Saul and his men finally found David, he was on the other side of the mountain. Was too late for David to get away, he was caught. After years of chasing David, tracking him down with no success, this was the big moment they had been waiting for. But just when Saul was about to give the order to send in all the troops, this messenger came riding toward Saul on horseback, going full speed ahead in a great hurry. The man got off, said to Saul, "The Philistines are attacking our city. It's urgent that you come back home right now". Saul and all the men had to immediately turn around and go back home.
How many times in our life did it look like it was over, the opposition was closing in? We didn't see a way out, the sickness too strong, the addiction too great, then God steps in and turns it around, protects you, provides for you, pushes back opposition, made ways where we didn't see a way. This wasn't the big miracle David was believing for. He wasn't seeing the promise of taking the throne, this was the miracle of endurance. God sustaining him on the way to what he promised. But sometimes we're so focused on the main thing God put in our heart, we're not recognizing the miracles along the way. How many times God is pushing back opposition, protecting you from harm, moving wrong people out of the way, breathing faith and hope into your spirit to to keep you moving forward.
David was in that fire so to speak for years, with king Saul chasing him. But God won't let you get in a fire, without making you fireproof. Saul couldn't take David out, even though he had more men, more power, more weapons. There is a hedge of protection around you the enemy cannot cross. But yes, it's easy to get discouraged when things aren't changing as fast as we would like. We know God's put these promises in our heart, then Saul shows up. We face opposition, nothing's improving, but what about the fact that you're still standing, that it couldn't take you out? You should be defeated, discouraged, frustrated, but God stepped in and sustained you.
The Psalmist said (Psalm 129:2), "My enemies tried their best, but they could not finish me off". You came down with the sickness, stay encouraged, it cannot finish you off. There's a God who's breathing health into you, a God who numbered your days. That setback in your business should stop you, you lost a main client, the pandemic hit: it cannot finish you off, we serve Jehovah Jireh, the Lord our provider. He makes streams in the desert, he said even in famine the righteous will have more than enough. Or the trouble with your child, looks like he'll never get back on course. You prayed, you believed: it cannot finish him off. What God started in your child, he's going to complete. As for you in your house, you will serve the Lord.
I talked to a woman that was a widow. She lost her husband in her 40s, and she was numb. She didn't think she could go on. They had two small boys, and she was a stay-at-home mom, he provided all the income. The scripture (Isaiah 59:19) says, "When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of God raises up a barrier". And sometimes it's like there's a flood of heartbreak, a flood of anxiety, a flood of trouble. God knows there are things we can't handle on our own, it's too much to carry, we don't have the strength, the courage, the passion. That's when he steps in and raises up a barrier. He'll push back the opposition to lighten the load, to carry that burden.
When this lady was at her lowest point, she told how she's about to give up, but she felt this supernatural strength. She had this fresh vision, this new attitude. She said, "Joel, I don't know how to explain it, it was just like that pressure lifted off of me, and I knew that I could move forward". That was 15 years ago, she never missed a house payment, her son got a scholarship to college, she was promoted at her work, she serves here at Lakewood each week. She said, "If you would have told me back then that I would be where I am today, I would have never believed it". That's the miracle of endurance. You may have things coming against you, you don't see how it's going to work out, can I encourage you? You're in the middle of a miracle! Right now God is sustaining you, there are things happening that you cannot see. He's not letting that loss keep you from your destiny, he's not letting the sickness take you out. That disappointment didn't stop your purpose. He's strengthening you, empowering you, pushing back forces of darkness.
See, sometimes the way we overcome is to outlast. David never defeated king Saul, he wouldn't touch Saul because he knew God had anointed him. It didn't seem fair, Saul was trying to kill David. Don't take matters into your own hands, let God be your vindicator. 13 years after David was anointed by Samuel, Saul was killed in a battle. After all this time of being on the run, hiding, doing the right thing when it was hard, David was made king. What took him to the throne wasn't defeating Goliath, wasn't the promise that came to pass quickly, it was the miracle of endurance, it was God sustaining him. But when we're in the middle of it, can be hard to see. "God, Saul still chasing me. He's still making my life miserable. God, I still have this sickness, my child's still off course. God, I was doing the right thing and this king threw me into the fire, where are you"? No, have a new perspective, "Lord, thank you for sustaining me. Thank you for the grace for this season. Lord, I recognize you're holding back the opposition, you're giving me the power to endure. You're not letting this adversity finish me off".
I was at the beach when our children were much younger. Alexandra was three, and Jonathan was six. And we were having a good time making this castle in the sand, when this little yellow bumblebee came and landed right by us. Alexandra took off running afraid, and I swatted him away. We went back to play, and no big deal. About 30 seconds later he was right back, flying all around us. Kids were screaming, "Daddy, get him out of here". I got a towel and I swatted him down to the ground, thought I'm going to show him whose boss, I'm tired of dealing with him. About a minute later there he was again, flying all around, buzzing in and out. I got that towel knocked him down, but this time I put my tennis shoe on, and I went over, and I squashed him into the sand with all 150 lbs of this pure still, went right into that little bumblebee. I was done with him.
Couple of minutes later I walked over to make sure that he was still dead, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. One wing barely started to move. I thought, you know, it's just his nerve, he's got to be dead. Then this other wing started to slowly come out from under the sand. I thought, this bumblebee has resurrection power. Even though I'm a thousand times bigger and stronger, I could not finish him off. He walked around in the sand like he was dazed, I still thought he was dead, then he flapped his wings and took off into the air. I stood there amazed, watching him fly into the distance. About that time he turned around and came right toward me, buzzed by my head two or three times where I had to duck, just like he is saying nanny-nanny-boo-boo.
Like that bumblebee, God has put something in you where you cannot be finished off: a power, an anointing, a favor that will cause you to defy the odds. Where you get up when you've been knocked down, where you keep going when you should be stuck, where you overpower what should have overpowered you. It's the miracle of endurance. God didn't create us to be weak, defeated, overcome. The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in you. The scripture (Proverbs 24:16) says, "A good person may get knocked down seven times, but the Lord will raise him back up". God didn't just give you delivering faith, he's given you sustaining faith. Yes, you're going to defeat some Goliaths, you're going to see some quick victories, but you're also going to outlast the Sauls. You have the power to endure. Right now God is sustaining you, protecting you, favoring you, strengthening you, pushing back the darkness.
God said in Isaiah 46:4, "Even to your old age, I am the God who sustains you". You're not doing life on your own. I know sometimes it gets difficult, things aren't fair, we get thrown into the fire, we don't feel like we have the strength. How can we overcome? By ourselves we can't, that's when our God steps in to sustain you. He may not keep you from every fire, but I can assure you, he's made you fireproof. The enemy is not in control of your life, God is. He wouldn't have let you get in that fire unless it was leading you to a new level of your destiny. It cannot finish you off. You're going to come out without the smell of smoke.
Now, when you're tempted to get discouraged, look back over your life: you have a history with God. Think about all the times he made a way, he gave you strength when you didn't think you could go on. He provided in the pandemic, he protected you against forces that were way too much. He hasn't brought you this far to leave you where you are, even till your old age, till your last breath he's going to keep sustaining you. Stay in peace, you can trust him you're in the middle of a miracle. I believe and declare: right now God is lifting burdens, lightning loads. You're about to feel a supernatural strength, a power to outlast, a courage to overcome, a favor that propels you into your purpose. The miracle of endurance is coming, in Jesus name. And if you receive it, can you say amen?