Joel Osteen — Shining Brightly
I want to talk to you today about "Shining brightly". How you live your life is sending a message to those around you. More than your words, more than what you say, people are watching how you live, how you respond to adversity, how you treat others, how consistent you are. When you go out each day with a smile on your face, you're kind, you're in a good mood, you're always doing things for others, that's one of the our actions speak much louder than our words.
I've heard it said, "Preach at all times. Use words only when necessary". Your life is your message, and the scripture tells us we have the power to be a witness. It doesn't say to witness, to preach a sermon, to straighten people out, to tell them what they're doing wrong. No, the real power is to be a witness. When people see you living a life of excellence and integrity, day in and day out you're happy, friendly, good-natured, that has a greater impact than we can quote scriptures all day long and come to church every time the doors are open, keep our praise music on. But if you complain about the boss, get upset 'cause of the traffic, play politics to get ahead, your example will override anything that you say.
Parents, we can tell our children, "Be kind, be respectful". But if they see us being disrespectful, not treating people right, it will go in one ear and out the other. The power is in what you do. Most people are not reading their Bibles, they're reading your life. They may never listen to a minister, they may never come to church, but they're watching how you live. We should have so much joy, so much peace, we should be so kind, so generous, so good-natured that people want what we have. That's what it means to be the light of the world.
We come to church each week to get our batteries charged, to get filled back up, to be encouraged, to grow, to learn. But our real assignment begins when we leave this auditorium. There's already plenty of light in here. We have faith, we're expecting good things. Our light is not very effective around other light.
It's like this little boy, his father bought him a new flashlight. He was outside on a bright, sunny day, and he turned it on, shined it around, couldn't see anything. He said, "Daddy, it doesn't work, something's wrong". Dad said, "No, son, it's fine. It wasn't designed to work in the light, it was made to work in the darkness. That's when you'll see what it can really do," and too often we complain about the darkness. "I don't like this job. These people are so negative. Nobody has a good attitude".
Let me ask you, why do you think God put you there? They don't need more light in the bright places, that's an opportunity for you to shine. I've heard it said you can either be a thermometer and just measure the temperature, become like everyone else, or you can be a thermostat and change the temperature. When you hear people complaining about the company, don't join in, "Yeah, it's really bad around here". Be a thermostat. Turn it around. "Things may not be perfect, but I'm grateful that I have a job. I'm thankful that I can come to work each day".
You are the light of the world. Don't add to the darkness, turn your light on. It works best in the dark places. When you're around negative influences, gossiping, complaining, people playing politics, don't turn it off, don't hide it. Realize that's what your light was designed for. Let it shine brightly.
The scripture talks about wives that have husbands that are not believers. It says, "Don't try to win them over with your speech. Your godly life will speak to them better than any words. They will be won over by watching how you live". In other words, you don't have to preach to people. You don't have to try to straighten them out, "Hey, you need to have a better attitude. You need to have a new perspective". No, just be happy. Be friendly. Be a person of excellence. That's how you let your light shine, with your actions, not just with your words.
Everybody's discouraged, but you've got a spring in your step. You're in a good mood. Everybody's slacking off, but you're giving it your best. Everybody's upset at the company 'cause they have to work late, but you're just the same, happy in the good times, happy in the tough times. That's letting your light shine brightly.
My father told how when he was a young man, this one church where he went to minister was so dead. Nobody clapped, nobody sang, nobody responded. He thought, "God, what am I doing here? These people don't want to be in church. They certainly don't want to listen to me, it's dead". He heard God say right down in here, "Son, why do you think I sent you there? They don't need more light where it's already bright. I sent you to stir them up. I sent you to be a thermostat, to ignite that spark, that flame that's on the inside".
God will send us into dark places so we can make a difference, so our light will shine brightly. Quit complaining about the family you married into. "God, these in-laws, these outlaws, this mother-in-law, God, they get on my nerves". You're not there by accident. God has you there on purpose. He's counting on you to brighten it up.
Now, don't add to the darkness, don't make it worse, be a light. Do the right thing even when the wrong thing is happening. Be respectful even when they're disrespectful. Keep a good attitude even when you feel like being sour. Stay on the high road. They need your light. "Well, Joel, I am so dreading going to my family reunion this year. My relatives are so sarcastic. They make fun of me 'cause I won't party with them. They give me a hard time 'cause I go to church. I don't feel like putting up with it".
