Joel Osteen — Defining Moments
I want to talk to you today about "Defining moments". We all make hundreds of decisions each day, and most of them are routine. We don't think much about them, but there are certain decisions that carry much more weight. Affect our children and future generations.
Sometimes what we think is an ordinary decision, no big deal, it's really a defining moment. When you're in a situation where you're tempted to compromise, to get upset, to be bitter, you know to make the right choice, you have to dig your heels in, be disciplined, not go by what you feel. That's not just another routine choice, that's a defining moment.
The decisions you make in these tough times, when you feel like doing the easy thing, you feel like telling somebody off, you feel like being offended, you have to remind yourself, "This is a defining moment. It's going to impact my destiny, so I'm going to dig my heels in and do the right thing even though it's difficult".
See, the pain of discipline is much less than the pain of regret. It's better to be uncomfortable for a little while than to make a poor choice and be uncomfortable for a long time. Giving into what we feel, what we want, taking the easy way out, that pleasure is only temporary. The pain lasts much longer.
But in the heat of the moment, every voice will tell you it doesn't matter. It's no big deal. Just do it, not going to hurt anything. Don't believe those lies. It's going to impact Jesus said, "Pray that you don't enter into temptation". Whatever area that you struggle in, before you leave the house, you need to pray, "God, help me to keep my cool today," or "God, help me to keep my eyes on the right things," "God, help me to resist the addiction", then all through the day, you have to guard your mind.
Every temptation starts with a thought. This is where the real battle is taking place. When those tempting thoughts come, don't dwell on it. Don't give it the time of day. If you allow it to stay, it'll draw you in and can lead you to compromise.
This is what Joseph had to do. He was working as a slave at the house of a man named Potiphar. He continued to excel. Eventually, Potiphar put him in charge of his whole household. Well, Joseph was a good-looking young man, tall, dark, and handsome.
One day, he was walking through the house, minding his own business, when Potiphar's wife came up and tried to seduce him. She made advances toward him. Here, Joseph was a slave. He'd been betrayed by his brothers, thrown into a pit. He could've thought, "God's forgotten about me. What's it going to matter if I compromise? Besides, it's her idea anyway. I'm tired of being stuck as a slave. I'm ready to have some fun".
He could've let his guard down, taken the easy way out, but he didn't do it. He realized it was a defining moment. She grabbed him by the sleeve and pulled him close. The scripture says he tore himself away and took off running.
Sometimes to stay on the high road, you have to take drastic measures. Now, I know it's not very macho to run from a woman, but you gotta do what you gotta do. When he turned and ran away, she ripped part of his coat off. She lied about him. She falsely accused him. Joseph went to prison, but when it was all said and done, he was put in charge of all the affairs of Egypt.
What you do in your defining moments will make you or break you. If Joseph would've taken the easy way out, given into the temptation, I'm not so sure he would've made it to the throne. God would've forgiven him, of course. God always gives us another chance, but to reach your highest potential, you have to pass these certain tests.
The scripture says to run from temptation. It doesn't say to just casually get away, be careful, watch out. God specifically says run. There's a sense of urgency. This means don't play games, your destiny is at stake. That person at the office that's overly friendly toward you, they're making advances. God has a word from the Lord for you today, run.
"Joel, I'm not going to do anything. I just like the attention they give me". No, if you mess with fire, you're going to get burned. That temporary pleasure is not worth the long-term pain. He may be tall, dark, handsome, and rich. She may be hot, fine, good-looking, beautiful. It's not worth missing your destiny over.
Let me make it more practical. Maybe you're trying to lose weight. You're up at the mall and you walk by the cinnabon booth. Run, don't go over there thinking you're just going to look and see. The spirit is willing, if you go over there, you're going to end up eating three and taking four to go.
When you turn the computer on and that ad pops up that you know is not healthy, run. Don't go check it out. You may need to turn the computer off and go when your spouse says something that irritates you and you're ready to give him a piece of your mind, tell him off, right then, just like Joseph, you need to turn, run away. You can explain it later.
What am I saying? Get out of compromising situations as quickly as you can. God will give you the grace to overcome what you can't get away from, but he won't give you the grace to overcome what we can get away from.
