Joel Osteen — Run Your Race
I want to talk to you today about "Running your race". In life, there will always be people that try to squeeze you into their mold, people that try to pressure want you to be, and they may be good people, they may mean well, but the problem is they didn't breathe life into you. They didn't equip you, empower you, anoint you, almighty God did, and if you're going to become who God created you to be, you have to have a boldness.
You can't be insecure and worry about what everybody thinks. If you change with every criticism, you play up to people to try to win their favor, then you'll go through life being manipulated, letting people squeeze you into their box. You have to realize you can't keep every person happy. You can't make everyone like you. You'll never win over all of your critics. Even if you changed and did exactly what they ask, they would still find fault, and you're not really free until you're free from trying to please everybody.
You're kind, you're respectful, but you're not living to please people, you're living to please God, and when you get up in the morning, and if you're doing to the best of your ability what you know God wants you to do, then you don't have to look to the left nor to the right, just stay focused on your goals. If people don't understand you, that's okay. Because you wouldn't let them control you, they weren't true friends anyway. You're better off without them. If people start talking critical, jealous, trying to make you look bad, don't let that change you. You don't need their approval, you have almighty God's approval, and some of you would go to a new level if you would get free from what everybody thinks and start being true to who God made you to be.
We spend too much time trying to impress people, trying to gain their approval, wondering what they're going to think. "If I take this job, if I wear my hair this way, if I move into this neighborhood," we make decisions based on these superficial things, and I heard somebody say, "At 20 years old we wonder what everybody thinks about us. At 40 years old, we don't care what anybody thinks about us, and at 60 years old, we realize nobody was thinking about us".
I read a report from a nurse that takes care of people that are close to death. She asked hundreds of patients in the last 12 weeks of their life what their biggest regret was. The number one regret was, "I wish I had been true to who I was and not just lived to meet the expectations of others".
How many people today are not being true to who they are because they're afraid they're going to disappoint somebody? They're afraid they may fall out of their good grace, they may not be accepted in a certain group. I say this respectfully, but you cannot live trying to be who your parents want you to be, or your boss wants you to be, or your friends want you to be. You've got to stay true to who God has called you to be.
When my father went to be with the Lord, I had to accept the fact that God's purpose for my life was not the same purpose as my father's. His calling was to help bring down the denominational walls and let people know about the fullness of the Spirit, and when I took over, I felt pressured to be like my father, to fit into that mold. I thought I had to minister like him, and run the church like him, and go down that same path. But when I searched my heart, I knew my calling was to plant a seed of hope to encourage people, to let them know about the goodness of God.
And at first, it was difficult because some people had been in the church for 40 years. I thought, "I can't be anything different, what would they think? They may not like me. They may not accept me". One day, I read a scripture "David fulfilled his purpose for his generation". I heard God say right your father fulfilled his purpose, now quit trying to be like him and go out and fulfill your purpose.
When I heard that, it was like a light turned on. I realized I don't have to try to be like my father. I don't have to fit into a certain mold. It's okay to run my race. I am free to be me. After all, God doesn't want us to be an imitation be the original God created you to be.
Friends, there is an anointing on your life not to be someone else. You are anointed to be you. But if you let people squeeze you into their mold, and you bow down to that pressure, and you change with every criticism, that's not only going to take away your uniqueness, but it's going to lessen God's favor, it's going to reduce his anointing on your life.
And as the church started to grow and more people were watching on television, the critics came out of the woodwork. People saying, "He's not like his father. He's too young. He doesn't have the experience". Even now, "Joel's too much of this and not enough of that". If you change with every criticism, you won't have a chance. I believe one reason that God has promoted me is I have tuned out the negative voices and I've done my best to stay true to who God's called me to be. I don't try to compete with somebody else. I don't let people control me and feel guilty if I don't fit into their box. I don't get upset because somebody said something negative. I look straight ahead.
Like the apostle Paul, I do my best to run with purpose in every step, and I learned early on, in order to please God you may have to disappoint a few people. There were several members that had been at the church for many, many years, long time friends of our family. But because I wasn't exactly like my father, because I wouldn't let them squeeze me into their mold, they got upset and left the church, and that was difficult for me because I wanted their approval. But looking back now, I realize had I let them pressure me into being who they wanted me to be, I wouldn't be standing here today.
