Joel Osteen — It's A Setup
I want to talk to you today about "It's a setup". Everything in your life has been carefully orchestrated. God is strategic. Before you were born, he laid out a specific plan for you. Nothing randomly happens, not just the good breaks, the promotions, the times you've seen favor. But even the closed doors, the disappointments, the betrayals. That's all a part of God's plan.
It may not make sense; it wasn't fair, but God wouldn't have allowed it if it wasn't going to work for your good; and if you don't understand that nothing randomly happens, then you'll be frustrated when things don't go your way and upset because somebody did you wrong. Bitter because a person walked away. When in reality, it was ordained by God to move you into your destiny. You are not at the mercy of luck, of fate, of other people.
The God who causes the earth to rotate down to the exact millisecond has ordered your steps. Do you think another person can stop what God has ordered for you? Do you think a bad break, a closed door, a jealous coworker, can change what God has spoken over your life? The people coming against you, the negative circumstances, they are pawns in the hands of God. The enemy thinks he's using them to hold you back. The truth is, God is using them to push you forward.
In the scripture, Joseph's brothers threw him into a pit. They thought they were stopping his destiny, but God used them to push Joseph into his destiny. God ordained them to betray Joseph. It was a part of the plan that God laid out for his life, and without that betrayal, without Potiphar's wife falsely accusing Joseph, without him spending time unfairly in prison, Joseph would've never fulfilled his destiny. It wasn't random; it wasn't bad luck; it was strategic.
Are you fighting what God has ordained, frustrated because a door closed, or bitter because somebody walked away? Without that, you couldn't fulfill your purpose. The enemy didn't come in and somehow take the steering wheel, and now he's in control. He superseded God's plan; he overpowered the creator; he doesn't have that kind of authority. The God who breathed life into you, the God who has numbered your days, the God who is for you and not against you is in complete control. You may not understand what happened; it may not have been fair, but if you'll stay in faith, one day you'll see, like Joseph, it wasn't random; it was intentional. It was a setup, God used it to push you forward. But when we isolate a negative experience and look at it on its own, it may not make sense.
If you have a large puzzle, sometimes you will find a piece that doesn't look like it fits. You're sure the manufacturer has made a mistake. It's an odd shape, a strange color, but when the other will be a perfect fit. The colors will match; the edges will line up, and without that piece, the puzzle wouldn't be complete; and you may have a piece to your puzzle today that doesn't make sense. You could think, "God didn't ordain this. I lost my main client". A relationship didn't work out, my child got off course, this doesn't fit. You may not see it now, but God is not through working. You don't know what he's up to.
Like Joseph, you're looking at the betrayal. What you can't see is the throne is coming. Instead of fighting it, being bitter, turn it around: "God, my life is in your hands. I know your plans for me are for good. I may not understand everything, but God, I trust you. I believe you'll get me to where I'm supposed to be". The scripture says, "God has ordered your steps". Doesn't say he has suggested them, "Maybe this will happen, maybe that will happen".
Your steps have been ordered. But here's what I've learned. When God ordered my steps, he didn't check with me. He didn't ask for my opinion. If he would have, I would've told him, "I don't want to go through that disappointment. I don't want those people to talk about me. I don't want that company to file a lawsuit, to try to keep us from moving into the compaq center". I would've said NO to all the difficulties, because I couldn't see where they were taking me. You can't reach your destiny without opposition, without betrayal, without criticism, without things you don't understand.
When my father went to be with the Lord, I didn't see anything good about that. I lost one of my best friends, somebody I admired and looked up to, I wanted him to live another 20 years. But it was that loss that pushed me into what I'm doing today. On the other side of the difficulty is a new level of your destiny. If you'll keep the right attitude, all things will work for your good.
In John chapter 11, Lazarus was very sick. His two sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to their friend, Jesus, to come to their house and pray for him. Jesus was in another city; he waited four days, and Lazarus died. There were all these people gathered at the house, paid their respects, and comfort the family. Then Jesus showed up; he raised Lazarus from the dead.
