Joel Osteen — Don't Fuel The Fire
I want to talk to you today about not fueling the fire. We all have opportunities to make people look bad. We hear rumors and things that we don't know for sure are true, but it's tempting to repeat them, and it's not that we're a bad person, we're just telling what we heard.
Or maybe we know something about a person that is true, they made a mistake, they had a failure. It's easy to justify telling that because it's the truth, but there are a lot of things that are true that we don't need to tell, and we should do our best to never show people in an unflattering light.
1 Peter 3:10 says, "If you want to see your day fill up with good, here's what you do, say nothing evil or hurtful," and we live in a society that's filled with rumors, gossip, innuendos. There's a lot of chatter these days, people talking on the internet, at work, at school. They're nosy, busybodies. They love to get things stirred up. They have no problem repeating things they know are only half true.
On purpose, they'll leave out certain details just to prove their point, and if we're not careful, we'll get pulled in and become carriers of their poison. "Did you hear what I heard? I got some big news, I got some juicy information".
I read a quote that I like. "Have you heard a word against your neighbor? Then let it die within you". In other words, have you heard any gossip lately? Have you ready something juicy on the internet? Has a friend told you some inside information about a person? It's true, it's hot off the press, they lied, they cheated. Here's what you're to do. Don't go to the phone, don't go call three friends, don't get on the internet and expose them. God says let it die within you. Don't say a word about it.
Somebody put it this way: every person carries a bucket of gasoline and a bucket of water. When you hear rumors, gossip, juicy information, you can either pour your gasoline on it, add fuel to the fire and make it worse, or you can do what God says and pour water on it, help to try to put it out.
Too many people are using their gasoline. They try to justify it, "Joel, it's the truth. They were wrong. I'm just stating the facts". Yes, they may be guilty, but the scripture says love covers a fault. Love doesn't expose. Love doesn't tell five friends. Love doesn't get on facebook and add fuel to the fire.
Love says, "They made a mistake, but God can restore them. They messed up, but God has a new beginning. They did wrong, but I'm not going to add to their pain by talking about them, making them look bad. I'm going to show mercy and let it die within me," and when you know something negative about a person, you could easily show them in an unflattering light, that is a test.
How you respond will determine how high you will go. If you add fuel to the fire, tell all your friends, get everything stirred up, that will keep you stuck where you are because God will not promote a gossip, a busybody, a fault-finder. But if you'll get your bucket of water and help put the fire out, don't say anything about it, cover that fault, then you'll pass the test. That's the kind of people that God promotes. The real question is when we hear juicy information, when it's hot off the press, will we use our discipline to let it die within us?
A few years ago, I was at dinner with a friend of mine and this man's name came up, and I knew firsthand this man was having legal problems. He had done something wrong, got in trouble with the law, and the friend I was with knew nothing about it. Human nature wants to tell it. After all, the man never asked me not too, it was all true.
I had my gasoline, I had my water. It's very tempting to just throw a little fuel on the fire. "I don't know how he's doing. I heard that he may have some legal problems". I could've stirred it up, but I knew there was a chance that may never come out in public and this friend's opinion of this man would never change. But if I were to be undisciplined and just say whatever I want, then because of me, this friend's opinion of that man would forever be lower, and when you protect a reputation, you are sowing a seed for God to protect your own reputation.
In our conversations, we need to ask ourselves, number one, do I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is really true? Or have I heard it third or fourth hand? And number two, even if it is true, is it absolutely necessary? Do I really need to tell it, or do I just want to tell it?
This friend I was at dinner with, he had no connection with the other man. There was no reason, and I didn't do it, to show that man in an unfavorable light. A lot of times we think, "Well, I'm just going to tell this one friend, that's not going to hurt anything". But that person will tell another person. That person another, on and on, and no matter how they retell it, it won't be the same. Things will be exaggerated, blown out of proportion. What's big will get bigger, what's bad will get worse.
That's why, if you're hearing things third or fourth hand, you should take it with a grain of salt. It can be so tainted, so misconstrued that very little of it is true. Don't believe it till you hear it from the real source.
Victoria and I have some good friends now, but for about 10 years, they wouldn't have anything to do with us. They liked us from a distance. We're in similar positions, but somebody that doesn't know us well that couldn't handle God's favor on our life poisoned their opinion of us. They took things out of context, very one-sided, and showed how we were these terrible people and we just did somebody wrong, we couldn't be trusted, on and on.
When this couple finally met us, they said, "You're not anything like those people said you are". Since then, we've become good friends. My point is don't believe everything you hear. Don't let the internet, and people that are jealous, and people that can't handle success poison your opinion of somebody else.
