Joel Osteen — Sow a Seed in Your Time of Need
I want to talk to you today about sowing a seed in your time of need. When we face difficulties it's easy to become ingrown to where all we think about is, "My problem, my illness, my hurt, my bills, my loneliness". As long as we're only focused on ourselves we will get stuck where we are.
In our time of need we have to learn to sow a seed. The way to get what you want is by giving away what you need. If you need happiness don't sit around in self-pity. Go out and make somebody else happy. God will use that seed to bring you happiness. If you need health, go help somebody else get well. If you want God to solve your problems take your mind off yourself and go help solve somebody else's problem. You have to give away what you need.
Now this goes against human nature. If I'm discouraged I want you to cheer me up. If I'm struggling in my finances I don't want to bless you. I want you to bless me. But it works just the opposite. When God sees you getting outside of yourself, when he sees you being good to somebody even though you're struggling, he sees you cheering up a friend even though you've been through a disappointment, he sees you praying for somebody to get well even though you don't feel well, that's the seed God will use to bring a harvest back into your own life.
I know this father. For many years he struggled with his teenage son. It was like they were on different wavelengths. He tried his best to be kind, understanding, loving, but they just couldn't get along. Everything was so contentious. Invariably, they would end up in an argument. He prayed and quoted scriptures and asked God to help him. Nothing was getting better. This father was the coach of the neighborhood baseball team.
There was a young man on his team that came from a single-parent family. He was struggling with his schoolwork. When this father learned about it, he took that young man under his wing. He started bringing him home from baseball practice with his own son and he would help him do his schoolwork. He tutored him, mentored him; became a father figure in his life.
This young man admired him and looked up to him in such a great way. About six months after he started doing that his relationship with his own son began to improve. They started doing things together, grew closer and closer. Today you can't pull them apart. They're the best of friends. That's what happens when you reach out to others. The seed you sow will come back to you.
I've found sometimes you can't solve your own problem but you can solve somebody else's problem. You can't figure out what you should do but you can tell a friend three exact steps as to what they should do. God will enable you to help others. Like this father, he will let you connect with a young person even though you could not connect with your own. If you will sow a seed and help others that's what is going to bring your own harvest.
See, we pray for God to answer a prayer but many times God doesn't send the answer we're asking for. He will send a need and in that need is the seed that holds the answer. This father prayed that God would restore his relationship with his own son. What did God do? Send him another young man that needed help. Helping that young boy was the seed to his prayer being answered. If we're not careful we'll think, "Well, God. I'm asking you to heal me. I don't want to go pray for somebody else". "God, I'm asking you to restore my marriage. I don't want to go pick up that young couple that's struggling and bring them to church". No, what God is asking you to do, the people he has in your life; they hold the seed to your prayer being answered. As you reach out to them God will bring your own harvest.
When Victoria was in her early 20's and still single, she prayed that God would bring the right person into her life. She said, "God, what's most important to me is not what he looks like, not how much he has, not how talented he is. God, more than anything else, I want a man that loves You with his whole heart". She prayed for a godly man.
What's interesting is God didn't send her this incredible piece of humanity right away. What are you laughing at now? Instead of meeting me she met this older woman at the church she attended. This lady could not get around on her own; she couldn't drive. She needed assistance. Down deep Victoria knew she was supposed to reach out to her. Victoria would go pick her up every Sunday and take her to church. During the week Victoria would swing by and check on her and see if she needed anything.
Month after month, year after year, faithfully watching after her. Well, one day when I needed a battery for my watch, out of all the jewelry stores in Houston, Texas I could have walked into, it just so happened I walked into Victoria's mother's jewelry store - Iloff Jewelers - and there was Victoria standing there as beautiful as can be. She didn't realize it at the time but I knew right then and there that I was the answer to her prayer. All she wanted was a man that loved the Lord. God outdid himself. Gave her somebody good looking too.
We got married a year and a half later. That poor old woman hasn't seen Victoria since. I'm only kidding. But I really believe... I am kidding. She took care of her. I really believe Victoria's willingness to reach out to her, to be a friend, to make her feel valuable, was one of the seeds God used to cause our paths to cross. You could say she prayed for the right husband and God sent her an older woman but that lady held the seed to the right person coming into Victoria's life.
When you reach out and give of your time, your energy, you pray for people, you encourage someone, then that seed that holds your answer is being watered. It's taking root. Psalm 37 says, "Trust in the Lord and do good".
