Joel Osteen — Surrounded By The Most High
I want to talk to you today about "Surrounded by the Most High". We all have times when we feel like we're surrounded by difficulties, surrounded by sickness, surrounded by debt. Everywhere we turn, it's facing us, and it's easy to get discouraged and think, "I'll never get out of this, it has me surrounded".
That's the way a young man felt in 2 Kings chapter 6. The King of Aram had just sent a great army with horses and chariots to surround Elisha's house. They snuck up in the middle of the night and had it totally encircled. The next morning, when the young man went out and saw all the horses and chariots, he nearly passed out. He ran back in, totally panicked, said, "Elisha, wake up. We're surrounded by the enemy. What are we going to do"? Elisha said, "Don't be afraid, there are more for us than there are against us".
I can hear him saying, "What do you mean, Elisha? It's just you and me. I saw thousands of them". Elisha prayed, "Lord, open his eyes and let him see". All of a sudden, the young man looked out and saw hundreds of thousands of powerful warring angels all across the mountainside, standing beside their chariots of fire.
He thought he was surrounded by the enemy. The truth is the enemy was surrounded by our God. Like him, you may be surrounded by trouble, surrounded by sickness, surrounded by an addiction, but what you can't see is the Most High God is surrounding what's surrounding you. Sickness may be surrounding you, you're dealing with an illness. The good news is sickness doesn't have the final say, sickness is surrounded.
The right attitude is, "Cancer, you think you have me surrounded? You better look again, my God has you surrounded. Debt, you think you're surrounding me? I have bad news for you, the Lord my provider is surrounding you. Trouble at work, you think you're going to keep me from my purpose? Depression, you think you're going to stop my destiny? You may have me surrounded, I'll give you that much, but I know a secret, the Most High God is surrounding you," and when you understand God is surrounding what's surrounding you, you won't go around discouraged because of problems, worried about finances, upset because somebody's against you.
You'll be like Elisha. You'll stay in peace knowing that there are more for you than there are against you. Elisha prayed that God would open the young man's eyes so he could see. There's another world that we cannot see with our physical eyes, and if God were to pull back the curtain like he did for this young man and you could see into the unseen realm, you would see all these powerful warring angels at work on your behalf, standing guard, protecting you, pushing back forces of darkness. You would see God moving the wrong people out of the way, lining up things in your favor, good breaks, healing, deliverance.
Don't get discouraged by what you see with your physical eyes. If you stay focused on the opposition, the addiction, the sickness, then you'll live stressed out, you'll give up on dreams. Through your eyes of faith, you need to see every obstacle holding you back surrounded by the Most High. That addiction may be strong, but it's surrounded by something stronger. God controls the universe. He flung stars into space.
One Angel in the old testament defeated 180,000 of the enemies of God, and you may have big obstacles in your path, you feel stuck, I believe today God is opening our eyes. We're getting a new perspective, recognizing he's surrounding what's surrounding us. That child that's off course, doesn't look like he'll fulfill his destiny, imagine him surrounded by mercy, surrounded by favor, surrounded by the Most High.
David said in Psalm 3, "I am not afraid of 10,000 enemies that surround me on every side". You would think with so many enemies, he'd be a little worried, upset, afraid. He went on to say, "I know victory comes from the Lord". He was saying, "Yes, I'm surrounded by all these enemies, I could be overwhelmed, but the reason I'm not falling apart is I know a secret, God is surrounding what's surrounding me".
He had his spiritual eyes open. He didn't just see his enemies. Through his eyes of faith, he saw the Most High fighting his battles, making his crooked places straight, and like David, you may feel surrounded by enemies, addictions, sicknesses, maybe forces are trying to keep you from your dreams. You could easily think, "Well, it's just not meant to be".
But here's the key, what you see with your physical eyes is not the only thing surrounding you. If you'll open your eyes of faith, you'll recognize the trouble, the addiction, the dysfunction, it is surrounded by our God. You're not just surrounded by the negative, that's one layer, but God supersedes that. You're surrounded by favor, surrounded by healing, surrounded by victory.
