Joel Osteen — Praising Your Way To Victory
I wanna talk to you today about praising your way to victory. We all face challenges and obstacles, dreams that look like they're not going to come to pass. We can either get negative, and discouraged, and talk about what's not going to work out, or we can switch over into praise and thank God that he's still on throne, and thank God that he's fighting our battles, and thank him that he always causes us to triumph.
But a lot of times, we think, "I'll have a good attitude as soon as business picks up. I'll cheer up as soon as I get over this health issue. Joel, I'll give God praise when I get through these tough times". But that's not how faith works. You've got to give God praise, and then the breakthrough will come. You've got to cheer up first, then things will change in your favor. Praise always precedes the victory. But as long as we're negative, discouraged, focused on our problems, that will limit what God can do.
Think about Jonah, he was in the belly of a whale. In the midst of all these problems, seaweed around him, smell bad, dark, uncomfortable, didn't see a way out, he began to pray, and for the first eight verses, all he talked about was how bad life was, and how he was in the depths of despair, and how he was surrounded by so much turmoil, on and on, negative, defeated.
Sometimes what we call prayer is really just a complaining session. We're just telling God everything that's wrong, like God doesn't already know. "God, my business is down, and God, this boss is getting on my nerves, and God, I can't take these children. God, I got to lose 20 pounds. God, my blood pressure's too high". That's not really prayer, that's just telling God your problems, and although God is concerned about what we're going through, God is not moved by our problems, he's moved by our faith, and praise is faith at work. The scripture says, "The spirit of faith is in our words".
My question today is, what's coming out of your mouth? Are you talking about how big your problems are, or are you talking about how big your God is? Switch over into praise. "Father, business is slow, but I want to thank you that you're supplying all of my needs. I know you're Jehovah Jireh, the Lord my provider. You said I would lend and not borrow, so I want to thank you that everything I touch will prosper and succeed". You talk like that and almighty God will show up, and this is what Jonah did.
After complaining for eight verses, in verse 9, he had a change of heart. He said, "God, in spite of my difficulties, I'm going to offer unto you the sacrifice of praise with a voice of thanksgiving". Sitting in the belly of the whale, instead of complaining, he began to say, "Father, I thank you that you're bigger than this difficulty. I know you're still on the throne, you can still get me to where you want me to be, and I'm not going to magnify my problem, I'm going to magnify my God". The next verse says that the whale spit him out onto dry ground, and he went on to fulfill his destiny.
You too may feel like you're in the belly of a whale. You could easily complain, talk about your problems, how bad the medical report is, what somebody did to you. No, zip up the negative, defeated words and switch over into praise. Thank God that he's fighting your battles. Thank him that he's bigger than your problems. Thank him that no weapon formed against you will prosper. You can praise your way to victory. When you praise, the creator of the universe can cause that fish that swallowed you, so to speak, to not only spit you out, but to spit you out on dry ground.
Think about it, if Jonah, that whale would have spit him out into the ocean, he could have drowned. But when you praise, God will take what was meant for your harm and he'll use it to advance you. Instead of being a setback, it'll be a setup for God to promote you. Jonah said, "I'm going to offer up the sacrifice of praise. That word "Sacrifice" means I don't feel like doing it. I don't see any sign of this situation improving. Everything in me says I should be depressed, discouraged, complaining, but I know a secret, praise is my faith at work. I know when I praise, it activates God's power. Now, I may not feel like it, it may not look good, but like Jonah, I'm going to dig my heels in and offer up that sacrifice of praise.
Sacrifice means that it costs you something. God, I'm hurting, but I give you praise. God, I'm lonely, but I give you praise. God, it wasn't fair, they did me wrong, but I give you praise. Nothing gets God's attention any more than when you should be discouraged. In the natural, you should be complaining. The medical report wasn't good, a friend betrayed you, a co-worker cheated you out of a promotion.
Most people would be negative and bitter, but instead you have a song of praise. You're thanking God for what's right, not focused on what's wrong. You're not talking about how big your problems are, you're talking about how big your God is, and when you can offer this sacrifice of praise, you can be assured almighty God is working in your life. You may not see anything happening, but behind the scenes, God's getting it all lined up, and at the appointed time, things will change in your favor.
This is what Paul and Silas did. They were put in jail for spreading good news. It wasn't fair. They were beaten with rods without a trial, it was unjust, and as they sat in the prison, bloodied, bruised, uncomfortable, they began to sing praises to God. If you're going to live in victory, you have to know how to praise in pain, praise when you're disappointed, praise when you're lonely, praise when you went through a loss.
