Joel Osteen — God Will Finish What He Started
I want to talk to you tonight about how God will finish what he started. The moment God put a dream in your heart, the moment the promise took root, God not only started it, but he set a completion date. God is called the author and the finisher of our faith. God wouldn't have given you the dream, the promise wouldn't have come alive if God didn't already have a plan to bring it to pass.
Doesn't matter how long it's been or how impossible it looks. Your mind may tell you it's too late. You missed too many opportunities. It's never going to happen. No, God is saying, "It's not over. I have the final say. I've already set the completion date," and, if you will stay in faith and not talk yourself out of it, it's just a matter of time before it comes to pass, but some of you tonight, you've lost your fire.
At one time, you believed you could do something great. You had a big dream. Maybe you believed you could start that business, believed that you'd get healthy again, believed that you'd fall in love and get married, but it's been so long. You tried, and it didn't work out. The loan didn't go through. The medical report wasn't good. Now, the never lies are playing in your mind. "I'll never get well. I'll never get married. I'll never accomplish my dreams". No, you have to have a new perspective. The creator of the universe has already set that completion date.
Just because it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it's not going to happen. God has already lined up the right people, the right breaks, the right answers. Everything you need is already in your future. Now, you've got to shake off the doubt, shake off the discouragement. Whether it's been a year, five years, or fifty years, what God promised you, he still has every intention of bringing it to pass.
In the scripture, there's a man by the name of Simeon. An angel appeared unto him and told him, "You will not die until you see the birth of Christ". You can imagine how far out that promise seemed, especially back then. He would see the birth of the Messiah. Simeon didn't tell anyone about it, kept it to himself. Do you know, some promises you're not supposed to tell your friends and all your family members. They may not be happy for you. They may tell you how it's not going to happen and you're too old, and, "Do you really think you can do that"? Keep it to yourself. That's between you and God. The scripture calls it a secret petition of our heart.
A year went by, and Simeon didn't see any sign of the Messiah, five years, ten years. I'm sure the thoughts came, saying, "You heard God wrong. It's been too long. It's never going to happen". The enemy has no new tricks. He uses the same type of lies on us today, doubt, discouragement. "You really think you're going to get well? You saw the medical report. You really think you can accomplish those dreams? You don't have the funds, the connections". No, let those thoughts go in one ear and out the other.
I can see Simeon all through the day, "God, I know you're a God of completion. You said I wouldn't go to my grave without seeing this promise come to pass, so, Lord, I want to thank you that it's on the way". He got up every morning, believing, expecting, knowing that it would happen, and sure enough, 20 years later, he saw Christ born. The promise came to fulfillment, and God is saying to you tonight what he said to Simeon. You can't die yet. There are too many promises that have not come to pass in your life.
What God started, he will finish. People can't stop it. Bad breaks can't stop it. Sickness can't stop it. Death can't even stop it. You need to get ready. God is going to complete your incompletions. You will not go to your grave without seeing those dreams come to pass, even the secret petitions of your heart, and it may seem impossible, but remember, our God is all-powerful. He spoke the worlds into existence, and he has you in the palm of his hand. God never created you to do something average, to drag through life unfulfilled, unrewarded. No, he created you to do something amazing. He's put seeds of greatness on the inside.
He's whispered things to you in the middle of the night that seem too big, far out, impossible, but God is saying, "That was my voice. That's my dream for your life. It's bigger. It's more rewarding". You may not see how it can happen. It may look like it's been too long, but, if you'll stay in faith, God can still bring that to pass. He will finish what he started.
I met a 106 year-old man in our lobby after the service a while back, and he was so happy, so full of joy. He looked like he was 70 years old. He didn't have one wrinkle. He was African american, and I commented on how great he looked, and I'll never forget what he said. He touched his face and said, he was so funny, but I asked him how long he planned on living. He told how he has seven children. One of his sons has gotten off-course and is not serving God. He said, "I can't die yet because God promised, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord". I love that attitude. "I can't die until I see God bring every promise to pass".
Friends, you've got to stir up what God's put on the inside. Life will try to push you down, steal your dreams, talk you into settling for mediocrity, but I want you to have this new attitude. What God started in your life, he is going to finish it, but here's the real question. Will you keep believing even though it looks impossible? Will you stay in faith even though every voice tells you that it's not going to happen?