I saw a movie one time based on a true story from back in the 1700s. This army had surrounded a city, they were planning to attack it. They were very strategic to go completely around it to make sure nobody could get out. They cut off the food supply and were going to wait several weeks until the people were famished and then go in, and this army was very arrogant, cocky people. They would stand outside the city walls and hurl insults, make fun, trying to get the people to engage.
A month later, they decided to attack. They rushed into the city so confidently, the only problem was nobody was there, and when they turned to leave, they suddenly realized they were the ones surrounded. The people in the city received word that they were going to attack, they snuck out before they got there and went and hid in the hills. While the enemy was surrounding the city, being so strategic, thinking they were gaining the upper hand, the people from the city were surrounding them. When they realized they were totally surrounded, they put up the white flag, dropped their weapons, and surrendered.
When you're in difficult times, the enemy will do a lot of talking. He'll tell you, "I have you surrounded. This sickness will be the end. You'll never get out. You'll never break the addiction. You'll never get out of debt, look how long you've been there". Don't believe those lies, he thinks he has you surrounded, what he doesn't realize is the Most High God has him surrounded.
God knows everything that's going to happen. He knows every attack, every disappointment, every unfair situation. When you feel like you're surrounded, you have to come back to that place of peace and say, "I know my God is still on the throne. He's bigger than this sickness, greater than this addiction, more powerful than these enemies".
This is what the three Hebrew teenagers did in the scripture. They wouldn't bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar's golden idol. He was so upset, he said, "I'm going to give you one last chance, either bow down or you're going to be thrown into a fiery furnace". They said, "King, no disrespect to you, but we're not going to bow down to your idol. We know our God will deliver us. But even if he doesn't, we're still not going to bow down".
They were saying, "You can't stop God's plan for our life. You can throw us in the fire, we may be surrounded by that fire, but we know our God is surrounding the fire. If it's not our time to go, we're not going to go". The King was so furious, he had the furnace heated seven times hotter than normal. The teenagers were tied up and thrown into the furnace. They weren't bitter, complaining, "God, why'd you let this happen"? They stayed in peace. A little later, the King went to check on them, he looked through the window in the furnace and said, "Didn't we throw three men in bound? I see four men loosed, and one looks like the son of God".
And you may feel like you're in the fire today, you've had a disappointment, you don't see how it could work out. The good news is you're not in there by yourself. The God who controls the fire, that fourth man is right there with you. This is the beauty of our God. He doesn't leave us in tough times, he comes into the fire with us, and the King thought throwing them into the furnace, surrounding them by fire, surely that would be the end. What he didn't realize is the God who created the fire, the God who controls the universe, he has the final say, and what's surrounding you may seem big, strong, insurmountable, but our God is all powerful.
That sickness may look like it's the end, but when God says live, you're going to live. That addiction may look permanent, thoughts tell you, "You'll never break it". God is saying, "You're not going to stay in that fire. That addiction is not how your story ends. The fourth man is about to show up. Things are about to change in your favor. What you thought was going to stop you instead is going to promote you".
When Nebuchadnezzar saw that the teenagers were still alive, he couldn't believe it. He shouted, "Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out of that fire". Few minutes earlier, he was telling them to bow to his golden idol, now he's calling them servants of the Most High God. Sometimes God will allow the fire just so other people will see he is God. He'll use you as an example. They may not believe before, but when they see God show out in your life, when they see you beat the cancer, break the addiction, set a new standard, go where you've never dreamed, they won't be able to deny the blessing of God on your life.
When these teenagers came out of the furnace, people never looked at them the same way again. They had a new influence, a new respect, a new level. In fact, Nebuchadnezzar said, "Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego," and we may not like the fiery furnaces, but if we'll do like them and keep the right attitude, God will use that difficulty to establish you, to give you more credibility, to take you to a new level.
It's interesting, it doesn't say that the teenagers saw the fourth man, it says Nebuchadnezzar saw him, the one that threw them into the fire. In other words, the people that tried to push you down, the people that tried to hold you back, don't worry, they're going to see the hand of God on you, things that you may not be able to see.
