Joel Osteen — Don't Fight Back
I want to talk to you today about "Don't fight it". We all face situations that we don't like. Somebody's not treating us right, business is not going as fast as we had hoped, we're single and still haven't met anyone. All wrought up on the inside. We don't understand why it's taking so long, why this person hasn't changed, and why our prayers haven't been answered, and we end up frustrated, fighting against everything that we don't like.
But here's the key, just because it's uncomfortable doesn't mean it's not where we're supposed to be. God uses difficulties to do a work in us. We grow in the tough times. That's when our character is being developed, and God will not allow a difficulty unless he has a divine purpose for it, and if we're going to reach our highest potential, we have to make up our mind, "I'm not going to live frustrated because I'm uncomfortable. I'm not going to be upset because things are not happening on my timetable. I'm not going to fight against everything that I don't like".
Our attitude should be, "God, I trust you. You're in complete control. I may not like this situation, but you wouldn't have me here unless I needed it, so I'm going to keep a good attitude and be my best right where I am".
That's how you position in the scripture, it says that God didn't lead the israelites the shortest route to the promised land. He took them the long way on purpose because they were not prepared for war. God knew if he would've taken them in too quickly, they would've been easily defeated. Their enemies were much bigger, I'm sure they prayed many times, "God, we're uncomfortable out here in the desert. We're hot, we're tired, let us go in sooner".
But God didn't answer that prayer, not because God was trying to make their life miserable, but God knew what was up in front of them. He had to toughen them up and get them prepared so they could step in to the fullness in the same way, God has already laid out the plan for your life. He knows exactly what you need, when you need it, who you need. He knows the battles you're going to face, the dreams you're going to accomplish. He's got it all figured out.
That's why we cannot pray away every uncomfortable situation. "God, this person at work, they're getting on my nerves. You got to get him out of my life". No, God will use that person the rough edges off of you. Even if you were to pray them away, God would send you two more people just like them. I've learned this, God is more interested in changing us than he is in changing our circumstances. God loves you too much to let you stay where you are, and it may be uncomfortable, but you have to remind yourself, "This is not working against me, this is working for me. It's getting me in position for the amazing future God has in store".
The truth is some of the things you may be praying about, if God were to remove them right now, you wouldn't be prepared for where God is taking you. You got to let God do the work in you. In other words, be kind to the people that are not treating you right. Keep being your best, even though you're not getting the credit. Pass those tests.
Paul prayed in colossians 3 that the people would have the strength to endure whatever came their way. He didn't pray that God would deliver them instantly, remove the difficulty. He prayed that they would have the strength to go through it with a good attitude. Paul understood this principle that God uses the tough times to get us prepared for the next level.
Think about David, anointed by God to be the next leader of Israel. Surely God would answer all of his prayers. Surely God would make his life comfortable. No, David had to go through this same process. For many years, king Saul made David's life miserable. David had done Saul nothing but good. He would play music when Saul wasn't feeling well, treated him with respect. But in return, Saul tried to kill David, chased him through the mountainside.
I can hear David praying, "God, you got to get this man out of my life. God, you know I haven't done anything wrong". Isn't it interesting God didn't remove Saul? He didn't answer that prayer. Here, David was doing the right thing, it was an unfair situation, but God knew what he was doing. He was getting David prepared.
The longer you do the right thing when the wrong thing's happening, the longer you keep a good attitude in an unfair situation, the higher God is going to take you. "Joel, I've been doing the right thing in this marriage for years. I'm not seeing any results. I've been volunteering in the Nursery for a long time. Nobody ever says, 'thank you.' I go to work, do more than I have to. I'm not being promoted".
Keep being faithful, keep doing the right thing. God is getting you prepared for something amazing. Your future is so big, God has to get your spiritual muscles, your character, your maturity to match the level that God is about to thrust you to.
Now, don't fight it, just keep being your best. God is closely watching you. He sees every time you make a sacrifice, every time you overlook a wrong, every time you take the high road, every time you help someone in need. That doesn't go unnoticed. God is keeping the records. He's saying, "Payday is coming. The breakthrough is coming. The reward is coming. The new level is coming".
Just like David, you're going to take your throne and become everything but we naturally all like things easier. We'd love for God to remove the difficult people, eliminate the hardships, and answer our prayers the first time we prayed, but that's not always what's best. Have a new perspective.
