Joel Osteen — Strategically Ordered Steps
I want to talk to you today about strategically ordered steps. God is not a random God. He is not vague, approximate, "Maybe I'll do this. Maybe I'll do that". God is precise, exact. He has already laid out the plan for your life down to the smallest details. Just as God will strategically bring good breaks, promotion, the right people, God will also use adversities, disappointments, closed doors to move us toward our destiny.
At the time we may not understand it. We think, "This couldn't be God. I lost my biggest client. I'm in a legal battle. My friend turned on me". No, God wouldn't have allowed it unless he had a purpose for it. God doesn't just randomly say, "Let me give them some heartache, a bad break, let this person reject them". No, God is strategic. He may not have sent it but if he allowed it he can use it to your advantage. God sees the big picture for our life. He knows what we're going to need in a month, in a year and in 20 years.
In the scripture, Sampson wanted to marry a young lady from another tribe. His parents didn't want him to do it. God had instructed them to not get involved with foreigners, to stay with their own clan. But the scripture says, "His parents didn't realize the Lord was at work in this creating an opportunity to disrupt the Philistines who ruled Israel at that time".
This is a situation that doesn't necessarily fit into our theology. God told them not to marry foreigners yet God was the one that led Sampson to do it. God knew years down the road he needed an insider in the Philistine's camp to carry out his plan.
Here's my point. We're not always going to understand why something happens. True faith is trusting God when it doesn't make sense, believing that he is strategic, that he knows what he is doing. It may be uncomfortable, we don't understand it, but deep down we have to know that if God allowed it that somehow it's going to further us ultimately toward our divine destiny.
Proverbs 20 puts it this way. "Since the Lord is directing our steps, don't try to figure out everything that happens along the way". "Well, why did my business go down"? "Why did my child get into trouble"? "Why did my relationship not work out"? You may never know why but you can come back to this core truth that God knows what he's doing. His plan for your life is good and even in opposition, like with Sampson, God is creating opportunity.
Somewhere down the road it's not going to work against you. It's going to work for you. If you don't understand this principle you'll live frustrated because there are times in God's divine plan where it will look like you're going the wrong direction. Your back is facing your goal. You know you're supposed to be going this way but you're headed just the opposite.
This is what faith is all about. Will you trust him when it seems like you're going the wrong way? Will you keep a good attitude when you're praying for increase but seeing decrease? Will you stay in faith when you were the most qualified but you got passed over? Friends, God knows what he's doing. He would have never allowed that if it was going to keep you from your destiny. He is too strategic to just randomly put that into the plan for your life. It may not seem good but if you'll keep moving forward one day you will see what God was up to.
I've seen in my own life God doesn't always take us the most logical way. We think we'll go from A to B to C. That makes sense. That's logical. But God's ways are not our ways. He may take you from A to B all the way up to R and then back to C, then to M, then to F. If you could see the plan God has for your life on a map it would not be in a straight line.
Imagine a bunch of stepping stones. They would start off straight towards your goal then there's a turn. And another turn. Now you're headed back to where you started. Wrong direction. It doesn't make sense. Then there's a U-turn. It goes back up a little higher. Then it dips down. On and on. At some point you could be on a stepping stone God ordained for you. He strategically placed it before the foundation of time but the stone you're on is facing the opposite direction of your goal.
It's easy to think, "Joel, this is not God's plan. I'm going the wrong way. Why do these things keep happening to me"? Stay in faith. God's plan is not straight. There are curves, detours, U-turns, shortcuts. God knows what he's doing. He's strategically directing your steps. It may be uncomfortable but God is the one that put the stepping stone there. It's all a part of his plan.
And we all want to go to a higher level. We all want to see more of God's favor but sometimes you have to come off the mountain that you're on and go down into the valley, not to stay, not to live, but so you can go up to a higher mountain. God has something better, something bigger. You haven't seen, heard or imagined what God has in store.
But too often we think, "God, I'm going backwards. You said 'higher' and I'm going lower. You said 'rain.' I'm seeing drought". No, don't get discouraged. God is simply bringing you down that one mountain so you can go up to a higher mountain. He is strategically positioning you to see more of his goodness.