This is why you don't have to prove to people who you are. You don't have to convince them that you're right. God is your vindicator. He knows how to get their attention, he knows how to change their mind. "Well, Joel, if I'm surrounded by the Most High, why did I have the problem in the first place? Why didn't God keep my out of the furnace"? But God never said we wouldn't have difficulties. Being people of faith doesn't exempt us from challenges and unfair situations.
The Psalmist said, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers us out of them all". The promise is not that you won't have challenges, the promise is God will bring you out. Not of some of them, not of most of them, but out of all of them. When you're in the fire, the right report is, "I'm coming out. This sickness is not the end. This trouble is not permanent. This slowdown at work is just a season".
You may not realize it, but God is in the process of bringing you out right now. You may not see him, but the fourth man's in your fire right now. Without him there, you wouldn't still be here. He's the one keeping the fire from harming you. He's the one pushing back forces of darkness. Don't complain in the fire, give God praise in the furnace. Be your best right where you are. That difficulty cannot keep you from your purpose. But we pray, "God, keep me out of the fire. Keep me out of this problem," and sometimes God will do that, but most of the time God will make you fireproof and take you through the fire. Coming out of the furnace is a greater testimony.
That's what gave the teenagers a new respect with the King. That's what changed the way people saw them, and if God kept us out of every furnace, we wouldn't reach the fullness of our destinies. Here's why. When the teenagers were in the fire, the only thing that burned were the cords that had them tied up. Their clothes didn't burn, their shoes didn't burn, just the cords.
When you're in the fire, God knows how to protect what you need and, at the same time, burn off anything that's holding you back. You are not going to come out of the fire the same, you're going to come out free from things that are holding you back. With a greater influence, people are going to look at you in a new light. People that looked down at you are going to look up to you. People that wouldn't pay you any attention are going to want your friendship.
Psalm 34 says, "The angel of the Lord encamps around those that fear him". One translation says, "God's angels set up a circle of protection around us". That's what happened with the teenagers. That circle of protection didn't keep them out of the fire, but it kept the fire from harming them, and if you're not supposed to go in the fire, you're not going to go. God will keep you out. But if you do go, that doesn't mean God let you down.
"Well, I prayed. I was doing my best, Joel, I got thrown into the furnace, came down with this illness. My company had to let me go". The enemy cannot break the circle of protection God has around you. If you go in the fire, that means God allowed it. The good news is the same God that let you go in is the God that's going to bring you out. The enemy is not in control of your life, God is.
God said to Satan, "Have you seen my servant, Job? There's nobody like him. He always honors me". Satan answered something interesting, he said, "Why shouldn't he honor you? You put a hedge of protection around him". He couldn't test Job without first asking God for permission, and Job went through the test, the unfair situations, but he didn't get bitter.
Job said, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him". He was saying what the teenagers said, "God, my life is in your hands. I'm surrounded by trouble, but I know you have the final say. You're surrounding what's surrounding me". Like Job, like these teenagers, God has a hedge of protection around you and your family.
I heard a story about a young girl, she was walking to her car after class late one night, and it was in a dark parking lot and didn't look like anybody was around. All of a sudden, these three men stepped out, they were hiding behind a car about 50 feet in front of her. Her heart skipped a beat. She knew they were there to harm her. She wanted to run, but she didn't have a chance. She stood there praying under her breath. As the men continued coming closer, in her mind she was afraid, but in her heart she was at peace. Something told her, "Everything is going to be okay".
When the men got about 15 feet away, suddenly they froze in their tracks. Their eyes got real big, terror came across their face. They began to back up slowly, carefully, then they turned and ran as fast as they could, and she knew that God protected her, but she didn't really know what happened.
A few days later, they arrested one of the men. He admitted that they were going to harm her, but when they got closer to her, he said, "This mighty warrior suddenly appeared". He began to describe him. He stood over 10 feet tall. He talked about his physique, how his arms, his legs, his chest were rippled with muscles, how his face was radiating with so much light, they could hardly look at him. He had his sword drawn. He was standing over this young lady. She only came up to his waist, had a sword in one hand, a shield in the other. He stared at those three men just like he was saying, "Come on, make my day. I dare you to touch her".