The scripture talks about how they loved the praise of people more than they loved the praise of God, and one of the tests is someone in our life that we love, we look up to, a friend, a boss, a family member, they want us to go a certain direction, but we know in our heart God wants us to go another direction. We don't want to lose their friendship, we don't want to disappoint them. We want their approval, but if you're going to fulfill your destiny, you've got to be strong. You have to have this attitude, "I want the praise of God more than I want the praise of people. I have an assignment, I have a purpose, I have a destiny. I'm going to become who God's created me to be".
And what I found is if you will please God, if you will be true to who he's made you to be, eventually you will you may lose a few friends early on, people don't understand you, think you're making a big mistake, but later on they will see you walking in the fullness of your destiny, and some of you would see God's favor increase, you would see new opportunities, new relationships if you'd just get free from what people think and start doing what God's put in your own heart.
I've learned everyone has an opinion. People will be quick to tell you how to run your life, what to wear, what to drive, how to comb your hair, how to raise your children, how to spend your money. If you try to please everybody, one thing I can guarantee you 100%, you'll be confused, you'll be frustrated, life will be miserable. I live by this motto, "Everyone has a right to their opinion, and I have every right to not listen to it". If it doesn't match what God's put in your heart, let it go in one ear and out the other.
I heard about a man that fell into a pit, and different people came along with their opinions. The pharisee said, "You deserve to be in the pit". The catholic said, "You need to suffer while you're in the pit". The baptist said, "If you'd get saved, you wouldn't have fallen into the pit. The charismatic said, "Just confess, 'I'm not in the pit.'" The mathematician said, "Let me calculate how you fell into the pit". The IRS agent said, "Have you paid taxes on that pit"? The optimist said, "Things could be worse". The pessimist said, "Things will get worse".
Everyone has an opinion, and if you try to please every person, the one person that will not be happy is you, and it's funny, sometimes the people that are trying to run your life, even run their own life, much less yours, and it's good, it's good to get advice, it's good to listen to opinions, but you've got to be confident enough in who God made you to be that when something doesn't bear witness with your spirit, you have a boldness to say, "Thanks, but no thanks. I love you, but this time it's not for me".
I have a friend that's on staff here with us, and several years ago, this man came up to him and said, "I feel very strongly that you're supposed to go out and start your own church. You're a great minister. You're anointed. I know it would be a success," and while my friend appreciated his encouragement, that didn't bear witness at all. He knows he's called to be here. This is exactly where God wants him to be.
Month after month, this man kept coming up, "When are you going to start your church? When are you going to take that step of faith"? It went from being encouraging to pressuring him, trying to squeeze him into his mold. My friend finally said to him, "Let me ask you, will you rent me an auditorium? Will you buy me a sound system? Will you pay my staff? Will you pay the utilities? Will you pay all the advertising cost"? That man looked at him like he had lost his mind, he said, "No, I can't do that. I can't afford it".
My friend said, "Well, if God calls me, he'll take care of me. He'll pay my bills, he'll bring the right people, he'll line up the auditorium. But if I do it because you called me, I'm going to have to rely on you, and I can tell I'd be very disappointed.
The reason some people are not at joy in their life is they've stepped out of their anointing. Everything's a struggle. It's because they'd no matter how good of an idea it is, no matter how exciting it sounds, if it doesn't bear witness to what you're feeling in your own spirit, do like my friend, be strong and run your own race.
Growing up, my parents knew this couple, and they had been friends for a long, long time, and this couple really loved my parents, but they didn't attend at Lakewood. They thought it was too far. They lived on the other side of town, it's about a 30-minute drive, no big deal now. But for years, they told my father, "If you ever bring Lakewood to our side of town, we will be there every time the doors open. There are so many people, thousands on this side of town that would love to attend Lakewood".
My father heard that so much, he was convinced that there was this mass of people on the other side of town waiting for Lakewood. So, he rented an auditorium less than 5 minutes from their house, spent thousands of dollars on the building, the sound system, the advertising, and for one month he brought Lakewood to that side of town. The truth is God didn't call him to do it, these people called him to do it. They talked him into it.