Most of the people there were excited, and they believed in Jesus. But some of them were cynical; they couldn't deny his power, but they weren't for him. They rushed back to tell the pharisees, the religious leaders, what happened, and the main priest called the council together and said, "If we let Jesus continue, the whole nation will believe in him". Verse 53 says, "From that time on, the religious leaders began to plot Jesus's death".
Lazarus being raised was a strategic part in the plan of God. It set into motion all these other events that eventually led to Jesus being crucified. That's why Jesus waited on purpose for Lazarus to die. He could've gone there sooner and healed him, or he could've spoken healing from another city, like he'd done, and healed other people. But he waited for Lazarus to die, so all these people would be gathered. It would create such a commotion, a man being raised from the dead, that the critics would go back and get the council all stirred up.
What am I saying? What may look like a crisis to us can still be the plan of God. Mary and Martha were upset, weeping. They couldn't see it at the time, that crisis was ordained by God. Jesus being delayed wasn't an accident; him not coming when they asked was divinely orchestrated.
Nothing randomly happens, even the crisis, the bad breaks, the things that don't make sense. We can't see it, but God is still on the throne. Thoughts will tell you, "It's never going to work out. There's no purpose to this, you just have bad luck". Don't believe those lies, God is up to something; God is strategic; things are in motion right now that you can't see. Behind the scenes, God's moving the wrong people out of the way, lining up the right people, arranging things in your favor. It's in the process of coming together. We may not understand it all, but I can assure you nothing is random. The delay was on purpose; the betrayal was ordained by God; the person that turned on you wasn't supposed to be for you.
It may seem like it's out of control, but God is still in complete control. The plan he's laid out for your life is right on track. Now, keep doing the right thing when you don't understand. Stay in faith when people betray you, do the right thing when the wrong thing is happening. Your time is coming. What God ordained will come to pass. No person can stop them, no bad break, no crisis, no people. All the forces of darkness cannot stop what God has purposed for your life.
The high priest wanted to get rid of Jesus, and he started coming up with all these plans and all these schemes; and he needed somebody that would betray him, needed people that would falsely accuse him. What's interesting is God didn't stop their plans, but he used their plans to fulfill the purpose of Christ. God is all-knowing; he has an advantage; he knew everything the enemy would try to do in your life. He's already taken that into consideration when he laid out your plan.
Now, he may not stop every plot of the enemy against you. He won't stop every bad break, every betrayal, but he will use that to move you into your destiny. He didn't stop Joseph's brothers from throwing him into the pit; he didn't stop them from selling him as a slave. But God took that into account when he laid out Joseph's purpose. I could imagine God thinking, "Okay, they want to sell him. They want to make him a slave, that's fine. I'll turn it to his advantage. I'll design Joseph's plan so that potiphar, his boss, will like him. I'll give Joseph the ability to interpret dreams, and then, I'll give the pharaoh a dream that only Joseph can interpret".
God has designed your plan knowing every plot against you. He knows every bad break that will happen, every closed door, every disappointment, and the good news is God's strategic plan will override every plan that was meant to stop you. That's why Isaiah said, "No weapon formed against you will prosper". Doesn't say they won't form. Judas will show up; people will betray you; injustice will come, but they won't prosper. Why? God has taken into account their jealousy, their malice, their hatred. What they meant for harm, God has already designed a plan to use it for your good.
You don't have to live discouraged when negative things come against you, frustrated because of a disappointment. Stay in peace, God has it all figured out. He wouldn't have allowed it if it was going to stop you. If Joseph's brothers throwing him into a pit was going to stop Joseph's destiny, God wouldn't have let the brothers do it. God held back the Red Sea, he could've held the brothers back. God allowed it, because it was a part of Joseph's destiny. Quit fighting what God has allowed. Without that happening, you couldn't fulfill your purpose. It's a setup. You may not like it; it may be uncomfortable, but if you'll stay in faith, one day you're going to see what God was up to.
