Joel Osteen — Passing the small tests
I want to talk to you today about "Passing the small tests". Many people don't realize how God speaks to them. They think it's going to be this big, dramatic voice; but one way God speaks is through impressions. We think, "I know I should go visit my parents. I know I shouldn't eat so many sweets. I know I should stay home and do my schoolwork". The "I knows" are God talking to you. That's the Holy Spirit leading you, trying to keep you on the best path. It's a still, small voice; not out loud, but a knowing, an impression. Be sensitive to what you feel down in here. Don't ignore it. Learn to be quick to obey.
A lot of times, we know what we should do, but we make excuses, and we reason it out, try to soothe our conscience. "I'll do it later. I'm real busy now". But we have to understand, God doesn't ask us to do it for his sake. He asks us to do it for our own sake. He's trying to increase us, get us into the fullness of our destiny, and I've learned before God will release big blessings, he will give you small tests. You'll feel an impression to be good to somebody, a desire to just buy their dinner. That's not just a nice thought. That's God asking you to do it; and too often, we dismiss it and think, "Oh, I don't feel like it, and I don't really know them. Maybe another time". But if you don't learn to pass these small tests and do what God's asking you to do, it will keep you from the big things God has in store.
God wants to know, "Can I trust you? Will you be quick to obey, or will I have to ask you again and again, try to talk you into it, argue with you"? Listen, talk is cheap. We can say, "God, give me a lot of money. I promise I'll be good to people. I'll give to the homeless. I'll support my church". No, God says, "Will you give that $10 I'm asking you to give now? Will you buy that person's dinner? Will you give that co-worker a ride home"? Pass these small tests. Obey the "I knows" on the inside.
Maybe you're about to drink that 12th cup of coffee in the morning. Something says to you, "Put it down. That's too much. That's going to be harmful". That is not your mother's voice. That's God talking to you. God speaks to us about practical, everyday things. You've got to pay attention to what you're feeling down in here. Maybe you get around a certain person, you feel an uneasiness, an unrest. Something says, "Stay away, that's trouble". Those are not just bad vibes. That's the Holy Spirit warning you. It may be small, but it can keep you from big heartache. "Well, Joel, if I don't hang out with them, I may not have any friends". No, God will give you new friends. He'll give you better friends.
But here's the key, if you don't let go of the wrong people, the right people won't show up, and you have to make the first move. God doesn't force us to do this. He's given us our own free will, but whenever God asks you to give something up, he's never trying to take something away. He's trying to get something better to you, and as we grow and develop and mature, the more of his blessings and favor will be released. Maybe down deep, you know you're supposed to volunteer, serve in the children's ministry, be an usher, coach little league. You think, "Oh, I'm too busy, got so much going on. They've got plenty of people. They don't need me. Besides, I want to do something more important". No, unless you obey in the small, God can't entrust you with much.
Our friend Joyce Meyer has a great ministry. She tells how God dealt with her for years about not leaving her shopping cart in the parking lot. Every time she was about to leave it at the grocery store parking lot, some voice would say, "Take it back up where it belongs. Be a person of excellence. Don't leave it out here". She'd look around. There were other grocery carts all over the parking lot. "God, why do I have to take mine back? Nobody else does". Here's why, everybody is not going where you're going. Everybody is not going to be sensitive to God's voice and have the discipline and determination to become all they were created to be.
Joyce would spend 5 minutes trying to steady the grocery cart so it wouldn't roll and hit anybody's car. The time she spent trying to get it to stay, she could have taken it back up where it belonged. It seems like a little thing, but if Joyce had not learned how to pass the small test, she wouldn't have a ministry that touches the world today. Don't confuse small with insignificant. It may be a small thing to not leave your grocery cart, small thing to buy somebody's dinner, small thing to serve in the children's ministry, but without passing the small test, you won't step in to the fullness of your destiny.
Is there something small holding you back today? You know you need to, but you don't feel like it. You keep putting it off, thinking, "Oh, it's no big deal". No, it is a big deal. Start passing the small tests. Every time you obey, a blessing will follow, and sometimes we're waiting for the big things. We'd work hard, give it our best if we got that promotion. "God, if you'd give me that position I really want, I'll get to work early. I'll do more than I have to".
No, here's the real test. Will you be your best right where you are, even though you're doing something that you know is beneath you? Will you be kind to that co-worker that's not being kind to you? A small test. Will you clean the kitchen, even though you didn't make the mess, with a good attitude? Will you turn that program off that you feel an unrest about instead of letting it pollute your mind? It may be difficult, but God will never ask you to do something and then not give you the power to do it.
