Joel Osteen — Seasons of Silence
I want to talk to you today about seasons of silence. We all go through times where it doesn't feel like we're making progress. We're praying, but our prayers aren't being answered. We're being our best, but not getting good breaks. The problem hasn't turned around. Seems like God went on vacation. But the silence is not a sign that God is not working. He may not be changing the circumstances, but he is changing us. God uses the seasons of silence to get us prepared.
When we're not getting our way, we're doing the right thing, but we're being overlooked. Our friend got married, but we're still single. We're working harder than our co-worker, but they got the promotion. We feel overlooked, undervalued, forgotten. These times of isolation, where you're not being celebrated, are extremely valuable.
Nothing may be changing on the outside, but something's happening on the inside. Your character is being developed. You're learning to not depend on people. You're gaining experience, maturity, strength that you'll need to go where God is taking you, and you may wonder why no one is celebrating you. You're being faithful, but the door hasn't opened. You're gifted. You know you could teach that class better than the person that's in place, but they never call on you.
Don't complain about the silence. God does his greatest work in isolation, when nobody is noticing you. There are things you will learn in anonymity that you can't learn anywhere else. When God is silent, that doesn't mean he's not concerned. Silence is not a sign that God has forgotten about you, just the opposite. It's a sign that he's closely watching you. He's getting you prepared for new levels. But if he brought you out before you were ready, it would stop your purpose.
God loves you so much that at times he will hide you, he'll cause you to be overlooked, he'll cause the door not to open. He'll cause a person to walk away. You can be talented and hidden, anointed and hidden, have great ideas and hidden, and if you don't understand that it's God hiding you, you'll be frustrated and try to make things happen out of God's timing. But before you see notoriety, you'll go through a season of obscurity. You have to pass this test when you're hidden.
As a teenager, David was anointed to be king. God spoke it through the prophet Samuel, but David didn't go straight to the throne, God hid him. He went back to the shepherd's fields and kept doing the same thing that he had been doing, taking care of his father's sheep. He spent years out there by himself. Alone, in obscurity, it was boring. His brothers were in the military. They had a prestigious position. They were being celebrated.
Here's a key, don't compare your life to other people's. It may seem like they have it better, they're further along, they don't have the challenges you do. Run your race. God's purpose for your life is not the same as theirs. Don't look to the left or to the right, stay focused on your calling.
In the Scripture Peter asked Jesus about John and what kind of future John was going to have. He thought John might have it better than him. Jesus said, "Peter, if I want John to remain alive until I return, what is that to you"? He was saying, "Peter, what happens with John, James, Mark is none of your business, just follow me". As long as you compare, you'll be frustrated because you'll always find somebody that looks like they have it better than you. But David was destined to go higher than his brothers. He was going to see more influence, more favor, so that required more isolation, more training, more experience.
I'm sure David thought, "God, you said I'd be the king. You said I'd lead the nation. Why am I still stuck out here taking care of these sheep? I have so much more in me," out there alone, nobody to talk to, he would look up into the skies and talk to God. In that time of isolation, he drew close to his creator. Maybe that's where he wrote some of the Psalms that we read today. Instead of complaining, "God, why's it taking so long"? "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life". After he passed the test of obscurity, God knew he could trust him with notoriety.
Like David, you may have big dreams. God has spoken promises over you, but nobody is noticing you. You're not seeing increase, promotion. Don't get discouraged, it's because God had you hidden. You're not off course, you're not falling behind. You are in a time of preparation, a time of training. God is getting you ready for what he has in store, and if you will keep on doing the right thing, you will come into a time where God causes you to be seen. Promotion doesn't come from people, it comes from the Lord. When it's your time, no person can stop you, no bad break, no injustice. Just as God hid you, he will bring you out into the open. He will shine down his favor and cause you to go where you couldn't go on your own.
