Joel Osteen — Staying Open For Change
I want to talk to you today about staying open for change. Mark Twain said, "The only person that likes change is a wet baby". Change is one of the most difficult things that we all face but change is inevitable. One reason we don't like change is we get comfortable where we are. We get used to our friends, our job; the place we live. And even if it's not perfect we accept it because it's familiar.
What happens is because we're not willing to change we get stuck in what God used to do instead of moving forward into what God is about to do. Just because God has blessed you where you are doesn't mean you can just sit back and settle there.
I read about these people that went to a leading company that rents out movies and videos. They said, "We've got an idea and we'd like to partner with you on it. We've developed the technology to send movies through the internet. That way people wouldn't have to come up to the store and rent the movie and drive back and drop it off. It would eliminate all the travel". The company wasn't interested. They said, "No, thanks. We're the leaders in our field. We know what we're doing".
The people said, "Fine". Went out and started their own company. They called it Netflix. Today it's taken off and practically put the other people out of business. My point is, you have to stay open to what God is doing now. What worked five years ago may not work today. If you're going to be successful you have to be willing to change. Every blessing is not supposed to be permanent. Every provision is not supposed to last forever.
When the people of Israel were in the desert on the way to the Promised Land God gave them manna to eat. That was good. It sustained them for a while but it wasn't permanent provision. The manna stopped coming. They had to move forward. God gave them quail. They were excited. That fed them for a while but it too was temporary. God was taking them to the Promised Land where they would have permanent provision, blessings and favor like they had never seen before. When the manna stopped coming, when the quail didn't show up, they were smart enough to recognize that was only temporary provision, that God had something much greater in their future so they kept moving forward.
The fact is God could have kept the quail and the manna coming. He is God. But God likes freshness. He works in seasons. You can't get stuck in a rut and think that one way is going to last forever. If you will stay open and be willing to change, make adjustments, make corrections, try something new, then your provision will lead you into your Promised Land. If the manna stops coming like it used to don't get upset. Don't get stuck there, try to make something happen that God is finished with. Just keep moving forward and you'll come into your quail. If the quail stops showing up look for new opportunities. Tweak what you're doing. That's a temporary provision. God wants to get you to your next place of blessing, one step closer to your Promised Land.
But too often we get stuck in the old. It worked at one time so we think it's going to work all the time. When they needed water back then God told Moses to strike the rock. He struck the rock and water flowed out freely. Another time they needed water God told Moses, "Speak to the rock". You know what Moses did? He went over and struck the rock. He thought, "Hey, it worked last time. It'll work this time". The same rock but God had a different plan.
You have to stay open for something new. You can do the same thing the same way you did last time and had great success but this time there is no success. It's because God is doing a new thing. It may not be something major where you're missing it, but like Moses, just something small. He was striking the rock when God had moved forward and he should have been speaking to the rock. A small tweak, a small adjustment, to stay in sync with the plan of God.
I read about this restaurant in Washington, D.C. They had great success for a while but then business started going down. They couldn't figure out why. They were serving the same food, same chef, same amount of advertisement, but business was about half what it used to be. One day a customer said to the owner, "A lot of people that come in here work for the CIA and your tables are too close together. There's no privacy". The owner made a small tweak, removed about a dozen tables on the floor, spread the others out and business went back to booming like it was before.
Sometimes a minor adjustment can make a major improvement. Let me make it more practical. One friend you're hanging around that was good for a season but now it's a new day and they're holding you back. If you would make a small tweak it would make a major difference in your life. Stay open for change. Be willing to make adjustments in your attitude, in relationships, in your career. Don't be like the first company I talked about and be a know-it-all and think that there is no room for improvement.
We should always stay open to advice, open to suggestions from friends, family members that love us and believe in us. Sometimes we can get so close to a situation we can't see the obvious. That's why you need to pay attention to who God has put in your life. You may not take every bit of advice but there will be certain things they say that bear witness to your spirit. You know it's right for you and it will be instrumental in you moving forward, just a small word of advice.
I talked to young man after the service a while back. He was raised in a really rough environment. He said, "Joel, the only thing I know how to do is sell drugs. I've never been to college. Don't have any special skills. That's the only way I know how to make a living". I told him what I'm telling you; a minor adjustment could make a major improvement.
