Joel Osteen — Protect Your Imagination
I want to talk to you today about protecting your imagination. We all have pictures that we see in our mind. God created us as visual beings. Like a movie screen, different images will come up. Sometimes we're not even thinking about it and a negative imagination will come. We'll see our business going down, our child getting off course, us losing our health. There's no truth to it. It's not going to come to pass. But if you let that play, you'll go through the day worried.
Wrong imaginations will keep you awake at night. Dwelling on these negative images will cause you to live in fear. It will keep you from expecting God's best. It's all an imagination. It's not a reality, it's just something you're seeing in your mind. It's one thing to have something to deal with that's actually happening. We all face challenges, but too often, we're letting these wrong imaginations of what might happen, what might not work out, what might fall apart, to steal our joy, cause us to live stressed.
The good news is you control your imagination. You control what pictures play in your mind. Just because that negative image comes doesn't mean you have to tune in. You can change the channel. The scripture tells us to cast down these wrong imaginations. Quit letting these negative images play.
When my mother was fighting terminal cancer, in the middle of the night, lying in bed, she would see herself being buried in a new, pink dress that she had never worn. That picture came up on the movie screen of her life. She didn't ask for it. She wasn't thinking about it. She was trying to stay in faith. But these negative imaginations will come especially when we're in difficult times. They'll show us all the worst case scenarios.
Have you ever noticed, when you're in the heat of the battle, you never see pictures of you overcoming the sickness, your business taking off, you meeting the person of your dreams. Those pictures don't automatically come. It's just the opposite. If my mother would've pulled up a chair and watched that movie night after night of her being buried in that pink dress, that would've taken root in her spirit. She would have become depressed, defeated, and might not be here today.
When you see these negative pictures, don't take the bait. They are not a reality. That is not predicting your future. That is a wrong imagination that you need to cast down. Quit worrying about something that's not going to happen. Quit losing sleep over something that's just in your mind. That's the enemy trying to torment you, trying to convince you to live stressed out, worried. He knows he can't bring it to pass. He doesn't have that authority. So, the next best thing he'll do is try to deceive you into believe that it's a reality so you don't enjoy your life. Don't fall into that trap, guard your mind, guard your imagination.
I talked to a man that was very concerned about his health. His father died at the age of 46, his grandfather died at 51, and other relatives had died early deaths as well. All through his 30s and 40s, he was so stressed and so fearful. Every voice said, "That's going to be you. Too bad, it's in your genes. You're not going to make it". Those images would come in his mind. Father, getting sick, going downhill. When he made it to his 47th birthday, he was so happy, so relieved. He made it past his father and he was still strong and healthy. Thought said, "Don't get too happy, you made it to 47, but you'll never make it to 51. It's just a matter of time".
Those images kept coming, him going downhill, him losing his health, but he made it past 51. He made it past 61, past 71, past 81. He was 93 years old, looked like he was 70. Strong, healthy, joyful. He said, "Joel, if I had it to over again, I wouldn't have lived all those years worried, losing sleep, afraid that my health wasn't going to last".
Are you worrying about a wrong imagination, about something that's not going to come to pass? Are you going to look back years from now and have to say, like, him, "If I could do it over again, I wouldn't spend all that time discouraged, afraid over what I thought was going to happen". Why don't you start changing the channel? Those negative pictures are not a reality. Some of the things the enemy is showing you, he should win an academy award. It looks very real, it looks impressive, but it's all made up. It is not going to happen.
The scripture goes on to say you have to bring down every high thing that exalts itself above what God says about you. God's not going to do it for you, you have to bring it down. God says, "You will lend and not borrow. Whatever you touch will prosper and succeed". Instead of watching that picture of you struggling, not having enough, business going down, cast down that imagination. That's exalting itself above what God promised you. Start seeing yourself prosperous, coming out of debt, paying your house off, having an abundance so you can be a blessing to others.
That image is not going to automatically come, but you can create it. Use your imagination for the right purposes to see what God says about you. God says, with long life, he will satisfy you. Instead of watching that channel of you going downhill, being buried in that pink dress, not making it past your father's death, bring down that imagination. Start seeing yourself strong, healthy, living a full, blessed life. Or maybe you've gone through unfair situation. Life hasn't turned out the way you had planned.
