Joel Osteen — Removing Negative Labels
I want to talk to you today about "Removing negative labels". Throughout life people are constantly sticking labels on us, telling us what we can and cannot become and sometimes this is good. People speak faith into us, they encourage us. But then there are times that people put negative labels on us. You cannot stop the negative comments. You can't prevent the negative labels but you can choose to remove them.
As a teenager, Walt Disney was told by his art instructor that he wasn't creative, he didn't have any imagination. Disney was smart enough to remove that label. He went on to do pretty good. Lucille Ball was told that she didn't have any acting skills, she should try a different profession. She removed that label, starred in "I love Lucy" for many years. Winston Churchill failed the 6th grade, was told he wasn't smart enough. He went on to become one of the greatest prime ministers that's ever lived.
The common denominator in the success of these people is they chose to remove the negative labels. The same way today, people put labels on us. When my father went to be with the Lord in 1999, I stepped up to pastor the church and I had never ministered before. One Sunday after the service, I overheard two ladies talking in the lobby. One said, "He's not as good as his father". The other answered back, "Yes, I don't think the church is going to last". I was already insecure. I already felt unqualified and, boom, another negative label. Not good enough, not up to par, inferior.
That's the way the enemy works. He would love to put labels on you to keep you from reaching your highest potential. He doesn't fight you for where you are; he fights you for where you're going. He knows God has amazing things in your future so he'll try to discourage you, intimidate you, make you feel inferior, and words are like seeds. If you dwell on them long enough, they will take root and become what was said, and I tried to remove that negative label but it wasn't easy.
Those thoughts would play in my mind again and again, "You're not good enough," "You don't have what it takes". It was like trying to peel a bumper sticker off of a car that's been there a long time and, you know, you peel it and it tears. You've got to work and work. I fought those thoughts in my mind day after day. Finally, I removed that negative label and I put some new labels on, "I can do all things through Christ. I am strong in the Lord. I am anointed". Here's my point. If I had made the mistake of wearing that negative label, I don't believe I would be standing here today.
Wrong labels can keep you from your destiny. Don't go the next 20 years allowing one negative comment to hold you back. You are not who people say you are; you are who God says you are. People will label you "Not good enough," "Too slow," "Too old," "Too many mistakes". God labels you, "Strong," "Talented," "Valuable," "More than a conqueror". Make sure that you're wearing the right labels.
Many people don't know any better. They wear the negative labels like they're the truth and they've become so ingrained in their thinking they end up becoming what people say they are instead of what God says that they are. Are there labels that are holding you back today: what a coach said, what a counselor said, even negative comments spoken by your parents? This is the time to remove every negative label. People don't determine your destiny; God does.
The only power that label has over you is the power that you give it. If you will remove it, in other words, quit thinking about it, quit acting like it's the truth, then that label will have no effect on you. Those two ladies said the church wouldn't last, I didn't have the talent, they couldn't stop my destiny. They couldn't stop what God had already ordained. The only way they could have limited me is if I would have worn their negative label around.
I know a gentleman, he told how he overheard his junior high teacher telling his mother how he was a slow learner. For 30 years he wore that label around. Never had a good job, never had real success, just kind of floundered through life, and one day I told him what I'm telling you: you've got to remove that label. Your teacher may have been sincere. She may have made an assessment based on where you were at the time, but this is a new day. She didn't know what God put in you.
If you're going to reach your highest potential, you've got to say, "No thanks, I am not wearing that slow learner label anymore. That may have been her opinion but I have another opinion. It's from my creator and he says I have the mind of Christ, that I am full of wisdom, that I can fulfill my destiny". Don't let negative labels hold you back.
I talked to a high school student one time and she was about to take her final exams and she said, "Joel, will you pray that God will help me to make C's on these tests"? I said, "Why do we want to pray for C's and not A's"? She said, "Oh, no, Joel, my high school counselor told me I'm just a C student". She didn't know any better.
Somebody stuck a label on her; she was wearing it around like it was the truth. Have you ever thought about the same God that can help you make a C can help you make an A? Why don't you remove that label? The same God that can help you get by in life can help you excel in life. The same God that can give you an apartment can give you a beautiful house.
