Joel Osteen — Remembering the Good
I wanna talk to you today about "Remembering the good". Our memory is very powerful. You can be driving in your car, all of a sudden, you remember a tender moment with your child, a hug, a kiss. It could have been five years ago, something funny that they did. But, when you remember it, it'll bring a smile to your face. You'll start to feel those same emotions, joy, and warmth, just like it was happening again.
On the other hand, you can be enjoying the day, everything's going great, but then you start to remember a sad event where you weren't treated right, somebody did you wrong, you went through a loss, and before long, you'll be down and discouraged. What made you sad? Dwelling on wrong memories. What made you happy? And it's interesting, our mind will naturally gravitate toward the negative. A study showed how positive and negative memories are handled by different parts of the brain. I negative memory takes up more space. There's more to process. Because of this, we will remember the negative more.
The example they used is a person will remember losing $50 more than they will remember gaining $50. The negative carries more weight, it has a greater I can walk off this platform and 100 people tell me, "Joel, that was good today, I really enjoyed it". But then, one person can say, "I didn't get anything out of it, it didn't make sense to me". In the old days, that's all I'd think about, that one negative comment would play over and over, and that's how it's stored in our brain, it takes up more space. Knowing this, we have to be proactive.
When the negative memories come back to the movie screen of your mind, many people pull up a chair, get some popcorn, watch them all over again. Can't believe they hurt me, that was so unfair. Why do I have all these bad breaks? Well, here's my message, that's not the only channel. There's another movie playing, it's not your defeats, your failures, your disappointments, it's a channel filled with your accomplishments, your victories, the things you've done right, the times you were promoted, you met the right person, you bought the new house, your child was born healthy.
Instead of staying on that negative channel, you've got to switch over to your victory channel. You're not going to move forward into the new things God has in store if you're always replaying the negative things that have happened to you. We've all been through disappointments, setbacks, and bad breaks. Those memories will play the most often. The good news is, you have the remote control. Just because the memory comes up doesn't mean you have to watch it.
A couple of years after my father went to be with the Lord, I was over at my mother's house to pick something up, and nobody else was home. As I was walking through the den, I began to immediately see the night that my father died. He had had a heart attack in that room. I could see him laying on the floor, and when I arrived, the paramedics were trying to get his heart restarted, and that whole night started to replay in my mind, and I started to feel those same type of emotions, and I did just what I'm asking you to do. I said no thanks, I'm not going there. I'm not going to relive that night and get all down and discouraged.
I simply changed the channel. I started remembering all the great times I'd had with my father. I remembered the times that we laughed and had fun, the times we had traveled the world. I remembered the times where he used to come over to our house and play with our little son, Jonathan. There was another channel, I just had to switch over to it.
Some of you need to start changing the channel. You're reliving all your hurts, disappointments, bad breaks. As long as you're replaying that, you're never going to really heal. It's like a scab that's starting to get better, but if you keep picking at it, it has to start all over again. Emotional wounds are the same way. If you're always reliving your hurts, watching them on the movie screen of your mind, talking about it, telling your friends, that's just reopening the wound.
You have to change the channel. It may be difficult, you may have had a lot of unfair things happen, but when you look back over your life, can you find at least one time where God's done something good for you? Can you remember at least one time where it was the hand of God promoting you, protecting you, healing you? Then, switch over to that channel, get your mind going in a new direction.
A reporter ask me not long ago what my biggest regret was, my biggest failure. Now, I don't mean to sound arrogant, but I don't remember my biggest regret. I'm not dwelling on that channel, I don't go there. Sure, we all make mistakes, we all do things we wish we had done differently, but that is not supposed to be on the forefront of our minds. You're supposed to remember what you've done right, the times you've succeeded, your victories, the times you overcame the temptation, the times you went out of your way to be kind to a stranger, and the reason some people are not happy is, they remember every mistake they got a running record.
The enemy doesn't have to accuse them, they do it for him. Do yourself a big favor, change the channel. Quit dwelling on how you don't measure up, and you should have spent more time with your children growing up, and you should have been stronger, more disciplined, resisted that temptation. No, you may have fallen, but dwell on the fact that you got back up again, you're here today. You may have made a poor choice, but dwell on the fact that you've made a lot of great choices. You may have some weaknesses, but dwell on the fact that you have a whole lot of strengths.