Now, you may feel like you're hidden, but don't be frustrated, thinking you're falling behind and, "Look who's getting ahead of me". When God brings you out, he will catapult you forward. He will make up for the lost time. When you have an expensive piece of jewelry, a diamond ring, you put it in a box and hide it. You don't wear it around the house, to go work out, to run up to the grocery store. It's valuable, so you keep it hidden, and at the right time, when you're going somewhere special, you bring it out for people to see. In the same way, the reason you're hidden is because you're extremely valuable. You're like that diamond, you're going to shine. God's waiting for the right time to bring you out. You are not hidden because you're ordinary. You're not hidden because you're average. You're hidden because you're a masterpiece. God breathed his life into you. You have seeds of greatness.
Don't let the silence discourage you, your time is coming. Now, in the isolation, you have to deal with the issues God brings to light. Let him develop you. Like David, do the right thing when it's hard. Keep a good attitude when you're being treated wrong. Go the extra mile when nobody is watching. When you're hidden, you won't see anything happening on the outside, but I can assure you on the inside, God is doing a work. That's an opportunity to grow, to come up higher. You're getting prepared for new levels.
It's like a tree. I have this big oak in my backyard, and in the winter time, it loses all of its leaves. It looks dead, it's barren, but what we can't see is while everything looks stagnant on the outside, on the inside the tree is gathering up sap for spring growth. Without that time of barrenness, where it's cold and it looks like nothing is happening, the tree wouldn't have any new growth.
In the seasons of silence, when you feel like you're hidden, nothing positive is taking place, like this tree, what you can't see is you're gathering up sap, so to speak. Your spiritual muscles are getting stronger, you're learning to trust God in a new way, and this time is important because when God brings you out to new levels, into greater opportunities, you will see greater opposition, bigger obstacles, more coming against you, and if God brought you out before you were ready, you couldn't handle it. So, he uses the hidden seasons to toughen us up.
The scripture says God didn't take the Israelites the shortest route to the Promised Land because they weren't prepared for war. God knew they would've been defeated, so he hid them. They went through this season of silence where they didn't see anything happening. Now, the mistake they made is they started complaining. "God, why is it taking so long? God, why are we still out here in the desert? God, why aren't we making more progress"? God was doing them a favor, but they didn't recognize it. Don't do like they did.
You may not understand the path that God is taking you and why it's not happening faster, but God knows what he's doing. He uses the delays, the difficulties to get us prepared, and none of us like the slow seasons, and especially the unfair seasons. We lost a loved one. A friend walked away, a dream didn't work out. It's easy to think, "God, why didn't you stop it? Why didn't you heal my father? Why didn't you keep them from betraying me"? But God doesn't waste anything. The difficulties, the delays, the losses, if we will keep the right attitude, it's all working for our good. It's getting us toughened up.
Because where you're going, you can't be offended by every negative comment. You have to have a backbone made of steal. God can't promote you if you're going to be revengeful and try to use that position to pay people back. You have to let it go and trust God to be your vindicator. If you're intimidated by the opposition, overwhelmed by difficulties, it will keep you from your destiny, and in these silent seasons, like the Israelites, we can think, "God, the Promised Land is that way, why are you taking me the long route"? You have to trust God. He can see things that you can't see. He knows what's best. It's all a part of the process to get you prepared, to get you developed. He knows what you're going to need.
I face challenges today that if I would've faced 20 years ago, they would've defeated me. My personality type is to want everyone to like me, and when I was working behind the scenes those 17 years, that was easy. I had a dozen friends and they all liked me, at least I think they did. But when God promoted me and put me in front of more people, I found out that some people didn't like me, and that would've bothered me back then and made me feel insecure, intimidated. But I've learned my approval doesn't come from people, it God had to toughen me up.
Now, when things come against me, I think, "I buried my father. I went through that loss. I learned how to minister when I didn't think I could. I fought for the Compaq Center when every voice said we'd never get it". If I can make it through those difficulties, then I could make it through anything. The scripture says these light afflictions are for a moment, but they're working in us an eternal weight of glory. Somebody not being for you, that's a light affliction. That's like a little gnat, just flick that away.