Are there labels that are holding you back? The label, "Divorced; I'll never meet anyone new". The label, "Overweight; I'll never get in shape". The label, "Addicted; I'll never break these bad habits".
Whatever label you're wearing, you're going to become what that label says. You're giving it the power, and this is why some people can't break an addiction. They're wearing that label, "Addict". The real battle is taking place in our mind. If you think you're an addict, you've already lost. You've got to change the label. God says you are free, you are clean, you are healthy, you are whole. Don't go the next 20 years wearing that addict label. Put some new labels on today.
I had a young man tell me how he was the main drug dealer in his neighborhood. He was sincere. He wasn't proud of it. He said, "Joel, I know this is not right. I don't like doing it but it's the only thing that I'm good at". He was wearing that drug dealer label. It's all he thought he could do. I told him, "If you can sell drugs, you can sell medical supplies. If you can sell drugs, you can sell stocks and bonds".
Think about this. To sell drugs, you have to get the word out. That's advertising. You have to manage your inventory. That's administration. You have to take care of your clients. That's customer service.
Don't sell yourself short. Remove any labels that are holding you back. Let me ask you, who told you all you can do is sell drugs? It's not the truth. Who told you all you can make in school are C's and not A's? A counselor? They didn't know what God put in you. Who told you you could never succeed, you'll not be as good as your father? Two ladies in the lobby? They don't determine your destiny. Who told you you'll never own a nice house, you'll never get married, you'll never accomplish your dreams?
Those labels did not come from your Creator, and just because somebody spoke them over you doesn't mean it's the truth. You have the power to remove those negative labels, and some of you have been wearing them way too long. Things like, "You'll never go to college. Nobody in your family has". Take that label off. You can be the first. "You'll never get out of that neighborhood. All the odds are against you". That's what they told my father. He removed the label. God took him places that he never dreamed of. "You'll never get well. That sickness is terminal". It's what they told my mother. She removed the label. Thirty-two years later she's still healthy, whole, strong.
Friends, we serve a supernatural God. He can do what medicine cannot do. He's not limited by your education, your background, the family you come from. He's not moved by the things people have spoken over you. He's not up in heaven all frantic, trying to figure out how to get you to your destiny. He knows the end from the beginning. He already has solutions to problems you've not even had. He's all powerful and all knowing. People may have tried to push you down but if you'll just remove those labels and get in agreement with God, he'll push you up. He'll take you where you could not go on your own, and you don't have to figure it all out.
All God asks you to do is believe. When you believe, all things are possible. When you believe, doors will open that should have never opened. When you believe, God will take you from the back to the front. Don't let negative labels hold you down. People will tell you, "You're all washed up. You've made too many mistakes". If you wear that label, it will keep you from the amazing future God has in store.
God says, "My mercy is bigger than any mistake". God says, "I can still get you to your destiny". God says, "I'll give you beauty for those ashes. I'll pay you back double for the unfair things that have happened". You wouldn't be alive unless God had another victory in your future. Why don't you take off the washed-up label, take off the failure, guilty, condemned labels, and put on some new labels: redeemed, restored, forgiven, bright future, new beginning.
People will tell you, "You're too small, you're too quiet, you don't have a good personality, you come from the wrong family". Don't you dare go through life wearing those labels. You have been made in the image of almighty God. God did not make any mistakes. You are the perfect size. You have the right personality, the right gifts, the right looks, the right skin color. God says in psalms, "You have been fearfully and wonderfully made". You were not an accident. God designed you precisely for the race that's laid out for you.
Remove those labels, "Too big, too small, unattractive". Put on this new label: "Fearfully and wonderfully made". One label far too many people wear is the label "Average, ordinary". "Joel, nothing special about me. I'm just one of the 6 Billion people on the earth". Listen, you were never created to live an average life. You have seeds of greatness on the inside. You were created to be a history maker. You're not supposed to live and die and nobody even knew you were here. You're supposed to leave your Mark on this generation.
God has an assignment for you that nobody else can fulfill. God needs you. He needs your gifts, your smile, your love, your passion. You are a part of his divine plan. You have something to offer that nobody else can offer. Nobody has your exact personality, your exact looks. There is something unique about you. Don't wear that average label. If you think you're average, then you'll be average. If you think you're ordinary, then you'll live an ordinary, get-by life, and never do anything great.
