Joel Osteen — Serve One Another
I want to talk to you today about "Serving one another". Jesus said if you want to be great in the kingdom, if you want to live a blessed life, it's very simple. You have to serve other people. Event that takes place every once in a while. He was talking about a lifestyle where you live to help others, you're always looking for ways to serve.
You're helping a friend, volunteering at the hospital, taking care of a relative. It's not something you force yourself to do. It becomes a part of who you are. You've developed that attitude of serving. That's when you'll have true happiness, true fulfillment. Not living to get, but living to give, and this is the reason a lot of people are unhappy. They're only focused on themselves: my dreams, my goals, my problems. That's going to limit you. You were created to give, and God puts people in our path on purpose so we can be a blessing to them. Every morning we should ask, "God, show me my assignment today. Help me to see the people that you want me to be good to".
My friend Johnny I've known practically my whole life, for over 40 years. He's always serving other people, running somebody to the airport, taking a friend to dinner, helping a relative when my dad was on dialysis and one of the family members couldn't take him, we'd always ask Johnny. We knew he would gladly do it. One time, I called him on a hot Saturday afternoon. He answered and it was very noisy in the background. Could tell a lot was going on. Said, "Johnny, where are you"? He said, "I'm on top of a house. My friend's next-door neighbor is an elderly woman and we promised we would re-roof her house this weekend. He didn't even know the lady, it was his next-door neighbor's friend but he's developed this habit to serve one another.
When you serve others, you are serving God. When you do it for them, you're doing it for him. Jesus said, "If you give a cup of cold water to someone in need, you will surely be rewarded". Every time you serve, God sees it. Every time you help others, you go out of your way to pick up that friend, you come early to sing in the choir, you stay late to train that co-worker, God is keeping the records. Nothing goes unnoticed. He says, "You will surely be rewarded". That word "Surely" means you can count on it. Have no doubt.
Now here's the key. Don't look for people to pay you back. People may not say "Thank you". You may not get the credit you deserve. Nobody may be giving you an applause. Serve others, there is an applause for you in heaven. Almighty God sees your sacrifice. You don't need people cheering you on. You don't need somebody clapping for you. You're not doing it for people, you're doing it for God. He's the one that matters. He sees every act of kindness, he sees you volunteering at the hospital. He sees you working in the nursery each week. He sees you taking your neighbor to their doctor's appointment on your day off. When you serve others, God promises you will be great in the kingdom.
J.J. Moses, right here on the front row, was a star football player in college. He was drafted by the Houston Texans and played for them for five seasons. J.J. Was the kick-off and punt returner. He's as fast as lightning so quick. When he'd get the ball, he would electrify the crowd, darting here and there, amazing to watch. In the football world, he was at the pinnacle of success. Career-wise, at the very top, playing in the national front of millions of people.
But during the off season, or whenever he didn't have a game, do you know where he was every Saturday night? Not at home with his feet up, not out enjoying his celebrity. He was right over here, ushering in this section, welcoming the visitors, seating people, passing the offering plates. Many people, they didn't know he was a star professional football player. In the stadium, all the lights were on him. Everybody wanted to get a picture, everybody tried to get a autograph. He could have let that go to his head, thought, "I'm not going to usher anymore. I'm big-time. I'm J.J. Moses. I'm the original J.J. Before J.J. Watt, I was here. I don't want to wait on anybody. I want people to wait on me".
No, still, every Saturday night, he's ushering week after week. He told me, "Joel, my greatest honor was not playing in front of 80,000 people in the stadium each week. My greatest honor is to volunteer at Lakewood each Saturday night". What am I saying? You're never too important to serve. Never too big, never too influential.
I know a man that was worth $9 Billion, with a "B". He's in heaven now. He started off with nothing. Got in the oil business and obviously made it very, very big. He loved God. He's a good man, always helping others. He owned among other things, a big retreat center where couples could go and spend the weekend and be refreshed, and one day this couple came to the front desk. The receptionist had stepped away, and it just so happened he was there. He was an older gentleman, very kind, very friendly. So he checked them in, gave them their key, then he picked up their suitcases and carried them to their room. He got them all set up, laid out their bags, even got them some ice.