Here's a key; it's not enough to just trust in the Lord. It's not enough to just pray, just believe. That's important but you've got to move on to step two; be good to somebody. If you're lonely don't just pray, "God, please send somebody into my life". No, go up to the senior citizens home and become a friend. That neighbor that doesn't have any relatives; stop by, make sure they feel welcome. That's the seed God will use to bring a harvest back into your own life. If you lost your job it's not enough to just pray, "God, please. Give me another job. I'm counting on your favor". That's important but move on to step two. While you're waiting for something to open up go help that friend get ahead in their business. Volunteer in the community.
"Well, Joel. I'm believing to get a promotion". That's great but here's the question, "Are you helping anybody else get promoted? Are you teaching them what you know"? As you help others God will help you. Some of you would see a prayer be answered; you would see a situation turn around if you would just take time to be good to somebody.
It's easy to think, "Well, Joel. I've been through a disappointment. I want somebody to cheer me up". "I've got a bad medical report. I want somebody to pray for me". Or, "My child is off course. I want somebody to mentor him like that man you talked about". No, you've got to sow a seed in your time of need.
When my mom was so sick with cancer in 1981 she would drive across town and pray for other people that weren't feeling well. The truth is my mother needed healing more than any of them. What was she doing? Sowing a seed. She was not only trusting God but she was doing good.
In the scripture, Job went through nine terrible months where he lost his health, had big boils all over his body. It was painful, uncomfortable. Job could have sunk down into self-pity and thought, "Oh, life's just not fair". No, Job understood this principle. In his time of need, instead of getting depressed, he reached out to others. The scripture says, "When Job prayed for his friends, his health returned speedily".
Job could have spent all day praying for himself. He could have spent that same time saying, "God, please heal me. God, I need a breakthrough". Nothing would have happened. You can't have a harvest without sowing a seed.
When you get outside of yourself instead of just looking for a miracle, when you become somebody's miracle, when you not only trust God but you do good, that's when God will begin to answer those prayers. It's so easy to become consumed by our problem, our finances, our health. I say this respectfully but sometimes if you would just stop praying for yourself so much and start praying for somebody else with that same passion, that same intensity, then God would answer your own prayers.
Here's the deal. It's fine to pray for yourself but keep it in perspective. God already knows what we need. He knows every thought before we think it, every word before we speak it. But how many mornings do we get up and we go over our long list? "God, I need you to heal my back. God, I need you to straighten out my son. God, I need more money. Gas is going up". We're spending our time telling God what we need while God is waiting for us to go out and sow a seed.
What would happen if some of the time we would get up in the morning and say, "God, I'm not going to go through my long list today. You already know what I need. I'm going to pray for somebody else. God, I pray for my neighbor that you would show him favor. God, my co-worker that lost a loved one, comfort them. God, I pray for my cousin, that you would bring their dreams to pass". What are we doing? Sowing a seed.
I talked to a gentleman in the lobby several years ago. He had cancer of the kidneys. He would come in every three months to have treatment at the cancer hospital. When he was in Houston he would always attend our services. He would come down front and we would pray together which we were glad to do. He was told that if those tumors did not quit growing that he would have to have a kidney transplant, have his own kidneys removed.
One week he heard me talking along these same lines how in our time of need we should reach out to somebody else. Instead of just coming down to the front for prayer for himself he started bringing other cancer patients with him and he would have us pray for them. At the hospital he would go up and down the hallways, encouraging people, letting them know they were going to make it. He shifted his focus. Instead of being consumed by his illness, his problem, he started thinking of ways he could help other people get better.
A few weeks later he was told that those tumors had stopped growing. Six months went by; he was told that they were starting to shrink. Long story short, he never did have to have the transplant and today he is totally cancer-free. He told me, "Joel, I know it all changed when I shifted my focus away from my needs to the needs of other people". That's what my mother did. That's what Job did. When you're in a time of need don't get depressed. Sow a seed. Go out and be good to somebody.
When we were studying the possibilities of turning this basketball arena into a worship facility I was told by our consultants that it would probably cost about $100 million dollars to renovate. We would have to put in our own power plant, our own air conditioning system. It was a major undertaking. Plus, we had to have ten city council members vote for us. It was a city-owned facility.
A lot of things had to fall into place in order for it to happen. During that time we got a call from some friends of ours that pastor a church in another state. They had signed a contract to buy a big piece of property that had a building on it that they too were going to convert into a sanctuary. They had been raising the funds for it for over three years. They were supposed to close that week but at the last minute something they were counting on fell through and now they were a significant amount short.