If you will stay in faith one day you will look back and say, "It was good that I got pushed out of that job or I would have been stuck in a limited environment". "It was good that person left me or I would have never met the love of my life". "It was good I went through the difficulty. It not only made me stronger, it not only developed a greater confidence in God, but in the opposition God was creating opportunity. He was putting me in position for something bigger, something better, something greater".
We see this principle in the life of Joseph. God knew there was going to be a famine in the land. The Israelites couldn't survive without food from the Egyptians. So years earlier God put a dream in the heart of a young man named Joseph that he would rule a nation. As a teenager, he had the promise from God. His goal was in front of him. He started out great. He was his father's favorite child, wearing his coat of many colors, headed toward his destiny. But his brothers were very jealous of him. They threw him into a pit and eventually sold him into slavery.
I'm sure Joseph thought, "God, where are you? You said I would lead a nation but now I'm a slave. This doesn't make sense". The truth is he was in God's perfect will. He was just on one of those stones facing the opposite direction.
Here's the key. Those stones are temporary. That's not where you're permanently headed. Don't stay focused on where you are. If you isolate one stone, one bad break, one disappointment, one dry season, you'll get bitter, sour. That stone is simply one step in the plan God has for your life. It is not the final piece. God says his plans for you are for good and not evil. The end of your path is victory, dreams fulfilled, promises coming to pass. Now don't judge your future by one negative stepping stone.
Joseph kept being his best, kept honoring God, even though things weren't going his way. He ended up second in command of all of Egypt. The dream came to pass. Here's how strategic God is. There was a great famine in the land. Jacob, Joseph's father, thought that Joseph was dead. Hadn't seen him in many years. Jacob told his other sons to go to Egypt and see if there is any way they could possibly buy food. They were about to starve to death. God used the famine to send them to Egypt. They would have never gone that way without the adversity.
In the same way, God will use dry seasons, disappointments, closed doors, to reposition us to get us where he wants us to be. God knows what's best for us. The brothers showed up at the palace and there was Joseph in charge of the food supply, running the whole nation. Some 20 years earlier God strategically orchestrated Joseph to be inside a foreign country not only so his dream could come to pass but so that God's people could flourish in a time of famine.
That's how precise God is. He is looking years down the road. We can see a little way but God knows what you're going to need 30 years from now. The good news is God is lining up people today that years later will be instrumental in you fulfilling your destiny. Nothing randomly happens. If Joseph's brothers hadn't rejected him he would have never made it to the throne.
Now quit losing sleep over people that don't accept you, people that try to make you look small, disrespect you, dismiss you. Listen, if they weren't in your life you couldn't make it to your throne. God ordained them not to hold you back but to move you forward. They may think they're pushing you down. Really, they're pushing you up. You may be on one of those stepping stones facing the wrong direction. It may set you back for a season but don't worry. A u-turn is coming. At some point you're going to step past the stone of being rejected and lied about. You'll step past the stone of a bad break, a disappointment, a closed door and like Joseph, you will step into promotion, into abundance, into new levels, into the fullness of your destiny.
Now, my challenge; don't get stuck on one of those negative stepping stones. People say, "Well, Joel. If God is so good why did I have the bad break in the first place"? "Why did my child get off course"? "Why am I still struggling at work"? Listen, that adversity, that difficulty is simply a test. God strategically placed you there. He would have never allowed it if you couldn't handle it. It may be a big challenge but it is no match for you. You are a child of the most high God. You have been armed with strength for every battle. You have the most powerful force in the universe breathing in your direction. Now don't complain about the difficulty. Dig your heels in.
Have the attitude, "I am in it to win it. I am not going to let what somebody said about me, this rejection, this breakup, this closed door, this disappointment, this sickness cause me to get sour. I know it's a part of God's plan. He strategically placed me here. When it's all said and done it's not going to work against me. It's going to work for me".
If you have that kind of attitude. You better get ready. Like Joseph, you're not going to stay in the pit, in defeat, in depression, in lack. You're headed to the throne. You're headed to victory. You're headed to the fullness of your destiny. Listen, people can't stop it. Bad breaks can't stop it. Disappointments can't stop it. All the forces of darkness cannot stop what God has strategically ordained for your life.