When he was about to leave, the lady reached in her purse and gave him a $5 tip. She thought he was the bellman. But I love the fact that he wasn't too important to serve. He could have said, "Excuse me, do you know who I am? I own all this. I don't need your $5". No, here's what I've learned. It takes a big person to do something small. It takes humility to say, "I don't have to do this. It's not required of me, nobody will fault me if I don't do it but I know in order to serve God I need to serve other people," and if you want to have a great life, it doesn't just come from success, having a bigger house, more accomplishments. That's all great. God wants you to be blessed. But if you're going to be truly fulfilled, you have to develop this attitude of serving one another.
You were created to make somebody else's life better. Somebody needs what you have. Somebody needs your smile. They need your love, your encouragement, your gifts, and when you serve others you will feel a satisfaction that money cannot buy. There will be a joy, a peace, can give.
One time, Jesus and his disciples had traveled a great distance to the city of Samaria and they were very tired and hungry. Jesus sent the disciples into he waited by a well. He met a woman, told her about her future and gave her a new beginning. In a few hours, the disciples came back with the food but Jesus wasn't hungry anymore. He was sitting by the well refreshed and at peace. They offered him something to eat but he wouldn't take it. He said, "I have food that you know nothing about".
Well, they thought maybe somebody came and gave him something to eat while they were away. They started talking about it. "He was hungry a little while ago and now he's not. He was tired, but now he looks so refreshed. How could that be," and Jesus overheard them discussing it. He said in John 4, "My food comes from doing the will of Him who sent Me, to accomplish His work". He was saying, "I get fed by doing what God asks me to do. My nourishment comes from helping people. My food, my strength, my peace, my joy, my satisfaction, it comes when I serve others".
Sometimes you can work all day and naturally at the end you're kind of tired. But there are times when you serve others, you get up early to help that co-worker, you swing by the hospital and pray for that friend. You mow your neighbor's lawn after work. You should be tired and rundown but you leave re-energized. Refreshed. Why is that? Because when you do the will of your father, it doesn't drain you, it replenishes you.
Many of you today, you serve, you volunteer, here at Lakewood, maybe in your community. You get up early and go to church on your day off to work in the children's ministry, to sing in the choir, to help others. Maybe you go clean neighborhoods on Saturday outreach. Perhaps you spend an afternoon at the prison encouraging the inmates. You'd think you'd be tired, rundown. "Man, I got to go home and rest. I've been volunteering all day". No, just like with Jesus, when you do what he ask you to do, you're being fed. Strength comes, energy comes, joy comes, peace comes.
You should be run down but when you serve others, God recharges, re-energizes, refreshes. You don't leave down, you leave up. You don't leave low, you leave high. I know every time I leave this auditorium after a service, I always leave stronger than I was before. Why is that? Because when you serve others, when you make somebody else's life better, when you lift people, when you help heal those that are hurting, not only are they being blessed, but you're being blessed. You're being refueled. You're getting filled back up.
Now, if you never have any energy, no joy, no strength, one reason, not the only one, one reason may be because you're not doing anything for anybody else. You've got to get your mind off of yourself. Go to the seniors' home and cheer somebody up. Bake your neighbor a cake. Coach the little league team. Will always lift you, and this should be something we do not every once in a while, if we have some extra time. No, this should be a lifestyle where it's a part of our nature. We're always looking for ways to be a blessing, and it doesn't have to be something big. Simple words of encouragement can brighten somebody's day.
One time, Victoria was walking through the hallway after service. We had just dismissed and there were hundreds of people in the corridor. As Victoria passed a young lady, she stopped her, looked her in the eyes and said, "You are so beautiful". Ten-second conversation, no big deal. They both went on their ways. Young lady told me how that was a turning point in her life. She had just gone through an abusive relationship and she felt so unattractive so bad about herself, so beaten down by life. She said, "When Victoria said those words, 'you are so beautiful,' it was like a chain was broken off of my mind. Something came back to life on the inside".
The scripture says: "Kind words work wonders". All through the day, we can serve God by speaking kind words, giving a compliment, giving encouragement, "Hey, I love you. Hey, you look beautiful. I believe in you. I'm praying for you". Simple things can make a big difference, and really, this should start in our homes. It's great to serve people when you're out in public. That's important. But make sure you serve your own family. Husbands, serve your wife, "Honey, I'm going into the kitchen. Can I bring you anything back"? Or "Let me run and get your car filled up with gas so you don't have to tomorrow. Let me help the kids do their homework. You take a night off".
