Joel Osteen — Stay in the Game
I want to talk to you today about staying in the game. It's easy to have a good attitude and pursue our dreams as long as everything is going our way. That doesn't take a lot of faith. But what about the difficult times: when a relationship doesn't work out, we get a bad health report, a friend does us wrong. It's easy to lose our passion when we're hurt. The disappointment, the business that didn't make it, the breakup; that was painful.
Many people are sitting on the sidelines of life because they're injured. Now they're nursing their wounds, not moving forward because of what they've been through. No, you may have a reason to feel sorry for yourself but you don't have a right. God promised he will give you beauty for those ashes. He said he would pay you back double for the wrongs but you have to do your part and if you're going to see the beauty, if you're going to see the double, shake off the self-pity. You've got to shake off the discouragement and get back in the game.
Every person has injuries. We all have wounds but you can't let a loss, a health issue, a divorce, be an excuse to sit on the sidelines. Sometimes in life you have to play in pain.
I was watching the football game a while back. One of the players had a broken hand and bruised ribs. He's a big offensive lineman. He wasn't expected to play. The trainers wanted him to sit out but he wasn't about to miss the game. He had a big cast on his arm. He was wearing a special vest to protect his ribs. He was all bandaged up. He looked like a mummy. A reporter asked him how he felt. He said, "It's a little painful but I'd rather be in the game in pain than sitting on the sidelines watching".
If you're going to become all God has created you to be you can't let that injury, that hurt, that disappointment, cause you to sit on the sidelines. Do like this player. Bandage up what's hurting. Forgive the person that did you wrong. Let go of what didn't work out and get back in the game.
I saw a lady in our lobbies last week that I haven't seen in a long, long time. She's an older woman, very faithful, attends our services regularly. I said in passing, "Hey! I haven't seen you lately. Where have you been"? She said, "Joel, I had to have an emergency surgery. Been in the hospital for three months". I said, "Wow! We're so glad to have you back. How are you doing"? For as long as I live I will never forget her words. She said, "I'm hurting but I'm here".
That's the kind of people God rewards. Faithful people. People that are determined. People that get knocked down but don't stay down. They get back up again. You don't let the hurt, the pain, the bad break, cause you to get bitter, to lose your passion, to start blaming God. No, like this lady, you stay in the game. No matter what life deals our way, our attitude should be, "I'm hurting but I'm still here. A friend did me wrong but I'm still here. Business is slow but I'm still here. I didn't feel like coming but I'm still here".
You've got to have a made up mind you're going to stay in the game. You're not going to be faithful as long as you feel perfectly well, as long as everybody treats you right, as long as it's sunny and cool outside. No, where are the people like this lady that have a made up mind? "I'm hurting but I'm still coming. Boss did me wrong but I'm still getting to work on time, being my best. My child won't speak to me. It's breaking my heart. I'm in pain but I'm still singing in the choir. I'm still ushering each week. I'm still being good to a friend that's in need. I've still got a smile. I'm still giving God praise".
Listen, anybody can sit on the sidelines. Anybody can find an excuse to be sour, to drop out, to give up on life. I'm asking you to stay in the game. When you're hurting, when you're in pain, it's easy to become ingrown to where all you think about is "My hurt, my disappointment, my bad break". All that's going to do is bring more discouragement, more self-pity, eventually even depression. One of the best things you can do when you're hurting is go out and help somebody else that's hurting. Get your mind off of your problems, off of your pain and go help somebody else in need. When you help others in your time of need, that's a seed you're sowing that God can use to change your own situation.
This is what my mother did. In 1981 when she was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer, given a few weeks to live, she didn't feel well. She had a good reason to be discouraged. She had a good excuse to go home, go to bed, pull the curtains and be depressed. She was injured. She could have sat on the sidelines. Nobody would have faulted her. But my mother understood this principle. She stayed in the game. She would drive across town to pray for a friend of hers that was sick.
The truth is she needed more prayer than that friend but my mother was sowing a seed. She would come to church every weekend and pray for other people that were in need. She was injured but she was still in the game.
Sometimes in life you've got to play in pain. You don't feel like it. It's not easy. Every voice will tell you, "You're done. There's nothing good in your future". No, don't believe those lies. God sees your effort. It's one thing to do the right thing, make good decisions, when everything is going our way. That's great. God rewards that.
