Joel Osteen — Living Large
I want to talk to you today about "Living Large". We weren't created to live a small life with little goals, little dreams, little influence. God created us to live an abundant life, and no matter what level you're at, you're not supposed to get stuck and stay there. God is a God of increase. He has something bigger in your future, and if you're going to live this large life, it starts in our thinking.
Jesus said, "You can't put new wine into old wineskins". Wineskins were made out of leather. When they got old, they became hard and stiff, and wouldn't expand, and if you put new wine in, they would burst. Jesus was saying, "You can't have a new life with old thinking". You can't go around thinking you've reached your limits, you've gone as far as you can, you never get any good breaks. Limited thinking will cause you to live a limited life. Get rid of that old wineskin. Start thinking bigger, believing bigger, expecting bigger.
You are full of possibility. You have seeds of greatness. There is untapped potential in you right now, and one of the biggest battles that we all face is the battle of containment. The enemy can't do anything about the ground you've already gained. He can't make you go backwards, but he'll do everything he can to try to keep you from going forward. His goal is to convince you he'll tell us things like, "You'll never be able to afford that house you really want. Just accept it". "You'll never get well. You saw the medical report". Or "You'll never meet the right person. It's been too long. This is as good as it gets". Don't believe those lies. He wouldn't be fighting you so hard unless he knew God had something amazing in your future, and you may not see how it can happen, but one touch of God's favor can catapult you to a new level.
Paul said in 2 Corinthians 6: "I want you to enter in to this wide, open, spacious life. The smallness you feel comes from within. Your lives are not small, but you're living them in a small way". Notice God's dream is that we live a wide, open, spacious life. But even though God has this big life planned out, if we have limited thinking, we can live it in a small way, and it's easy to get stuck in a rut, just going to work and coming home, dealing with the daily pressures of life.
We look up and we're not expecting anything better, not releasing our faith, thinking, "This is all there is". But compared to what God has planned, we're living small, and on a regular basis, you have to stir up your faith, stir up your gifts, stir up your passions. You have not seen your best days. God has a wide life for you, much bigger than you're living, and whatever level you're at, don't get stuck and stay there. It may feel big to you.
You're blessed, you're content, but in God's eyes, it's a small place. He has new horizons for you to explore, new dreams, new talents, new opportunities. The Scripture puts it this way: "The path of the righteous get brighter and brighter". God's idea is that our lives get bigger and bigger, more influence, more opportunity, more resources, and you may feel stuck. You haven't seen this happen, but this is a new day. Things are about to turn in your favor. If you'll get your hopes up, start expecting God's goodness, you're going to come into a bigger life, to a new level of your destiny.
See, for years I thought I was living a big life. I was happy, had a beautiful wife, a good job. I loved working behind the scenes here at Lakewood. Didn't seem like it could get any better than that. But when my dad went to be with the Lord and I stepped began to open new doors, brought talent out of me that I didn't know I had, helped me to write books, gave us the former Compaq Center, taking me places that I've never dreamed of, and looking back now, I realize what I thought was big was not big at all.
God's idea of living large is much different than ours, and you may have seen God's blessings in the past, but you need to get ready. You haven't seen anything yet. Where God is going to take you, the doors he's going to open, the people you're going to meet, the promotion, the good breaks, the influence, is going to supersede anything you've imagined. God's prepared a wide, spacious life for you. Now, my challenge is, don't live with a small mentality. Don't water down your dreams, accepting less, when you know God has created you for more.
Well, you say, "Joel, I'm doing okay, can't complain. Got a roof over my head, got a job. I'm making it," and that's good. We should be grateful. We should be content. What I'm saying is, don't settle there. Don't let that become permanent in your thinking. I've learned if we live in mediocrity long enough, it can become normal to us, to where we think that's all there is. If you see lack, dysfunction, struggle, addictions, on a regular basis, it can become ingrained in you, where you think that's the way it's supposed to be, and we adapt to our environment.
If you take a fish that's supposed to grow to 2 feet long and you put him in a small aquarium, that fish will never become what it was created to be. Not because there's something wrong with the fish, but because of the environment that it's in. You may be in a limited environment right now. Perhaps you can't do anything about that.
The key is, don't let the environment get in you. Don't let mediocrity become the norm. That may be where you are, but that is not who you are. You are a child of the Most High God. The Creator of the universe has breathed his life into you. Let these words sink down into your spirit, "A wide, open, spacious life". That means a life free from addictions and bad habits, a life where you're happy, life of abundance, more than enough, an overflow life. See, the enemy wants to contain you, but God wants to enlarge you. Break out in your thinking. Stay open to new possibilities.