I'm convinced if we would have this servant's mentality, more of our marriages would stay together, and I know husbands that, they expect their wife to do everything for them. "I'm not going to serve her. I want her to serve me, cook, clean, bring me my food, make sure my clothes are washed, keep this house straightened up". That's not a wife, that's a maid. You might as well call a cleaning service. You can hire somebody to do that. If you want a wife, if you want a friend, a lover, somebody to make your life great, you've got to serve that woman, make her feel special, bring her breakfast in bed, pick up your own stinky clothes, help with the children. It's not a dictatorship, it's a partnership.
"Joel, the Bible says the wife is to submit to her husband". The only scripture a lot of men know. Yes, but it also says: "The husband is to love his wife like Christ loved the church," and Jesus modeled a he had all the power in the world, the most influential person that ever lived, yet he bowed down and washed his disciples' feet. He could have hired somebody to do it. He could have called an angel down from heaven, said, "Hey, wash their feet. I don't feel like it. They stink today. Matthew's got some fungus on his toes. Peter needs some odor-eaters". No, he willingly bowed down, pulled out his towel, washed their feet, one by one. He did this as an example so we would know we're never too important to be good to people.
You're never too high to where you can't bow down low and serve somebody else. The more humility you walk in, the more you serve others, the higher God can take you, and some of you, if you'd start serving your wife, serving your husband, you'd see that marriage go to a new level.
I heard about this guy. He was bragging to all of his buddies about how he was the head of his house. He said, "Yeah, I run things around my house". About that time, his wife walked up. He said, "I run the vacuum, I run the dishwasher". Victoria and I made an agreement when we got married that I would make all the major decisions and she would make all the minor decisions. It's funny, in 26 years of marriage, there's never been a major decision.
Let me ask you, who are you serving? Who are you lifting up? Who are you being good to? Be on the lookout for ways that you can be a blessing. God puts people in our path so we can brighten their day.
A few months ago I was able to baptize nearly 800 people on a Saturday and there was an older gentleman there that he had had a stroke and he didn't have any kind of mobility. He couldn't walk and they rolled him in a wheelchair. The young man that was pushing him, he looked to be about my age and you could tell he really cared about this man. He went to great lengths to make sure he was okay. To get in the baptistery, you have to walk up some stairs and then walk back down into the water, and some of the workers lifted up the older gentleman, and that young man, he put one arm under his knees, one arm under his back, and he carried him into the baptistery waters.
It was a very moving scene, seeing this older man, crippled, couldn't walk, yet he was so determined he wanted to be baptized and seeing the young man carry him down into the waters. After we got him baptized, we put him back in the wheelchair and I said to the young man, "Is that your father"? He shook his head, "No". I said, "Well, is he your relative, your uncle? He told how he was a random man that he sat by one Sunday at Lakewood. Never met him before but it was the Sunday that I announced that I would be baptizing people in water.
The older man turned to him and, just in passing, said, "Wow, I wish I could be baptized. I guess I waited too long. I can't walk anymore so guess I missed my chance". The young man told him that he would help him to get baptized. That older man said, "I don't have a ride and I don't have any family here and I can't walk". He said, "Don't worry about it. I'm going to take care of you". He went and picked him up, got him to the fourth floor, he had only met the man one time before.
My prayer is, "God, help us to have that same compassion. Help us to not be so busy, so preoccupied with our own affairs, that we can't serve somebody else". God is asking us today, "Will you carry someone"? Maybe not physically, but will you help lighten their load? Will you help make their dreams come to pass? Will you go out of your way to be a blessing to them"? Helping less fortunate people is the closest thing to the heart of God.
I will never forget that image of that young man carrying that crippled man into the baptistery for as long as I live. I could understand it if it was his father. It would make sense to me if it was a relative, a long-time friend. But he did it for a total stranger. He gave up his Saturday. He could have been out, goofing off on his day off, down at the beach, working out, hanging with friends. Nothing wrong with that. But his attitude was: "I have an assignment. There's somebody God put in my path on purpose so I can serve. Somebody I can brighten their day. Difference in their life".