But when times are tough and nothing is going your way, you're hurting, you should be on the sidelines nursing your wound but instead you're still in the game. You're still getting to work on time. You're still being good to someone. You're still expecting God to turn it around. That gets God's attention in a new way. God has a greater reward for people who are faithful in the tough times.
Years ago my sister Lisa went through an unwanted divorce. She was in her early 20's. She was so devastated. It was an unfair situation. For weeks she was so depressed that she wouldn't leave the house and practically wouldn't even come out of her room. In the morning, she couldn't wait for it to get dark. At nighttime, she couldn't wait for the morning. She wasn't living; just existing.
One day she called my father and she was crying. She said, "Daddy, I think I'm having a nervous breakdown". She was in so much pain she was overwhelmed. We as a family, of course we tried to cheer her up. We tried to encourage her but it's like we couldn't get her out of that deep hole of depression. A minister friend of ours was speaking at the church at that time. His name is T.L. Osborn. He got on the phone and said, "Lisa, nobody can bring you out of this except you. You know I love you, Lisa, but you've got to quit feeling sorry for yourself. Quit nursing your wounds. Quit thinking about your problem. Get out of the house and move forward with your life".
At first, Lisa was defensive, almost offended, thinking, "You don't know the pain that I'm feeling. You don't know what I'm going through. This has ruined my life". Then he made this statement, "If you'll move forward God will take your scars and turn them into stars for his glory". When she heard that something ignited on the inside. It's like a stronghold was broken in her mind. Instead of sitting at home feeling sorry for herself, she went up to the church and started a class every week for people who were believing for their marriages to be restored. She reached out to other people that were hurting.
She was injured but she got back in the game. By her actions she was saying, "I'm hurting but I'm still here. I'm disappointed but I'm still here. They did me wrong but I'm still here". Lisa could still be bitter, with a chip on her shoulder, blaming God but she made the decision to get back in the game. Today, more than 20 years later, she's happily married, a great husband, three beautiful children. She saw what God promised. He took the scars and turned them into stars. He gave her beauty for those ashes. But it all happened when she made the decision to get back in the game.
Isaiah put it this way, "Arise from the depression in which the circumstances have kept you. Rise to a new life". Notice, if you want a new life there's something you have to do. You can't sit back in self-pity. You can't wait until all your wounds heal and you feel 100%. You've got to do like Lisa and arise from that discouragement. Shake off what didn't work out. Quit mourning over what you've lost. Quit dwelling on who hurt you and how unfair it was and rise to a new life.
When God sees you in the game, pain and all, bandages and all. When you show up with that attitude, "I'm hurting but I'm still here. I'm hurting but I know God is still on the throne. I'm hurting but I'm expecting God to turn it around". That's when the Creator of the universe goes to work. That's when God will pay you back for the wrongs that have happened to you.
Some of you are in a tough time. You're sitting on the sidelines. God is saying, "Arise and get back in the game". If a friend betrayed you don't go through life lonely. Go out and find some new friends. The right people are in your future. If you lost your job don't sit around complaining. Go out and find another job. When one door closes God will always open up another door.
If you're facing a health issue, fighting that sickness, don't give up on life and start planning your funeral. Arise from that discouragement. When God sees you do your part he will do his part. He will give you a new life. That means he will restore your health, give you new opportunities, new relationships. He will give you a new perspective. You will see even though it's painful it is not the end. Even though it was unfair it is not over. There is still life after the sickness, life after the divorce, life after the bad break. A full life is still in front of you.
Job experienced this. He went through all kinds of tough times. Everything that could go wrong did. He was tempted to sit on the sidelines of life. His wife told him, "Job, just give up. It's never going to get any better". But in the midst of that pain Job said, "I know my redeemer lives". He was saying in effect, "I'm hurting but I'm still in the game. I'm hurting but I know my God is still on the throne".
A year later when he came through that challenge God not only brought him out but God paid him back double for what he had lost. The scripture says, "After this, Job lived 140 years and saw his grandchildren down to four generations". Notice, after the trouble, after the loss, after the sickness, after the business went down, after the bottom fell out, his life was not over. He didn't end on a sour, defeated note. He went on to live a blessed, happy, 140 years, enjoying his grandchildren, accomplishing his dreams, fulfilling his destiny.
