Joel Osteen — Give the Gift of Yourself
I want to talk to you today about giving the gift of yourself. The greatest gift you can give is not necessarily your money, it's not what you can buy someone. The greatest gift is your time, your attention, your love, your concern. When you take time to go see someone, they feel your love, they enjoy your company, that means more than any material gift that you could ever give, and the people that are close to you, that really love and respect you, they would rather have you than your money.
You can give them all the money in the world, but if you're not spending time with them, they're missing out on the best of you, and when you give the gift of yourself, you're saying, "You're extremely important to me. I care about you, I love you, you are valuable". You're giving something that money cannot buy, and sometimes writing a check is taking the easy way out.
"I know I need to go visit my parents, but I'm so busy at the office, I'll just pay the neighbor to watch after them. My friend's in the hospital. I know I should go see them, but I don't want to miss working out this week. I'll just send them some flowers". No, take time to give your greatest gift.
I learned this from my father. At least once a year, he would have me drive him back to Paris, Texas. That's where he grew up, and there was this older couple that was related to us somehow, and the man was american-indian, so nice, and his wife and him, frame house, and they were in their late 80s and had some health issues, and didn't have much money, didn't have anybody to watch after them.
My father would pay their rent, buy their medications, have somebody take care of the house. Daddy could have thought, "That's good enough, I'm doing my part". No, he understood this gift he could give was not his money, but himself, and my father was very busy, pastored a large church, had a lot of responsibilities.
This could have been very low on his priority list, but every year we would take that 5-hour journey. The first time we went, I told Victoria, "Next tuesday, we're going to Paris". Didn't tell her Paris, Texas until the morning of. We got to Paris and she never did find the Eiffel Tower there, but I'll never forget pulling up in their driveway. They were sitting on the front porch, waiting with such anticipation. You would have thought the president of the United States showed up, they were so happy.
We'd go in and eat the lunch they had prepared, then we would sit there and visit for hours and hours, listening to their stories, the same ones I'd heard before. Couple of times I thought, "Let me finish it for you". I was in my early 20s. To be honest, I was so bored. I thought, "Come on, daddy, let's go. We've had lunch, we've said hello, they know we love them". My father sat there just as patient as can be.
What was he doing? Giving his greatest gift, his time, his attention, his friendship, the gift of himself.
And today, people are so busy, and with the technology, it's easy to not interact one on one. Where we used to go see someone in person, or we used to at least pick up the phone, now we may go months and months by email, by facebook, and there's nothing wrong with that, but you have to make sure you're not cheating people out of the best of you. To look someone in the eyes is very powerful. To give them your undivided attention speaks volumes. To let them hear your voice is extremely important. To let them hear your voice is extremely important. You will never regret spending time with the people that you love.
There was this older gentlemen that I grew up with, and he was always very good to me. He bought some television equipment for us, just a kind, generous man. He'd come up to the office and bring lunch, and we'd all sit around, laugh, talk, have a good time together. One day, he had a stroke, couldn't get out anymore, he couldn't drive, and I felt so badly for him. I meant to call him, I had good intentions, but I was so busy. We had a newborn little baby daughter, and I was just learning how to minister. Had so much going on, I kept putting it off and putting it off.
Now, I know friends that would go out to see him, and I'd always tell them, "Be sure to tell him for me that I miss him, I love him, and I'm going to come see him". Well, weeks turned unto months, months turned into years, and one morning, so strongly that I got in the car and drove to his house, and the lady that took care of him answered the door. She said, "Joel, he is going to be so happy to see you. He talks about you all the time. He tells people you're just like his own son".
I went in and gave him a big hug, and we're all busy, we've all got a lot going on, but I'll never regret the time that I spent with him that day. That one hour did more to express my love, my gratitude, my respect than 1,000 people telling him for me. I could have sent him money, food, medication, encouragement. That would have been good, he would have been grateful, but it would not have had half the impact of that one visit.