The other day, a man came up to me, said, "Joel, did you hear about so-and-so"? By the way he said it, I knew it wasn't going to be good. I smiled and I said very politely, "No, I didn't hear, and if it's not good, I don't want to hear". You shouldn't let people fill you with a bunch of trash.
Somebody wants to talk bad about a person, gossip, put them down, don't sit there and take it all in. Tell them, "No thanks, my ears are not garbage cans. I don't want to hear that trash. You want to talk bad about them, gossip, judge them, stir up strife, that's your choice, but you're going to have to find somebody else to do it with". You've got to put your foot down and not allow people to poison your life.
You shouldn't go to lunch every day at the office and sit with people that gossip, bad mouth the boss, complain about the company, trash your friends. That's sowing discord. That's one of the things that God hates. "Well, Joel, if I don't eat lunch with them, I may not have anybody to eat lunch with". Well, I would rather be lonely and not poisoned than to let that trash go into me.
Do you know spirits are transferable? The scripture says, "Don't hang around angry people or you will become angry". You hang around gossipers and you will become a gossip. You hang around fault-finders, you'll become a fault-finder. You hang out with nosy busybodies and that nosy busy body spirit will get off on you.
Be careful who you associate with. Your time is too valuable to be poisoned, and we all know people that mind everybody's business except their own. They're nosy, pry into people's affairs, trying to get the latest scoop, "Let me tell you what I heard. You won't believe what I found out". They're busybodies, they're always spreading rumors. They've got an opinion about everything, and they're going to give it to you whether you want it or not. They try to run everybody else's life, the truth is they can't even run their own life.
Be kind, be respectful, but don't associate with a busybody. Listen, if they'll talk about somebody else in front of you, don't be fooled, they'll talk about you in front of somebody else. We have to realize it is just as wrong to listen to gossip as it is to tell it. It takes two to gossip, the mouth and the ears, the seed and the soil.
Proverbs 11:13 says, "A gossip goes around spreading rumors, but a person of honor tries to quiet them". Notice a gossip has the gasoline, but when you're an honorable person, you've got the water, you defend, you show mercy.
If somebody starts gossiping around you, starts talking bad about a person, you can do a couple things. Number one, you can say, "Oh, I just realized I've got to go make a telephone call. I'm going to have to step out". You can politely excuse yourself. If you want to be more bold, you can say, "Hey, instead of talking about them, why don't we pray for them"?.
If we would spend the same amount of time praying for people as we do talking about them, then they would change, and when you're a person of honor, you stick up for your family, you defend your friends, you cover their weaknesses. If I hear somebody talking about you and I know you're a part of the Lakewood family, I'm going to do everything I can to take up for you.
"Well, Joel, one of your members tried to run me off the road last week". No, I'm sure they didn't mean to. They probably just dropped their cell phone, got distracted. "No man, they were honking their horn, had their fist up in the air". No, I'm sure they were just "You are good all the time, you are good". I'm not going to pour gasoline, I'm going to pour water. You're my friends, you're my family.
That's the way you need to be with the people in your life. Defend them, stick up for them. Somebody starts gossiping, bad mouthing, your attitude should be, "Hey, you're messing with the wrong person. That's my family. They're a part of my church. They're my friend. They're my classmate". You have a responsibility to help stop that gossip, and you should be especially loyal to your own family, your parents, your brothers, your sisters, your siblings, your relatives, your cousins. You may not always agree with them, they may get on your nerves from time to time, they may be a little bit different, doesn't matter.
Somebody starts talking about your family, it's your duty to put a stop to it. That's your blood. That's who God has chosen you to be with, and I've seen people, somebody starts talking about a family member, they jump on the bandwagon. "Yeah, I know what you mean, they've been a jerk their whole life. I've had to put up with them for years". No, put a stop to it. They may not be perfect, but you can say something, "Yeah, I know they're a little different. They've got some issues, but you know what? They're growing, they're changing. Deep down, they're a good person. That's my family, I love them".
Be loyal, stick up for them. "Well, Joel, you don't know what they've done. My brother borrowed money from everybody in the family and hasn't paid us back, and my dad ran off with somebody else, messed up our family". That's unfortunate, but it's still your family. It's easy to kick people when they're down, it's easy to be judgmental, say, "I told you so". But the honorable thing to do is stay on the high road and help restore them, help bring peace back to your family. They got enough people trying to push them down. They should be able to count on you as family to help lift them up.
And I feel very blessed because I have family members that I know would defend me till my dying day. I could go out, rob a bank, steal a car, they'd say, "Oh Joel, he's not really stealing, he's just borrowing it. He wants to help somebody". Now, behind closed doors, they'd tell me to get my act together. But in front of you, I can do no wrong, they're my family. They believe in me. They're loyal, they're honorable people, and if we can't count on our family, who can we count on?