Whatever test you're facing, you have the grace to pass it. Don't believe those lies: "I'm too shy. I can't make any new friends". "I've been hurt too badly. I can't forgive". "I'm too undisciplined. I can't take my grocery cart back". No, you have what you need to do what God's asking you to do. Don't make excuses. Excuses can keep you from your destiny. Like Nike says, "Just do it".
One time in the scripture, Jesus made mud, put it on a blind man's eyes, told him to go wash it off and he would be healed. Jesus could have just as easily healed the man right then and there, but Jesus asked him to do something small, something ordinary. Wasn't difficult, he didn't ask him to go climb a mountain. He asked him to wash it off. When the man did, he could see. It was his act of obedience that released the fullness of God's power.
He could've gone around another week, a month, a year still blind, thinking, "I'm not going to wash this off. That's insignificant, that's a small thing". No, when you do what God's asking you to do, even if it's small, it will activate the greatness of God's power. It's not so much what you do. The power is in the obedience.
Maybe God's asking you to do something that seems small, like Joyce, to just put the grocery cart back. That's no big deal. Yes, that's like washing the mud off your eyes. Maybe God's asking you to get to work on time, to be kind to a stranger, to be more disciplined in your diet, to not nag your spouse, to not criticize your pastor, small things.
The size is not what's important. It's the obedience. When you obey, blind eyes open. When you obey, miracles happen. When you obey, negative situations turn around. Today, it's as if God has placed the mud on our eyes. He's saying, "I've done my part. I've touched you. Now the miracle will be activated when you do your part". It's up to us to obey.
Another place in the scripture, the prophet Elisha told a man by the name of Naaman to go wash in the Jordan river and he would be cured of his leprosy. Same principle: obey, and the miracle will show up. Well, Naaman was the captain in an army, a very influential man. He didn't want to go wash in the dirty Jordan river. His attitude was, "That's absurd, that's little, that's insignificant. That's not going to make any difference". His assistant said, "Naaman, if he would've asked you to do something hard, something big, you would do it. Why don't you do this small thing"?
I wonder how many of us would see our breakthrough, our healing, our promotion, a dream come to pass, if we just do the small thing that God's asking us to do. Naaman finally went and washed, and like the blind man, he was totally healed. When you obey, it releases a new level of God's favor. But sometimes we don't realize these little tests that we're not passing, thinking, "Oh, man, it doesn't really matter. I know I should treat my spouse better. I will one day. I know I should be kind to this new neighbor in the community. Joel, I'm busy right now. I know I should be more disciplined in what I watch, but it's not hurting anything".
Yes, it's keeping you from the fullness of your destiny. It may be something small, but your act of obedience will cause God to release the big thing that he has in store. I know a man that's a minister, and for years, he and his wife tried to have a baby, and she couldn't get pregnant. They prayed and believed, did everything they knew how to do with no success. One day, he was on an airplane returning from India from a missionary trip, and under his breath, he said, "God, it's not fair. I don't understand it. I go all over the world to help people, to do your will. Why can't we have a baby"? God spoke something to him right down in here. He said, "Son, you're not going to have a baby until you start treating your wife better".
He wasn't doing anything major wrong. He just wasn't being as kind and considerate as he knew he should be, a little disrespectful here, a little sarcastic there. When he heard this, he kicked it into a new gear. He went out of his way to be good to her, took her breakfast in bed, treated her like a queen. Do you know, it wasn't any time before she conceived? Today, they have a beautiful daughter. Could it be if you would do what God's asking you to do, a dream would come to pass?
Maybe you're waiting on God, but God's waiting on you. He's put the mud on your eyes. He's waiting for you to wash it off. It may not be something big, just a small thing. If you will make that simple adjustment, your act of obedience will bring the miracle.
My friend, Craig Groeschel, pastors the life church in Oklahoma. He told how when he was a young man, he'd just come to know the Lord, and this was all new to him. He was in church one Sunday, and the music was going, people were singing. He looked over a few rows and he saw this woman that looked very discouraged. Seemed like she had the weight of the world on her. Something said to him, "Craig, I want you to give her an offering". He had never felt anything like that before. He thought, "I don't even know the lady. I'm not going to go over there and interrupt her," and he went back to worshiping, tried to dismiss it, but it kept coming back up.