It was a good idea, but it wasn't a God idea, and there's a difference. There can be a lot of things that look fine on the surface, but you got to search your heart and say, "God, is this for me? Is this a part of my destiny? Is this a God idea, or is this just a distraction? Is this just people trying to squeeze me into their mold?
My father had his big service across town, spent thousands on the advertising, and do you know practically nobody showed up, less than 200 people. The amazing thing is that couple did not attend one service. First week, they had little league. Second week, they had guests in from out of town. Third week, their goldfish was sick. Fourth week, their cat was depressed. They had the most lame excuses. My father left there kicking himself all the way back across town. He learned his lesson.
If people call you, people will have to take care of you, but when God calls you, God will take care of you. I've heard it said what God orders, he will pay for. Just because something is good, if it's not God's plan for your life, there won't be an anointing on it. Listen to what you're feeling down in here. Small voice. You're not anointed to be everywhere, you're anointed to be where God's called you to be. Now, don't let people talk you in to leaving your sweet spot.
I see too many people hopping from church to church, relationship to relationship, job to job, always chasing the latest fad, and I know there are times to change, but so often it's not God moving us, it's people moving us. Some people will even use the scripture, they'll use spiritual language to try to convince you to do what they want you to do.
How many times have I heard, "Joel, God told me to tell you how to run the church. God told me to tell you to do less of this". Some people listening to them, you'd think God speaks to them more than he spoke to Moses, David, Esther, Sarah combined.
I had a man every Sunday that gave me a word from the Lord. When I would see him in the lobby, I'd do my best to hide. "God, give me a break this week, please". He would always find me, he was frustrated because I wouldn't run the church like he wanted me to. I finally told him very nice that, "Sir, I appreciate your advice, but I'm on speaking terms with God. He can talk directly to me. Matter of fact, I spoke with him this morning.
See, God will give you direction for your life more than anyone else. God's not going to tell me something about you and then not tell you. If someone speaks into your life, they should confirm what you already know. "Well," you say, "the prophets told people what to do". Yes, but in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit lives on the inside of each one of us.
A man came to my father and said, "Pastor Osteen, a man gave me a word from the Lord that I'm supposed to go to Africa. Should I go"? And my father said, "I don't know if you should go or not, but if you do go, make sure you take him with you, so you'll know when to come back home". You don't need anybody to tell you what to do or not to do, and we have to realize when we come to the end of life, we're not going to stand before any person and give our account, we're going to stand before almighty God, and he's not going to say, "Why didn't you do what they said? Why didn't you fit into their mold? Why didn't you take their opinion"? He's going to ask, "Did you become who I created you to be? Did you stay true to what I put in your heart"?
This is where Saul missed it. Saul had a big destiny, God had great things in his future, but Saul was so insecure, he let people he was afraid he was going to disappoint somebody. He said in 1 Samuel 15:24, "I disobeyed the Lord's instructions because I was afraid of the people, so I did what they asked". He even admitted it, "I disobeyed God's instructions". Why? He was a people pleaser. He thought, "Somebody might get their feelings hurt. Somebody may be disappointed. Somebody may not like me". So, he forfeited his destiny in order to please people.
Don't let that be you. You have to especially be aware of high maintenance people. I believe that's who Saul was dealing with. These people are almost impossible to keep happy. You have to call them on schedule, run their errands, meet their demands, be available 24/7. If not, they get upset and they'll do their best to make you feel guilty about it. High maintenance people are almost always controllers. They're not interested in you, they're interested in what you can do for them, and if you fall into that trap it'll wear you out and you'll live life frustrated.
I know, I knew this couple years ago. I really liked them and I was so good to them. They moved to another city, I helped them move, I gave them money, I'd call to check on them, I was always available, but the feeling I got from them is I was never doing enough. They were never satisfied, always had a complaint. Here I had gone overboard to be kind and generous, but they were constantly finding fault, trying to make me feel guilty, and one day, I learned what I'm sharing with you. They're just high maintenance people. I am not responsible to keep them happy. I'm going to run my own race and not let them steal my joy, and that was a great day in my life. Matter of fact, I get happy friends
Your time is too valuable to go around trying to figure out how to keep everybody happy. I know people that spend more time worrying about what people are going to think about them than they do pursuing their own dreams, their own goals. You got to break free from that. If you're going to do anything great in life, if you're going to be a great business person, a great teacher, a great parent, not everybody is going to cheer you on.