They were dealing with a large corporation. They had already had a second offer on the table. If they didn't come up with the funds in 48 hours the deal would be off and their three-year dream would be over. They were so discouraged. It looked like all their hard work had gone down the drain.
Deep down I really wanted to help them but I knew we needed our funds for our own project. I thought, "If we give them what they need, what if we come up short? What if we can't raise the funds? What if we can't afford it"? All these questions were playing in my mind. But down in my spirit I could hear the still small voice saying, "Joel, give them the money. Take a step of faith. Don't just pray. Be good to somebody. If you'll make their dream come to pass God will make your dream come to pass".
I woke up the next morning, called the staff and I said, "Do it. Wire them the funds". At the last minute they got their property and they were so excited. Two years later we were coming down to the final vote from the city council to decide whether or not we would get this facility. We had been working on it for over three years. We needed ten votes but we only had nine. One of our main supporters got so much pressure from the other side he decided to be out of town the day of the vote. That was essentially a vote against us.
Now we were in the same position that those pastor friends that we helped were in. It was basically the day before. We didn't have enough votes. It looked like it was over. But a young council-member that had been against us for three years all of a sudden decided to change his mind and instead of voting against us he voted for us and we got the facility.
Driving home from city hall that day I was reflecting back on everything that had happened. I couldn't help but think about that gift we had given that other ministry. At the last moment we stepped up and helped make their dream come to pass. I heard God saying, "Joel, because you sowed a seed in your time of need, because you didn't just pray, you did good, now you are reaping a harvest from that seed that you sowed". I don't know if we would be here today if we had not helped them.
Many times the answer to our own prayers comes from helping somebody else. Very often, like I thought, we can't help them. I've got a greater need. I can't take time to encourage them. I'm discouraged". No, you being good to them can be the seed God uses to bring your own dreams to pass.
You may have heard of the entertainers Siegfried and Roy. They had put on these big shows in Las Vegas with the white tigers. During a performance several years ago one of the tigers got spooked and it grabbed Roy by the neck and drug him off the stage. They thought Roy was dead but they discovered he still had a pulse. They rushed him to the hospital. Miraculously, his life was spared. But Roy lost oxygen to his brain for so long he became partially paralyzed. It was like a severe stroke. Here he had gone from being perfectly healthy, entertaining every night, so active, to being confined to a wheelchair, having to be fed, bathed, taken care of.
Roy started watching our program and got encouraged by it. He and Siegfried invited us to come and visit them at their animal sanctuary in Las Vegas. He's gone through therapy for several years. He's got to the point where he can stand up out of his wheelchair by himself for just a few seconds. The people that take care of Roy told how he has to really fight depression. When he's feeling the lowest, when he doesn't want to get out of bed in the morning, he tells them, "Take me up to the animal sanctuary so I can encourage other people".
It's open to the public in one of the big hotels. They'll wheel Roy in there and he'll greet people at the door, take pictures with them, hold their babies. If Roy ever sees another person in a wheelchair he won't let them take a picture of himself in his own wheelchair. He always stands up. It's a great struggle. It takes a lot of effort. But he will stand up tall and he'll look at the person in the wheelchair and say, "If I got up you can too". Roy has an incredible spirit. He could be at home, depressed, lying in bed, feeling sorry for himself. But Roy knows in a time of need you've got to sow a seed.
If you've lost your joy go out and help somebody else get their joy back. You may have had a bad break. Don't sit around feeling sorry for yourself. Reach out to somebody else. Proverbs says, "When you refresh others God will refresh you". When you help other people get well God will help you get well. When you make somebody else's day, God will make your own day. When you go through a disappointment, you're hurting, you're tempted to live in self-pity; you've got to do like Roy. Get your mind off of yourself, your problems, your heartache, your loss and go be good to somebody else. Don't sit at home with the shades pulled, dark, gloomy, depressing. You can't have a harvest without sowing a seed. Pick up the phone and encourage somebody. Bake a cake and take it over to a neighbor. Come early and greet people as they come into our services. When you reach out to others healing comes. Joy comes. Refreshing comes. A new season will come.
This is what happened with a lady in the scripture named Ruth. She had just lost her husband in a battle. He and his brother were killed in the same day. Ruth and her sister-in- law, as you can imagine, they were heart-broken, devastated. Their mother-in-law, Naomi, was already a widow. When she lost these two sons she decided to leave that city and move back to her original hometown. She encouraged her two daughters-in-law to do the same thing, to go back where they were from. She said, "Don't worry about me. I'm old. I can make it on my own. You girls need a fresh new start. Just go out and do your own thing".