This is what David did. He was anointed to be king at 17 years of age, but he didn't take the throne until he was 30. For 13 years, he had a lot come against him. King Saul was jealous of him, tried to kill him. Even though David had done no wrong, he had to live on the run, hiding in the caves, year after year, and I'm sure he thought, "God, did I hear you wrong? Is it ever going to happen"?
At one point, a man named Nabal insulted David. He wouldn't give David's men any food, even though they had been protecting his property. This set David off. He was furious. I don't think so much it was the fact that Nabal was rude, but it was the fact that David had 13 years of pent up frustration on the inside. He'd heard the voice again and again, "Look at you, man. You're supposed to be a king. You're out here living like a cave man".
David and his men set out toward Nabal's property. They were going to wipe him out, but along the way, a young lady showed up by the name of Abigail. This was Nabal's wife. She said, "David, you're the next king of Israel. You are destined to take the throne. Why are you going to go mess with my husband? That's like swatting a little fly". She reminded David what God had spoken over him. David said, "You know what? You're right. I know there's a promise in me, and I'm not going to let the fact that it's taking a long time cause me to get frustrated and make a poor decision that could hinder my destiny". He turned around and went back home.
God has put a promise in every one of you, but maybe, like David, right now, you're in the wilderness where you don't see anything happening. You think, "Joel, I've been praying, believing for a year, five years, ten years. It's never going to work out". No, let me be the voice of Abigail. Stay the course. Keep believing. You may be tired, discouraged, tempted to be frustrated, but don't give up on your future. Stay on the high road. Our God is a faithful God. It may be taking up a long time, but what he started, he will finish.
A good friend of mine is Jeff Hackleman here on the front row, and he and his wife, Eileen, pastor family faith church in Huntsville, Texas. When we were in high school, Jeff drove down to the Gulf of Mexico to go fishing one day, and he had done this many times before. This day, he and his friend decided they were going to try somewhere different. As Jeff was launching the boat, he asked the man at the dock how to get back to that place from the gas wells.
The man said, "We're directly north. If you're anywhere around those gas wells, just go due north, and you'll make it back to this dock". Jeff and his friend traveled an hour in their little boat and got to their destination. They were having so much fun, catching so many fish. What they didn't realize is a heavy fog had set in. It happened so quickly that it caught them off guard. They could only see 20, 30 feet in each direction. It was getting kind of late. The sun started to go down, and Jeff was a little concerned, told his friend, "Pull up the anchor. We've got to get going".
Jeff looked around to try to get some sense of direction. He could only see fog. All of his logic said, "We need to go this way". He asked his friend. His father's a big fisherman as well. He said, "No, Jeff. It's not that direction. It's this direction," totally opposite what Jeff thought. Now, he was really confused. He got his compass out. Due north, like the man at the dock said, wasn't this way or this way, but it was this way, different than what both of them thought.
Against all sense of reasoning, Jeff cranked up the motor and started traveling due north. Everything in his mind told him, "You're making a big mistake. You're going the wrong way. You'd better turn around". He kept going back to what the man at the dock said. "Go due north, and you'll make it back". He traveled, crept along, couldn't go fast, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45, an hour. Now, it was dark. A voice started telling him, "If you were going right, you would already be there by now".
How many times, as we're believing for what God promised us, do we hear these same type of voices? "If you were going to get well, you'd feel better by now. If you were going to get married, you would have met somebody by now". There will always be voices trying to convince us it's too late. "You're going the wrong way. It's never going to happen".
Jeff's friend started panicking, starting yelling at Jeff, "Turn the boat around. You're taking us out to sea. We're going to run out of gas. We could get killed". In spite of all these confusing voices, Jeff kept traveling due north. Another 30 minutes, another 45, another hour. Just before they ran out of gas, they begin to see the dock faintly come into view. They made it back safely.
Sometimes in life, the fog will set in. You don't know which way is the right direction. You know God's put a promise in your heart, but every voice tells you, "It's not going to happen. You're too old. You missed too many opportunities. You don't have the connections". In the foggy times, where you don't see anything happening, that's when you have to dig your heels in and say, "God, I'm going to believe what you promised me in spite of how I feel, in spite of what people are telling me, in spite of how it looks. God, I'm going to keep acting like what you said is true. I'm going to keep believing you're on the throne. I know you're a faithful God. What you promised, you will bring to pass".
There's a young lady in the scripture by the name of Rachel. She wanted to have a baby so badly. God put this dream in her heart, but year after year went by, and she couldn't conceive. The same time, her sister, Leah, had a baby. Rachel was happy for her, congratulated her, but, all the while, she kept praying, Rachel did, believing for her own baby but no success.