Those difficulties are not happening to you, they're happening for you. The people that are if you'll have the right attitude, take the high road, be kind, ignore their negative comments, they're not holding you down, they're polishing you, they're refining you, they're making you shine.
Don't be upset, you couldn't go where God wants you to go without them. They're doing you a favor. Without that sandpaper, you would stay rough. The next time you see them, instead of thinking, "Oh man, I don't feel like dealing with them," no, just smile and say, "Thank you, Lord, I'm going to be polished a little bit more today. I'm going to shine a little bit brighter".
Could it be that you are fighting what God wants to use? You're spending all your time trying to pray away the difficulty when you should be spending your time honoring God in the midst of the difficulty? Instead of fighting where you are, try a different approach. Embrace where you are. It may not be where you want to stay. I'm not saying to settle there and accept mediocrity. I'm saying to accept where you are, knowing that the Creator of the universe has you in the palm of his hand. He's directing your steps. Nothing that's happened to you is a surprise to him, and at the right time, God will change it.
In your due season, when you're ready, when it's best for you, God will remove the difficulty and take you to a new level. But in the meantime, one way we could show God we're trusting him is by enjoying our life while God is changing the circumstances.
Maybe all your friends are married, you're still single. That's all right, this is where God has me right now, I'm at peace. I'm happy, I know the right person is already on their way. That's how you pass the test. Not every other minute, "God, I'm begging you, please send me a man. God, I've been waiting for this". No, "God, I trust you". Maybe you're in an apartment, believing for a nicer place to live.
Not, "God, I am so sick and tired of this place, and God, Joel said things have shifted, and I haven't seen one shift in my life". No, "God, I trust you. This is where you have me right now, I'm content. But God, I know in my future, you're going to open the windows of heaven, pour out blessings Lord, I want to thank you in advance that it's on the way". That's how you see promises come to pass.
When we were trying to acquire this facility, the former compaq center, it was a 3 1/2 year battle. The Houston city council voted for us to have the building, but then a large company filed a lawsuit to try to keep us from moving in. At times all the odds were against us. Even if we were to win the lawsuit, it could've been tied up for 10 years in the court system, and I had already told the congregation that it was ours, we were going to renovate it and move in.
Many times, I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, with a voice saying, "What if it doesn't work out? What if you don't win the lawsuit? You've already put the vision out, Joel, people have given funds. It's going to be a big mess".
I was tempted to worry, be stressed, beg God, "God, you got to please make this happen". No, I did what I'm asking you to do. "God, it's all in your hands. I believe, God, you've promised us this building. But while I'm waiting, I'm not going to worry. I'm not going to live frustrated. I'm not going to play out all the what-ifs. God, I trust you. I know you have the final say".
Instead of fighting it, begging God, I embraced where I was. We're in a lawsuit, it's out of my control, I've done my best, now I'm going to stay in faith and trust God to do the rest. Three and a half years later, God gave us this beautiful facility, now, think about this. God could've answered out prayers the first week we prayed just as easily as he did 3 1/2 years later.
He's God, it would've been no big deal. He wouldn't have even had to get up off the throne. He could've just spoken it and it would've happened. One reason I believe is God was doing a work in me. During those 3 1/2 years, I learned to trust God like I had never trusted him before. Some things you can only learn in the struggle. You can't learn in the good times, when it's easy, everything's going your way. That doesn't take any faith.
You can only learn like David when you're in the wilderness and you're not being treated right. Don't be frustrated because it's not happening your way, on your timetable. God knows what he's doing. He's getting you prepared, and here's the key. Your destiny is bigger than you think. You're going to go further than you can imagine. God can see the new levels in front of you. He knows what's up there, now keep passing those tests.
Stay in faith even when it's difficult. Keep doing the right thing even when the wrong thing is happening. Don't fight it, begging God every other minute, "Please God, you got to change it". That's just going to frustrate you. Learn to embrace where you are, and it's okay to be honest and say, "God, I don't like where I am. I'm uncomfortable, it's taking longer than I thought. But God, I trust you. I know this is not happening to me, it's happening for me. It's all a part of your divine plan". When you learn to embrace where you are, it's a freeing way to live.
Hebrews says, "Those who have believed enter into rest". The way to know that you're really in faith is you're at rest. There's a peace. Believing for a situation to turn around, it's taking a long time, you could easily be discouraged. No, the key is to stay in that place of rest, where you know God is in complete control. You're not moved by what you see. You're not worried because you're not disappointed because you went through a setback.