The fact that I took time to look him in the eyes, to let him feel the warmth of my hug, to give him my undivided attention, to laugh and talk about old times, that was invaluable. That cannot be purchased by money. Why is that? The greatest gift you can give is yourself. You can't do it for everyone, but you can God has put people in your life that need your gift.
Don't put it off and say, "Oh yeah, Joel, I'll do it one day when it slows down at the office, maybe when the children get back in school, maybe when the price of gas comes down". If you keep putting it off, you may miss the opportunity.
Life is short, there's no guarantee of another day. That visit you've been planning to make, why don't you make it? That friend you've been meaning to see, why don't you go see them? When I left his house that morning, part of me felt very happy and very fulfilled that I could make his day. Another part of me felt sad that I'd held my gift back for so long. It had been years I had been planning to see him, and to see the impact that it made, to see him come alive, to see his smile made me wish I'd done it a whole lot sooner, and I made a vow that day that I wasn't going to withhold my gift anymore.
I'm asking you to do the same thing. Take time for the people invested in you, the people that made sacrifices, like this man, the people that went out of their way to be good to you. They need more than your money, more that your well wishes, more than your friends saying hello for you. They need the gift of yourself, and here's the key: only you can give it. Your friendship, your gratitude, that's one of a kind. It can't be transferred, it doesn't necessarily translate through another person, through a letter. A phone call's good, but don't use that as an excuse to never see tell you something strange about me. There's more than one thing, but this is one.
When I read the newspaper every morning, I always read the obituaries. I scan through it and read about people to see who they are, what their story is, how long they've lived. My children still make fun of me, "Daddy's reading the obituaries again, starting the day off right, thinking about death". But I've done that for years and years, and I think the main reason is to make sure I'm not in it. But the real main reason is it reminds me of how fragile life really is.
We grow up thinking that we're invincible, we're going to be here forever with our family and our friends, our world is always going to be perfect. James 4:14 says, "Our life is like a mist. We're here for a moment, then we're gone". When you read the obituaries, and people who were young, people who had big families and people with no families. Some obituaries are very long, with great accomplishments. Some are short, they just list the people's name, and their dates, their age.
One thing they all have in common is they're no longer here. Their time on this earth is over, and it's very sobering to look around at who God has put in your life, who has made a difference, who has invested in you, who was there when nobody else was around. They took you under their wing, they mentored you.
Are you giving the gift some people come into our lives to get us to a certain level. They make sacrifices, they pay the price, then we take off and pass them by. Now they're in the shadows, it's easy to forget about them. It's easy to not have any time, too busy, too important, too successful, no, if it had not been for them, you wouldn't be where you are. Take time for the people that took time for you.
When my father was in high school, he had a friend named Sam Martin. Sam was always talking to him about the Lord and how he needed to give his life to Christ. My father always thought too religious. Sam would get to school early in the morning and write scriptures on the chalkboard. Most of the students agreed with my father that Sam was just too far out.
Well, one night, at 2 o'clock in the morning, my father was walking home from a nightclub, 17 years old. He began to think about his eternal destiny. He got home on the coffee table. It was just there as decoration. My father had no kind of spiritual upbringing, never been to church before. The Bible fell open to a picture the caption read, "I stand at the door and knock. If any person opens the door, I will come in".
My father couldn't understand religion, but he could understand opening a door. The next day, he told Sam what had happened. Sam said, "John, that's God drawing you unto himself". He invited my father to church. They went and sat on the very back row. At the end of the service, the minister invited people to the altar to receive Christ. My father wouldn't go, he was too scared. 17 years old, "John, if you'll walk down there, I'll go with you", and that day, they both walked down there, and my father gave his life to Christ, and daddy went on to become a very well respected, successful minister.
But here's my point, Sam didn't have that same success. He pastored a church here and there, but nothing really caught on. Everything had gone downhill. He was really struggling, working as a greeter at a local retail store, and he and my father had stayed in touch somewhat, but not that close, they would call each other every several years.