No, have a new perspective. That's an opportunity for you to shine. It's easy to shine around everybody that loves you, everybody that celebrates you and thinks like you. The problem is your light is not nearly effective around those people because it's already so bright. The darker the situation, the brighter your light will shine. You don't have to try to change their minds. You don't have to tell them everything they're doing wrong. All you've got to do is be happy.
When they make fun of you, just laugh and let it bounce off. When they're sarcastic, just smile and move forward. No big deal, don't let it affect you. People push buttons expecting to get a certain response. I'll say this and they'll get upset. I'll leave them out and they'll get their feelings hurt. I'll be disrespectful and they'll argue, they'll be rude. Don't fall into that trap. Turn your buttons off. Let them push all they want, just keep being kind. Keep being respectful. Stay on the high road.
Love never fails. Light will always overcome darkness. It may not happen this year or even next year, but at some point they will come to the place where they get tired of living negative, defeated, sarcastic, and they'll think, "You know what? I want what they have. I want that joy. I want that peace. I want that spirit of excellence".
Your example, more than your words, will be what don't complain about that neighborhood you're in. "God, these neighbors, these people, they're involved in things they shouldn't be involved in. They curse. They're disrespectful. They don't take care of their property". That's why God has you there. It's dark. He's counting on you to turn on the light. Instead of complaining, while God has you there, help my light to shine with greater intensity. God, help me to be a greater influence. Let your love, your kindness, your mercy be seen in everything that I do"?
In the scripture, David worked for king Saul, and Saul became jealous of David and tried to kill him. One day, David was playing the harp for Saul, trying to make him feel better, and Saul threw a spear, barely missed David. He took off running for his life, and Saul ended up chasing David through the wilderness, making his life miserable.
What's interesting is David never complained about Saul. He never said, "God, why is this man trying to kill me? This is not right. I haven't done anything wrong". No, David just kept doing the right thing, letting his one night, while David was on the run, he saw Saul and his men asleep in the desert. This was David's big opportunity to put an end to it. He could've killed Saul easily once and for all, been done with it, and nobody would've faulted him. But David wouldn't do it. He knew Saul had been anointed to be the king. He said, "God, I'm not going to touch your anointed, I'm going to let you fight my battles".
When Saul woke up and realized what had happened, that David could've easily killed him, Saul said, "David, you're a better man than me". He was ashamed and went back home. This didn't happen because of David's words, because of something that he said. "Come on, Saul, I'm a good person. I'm not going to harm you, leave me alone". No, David let his actions do the talking. He became a witness.
People believe a sermon that they see more than a sermon that they hear. Quit trying to pray away the darkness and just start being a brighter light. Do it consistently. People don't change overnight. Saul chased David for a long time, month after month, year after year. David stayed on the high road. God eventually vindicated him, he became the king.
There may be people in your life that you have to let your light shine year after year. You have to be willing to invest in them. Keep doing the right thing even when it seems like it's not making a difference. Keep being respectful even though they're giving you the cold shoulder. Your consistency, being a witness day in and day out, then just like Saul, that's going to cause one day that light to overtake the darkness.
Think about when Jesus was on the earth. He didn't spend all of his time in the temples, in the synagogues, in the churches, in the safe places. He didn't only associate with people that believed in him, people that celebrated who he was. He went to the people that were not on the right track. The tax collectors, they were he went to the fishermen, they were rough and used bad language. He went to the people that had failed morally, he showed them mercy, was kind to them. He was called a friend of sinners.
The religious people didn't like it. They criticized Jesus because they thought that he was associating with what they considered to be the wrong kind of people. They didn't understand this principle that light is the most effective in dark places, and because Jesus let his light shine, many of those sinners became believers. But sometimes we think, "God, keep me away from anyone that's struggling with a bad habit, an addiction, an anger issue. God, don't make me have to deal with that person that's dishonest, not faithful in a relationship. Keep me away from the darkness". But Jesus showed just the opposite. He said, "It's the sick who need a doctor, not the healthy".
God will bring people across your path that need your light. Don't have a holier-than-thou attitude, thinking, "I can't be contaminated. He uses bad language. She's kind of loose. He doesn't have integrity. No, you've got the light. God's counting on you to make a difference. You don't have to become best friends with them. I'm not saying to spend all your time with them, but you can be kind, you can show them that you care, you can be a positive influence in their life.