Nobody would have faulted Ruth for going her own way, doing her own thing, but Ruth wouldn't do it. Even though Ruth was hurting, even though she was heart-broken, she said, "Naomi," her mother-in-law, "I can't leave you. You're too old to live on your own. I'm going to go with you and make sure that you're taken care of".
What was she doing? Sowing a seed in her time of need. Ruth could have been bitter, depressed, in self-pity. But instead she's being good to somebody else. Her sister-in-law made a different decision. She went her own way and did her own thing; nothing wrong with that. But it's interesting, in the scripture, you never hear anything more about her. I don't know. Maybe she gave into self-pity. Maybe she became ingrown, bitter and missed her new beginning. But Ruth, month after month, she kept taking care of her mother-in-law, Naomi, being her friend, cooking her meals, making sure she stayed cheered up.
Notice, Ruth wasn't just praying, "God, I need a new beginning". She moved on to step two. She was being good to somebody. One day Ruth met the owner of that field, a very wealthy man named Boaz. They ended up falling in love and getting married. Ruth lived a long, blessed, prosperous life. But think about this. If Ruth would have taken the easy way out and just gone on back to her own home, did her own thing, she would have never met Boaz. The seed to Ruth's new beginning came through helping Naomi.
Many times the answer to your prayer will come through helping somebody else. It may be difficult. Life is not always fair. When you go through a disappointment instead of feeling sorry for yourself, waiting for everybody to cheer you up, you've got to dig your heels in and say, "No. God didn't bring me this far to leave me. I'm not going to live my life depressed. I'm going to go out and be good to somebody else". Isaiah 58 says, "When you feed the hungry, when you clothe the poor, when you help the hurting, then your light will break forth like the dawn and your healing will quickly come". God is saying, "When you meet other people's needs I will always meet your own needs".
One of my baseball coaches growing up was a man named Daniel, a fine gentleman that's been with our church for a long, long time. Back in the late '80's, Daniel lost his wife of many years to an illness. He was so devastated. In the natural, he didn't know how he would go on. The love of his life, the mother of his four beautiful children, was no longer here. Daniel could have gotten depressed, given up on his dreams and just faded away. But Daniel didn't do that.
In his time of need, instead of just staying focused on his own hurt, he decided to go out and help other people that were hurting. He had been retired from the phone company and didn't really know how he could help. He said, "The only thing I really felt like I could do was comfort other people that had been through a loss".
So he started showing up at the funerals where my father was doing the service. He wasn't invited. He didn't know anybody in the family. He would just show up and be a friend to those that were hurting. He told them, "I know what you're going through. I've been there. I made it. You can too". My father noticed him showing up at these funerals and how good he was with the people, kind and caring. Daddy asked him to be a part of the ministry team.
Today, Daniel is on staff in charge of all of our funerals. He does an amazing job. A few years ago God brought another beautiful woman into Daniel's life. Today, he and Shirley are happily married and they're a great blessing to many people. Right here. Some great friends of ours.
Like Daniel, God wants to use what you've been through to help other people get through it. Out of your pain can come your purpose. Don't sit around thinking, "Oh, man. Who's going to cheer me up? I had a disappointment. I've had a loss". No, sow a seed. One of the most powerful things you can do when you're hurting is to go out and be good to somebody else. Your new beginning, your next season, is connected to you helping others. Our attitude should be, "I may have been through a dis- appointment but I'm not staying here. I'm going to go be good to somebody. I'm going to go to the retirement home and be a friend. I'm going to go to the hospital and cheer up my neighbor. I'm going to reach out to my co-worker that's been struggling".
As you refresh others God will refresh you. It boils down to this. Instead of living need-minded we should live seed-minded. In other words, when we have a need, not, "Who can help me? I need encouragement. I need healing. I need finances". No, turn it around. "I'm in need now where is a seed I can sow? Who can I be good to? Who can I bless? Who can I encourage? Who can I cheer up"?
The way to get what you want is by giving away what you need. Daniel gave away comfort and God comforted him. Roy gave away encouragement and God encouraged him. Some people are waiting for their ship to come in. The problem is they haven't sent their ship out. You've got to sow that seed and it will come back to you. When you give happiness you'll receive happiness. When you give favor you'll receive favor. Remember, it's not enough to just trust God. That's important but let's move on to step two and be good to somebody. Friends, if you will learn to sow a seed in your time of need God promises your light will break forth like the dawn. I believe and declare your healing will come. Your problem will turn around. Your relationship will be restored. And your dreams will come to pass in Jesus' name.