Joel Osteen — Deal With It
I want to talk to you today about "Dealing with it". It is anything that's keeping you from being your best. It may be an addiction, a bad habit, a hot temper, or maybe something we'd consider smaller, not getting to work on time, not treating somebody right, a critical spirit. God's always dealing with us about something. He's always wanting us to come to a new level. Part of our flesh has to go lower.
The scripture says if we're going to share in Christ's glory, we have to share in his suffering. There is a suffering that we as believers are supposed to endure. But it's not tragedies, defeated, "I'm suffering for Christ". No, 1 Peter 4 tells us what it is. It says, "If you are willing to suffer for Christ, then you have decided to put aside your wrong desires".
The suffering God's talking about is saying no to our flesh. When you resist temptation, when you bite your tongue and don't tell somebody off, when you swallow your pride and forgive someone that hurt you, your flesh, everything on the inside is going to throw a fit, saying, "This is not right. This is not fair. Let me tell them off".
Many times, it's uncomfortable to make the right decision. We have to suffer through that period of not getting our way. When God asks us to do something hard, he asked you to walk away from a friend that's polluting your life, he asked us to be more disciplined in what we watch, God is never trying to take something from us, he's trying to get something to us.
Whenever God's moving you away from something, he's always moving you towards something better. God has our best interest at heart, and if we will be willing to suffer through being uncomfortable, not getting our way, then our character is being developed. As we grow, as we mature, God's blessings will be released. Every time you say no to the flesh, every time you resist that temptation, the next time it will be a little easier, a little less painful.
See, whatever you feed is going to grow. If you feed the addiction, feed the jealousy, feed the bad habit, the hot temper, and you just give in whenever you feel like it, then it's you need to change what you're feeding it. The next time you're tempted, take a deep breath, step back and pray, "God, I'm asking you for your discipline". Then dig your heels in and walk away. What happened? You just starved the flesh and you fed the spirit.
But many people choose what's comfortable now, and then later on wonder why they don't have victory. It was an 11-day journey to the Promised Land, but the people of Israel went around the same mountain for 40 years and never did make it in. They were complainers, they were negative, ungrateful. God gave them chance after chance, but they kept failing the test. They didn't deal with it, and yes, they lived an okay life, a get-by life, but they missed God's best.
And sometimes, we wonder why we feel stuck at the same place, why we can't seem to get out of this rut. It could be because we're not dealing with what God brings to light. When you feel the conviction on the inside, something says, "You need to treat that person better. You need to get to work on time. You need to get help with that bad habit," those are not just nice thoughts, that's God speaking to you, wanting to bring you up higher.
Don't ignore it, don't sweep it under the rug. It may be difficult, but it's better to make right choices and be uncomfortable for a while than to keep going the same way and miss your destiny. The pain of discipline is temporary, but the pain of compromise is permanent.
I say every day, "God, search my heart. Am I on the right track? God, show me areas I need to improve in. What can I do better"? See, God doesn't require us to be perfect. All he asks is that we keep trying, we keep taking steps to improve, and we should than we did 5 years ago. We should have more discipline, less bad habits, a better attitude, and if you're stuck at the same place, you need to pray, do to improve," and then pay attention to your conscience. Listen to what you're hearing down in here.
Sometimes we've ignored what God has brought up so long that we've become numb to that conviction. At first, it was like an alarm going off, we knew it was wrong, it really bothered us. But we pushed it down again and again, and now it's no big deal, and one of the best prayers we could ever pray is, "God, help me to stay sensitive to your voice. God, help me to respond to your conviction, help me not to go against my conscience," and if you will stay open and pay attention to what you're hearing down in here, God will keep you from making a major mistake.
One time in the scripture, Abraham and his wife Sarah moved to a new city, and Sarah was a very beautiful woman. Abraham was concerned that this king would see how Abraham and take Sarah in as one of his wives. To avoid all this, Abraham told everyone that Sarah was his sister and not his wife.
And just like he'd thought, the king saw how beautiful she was and took her to be his wife, but just before he could follow through, God showed this king that she was really married, caused him to stop. God said to the king, "Because of the integrity of your heart, I have kept you from making a mistake". In one sense, it wouldn't have been the king's fault, he didn't know any better. But that's the way God is.
When you walk in his ways, it says in psalms, "God will keep your foot from stumbling". When you say, "God, search me, make me, mold me, show me where I need to change," and then you pay attention to that still small voice, like this king, God will keep you from making a major mistake
If you have areas that you struggle in and we all do don't ignore it. Don't sweep it under the rug and hope that it'll go away. What you don't confront you cannot conquer. If you have a problem with jealousy, just get it out in the open. "God, every time I see my friend, she's so talented, she's so beautiful, I tend to get jealous. God help me". Or "God, these people really hurt me, and I'm having a problem forgiving them. God, I've got this resentment in my heart".
