Joel Osteen — God Is in Control of the Storm
I want to talk to you today about how "God is in control of the storm". Most of the time, we believe God's in control when everything's going our way. We're getting good breaks, business is up, the family is happy, we know God's on the throne. We know he's directing our steps. Life is good.
But having faith doesn't exempt us from difficulties. The storms of life come to every person. We get a bad medical report. A friend betrays us. Business takes a downturn. In the difficult times, it's easy to think, "God, where are you? How could you let this happen to me"? No, the same God that's in control in the good times is just as in control in the tough times. God will not allow a storm unless he has a divine purpose for it. He never said he would prevent every difficulty, but God did promise he would use every difficulty.
Here's the key: God will direct the winds of the storm to blow you where he wants you to go. We see storms as being negative: "Oh, this is so bad," "Can't believe this is happening to me," but God uses the storm to move you from point A to point B. The winds may be strong, the circumstances may look bad, but if you'll stay in faith, not get bitter, not start complaining, those winds will blow you to it may have been meant for your harm, but God knows how to shift the winds.
Instead of blowing you backwards, he can cause them to blow you forward, where you not only come out better, stronger, but that storm will move you to a place of greater blessing, and a lot of people say they have faith, but in the tough times, they fall apart. They feel like God's disappointed them. They're not going to be happy until the storm is over, but you have to realize God is in control of that storm.
Nothing is happening without God's permission. If that storm was going to keep you from your destiny, God would've never allowed it. If that person that left you, that financial difficulty, that legal situation, was going to stop God's plan for your life, he would have never permitted it. The reason he did was to move you one step closer to your divine destiny, and instead of using our faith to try to pray away every difficulty, we should use our faith to believe that, when the winds stop blowing, we'll be exactly where God wants us to be.
This is what the apostle Paul did. God promised that he would stand before Caesar. He was doing the right thing, fulfilling his purpose when he was arrested. They put him on a boat that was headed toward Rome. Paul told the captain, the crew, this is not a good time to sail. He had this inside information, but they wouldn't listen to him. He was on this ship in the middle of the ocean when a huge storm arose.
For 14 days, they didn't see the sun, nor the stars. It was dark. The sea was turbulent. The wind was howling. It got so bad, they started throwing equipment overboard to try to keep the ship from sinking. They were sure they were going to be killed. Imagine what must've been going through Paul's mind. Here he's doing the right thing, but he ends up in the middle of this huge storm.
Sometimes you face difficulties not because you're doing something wrong, but because you're doing something right. It's just another step on the way to your divine destiny. Most storms, we can see the end. At one point, we know it's going to be over. We just have to dig our heels in and endure it, like Paul faced. You don't see any sign of the end. Doesn't look like it's ever going to turn around.
In the natural, you'll never get well, never get out of debt, the problem will never be resolved. Paul was facing. The crew finally said to Paul, "You were right. We should've listened to you". Paul didn't say, "I told you so. Now look what you've done. You've doomed us all". No, Paul said, in effect, "Don't worry about it. The God I serve has given me a promise. He said that I will stand before Caesar. He would not have allowed this storm if it was going to keep me from my destiny".
When you have a promise deep down in your heart, everything in the world can come against you. The dream looks far away, but like Paul, you know that setback is not permanent. It's only temporary. It's not going to keep you from becoming who God's created you to be.
The wind became so strong, the waves so big, that they could not control the ship anymore. Instead of fighting it, instead of trying to steer it it says in acts 27 that they took down the sails, and they let the wind blow the ship wherever the storm wanted it to go.
There comes a point when you've done everything that you can: you believed, you stood in faith. Now you've got to do like they did: quit fighting it. Quit trying to make it happen your way. Quit trying to force it to work out, and just relinquish control. Let the storm take you where God wants you to go. God will never take you someplace when you relinquish control, in other words, when you quit worrying about it, quit losing sleep, quit dreading it, and say, "God, I trust you. I know you control these winds. They can either blow me backward, forward, sideways, up, down, but one thing I'm confident in, I'm supposed to be". That's a powerful attitude.
When my father was 77 years old, he had to go on dialysis. He was still ministering most weekends, but his health started to go downhill. He ended up in the hospital, and the whole church was praying, believing that he was going to come out of it like he had done so many times before, but unfortunately, this time he didn't make it. It could've looked like that storm got the best of him, but the truth is God was still in control. That storm didn't defeat him. It promoted him.