After all, we can all give God praise when on the mountaintop, that's easy, but our attitude should be, "I'm going to give him praise even if I'm in a valley. I'm going to praise him when my business is up, and I'm going to praise him when it's not so up. I'm going to praise him when I feel like it, and I'm going to praise him even if I don't feel like it".
That's the sacrifice of praise. As they were sitting in the prison at midnight, singing praises to God, all of a sudden there was a great earthquake, the prison doors flung open, the chains fell off, and they walked out as free men. What happened? They praised their way to victory.
One of our faithful members is a gentlemen named Freddy Lamb. Freddy always has a smile. He's full of faith, full of joy. I see him here all the time. Back in the 1990s, Freddy was on the freeway and he had a flat tire, and he pulled off to the shoulder to change it, and while he was standing at the truck about to get the spare tire out, a drunk driver swerved onto the shoulder and ran right into him, crushed both of his legs. They had to be amputated right above the knees.
My parents went to see him in the hospital, they didn't really know what to expect. Most people would be very discouraged, maybe even a little depressed, but not Freddy. He knows how to offer up that sacrifice of praise. When my parents walked into the room, Freddy still had a smile on his face. He wasn't bitter, complaining, he was still full of joy. His legs were all bandaged there where they had been amputated, and laying on that bed, he lifted them up toward the heavens, just stubs now, and he said to my parents, "Look, pastors, I can still give God praise," and today, Freddy not only walks, but Freddy can run with his new legs.
That setback didn't stop him. He still goes all over telling people his story. Freddy's with us down front, a mighty man of faith and courage. Freddy, we love you today. Here's what I've learned, you can't keep a praiser down. You may have some setbacks, you may hit some tough times, but like Freddy, if you can just dig your heels in and offer up that sacrifice of praise, then what was meant to be a stumbling block, God will turn it into a stepping stone.
Instead of taking you down, God'll cause it to take you up higher. You may be up against some big obstacles, you may have some big challenges coming your way, but now is not the time to get discouraged, now is not the time to start complaining. No, in the tough times more than ever, you need to turn up your praise, start thanking God in a greater way for his goodness.
Yes, Freddy lost his legs, but he was thanking God that he didn't lose his life. You may have lost a battle, but you can thank God that you didn't lose the war. You may be down, but you can thank God that you're coming back up. Your plans may not have worked out, but you can thank God he has something better in store. Dig your heels in and turn up the praise. When you praise, chains are broken. When you praise, new doors will open. When you praise, the angels go to work. When you praise, victory is coming your way.
I read where, back in the 1800s, these explorers were going across a huge desert. It was even bigger than they expected, and they miscalculated and didn't bring enough water, and they started digging at different spots underneath the surface down a foot or two, trying to find water. They tried and tried with no success, and they ended up losing their life because of a lack of water. Many years later, it was discovered there was water right there where they had lost their lives. The only problem is it was 3 feet underground, and they only dug down 2 feet. If they had just dug down a little bit further, they would have found the water that would have saved their life.
The same principle is true when you're in a dry season and you're not getting any good breaks. Business is slow, you're struggling in a relationship. It's easy to think, "This is never going to change, never going to see my dreams come to pass, never going to get out of this problem. No, just like those early explorers, water is there, provision is there, you just have to dig down a little bit deeper, and if you will shake off the self-pity, shake off what didn't work out, shake off the complacency, and turn up your praise, you'll discover you can praise your way to victory, and psalm 149 talks about how, when we have the high praises of God coming out of our mouth, then God will go to war against our enemies.
The high praises means you thank God with enthusiasm. You're excited about what God has done. It's not secondary, "Oh, if I have time". No, you're always talking about God's goodness. You're constantly telling your friends how God has blessed you. In your car, you're singing songs of praise. At the office, under your breath, you're thanking God for his favor. In the grocery store, you're humming the tune to "I am a friend of God".
You're so full of praise, even if you stubbed your toe, instead of complaining, you would say, "Thank you, Jesus". You get up in the morning and say, "God, I love you today, I praise you today. Thank you for another beautiful day". When you have these high praises coming out of your mouth, the scripture says almighty God will go to war against your enemies.
This is what happened with Joshua. He and the people of Israel were headed towards the Promised Land, but right in the middle of their path was a huge obstacle, the city of Jericho. It stood between them and their destiny. They couldn't go around it, they had to go through it. Jericho was a large fortified city, had these huge walls all the way around it.
