Joel Osteen — Release Control
I want to talk to you today about "Releasing control". It's easy to get so focused on our goals, our dreams that we're not going to be happy until it happens, and we put God in a box and we tell him what we want, when we want it, how to do it, who to use. We've got it all figured out. But the scripture says, "God's ways are not our ways. They are better than our ways," and if you're only going to be happy if it happens your way, you're setting yourself up for disappointment.
God can see the big picture for our lives. He knows what's around every curve. He can see the detours, the dead ends, the shortcuts, things that we cannot see. Now, a better approach is to say, "God, this is what I want. This is what I'm believing for. But God, you know what's best for me. I don't have to have it my way. God, I trust you".
When you release control, it takes the pressure off. Life gets so much more freeing. You're not always fighting, trying to make your plans work out, and sometimes we're so focused on what we want that it's out of balance. Anything you have to have in order to be happy, the enemy can use against you. If you think, "I have to have this promotion". "My spouse has to change". "I've got to get married to be happy," or, "I've got to have good weather. I got a big outdoor event planned". No, a mature attitude says, "Even if it doesn't work out my way, even if my plans don't happen, God, I'm still going to enjoy my life, knowing that you're on the throne".
Here's the key. When our dreams and goals start to frustrate us, when we're not at peace, not enjoying where we are because we're so focused on what we want, that's a sign that we're holding on too tightly, and when you hold on to what you want so tightly, it can almost become like an idol. You're so focused on it. That's all you think about, all you pray about, consumes your time and energy. That's out of balance. One of the best prayers that we can ever pray is, "God, not my will, but let your will be done".
When you release control, you're showing God by your actions that you trust him, and there are times in life God will ask you to release the thing that you want the most. It's a test, and if you will pass that test, at some point, God will either give you back what you wanted or bring something better into your life.
This is what happened with Abraham. His son Isaac, the child he had dreamed about year after year, finally showed up. Now, Abraham loved him more than anything in the world, and one day, God told Abraham to put Isaac on the altar, to sacrifice the thing that meant the most to him, and it wasn't easy, but Abraham made this decision to release control. He said, "God, you know this is what I've dreamed about. This is what I've wanted more than anything else. But God, I trust you. I can be happy, even if it doesn't work out my way," and when God saw his willingness to put on the altar the thing that meant most to him, then God said, "No, don't do it". He gave him his son back.
The question is, can you be happy if it doesn't work out your way? Will you keep a good attitude if the business slows down, the medical report isn't good? Maybe you're believing, standing on a promise for your health to get better. When you have the attitude, "Even if I don't get better, I'm still going to have a smile, I'm still going to be good to people, I'm still going to give God praise," you're doing what Abraham did. You're putting that dream on the altar, and when you can pass the test that you don't have to have the problem turn around to be happy, you don't have to have the dream come to pass to enjoy your life, you're proving to God that you trust him. That's when God will give you the desires of your heart.
When we were trying to acquire this facility, the former Compaq Center, I wanted it so badly that it consumed me. I was constantly thinking about it, praying about it, talking about it, and it seemed like the harder I tried, the worse things got. More people came against us. Lawsuits were filed. I would wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, wondering if it was going to happen, and one day, I realized that I was so set on having it my way, I wasn't enjoying where I was. I wasn't going to be happy if we didn't acquire it.
And I had to do what I'm asking you to do. I said, "God, I believe that this facility is supposed to be ours. Deep down, God, I believe you saved it just for us. But even if it doesn't happen, I'm going to still be my best at the other location. I'm still going to be happy and enjoy my life. I release control. God, do it your way". It wasn't long after that that things started falling into place. We won the votes from the city council members. The lawsuits were settled. Here we are today, and when you release control, you are passing a very important test, the trust test. You're saying, "God, I believe you know what's best for me," and many times, like with Abraham, like with this facility, that's when God will release back to you the very thing that you're believing for.
I know this lady that had a husband that wouldn't come to church with her, and he was a nice man. He just wasn't interested. She was praying and believing that it would change, and this went on year after year. She did everything she could think of. She put scripture verses up all over her house, and she was always encouraging him to come, but in spite of all of that, he wouldn't come, and after about a year, she began to get frustrated. She lost her joy. She used to come down to the front for prayer, very discouraged, and upset, "Joel, I don't understand it. I'm doing everything that I can".