Those winds blew him into his eternal home, into the arms of his Heavenly Father, but for our family, it seemed like everything was out of control. We couldn't see the end. We didn't know how it was going to work out. The critics were saying Lakewood will never make it without my dad. My own thoughts were telling me that "It's never going to work out. Lakewood has seen its best days".
The fact is God could have changed it. God had healed my mother of terminal cancer, years before. He's God. He could've healed my father as well, but we all face situations that don't turn out the way we had hoped. We prayed, we believed, but our loved one didn't make it. Our prayers didn't get answered the way we want it on our time table. It's easy to get negative, bitter, give up on our dreams.
My father and I were best friends. I'd worked with him for many years. We'd travel the world together, and all the sudden, he was gone. I had to do what I'm asking you to do. I said, "God, I know this storm is not a surprise to you. I can't bring my dad back. I can't make it happen my way, so, God, I'm going to turn loose of the sails, and I'm going to let your wind blow me to where I relinquished control and came back to that place of peace.
Instead of worrying, "How's it going to work out? What's going to happen next"? No, "God, I trust you. I know you're in control of these winds". That storm ended up blowing into the position I'm in now. I never dreamed I could do this, but this is where the storm took me. That's what the scripture means, "What is meant for your harm, God will use to your advantage".
The winds may be blowing in your life today, the waves raging. You don't see the end. Why don't you take that step of faith and say, "Okay, God, I'm going to let you do it your way. I know you have my best interest at heart, and this storm cannot take me where you don't permit it to go, so, God, I trust you". When you do that, those winds will blow you into a new level of your destiny. May not happen overnight, but God is a faithful God. His plan for your life will not be stopped by a storm, by a bad break, by the loss of a loved one, by an injustice.
God said, "No weapon formed against you is going to prosper". He said when the enemy comes in like a flood, he's going to raise up a barrier. You may be in a storm, and there's pressure all around you. You could easily live worried, but know this: the battle is not yours. The battle is the Lord's. God is saying, "If you'll trust me, I'll shift those winds, and instead of blowing you backwards, they will thrust you forward".
Today Lakewood is experiencing our greatest days of ministry. The critics said we'd never make it, but today Lakewood is stronger than ever. God used the winds of that storm that were meant to destroy us, and God shifted the direction, and they've taken us places we could've never gone on our own. The same winds that try to hold you back, will be the wind God uses to thrust you forward.
I read about this executive. He worked for a large home improvement company, and he'd been with the company for over 30 years and was way up in senior management. They had retail stores all over the country. One day, they had a corporate restructuring, and they decided that they here he had practically built the company from ground up. Just when he thought he could relax and enjoy the fruit of his hard work, he was having to start all over. He felt betrayed. The company that he gave his life to just cut him loose, but he understood this principle of how God can direct the winds of the storm.
Instead of getting bitter, sitting around all angry, he forgave the people that hurt him. He let go of what didn't work out. He began to dream of new opportunities. He found some friends, and they started another company. This new company took off and has become one of the largest, most successful home-improvement stores in all the nation. In fact, his new company put the old company out of business.
The winds that were meant to destroy you, God knows how to shift them and use them to increase you. Quit mourning over what you've lost. Let go of what didn't work out. Forgive the people that hurt you. When you dare say, "God, I trust you to make my wrongs right," then those winds that are trying to hold you back, and push you forward.
Friends, God is in complete control. If God wanted you to have that job where you were laid off, you would still have it. Let it go. He has something better. If God wanted that person to stay that left you, they would've stayed. Let it go. If your prayer didn't get answered the way you wanted, on your timetable, don't get bitter. Don't get discouraged. That means God has something better, something greater, something bigger in your future.
The three hebrew teenagers, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were facing a huge storm. Because they wouldn't bow down to the king's golden idol, they were about to be thrown into a fiery furnace. I'm sure they prayed, "God, please keep us out of this fire. God, this is dangerous. We could be killed! God, we're asking you to not let this happen". They wanted God to do it their way, but God chose to do it another way.