The truth is there is nothing ordinary about you. You have the fingerprints of God all over you. The Creator of the universe breathed his life into you. He crowned you with his favor. You have royal blood flowing through your veins. You have a destiny to fulfill, something greater than you've ever even imagined. But if it's going to happen, if you're going to become all God's created you to be, one of the first things you've got to do is take off the average label, take off the ordinary label, put on these new labels: "Masterpiece, valuable, one of a kind".
This is what David did when the prophet Samuel came to anoint one of his father's sons as the next king of Israel. David's father, Jesse, didn't even bother to bring David in from the shepherd's fields where he was taking care of the sheep. Jesse thought, "I know it's not David. He's too small, too young, not that talented, not as smart as his brothers". David had all these negative labels put on him by his own father.
Samuel looked at the other seven sons. Said, "Not this one, not this one, not this one". Finally ran out. Said to Jesse, "Do you have any other sons? It's none of these". Jesse said, "Yeah, my youngest son, David, is out in the shepherd's field but I know it's not him".
Friends, God doesn't label the way people label. People look on the outside; God looks on the heart. God knows what you're capable of. God can see the seeds of greatness that he's placed in you. It's so easy to let what someone has spoken over us to keep us from really believing in ourselves.
David walked in. Samuel took one look at him and he said, "He's the one. That's the next king of Israel". Right there, David had to make that decision that I'm asking you to make. He had to remove the negative labels. He'd heard them a thousand times, "Too small, too young, you don't have what it takes". What's interesting is David's brothers, even though they saw Samuel anoint David as the next king, they still tried to stick their negative labels on him.
When David was out where the army gathered, his oldest brother, Eliab, said, "David, what are you doing out here, and with whom have you left those few sheep you're supposed to be taking care of"? What was Eliab doing? Sticking a label on him, "Inferior, not good enough, intimidated". David could have said, "Yeah, right, what was I thinking"?
David could have accepted that label and let it hold him back. But this time, David had a different attitude. He said, "Eliab, what you say about me doesn't change what God said about me. You're still labeling me 'weak, defeated, inferior.' You don't realize I've gotten rid of those labels and the Creator of the universe, the God who breathed life into me, put some new labels on me. They say, 'giant-killer, more than a conqueror, destined for greatness, king of Israel.'"
Now you may have had negative things spoken over you, even by people that should have been encouraging you. I love what Isaiah said: "No weapon formed against you will ever prosper but every tongue raised in judgment," that means every negative label, "You will show to be in the wrong". Notice, God's not going to do it; you have to show it to be in the wrong. In other words, you have to remove the negative label.
Nothing that was spoken over you has to define you, even if it was from people who raised you. Nothing that's happened in your past has to keep you from your destiny, even if you've made mistakes or gone through unfair situations. You can show it to be in the wrong by shaking off the self-pity and moving forward with your life. Will you dare do like David and remove the negative labels? Quit dwelling on what your mama said, what a jealous sister said, what a cranky co-worker said, what a cynical neighbor said. You are not who people say you are. You are who God says you are. They cannot stop your destiny. Remove the old labels. I'll give you some new labels to wear: "Giant-killer, History-Maker, World-Changer".
My friend, coach Dale Brown, he's the legendary coach of the LSU basketball team, told me a story. He was speaking to a group of soldiers at a military base in California. When he finished, a young man came up to him that stood nearly 7 feet tall, 250 pounds. He said, "Coach Brown, I want to try out for our basketball team but I can't dunk the basketball. I can barely jump, and when I run up and down the court my legs tire out so easily I can only play a few minutes". Coach Brown asked him how long he had been in the military. He said, "I'm not in the military. My father is. I'm 13 years old". He wore a size 17 shoe.
Coach Brown took this young man under his wing. He said, "When I get back to Louisiana I'm going to send you my training program. It'll help strengthen your legs and increase your endurance". Three months later, he got a letter from the young man saying, "Coach Brown, I've done everything you've asked me to do, spent hours in the gym and in the weight room, working out. But my basketball coach just cut me from the team. He told me I'm too big, too slow, too clumsy, I'll never be able to play basketball".