Quit focusing on what's wrong with you and start focusing on what's right with you. You're not going to become everything God's created you to be if you're against yourself. You have to retrain your mind, be discipled about what you allow yourself to dwell on. Those negative memories take up the most space. Those movies are going to recognize what's happening and learn to change that channel.
Several years ago, I was playing basketball with our son, Jonathan. We'd done this for many years, one on one, him versus me. This day, for the first time, he beat me fair and square, 15 to 14. I gave him a high-five, and then told him he was grounded. But, during the game, at one point, he went around me and was about to go up for a shot, and I timed it just right, I came out of nowhere, and I blocked his shot. I mean, I swatted the ball away over into the bushes, I felt like a professional.
A couple of days later, we were playing up at the gym with some friends. Jonathan said, "Dad, tell everybody about what happened the other night". I said, "Oh yeah, Jonathan went up for a shot, I timed it just perfect, I went"... he said, "No, dad, I meant tell them about how I beat you for the first time". The funny thing is, I didn't remember my defeat, the first thing that came to my mind was not how I'd lost the game, but something that I'd done right. It's because I'd trained my mind to remember the good.
You, know some people won the game, but they remember every mistake they made. They never feel good about themselves, they never did it good enough. It's all in how we've trained our mind. It depends on what channel we're watching. I cannot find one place in the scripture where it tells us to remember our defeats, remember our failures, remember our hurts, no, it says again and again to remember the great things God has done.
In other words, stay on your victory channel. Remember how God gave you that promotion even though you weren't the most qualified. Remember how God brought your child back on the right course when it looked pretty bad. Remember when you went through that loss, you should have had a nervous breakdown, but you felt a supernatural strength, and here you are the psalmist put it this way, "I recall the many miracles God has done for me, I cannot stop thinking about them. They are constantly in my mind".
Notice, they're supposed to be constantly in our mind. The mistake we make too often is, we remember what we should be forgetting, our hurts, our failures, our disappointments, and we forget what we should be remembering, our victories, our accomplishments, the times God's in the old testament, God commanded them to have certain festivals, one of the main reasons is so they would remember what God had done. Several times a year, they'd all stop what they were doing, come together, and they would celebrate how God brought them out of slavery, how God defeated this enemy, how God protected them over here. They were required to remember.
Another place talks about how they'd put out memorial stones. These were big boulders, we might call them historical markers today. That reminded them of specific victories. Every time they walked by, they'd say, "Oh yeah, that stone is for when God brought us out of slavery. That stone is for when God healed my child. That stone is for when God provided for our needs". These memorial stones helped it to stay fresh in their memory.
In the same way, every one of us should have our own memorial stones. When you look back over your life, you should remember not the times you failed, you went through a breakup, your boss did you wrong, the business went down, that's remembering what you should be forgetting. Switch over to the other channel. Remember when you were lonely, and God brought somebody great into your life. Remember when the medical report said it was impossible, but God supernaturally healed you. Remember when it was dark, you didn't think you'd have another happy day, but God not only turned it around, he gave you beauty for ashes, joy for mourning. All of us should have our memorial stones out.
Last Tuesday was the 31-year anniversary that my mother was healed from terminal cancer. Thirty-one years ago, the doctors told her she had a few weeks to live, but another year just went by, she's still healthy and whole. That's a memorial stone. I remember December 1, 2003 when mayor lee brown handed us the key to this beautiful facility. This building is a memorial stone. I still thank God for it. I remember when I walked into a jewelry store and saw Victoria for the first time. God answered her prayer, I mean, God answered my prayer. I still thank God for that. I remember when my dad died. I didn't think I could minister, never done this before, but God gave me the grace to step up and pastor the church, I put out a memorial stone.