I'd love to tell you that all your family, friends, co-workers will celebrate you, but that's not the case. Some people can't handle your success. If you were where you were 10 years ago, they'd have no problem with you. But as you succeed, as God pours out his favor, somebody will get jealous, somebody will start finding fault. Don't be surprised if a family member, a relative tries to belittle you, discredit you. A friend you've been good to for years all of a sudden won't speak to you. Let that bounce off of you like water off of a duck's back.
If you don't, you'll start changing, being defensive, trying to prove to them that you really are okay, and what's happening is you're letting them squeeze you into their mold. But your destiny is too great to be distracted by people that are never going to like you. Don't take it personally, it's not about you, it's about the favor God put on your life that stirs up the jealousy in them. Until they deal with it, nothing's going to change. You might as well just shake it off, be happy, and run your race. Because no matter how good you are to them, they're still going to find fault. No matter how much kindness you show, they will still find some reason to be critical.
It's like this grandfather I heard about, he and his small grandson were taking a trip into town, and he started off letting the grandson ride the donkey and he was walking alongside. Somebody came along and said, "Look at that selfish little boy making the old man walk". The grandfather heard it, took the boy off, and he got on the donkey and rode it, and had his little grandson walking alongside.
In a few minutes, somebody came along and said, "Look making the little boy walk while he rides, that is not right". Hearing that, the grandfather picked up the boy and put him on the back of the donkey, they were both riding. A few minutes, somebody came by and said, how cruel of the two of you to put that heavy load on that little donkey". By the time they got to town, the grandfather and grandson were carrying the donkey.
You know the point, no matter what you do, you're not going to please everyone. You might as well accept the fact that not every person is going to understand you, and that's okay. They have a right to their opinion, and you have every right to ignore it. One more key. If you're going to run your race, don't share your dreams with everyone.
Don't go around telling people what's in your heart and all your goals. Some things you're supposed to keep to yourself. The scripture even talks about the hidden petitions of your heart. That's supposed to be between you and God, and what gets us off course sometimes is we share our dreams with people that can't handle it.
If Joseph would've understood this, it would've saved him a lot of heartache. As a teenager, he had the dream that his older brothers were going to bow down before him. He was going to lead a nation and have all this success. The mistake he made is he went out and told everyone, and somehow, his older brothers didn't celebrate the fact that they were going to bow down. That didn't go over very big.
Certain dreams you should keep to yourself. You may be excited, but other people are not going to be excited. Like Joseph's family, they're not going to celebrate what God's put in your heart. It'd be much better off to just learn to keep it to yourself.
This is what Mary did, the mother of Christ. The angel appeared unto her and told her she was going to have a baby without knowing a man. Mary didn't go out and announce it to the world. She didn't run, call TMZ and say, "I got some big news". The scripture says she she kept it between her and God. She was wise enough to know not everybody would understand it. Some people would try to talk her out of it, some people would make fun of it.
Learn to keep your dreams to yourselves. Let them take root in your own spirit. Ponder it on the inside between you and God, and when it's time to bring it to pass, God will help you to give birth to every dream he's placed in your heart.
My challenge to you, run your race. Don't you dare let people squeeze you into their mold. Always be kind, but be confident enough in who God made you to be, that you don't live to please people, you live to please God. Our attitude should be, "I'm free to be me, and I'm going to be the best remember, you don't have to try to play up to people to try to win their approval, you have almighty God's approval". Quit worrying about what everybody thinks. As long as you're being true to what God's put in your heart, don't look to the left nor to the right, stay focused on your goals, and if you'll make this decision with me that you're going to run your race, then I believe and declare God will get you to where you're supposed to be. You will overcome every obstacle and accomplish every God-given dream in Jesus' name.