Sometimes we keep falling into the same temptation, the same compromise again and again. It could all change if we would do our part and get one time David was at home and he'd been resting most of the day. Around dusk, he decided to go up on his rooftop and get some fresh air. When he did, he looked out and saw this beautiful, young lady taking a bath.
Instead of running from the temptation, he said, "Thank you, Jesus". "With every temptation, God will make a way of escape". There will always be a moment of grace. There will be a time where you have the strength, the ability to resist and walk away. But here's the key, the moment of grace doesn't last hour after hour. Right at the start, you've got to dig your heels in. Be disciplined to do the right thing. David let his guard down, had an affair with the woman. Then he had her husband killed.
One compromise led to another. It could've all been avoided if he'd have done like Joseph and simply ran from the temptation. Joseph's father was Jacob. Joseph had a twin brother named Esau. One time Esau was very hungry, had been out hunting and couldn't find anything to eat. All of the sudden, he smelled this great aroma in the air. It was the stew he went over and said, "Jacob, I'm famished. Can I have some of your stew? I'm so hungry".
You would think Jacob would say, "Sure, Esau. You're my brother. You can have as much as you want". But Jacob never missed an opportunity to take advantage of someone. He said, "Esau, I'll be glad to give you some stew if you'll trade me your the birthright was extremely valuable. It belonged to the firstborn son. It gave them a double portion.
Esau was the oldest son. He had the birthright, but he was so hungry, he said, "What good is this birthright going to do me if I starve to death"? When we let our feelings rule us, we never make good decisions. Esau wasn't going to starve. He was a skillful hunter. It was just a matter of time before he found something to eat, but he was so moved by his feelings, he said, "Okay, Jacob. You've got a deal. I'll trade you my birthright for your pot of stew".
Esau chose to satisfy a short-term appetite, but it cost him a lifetime blessing. He gave away something extremely valuable because he was uncomfortable. He wanted to be happy right then. He didn't think about the long term. He didn't realize that was a defining moment.
You can't get on board with your feelings. Your feelings will lead you down the wrong path. Hebrews says, "Esau had no chance to recall the choice he made, even though he sought for it with bitter tears". I wonder how many times we're missing God's best because we're making decisions based on the short term, what we want, what we feel. The flesh likes to be comfortable.
I know I should bite my tongue, but it feels good to tell them off. I know I should be faithful in this relationship, but I like hanging with this other person. Or I know I should have integrity in my business dealings, but Joel, this is an easy way to get ahead.
The decisions you make in your defining moments will determine how high you will rise. Will you be a Joseph and do the right thing when it's hard, or will you be an Esau how you feel? Esau was so furious with Jacob for tricking him out of his birthright, he was planning on killing him. Jacob got word that his life was in danger and took off running. Many years later, Jacob had become so prosperous that the land couldn't sustain all of his animals. The problem was the only route was through the land that Esau owned.
Jacob decided to take a chance. He sent messengers to give gifts to Esau. The messengers came back and said, "Jacob, Esau is coming to see you and he's bringing 400 men with him". Jacob thought, "That means one thing, revenge. He's going to pay me back". Jacob was so full of fear and so uptight, this time he sent hundreds of animals ahead of him, hoping that when Esau saw all the sheep, the camel, the goats, that his heart would be softened.
Finally, the big moment arrived. Coming toward them. Jacob's heart starts beating 90 to nothing. The adrenaline is flowing. He's about to see the man he cheated, deceived, stole his double portion. Jacob told someone to take his family, including his young son Joseph, over to the side, hopefully so they this little boy Joseph is watching all the drama take place.
He knows his father cheated his uncle Esau. He knows his dad has done wrong. He's heard the stories. Esau's a couple hundred yards coming toward them. In an act of humility, Jacob went out and bowed down seven times before Esau. When Esau recognized it was Jacob, he took off Jacob thought, "Oh, great. I'm done. This is it". It wasn't what he thought. When Esau got there, he grabbed Jacob and gave him a big hug. The scripture says, "He threw his arms around his neck and kissed him and embraced him".
They both began to weep finally, Esau looked up, said, "Jacob, who are these people around us"? Jacob said, "This is my family. These are my children. In fact, there's your little nephew Joseph over there".
I can imagine Esau going over and hugging Joseph. It was a defining moment, not only in Esau's life, this time he passed the test, but it was a defining moment in Joseph's life. He saw his uncle show mercy to his father. He saw him forgive a wrong, take the high road. This incredible act of kindness left an indelible mark on Joseph's heart.