I told her what I'm telling you, "The best thing you can do is release control. Turn it over to God. You've prayed, you've believed, you're standing in faith. Now, put it on the altar. Have the attitude, 'if he never comes, God, I'm still going to trust you. If it never changes, I'm still going to be happy.'"
When you show God that you don't have to have it in order to be happy, that's when God goes to work, and there may be things that are frustrating you right now because they're not changing. You know God put the dream in your heart, but doesn't look like it's going to happen. You have to do what she did and say, "God, I've done everything I can. I am not going to live my life upset, not going to go around worried, wondering, frustrated. God, I'm putting this on the altar. I'm giving it to you," and that's what this lady did. She got her joy back. She got that spring in her step. By her actions, she was saying, "God, I trust you. I know you're still on the throne, and I don't have to have anyone or anything to make me happy. I'm going to be happy right where I am".
About 2 years later, one Sunday morning, her husband asked if he could come to church with her. It was his idea. They came that Sunday. That was over 8 years ago. Now he hardly ever misses a Sunday.
That's what happens when you release control. God will make things happen that you could never make happen on your own, and I'm not saying to release the promise, to give up on a dream. No, release the worries. Release the frustration. Release having to have it your way. Psalm 138 says: "God will work out his plan for your life". God knows how to get you to where you're supposed to be. You don't have to live worried, frustrated. If you'll trust him, God will bring the right people. He'll open the right doors. He'll turn problems around. He promises he will work out his plan for your life.
We all have goals and dreams, and it's easy to be frustrated when they're not happening as fast as we would like. We think, "God, I'm working hard. I'm being my best. I'm honoring you. When am I going to get that good break? When am I going to meet the right person? Why is it taking so long"? No, you can't control the timetable. You can plant the seed, you can water it, but only God can bring the sunshine. Only God can cause it to grow. Don't be frustrated because it's not happening on your timetable. As long as you're being your best, honoring God, you can rest assured, God will get you to where you're supposed to be.
It's the same principle in our health. You can't make yourself get well. You can pray and believe. You can eat right, exercise, take medicine, but only God can bring the healing. Only he can restore health, and the scripture says to, "Cast your cares on the Lord". The care is the worry, those thoughts that bring anxiety and fear, "What if you don't get well? What if the treatment doesn't work? What if the medical report isn't good"? Worry ties the hands of almighty God. Living stressed out, trying to change things that you can't change will keep you from God's best.
You have to release control. It's not your job to heal yourself. You don't control the sunshine. The right attitude is, "God, my life is in your hands. I know you're the healer. You said the number of my days you would fulfill. So I'm not going to live worried and stressed out. Lord, I want to thank you for the sunshine. Thank you for doing what only you can do". Then all through the day, instead of trying to make yourself get well, just relax, stay in peace, keep a smile on your face. God is not asking you to control everything. Take the pressure off yourself. He's saying, "Cast your cares. Release the control". See, you can't make yourself get well. You can't make people like you. You can't make a dream come to pass. God has to give you the sunshine. He has to breathe in your direction.
Maybe you're believing for a promotion today. Well, you say, "Joel, all you said I have to do is just trust. I can't make it happen". No, the scripture says, "Cast your cares," not your responsibilities. I'm not saying to just sit back and don't do anything. No, do your part, then take your hands off of it and trust God to do what you can't do. In other words, get to work on time. Produce more than you have to. Have a spirit of excellence. Then if for some reason, you don't get the promotion, maybe they give it to somebody less deserving, you can't control that, but you can control your response. "God, I trust you. I'm not going to be offended, start complaining. God, I know you have something better in store. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy my life right where I am".
Quit being frustrated by things that you cannot change. God has you in the palm of his hand. Nothing is happening that he is not completely aware of, and when you start releasing control and trusting him to get you to where you're supposed to be, that's when you'll see new doors open, new opportunities, new friendships. But much of our frustration in life is because we're trying to control things we were never meant to control. We try to control what people think about us, control what our spouse does, control when a dream comes to pass, and if it's not happening on our timetable, the way we want, we go to work and try to change it, thinking, "Man, I've got to change my spouse. I've got to change these people's opinion of me. This problem's not turning around fast enough. I've got to in there and change that".
Many people are working overtime, trying to change things that they cannot change. You have to accept the fact you can't control everything. The only thing you can control 100% of the time is your attitude. Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond. If somebody hurts you, you can't control that. It's over and done, but you can control whether or not you get offended, or if you were to get a negative medical report. You can't control that, life happens, but you can control whether or not you live upset and discouraged.