Think about some of the stepping stones in Joseph's life. He had the promise, the dream that he would rule a nation - a stone in the right direction. Then he was thrown into a pit - a stone the opposite way. Still part of God's plan. Potiphar's wife lied about him. They put him in prison. Two stones going the wrong direction. In prison, a friend, another inmate, when he got out forgot all about Joseph - another stone the wrong way. Joseph could have thought, "This is a pattern. This is my destiny. These stones are going the wrong way".
Thirteen years disappointments, betrayals, injustice. Surely he missed God's plan. No, God is directing our steps not just when things are going our way. Not just when the doors open, we're promoted, people are good to us. But even when the doors close, people aren't good to us, the report wasn't good. Those stones going in the wrong direction are still the hand of God.
My question is will you trust him even when you don't understand it? Will you keep a good attitude knowing that it's going to turn to your advantage? Just like with Joseph, you will come into your U-turn. The same God that orchestrated him being betrayed, lied about, thrown into a pit, orchestrated him being promoted, vindicated, taking the throne. Fulfilling his dream. Listen: don't be discouraged by what you're going through. Your time is coming. Where you are is not where you're staying. You may be in the valley. God allowed you to go there not to stay but so you could come up to a higher mountain. God has new levels in store for you.
In Genesis chapter fifteen, God told the Israelites that he was taking them into a foreign land. They would be mistreated and suffer hardships. He was saying, "There will be negative stepping stones, going in the wrong direction. You'll be tempted to think it will never work out". But God gave them the promise, "You'll go through difficulties but afterwards you will come out with great abundance".
Friends, there will always be an afterwards. Every person goes through unfair situations, uncomfortable times. We don't like it but it's a part of God's plan. If you will keep passing the test, doing the right thing when the wrong thing is happening, afterwards you will come out promoted, increased, stronger, healthier, happier, blessed, with great abundance.
Now, don't get discouraged by the problem. It's all a part of the process that God uses to bring about the promise. God is not just going to bring you out, he's going to bring you out better. He is directing your steps. He is still in control of your life.
Nothing that has happened to you is a surprise to God. He allowed that difficulty not to defeat you but to promote you. God is saying to us what he said to the Israelites. "If you will keep moving forward, after the hardship, after the breakup, after the disappointment, there will be great joy, great opportunities, great health, great relationships, great abundance coming your way".
A few years after Victoria and I were married we received an unexpected tax bill in the mail. The person we hired to do our tax returns lived in another state. He was unfamiliar with a certain tax law in Texas. Now we owed thousands of dollars. We were a young couple saving up for a down payment for a home and this was going to take all of our funds. To make matters worse more than half of what we owed was because of penalties. I thought, "God, this is not fair. I hired a professional. He made a mess and now I'm having to pay for his mistakes".
This all happened around Christmas of that year. We did our best to have a joyful spirit but in the back of our minds we could always feel the weight of this problem. We ended up finding a man to help us get it straightened out. He was a tax attorney. For a couple of weeks he was at our house every night, going over documents, filling out new forms. We would eat together, run errands together. We ended up becoming good friends.
Ten years later, I was working here at the church, at Lakewood, in the television ministry. My parents were the pastors. After one service a man came up, said, "Joel, my cousin has a construction permit for the last full power commercial television station in Houston. He would like you to be a part of it". Well, a TV station in a major market like Houston is extremely valuable.
I was young. I didn't know anything about negotiating a contract for a television station. Then I thought, "I'll call my attorney friend, the one I met during the tax issue". Three months later we had a contract. We put the station on the air. My father went to be with the Lord. I became the pastor. Four years later we acquired this place, the former Compaq Center. It was going to cost about $100 million dollars to renovate. We decided to sell the station. We sold it for a huge profit. Those funds were instrumental in us being able to renovate this facility. But it all started with that tax issue.
What I thought was a setback was really a setup for God to do something greater. For a season I was going the opposite direction but if I had not had that problem I would have never met the tax attorney. Without my attorney friend I would have never pursued the television station. Without the station we may not have had the funds to move into this facility. That difficulty was strategically orchestrated by God.
At the time I didn't understand it. I thought, "God, this is ruining our Christmas. This is not right". I could hear God whispering, "Joel, trust me. I know what I'm doing. It may be uncomfortable. You may not like it but it's ultimately going to work to your advantage".