I said, "What do you mean"? I said, "You're selling yourself short. If you can sell drugs that means you have to know how to market a product. That's marketing. You have to know how to get the word out. That's advertisement. You have to know how to take care of your clients. That's customer service". "You have to know when to sell and when not to sell. That's a management decision". "If you can sell drugs you can sell stocks and bonds. You can sell insurance. You can sell medical supplies. Be willing to change". Be willing to make adjustments.
When I first started ministering I used to write my sermons by hand. I know how to type but I was very slow and it's just easier to do it long hand. I would have pages and pages of notes. It would be like a maze. This paragraph goes over here, this one here. It would have all these lines drawn. It would take as much time and energy to try to remember where everything went as it did to prepare the message. I would sit down with my assistant afterwards and she would type it all for me.
But one day Victoria said, "Joel, you've got to get on the computer and start typing this yourself. You can cut and paste, move things around, make it so much easier, save you so much time". One day I took her advice and I made that adjustment. It saved me hours and hours every week. A minor adjustment made a major improvement.
My mother is 78 years old and just recently she learned how to text. Yeah, she's dangerous now. I get texts from her all the time. About half of them I understand; the other half is like she's speaking in tongues. I am so impressed that she stays open. She's willing to try something new. I already decided I'm going to get her a color TV for Christmas. She told me after the service, "Make sure it's HD".
Are you stuck in what God used to do and it's keeping you from what God is about to do? Are you still striking the rock trying to make what happened yesterday happen today? Too often we get comfortable with temporary provision. The good news is God loves us too much to leave us there. Like the people of Israel, there will be times when the provision dries up and it forces us to change. An opportunity shuts down. You lose a client. A friend moves to another city. What happened? The manna stopped coming. God is not trying to make your life miserable. He's trying to get you in position to receive a new level of his favor. If you're going to see this increase you have to recognize when the winds are shifting and not try to hold on to something that God is done with.
I know people that are trying to hold on to a relationship, a friendship-not a marriage-but a friendship that's been done for five years. It's dragging, not bringing them any joy. But they want it to be just like it was ten years ago before they had children, before they were married, before they had responsibility. No, it's a new day. That relationship was right for the time. God brought them into your life but the season has changed.
Now it's not going to be like it used to be but that's okay. God has something new in your future. The key is to enjoy the season you're in, enjoy the favor God has given you, but don't get stuck trying to make temporary provision permanent. In other words, don't try to make something last forever that was never meant to last forever. Just as God opens doors God will supernaturally close doors to push us into a new season. The same God that brings people into your life-divine connections-he will supernaturally move people out of your life. Not because they're bad but because the season is over. They've served their purpose.
On the way to your Promised Land don't be surprised if God removes certain people that you were counting on, people that you thought you couldn't live without. No, the truth is they were holding you back. They were a crutch keeping you from blossoming and if God didn't remove them you would be stuck living off a temporary provision. And sometimes when people leave our life we think, "How am I going to make it without them? They trained me. She encouraged me when I was down. They ran errands for me". No, God wouldn't have removed them if you weren't about to go to a new level. Be grateful for what they did but recognize this is your time to shine.
This is your time to step up. You don't need someone constantly encouraging you. If God moved them away they were temporary provision. God is saying, "You can encourage yourself. You can run that department yourself. You can raise those children yourself". You are equipped and empowered by the most high God. If they left you, accept it as a part of God's plan. It was not an accident. Let it go and God will open up new doors. If it was their time to go nothing you can do can stop it. Don't beg them. Don't play up to them. Don't let them manipulate you. Move forward and God will bring the right people. God will give you what you need to make it into your Promised Land.
But I know people that are holding on to someone that's holding them back. Just because it was good five years ago doesn't mean it's still good today. We should constantly evaluate our friendships. Who is speaking into your life? Who are you depending on? Make sure they're not dragging you down, limiting you from blossoming. I've learned if you don't get rid of the wrong friends you will never meet the right friends. If they're not adding to your life, if they're not making you better, inspiring you, it doesn't mean that they're bad people. Maybe they did at a time but you've grown. You've come up higher.