I'm simply asking you today, focus on what you can control, not on what you can't. If you live in Houston, during the summers, it's very hot here. I know people that have complained for the last 30 years about the heat. "It's so hot. I can't take it, Joel". The fact is, you can't change the heat. Now, I don't mean to depress you, but it's going to be hot in the summers for the next 30 years. You can either dread it and let that sour the rest of your life, or you can say, "This is where God has me. I believe I have the grace to handle it, and yes, it's hot, but thank God I have an air conditioner. Thank God I have a job here. Thank God I have friends and family. Thank God I can come to Lakewood". You can't control the heat, but you can control your attitude.
Why be unhappy about something that you cannot change? If you have to sit in traffic every day on the way to work, why let that steal your joy? Being upset about it is not going to make it go any faster. You can't control the traffic. Why don't you change what you can control? Use that time to thank God for what he's done in your life. Look out at the beauty of his creation. Put on some good praise music. Turn on Sirius XM. Listen to our messages. The traffic may not ever change, but you can change, and some of the things that are frustrating you right now, if you don't make these simple adjustments, 20 years from now, 30 years, 40 years, those same things will still be frustrating you. Life happens to all of us. We have delays, interruptions, unfair situations. We can't control that. Don't use it as an excuse to get upset.
A few Christmases ago, I was driving around a crowded parking lot, up and down the rows again and again, trying to find someplace to park. In a few minutes, this young couple came out, and they were parked right up close to the building, and I said, "Well, Lord, thank you for your favor," and I put my blinker on, and I was waiting for them to pull out. Took them a long time. They had to put their packages in the trunk and buckle up a child in the safety seat.
Finally, they backed out. Just as I was about to pull in, they still had me blocked, this car came from the wrong direction and pulled in right in front of me. My first thought was to honk my horn and give them a piece of my mind. Then I remembered I'm a pastor, and a happy pastor at that. But one of the most important things that I've learned is life is too short to be frustrated by things you cannot control. You can't control what other people do. You can't control the traffic, can't control the weather. If you're only going to be happy if everything goes your way and everybody's nice and kind to you, you're probably going to live a very unhappy life.
Them taking my parking spot was a part of the 10%. Life happened, it wasn't fair. But the 90% is what really matters. How do we respond? Jesus said, "Stop allowing yourselves to be upset, agitated, and disturbed". It's a choice that we have to make, and at the start of the day, you should make a decision that no matter what comes against you that day, you are not going to get upset. You have to decide ahead of time.
That way, if you get to work and your boss is in a grouchy mood, you think, "That's okay, I can't control him. I can't make him be in a good mood. That's his choice. My choice is to be happy. I've already decided to enjoy this day". Traffic is worse than normal, if your child forgets his homework at school, you've got to go back, if the Texans don't win, that's all right. I've already decided, I'm not going to be frustrated. I'm not going to get upset today.
Back when I first started ministering, 1999, one day I was at home, working on my computer, writing the message for that weekend. It was a perfectly sunny day, not a cloud in the sky. Out of nowhere, the power went off. For some reason, I had not saved my material. Had five or six pages of notes, been working most of the day, and I was hoping, praying, believing that somehow, it had been automatically saved. It was hard enough back then to write one message. I said, "God, please don't make me write it again".
Power came back on, and I searched and searched, trying to find it, but it wasn't there. I got technicians to come out from the office. They looked and looked, but the material was gone. I was so frustrated. I'd lost the whole day's worth of work. I felt like calling the power company, "What are you doing, turning my power off in the middle of the day? Don't you know that's causing problems"? No matter how much I vented, no matter how frustrated I became, the material was not coming back, and we waste a lot of time and energy trying to change things that we cannot change.
The scripture says, "In life, you'll have trials, difficulties, interruptions". We're all going to have our 10%, things we don't like, things that are not fair, things we don't understand. We can't control that. You have to focus on what you can control, and I finally shook off the self-pity. I shook off the discouragement, sat back down at my computer, and I said, "God, this power going off is not a surprise to you, and you said what's meant for my harm, you would use it to my advantage. You said all things would work together for my good. So, Lord, I want to thank you, the second time I write this message will be better than the first time," and I went to work there at my computer and ideas started coming from out of nowhere. A couple of hours, I had more notes and better notes than I had before.