Proverbs says, "A friend loves at all times, but a brother is born for adversity". That's saying your friends are great, we all need them, but there's something about your family. They were born for adversity, and in the tough times, your family needs you more than ever. Too often we let strife, jealousy, competition, division pull us apart. Rise above that. Get over the petty differences, quit arguing over things that don't matter. In a little while, we're all going to be gone. Your brothers, sisters, cousins, relatives, they need you. Stick up for your family. Defend them. Cover their faults.
The book of Genesis tells how Noah was on the Ark for 190 days with his family and with all of the animals. It rained for 40 days and then it took 150 days for the waters to recede, and you can imagine how Noah must've felt being cramped up all that time with not only the animals, but with all of his family, all of his relatives, 190 days, nowhere to go, always together.
Somebody pointed out when Noah got off the ark, the first thing he did was went out and got drunk, and it wasn't right, but he had had enough. We laugh, but most of us can only take a one-day family reunion. Imagine a 190-day family reunion with all of your relatives never able to leave the house.
Well, Noah was lying on the floor of his tent drunk, passed out, totally naked, taking off all of his clothes. His youngest son, Ham, came in and saw his father lying there drunk and naked. Ham went out and started telling everybody, found his two brothers, "You won't believe what dad has done, making a fool of himself. He's drunk, he's lying there naked," on and on.
Ham told everybody he could find. Instead of covering his fathers' fault, he exposed it. He added fuel to the fire. The other two sons did just the opposite. They went to Noah's tent. When they saw their father lying there drunk and naked, they turned around. They refused to look at their father. They got some blankets and they backed into the tent, never looking at their father in that shame, and they took those blankets and they covered Noah up.
They were saying by their actions, "Dad was wrong, he made poor choices. He's lying here drunk and naked, but we're not going to do like our younger brother Ham and go out telling everybody, and expose him, and add fuel to the fire. We got this water, we're going to cover his fault". They were saying, "That's our father. That's our flesh and blood. Yes, he's lying here in shame, but we're going to protect him while he's down. We're going to defend him while he's not up to par. We're not going to let anybody else see him in this negative light".
When Noah woke up, he found out what had happened, how one son had exposed his faults, the other two sons had covered his faults. He said to Ham, the one that went out telling everybody, "Your children and your grandchildren will always struggle. There will be a curse on your descendants because you dishonored me. You didn't protect my reputation, you exposed me".
Noah said to the two sons that showed him honor by covering his faults, by protecting his reputation, "You and your descendants will always be blessed. You will prosper, you will rule over cities, your land will increase, you will have God's favor because you showed me honor even when I deserved dishonor".
It's interesting, Ham could've just as easily put water on instead of the gasoline. He could've covered his father's faults. He could've defended Noah, but he was undisciplined. He chose to go out and tell everybody, and when we make the choice to make people look bad, to say things to damage a reputation, to show them in an unfavorable light, that puts us on Ham's side instead of the two brother's side.
But when you show honor even when honor is not due, maybe what the person is doing is wrong. They deserve shame, but because you choose to cover the fault, because you stick up for your father, because you defend your brother, your cousin, your relative, God says to you what Noah said to the two sons, "You will be blessed. You will prosper. You will be in a position of honor".
Make sure you stay on now, let's take this beyond our biological family. How about our church family? That person you sit close to each week, that volunteer you see in the nursery, if they fall, if they make a mistake, are you going to cover them? How about that co-worker that blew it? They were wrong. Are you going to go out like Ham and expose them, blow it up bigger? After all, it's true. No, just because it's true doesn't give us the right to repeat it. "Well, Joel, they're guilty, they were wrong". Yes, but only the guilty need mercy.
Paul said in Galatians, "When someone falls, you who are spiritual are to gently restore them". Notice he didn't say to expose them, to tell everybody, make sure they feel embarrassed and ashamed. He said to gently restore them. If you will cover people when they fall, cover their weaknesses, God will make sure somebody will always be there to cover you. But it's easy to expose, want to be critical, judgmental. But remember this, the same amount of mercy you show others is the amount of mercy God will show you, and when you protect a reputation, you are sowing a seed not only for your life, but for your children.
The scripture talks about how we can store up mercy for future generations, and when you cover that fault, you may not receive the mercy, it may go to one of your children in their time of need. Now, I don't know about you, but I'm going to be generous with my mercy. I'm not going to be a fault-finder, I'm going to be a protector. There's nothing you can do that will cause me to expose you. If you fall, I'm going to cover you. If you blow it, I'm going to protect your reputation. If somebody's talking about you, I'm going to defend you. If you drop out, I'm going to help restore you. I'm going to be a friend you can count on, someone that will stick with you through thick and thin to protect you, to defend you, to cover you.