Those images will come up of you living depressed, lonely, never fulfilled. But God says he will give you beauty for those ashes, that he will pay you back double for what was unfair, that he will take what was meant for your harm and use it to your advantage. Those pictures that are showing you defeated, rejected, lonely, they are exalting themselves above what God said about you. Don't let them stay up. Bring them down. They are not a reality.
See, the enemy will show you the ashes. What he won't show you is the beauty that's coming. He'll show you the loss. What he won't show you is the new beginning that's on the way. He'll show you that it's all downhill from here. What he won't show you is the double that's coming: double the joy, double the peace, double the fulfillment. Now, do your part. Protect your imagination. Protect what you're seeing. When those images come that show you going downhill, they are not from God and they are not a reality. Don't waste 30 years living worried, stressed out. Switch over into faith.
The mistake many people make is they only watch one channel. Whatever comes up in their imagination, they think that's all there is, so they watch it. You need to get cable in your mind. I have 500 stations at home. When I'm watching something I don't like, I don't sit there an endure it. It's the same way in your mind. You can have a lot of different channels. On one channel, I see myself happy, fulfilled, enjoying life. On another channel, I see myself healthy, whole, strong. On another channel, I see myself prosperous, blessed, out of debt. On another channel, I see Victoria loving me with her whole heart.
I got a bunch of those channels. On another channel, I see my children doing amazing things, fulfilling their purpose, leaving their Mark. On another channel, I see our ministry growing, helping more people. On another channel, I see myself living into my 90s, healthy, strong, finishing my course with joy.
So, when I switch on one of those channels that show me going downhill, losing my health, family falling apart, business drying up, I'm smart enough to say, "No thanks, I'm not watching that channel". I don't watch the defeat channel. I don't watch the 'things are going downhill' channel. I don't watch the 'bad memories' channel. I stay on the victory channel, the favor channel, the 'more than enough' channel, the overcoming channel.
In your mind, when these negative imaginations come up, it's real simply, change the channel. Quit watching things that are worried, causing you to live in fear, not pursue your dreams. Cast down those imaginations. You control what plays in your mind. You can't stop all the negative images from coming, but you can stop them from staying. You have the remote control. Don't get stuck on that one channel.
There was a young lady that came down for prayer. She and her husband wanted to have a baby and they'd been trying for many years with no success. She's gone through all the fertility treatments. She said, "Joel, I've been worried since I was in my early teens that I wouldn't be able to have a baby because my mother had a terrible time getting pregnant with me. My grandmother had the same problem. Other family members have struggled with infertility. I always knew this was going to happen to me".
What you constantly dwell on is creating a picture in your imagination. Many times, the enemy doesn't have to put negative images in our mind, we're creating them with our own thoughts. I told her what I'm telling you, you have to change the channel. Quit seeing yourself barren, not able to have a child, disappointed. Cast down that imagination. God says the fruit of your womb is blessed. He says your seed will be mighty in the land. He said in psalms, "You will be the happy mother of children". That means that infertility is exalting itself above what God says about you. You have to bring that down.
She changed the channel. She started seeing herself with a baby. She switched off that station of all of her relatives barren, disappointed. She started seeing her and her husband playing with this baby, having fun, going around as a family. Three years later, she came back with a beautiful baby girl. Medically speaking, she wasn't supposed to have a child, but God has the final say. God controls the whole universe.
Are negative pictures keeping you from your dreams? Do you see yourself overcoming that addiction, happily married, accomplishing what God put in your heart, or are you watching the wrong channel? The scripture tells us in Timothy to have a disciplined mind. You can't watch every imagination that comes up. Your mind will naturally gravitate toward the negative. If your business starts to slow down, don't be surprised if in your imagination, you start seeing the creditors coming. You see you having to lay people off. You see the doors closing. If you're not disciplined and you let that play, you'll go around worried, stressed out.