Next time you're tempted to be frustrated, offended, stressed out, remind yourself, that's a part of the 10%. You can't control that, but you can control how you respond. Start passing the test. Don't keep letting the same things upset you year after year, the same people get on your nerves. Every day is a gift from God. We're not always going to be here. Once this day is over, we can never get it back, and your time is too valuable to waste it upset in traffic, offended at a neighbor, frustrated at a child, worried about your health, discouraged because a dream is taking so long. You can't control those things. If that was going to keep you from your destiny, God would have never permitted it. Start passing the test. Don't allow yourself to be upset.
I was in Australia last year, and they use the phrase, "No worries," all the time. They say, "No worries," like we say, "You're welcome," here in the States. If you're at dinner and the waiter brings you the food, you say, "Thank you," they answer back, "No worries". I dropped my fork on the ground. They came running over, pick it up, "No worries".
They're so relaxed, easygoing. Nothing bothers them. Building's on fire, "No worries". Robbery in progress, "No worries". I must've heard that phrase 20, 30 times a day, and even though they use it in a different way, I love the fact that it reminds you not to worry, puts you at ease. That should be our motto, "No worries". Traffic is backed up. "No worries, God is directing my steps. I'm at the right place at the right time". Somebody's rude to us. "No worries, they're having a bad day. I've already decided to have a good day". Business is a little slow. "No worries, God is my provider. He's supplying all of my needs".
If we would develop this, "No worries," mentality, I wonder not only how much more we'd enjoy life, but how much longer we would live. Proverbs says, "A relaxed attitude lengthens life". The opposite is true. If you're living upset, offended, worried, you're taking time off of your life. We need you here. Don't leave before your time is up. If you'll start trusting, relaxing, going with the flow, you can add time to your life, and we're always looking for that fountain of youth, ways to look younger, to live longer.
One way is to develop this, "No worries," mentality. Quit being upset over things that you have no control over. Quit trying to change things that you cannot change. Worry less, trust more. Stress less, laugh more, love more, enjoy more.
When our daughter, Alexandra, was about 5 years old, one night I needed to run up to the store to pick something up. It was going to close in 30 minutes. Victoria said, "We'll never make it, Joel". I said, "Sure we will. Just help me get the kids ready, and let's go". She got them dressed real fast, and I grabbed their shoes, and we took off to the store, and it was like I was on a mission from God. I was so set. I needed to get what I wanted. I did not want to have to come back the next day.
We arrived at the store's parking lot with about 8 minutes left to go, and I knew I could still make it, but I had to put little Alexandra's shoes on, and I got her left shoe on, went to put the right one on, but I couldn't get it to fit, and I worked and worked and struggled, but it just wouldn't go on right, and I took it off, and noticed that it was another left shoe. I thought, "That couldn't be right," and I compared it with the other one. Sure enough, we had two left shoes.
I said, "Victoria, why do we have two of the exact same shoes"? She said, "Oh, Joel, her little cousin was over at the house playing today, and she has the same pair of shoes. We must have grabbed the wrong ones," and I thought, "Oh, great". Now I had about 4 minutes to go, and I was really stressed out. Alexandra was a daddy's girl. She would do anything in the world for me. So I got this idea.
I said, "Alexandra, it may be a little tight, but will you put this left shoe on your right foot and wear it for daddy"? She looked at me, I'll never forget it, smiled real big, and said, "No, I won't". I knew right then and there, it wasn't meant to be. Just go with the flow. That was a part of the 10%. Daughter has two left shoes. No use getting upset over what you can't change. My plans didn't work out. No worries, I can come back the next day. God's still directing my steps. Think of it this way.
If you learned you only had 3 months to live, how many of the things that upset you last week would you let upset you this week? Would you be stressed because your computer died? Would you be frustrated because your daughter has two left shoes? Would you be upset because somebody got your parking spot, somebody was rude to you at the grocery store? No, let it go. Life is too short to live that way.
Some of you are carrying around way too much. You need to start releasing the worries, release the offense, release the struggles. You don't have to make your dreams come to pass. Take the pressure off of yourself. Only God can bring the sunshine. Trust him, and he'll get you to where you're supposed to be, and if you'll start releasing control, you'll not only enjoy life more, but you'll live longer. God promises he will work out his plan for your life, and I believe and declare, he will open the right doors. He'll bring the right people. He'll turn negative situations around, and you'll step in to the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus' name.