All those negative labels. Coach Brown wrote him back and said, in effect, "Listen, son, if you'll just keep working out, keep being your best each day, and keep asking God to help you, God will get you to where you're supposed to be". That young man had to make a decision: "Am I going to wear these negative labels through life, 'too big, too slow, too clumsy'? Or am I going to follow the dream that God's placed in my heart? Am I going to believe I'm a giant-killer and I can do all things through Christ"? He decided to remove the negative labels and that young man, Shaquille O'Neal, ended up going to LSU, playing for coach Brown, broke all the records, and you know how Shaquille has become one of the greatest basketball players that's ever played.
But I wonder where he would be if he would have believed the negative labels. What if he had thought, "I guess I am kind of too big, too slow, too clumsy"? We wouldn't be talking about him today. Has somebody told you you can't accomplish your dreams, like the ladies in the lobby: "You're not talented. You're too big, too small. You don't have the experience". No, God didn't put the promise in them; he put the promise in you. Along the way, there will always be negative voices trying to label you but God would not have given you the dream unless he had already equipped you. You already have what you need, and what may seem like a limitation, too tall, too short, God can use as an asset.
God knows what he's doing. He has designed you specifically for the race that you're in. You may kind of feel like Shaquille that you've been cut from the team. The experts have told you what you can't do, what you don't have.
Here's what I've learned. The experts can be wrong. Experts built the titanic and it sunk. Amateurs built the ark and it floated. The experts said we would never have this facility, but here we are today. The experts said my father would never get out of poverty but he did. The experts said my mother wouldn't be alive today but she is. The experts said David was too small; God said he was just the right size. The experts said that I couldn't pastor a large church, I didn't have the experience but I've done pretty good. I've got one more. The experts said my brother Paul would be handsome; didn't happen. I'm not even going to look. Don't let the experts talk you out of what God has put in your heart.
In the scripture a lady named Rachel died while giving birth to her second son. There were complications in labor and delivery. Gasping for air, trying to birth this child, and so much pain and agony and right before she died, she gave birth. She named the boy Ben-Oni which means "Son of my sorrows". She labeled him based on what she had experienced. Now this little boy was going to have to go through life being called "Son of my sorrows".
Sometimes, people will put a negative label on you, not because of anything you've done but because of the pain and heartache they've experienced. Hurting people end up hurting other people. Bitter people are quick to stick on those negative labels.
A few minutes after Rachel died, her husband Jacob came rushing in. The nurses were holding the baby. They handed him to Jacob and said, "This is your son. His name is Ben-Oni, son of my sorrows". When he heard that, something came all over Jacob. He rose up and said, "No, that is not his name. No matter what he's been through in the past, my son will not be called 'son of sorrows.' His name will be Benjamin". Benjamin means "Son of strength, son of power, son of my right hand".
Benjamin grew up to become a great leader. Out of his family line came the kings of Israel, one king after another. See, God had a great destiny for Benjamin to fulfill, an assignment, but God knew that if he went through life wearing that label, "Son of sorrow," he would never become what he was created to be. So God stepped in and said, "No, no, he's not wearing that label. He's not a son of sorrow, not a son of defeat, not a son of disappointment. This child is a son of destiny. This child has seeds of greatness. His name will be 'son of strength.'"
God knows how powerful labels are. Maybe somebody has tried to label you average, slow learner, not talented, too many mistakes. No, God is saying the same thing to you that he said to little Benjamin, "I am changing your name. I'm placing a new label on you. No more 'son of sorrow.' No more 'son of mediocrity.' No more 'son of broken dreams'. I'm renaming you to 'son of strength', to 'daughter of destiny', to 'child of influence', 'child of greatness', 'child of victory'".
Now, my challenge: remove the old labels and start going by your new names: "Masterpiece," "Valuable," "One of a kind," "More than a conqueror," "History-maker". Those are the labels that we should be wearing. One last key. People can call you many different things but you are not what people call you. You are what you answer to. They can call you slow, lazy, too old, all washed up. That's all right, just don't answer to it. Answer to victorious. Answer to talented. Answer to history-maker. If you'll do that, I believe and declare today is going to be a turning point. The bondages from the past are no longer going to have any effect on you. You are going to rise up and become the son of strength, the daughter of influence, the child of victory, child of blessing, child of favor, child of greatness. You will overcome every obstacle, defeat every enemy, and become everything God's created you to be, in Jesus' name.