Your time is too valuable to waste on petty things. But when you've been through some difficulties, through some losses, through some Goliaths, you don't complain about not getting a parking spot. You don't fall apart because somebody left you out. You don't give up on a dream because it didn't turn out your way. You know it's a light affliction and it's working for your good.
Now, you may be in a season of silence. You feel like you're hidden, but the silence doesn't mean God has forgotten about you. He's heard every prayer, he's seen every tear, and at the right time, God is going to bring you into what he's already prepared. God is not preparing the blessing for you, he's preparing you for the blessing. The Promised Land was already in place. He had to get the Israelites prepared. Favor is already in your future. There are blessings that already have your name on them. The right people, divine connections already lined up. You keep passing the test in the silent seasons. You keep getting prepared and you're going to come in to more than you can ask or think.
But what stops some people is they don't like the preparation. You have to deal with the issues God's bringing to light. Maybe God's asking you to put down your pride, forgive the person that did you wrong, or to start saying no to the compromise, no to the jealousy, no to the critical spirit. Don't let a small thing keep you hidden. Don't let something you know you can overcome keep you from the amazing future that belongs to you. You're not hidden because God is mad at you.
You are hidden because God loves you so much, he's getting you prepared to go where you've never gone. Now, in the isolation, in the anonymity where you're not seeing increase, you're not David, use that time to draw one thing about being isolated, where you don't have a lot of people or things to give your attention to, you can turn your attention towards your Heavenly Father. Learn to talk to God, develop a deeper relationship. Not just a Sunday morning God, but all through the day in your thoughts, talk to God like you'd talk to a friend. God will be as involved in your life as much as you want him to be. If you keep God in a Sunday morning box, he'll stay there. But he wants to be so much more.
Tyler Perry told how, as a young man, he had a dream to put on plays. He's always been very creative and had a vivid imagination. But as a little boy, he was mistreated by his father, and the way he would escape the pain is to go out under his front porch alone, and he'd come up with these amazing stories. In his mind, he would go to a different world.
When he was in his early 20s, he borrowed $300 from a family member and rented a small theater in Atlanta. He passed out flyers all over the community. He was excited, this was his big debut, but nobody showed up. This happened again and again. His family told him to forget about the plays, go get a normal job. Every time he wanted to quit, somebody would step up and underwrite the next play. One play, only a few people showed up. He was so disappointed, he couldn't pay the building, couldn't pay his staff, that was it, he was done. But afterwards, a man from the audience came and said, "I loved that. I want to support your next play".
You may be hidden, but God will always have the right people there to help keep you going. For seven years, it was a struggle. At times, Tyler was homeless, living out of his car. Twenty dollars was the difference of him eating that whole week. An opportunity came for him to take the play to South Carolina. He thought this was his big break, loaded up the truck, started driving. Then it came on the news a hurricane is coming to South Carolina, another disappointment. Tyler had the talent, he had the creativity, he had the skills, but he said, "God hid me on purpose. I didn't have the maturity, and if God would've given it to me back then, I wouldn't have been able to sustain it".
Back in Atlanta, he rented another theater, decided to try it again. He thought it'd be the same result, another disappointment. This time, on opening night, he peeked out the window, people were lined up around the block waiting to get in. He couldn't quit weeping. That night was the start of something amazing. Today, Tyler Perry has become the most successful African-American film producer in history. You may be hidden, but when it's your time, God knows how to bring you out. What he has prepared is bigger than anything you can imagine, and what's significant is Tyler told me none of this success happened until he forgave his father.
For years, he was bitter. He couldn't understand why his father treated him so badly. One day, he went to visit his father with a new perspective to try to understand who he was as a person, not as a parent. He'd begin to learn how his father didn't have any training, didn't have any guidance growing up, he didn't know any better, and Tyler, once he understood what his father dealt with, he didn't excuse his actions, but he did make the decision to forgive him, and that's when doors began to open.