Between you and your destiny, there will always be a Jericho, something that you cannot go around. You either have to defeat it, or it's going to defeat you. God told Joshua to tell the people to march around the city walls for 6 days, one time a day, and on the seventh day, they were to march around seven times. They were instructed not to say a word. Not talking, no whispering, no complaining, they had to march perfectly quiet. On the seventh day, on the seventh time around, God said, "This time, I want you to do something different. As you march, I want you to let out a shout of praise".
I can imagine on that seventh day, there was so much excitement. They went around once, twice, three times with great anticipation. They knew something big was about to happen, and on that seventh time around, after the priests blew the trumpets, they let out the high praises of God. They began to shout, and cheer, and sing, "Hosanna in the highest, to God be all the glory," so loud, no doubt it sounded like a JET airplane passing by. People could hear it for miles and miles, and all of a sudden, the impossible began to happen. Those thick, fortified walls began to shake and rattle, and before long, they were rolling. They came tumbling down. The people were able to go in, take the city, and eventually make it into the Promised Land.
A lot of times we think, "I'll shout after the walls come down. I'll shout after my victory, after the promotion, after the breakthrough". No, that's backwards. The shout is what activates God's power, and I realized God hears us even when we whisper, but I believe there are some walls that will not come down without the high praises of God coming out of your mouth. You've got to turn up the praise, you've got to thank God in a greater way. You've got to declare his goodness over your life. Some of you have been around that city once, twice, three times. God is saying, "You're coming into your seventh day. You're about to enter into your victory lap".
Now, here's the question, what's coming out of your mouth? "Oh Joel, these walls are so big. Man, I've had this problem so long. These obstacles are so high". No, zip that up and let out some high praises. God, I want to thank you you're bigger than this problem, greater than this sickness, more powerful than this addiction. Father, I thank you that you are fighting my battles for me. If you keep the high praises coming out of your mouth, then like Joshua, you need to get ready, walls are going to come down, barriers are going to be broken, new doors are going to open, chains of addictions will be loosed, dreams will come to pass.
Isaiah 54 says, "Sing, oh barren woman, you who never bore a child. Break forth into song and shout for joy". This is saying if your dreams have not yet come to pass, if you have unborn promises, if you feel barren, don't sit around in defeat. Don't say, "Too bad, it's never going to happen". No, God is saying if you feel barren, more than ever you need to turn up the praise.
Here's why, praise is the birth position. When you're thankful, when you have a song in your heart, when you go around talking about God's goodness, you are putting yourself in position to give birth to that promise. For instance, maybe you're single and you're hoping to meet the right person. We don't want to sit back and think, "Poor old me, it's never going to happen". No, have a song of praise, "Lord, I want to thank you that you're directing my steps, causing me to be at the right place at the right time, and father, I thank you for bringing somebody perfect into my life".
Every time you give God praise, you're putting yourself in position to give birth. You are one step closer to seeing the promise come to pass. In your health, you may have struggled with a sickness a long time, and it's be easy to settle there and think, "I'm always going to be barren. I'm never going to be free from this pain". No, switch over into praise, "Lord, I want to thank you that you're restoring health back unto me. Lord, thank you that you said you would satisfy me with a long life, and I believe even now, health, healing, wholeness, victory is flowing into me".
The reason many people have promises that die stillborn is because they get negative, they start complaining. You will not give birth without a spirit of thanksgiving, and that promise that you're standing on, that dream you're believing for, it's ready, it's developed, it's grown. Now, if you'd just turn up the praise, you would see it come to pass, you would give birth to that promise.
2 Kings chapter 3, the people were in a serious drought. Hadn't rained in a long time, not a cloud in the sky. On top of that, they were in this valley that never got any rain, and the prophet Elijah instructed them to do something that seemed very odd. He told them to dig ditches in the valley in preparation to catch the water from the rain that was coming. Most of us would have said, "Now, Elijah, we are in a valley that never gets any rain, plus we're in the middle of a drought. If we see some dark clouds, if we see some kind of rain, then maybe we'll dig some ditches, but not now".
Elijah said, "No, that's not how it works. If you want to see rain, you have to dig the ditches first". They dug the ditches, and the next day they were filled to overflowing, the drought had ended. Rain in the scripture represents blessing, favor, increase, and this same principle is true: the way we dig ditches, so to speak, to make preparations for God's goodness is by giving God praise.
Every time you say, "Father, thank you that I'm blessed," you are digging a ditch, you're making preparation for the blessings that will follow. When you say, "Lord, thank you that I'm strong and healthy," you're digging another ditch, you're preparing for God to fill you with health, strength, vitality. When you say, "Father, thank you that my children make good decisions, that they will fulfill their destiny," there may not be any sign of it right now. In fact, if somebody overheard you, they'd say, "What are you talking about? Your children aren't making good decisions. They're far off course. You're not blessed, you're not healthy".