The longer I live the more I realize everything is working for our good. We don't like the disappointments, we don't like when a friend betrays us, we don't like a closed door, but if it didn't happen you wouldn't make it into the fullness of your destiny.
I know a gentleman. He's in his late 70's. He was in his bedroom on a ladder taking a heavy mirror off the wall. He got the mirror off but when he did he lost his balance and began to fall backwards. He threw the mirror over but when he fell he hit the dresser and he broke a bunch of his ribs. They took him to the hospital. The doctor just so happened to notice the main artery in his neck was 98% blocked. Any moment he could have a major stroke and probably not survive. The cardiologist told him, "You're a walking time bomb. We've got to do a procedure right now". They did the procedure. Everything went well.
My point is, if he had not had the fall, without that difficulty he wouldn't have known that he was in great danger. See, every setback is not the enemy. We don't like the disappointments, the uncomfortable times but when you realize God is strategically directing your steps, nothing can happen without God's permission. Then you will not be frustrated.
Friends, the enemy is not in control of your life. God is in control of your life. And yes, there are forces of darkness that come against us, but like with Job, Satan had to ask permission to even test Job. If that disappointment, that bad break was going to serve no purpose, God would have never allowed it.
Quit fighting everything that doesn't go your way. God has you in the palm of his hand. Nothing can snatch you away. You may not like what you've gone through but every difficulty has deposited something on the inside. You wouldn't be who you are today or where you are today without the difficult times. In that opposition God was creating opportunity. He was developing you, repositioning you, getting you prepared for greater abundance.
A while back Victoria lost a ring that her mother had given her. It was a diamond band that had been in the family for several generations. Sometimes when we would travel Victoria would hide the ring in different places in the house. So for months and months we searched everywhere. We looked in every drawer, every cabinet, every pocket. I took out every seat cushion, looked in the seat, in the couch, under the couch, under the bed. The ring was nowhere to be found.
At one point Victoria's mom noticed that she hadn't been wearing the ring and asked about it. Victoria said, "Oh, mom. I've got it put away in a real safe place". I thought, "Yeah, so safe we can't even find it".
About three years later, we were driving home late one night from Victoria, Texas. It was after midnight. I was very tired, ready to get home. Victoria kept saying, "Joel, you better slow down. You're going to get a ticket". I said, "I am not going to get a ticket". I was just barely going over 70. The speed limit was 65. I was out in the middle of the country in the middle of the night. There wasn't a car on the road. All of the sudden I look in my rear-view mirror and here's these red lights flashing.
I looked at Victoria and said, "You made me get this ticket". She called it into existence. The officer came up and I handed him my driver's license. He said, "I need to see your proof of insurance". Victoria opened the glove compartment and started looking. We could find every document except our current insurance. She finally pulled everything out of the glove compartment. Started digging around back in there and we've got the officer standing right there, very nerve wracking.
The middle of the night. You couldn't see anything. She was maneuvering her hand back and forth. At one point she felt something sharp way down in a crack. She thought, "What is this"? And she struggled and struggled. Finally got it out. It was the ring she had been looking for for three and a half years. Now I still don't understand why God used my pain to find her ring. That doesn't make sense. Victoria was so excited she forgot all about the insurance card. She was over there rejoicing and here I was about to go to jail.
She ended up finding the current insurance card that we needed on the very top of the stack. It was one of the first things she looked at. It was almost like God caused her to overlook it. I handed it to the officer. He said, "Are you that minister"? I said, "I am". He said, "If I come to Houston will you save me a seat in your church"? I said, "I'll save you a whole section". He handed it back. Said, "Good night. Be careful. You can go".
But sometimes sometimes what we think is a setback is really a setup for God to do something great. God knew we would never dig way back in that glove box unless there was a police officer standing there in the middle of the night.
God works in mysterious ways. Everything about your life has been strategically ordained. You may not understand it. It may not make sense. That's what faith is all about. Some of you are living frustrated, upset because of what somebody said, what didn't work out. Come back to that place of peace. It's not going to work against you. It's going to work for you. Like God promised the Israelites, I believe and declare you're coming into an afterwards. After the storm, after the difficulty, there will be great joy, great health, great relationships, great opportunities, great abundance coming your way. In Jesus' name.