And when you're in these seasons of silence, when you feel like you're hidden, it's so important to look inside and deal with things that could be holding you back. You can have the talent to go somewhere, but if you don't have the character, if you're not willing to forgive, keep giving into compromise, if you don't treat people right, that will keep you from your best.
We see this in the scripture with Joseph. He was hidden for 13 years. He was betrayed by his family, falsely accused by a lady, put in prison for something that he didn't do. The reason Joseph fulfilled his purpose is he kept passing these tests. He showed God he would forgive. In prison, instead of sitting around bitter, he helped the butler get out of prison. He sowed a seed.
Nothing that's happened to you is a surprise to God. He wouldn't have allowed it if he didn't have a plan. It may have been meant to harm you, but God knows how to turn it to your advantage, and God did not create you to stay hidden. It may look like it's never going to change. The truth is it's a season of silence, not a lifetime of silence. There is an appointed time for it to come to pass. Keep growing, keep improving, the silence is only temporary.
Matthew chapter 16, Jesus asked Peter, "Who do you say that I am"? Peter answered, "You're the Messiah, the Son of the Living God". Warned him to not tell anyone who he was. Jesus knew he was supposed to be hidden. He knew it wasn't his time yet. Another place, the people believed in Jesus so strongly, they wanted to crown him king. But the scripture says Jesus snuck away, and went up and hid in the mountains. He knew he couldn't be crowned before he went to the cross. He trusted his Father.
Like Jesus, we can't be crowned before we go to our cross, so to speak, before we learn to crucify our flesh and resist things that are holding us back. He told his disciples to stay silent, to not tell anyone he was the Messiah.
A lot of us would be just the opposite, "Go ahead Peter, get the word out. Let everyone know how great I am". It's much better to let God promote you and not people. Don't get in a hurry. You don't have to make things happen. You don't have to convince someone to put in a good word for you. God knew how to hide you, and he knows how to elevate you. If you'll let God do it his way, it will be better than anything you could've made happen.
God has not forgotten about you. He knows you're hidden, and he knows how long you've been there. He's the one that put the gifts, the talents, the dreams, and instead of fighting the silence, why don't you do like Jesus and embrace it? "God, my times are in your hands. I know you're getting me prepared, working all things for my good", and at the appointed time I know, you will bring me out.
Elijah was one of the greatest prophets in the Bible. As a young man, he spent time studying and preparing for ministry. He'd just gone to the palace and spoken the word of the Lord to king Ahab. No one else had the courage to speak up to the king. I'm sure Elijah left there feeling confident, ready for his next assignment. God said to him in 1 Kings 17, "Leave here, go east, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith".
I can imagine him saying, "Excuse me, God, you must have the wrong person. I'm Elijah. I just prophesied to the king. I've studied more than anyone. I'm ready to go on a national tour. You don't want me to hide myself". Elijah wanted to speak to the nation, but for the next three and a half years, he only spoke to a widow and her son. God hid him. He didn't understand it. He had bigger things in his heart, but he trusted God's timing. He was faithful when he was hidden. W
hen you're faithful in the silent seasons, you are setting yourself on a launching pad for God to take you further than you've ever dreamed. After three and a half years, God said, "Okay, Elijah, now I know I can trust you, you're ready. Leave here and go on your next assignment". After he was hidden, Elisha prayed and the drought came to an end. He called down fire from heaven, destroyed 400 false prophets, on and on. It's interesting, he performed no miracles until after his season of silence.
Don't be frustrated when you're hidden. Jesus was hidden, Elijah was hidden, David was hidden. It's all a part of the process, and here's the beauty. You're hidden, number one, because you're extremely valuable like that diamond. Number two, you're hidden because God is about to launch you. You're on the verge of seeing promotion, favor, increase like you've never seen, and you may have been hidden for a long time, but you've been faithful, you've been growing, getting prepared, and I believe and declare God is about to bring you out. He's about to cause you to be seen. People are going to notice you that have never noticed. Keep being faithful, your appointed time is on the way in Jesus' name.