Well, Leah had another child, another baby, and another and another, and, of course, it's good to be happy for others. It's good to rejoice with them, but God doesn't want you to just celebrate everybody else. God wants to bring your dreams to pass. God wants to give you the desires of your heart. He wants you to be celebrating, and Rachel did her best to keep praying and believing, but after years of frustration, seeing her sister have babies, her not having a child, she got discouraged and thought, "Hey, this is my lot in life. It's never going to happen".
One thing I love about God is, just because we give up on a dream doesn't mean that God gives up on the dream. The scripture says, "God remembered Rachel". It doesn't say that Rachel remembered God. This is how much God wants you to fulfill your destiny. It says, "God remembered Rachel, answered her prayer, and gave her a baby".
Friends, God is so loving. He's so merciful. Even when we become too discouraged to believe, God does not forget what he promised you. You may feel like Rachel. Your life hasn't turned out the way you had hoped. You prayed. You believed. You worked hard. You put forth the effort, but it didn't work out. Now, you're kind of thinking, "Hey, I'm never going to be happy again, never be married, never accomplish my dreams".
No, God not only remembers you. He remembers the promise he put in you. He knows what he's destined you to do. You may already have said, "Forget it. It's never going to happen". The good news is you don't have the final say. God has the final say, and he says, "What I started in your that dream you gave up on, God didn't give up on.
When my brother, Paul, was 12 years old, he went to Africa with my father. Standing on a hot tar mat, waiting for a small plane to refuel in a tiny nation called Northern Rhodesia, God planted a dream in Paul's heart that, one day, he would go back to Africa and do medical missions. The creator of the universe birthed that in him that day.
Paul went on to become a doctor, and he spent 17 years as the chief of surgery in little rock, Arkansas. Deep down, he still wanted to do medical missions, but he was so busy. He had so much responsibility. He couldn't do it. In 1999, driving home from my father's memorial service, he heard God speak to him right down in here, telling him to give up his medical practice, come back home, and help us pastor the church.
In the natural, that didn't make sense. He had all these years of training, all these years of education. He was going to walk away from it, and, for ten years, Paul helped us here at the ministry, never thought any more about medicine, thought those days were over, but God doesn't forget what he promised you as a child. God remembers the dreams, the goals, the things that you always wanted to do.
One day, a group of doctors from our church were going to Africa. They asked Paul to go, and he went over there, just thinking he'd watch from the sidelines, maybe see how we could support them better, but, when he got there, they put him in the operating room and said, "Paul, we need you to do these surgeries," hadn't done surgery in over ten years. I just thank God I wasn't the first patient that day, but on the last day before he left to come back home on that two-week trip, he got up in the middle of the night. He went out and looked up in the African sky, and, all of a sudden, it hit him. He was doing what God put in his heart as a 12 year-old boy.
What God starts, he will finish. You may not see how it can happen. It may look like you're too old. You missed too many opportunities. It's impossible. No, God has it all figured out. God knows how to connect the dots. Here's the key. God is not okay with you fulfilling half of your destiny. He's not okay with you fulfilling a part of it. God is going to make sure you complete what he put you here to do.
Today, Paul spends five months a year over in the remote villages of Africa, operating on the poor and needy. In fact, right now, he's in central Africa in a tiny nation that used to be called Northern Rhodesia, the exact place God planted the dream in his heart some 45 years ago. God knows how to bring your dreams to pass.
Now, you say, "Joel, this all sounds good, very encouraging, but you don't know my situation. I think it's too late for me". That's what two sisters in the scripture thought, Mary and Martha. Their brother, Lazarus, was extremely sick. They sent word for their good friend, Jesus, to come to their city and pray for him. A day went by, and Jesus didn't show up. They asked the people they sent, "Did you tell Jesus this was us"? "Yes, we told him". "Did you explain how sick Lazarus was"? "We explained it to him".
They couldn't understand why Jesus wouldn't come immediately. Lazarus ended up dying. Four days later, Jesus showed up. Mary said, "Jesus, if you'd have been here sooner, my brother would still be alive". Have you ever felt like God showed up too late? If he'd have just got there a little sooner, maybe things would've worked out. That's the way they felt. You know how the story ends. Jesus spoke to Lazarus, and he came back to life, but what I want you to see is they wanted Jesus to come and heal their brother, but Jesus wasn't thinking about a healing. He was thinking about a resurrection. A healing would have been good, but Jesus had something better in mind.