One time in the Scripture, Peter had been fishing all night. The next morning, Jesus came to him and asked him if he could borrow his boat to teach the people from the shores, and when he finished teaching, he wanted to pay Peter for the use of his boat. He said to Peter, "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets," "nets" with an "S," plural. Well, Peter began to reason it out, said, "Jesus, we fished all night. We didn't catch anything, and morning's not the best time to fish".
He came up with excuse after out of it. At the last moment, he decided to go ahead and do it. But the Scripture says, "Peter went out and let down his net," singular. In other words, Jesus said, "Peter, I've got an abundant life for you. I've got a wide, spacious life". But Peter thought, "Aw, it's not going to happen for me. There's no fish out there. I never get any good breaks". So he went out and let down his net. He caught so many fish that it began to break. But a lot of times we're like Peter.
God says, "I want you to live a big life, an abundant, fulfilled life where you're gaining new ground. I want to take you where you've never been, show you influence, favor, good breaks that you've never seen. But there is a catch. You have to let down your nets. You have to make room for it in your thinking. You can't think small, believe small, expect small, and expect to live this large life".
If you just let down your net, thinking, "God, help me survive. Help me to make it through this month. Help me to live with this addiction. Help me to maintain where I am". You will miss the fullness of what God has in store. Why don't you start letting down your nets? Why don't you say, "God, I'm in agreement with you. I believe you have a wide, open, spacious, abundant life in store for me. So I'm going to believe that my whole family is going to serve you. I'm going to believe that I'm going to come out of debt, be a blessing to others, believing to start my business, to build that orphanage, to meet the person of my dreams". If you'll start letting down your your nets, God will open doors that you could never open, bring the right people across your path. He'll take you where you've never dreamed.
But too often, we let how we were raised, what we saw modeled growing up, set the limits for our life. If our parents had addictions, bad habits, or the people that raised us lived in lack and mediocrity, we think that's our lot in life. People tell me, "Joel, I've gone as far as my parents. I've accomplished as much as my grandparents. I'm doing good enough". No, God is a progressive God. He wants every generation to increase, and your parents, your relatives, they laid the foundation.
You're not supposed to settle there. You're supposed to build off of what they did. That's not a resting place where you can put down your stakes. That's a stepping stone for you to rise higher, a launching pad for you to go further. Don't get comfortable and settle there, and yes, you may have seen some mediocrity growing up, but God is counting on you to be the difference maker.
In other words, maybe nobody in your family made good grades in school. You be the one to make good grades. Maybe none of them went to college. You be the one to go to college. They didn't live in a nice house. That's okay, they did the best they could with what they had. You have more advantages than they had. You have more wisdom. You have more opportunity. There is more available to you, and your relatives may have let down their net, singular, but the good news is, you know better.
You can let down your nets. You can dream bigger. You can believe bigger. Start living large. Start taking steps of faith, stretching, growing, learning. There's a wide, spacious life prepared for you.
I saw a documentary about a professional thief, and this man was extremely intelligent. The way he planned his burglaries was very fascinating. He used incredible strategy. For 21 years, he burglarized homes without being caught. He never hurt anyone. He would only do it if the people weren't there, and the police were so frustrated. They brought in federal agents, some of the most skilled detectives around, still couldn't catch him, and after 21 years, because of this fluke, he was caught, and this man did not look like a thief. He looked like a typical middle-class businessperson, and the police were very puzzled.
They asked him, "With all of your talent, your expertise, your skill, why did you you choose a life of crime"? I'll never forget his answer. He said, "This is all that I know how to do". He went on to tell how he came out of a dysfunctional family, and other relatives were involved in the same type of things.
What was his problem? He had been raised in a limited environment. He made the mistake of letting the environment get in him. He saw dysfunction growing up and thought that was his lot in life, and like that fish in a small aquarium, there was nothing wrong with him. He had the talent, the intellect. God had a wide life planned for him, but because of limited thinking, he was living it in a small way.
Don't let how you were raised, or even the environment you're in right now, convince you to settle where you are. I wanted to say to this man, "If you could successfully steal for 21 years, outsmarting some of the brightest minds around, don't you think you could run your own business? Don't you think you could earn your master's degree? Don't you think that you could help businesses develop strategies to grow, use your gifts for productive purposes"?