My question, do you have any memorial stones out in your own life? What you are remembering will determine what kind of life you're going to live. If you're remembering all your defeats, your failures, your hurts, it's going to cause you to be stuck in a rut. If you could just change what you're remembering, start remembering your victories, that can cause you to go to a new level, and you may be in a tough time, you're facing an obstacle, but when you remember the right things, you won't be saying, "Oh man, it's going to be the end of me. I'm never going to get out". No, you'll be saying, "God, you did it for me once, I know you'll do it for me again". God, I've seen your goodness in the past, I know I'll see it again in the future"
This is what David did when he was about to face Goliath, a giant nearly twice his size. He could have focused on how big Goliath was, and how Goliath had more training, more equipment, more experience, but that would have just made him discouraged. The scripture says David remembered how he had killed a lion and a bear with his own hands. What was he doing? Remembering his victories. He could have remembered how his brothers mistreated him, tried to make him feel small, or how his father had disrespected him. There were a lot of things in David's past, negative, like in all of our lives, but David understood this principle.
Dwelling on your defeats, your failures, your hurts, that causes you to stay stuck in a rut. He chose, instead, to dwell on his victories. He not only overcame that obstacle, but many others, and he became everything that God created him to be. You may be up against a giant today. The way you're going to overcome is just like David, not going around thinking, "Oh, this is impossible, it's never going to work out," no, all through the day, start remembering your victories.
Go over your memorial stones, "Lord, I remember that time when all the odds were against me, but you made a way. God, I remember how you protected me, blessed me, promoted me, vindicated me, made my wrongs right". Recall your victories, remembering the good things God has done, that's what helps you to stay strong. It would do us all good on a regular basis, just like God required the Israelites, to go back over, one by one, the major victories in our life, the major successes.
Now, you say, "Joel, I don't have anything big like you. God didn't heal my family member of cancer. I didn't get a big facility," maybe not, but God has done something great for every one of us. Remember the day your child was born healthy, that was the goodness of God, that was a miracle. Remember when God gave you that job, that was his hand of favor. Remember when God spared your life from that accident, another split second and you would have been harmed, that was his angels watching over you. Remember that person God brought into your life. You fell in love and got married, that wasn't a coincidence, that was the goodness of God.
Keep your memorial stones out, go over them on a regular basis. I really believe some of you, if you'd spend the same amount of time dwelling on your victories as you do your disappointments, you'd see your life go to I love how, in the old testament, they celebrated their victories every year. I mean, they had a party, singing, dancing, a festival. Imagine somebody comes over to your house, you're having a big party, the music is going, everybody's having fun, and they ask you, "What kind of party is this"? Wedding party, birthday party, super bowl party? You tell them, "No, we're celebrating what God has done". Five years ago, God spared my life from an accident, or ten years ago, I got free from this addiction. We're celebrating me being sober for ten years. Or maybe, 31 years ago, God healed my mother of cancer, we're taking time to thank God for the great things that he's done.
When you develop this habit of remembering the good, not only affects your personality, how you carry yourself, your attitude, but it'll affect the way you pray. It won't be, "God, please, I need healing, God, I'm sick, I need a miracle, God, you got to bless me". No, you'll say, "Lord, I want to thank you for how you've Lord, I want to thank you for how you've taken care of me through the years, and God, I know if you did it once, I just want to thank you in advance that you'll do it again".
See, if you're just praying for your needs, God, I need this, I need that, you'll probably end up discouraged, but when you thank God for what he's already done, when you remember your victories, how he's promoted you, protected you, healed you, by the time you're doing praying, you'll be all fired up, you'll be strong, you'll be confident, you know that answer is on the way.
Think about the Israelites. God supernaturally brought them out of slavery. God sent plague after plague on their enemies. They were living next door, but none of those plagues ever affected them. They came to a dead end at the Red Sea, it looked like it was over, Pharaoh and the arm changed their mind coming after them, and you know the story, God supernaturally parted the sea, and they went through on dry ground. God gave them water out of a rock. He brought them food out in the desert.
They had seen again and again God's incredible miracles, yet, in spite of all of this, they never made it into the psalm 78 tells us one reason why. It says, "They forgot about all the amazing miracles God had done for them and their ancestors". When you forget what you should be remembering, it can keep you out of your Promised Land. They got discouraged, started complaining.
Here's the key: they had seen God do the impossible again and again, but because they forgot about it, they got worried, negative, afraid, and they missed out on God's best. Are you forgetting what God has done in your life? Have you let something that was once a miracle become ordinary, it doesn't excite you anymore, you don't thank God for it? No, when you look back over your life, remember what it took to get you to where you are. Big things, and even little things, and the next time you're tempted to think, "My problem's too big, Joel, I'll never accomplish my dreams," no, go back and remember all the Red Seas God has parted for you.
