Joel Osteen — Be Vulnerable
I want to talk to you today about being vulnerable. It's easy to go through life trying to impress people, that we have it all together, and it's good to carry ourselves with confidence, but sometimes we have a need to keep up our image so much that, instead of being real, we put on a mask and start pretending. We can't let people see we have weaknesses. We struggle in these areas. We're people of faith. We're supposed to have all the answers.
But the scripture says God's power shows up greatest in our weaknesses. If we go around pretending, acting like we don't have any weaknesses, then God's power is not going to show up. God won't bless who you pretend to be. He looks beyond the mask, beyond the superficial. When you're big enough to admit, "God, I don't have it all together. I'm struggling in these areas. I need your help," being it's a strength. But when we pretend, and try to impress people, live for our image, that puts pressure on us. We have to perform and make sure they think I'm good, I'm strong, I'm talented. Take off the mask. You can be real.
"Well, Joel, what if they think less of me"? What they think of you they don't control your destiny. If your friends judge you for being real, they're not true friends. A true friend will accept you for who you are, faults, weaknesses, shortcomings, and all. People that judge you are not being honest with themselves. They have their own issues. They're just wearing their mask, hoping that you don't notice.
Everybody is dealing with something. There are no perfect people. But we live in a society that stresses image. It tells us if we don't have it all together, if you don't wear the latest, drive the latest, hang out with the most popular, then you're less than. This creates all kinds of pretending. We're in masks, trying to impress, and that may feel strong, but in fact, it's weak.
If you can't be honest with yourself, if you have to hide your struggles, act a certain way to keep up your image, that's going to keep you from your full potential. God is not looking for the ideal you, the pretend you, for the real you, and this is what the apostle Paul did. He said in Philippians 3, "I count not myself to have apprehended". One version says, "I'm still not everything that I should be".
Now, Paul was one of the greatest apostles that ever lived. He wrote half of the books in he was a scholar, a theologian. He spoke five languages. No one was more effective than Paul, but he had the humility to admit, "I don't have it all together. I'm doing my best, but I'm not there yet". He could've let pride hide his weaknesses, mask his shortcomings, but he was vulnerable.
He'd have said, "Hey, I wrote half of the scripture. I've attained the highest level". Paul was a great man, but as he neared his death, when he could've impressed people, when he could've bolstered his image, instead he took he was real. That's the kind of people God promotes.
There's power in vulnerability. It's okay to say, "I'm not there yet. I'm still struggling with these issues, but I'm not going to wear a mask. I'm not going around pretending. I'm at peace with not being perfect". If you're not vulnerable, you'll stop growing. If you can't be honest with yourself and say, "God, I need your help. I'm acting strong, but God, I'm afraid. I don't know which way to go," when you empty yourself out, then God will fill you.
But God cannot fill a vessel that's already full. If you're full of yourself, acting, pretending, wearing masks, there's no room for God. But when we humble ourselves and empty out our pride, our will fill us with favor, with strength. He'll help us get to the next level.
Mark chapter 9, a man had a son that was sick with something like epilepsy. He brought him to Jesus and said, "Sir, my son has all these convulsions. If you can do anything, please have compassion on us". Jesus said, "If you believe, the man said, "Yes Lord, I believe, but help me in my unbelief". He was honest. He was being vulnerable. Jesus could've said, "I just told you I'd do it. What do you mean you have doubts, you don't believe? I'm going to go find somebody else".
No, when we're honest with God, when we're real, he doesn't judge us, he doesn't turn the other way, he comes to us. Jesus went and healed this man's son. When you take off the mask and get down to the real you, maybe the doubting you, the lonely you, the insecure you, when you're vulnerable, God will begin to change things.
But sometimes we think we have to always be strong in faith, strong in courage. We can't admit we have doubts, we have fears. The scripture says, "Let the weak say, 'I am strong.'" it doesn't say you should never feel weak, never have doubts, never feel discouraged. No, "God, I feel weak today, God, I'm concerned about my finances. I don't see how it could work out. Lord, help me to believe". That's being honest before God. That's being vulnerable.
The first time John the Baptist saw Jesus, he said, "Behold, the Lamb of God". He knew he was the Messiah. In Matthew chapter 3, John was baptizing Jesus. When he came up out of the water, a dove landed on Jesus, the heavens opened up, a voice boomed out, saying, "This is my beloved Son".