Now it's time to make a change. See, one of the hardest things for us to accept is everybody is not supposed to be in our life forever. Some people are, obviously: our spouse, our children, our parents. But there are people that come into our life like scaffolding. God designed them to be there for a season to help us get to the next level. When your children were young they were there to assist you. When you started at the office they were there to train you. When your spouse was working long hours they were the friend that kept you company. But if they were to stay in that same capacity instead of helping you they would hinder you. They would limit your growth.
Like scaffolding, it wasn't designed to be permanent. Once the building is built it's taken away. Now don't try to keep the scaffolding up in your life. Appreciate the people that have helped you. Always honor them but recognize when their part in your story is over. God didn't design it to be permanent. If you hold on to it and try to keep it the way it was you're going to miss out on the amazing things that God has in your future.
In the scripture God told the prophet Elijah to go to the brook Cherith and the ravens would feed him there. He got there and he had provision week after week. He didn't have to go get the food. The ravens came to him. Life was good. I'm sure he thought, "It doesn't get any better than this". Just as he was about to get comfortable and settle in, God said, "Alright, Elijah. Now I want you to go to the city of Zarephath. There is a widow there that's going to take care of you".
In other words, "Elijah, I know you like this job. I've blessed you here. But I've got a new opportunity. I've got a promotion. I want you to take a step of faith". Or, "Elijah, I know you like these friends. They're good people but it's a new season. I'm going to close that door and bring some new friends into your life". Elijah could have thought, "That couldn't be God. He blessed me here. I've seen his favor. I like this brook. I like these ravens. I'm going to stay where I am. I'm going to hold on to the old".
The problem is the ravens quit coming. The brook dried up. Why? It was temporary provision. That means God has something better but you have to let go of the old before you'll receive the new. If you don't understand that God has something greater in your future, God has something amazing in front of you, then you'll try to hold on to the old and keep it the way it used to be.
I know people, they're trying to live off of temporary provision, keeping the same friends they know God was finished with years ago. Stuck at the same job that was supposed to be a stepping stone but they were afraid to move forward. Now they're trying to get water from a brook that's all dried up. Don't let that be you. Be willing to make changes.
God has new ways to bless you, new ideas, new opportunities, new friendships. If you're going to be successful we have to continually be willing to make adjustments. Study what's working and what's not working. Sometimes what once was flourishing, what once had God's favor, will start to drag you down. You have to be sensitive enough to realize when a season is over. Don't keep putting time and energy into something that's not going anywhere.
This is what my father had to do. Years ago daddy started a Bible school here at Lakewood. It was very successful; a lot of students, many people were trained and blessed and inspired. But at one point it started becoming more of a burden than a blessing. It was a drain on the finances, on the staff, on the volunteers. One Sunday my father got up in front of the congregation and announced that we were shutting down the Bible school. Daddy had a saying, "Nothing is forever". He was smart enough to recognize when a season was over. He swallowed his pride and he shut it down and moved on to the new thing God wanted to do.
Just because something doesn't last doesn't mean you missed it. It doesn't mean you're a failure. Accept it as a part of God's plan. God never said it was going to go on forever. Be determined but don't be too proud to know when to say, "God, I realize your favor has lifted from this Bible school, this project, this business, this relationship. It was great at the time. I enjoyed it. I gave it my best. But now I can see you are doing a new thing and I'm not going to get stuck in the old and try to make temporary provision permanent".
My father could have thought, "If I shut this Bible school down I may look bad. I may look like a failure. People may get upset and leave the church". It was just the opposite. People were as loyal as can be. If something is more of a burden than a blessing, you can sense that God's favor has lifted off of that, the winds are shifting, that simply means that God has something greater in your future.
I'm not saying to give up on your dreams. You stand strong and follow your own heart. All I'm saying is don't be too proud or too stubborn to recognize when a season is over. It doesn't mean it was a failure. It means it was only temporary provision. Like the manna that stopped coming it's just another step on the way to your Promised Land.
When a baby is born the mother nurses the baby for the first part of his life. The baby gets used to it. It's comfortable, makes him feel secure, soothing. But at some point that temporary provision is taken away and the mother introduces a bottle. The baby doesn't like the bottle. He pushes it away. He'll kick. He'll scream. It's not what he's used to. But over time he will accept the bottle and discover that he likes it. Then one day the mother will take the bottle away. She will take a spoon of baby food and put it in his mouth.