When my father heard how much Sam was struggling, he got in his car and he drove to Dallas to visit. Now, they were both in their 70s. Sam was so thrilled, he couldn't believe his old high school friend John had taken time to come. My dad was very loyal. He invited Sam to be a part of our staff as one of our ministers, and Sam and his wife moved to Houston, and Sam spent the last 8 years of his life working with my father day in and day out.
What was my dad doing? Giving the gift of himself. He knew he wouldn't be here if it weren't for Sam. Sam was there for my father now my father was there for Sam in Sam's time of need.
Don't forget about the people that help you get to where you are. Don't be too busy, too important. Take time to reach back and invest in those that have helped you. To give them a job like my dad did, but at least you can stop by their house and say thank you, you can invite them over, or you can do something kind for their family.
This is what David did in the scripture. His best friend Jonathan was killed in a battle, and Jonathan was the one that really looked after David. When his father, king Saul, was trying to kill David, Jonathan would get inside information, and sneak over and give it to his friend David. Years after Jonathan's death, now David is the king. David asked his assistant, "Is anyone from the house of Jonathan still alive? If so, I want to do something good for them". They said, "He has one son that's crippled, but he's still alive".
This son was living in extreme poverty, no future to speak of, and David had them go get the young man, bring him to the palace. He looked him in the eyes and said, "Listen, from now on, you're going to eat at my dinner table every night. From now on, you're going to live in the palace with me, treated like royalty. The young man was amazed, he asked, "What did I do to deserve all this"? David said, "Your father was a friend of mine. Your father helped me get to where I am, now I'm going to show you honor. I'm going to show you respect", because of David could have taken the easy way out and said, "I'm going to build you a house down the road, have somebody take care of you. You go off and live a good life".
No, David understood this principle that the greatest gift David gave that young man his time, his attention, his friendship. The truth is none of us got to where we are on our own. It's easy to find fault with the people that raised us. I hear it all the time, "Joel, my parents didn't treat me right. My father worked all the time, he was never there. My mother had issues. My teachers, they didn't really invest in me". No, they may not have been perfect, but they made sacrifices so that you could go further. Most likely, they did the best that they could with what they had.
I was talking to a friend recently, he was the star football player in high school. He loved sports, but his father never came to one game, never saw him play one time. But this son wasn't bitter. He said, "Joel, my dad was a good man. He spent all of his time and energy working to provide for the family. That's how he showed love". Come to find out his father was raised without a father. He'd never seen a father model, didn't really know what he was supposed to do.
Sometimes we judge people by what we know instead of by what they know. This son was smart enough to realize his father didn't know any better. He was doing the best that he knew how. Now, this son takes his father to all of his grandson's football games, and they sit together in the stands and enjoy each other's company.
What am I saying? For why you don't need to see a loved one. Don't live bitter because you didn't get what you needed. "Well, Joel, they didn't treat me right, they didn't make me feel important, they should have spent more time with me". Why don't you have a bigger point of view? That they knew how. After all, that's your family, that's your flesh and blood. That's the one God ordained to be in your life. You didn't just come from any parents, God handpicked your parents. He knew what they would have and what they wouldn't have. He knew what they could give you and what they couldn't give you.
It's easy to focus on the negative, but keep the right perspective. They're the ones that changed your diapers, they're the ones that fed you, clothed you, stayed up late at night when you didn't feel well. They're the people that, when you were a baby, you spit up on them, and they shook it off and gave you another bottle.
Now, what have you done for them lately? Have you invited them out to dinner? Have you stopped by the house to enjoy their company, to talk about old times, to laugh together? What if they weren't going to be around next year at this time? What if the next few months was the only chance you had to let them know what they mean to you? Are you allowing your work schedule, too busy, to keep you from it? Or maybe have you not spoken in years because you don't get along anymore?
You're at odds and you're just letting it ride. Maybe one day you'll make things better. God is saying today is your one day. Reach out to the people that have sacrificed for you, you have a gift that they need, and it's not necessarily just your money, your clothes, your food, the gift you have is yourself, your friendship, your time, your love, your hug, your smile, your gratitude. Don't keep putting it off, do what you know you need to do.