That's what a minister friend of mine did. This young lady that cut his hair, she was a good person, but she had some issues. She was struggling with addictions, and she'd been in and out of a bunch of relationships, and now she was living with another boyfriend, and when he came in to get his haircut, she was very uncomfortable because she knew there were some things in her life that were not right.
Him being a minister, she was certain that he was going to judge her and give her a sermon, tell her everything that she was doing wrong, but he didn't do this. He was just kind, friendly, likeable, and when he left that first day, she was so relieved. I found most people already know what they're doing wrong. You don't have to tell the man, "You need to break this addiction. You need to get out of that toxic relationship. You need to start being more honest". You don't have to convict people of their sin. That's not your job, that's what the Holy Spirit does. Our job is to love people, to let our light shine, to be good to them.
My friend noticed that this young lady, the hairdresser, she liked a certain kind of coffee, and before he'd come get his haircut, he'd always stop by and bring her that cup of coffee, just being kind. She had a son, a little boy, and every time around his birthday, Christmas, special holidays, he would pick up store and give that to his mother. He was always encouraging this young lady, letting her know that he believed in her.
It was about 2 years later she asked where his church was located, the first sign that he was having any kind of effect. That next Sunday, she and her boyfriend showed up at church, she hadn't been to church since she was a little girl. That day, she felt a love like she had never felt. Their hearts were touched, both she and her boyfriend after the service, they said to the minister, "We've been living together for a long time, and we need to set a better example for our son. We'd like to get married". Several months later, this minister performed their wedding ceremony. That was years ago, they're still married, still happy, still in church.
Here's how Jesus put it. "Let your light shine before men so they may see your good works". It doesn't say, "Let your light shine before people that deserve it, people that have it all together, people that don't have any issues". No, let it shine before all people. How do you do it? By letting them see your good works. Can the people God's put in your life, not the ones that have it all together, but the ones that are struggling, the ones that you could easily judge and write off and think, "Man, you need to get it together. You need to straighten up," can they see your good works? Maybe the reason they don't have it together just yet is because they're waiting for your light, your love, your kindness, your mercy. When they see your good works, they'll begin to change.
If my friend would've gone in there and preached to her, "You need to straighten up. God is not pleased, you need to make some changes," she would've have received it. She would've become defensive, it would've pushed her away. She would've found somebody else to cut his hair.
I've heard it said, "People until they know how much you care," and when you take time to shine light in their life, you give a smile, you bring them a cup of coffee, you give their child a gift, you're kind, you're helpful, they feel your love, that's what opens the door to their heart.
Look around at who's in your life. Where is there some light that you can shine? Will you be a friend to sinners? Will you take off judgmental glasses and help love people back onto the right track? Will you be willing to overlook some flaws, not focus on what they're doing wrong, and instead show a little mercy, be a light in their life, a positive influence, a difference maker? After all, if it had not been for the grace of God, that could be you and me. Somebody shined some light in your life. Somebody helped you get to where you are. Somebody overlooked some flaws. Somebody showed mercy. Same light that's been given to you?
When I was in my 20s, I used to play basketball at this gym, and there were a lot of guys there that were very rough, and they would curse, and argue, and lot of times fights would break out. It was very competitive and very intense. I didn't go in there and start telling everybody what they're doing wrong. Plus, they're a lot bigger than me. I didn't try to straighten everybody out. I just went in there being consistently happy, in a good mood, always kind to others.
Over time, they started noticing that there was something different about me. I wouldn't argue, I didn't get upset, I was kind to everyone. It got to the point if there was ever a questionable call, even if I wasn't in the game, I was on the sidelines waiting to play next, just watching, they would always say, "Ask Joel, we know he won't lie". I never told them that my father was the pastor of a big church in town. I worked at a ministry, I just let my actions do the talking.
There was a young man there that had some addictions and some real anger issues. He was very explosive, and he would lose his temper and get into fights, and I had not talked to him that much over the years, just nothing more than, "Hello," and, "How's it going"? But one day, he came over in the locker room and asked if I would help him. I thought he wanted me to or help him pull out the bleachers so we could sit on, but he looked at me and said, "Joel, I got all these anger issues. It's messing up my marriage, it's causing me problems at home, and you always seem to be so calm, so friendly, so good-natured. I thought maybe you can give me some advice".
I was like 20 years old, I didn't know how to solve his anger problems, but I ended up inviting him to come to church. He came to Lakewood, long story short, he gave his life to Christ, he got in some of the classes, overcame those addictions. Today he's like a different person, calm, happy, respectful. I still see him here all the time.
