Joel Osteen — Grace Is Looking For You
I want to talk to you today about how grace is looking for you. So often, we think that God is only interested in the, quote, good people, the people that have it all together, people that never make mistakes, never give into temptation. If your performance is good enough, then you can expect God's goodness. But if you ever get off course, if you ever fail, you ever have doubts, God says, "Too bad, it's your fault. If you don't want me, I'll leave you alone. I won't bother you".
The truth is, it's just the opposite. When you blow it, God doesn't turn away from you, he turns to you. His grace comes looking for you. When you have doubts, God doesn't say, "What's wrong with you? You need to have more faith". No, God will even pass over people with faith and come to you, the one that has doubts.
Jesus told a parable about a shepherd that had 100 sheep, but 1 of them went astray. The shepherd left the 99 and went looking for the 1. What was that? Grace came looking. But we tend to write people off and think, "God wouldn't have anything to do with them. Joel, they make fun of me for coming to church. She's living the wrong kind of life. He's out there on drugs".
No, do you realize that over half of the new testament was written by a man that, at one time, hated believers? Saul was the main enemy of the church. He was having believers put in prison. But one day, while he was traveling to Damascus, on his way to persecute more believers, a bright light shined down from heaven, knocked him flat on his back. A voice boomed out, "Saul, why do you keep persecuting me"? Long story short, Saul became the apostle Paul and wrote more of the new testament than anyone else. What happened? Grace came looking for Saul.
Don't ever write anybody off. Your family members, your friends may be making poor choices. In the natural, you think they're never going to fulfill their destiny, they're never going to do what's right. But you have to remember grace is looking for them. You may write them off, but God doesn't write them off. God knows how to get their attention. If God can change Saul, the greatest enemy of the church, and turn him into the greatest asset of the church, God can touch your loved ones. God can turn your son around. God can change your daughter.
And this same man, Paul, wrote in the book of Romans about the grace that God freely gives us, and if anyone understood grace, it would be Paul. And one translation of the word "Freely" that he specifically used is promiscuous, meaning that God's grace will go to anybody. If someone is promiscuous, they're loose, they're unrestrained. They'll be with anyone, doesn't matter. That's the way God's grace is.
You can be high on drugs, and grace is looking for you. You can be working in the wrong kind of place, grace is looking for you. You can be cheating people, dishonest, no integrity, and God will leave the 99 and come after you. You can be discouraged, depressed, about to give up on life. The good news is, right now, grace is looking for you. You may have made mistakes. You're not where you want to be in life. You could easily sit on the sidelines, let the accusing voices convince you that you're all washed up, nothing good is in your future. No, right now, grace is coming to you. God is saying, "I'm not mad at you. I'm madly in love with you. I'm not holding anything against you. I'm not keeping a record of your mistakes. I'm not even interested in your past. I'm interested in your future".
Friends, it doesn't matter to God where you've been. It matters to God where you're going. That's why he's coming after you. That's why he won't leave you alone. His grace will never give up. He loves you too much to let you miss your destiny. You can turn away again and again and again, but you know what? Grace will keep coming. Wherever you go, grace will keep looking. You can't outrun the grace of God. You can't do too much wrong to keep it away. You can't turn away too many times.
God's grace will keep coming, saying, "I've got something better. I've got forgiveness. I've got mercy. I've got restoration. I've got a new beginning," and if you will shake off the guilt, the condemnation, start making choices that honor God, God will do for you what he did for Paul. He'll bless you in spite of your mistakes. He'll make something great out of your life in spite of your past. God never gives up on you. Don't give up on yourself. Receive the grace. Believe that there's something amazing in your future.
John chapter 4, Jesus was about to leave Judea and travel home to Galilee, but he said to his disciples, "I must go through Samaria". Well, Samaria wasn't necessarily the shortest route. Not only that, in those days, the samaritans weren't friendly with the jewish people. His disciples said, "Jesus, that's the long way. We'll go a better route. Plus, we might have some problems with the samaritans".
Jesus said, "No, I have to go this way. I have an assignment. There's somebody I need to meet". They got to Samaria, and they were tired and hungry, and Jesus sat down by a well. He asked his disciples to go into town and get some food. In a little while, this samaritan woman came out to draw water from the well. She had been married five times, been through a lot of heartache and pain in life. She wasn't a respected woman, wasn't considered a good woman, a moral woman. She was looked down on and seen as second class.