What am I saying? Your life is not over because you had a setback. God has an "After this" in your future. When we go through tough times don't be surprised if the enemy doesn't whisper in your ear, "You'll never be as happy as you used to be. You've seen your best days. This setback is the end of you". No, let that go in one ear and out the other. God is saying to you what he said to Job, after the cancer, after the bad break, after the disappointment, there is still a full life. You have not danced your best dance. You have not laughed your best laugh. You have not dreamed your best dream. If you will stay in the game and not get bitter, God has an "After this" in your future. Like Job, he's not only going to bring you out, he is going to bring you out with double what you had before.
You may have seen the football game last Sunday. One of the player's younger brother was tragically killed in an accident the day before. This player practically raised his siblings. They were extremely close. You can imagine the pain and shock he must have been in. The coach told him to go back home and spend as much time as he needed with his family. But he said, "No, coach. I'm gonna play in the game tomorrow in memory of my brother. I know that's what he would want me to do".
It's interesting, this player had one of the greatest games of his career. He caught an incredible touchdown pass, made other great plays. Some people would see it as a coincidence, just the adrenaline of the moment. But I see it as the hand of God. I believe God was saying, "If you'll dare stay in the game, if you'll dare play with pain, then I'll breathe my favor on your life".
When God sees you in the game, when at least in the natural you should be on the sidelines nursing your wounds, everybody would understand if you were bitter. You lost a loved one in an accident. We'd understand if you had a bad attitude. You're facing a serious illness, raising a special needs child, in the middle of a legal battle. Nobody would fault you for being discouraged. That's what most people expect. But when you defy the odds and say, "Hey, I'm hurting but I'm still here. The medical report wasn't good but I'm still giving God praise. The loan didn't go through but I still have a smile. I didn't get that promotion but I'm still volunteering in the nursery". When you play in pain, the most powerful force in the universe breathes in your direction.
You may be in a difficult time. You could easily be discouraged. But God is saying, "It's time to wipe away the tears. Wash your face. Put on a new attitude and get back in the game". You may not be able to do what you used to. You've got some aches, some limitations. That's all right. God is not necessarily concerned about your performance. He is looking at the fact that you're even in the game.
You could have a chip on your shoulder. You could be sitting on the sidelines. Some of you, just being here today, just flipping on the channel, that took an act of your faith. Every voice told you, "Don't go today. You're tired. You're disappointed. You had a setback. That's a waste of your time". You had all of these excuses to sit on the sidelines but you shook it off and came anyway. Let me assure you, God sees your effort. God knows what it took to be here, what it took to even turn the channel on. Nobody else knows the battles you had to fight to get here, the discouragement you had to overcome. They didn't see all the opportunities you had to get sour and throw in the towel.
Just the fact that you showed up, you're saying to God, "You are still on the throne". You're saying to yourself, "I'm in it for the long haul". And you're saying to the enemy, "You're under my feet. There's nothing you can do to keep me from my destiny". Listen, the moment you walked in these doors, the moment you flipped on the channel, all the forces of darkness began to tremble because when you honor God, especially in a tough time, when you could be complaining, but instead you're praising, that gives the enemy a nervous breakdown. He doesn't know what to do with people that just stay in the game. (applause) friends, God sees your effort. He sees your sacrifice.
When Jesus was here on this earth, he felt every pain, every emotion that we would ever feel. He knows what it's like to be lonely, to go through a loss, to be betrayed, to be discouraged, so much so that he sweat great drops of blood. He's been where we are. The scripture says, "He is touched with the feelings of our infirmities". When you hurt God feels the pain. You're his most prized possession. You're his child. When you arise in spite of the pain and get in the game, that's the seed God will use to take the scar and turn it into a star.
I met a man in our lobby a while back. I noticed that he was wearing a wristband from the hospital. I asked him if everything was okay. He explained how he had surgery earlier in that week, a major surgery. He was supposed to stay in the hospital through the weekend to recover. But he said, "Doctor, I've got to go to church on Sunday. I'm an usher. They'll be expecting me". The doctor said, "No way, sir. I'm not even thinking about letting you out of the hospital. You're going to stay right here and recover". The man said, "Doctor, you don't understand. I have to be at church. I never miss a Sunday".
The doctor looked at him, said, "Let me ask you. Do you go to Lakewood"? He said, "Yes, sir. I do". The doctor said, "Lakewood people are the most dedicated, faithful, happiest people I've ever seen". The doctor said, "I'm going to make a deal with you. I'm going to give you a three hour pass to go to church on Sunday morning and then you get right back in here and get in that bed to recover". He showed up. He was hurting but he was here. He told me before the service, "Joel, don't go long. I'll get in trouble".