When the promise doesn't turn out the way you thought, when it doesn't happen on your timetable, it's easy to get discouraged and to feel like God let you down, but the truth is, that means God has something better in store. You prayed. You worked hard. You believed, but you didn't get the promotion. The door closed. Don't get discouraged. That would have been a healing. God has a resurrection. Dare to trust him. He's promised what he started in your life, he will finish. If you'll let God do it his way, it'll always turn out better than you'd ever imagined.
I read a story about a young man that was training for the 1924 olympic games. They were to be held in Paris, France. He was an american, highly-skilled in white water canoeing. He had won many competitions down through the years. He was the heavy favorite for the gold medal. That was always his dream, an olympic gold. It just so happened that his wife became pregnant. Her due date was at the exact time of the olympics, and, of course, back in those days, didn't have travel like we do today, and, to go across the ocean and back would take several months' time.
He made the decision that he wasn't going to miss the birth of his first son. He informed his coach that he would no longer be participating, not competing in the olympic games. His son was born, and, over the years, he poured into that young man. Like his father, the son was extremely gifted in white water rafting. They spent year after year practicing, training, getting better and better.
In 1948, the son qualified for the olympics in Helsinki, Finland. He went over and competed. A couple of weeks later, the father received a telegraph, said, "Dear dad, thanks for waiting around for me to be born. I'm coming home 24 years later with your olympic gold medal". The son won the gold, came home, and presented it to his father.
Now, the father had the gold medal that he always dreamed about, but it even meant more to him because it came from his son, whom he loved so much. That's the way our God is. When we think, "It's too late. It could never happen. I've missed too many opportunities". Listen, God still has a way to bring your dreams to pass.
There's a man in the scripture by the name of Zerubbabel. He had a dream to rebuild the temple. The whole city had been destroyed. He came back and laid the foundation, but the people in the city weren't for him. They didn't want the temple rebuilt. They went to the judge, and he issued an order telling him to stop. For ten years, no work was done.
I can imagine Zerubbabel week after week, going by the property and seeing the empty foundation, all the supplies stacked up. It's like rubbing salt on the wound. I'm sure he thought, "God, I started off good, had big dreams. These people came against me, had so much opposition". He's down, discouraged, thinking that it could never happen, but remember, God never starts something that he can't finish.
One day, a prophet by the name of Zachariah showed up, said, "Zerubbabel, God sent me all this way to give you two words: begin again". Faith shot up in his heart. He said, "You mean God can still bring it to pass? Do you realize it's been ten years? Do you know how many people are against me? Do you really think that I can still do it"? Zachariah said, "I don't think you can do it. I know you can do it, and God says get started".
God is saying the same thing to each one of us. "Begin again. Get your dreams back. Get your hopes up". God has put some kind of promise in your heart. Like him, maybe it's been years. You tried. It didn't work out. You had some setbacks. God is saying it's time to start dreaming again. Start believing again. Start praying again. Start expecting again. Some of you wanted to buy that new house. You didn't qualify for it. It didn't work out. That was ten years ago. God says, "Begin again". Some of you at one time, you knew you could break that addiction, but it didn't happen. Now, you've gotten comfortable. God is saying, "Begin again".
Some of you had a big dream for your life. You were going to break out of the mold and set a new standard for your family, but you had some disappointments. Nobody believed in you. Nobody encouraged you. Now, you think it's over, but God is saying, "It's not over. I have the final say. Begin again".
You have seeds of greatness on the inside. God wouldn't have put the promise in your heart unless he already intended to bring here's how the scripture puts it. "Be confident of this: he that began a good work in you will bring it to completion".
Friends, God is saying to each one of you tonight, "I'm going to complete your incompletions. I'm going to finish what I started. I remember the dreams I placed in your heart. I've lined up the right people, the right opportunities. It's not too late. You haven't missed too many opportunities. You haven't made too many mistakes. Begin again. Get your fire back. Get your passion back," and remember, if it doesn't happen your way, keep the right perspective.
That would have been a healing. God has a resurrection. He has something better coming your way, and, if you'll stir your faith up, like Zerubbabel told Zachariah to be confident that God will finish what he started, then I believe and declare, God is going to complete your incompletions. He is going to shift things in your favor. He is going to release a flood of his goodness, a flood of mercy, a flood of ideas. You will overcome every obstacle, defeat every enemy, and become everything God's created you to be, in Jesus' name.