Remember all the enemies God's defeated for you. Remember the times God has shown you favor, shown you mercy, and restored you. Every one of us can look back and see the hand of God in our life. Just like the Israelites, you can say like me, God has opened doors for you that should have never opened on their own. God has helped you accomplish what you could have never accomplished on your own. God has brought us through difficulties that, at one time, seemed totally impossible, and if we're going to stay encouraged, and step into the new doors, and see God turn the negative around, one of the keys is, you can't forget what God has already done.
In fact, the scripture says we should tell our children and our grandchildren. We should pass down stories of God's goodness. That's why I never get tired of telling how God gave us this beautiful facility, how God healed my mother of cancer, and how God gave me the courage and ability to step up and pastor the church. I'm not bragging on me, I'm bragging on what God has done.
I can say, with David, so can you, where would we be without the goodness of God? Don't keep it to yourself, tell your children, your grandchildren. How many times did I hear my father tell his story? How he was coming home from a nightclub, two o'clock in the morning, 17 years of age, no purpose, no direction in life. He looked up at the stars, and he began to think about his life, and his eternal destiny. He walked in his house, on the table in the den was the family Bible, just there for decoration. His family knew nothing about God, they weren't religious people.
My father felt drawn to it, went over and opened it, and it just so happened it fell open to a picture of Jesus standing at a door and knocking. The caption read, "If you open the door, I will come in". My father didn't understand religion, or theology, but he could understand opening a door. The next day, he went to church with a friend of his and gave his life to Christ.
Without that night, we wouldn't be sitting here today. It wasn't a coincidence, it was the mercy of God. Don't forget what it took to get you to where you are. You didn't get here just in your own strength, your own education, your own talent, there were a lot of miracles along the way, not only in your life, but in the people that came before you, the people that raised you.
If you'll look closely, you'll see God's goodness all through your family line. You should not only remember it, but tell it to your children, your grandchildren, pass it down to the next generation. I've learned, the more you brag on God's goodness, the more of his goodness you will see.
It's interesting, in the old testament, we hear a lot about the staff that people would carry around with them. It wasn't just a walking stick, not just something to keep wild animals away, it was more significant than that. Back in those days, they were a nomadic people, that meant they were always on the move, and of course, they didn't have computers, files, paper like we have today. One of the main ways they kept important records, important dates, was to etch it on their staff.
That was their personal record. On this date, we defeated the amalekites. On this date, my son was born. On this date, God brought water out of a rock. Their staff was literally their personal record of their history with God. When Moses parted the Red Sea, what did he do? He held up his staff. He was saying, in effect, Lord, we thank you for all the things you've done in our past. Lord, we remember how you have delivered us time and time again. They were remembering the great things God had done.
Even David, when he went out to face Goliath, he didn't just take his slingshot, the scripture says he took his staff. No doubt he had etched on it, "On this date, I killed a bear with my own hands. On this date, I killed a lion. On this date, the prophet Samuel anointed me the next king of Israel". I can imagine, just before he fought Goliath, he ran back over and looked at his staff one more time, read over it, just to give him that final boost. Then he went out, knowing God, you did it for me back then, I know you'll do it for me again.
Some of you today, you need to get your staff out. You're up against a big challenge, your dreams look impossible. Instead of going around thinking, "It's never going to work out," no, start dwelling on your victories. Start thinking about the times you've killed the lion and the bear in your own life, so to speak. Recall all the times God has promoted you, put you at the right place, healed a family member, made a way when you didn't see a way.
Don't forget about what God has done. On a regular basis, go back over your memorial stones. That's the equivalent of holding your staff up, and when those negative memories come back up, and they come to all of us, hurts, failures, disappointments, the trick of the enemy is to keep you so focused on that, that you get stuck in a rut.
No, remember, that is not the only channel. Get your remote control out and switch over to your victory channel. Get your mind going in the right direction, and your life will go in if you'll develop this habit of remembering the good, your accomplishments, your victories, the times God's brought you through, then you will have the faith, the courage, and the confidence to step in to the amazing future God has in store. Now, I believe and declare, just like David, you will defeat every enemy, you will overcome every obstacle, and you will become everything God's created you to be, amen?