No doubt when some of the people in town saw her, they would snicker, "There's that lady, been married five times. Stay away from her". Yet, the whole reason Jesus said, "I must go through Samaria," was to meet this woman. Jesus struck up a conversation with her, told her all about her life. Then he revealed himself as the Messiah to her.
When the disciples came back from buying food and saw Jesus talking to this woman, the scripture says they were amazed and bewildered. Not only was Jesus talking to a woman, not only a samaritan, but of all people, this lady. Everybody knew she had a bad reputation. She came from the wrong side of the tracks. She was making poor choices.
But this is what grace is all about. It's promiscuous. It doesn't just come to the people that you might think, the, quote, good people, the fine upstanding people. No, it goes to people like this lady that have made mistakes, people that have gone through heartache and pain, people that think, "Joel, it's too late. I've blown it, I don't deserve it". This is what grace is all about, and that day was a turning point in her life.
"Well, Joel, my co-workers, they don't even believe in God". That's all right, grace is looking for them. "Well, Joel, he's out selling drugs. God doesn't have anything to do with him". Sure he does, grace is looking for him. "Well, she's working in the clubs". That's okay, grace can go into a club. God's grace knows no boundaries, has no limitations. "Well, they don't worship like me, Joel. They come from a different faith". That doesn't stop God. Grace is looking for them. Our titles don't set a boundary for the Creator of the universe.
"Well, they're muslim, they're buddhist, they're hindu". That doesn't stop God. Our God is all-powerful. Our religious names, our different affiliations, that can't stop the Creator of the universe.
This woman was a samaritan. They came from a different faith. Yet, she was the first one that God revealed himself to as the Messiah. Not to the jewish leaders, not to the rabbis in the synagogue. In today's language, not to the pope, not to the minister on television, but to the girl working in the clubs, to the young man that's never been to church.
The longer I live, the more I realize God will save who he wants to save. God will have mercy on who he wants to have mercy. His grace is looking for people that don't have the best reputation, for people that have blown it and failed, for people that have made a mess. It can penetrate any situation.
Are you writing someone off, thinking that they're too far out there, they're never going to change? Or are you writing yourself off, thinking you've made too many mistakes, you missed too many opportunities? Now, you have to sit on the sidelines. No, grace is coming to you. No mistake you've made is too much for the mercy of God. Nothing you've done has canceled your destiny. You can still become who God's created you to be.
Now, quit listening to those lies telling you that you've seen your best days and you had your chance. No, God is the God of another chance. He will never give up on you. His call on your life is irrevocable. His grace is going to keep coming to you. You may ignore it today, but it'll be there tomorrow, and the next week, and next month, even next year.
This is what Jonah did in the scripture. God told him to go to the city of Nineveh, but he didn't want to go there. He went the other direction. He ended up being thrown overboard into the middle of the ocean. He should have drowned, it should have been the end, but grace showed up in the form of a whale. This big fish swallowed him, 3 days later spit him out onto dry ground.
What am I saying? You can't outrun God's grace. Wherever you go, grace is going to come looking for you. Moses, when he was a young man, he murdered a man. He had to flee for his life. Spent years on the backside of the desert. Looked like he had missed his destiny. But 40 years later, grace came looking for him. God said, "Moses, I have not forgotten about my calling on your life. You may have delayed it, but you didn't cancel it. You're still going to fulfill what I put you here to do," and like Moses, you may have made choices that have delayed your destiny, but God is saying, "You have not canceled your destiny. You can still fulfill your purpose. You can still accomplish your dreams".
You need to get ready, God is going to bring opportunities back across your path that you missed out on. You're going to still become who God's created you to be.
A pastor friend of mine stopped by a small convenience store one evening to pick up some milk. There was a young man in line behind him that was buying cigarettes and alcohol. He looked very distraught. You could tell that he was on drugs, and his pastor knew he was supposed to reach out to him, talk to him, pray for him, encourage him, and he was going to do it after they both had paid outside the store.
But when the clerk turned his back, the young man ran out the store, jumped in his car, and sped off, stole those items. The pastor's family was out in the car waiting. They saw all this take place. They said, "Dad, he went that way in a blue car". This pastor felt so compelled that he had to find that man. They got in the car and started driving through the community, looking for that blue car.
What was that? Grace looking for that young man, tracking him down. The scripture says God came to seek and to save those that are lost. Seek means to go after, to pursue, to track down. About 20 minutes later, one of the kids said, "Dad, there it is". They spotted the blue car at another grocery store. The pastor went in and the young man had another basket of alcohol and cigarettes. He was going to steal them again, and when he saw the pastor, he nearly passed out.