It's better to be open and honest than to go around acting like you're perfect, pushing things down, hoping that they'll go away. I've learned proud people get stuck, proud people don't reach their full potential. A proud person won't ask God for his help. You have to humble yourself and say, "God, I can't break this addiction on my own. I need your help".
It takes humility to say, "God, I've got a problem with my temper. God, I know I should treat my spouse better. God, I know I shouldn't be watching these things. God, give me the strength, the power to overcome".
When you have a humble, dependent attitude, asking in faith, God will never let you down. It may not happen overnight, but God will give you the strength to rise above it. When you look to the Lord for your help, that's the kind of people God uses to do amazing things. Not perfect people, but people that are depending on him, people that are trusting in him for his mercy, his strength, his power to fulfill their destiny.
Now, here's the good news. God will never ask you to do something and then not give you the power to do it. It may be difficult, but you are equipped, you are empowered. The greatest force in the universe is breathing in your direction. If you will do what you can, then God will do what you can't. But here's a key, God is not going to do for you what you can do for yourself.
You got to dig your heels in and be disciplined. You got to stay away from the places and people that are bringing you down. You got to make an effort, get up early and pray. Find friends that will support you. Feed your mind thoughts of hope, faith, victory. Make church, being around other believers a priority. When God sees you doing what you can, responding to that conviction, taking steps to improve, when you do the supernatural.
I know this man that's struggled with an addiction for a long time, and he's really wanting to stop, and a couple of years ago, he was all fired up, so excited. He said, "Joel, I know this is my time. I'm going to break this bad habit". He felt a new strength, a new determination. But the problem is he never he knew he was equipped, he knew it was his time, but he kept putting it off, thinking, "I'll start next week". The next week came, "I'll start the next week".
Well, a couple of months later, he didn't have that strong desire anymore. He didn't feel that strength, that determination. I'll never forget what he told me. He said, "Joel, I missed my season of grace". I said, "What do you mean"? He said, "I knew that I could break that addiction. It was so strong in me, but I ignored it. I didn't act on it and I missed that window of opportunity". And of course, God will always give us another chance, but there are seasons of grace to break what's holding you back, a season of grace to forgive someone that hurt you, a season of grace to make a change in a wrong relationship.
When you feel God bringing that to light, you know like he did this is your time, you can come up higher, don't push it down. Don't ignore it. Step into that grace. Get up early and pray. Take a class that will help you. Don't miss your season. God's bringing it to light because it's a window of opportunity to come up missed this season, there will be another one, but you'll have to go around the same mountain again, dealing with the same issues. Plus, the longer we wait, the more difficult it is to overcome.
I believe many of you are about to enter in to one of God's power, his favor, his mercy is going to flood your mind, flood your body like never before. You're going to feel the wind of his Spirit breathing in your direction to help you overcome things that have held you back for years and years. Step into that grace. This is your time to come up higher.
It may be difficult, but your destiny is worth fighting for. It may be uncomfortable, you may have to suffer for a while, but your destiny is worth that. Push through anything that's holding you back. Get ready to step in to a new here's what I've learned. With every act of obedience, there is a blessing tied to it.
Just the fact that you came today, the fact that you're watching, you're saying, "God, I honor you. You're a priority in my life". There's a blessing attached to that. When God asked you to do something that seems difficult, he asked you to forgive somebody that really hurt you, he asked you to walk away from a friend that's polluting your life, it would take a major effort on your part, a major sacrifice, you can be assured that a major blessing will follow. There will be a major shift in your life for the better.
Think about Abraham. God asked him to take his only son Isaac. This is the son they had waited 20 years for, the son they had prayed and believed and stood in faith, he finally showed up, and God asked Abraham to take his little boy up on the top of a mountain and sacrifice him.
Abraham could've ignored it, thought, "This is not God, this is the devil". He could've pushed it down, not paid any attention, and I'm sure Abraham, like the Israelites, could've lived an okay life. But when God asks you to do something that seems hard and you obey, then something amazing will always follow.
Abraham got to the top of the mountain, he put his little boy on the altar. Just as he was going to follow through, God said, "Abraham, don't do it. I just wanted to see if you would obey me when it was extremely difficult".
Abraham looked over and he saw a ram caught in the brush. He knew that was the real sacrifice, and what's interesting, if you study rams, they never go that high up in the mountain, it's not natural to them. But when you do what God's asking you to do, every step you take in obedience, the ram is taking a step towards of the mountain.