Had a young man tell me after the service a while back how the only thing he knew how to do was sell drugs. He came out of a rough neighborhood, dropped out of high school. His parents were never around. A lot of odds were against him. He said, "Joel, I don't like doing it. I know it's not right, but I don't have any special skills. This is the only way I know how to make a living".
I said, "No, you're selling yourself short. You're smarter than you think. Selling drugs is not the only thing you can do. Think about this. If you can sell drugs, you have to know how to market your product, that's marketing. You have to know how to get the word out, that's advertising. You have to take care of your clients, that's customer service. You have to know when to sell, when not to sell, that's a management decision. The truth is, if you can sell drugs, you can sell stocks and bonds. You could sell medical equipment. You could sell electronics".
God has a big life waiting for you. He has a purpose for you to fulfill, an assignment for you to accomplish. He's put the right gifts and talents in you. He's already lined up the right people, the right opportunities.
Here's the key. Don't let your heredity stop your destiny. Don't let what was passed down to you keep you down. Break out of a limited mind-set. There is greatness in you. Your destiny is calling out. It's time to start living large, and if you'll start throwing out your nets, having a bigger vision, believing that you're well-able, like Peter, you'll come into a great haul. God will amaze you with his goodness.
This is what my father had to do. He was raised in a limited environment. His parents were cotton farmers, and they lost everything during the Great Depression, and they didn't have enough food to eat. My dad would go to high school with holes in his pants, holes in his shoes. This poverty mentality had become engrained in his thinking, "We're poor, we're defeated, this is all I'll ever have. This is my lot in life". That's all he'd ever seen. He didn't know any better.
But at 17 years of age, my dad gave his life to Christ. God called him to be a minister, and something came alive on the inside. Those seeds of greatness began to take root. He heard a voice saying, "This is not your destiny. You were not made to live a defeated life, but rather an overcoming, victorious, fulfilling life. There is something more in store," and in his mind, this battle of containment was taking place, negative voices telling him just the opposite, "This is all there is. You'll never get out. Just accept it".
His parents, my grandparents, were very loving people, kind, hardworking people, but they had a limited vision. They were living a small life. They said, "John, you better not leave the farm. All you know how to do is pick cotton". He could have thought, "Yeah, you're right. I don't have the education, the talent, the connections, the money. I better just stay here".
No, don't let people put their limitations on you. Something rose up in my father. He said: "This is where I am, but this not who I am. I may be in a limited environment, but I'm not going to let this environment get in me. I know I'm a child of the Most High God. I'm destined to leave my mark on this generation". He started throwing out his nets, believing he could take new ground for his family, believing to step into the wide, open, spacious life, and at 17, he left home, and that's just what happened. God opened up big doors. He pastored great churches, touched people all over the world. God took him places that he never imagined. And here's the beauty, because he stepped out and broke that poverty mentality, now, my family, my brother, my sisters, we don't have to deal with it.
Like my father, you can be the one to break the cycle of lack and defeat in your family. You can break the addictions, the bad habits. You can rise to a new level and go where no one in your family has ever gone. There's a large life waiting for you. Don't stay contained. Don't talk yourself out of it. If you'll think bigger, you'll live bigger.
I saw an experiment that was done with four monkeys. They placed them in a room with a large pole in the center. The top of the pole was a bunch of bananas. The first monkey hurried up the pole so excited, couldn't wait to get a banana. But just when he was about to of cold water was poured on him. He scurried down that pole as fast as he could. He didn't want to have anything to do with those bananas. A few minutes, the second monkey went up. Same thing happened. Poured the cold water on him. He turned around, and ran back.
Over the next hour, the other two monkeys went up. But once again, they were doused with water, came running back down. Day after day went by, even though those monkeys loved bananas, they wouldn't dare go up that pole. At that point, the researchers removed one monkey and brought a new monkey in. This new monkey started going up the pole. When he did, the other three monkeys grabbed him, pulled him down, wouldn't let him go up. He tried again and again and again. They wouldn't let him.
Finally, he gave up, quit trying. The researchers brought in another monkey, removed an original, same thing. When he went up, the three other monkeys grabbed him. Eventually, the room was filled with dozens of monkeys, none of them the original. None of them had felt the dousing of water, but not one of them would go up that pole. They didn't know why. They just knew they couldn't have those bananas.