Fast-forward many, many years later. This little boy Joseph is a grown man. He's been sold into slavery. He's been thrown into a pit. He's been through prison. Now, he's the leader of a great nation, second in command only to the pharaoh. There's a terrible famine through the land. Joseph is in charge of the food supply, one of the most powerful people of that time.
One day his brothers, the same ones the same ones that sold him into slavery, made his life so miserable, were now standing right before him. They were trying to get food for their family. It had been so many years, it's their brother, Joseph. They all bowed down before Joseph in humility.
Joseph suddenly flashes back to that time when he was a little boy and he saw Jacob, his father, bow down to Esau. All these emotions come flooding up in his heart. It's like the same scene is playing out, but this time he's in Esau's position. He remembers how Esau showed his father mercy. He remembers how Esau forgave the wrong, treated him with kindness even though his father didn't deserve it.
Joseph looked at his brothers. When he could've gotten revenge, when he could've paid them back, but because of a defining moment that happened when he was a little boy, he too was full of mercy. He treated his brothers like Esau treated his father. Genesis says he threw his arms around their necks, hugged them, embraced them. Joseph moved all of his brothers, 70 family members, including his father, back to Egypt. He gave them the best part of the land.
What am I saying? Your defining moments not only affect you, they affect your children. How you respond to a wrong that's been done to you, how you handle a disappointment, your attitude in the tough times, that's leaving a mark on those around you. Sometimes you have to do the right thing, not because you feel like it, but because you're setting an example for your children.
That defining moment maybe you get a negative medical report. You feel like falling apart, but in that defining moment, you stay in peace. You know God's in control. The number of your days he will fulfill. When your children hit a tough time, you know what they'll do? Stay in peace. Your response in the defining moments speaks volumes. This is what's creating your legacy, what you did in the difficult times, how you treated people that didn't treat you right. Any of us can do the right thing in the good times. That's easy, but to reach the fullness of your destiny, you have to pass the test of years ago.
My brother Paul was in Colorado skiing with his son Matthew. Matt was eight years old, and they'd been out skiing all day, and that night they went out to eat. Paul drove his rental car to after they finished eating, there was a big storm. It was snowing really badly. The wind was blowing. You could hardly see anything, like a blizzard. Hardly anyone else was out.
While Paul was still in the parking lot, just maybe going 5 miles an hour, creeping along, trying to find his way out, he noticed these flashing red lights behind him. He pulled over, it was the security guard. He came up to Paul's window and he thought this man was going to advise him about the storm and maybe encourage him not to leave since it was a blizzard.
But this man was very curt, very matter of fact, and he informed Paul that he had just run a stop sign there in the parking lot during the blizzard and he was going when he saw Paul's driver's license, he said sarcastically, "Oh, I guess stop signs don't mean anything in Texas". Paul was so irritated. He was ready to give him a piece of his mind.
See, Paul's not as holy as I am. Paul thought, "Here, I'm in a rental car, in a different city. I don't know the roads, in the middle of a blizzard, and you're going to give me a ticket for running a stop sign"? He had this big speech all planned out for when the officer came back to his window. Then he looked over and noticed little Matt was taking all this in.
Even though he was a young boy, Matt knew this was an unfair situation. When Paul realized that Matt was watching, it totally changed his perspective. He knew this was a defining moment and how he responded in this unfair time would not only affect him, but it would affect his son. When the officer came back, Paul was as friendly as could be. He said, "I'm sorry, officer. And he took the ticket and then tore it up. No, I'm just kidding. But Paul never said a negative word to Matt about the officer, didn't try to badmouth him. He showed him respect and moved on.
Today, Matt is a grown man, has his own child. He's never been anything but respectful to people. Been rude and thought, "Hey, you know what? He's sarcastic to me, I'm going to be sarcastic back to him"? He would've been training his child that it's okay to be disrespectful. It's okay to buck the system. You don't have to listen to authority.
The defining moments carry much more weight. Make sure you're passing the test. No person lives or dies unto himself. People are watching you, not just your children; your co-workers, your neighbors, that person at the gym. What makes the biggest impression is not what we do in the good times, but it's how we respond in the difficult times.