Judas went in and told the religious leaders that he would betray Jesus. They were so excited, this was the big break they were looking for. They didn't realize Judas was a pawn in the hand of God. Wasn't his idea, God was using him to move Jesus into his purpose. We give enemies too much credit. They can only do what God allows them to do. Judas couldn't stop Jesus, his betrayal, his disloyalty, couldn't keep the plan of God from unfolding.
When people come against you, don't get bent out of shape, they can't stop you. They think they're hindering you, but like Judas, God is going to use them to move you further into your destiny. But sometimes we make mistakes, we bring the trouble on ourselves. We get off course and do things we know we shouldn't do. But the beauty of our God is he not only designed your plan knowing what the enemy would try to do against you, but he designed your plan knowing the mistakes you would make. God has taken into account the times we would fail, the times we'd compromise, give into temptation. He's so merciful, he's already designed a plan to restore us and get us back on course.
God told Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and tell the people to repent. Jonah didn't want to go there; he got on a boat going the other way. He went exactly opposite of what God told him to do. You would think, "He's done. Too bad, he stepped out of God's plan". But on the boat, a huge storm arose. They were all about to die. Jonah admitted to the crew that he was the problem, that he was running from God. That's why they were having trouble, and the crew was so loving. They said, "Jonah, thank you for being so honest". Then they threw him overboard.
This should've been the end of Jonah's story. Out in the middle of the ocean, in a huge storm. But it just so happened a big fish was swimming by, at the right place, at the right time, feeling hungry, and it swallowed Jonah up. He spent three days in the belly of the fish. On the third day, the fish came up from the bottom of the ocean and spit Jonah out on dry ground. Hundreds of years later, Jesus would say, "As Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days so shall the son of man be in the heart of the earth for three days". Jonah was a picture of Jesus. God knew that he would get off course. He had already planned how that would foreshadow what Christ would do.
What am I saying? Nothing randomly happens. Your mistakes have been taken into account in God's plan for your life, and I don't say that so you can live loose. "Good, I'm going to do whatever I want to do". Joel said, "God's got me covered". No, mistakes, they cause heartache, they cause pain. Three days in the belly of the fish, that sounds exciting now. But that was not a cruise liner. It was dark, dirty, smelly, seaweed all over his head. When the fish spit Jonah out, was, "Go to Nineveh and do what I asked you to do".
God didn't change his mind, but he gave him another chance. When we make mistakes, when we fail, the accuser keeps whispering, "You're done, God is finished with you. You had your chance, you'll never accomplish your dreams". No, get back up, Jonah, your mistake is not a surprise to God. He's already designed your comeback; he's already laid out your new beginning. Why don't you get back in the game? Get your fire back, get your passion back, start dreaming again, start believing again. That mistake didn't cancel your destiny. God still has a purpose for you to fulfill.
When God told Abraham that he and his wife, Sarah, were going to have a baby in their old age, years went by and nothing happened. So Abraham decided to help God out, and he slept with Sarah's maid; and they had a son, a boy they named Ishmael. They were so excited they finally had their baby. God said, "That is not the promised child". That's the arm of the flesh, that's something you made happen. Ishmael, in one sense, was considered a mistake. He was the child that Abraham had out of wedlock.
Now, Abraham is the father of our faith. You would think he would know better. Surely, this wouldn't be in the plan of God. Four generations later, when Joseph's brothers threw him into a pit, they were going to leave him there to die, but they looked up and saw a caravan of ishmaelites coming. They decided instead to sell Joseph to them. The ishmaelites were descendants of Ishmael.
What once was considered a mistake was actually a part of God's plan to save Joseph's life. Only God in his amazing wisdom can take what was a mistake in one generation and use it to be a blessing in another generation. Nothing randomly happens. Even your mistakes are a setup. Why don't you quit beating yourself up for past failures? Quit living in regrets, nothing you've done is too much for the mercy of God. Let that go, start moving forward into the new things God has in store.