Most of the time the baby will spit it out and cough and grimace. It wants its bottle back. But again, at some point he realizes he likes the food, continues to grow and develop. But had the mother not taken away the temporary provision at every stage, at just the right time, the baby's growth would have been stunted. It never would have grown and fully developed.
In the same way, there are times that God will take things away, not to harm us but to get us in position to receive all that he has in store. God knows we'll never fully develop if we're not having to take steps of faith, not having to stretch, not being pruned. Don't fight change. Don't try to hold on to something that you know God is done with. If he is removing it let it go. Like that baby, it's temporary provision. It was there to get you to a certain level but now you've passed the test and you're going to come up to a higher level. You're going to see a new season of growth and increase. Stay willing to change.
This is what Jesus talked about in John 15; how God will prune us so that we can bear much fruit. Prune means something is cut away, something is removed. A good friend that you counted on moved to another city. A business shut down or you lost a loved one. Anytime you go through loss, any time you go through pruning, don't get bitter. Don't get down and think it's the end. Don't start thinking that you're a failure. Have the attitude, "God, I let this go knowing that it was only temporary provision and what you have in my future will be greater than what I'm letting go of". If you will accept the change and stay in faith God will open new doors. He will bring new opportunities, new friendships.
I was reading about Steve Jobs, one of the most brilliant minds of our day. He was fired from apple, the very company that he founded and made so great. He gave it his heart, his time. He worked so hard and yet he got fired from the very thing that he loved the most. He didn't get bitter. He didn't blame other people. He went out and started another company. He learned a new set of skills. That company grew and became so successful that apple bought his company and put him back in charge. Steve Jobs said, "If I had not been fired I would have never developed the skills that have made me into who I am today".
Friends, God knows what he is doing. It may look like a setback but what was meant for your harm God is going to use to your advantage. The steps of good people are ordered by the Lord. God knows exactly when to remove something. He knows exactly when to prune something away. It's not to harm you. It's to promote you. God doesn't want you living off temporary provision. He has an abundance in store.
So yes, the manna will stop coming. The quail will quit showing up. The brook may dry up. Not because God has forgotten about you but because God has something greater in your future. If somebody left your life it wasn't an accident. Their part in your story was over. God pruned it. If a project didn't last it wasn't supposed to last. God shut the door. Now don't sit around discouraged, depressed. No, the only reason you were pruned is so that you can bear more fruit. Get ready for increase. Get ready for abundance. Get ready for a new level of God's favor. That's what happened with me. For seventeen years I worked behind the scenes here at Lakewood doing the television production.
When my father went to be with the Lord I was pushed out of my comfort zone. I knew I was supposed to step up and pastor the church but I was afraid. I didn't know this was in me. I finally took that step of faith and God has taken me places that I've never dreamed of. But those seventeen years behind the scenes, that was temporary provision. The brook dried up.
Like Elijah, when my dad died I had to decide, "Am I going to move forward into the new thing God wants to do or am I going to hold onto the old and try to keep it the way it used to be"? It looked like a setback. In the natural I thought, "It's never going to be as good as it used to be". But I realize now I was being pruned so I could bear much fruit. I love and honor my dad but when God took him away, when God removed him from my life that was never meant to take me backwards. It was meant to thrust me forward. But I had to do my part and be willing to change. I had to let go of the old and accept the new. I've learned change is going to happen whether we like it or not.
The real question is how are we going to deal with it? Are we going to fall apart and think that our world is ended because a loved one died, a business didn't make it, a good friend moved to another city? Are we going to get stuck in what God used to do and miss out on what God is about to do? Or are we going to say, "God, I'm letting go of what you are removing. I know it's only temporary provision. I'm not going to fight the new thing you want to do because God I know what's in my future will be greater than what's in my past".
I'm asking us to stay open for change. Just because it worked last year doesn't mean it's going to work this year. Evaluate your friendships. Evaluate how you're spending your time. Don't keep putting effort and energy into something that's not going anyplace. Recognize when a season is over. Remember a small adjustment can make a major improvement. If you will make this decision with me that you're going to stay open for change and not get bitter and discouraged but just keep moving forward then just like the people of Israel, God is going to take you into your Promised Land where you see permanent provision, abundance, increase, blessings like you've never seen before. I believe and declare you're going to become everything God has created you to be. You're going to have everything he intended for you to have. Amen.