Sometimes we're like these monkeys. We don't know why we can't do something great, why we can't accomplish a dream, why we can't break an addiction. All we know is nobody in our family has done it. Now, they're pulling us down, telling us how we can't be successful, throwing water on our passion, generation after generation being limited, pulled down because of wrong thinking.
My message today is very simple. Somebody may have told you, "You can't do it". Nobody in your family did it. Daddy didn't do it. Granddaddy didn't do it. Great-granddaddy didn't do it. That's okay, this is a new day. You're the difference maker. Rise up and go get what belongs to you. Quit letting people pull you down. Your friends, your relatives, your co-workers, they may mean well, but God didn't put the dream in them. He put the dream in you. Don't let them talk you out of it. Don't settle where you are because everybody around you is stuck. Go get your bananas, and get me one while you're. But you've got to learn how to encourage yourself.
You can't rely on people to keep you built up and cheer you on. Sometimes people will let you down. They'll try to keep you at the same level. They may not see what you can see. Paul said in Romans 3: "What if they don't believe? Will their unbelief make the faith of God of no effect"? One version says: "So what if they don't believe"?, and just because somebody doesn't believe that you can do what God put in your heart, that doesn't change anything. You don't have to have everybody on board. You're never going to get all your relatives, friends, co-workers, to cheer you on and support you.
In fact, sometimes, and I say this respectfully, they'll be like these monkeys. They'll tell you, "You really think you can do that? You really think you can break that addiction? Start that business? Write that book? I don't think so. Nobody can climb that pole".
Your attitude should be, again, respectfully, "So what if they don't believe? I don't need their encouragement, their support, their prayers. I know this. If God be for me, who dare be against me? I'm going to go get my bananas". Start encouraging yourself. "I'm strong, I'm talented, I'm well able. I'm coming into my wide, open, spacious life".
A friend of mine told how, when he was 6 years old, the teacher gave the class an assignment. They had to write down what they wanted to be when they grew up, and he had seen a man on television that was very funny, and that was his dream as a little boy. He knew he wanted to be on television, making people laugh. He wrote it down. He came from a low-income family, wore hand-me-down clothes. Plus, he had a problem with stuttering, and the teacher started calling out the kids' names out loud, and reading what they had written down.
But when she came to his, she stopped and said, "Stevie, will you please come up here"?, and he walked to the front of the class, so proud, thinking that she was going to encourage him, cheer him on, but it was just the opposite. She said, "Stevie, what did you write down"? He said, "I wrote down that I want to be on television, making people laugh". She said, "Now, Stevie, do you know anybody on television"? He said, "No, ma'am". She said, "Stevie, has anyone in your family ever been on television"? He said, "No, ma'am". She said, "Then you need to take this back and write down something more realistic," and as a 6-year-old boy, he was confused.
Up to that point, nobody had ever told him what he couldn't become, and this teacher, I'm sure she meant well, but like these monkeys, she was pulling him down. "You can't do that. Nobody in this school does that". That night, Stevie told his father what happened, showed him the paper that he had written down he wanted to be on television. His father said, "Stevie, put this in your top drawer, and every morning before you go to school, and every night before you go to bed, you get this paper out and read it, and thank God that one day, you will be on television".
He did that year after year after year. Today, many years later, my friend Steve Harvey is on television 7 days a week, making people laugh, a great inspiration.
Who told you, "You can't do something great"? Who told you, "You can't accomplish your dreams"? Who told you, "You'll never overcome that illness"? Don't let the monkeys of life keep you from your destiny. Steve could easily be living a small life. If he had a let those words take root, and gone around thinking about them, that would have kept him from God's best, and if you're going to live a large life, you have to delete the negative things that were spoken over you.
You are not who people say you are. You are who God says you are. Don't let what they said contain you. For instance, "You're just a C student". Delete that, you're an A student. "You'll never get out of debt". Delete that, "You will lend and not borrow". "You can't accomplish your dreams". Delete that, "You can do all things through Christ". "You're not talented. You're not attractive". Delete that, "You are fearfully and wonderfully made".
Friends, people don't have the final say. God does, and he says, "I've prepared for you a wide, open, spacious life". Now, get rid of the old wineskins, start throwing out your nets. This is a new day. God wants to take you where you've never been. He wants to show you something that you've never seen, and if you will start living large, I believe and declare you're going to see new doors begin to open, new talent come out of you, new friendships, new opportunities, a new level of your destiny, in Jesus' name.