Few years ago, Victoria lost her ring. It was a diamond band that her mother had given her, been in their family for several generations. Sometimes when we go on a trip, Victoria would hide it in the house, so for months, we searched everywhere, every drawer, every cabinet, every pocket. That ring was nowhere to be found. About three years later, we were driving home late one night from out of town, and it was after midnight; and I was tired and ready to get home. Victoria said, "Joel, you better slow down, you're going to get a ticket".
I was going about 75, and the speed limit was 65, maybe 55. But there was nobody on the highway. Wide open, way out in the country. All of a sudden in my rearview mirror, I saw those flashing red lights. The officer came up to my window, and I handed him my driver's license; and he said, "I'll need your insurance card as well". Victoria opened the glove compartment and started looking. She found every document except our insurance; she ended up pulling everything out of the glove compartment and digging around in the back, moving her hand here, and there... it's dark. You couldn't see anything. Plus, having the officer standing right there was nerve-racking.
At one point, Victoria digging way back there found something hard down in the crack. She kept digging and digging, pulled it out. It was the ring she had been looking for 3 1/2 years. She was so excited, so happy. She was over there rejoicing, and here I was about to go to jail. She ended up finding the insurance card right on the top. It was like God caused her to overlook it. I handed it to the officer. He said, "Are you that minister"? I said, "I am". He said, "If I come to your church, will you save me a seat"? I said, "I'll save you a whole section". He handed it back and said, "Have a great night".
Sometimes what we think is a setback is really God setting us up to do something amazing. Even mistakes we made, God knows how to turn them and use them for our good. A few days before Jesus was crucified, he was in the Garden of Gethsemane late one night, praying. He was so overwhelmed with the weight of what he was about to do and under so much pressure that he sweat great drops of blood. He said, "Father, if you're willing, take this cup from me. But not my will, let your will be done".
We celebrate what Christ did on the cross. That's the foundation of our faith, but the real battle took place in the garden. This is where he made the decision, that even though it's not fair, "Even though Judas is about to betray me, even though these people have mocked and ridiculed me, father, I trust you. I know it's all a part of your plan".
We all have these times when life isn't fair. Somebody's come against you; you're fighting an illness; business has slowed down. This is where you have to do like him and say, "God, I don't understand it, but I trust you. I know you're in control. You wouldn't have allowed it if it wasn't going to work for my good". Don't get discouraged when life doesn't make sense, God is up to something. They crucified Jesus, put him in the grave. They thought he was done, but you know the story. On the third day, Jesus came out, said, "I am alive forevermore". God has the final say. What looks like a setback is really setting you up for the next level of your destiny.
Jesus told his disciples, "Take up your cross and follow me". Sometimes we hear that and think, "That's going to be a heavy burden". People told me growing up, "Joel, it's a hard thing to carry your cross".
One day, my father had a dream. He was going through a difficult time in life. In this dream, he looked over and saw a large cross on the ground. It was made out of railroad ties, about 15 feet long, and looked like it weighed hundreds of pounds. He knew that was his cross to carry, but he didn't know how he could do it. It seemed overwhelming. He walked over to pick it up, but it wasn't what he thought. When he lifted it, it was like styrofoam, hardly weighed anything. He was so amazed, he could easily put it on his shoulder and start walking.
A few steps later, the cross started lifting him up. Instead of him carrying the cross, the cross was carrying him. When you take up your cross, it doesn't mean you're not going to have difficulties, people won't betray you, you'll never make mistakes. Life will happen, but the beauty is when you should be overwhelmed, the cross will start carrying you. God will give you joy, peace, and strength that will lift you, help you make it through things that should've stopped you.
We can all look back and see times where if it wasn't for the goodness of God, we wouldn't have made it. What is that? The cross carrying you. It looked like it's going to be heavy, but it was a setup. His yoke is easy, his burden is light. Why don't you come back to that place of peace?
Nothing in your life has randomly happened. God has ordered your steps. You may not understand it, but your life is divinely orchestrated. What God has purposed for you will come to pass. Now, I believe and declare every force that's trying to stop you is being broken. God is about to turn things in your favor. It looks like a setback, but it's setting you up for new levels, for promotion, for healing, for breakthroughs, for the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus's name.