That's what happened back in those days. People said, "Why are you digging a ditch in the valley? Don't you know it never rains here? Don't you know we're in the middle of a drought? You are wasting your time. No, don't be moved by what you see or by what you hear, be moved by what you know. My child may be off course, but I know because I'm a praiser, rain is coming, and those thoughts may tell you, "It's never going to work out. You've had this addiction since you were in high school. You're always going to be in a drought".
No, shake that off and just keep digging the ditch. Keep thanking God that you're free, thanking God for his goodness, thanking God for his favor. If you'll do your part and dig the ditches, God is saying, "I'll do my part and bring the rain. I'll help you break addictions, I'll open up new doors, I'll show you favor, I'll heal your body, I'll restore your marriage," and when I look out through my eyes of faith, you know what I see? I see dark clouds forming, I see the skies turning overcast. You may be in a drought, but just keep giving God praise. The good news is rain is coming your way. Downpours of favor, downpours of blessings, an abundance of God's goodness.
Some of you today need to dig some new ditches. You haven't seen anything happen good in a long time, and you've lost your fire, your vision, your enthusiasm. Turn up the praise, make preparation for the new thing God wants to do. Get up every morning and thank God that he's bringing your dreams to pass. Thank him that he's connecting you to the right people. Thank him that you're talented, creative, disciplined, focused, strong, secure. If you'll dig the ditches, God will bring the rain.
See, praise is more than just singing a song, it's more than just something we do on Sundays. Praise is an attitude. All through the day, you're grateful. Under your breath, you're constantly whispering, "Lord, I love you. Thank you for this day, thank you for my family, thank you that I'm healthy". When you have this continual attitude of praise, it's like you're always digging ditches. That's what allows God to do amazing things.
In the scripture, there's a man by the name of Hezekiah. Hezekiah was a good man, he loved and honored God, he stood for righteousness, he led the people with integrity. Everything was going great, he was in the prime of his career, when all of a sudden he got very sick. Hezekiah's mentor was the prophet Isaiah. He came to the palace and said, "Hezekiah, I have a word from the Lord for you. God says, 'set your house in order, for you shall surely die'". He pronounced a death sentence over Hezekiah.
Up to that point, all of Isaiah's prophecies had come true, he had a proven track record. Isaiah turned around and began to walk out of the palace. Hezekiah began to pray, and he asked God to give him more years, and he reminded God of all the good things he had done, and how he'd gotten rid of the idols, and how he'd encouraged the people to worship, on and on. He was pleading his case, but Isaiah just kept on walking out, nothing had changed. Hezekiah said, "God I deserve more years. I've done my best, I've lived with integrity". But Isaiah just kept on walking.
Finally, Hezekiah decided to try a different approach. Instead of telling God how good he was and listing all of his accomplishments, he began to give God praise. He began to thank God for who he was, and thank God for what he had done. Hezekiah made the statement, "God, the grave cannot give you praise". At that very moment, Isaiah stopped in his tracks, he turned back around, and God said, "Isaiah, I want you to go back and tell king Hezekiah, 'if he's going to praise me, I'll give him 15 more years. If he's going to praise me, it's a different story, I'll add to his life.'".
What am I saying? Your praise can even change God's mind. You don't have to tell God how good you are and how much you deserve it. Just praise him for who he is, for what he's done. Praise him for his greatness. Your praise can cause God to come back and say, "It wasn't going to work out, but because you stepped up the praise, I'm going to make it work out. Your time, like Hezekiah, was over. But because of your praise, I'm going to add more years. That obstacle should have stopped you, but because you just kept giving me praise, I'm going to move it out of the way".
I'm asking us today to turn up the praise. God said, "If you don't praise me, the rocks will cry out, but I will get my praise". Our attitude should be, "No rocks are going to have to cry out for me. I'm going to sing for joy, I'm going to shout unto God. I'm going to have the high praises coming out of my mouth". Get up every morning and start the day off with praise, "Lord, thank you for another sunrise. Lord, thank you for the birds that I hear singing. Lord, thank you for the gift of today".
Remember, praise is the birth position. When you praise, dreams come to pass. When you praise, supernatural doors open. When you praise, chains are broken, and some of you are in tough times, but you got to dig your heels in like Freddy and learn to offer up that sacrifice of praise. You can praise your way to victory. Listen, if you'll turn up the praise, like Hezekiah, you're going to see increase. Like Jonah, you're going to see breakthroughs. Like Joshua, walls are going to come down, and I believe and declare you're going to enter into your Promised Land and become everything God's created you to be, amen!