The pastor said, "Young man, God's hand is on your life. This is not the way you're supposed to be living. You're better than this". His eyes got real big, said, "Who are you"? He said, "I'm a pastor here in town, and God sent me to track you down to let you know you have a destiny to fulfill". He began to tremble, and tears came down his cheeks. He said, "I'm a heroin addict. I've gone to rehab again and again and again, but I just can't quit".
The pastor said, "Tonight is your night. If you're willing to walk away, the power of those addictions are going to be broken". He put the cigarettes back, put the alcohol away, and that night was his new beginning. That was his turning point. Today, he's totally free, living a clean, sober life.
The scripture says God so loved the world. It doesn't say God so loved the good people, God so loved people that have it all together. No, God loves people with addictions. God loves people that have gotten off course. God loves people that have made mistakes. His grace is unrestrained. In fact, Paul said, "Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound".
You would think the further you got away from God, the less interested he would be. But it's just the opposite. God leaves the 99 and comes searching for you. When you go the wrong way, like Jonah, God's going to send a whale. When you get off course like this young man with addictions, God's going to have somebody come track you down. When you make a mess of your life, like the lady at the well, God's going to say, "I must go through Samaria. I must let you know I have a new beginning".
I read a story about an older gentleman that was on his death bed. He was in a small hospital, all alone in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains in California. It was close to midnight, and just as he was about to pass, one of the nurses called her minister, father O'Malley, and asked if he would come and pray for the man.
There was a big storm taking place outside: wind, rain, streets were flooded, and he said he'd get there as quickly as he could. What should have been a 30-minute drive took him over 2 hours. Father O'Malley showed up at the hospital 3 o'clock in the morning. The nurse said, "We don't know much about this man. He has no family, no friends come to see him. He's been in and out of the hospital the last 2 years, but he won't open up to anyone. He's not friendly at all".
Father O'Malley went in and said, "Hello, sir, I was passing by tonight, and I thought I'd stop in and see how you're doing". The man said very gruffly, "You weren't passing by. It's 3 o'clock in the morning. You know I'm about to die". Father O'Malley prayed for him for a few minutes, and he said, "Is there anything you'd like to talk about, anything you need to make right"? The man wouldn't say a word. So, father O'Malley started talking about the big storm outside, about the football season, on and on.
Eventually, the man opened up, joined in the conversation. About 3 hours later, close to daybreak, he said, "Father O'Malley, there is one thing I have to get off my chest. I've never told anyone, and it's haunted me my whole life".
He told how he had worked as a switchman at the railroad his whole career, and one night, 31 years earlier, 2 days before christmas, he and the crew were drinking heavily. There was a big storm outside that night as well, a lot of wind, hardly any visibility, and they needed somebody to go out and make the switch for the overnight freight train. He was drunk, so he volunteered to do it. He accidentally hit the wrong button, and that freight train slammed into a passenger car, killing a young couple and their two daughters.
He said, "Nobody has ever known what really happened that night. I've lived with the guilt and the shame. I haven't ever been big enough to even admit to the family that it was my fault, and to tell them how sorry I really am". There was a long, long pause. Father O'Malley eventually gently took the man's hand, said, "Sir, the people in that car were my parents and my sisters, and if I can forgive you, you can be certain God forgives you as well". What is that? Grace came looking for him. That's how good God is.
Even when we run away, God runs to us. Even when we don't measure up, God says, "That's okay, I forgive you anyway". "Well, Joel, he doesn't deserve it. It was his fault. He brought the trouble on himself".
That's what grace is all about. You can't earn it. You don't have to be good enough. It's a free gift. All you have to do is receive it. Don't go your whole lifetime like this man, living guilty, condemned, beating yourself up for past mistakes, thinking that you have to pay God back by giving up your peace, your joy, your happiness. Listen, the price has already been paid 2,000 years ago. It's not our goodness, it's God's goodness. God has made us worthy.
But we think, you know, "God's never going to help me. I brought this trouble on myself". But think of it as a father. Imagine our son Jonathan, maybe 5 years old, I hear him screaming, "Daddy, come help me". I look outside and he's hanging from a tree branch, kind of high in the air, holding on for dear life. If he falls, he's going to get hurt. I wouldn't say, "Hang on, Jonathan. Let me think about how good you've been lately. Victoria, has Jonathan been cleaning his room? Has he been treating his sister right"? "Dad, hurry, come help me". "Just a second, Jonathan, I got to check your report card".