Here's my point. I could've prayed, "God, get all these sinners out of the gym. God, they're arguing, they're fighting, they got addictions. God, deliver me from these people". I could've tried to pray away the darkness, but instead I said, "God, this is where you have me right now. I know my steps are ordered by the Lord. You brought these people into my life, so God, my prayer is that my light will shine with greater intensity. God, let me be a greater influence. Let them see something in me year after year, I just kept being a witness, being kind, being respectful, being honest, being a person of excellence, and one by one, those young men would come up, "Joel, would you pray for me? Can you give me some advice? Can I bring my family to your church"?
Now many of them are here. When you become a friend of sinners, when you take time to shine light into the darkness, that's what has the greatest impact, and the truth is we all have a ministry, we all have a pulpit. It may not look like this one, but your life is sending out a message. Me just living a life of kindness, respect, integrity, that spoke more to those young men than anything I could've ever said. I could've told them, "Guys, straighten up, man. Break these addictions, quit fighting". That would've had very little impact. Talk is cheap. People are watching how you live. What kind of example are you setting?
2 Corinthians 5 says, "We are God's personal representatives on the earth". We have to realize people can't see God, they see us. The question is, are we making God look good? Are we representing him the right way? Do people want what we have, or are we pushing them a way?
A few years ago, I was driving in my car with six small children with me, two of my own, plus nieces and nephews, and they all wanted to go to McDonald's to get something to eat. So, I pulled in the to place my order at the little speaker. My nephew Christopher was about 4 years old, and he likes his hamburger with nothing on it, completely dry.
So, I told the lady, the young girl through the a kid's hamburger with nothing but the bun and a piece of meat. She said, "Would you like pickles with that"? I said, "No, ma'am, I don't want anything on it". She had said, "Okay, would you like mayonnaise"? I said, "No, I want it completely dry". She said, "All right, would you like mustard"? I thought she was kidding. I kind of laughed, I said, "Ma'am, I just want the bun and a piece of meat". She said, "Okay, so you don't want the lettuce, do you"?
I had five more to go. I had to remind myself I am God's personal representative here on this earth. What would God do? How would he act? Would he get upset? Would he lose his cool, give her a piece of his mind? I was tempted to, but I stayed calm and ended up pulled up there to the window to pay, and first thing the young girl said was, "Pastor Joel". My first thought was, "Thank you, Jesus". You never know who's watching.
Ah, you say, "Joel, you know, you're on TV. I don't have to worry about that". No, don't kid yourself. Your children are watching, your neighbors, your co-workers. Every time you interact with someone, you're preaching a sermon. They may not remember what you say, but they'll remember how you made them feel. Do they feel loved? Do they feel respected? Be careful what kind of you're representing almighty God.
When I was a little boy, my father took me and my brothers and sisters to see the Astros play baseball at the Astrodome, and there were these two guys behind us that were very loud and obnoxious. They'd had too much to drink. When the Astros would do something wrong, they would stand up and curse the players, "You blankety-blank player, can't you hit the ball"? And this went on for about an hour.
I would squirm in my seat because I knew eventually my father was going to say something. Daddy was very bold, he was very strong, and sure enough, the Astros made another mistake, and they stood up and cursed and cursed. My father turned around. I remember it like it was yesterday. With this big smile on his face, as friendly as can be, he said, "Listen fellows, the name of the Lord is to be praised, not to be cursed". They looked at him kind of strain, shook their head a few minutes.
One of the Astros hit a home run. They both stood up, by this time they'd had way too much to drink. They lifted both hands in the air and shouted, "Hallelujah". They slapped my dad on the back and said, "How's that, preacher"? The rest of that game, all we heard from them was, "Praise the Lord, hallelujah".
My point is to represent God, you don't have to be mean. You don't have to jump down people's throats. My father used to say, "Don't be a fire hose and try to knock people down, just be a sprinkler. Just let your light shine. Be kind, be friendly. Keep a smile on your face. Let people see your good works".
Remember, your actions speak louder than your words. Your life is your message, and when you're in those dark places, don't complain, have a new perspective. That's an opportunity for your light to shine brightly. When you go out each day, represent God in a great way. Be a witness. Be a positive influence in people's lives, and if you'll put this simple principle into action, shining brightly, you'll not only make a difference in other people's lives, but it'll make a difference in your own life. You'll have more favor, people will be drawn to you, and I believe and declare you will fulfill your destiny and become everything God's created you to be, in Jesus' name.