You may not be able to see it. You're doing the right thing, you're being disciplined, you're trying to break the habit, but it doesn't look like anything's happening. No, what you cannot see is, on the other side of the your healing, your breakthrough, your turnaround is making its way towards you. You just keep doing what you know God's asking you to do. Keep walking in obedience. Keep taking steps to improve and, before long, your ram is going to show up.
God's going to say, "You passed the test. You've been extremely obedient, extremely faithful, you've made extreme sacrifices. Now, here are my extreme blessings. Here's my extreme favor". You're going to see God's goodness in ways you've never seen before. And Abraham, he didn't just find a ram, he didn't just have his son's life spared, although that's huge. But Abraham was the one God started the covenant with.
Today, you and I are called the seed of Abraham. What am I saying? When you radically obey, God there are other people in the scripture, however, that didn't have the same story as Abraham, they did just the opposite. Samson had a supernatural beginning. His birth was announced by the angels. God destined him to do great things. But Samson wasn't disciplined in what he watched. He couldn't keep his eyes off the wrong things.
No telling how many times God you never make a mistake without God giving you plenty of warnings. God's very merciful. You'll hear the alarm going off, saying, "Don't do it, it's not right". On the inside, you'll feel an uneasiness. Again and again, year after year, Samson ignored it. He ended up as a slave, blind, grinding at the mill. Didn't fulfill his destiny. Could've all been avoided if he had been willing to deal with it.
Saul was chosen to be the king of Israel. God's hand of favor was upon him. But Saul had a problem with jealousy. He couldn't stand the fact that David was more popular than him. No doubt God dealt with him again and again, "Saul, let it go. Be happy for David". Like Samson, he ignored it. Saul went around the same mountain again and again, ended up dying an early.
When you think about it, jealousy is a small thing to keep us from our destiny. Not being disciplined in what we watch is small compared to your life. It wouldn't have been that difficult for Saul to overcome jealousy. I'm sure he had plenty seasons of grace. Wouldn't have been too hard for Samson to stay focused. After all, that was nothing compared to what Abraham had to deal with. But the scripture says, "It's the little foxes that spoil the vines".
Don't let something small keep you from God's best. One wrong friend, not forgiving someone, one bad habit, that's small compared to where God wants to take you.
In the scripture, there's a man by the name of Gehazi. He was Elisha's assistant. One time, Elisha prayed for this man that had leprosy and God healed him, and the man was so excited and so grateful, he asked Elisha if he could pay him or give him his gratitude. Elisha said, "No, no, I didn't heal you, God did. I won't take anything". The man pleaded and pleaded, said, "Come on, Elisha, let me give you some gold, some silver, let me give you something". Again, Elisha refused. The man and his party got on the road and headed toward their home in a different city.
Well, Gehazi, Elisha's assistant, overheard all this. When Elisha wasn't watching, he snuck out of the house and ran down the road and caught up with them. Said, "Gehazi, what are you doing here"? He said, "Well, Elisha sent me because we've had some unexpected guests show up. He was wondering if you might give us some of those gifts you talk about". The man said, "Of course I will," and he loaded Gehazi down with gold and silver, Gehazi left there happy as can be, feeling like he just won the lottery.
But what Gehazi didn't realize is God sees everything. God's the one that lifts up one and brings down another. Gehazi got back to Elisha's house acting like everything was fine, and Elisha said, "Gehazi, where have you been"? He said, "Oh, nowhere, just here hanging out at the house". Elisha said, "Gehazi, don't you know that when you left, my spirit went with you, and you cannot fool God"?
The scripture says, "Immediately, Gehazi's skin was filled with leprosy," and I don't believe that God sends the leprosy, but we can God was saying, "Hey, if you don't want my favor, my blessings, my protection, I'll remove it, I'll take it away".
What we don't know is how many times God had dealt with Gehazi, telling him, "Come on Gehazi, you got to change. You got to come up higher. Be more honest, have more integrity". Again and again, Gehazi refused. He didn't let God make him and mold him. Elijah's assistant. He received a double portion of Elijah's anointing. Well, Gehazi was Elisha's assistant. He was in line for a double portion. That would've been four times the anointing that Elijah had.
Friends, don't miss doing something great because you keep pushing things down. All you've got to do is stay open, say, "God make me, mold me. Show me where I need to change". If you have a heart to improve, God will have incredible mercy on you. God doesn't expect us to be perfect. He doesn't condemn us when we fail. He doesn't write us off because we've missed it in the past. As long as we get up and keep trying, God will give us another chance again.