Sometimes God will deliver you from the fire. Other times, God take you through the fire. See, there are two kinds of faith: there's a delivering faith, and there's a sustaining faith. Delivering faith is when God keeps you from the fire. God keeps you out of the adversity. But most of the time, we're going to need sustaining faith. Takes you through the storm, through the difficulty, and the wind is blowing.
In other words, doubt, anxiety, fear, bitterness. You have all these opportunities to get discouraged, but when you know that God is in control of the storm, you won't live worried. Even if you go through the difficulty, you know God will take care of you. He'll make you fireproof, and these three teenagers, they had their hands and feet bound with cords, and they were thrown into the fiery furnace, but do you know, the only thing the fire burned off were the cords that were holding them back. They went in bound, but they walked out totally free.
The God we serve knows how to burn out the limitations that are holding us back and not harm anything that we need. It would've been a great victory to have been delivered from the fire. We would all celebrate that, but really, it's a greater victory for God to take them through the fire.
The same God that kept them safe in the fiery furnace has put a hedge of protection around you. Whether you realize it or not, you are fireproof. Don't complain about the storms. Don't get discouraged and think, oh, this is too big, this financial difficulty, this legal battle. That's going to be the end of me. No, all it's going to do is burn up the limitations that are holding you back. You're going to come out stronger, increased, promoted, just like them, without the smell of smoke. Why? Almighty God is in control of the furnace. He's in control of the winds. God is even in control of our enemies.
When Moses told pharaoh, "God said, 'let the people go,'" pharaoh said NO not once, not twice, not three times. He said NO again and again and again. What's interesting is the scripture says God caused pharaoh to say NO. It wasn't even pharaoh's choice, God caused him to refuse, why? So God could show his power in a greater way.
Sometimes God will not the obstacle. He won't deliver you from the storm, not because he's mean, not because he's trying to make your life miserable, no, because he wants to show his favor in your life in a greater way. You may be in a storm, but remember, God is in control.
Do like Daniel. When they threw him into the lion's den, hungry lions, they came back the next morning to check on him, fully expecting him to be torn apart. You know what they found? Daniel, over by the water, sound asleep, right next to hungry lions. Daniel wasn't worried, wasn't taking tranquilizers, wasn't hiding in the corner. Daniel was in peace. He knew he was lion-proof. He knew the storm could not take him where God could not keep him.
Maybe you feel like you're in the lion's den, maybe a fiery furnace. You could easily live all stressed out, all worried. God is saying, "Come back to that place of peace". He has you in the palm of his hand. As long as you're being your best, honoring him, the winds may come, but he will shift the winds in your direction. Instead of defeating you, they will promote you. What is now your test will become your testimony.
I know this lady. She got a bad medical report. The doctors found what they thought might be cancer. We prayed and believed that the report would come back negative, but a few weeks later, they found out indeed it was cancer. She's been coming here a long time, and she knows she's not a victim, she's a victor. She understands this principle that God is in control of the storm. She didn't get bitter, angry. Her attitude was, "God, I've prayed, I've believed, I've done my part. Now, God, I'm going to trust you. I believe these winds will blow me to where you want me to go".
For 1 year, she took chemotherapy. Today she is 6 years cancer-free. She's not only one of our prayer partners that prays for others, but she goes back to that hospital and volunteers to encourage people that are facing cancer.
See, it's great for God to deliver us from the fire. That's always our prayer, but what I want us to see today is, even if it doesn't happen that way, God is still going to take care of you. He's in control of the winds. He's the one calling the shots, and if he chooses to not deliver you from the storm, stay in faith. That just means you're going to have a greater testimony. You're going to see God's favor in a new way.
I love the fact that she is now helping people overcome in that same area. Your test will become your testimony, where you can tell people, "Hey, look. God did it for me. He can do it for you". When we were trying to acquire this new facility, God didn't deliver us from the storm. It was one battle after another. God could've given us the victory the first day we prayed, just as easily as he did 3 years later. He's God.
But no, his ways are not always our ways, and during those 3 years, I learned to trust God like I had never trusted him before. Some things, you can only learn in the storm, when the battle's raging, when you don't know how you're going to make it. That's when you'll experience the faithfulness of God like you've never experienced it before.