If anyone should've been a man of faith, it would've been John. He baptized Jesus. But a few chapters later, in chapter 11 when he was in prison, John started having doubts, thinking, "Is he really the Messiah? Is he really the Son of God"? John sent two of his disciples to see if Jesus was now, you would think if you saw the heavens opened up, if you heard the voice boom out, you would believe, you wouldn't change your mind, but even John had doubts.
Even he didn't have it all figured out. He could've said, "I baptized the man. I told people he was the Lamb of God. I can't let anyone know that I'm not sure now. I have to keep up my image. I have to wear this mask". John's attitude was, "I'm not a pretender. I'm not trying to impress people. God ask him if he's the son of God".
What's interesting is Jesus didn't get upset. He didn't say, "Tell John he needs to have more faith. I'm disappointed in him". Jesus understood. He said, "Tell John the blind see, the crippled walk, the lepers are cured. Tell him yes, I am the Messiah".
So, when you have doubts, things you don't understand, don't be down on yourself. You didn't see the heavens open up. You didn't hear the voice boom out. John had all these signs, but it didn't disqualify him. God was not disappointed in John and he's not disappointed in you. You may not be where you think you should be. You have these questions. It's okay to say, like Paul, "I haven't apprehended it all just yet. I'm on a journey. I'm growing".
So often, we think we have to hide our struggles. We can't let God know our fears. That wouldn't be a person of faith. But you can't overcome a weakness if you don't get it out in the open. When you're honest with yourself and honest with God, and say, "God, help me break this addiction. God, help me to not be jealous of my co-worker. Help me to be more disciplined in what I watch," that's the first step to getting better.
Are you wearing a mask, pretending, trying to protect your image in front of people and in front of God? I'm asking us to take off the mask. Let's be real. Sometimes we think when we get it all together, we'll be honest. When we break the addiction, when we overcome the temptation, then God will accept us, then he'll be pleased with me. But God is not waiting for the perfect you, for the cleaned up you, for the no doubts you. He's waiting for the real you, the vulnerable you, the honest you.
God already knows everything about us. There is a freedom when you can come to God open and honest, knowing that he doesn't condemn you, he's not finding fault, he has mercy for every mistake, grace for every weakness, faith for every fear. Our attitude should be, "God, my life is an open book. I have nothing to hide. You know everything I am, everything that I'm not. Make me, mold me, help me to become who you've created me to be".
John chapter 4, Jesus was at a well in Samaria. This woman came out to get some water. Jesus asked her for something to drink. She was surprised. She said, "Sir, you're a jew. I'm a samaritan. We don't have anything to do with each other. Why are you asking me for something"? Jesus said, "If you knew who I was, you would ask me, and I would give you living water". She said, "Please, give me some of that water". Jesus said, "I will, but go call your husband".
I can imagine time stopped for this woman. She had had five husbands, was living with a man she life had been rough for this lady. No doubt, she had been mistreated, taken advantage of. She knew she had made mistakes. She felt bad enough about herself. She didn't need any more guilt. In town, everyone knew her. She was looked down on, made fun of. Alone, just her and Jesus, she could've thought, "I'm not telling this man my past. I'm going to put on my mask and pretend everything is fine".
She could've said, "Okay, I'll go get my husband. Wait for me, I'll be back in 30 minutes". Everything in her said, "Hide your hurts. Hide your failures. Turn and leave. Take the easy way out". She could've walked away and it would be the end of this story. Mask, years of pretending, she said, "No, this is a new day. I'm not making excuses. I'm not covering it up. I'm going to be honest". She said to Jesus, "I don't have a husband".
The first thing Jesus said was, "You have answered he was saying, "Now you're being honest with yourself and you're being honest with me". Jesus went on to tell her how she had five husbands and was living with this other man. She said, "Sir, you must be a prophet. We know one day the Messiah will come". Jesus looked at her and said, "I am the Messiah".
The first person Jesus ever revealed himself to as the Messiah was this woman, a woman who was vulnerable, a woman who was willing to take off the mask and not pretend everything was okay. You may have made mistakes. You're not where you think you should be. God is not displeased with where you are. He's only displeased if you get stuck there.
When Jesus asked this woman to go get her husband, he already knew she didn't have a husband. He was waiting to see what she would do. Would she be vulnerable? Would she take off the mask? God already knows our struggles, our failures, our weaknesses. When we live open and honest before God, not guilty because of past mistakes, beating ourselves up for weaknesses, pretending that everything's okay, but saying, "God, I need you. Help me to overcome. Strengthen me in my weaknesses. Give me faith to do the right thing," that's when God will do for you what he did for this woman. He will break bondages that have held you back. He will make more out of your life than you've ever even dreamed.