Jesus said, "When you do it to the least of these, you're doing it unto me," and I love the fact that this young man, he wasn't looking for any recognition. He wasn't making some big announcement, "Look at me, everybody. I'm doing a good deed". He didn't have anybody cheering him on. He was quietly serving this other man. Nobody would have known about it if I hadn't have said something.
Many of you, like him, are constantly being good to people, going out of your way to be a blessing, making sacrifices nobody knows about. But let me tell you, God sees what you're doing. He sees your heart of compassion. Nobody may be clapping for you down here but up there, all of heaven is cheering you on.
See, I realize I'm receiving some of my reward right now. People thank me, cheer for me, clap for me. I'm very grateful, I'm very flattered. But when nobody is clapping for you, when you're not being told "Thank you," you're not getting the recognition, don't be discouraged and think that you're being overlooked. Your reward will be greater.
When people give you credit, that's part of your thank you. That's part of your reward. But when nobody's giving you credit, the scripture says: "What you do in secret, God will reward you in the open". When it comes time for the rewards to be passed out, some of us that are in the front now are going to have to step back, and the people that were behind the scenes, the ones that volunteered year after year with no great applause, the ones like this young man that went to great sacrifices to make somebody else's dreams come to pass, the ones that have given time, energy, money, that nobody knew about, those are going to be the greater rewards.
Not long ago, one of our ushers went to be with the Lord. He had volunteered here for nearly 30 years, as faithful as can be. He was an older gentleman and he always dressed nice, had a pleasant smile, a quiet demeanor. I don't know that I ever spoke to him personally, but I remember seeing him month after month, service after service. You could count on him.
My mother helped officiate at the funeral. One of his requests is that he would be buried wearing his Lakewood usher's badge, and there he was in the casket, in his finest suit and on it was the badge that he had worn for nearly 30 years. He was so proud to be an usher. He could have been buried with anything he wanted. But his greatest honor was serving other people. Don't you know, when he arrived in heaven, there was an amazing welcoming ceremony? I can hear the angels singing. I can see people clapping. I can see the trumpets blowing.
See, there wasn't a lot of applause for his life of service and generosity here on the earth. But nothing goes unnoticed. You will be rewarded. The scripture tells how when Stephen went to heaven, Jesus stood up to welcome him. Jesus is normally seated at the right hand of the Father. But I believe there are times, like with this usher when he arrived an unsung hero, there will be times when Jesus says, "You know what? This one deserves a standing ovation". He'll stand up for welcome you home.
I heard about this older missionary couple. They had served over in Africa for more than 60 years, helping the less fortunate people, given their whole life and done so much good. Now they were returning home to New York City to finally retire. It just so happened, they were booked on the same ship with president Teddy Roosevelt. He was returning home from one of his big hunting expeditions.
When the ship pulled into the dock in New York, there was all this fanfare, band was playing, the mayor and other dignitaries lined up, balloons going up in the air, confetti coming down. When the crowd saw president Roosevelt step off the boat, they began to cheer. Tens of thousands of them, waving, cheering, trying to snap a picture.
The missionary said to his wife, "Doesn't seem right. We've given our whole life to help other people, to give, to serve, to make a difference. He goes on a vacation and the whole world welcomes him home. Nobody even knows we're here". They got off the ship very discouraged.
That night, he was praying. Said, "God, I don't understand it. He goes on vacation and comes home to the fanfare of the world, and we come home after a whole life of service and nobody even says, 'Hello'". Down in here, he heard God speak to him. He said, "Son, it's because you're not home yet. There will be a reward. You will hear a band playing like you've never heard before. It will be the angels. All of heaven will welcome you home".
Many of you have been faithful, given, served, volunteered. Be encouraged today, God sees every act of kindness. Nothing goes unnoticed. You will be rewarded. Remember, when you do what God asks you to do, you're being fed, you're getting stronger, refreshed, re-energized. So be on the lookout this week for ways that you can be good to people. If you'll develop this lifestyle of serving, God says, "You will be great in the kingdom," and I believe and declare because you serve others, you're coming into your reward. You're coming into favor, coming into healing, coming into promotion, coming into breakthroughs. You're coming into new levels of God's goodness, in Jesus' name.