Every day you stay in peace, you are one day closer to seeing that situation turn around. "Well," you say, "Joel, I just don't understand why God doesn't answer my prayers. I'm going to church, I'm faithful, I help others". Think about this, maybe what you're praying about is too small. Maybe God has something much better, he won't answer that prayer. But until you enter into this rest and quit being sour, thinking that God's letting you down, it'll keep the new thing from happening.
Now, a prayer that we should all pray on a regular basis is, "God, not my will, but let your will be done," and it's okay to say, "God, this is what I'm believing for. God, this is what I want. This is what I'm dreaming about. But God, if you have something better, I trust you. You know what's best for me". If you're only going to be happy if God does it your way, then you're not really trusting, and we can only see a little bit down the road.
God can see the big picture. He can see around every curve. He knows where the dead ends are, where the shortcuts are. God knows how to get you to your destination. Why don't you take your hands off the wheel, so to speak, and let God take you what he wants you to go?
In 2001, an executive flew to Houston for an important job interview. It was at a top company, one of the largest in the nation headquartered right here in Houston. In the natural, it was a golden opportunity, looked like a huge boost for his career. His position of nearly 30 years and move his family here to town. He flew in a day early, came to the service, and asked us to pray over the interview.
We prayed that God would give him wisdom and favor, and cause him to stand out. He called back the next day so excited, everything had gone great, looked very promising. Three weeks later, he was invited back once again, he flew in a day early. We prayed, he went to the interview. A few hours later they called him back in, said, "We really like you. You're very talented, but we're sorry, you're not going to fit with our organization".
You would've thought that his world had just ended. That position, he felt like God had totally let him down. I told him what I'm telling you, you've got to trust God even when you don't get the answer that you were looking for. You got to believe that God's in control, he's directing your steps, keeping you on the best plan for your life. He went back home to his city very, very disappointed.
Six months later, the company he was trying to get a position with filed for bankruptcy. It was a big scandal, all over the national news. The company ended up totally folding. Here's how good God is. He was 2 years away from his retirement. If he had gotten hired by that company, he would not only not have a job, but he would've lost nearly 30 years friends, God knows what he's doing.
Quit fighting against what doesn't go your way. Quit being disappointed because your plans didn't work out. You may not understand it now, but one day, you will thank God for those closed doors. God's ways are better than our ways. Don't try to figure it all out.
"Well, Joel, why didn't I get the promotion? I had the seniority, I work the hardest". Supernaturally opens doors, God will supernaturally close doors. We all thank God for the open doors, and that's good, we should celebrate that. But I've learned to thank God just as much for my closed doors, and what I used to see as a disappointment, now I see as the hand of God.
I realized if God closed it, he has something better in store. Why don't you trust him? Why don't you enter into that rest? God, you know what's best for me. I don't have to have my way to be happy. I know your plans are better than my plans.
A few years back, a young lady came to the altar for prayer, and she was very distraught because her boyfriend had just broken up with her. She was certain he was the man of her dreams, and she couldn't live without him, and we prayed and asked God to restore that relationship. For the next 6 months, almost every week, she would come back for prayer, and we prayed again and again, and I tried to tell her to stay open, trust God to do it his way, he knows what's best for you.
She didn't want to hear any of that. She only wanted God to do it her way. But God is so merciful. He loves us so much. If it's not the right thing, God will keep the door closed even though we're trying to pry it open. We see it as a big disappointment, "God, I can't believe you let me down. You didn't answer my prayer". Doing us a favor. He was saving us from heartache and pain.
Now, I didn't see her for a long time. About five years later, I ran into her in the lobby after the service. She was very happy. She had a handsome young man by her side, a newborn baby, come to find out they were married a couple of years earlier. She was so excited. Prayed over the little baby.
At one point, her husband stepped away. She whispered, "Joel, you remember the young man I used to have you pray about all the time"? I thought, "Yeah, the one you couldn't live without"? She told how he's been married and divorced twice already, he's constantly in and out of trouble, can't hold down a good job. I'll never forget what she said, "I thank God every day that he didn't answer".
But I wonder, how many things are we upset over, wondering why God didn't answer that prayer, why the situation didn't change, why the door closed yet? If God were to pull back the curtain and let us see into the future what he can see, we'd realize God knows exactly what he's doing. God has our best interest at heart. That promotion you didn't get, you were so disappointed, it's because God had something better.