He looked in his wallet. All he had was a $5 Bill. He thought, "There is no way I'm going to go over there and give her $5. That would be embarrassing. Besides, what good could $5 possibly do"? He pushed it down again and again and again, couldn't get away from it. Finally, he got his nerve up, walked over right in the middle of the service, said, "Ma'am, I know this sounds totally strange, but I feel like I'm supposed to give you this $5".
She began to weep. He turned to walk away. She stopped him and said, "Listen, I'm a single-parent mom. I've had a lot of things come against me this month, and I knew I needed to get to church, but I only had gas to get there one way, not enough to get back home. I said, 'God, I'm going to take a step of faith. If I go, you've got to get me back home.'" That simple act of obedience, just $5, not only got her back home, but it told her something much more important: that God still has her in the palm of his hand.
Craig went back to his seat very encouraged, and after service, a bunch of young people were going out to eat and they asked Craig to go, and he said, "No, I think I'll pass," didn't have any money. The main guy spoke up and said, "Come on, Craig, I'm buying tonight. You got to go". He went and got an $8 hamburger instead of a $5 sandwich, passed the small test.
God puts people in our path on purpose so we can be a blessing to them. Any time you do good for others, you are sowing a seed for God to be good to you. Take time to follow what God's put in your heart. Be willing to be inconvenienced. It may seem small to you, but you don't know what kind of impact it will have on that other person, and one of the best things I've learned is obey quickly when God asks you to do it, do it right then.
When God told David to go face Goliath, the Bible says, "David ran to the battlefield". You know why? If David would've thought about it long enough, he'd have talked himself out of it. If he had gone over all the facts, figures, how much bigger Goliath was, how much more experience he had, David would have lost his courage and missed his destiny.
When God asks you to do something, don't over-analyze it, don't reason it out. If you think about it too long, you can miss your destiny. "Why should I buy their dinner? They've got more than I do". "Why should I apologize? I apologized first last time". "Why should I be good to them, Joel? They're not being good to me". No, quit making excuses. Quit reasoning it out. Quit thinking you heard God wrong and just do it. Learn to be quick to be obey. God knows what he's doing. He can see things that we cannot see.
2003, a young pastor from Africa attended our services. He's an up-and-coming minister, has a large church over there, and I met him afterwards. He was so excited about being here. He has this big, infectious smile. You look at him, and he just makes you feel happy, and when he shook my hand, you would've thought he was meeting the president of the United States. He was so thrilled, so honored to be here. While we were talking, I felt very strongly that I was supposed to give him my tie. Out of the blue, wasn't even thinking about it. This thought came to my heart, "Joel, bless him with your tie".
I looked down. It was a brand-new tie. I thought, "Get behind me, Satan. That was not God". First time I ever wore it. As we were visiting, this debate was going on in my mind, and I thought, "All right, God wants me to give him a tie. I have a bunch of old ties at home, ties that I don't like anymore, ties that are out of style. God won't care, he won't know any different, and I'll still be giving him a tie". Came up with this good solution in my mind, but down in my heart, something kept saying, "Joel, I want you to give him that tie". By the way I argued, you would have thought God had asked me to give him my house, my car, my firstborn child. All I was supposed to give him was a tie, a small test.
Friends, it's usually not the big things that keep us from God's best. It's the small things. God said, "Joel, I don't want him to have an old leftover tie. I want him to have that tie". You've probably already learned this, but when you argue with God, he's always going to win. You might as well save your breath and do what he's asking you to do the very first time. When God asks you to forgive, he doesn't mean partially forgive. When he asks you to volunteer, he doesn't mean do it when you get to heaven. When he asks you to get your finances in order, he doesn't mean just change banks so you could at least get your new balance.
Do it wholeheartedly. Do it completely. I could have given him an old tie, but I've learned this: partial obedience is not obedience. Giving an old tie is not obeying. Finding them a ride when God asked you to pick them up is not obedience. Hanging out with that person that God told you to stay away from 3 days a week instead of 7 days is not obeying, and it may be hard, but the greater the difficulty, the greater the reward.
When you sow a radical seed of obedience, you will reap a radical reward. I finally took my tie off right then and there, gave it to him. You would've thought I had given him a million dollars. He was so happy, and I was so depressed. No, I'm just kidding. A few years later, he came back and visited us. They had just built a new sanctuary, big, beautiful building, and he was showing me a picture of the dedication ceremony. They were doing the ribbon cutting, government leaders, city officials, a historic occasion.