Now I can tell people with confidence when it looks impossible, when the odds are against you, when the medical report says, "No way," when the financial situation looks bleak, when your own thoughts are saying, "You're not going to make it," no, let me tell you firsthand, the God we serve can make a way. You see this building, this beautiful facility? This is the goodness of God. If he did it for us, he can do it for you. Your test will become your testimony.
The ship Paul and the Crew were on hit a big sandbar and ended up breaking all apart. They all swam over to a small island called Malta. That's not where Paul was planning on going. He could've thought, "God, you said I'd stand before Caesar. What happened, God"? No, that storm didn't stop God's plan. It was a part of God's plan. On that small island, the chief's father was extremely sick. Paul prayed for him, and he was healed. One by one, they brought other people to Paul. He prayed, and God healed. Paul ended up sharing his faith, and the whole island came to know the Lord.
What happened? God used the winds of that storm to blow Paul to people in need. Had it not been for the storm, the father would've never been well, the people would've never heard the good news. And the storm may have been meant for your harm, but God knows how to direct the winds and not only protect you, but to take you to a place where you can be a blessing to somebody else in need.
On the way out of your storm, don't be surprised if you have interruptions, inconveniences, not what you had planned. God ordained that so you could be a blessing. Don't just look for your miracle. Become someone's miracle. As you reach out to others in need, as you lift the fallen, as you encourage those that are down, as you become a friend to the lonely, that's when your breakthrough will come. The scripture says, "Pray one for another so that you may be healed". One of the tests you have to pass is being good to somebody else.
That's what a friend of mine did. He's one of our staff members. Craig and his wife Samantha have a little boy that has autism. Of course, that's not what they had planned in life. They could've gotten bitter, angry, "God, why did we end up here? We're good people. How come we're facing this storm"? No, their attitude was "God, we know you're in control of this storm. We believe your winds will blow us to where you want us to go".
Craig used to be the head of our children's department. A few years ago, he realized how many people couldn't come to services because they have children with special needs, so he started the champions class. That's a class for special needs children. Today there are over 300 kids in that class, plus many more parents and family members can come and enjoy the services. Not only that, other churches across the country have copied our model, and now there are champions classes for children with special needs in churches all across the country.
What happened? God used that storm to blow him to people in need. The winds of that storm, and here's the amazing thing. Their little boy keeps getting better and better. The first few years, he couldn't speak in complete sentences, but now he is able to talk. You've heard him say, "This is my bible. I am what it says I am". As Craig and Samantha help others, God is meeting their own needs.
I've heard this saying, "When everything comes against you, remember, airplanes take off against the wind, not with the wind". Those winds were never meant to push you down. They were meant of your destiny. When an eagle faces a storm, he doesn't try to fight his way through the wind, through the rain, frustrated, struggling, putting forth all this effort. No, he simply stretches out his wings, and he lets the strong winds lift him higher and higher.
Finally he rises above the storm where it's as calm and peaceful as can be. When the winds are blowing, things come against you, it's easy to get frustrated and start fighting and trying to change things that you were never meant to change, worried about the medical report, can't sleep at night, anxiety, fear. No, be an eagle, "God I've done everything I can. Now I'm going to quit struggling. I'm going to quit trying to make it happen my way. God, I'm going to trust you".
When you come back to that place of peace, knowing that God is in then those winds that were meant to push you down will end up lifting you higher and higher. Remember, God wouldn't have allowed the storm if it was going to keep you from your destiny. Since he allowed it, that means God's going to get glory. He's going to show you his favor, his power, his goodness now quit fighting it.
Quit living frustrated. Come to that point where you say, "God, I'm going to let these winds take me to where you want me to go". When you relinquish control, those winds will blow you into the fullness of your destiny. Now, I know some of you today, you're in a storm. Like the hebrew teenagers, God didn't deliver you from the fire, but let me encourage you, let me speak faith into you. God has made you fireproof. You're going to come out of that fire promoted, increased, better, without the smell of smoke.
What is your test now will soon become your testimony. Now, shake off the discouragement. Shake off the self-pity, and get ready for God to do something new. Those winds that are blowing against you are about to shift directions, and they're going to start thrusting you forward. Now, I believe and declare, you will overcome every obstacle. You will rise above every storm. You will accomplish your dreams. You will fulfill your God-given destiny, in Jesus' name.