What's the answer? Change the channel. You can create new pictures in your mind. Start seeing your business taking off, seeing new customers finding you, seeing opportunities chasing you down. If you're struggling with an illness, like my mom, those negative imaginations will come. You'll see yourself going downhill, not able to go back to work. Be disciplined in your thought life. When you're facing a physical battle, you need all of your getting well. When you're watching negative imaginations, that's taking your strength, draining your energy, making you weaker. Put up some new pictures. Start seeing yourself strong and healthy. See yourself out exercising, full of energy. See yourself living a long, blessed life. If you'll use your imagination the right way, it will help you stay hopeful and to believe that God can turn it around.
When God promised Abraham that he was going to be the father of many nations, he was in his 80s, too old to have a baby. God told him to go outside his tent, look up into the nighttime sky, and as many stars as he could see, that's how many descendants he would have. It wasn't a coincidence that God wanted him to have a picture of it, something that he could see. God knew these negative images would come. He knew Abraham would start thinking about how impossible it was, so God gave him this picture.
Every time Abraham was tempted to get worried and talk himself out of it, he would go out and look up at the sky. He'd imagine how those stars represented what God promised him. What's playing on the picture has spoken over you, how you'll accomplish your dreams, break the addiction, see your health restored, or, are you letting discouraging pictures play? If the only images you're seeing are negative, it's going to limit you. God wants to use your imagination to create fresh vision, to make you hopeful, to help you stay filled with faith.
There was a gentleman diagnosed with cancer of the bladder. The doctors told him that it was inoperable. He took chemotherapy, but it didn't do any good. All they could do was give him some pain medicine and send him home. They told him he had less than a year to live. But instead of being depressed, giving up on life, he did something interesting. All through the day, he imagined armies of healing, white blood cells flowing through his body. He pictured them coming down from his head, going through his veins, into his organs, attacking those cancerous cells.
He said, "these images were as clear in my mind as if I was watching them on television". Hundreds of times throughout the day, he saw life, healing, wholeness flowing thanking God that he was restoring health, that he could do the impossible. He went back a year later for a check-up. The doctor said, "We can't explain it. We don't know how this has happened, but we can't find any sign of cancer in your body".
You may be struggling with an illness, the medical report doesn't look good, but instead of dwelling on these negative images, why don't you start imagining, right now, these healing cells flowing through you? Picture these cells that are full of the life of the most high God attacking and devouring every sick and diseased cell in you. See yourself getting healthier. See yourself coming out of that sickbed. Cancer is no match for our God. What's trying to stop you is no match for the creator of the universe. Keep the right pictures don't let your imagination be used to worry you, to defeat you. Turn it around and use it to encourage you, to strengthen you, to inspire you.
God said in Jeremiah, "I have set you over the nations to down and root out, to build and plant". Notice the order. Before you can build and plant, before the situation will turn around, before you see increase, you have to pull down and root out. Like Jeremiah, God has a place of victory for you where you will rule over everything that's holding you back, but you have to first pull down these wrong imaginations. You have to root out any negative pictures.
If you're going to a job interview, don't imagine that you're not going to get it. Don't imagine that they're not going to like you. You're defeating yourself before you get there. Pull down that imagination and imagine them choosing you. Imagine you standing out. Imagine you working there, excelling at that position. If you let these negative imaginations play, they'll cause you to be weak, timid, feel unqualified. Change the channel.
"Joel, what if I do that and it doesn't work"? What if you do it and it does work? If you do it, and you don't get the position, that's just means that God has something better in store. But if you're always letting these negative images play, you will never know what you could've become. If you feel a pain in your side, thoughts will tell you, "Oh man, that's serious. That's the same thing that took your uncle's life. He didn't make it that long, neither will you". If you're not disciplined in your mind, you'll get all panicked. You'll start thinking of all by the time you get home, you'll be writing out your will, making your final arrangements.
All it was is you had too much pizza for lunch. You just needed some Pepto-Bismol. Even if it is something serious, what's going to help you to stay in peace is to keep the right images in your mind. Most of the things that come against us are not what we think they are. We let our imaginations run wild and show us all the worst case possibilities. If you hear a siren at night, your children are not home, thoughts will tell you, "That's your child. Your son's been in an accident. He's headed to the hospital right now. You better get up and do something about it". If you let that play, before long you'll see the ambulance. You'll see the accident. You'll see it all taking place.