That wouldn't even enter into my mind. That's my son. I'm going to do anything I can to help him. That's the way our Heavenly Father is. Even when you make the mistake, even when you bring the trouble on yourself, God is so merciful, he says, "I'll still help you to get out". That's why it's called amazing grace. You don't deserve it. You didn't earn it. It's just the goodness of God.
One time in the scripture, Jesus was traveling through a town, and there was a man named Zacchaeus, the chief of the tax collectors. He wanted to see Jesus, but he was a small man. The streets were packed, so crowded, he decided to climb up into a tree to get a better view. As Jesus came passing by, out of the hundreds and hundreds of people screaming, waving, trying to get his attention, Jesus stopped, looked up in the tree, and said, "Zacchaeus, come down. I want to go to your house and have dinner".
They had never met before, but Jesus knew his name. The religious leaders, the pharisees, they got very upset. They couldn't understand why Jesus would want to associate with Zacchaeus, a tax collector. They were known for being dishonest, cheating people, taking advantage of them. They had a bad reputation, and they thought if Jesus were for real, he would know he was going to dinner with the wrong kind of person.
The scripture says they were displeased that he was the isn't it interesting, out of all the people there that day, Jesus went home with the most notorious sinner? This didn't line up with the pharisees' theology. They thought that Jesus would rebuke Zacchaeus, or at least ignore him, but certainly not but this is where grace shows off. Grace comes to the least likely, to those that don't deserve it, to those that have made a mess.
Religion says, "Stay away, man, you're bad". God says, "I'm coming to see you. I'm going to make you better". Jesus didn't preach to Zacchaeus. He didn't berate him, say, "You lousy sinner. Zacchaeus, what do you mean cheating people? You ought to be ashamed of yourself". He simply loved him. He showed him mercy. He became his friend, and Zacchaeus, of his own free will, said, "From this day forward, I'm going to give half my income to the poor, and if I've harmed or cheated anybody, I'm going to make things right". He changed his ways, not because he was shamed into it, but because he was loved into it.
The scripture says it's the goodness of God that leads to repentance. But some people, all they've heard about is how mad God is at them, how they need to do better, how they don't measure up. But when you really understand the grace of God, the fact that God is for you, and even if you're a most notorious sinner, God is not holding that against you. If Jesus were here on earth today, he would say, "I want to come over and hang out with you today".
Grace is looking for you, and if you'll receive it, quit beating yourself up, living guilty and condemned, then you'll have the power to break strongholds and anything that's holding you back. When Jesus spoke to the woman that was caught in adultery, all the men wanted to stone her, but Jesus said, "You that are without sin cast the first stone," and everybody walked away. Jesus said to the lady, "Neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more". He didn't say, "Go and sin no more, then I won't condemn you. Lady, get your act together. Start making better choices, then I'll forgive you". No, he said, "I don't condemn you. Now, go and change your ways".
See, the principle is, if people feel condemned, they feel berated, told that they don't measure up, then they don't change. They live guilty, feeling bad about themselves, weighted down by life. But when you know you're not condemned, you know God's not holding your mistakes against you, when you realize God is saying, "I want to come to your house. I want to be your friend. Other people may have written you off, but I don't write you off.
I know what you have to offer. I know how amazing you are," that's when you'll have the power to really change, and you may have made mistakes, you're not where you want to be, and those accusing voices, they'll remind you of all your shortcomings, everything that you've done wrong. But by faith, you've got to hear God saying to you, "I don't condemn you. I'm not holding anything against you. I'm not keeping a record of your mistakes".
Friends, grace is coming to you today. I'm asking, will you receive it? Will you shake off the guilt and condemnation? Will you put your shoulders back, hold your head up high? Nothing you've done has canceled your destiny, and some of you are kind of down on yourself, focused on all the ways that you don't measure up. Just like Jesus said, "I must go through Samaria to meet that woman that's been beaten down by life". God is saying, "I must get to you and let you know my mercy is bigger than any mistake. I'm not interested in your past. I'm interested in your future. I must let you know that you are forgiven, you are redeemed. It's not the end. I have a new beginning. Your best days are still out in front of you".
Now, you may not deserve this. You may be the least likely. That's what grace is all about. It's promiscuous. It's unrestrained. It goes to anyone, and if you'll receive this grace, God will do for you what he did for Paul. He will bless you in spite of your mistakes. He will still make something great out of your life in spite of your past, and like Jonah, even when you bring the trouble on yourself, God will be there to help you get out. Like with the young man with addictions, God is going to track down your loved ones. He's going to search out your relatives that are off course, set them free, cause them to fulfill their destinies. I believe and declare grace is coming our way.