He pointed and said, "Joel, notice what I have on". He was wearing the tie that I had given him. He told how he kept this tie in his office, and whenever he was tempted to get discouraged, he would go look at it and be reminded that "With God all things are possible". When he was told, "No, the funds aren't going to come in, the project's not going to work out," he would call his whole team in, gather around that tie, and say, "God, you did it for those people in Houston. You can do it for us here in Africa".
That tie became a symbol of hope, a reminder that God is all powerful, that he can make a way even when we don't see a way. I thought I was just giving him a tie, but God used it to inspire their faith to build a sanctuary that can touch a nation.
Don't confuse small with insignificant. It's easy to think, "Hey, it doesn't matter if I give him this tie or that tie". "Doesn't matter if I put my grocery cart back". "It doesn't matter if I treat this person right". No, it matters a whole lot more than you think. Before God can release big blessings, you've got to pass these small tests.
1 Samuel chapter 15, the prophet Samuel said to a young man named Saul, the leader of the Israelites: "Go out and attack the amalekites, utterly destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare anyone or anything, including the cattle, the sheep, and all of the livestock". Notice, Saul had very clear instructions from God to totally wipe out everything that had to do with the amalekites.
Saul and his 200,000 men went out, attacked them. They had a great victory, but in verse 9, it says that: "Saul captured the king, and he kept the best of the oxen and the best of the sheep". He thought, I'm going to take this king back alive to show everybody what we've done, and these cattle, these sheep, they're fine animals. We could use them".
He didn't think anything about it, but when Samuel showed up, he said, "Saul, why didn't you obey"? Saul said, "Samuel, what are you talking about? I went out and conquered the amalekites". Samuel said, "Then why do I hear the sheep and the oxen out in the field, and why do I see this king still alive"? He was saying, "Saul, partial obedience is not obedience". Do you know, Saul ended up losing the throne because he wouldn't fully obey? He kept a few sheep, a few cattle. In other words, he didn't pass the small test.
If God can't trust you in the small, he can't release you into the fullness of your destiny. Don't let that be you. Let's make a decision to fully obey.
There's a young lady that's been attending Lakewood for about a year, but she couldn't get her husband to come. He wasn't raised in church, and this is very foreign to him. Plus, he works on Sundays, and they really need the income. She encouraged him and encouraged him. Finally, he agreed to come. He went in very early to work on a Sunday, then took off the rest of the day. His friends at work gave him a hard time. They couldn't believe he was going to miss work, miss the income he could be earning to come to church.
When they attended, they came down front for prayer, and it just so happened, my friend, Johnny, prayed for them. When Johnny was praying, he felt impressed to give them a gift. He had 5 $20s and 8 $1 bills wrapped all together in his front pocket, and while he had 1 hand on the man's shoulder praying, he put this hand in the front pocket and tried to separate the $1s from the $20s. So this big ordeal's going on. He's praying, praying, tried to separate this. They don't know anything about it. Johnny gets through praying. He can't get it separated, so he pulls the whole amount out, discreetly puts it in their hand and says, "Here, I want to bless you with this". They went back to their seat.
First time Johnny ever saw them, never met them before. They sat down and they looked at the money. They couldn't believe it. They found Johnny after service. The young man said, "I took off 6 hours of work today. This $108 is the exact amount I missed out on". You could say they got paid to come to church. Now they're here all the time.
What's my point? If you need prayer, find Johnny. But seriously, pass the small tests. Friends, God's looking for people that he can use for his highest purposes, people that he can take to amazing new levels. It's going to be people who are quick to obey, people that he doesn't have to argue with, try to give 7 confirmations, 12 lightning bolts before they move. No, people that are so sensitive that at the smallest nudge, they move. God impresses him, "Go here," they go. "Bless this person". "No problem, I'll bless them". "Change in this area". "Yes, God, I'll change".
It's going to be people God can trust, and when God looks down from heaven at you and me, I want him to say, "I can count on Joel. I can count on Bob. I can count on Maria. I can count on those people at Lakewood. They are sensitive to my voice. They are quick to obey. I can use them to do great and mighty things".
Remember, every time you obey, a blessing will follow. Like with Naaman, your act of obedience activates the fullness of God's power. Don't ignore the "I knows". Be quick to obey, and if you'll learn to pass these small tests, there's no limit to how high God will take you. The scripture says, "When we fully obey, God's blessings will chase us down and overtake us". You won't be able to outrun the good things of God, and I believe and declare, because you obey in the small, God is about to release big blessings, big opportunities, new levels of favor, healing, restoration, vindication, promotion. You're going to step in to the fullness of your destiny and become everything God's created you to be, in Jesus' name.