Those are wrong imaginations that you have to cast down. Instead of believing those lies, worrying, imagining the worst, turn it around: "Father, thank you that my children are in the palm of your hand. Thank you that no weapon formed against them will prosper. Thank you that your angels are watching over them, keeping them from accident and harm. What am I saying? Be disciplined in your mind. Don't let your imagination run wild and show you all the negative possibilities.
There was a 23-year-old young lady named Sarah. She went to the grocery store to pick up a few items. When she got back in her car, she heard a loud noise and felt something hit her in the back of the head. She thought she had been shot. She reached up and felt what she thought were here brains coming out. She initially passed out. When she woke up, she sat in the car motionless for over an hour, holding the back of her head, trying to keep her brains in.
A man walked by, and noticed something was wrong, and called the police. The police came and asked her to open her car door. She said she couldn't. She had been shot and she was holding her brains in. The police broke open the back window. They discovered a can of Pillsbury biscuits had exploded. The dough had shot out and hit her in the back of the head.
Maybe what you're imagining is not what you think it is. Maybe that's not your brains after all. Here's my point. Maybe you're not stuck. Maybe the addiction is not permanent. Maybe your health isn't going downhill. Maybe your dream is achievable. Perhaps all those pictures that have been playing in your imagination are not your true reality. Maybe they're just a bunch of dough trying to keep you from moving forward. Do yourself a favor. Open up the car door, let go of your brains, and get going.
About a year after I began really growing and we decided to start a second Sunday morning service. Now, I announced that on the first Sunday of the year 2000, we were going to have this new early morning service. This was in October, so I had several months to think about it. During that time, all kinds of negative thoughts told me, "Joel, this is a big mistake. Nobody's going to come. You're going to look like a fool".
I tried to stay in faith, but one night I had a dream. A better description was a nightmare. It was that first Sunday of our new service. When I went out to minister, not one person was in the auditorium. Not Victoria, not my mother, not a musician, not an usher, nobody. I woke up in a cold sweat. Thoughts told me, "You better cancel it. There's still time to call it off. You can halfway save face".
All through the day, that image of that empty auditorium would come up. I had to do what I'm asking you to do, change the channel. Sometimes I'd change it and the same picture would be on the next station, kinda like watching the presidential debates. They're everywhere. I had to keep flipping and flipping until I found something encouraging.
The week of that first service rolled around and I was talking to my mom. I kind of nonchalantly said, "Are you coming to the new service this Sunday"? She looked at me puzzled and said, "Joel, does it start this weekend"? I thought, "Dear Lord, we've announced it 437 times. My own mother's not coming. That dream might've been a prophecy". But I said, "Yes, it starts this weekend. You need to come. Bring all your friends, enemies, neighbors, cousins, relatives, ancestors".
It wasn't easy, but I kept changing the channel. I made up my mind, I am not watching the 'empty auditorium' channel. I'm not watching the 'nobody's coming' channel. I'm going to stay on the victory channel. In my imagination, through my eyes of faith, I saw thousands of people coming. On that first Sunday of 2000, I was so nervous. I left the house an hour early. When I pulled up to the property, one parking lot was already full. We had over 6000 people that day and they've been coming ever since.
What am I saying? Cast down these wrong imaginations. They are not a reality. They are trying to deceive you into living worried, afraid, so you will give up on your dreams. Why is it that we let our imagination run wild only in the negative direction? We imagine the worst, imagine what's not going to work out. Why don't you start letting your imagination run wild in the right direction? Imagine living a super-sized life. Imagine accomplishing your dreams. Imagine your children doing amazing things. Let's keep the right pictures in our minds. When those negative images come up, be quick to change the channel. Remember, they are not a reality. If you will protect your imagination I believe and declare, like Abraham, God is going to bring promises to pass. You're going to overcome obstacles, accomplish your dreams, and reach the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus's name.