There's a young man that attends here all the time. He always has a smile, seems as happy as can be. What I didn't realize is he has been on dialysis for twelve years-much younger than I am. I took my father to dialysis the last three months of his life. I know a little bit about that. It's not always easy. It can be a burden. This young man always wore long sleeved shirts. One Sunday he came up for prayer. I met him at the altar for the first time.
I said, "Hey, I see you out there in the audience all the time. It's good to finally meet you". He said, "Yeah, Joel. I never miss a service. I love coming". He rolled up his sleeve. His whole arm was as red as a tomato. It looked like somebody had taken an ice pick and poked at it for three hours straight. I'd never seen anything like that before. I couldn't help but think about all the times I had seen him out in the audience with his arms up in the air in worship. It looked like he didn't have a problem in the world. Looked as happy as could be.
What I didn't realize was under that sleeve he was injured. He was here but he was hurting. He was playing in pain. It's one thing to go through a difficulty and everybody knows about it. You're worried, discouraged. You've got your friends, your family members praying. There's nothing wrong with that. We're all human. We all have emotions.
We handle things in different ways. But what really gets God's attention is when you're in a tough time, you're hurting, you're in pain, but like this young man, you're so stable, you're so consistent, you're so at peace, nobody knows anything about it. You show up to church each week with a smile. You go to work with a good attitude. You're kind, friendly, compassionate. The whole time you're fighting a battle that nobody knows anything about. Let me tell you, that gets God's attention in a great, great way.
About three months ago he came back to the altar. There was a young man next to him. He said, "Joel, my friend is going to donate me one of his kidneys. We're going to have the transplant on Tuesday". Long story short, the procedure went great. The new kidney responded perfectly. Today, he's not on dialysis anymore. He doesn't have to wear long-sleeved shirts anymore. He's healthy, free from that pain.
Here's my point. Twelve years after the dialysis, after the struggle, after the pain, there was still a bright future in front of him. Because he stayed in the game, like Job, he came into his "After this". God will do the same thing for you.
There's a young lady in the scripture that went through a time of great pain. Her name was Ruth. Her husband was killed in a battle. In a moment her life forever changed. Ruth could have easily gotten off into self-pity, discouragement. "God, life is just not fair". But Ruth stayed in the game. Her mother-in-law, Naomi, it was her son that was killed. She was a widow already. She was about to move back to her hometown. She said, "Ruth, you're a young woman. I'm an old lady. You've got a full life in front of you. Don't worry about me. Just go off and do your own thing". Ruth said, "No, Naomi. I'm not going to leave you by yourself, especially when you're hurting. I'm going to go with you and take care of you".
Even though Ruth was hurting, even though she was in pain, she reached out to somebody else that was hurting. Month after month Ruth just kept taking care of Naomi, getting the food, serving her dinner, being her friend. One day Ruth was out in the field gathering up wheat for the dinner. She met this man named Boaz. He was the owner of all the fields, the wealthiest man in that area. Long story short, they fell in love and got married. God blessed them with a baby boy. They named him Obed. Obed had a son named Jesse. Jesse had a son named David. David of course went on to be the king of Israel, one of the greatest men that's ever lived.
Ruth could have sat on the sidelines the rest of her life after that loss but she understood this principle. She played in pain. She was injured but she kept doing the right thing. God had an "After this" for Ruth. After the loss, after the pain, God said, "I'll give you a great-great-grandson that will change the world".
You may be in pain today. You've suffered a loss, been through a disappointment. My message is, "That is not the end. God still has a plan". Now don't sit around nursing the wound. Don't let bitterness and discouragement set the tone for your life. God is saying, "Arise. Wipe away the tears and get back in the game". You may be injured but dare to do like Ruth and play in pain. Have the attitude, "I'm hurting but I'm still here. I'm disappointed but I've still got a smile. They did me wrong but I'm still giving God praise".
Friends, if you will stay in the game, God will always have an "After this" for you. After the loss, you'll meet the right person. After the layoff, you'll get a better job. After the sickness, you'll come out stronger. After the disappointment, you'll still live a blessed, full, happy life. Just like my mother. Just like the young man with the kidney. Just like Ruth, like job. I believe and declare, in spite of the pain, in spite of the adversity, because you're still in the game, God is going to make the rest of your life the best of your life. You will still fulfill your destiny and become everything that God has created you to be. In Jesus' name.