In the unseen realm, just like her, you have these powerful, warring angels protecting you. You may be surrounded by trouble, the good news is the Most High is surrounding that trouble. Psalm 91 says, "When you honor God, he will command his angels to watch over you". These three men thought they had the young lady surrounded. They thought, "No big deal, one girl against three grown men". What they didn't realize was, like Elisha, God had them surrounded. Those warring angels were standing guard.
Instead of going around worried, afraid, turn it around, "Father, thank you that your angels are watching over me. Thank you that I'm surrounded by protection, surrounded by your goodness". When you go through life in faith, knowing that God is surrounding what's surrounding you, you're showing God that you trust him. That's what allows God to show himself strong in your life.
"Well, Joel, I had a bad break, got thrown into the furnace. Don't see how it's going to work out". That's going to keep you where you are. The right attitude is, "Yes, this sickness has come against me, but I know I'm surrounded by healing. Yes, I had a bad break, but this is not my final chapter. I'm surrounded by favor, surrounded by restoration".
God didn't bring you this far to leave you. It's a test. Every person gets thrown into the furnace. It's not to defeat you, it's to establish you. It's to let other people see God's favor is on your life and to let you know that God is still in control. Every furnace God brings you out of, you come out with a greater trust in God, a greater confidence, a greater faith. That's getting you prepared for the next level of your destiny. With every experience, something is deposited that you will use down the road.
If you didn't need the furnace, if it wasn't going to work for your good, God would've kept you out, and you may not understand it, it may not seem fair, but God knows what he's doing. He's not going to let it defeat you. Thoughts will tell you, "You'll never get out. You'll never get well. It'll never turn around". Don't believe that, God is bringing you out right now. Like these teenagers, you're not only going to come out, you're going to come out stronger, promoted to a new level of your destiny.
In the story, 2 Kings chapter 6, Elisha prayed for the young man that the Lord would open his eyes, and he saw all those powerful angels. But when the enemy army came closer, Elisha prayed just the opposite, "Lord, make them blind". The commander knocked on Elisha's door and said, "I'm here to see Elisha". Elisha said, "You've come to the wrong city. He doesn't live here. Let me take you to where he is," and sometimes you have to lie for the Lord.
Elisha led this enemy army to the city of Samaria, where they were surrounded by the Israelites. Then he prayed, "Lord, open their eyes". They suddenly realized they were captured, it was a trap. They were at the mercy of Elisha. Elisha let them go. The scripture says they never bothered the Israelites anymore.
God knows how to turn your situation around. Like Elisha, there are enemies that are not going to bother you anymore. That sickness you've struggled with for years, God is going to put an end to it. That financial difficulty, you can't seem to get ahead, you keep honoring God, being your best, you're going to see those forces that have hindered you broken once and for all, and I've realized that we will never live trouble-free, but there are some enemies, like with Elisha, God will free you from permanently.
God told the Israelites, "The enemies you see today, you will see no more". Those things that are holding you back, a sickness, depression, addictions, dare to believe like what God told the Israelites, the sickness you see today, you will see no more. That addiction that's dogged you for years, you will see no more. That trouble at work, people trying to push you down, you will see no more.
A man told me recently how, for over 20 years, he wasn't treated fairly at work because his boss didn't like him. This man was in sales, he sold more than all the other sales people, but he was always overlooked for promotion, never given the bonuses that he deserved. He didn't get bitter, he kept being his best. He told me last week, "Joel, my boss was just suddenly terminated". They didn't tell anybody why, but out of over 60 sales people, he was chosen to take his boss' position.
God is a God of justice. You keep doing the right thing and, like him, you will come into that day where the enemies you see today, you will see no more. They think they have you surrounded, the good news is the Most High God has them surrounded. My prayer for us, "Lord, open our eyes. Help us to realize there are more for us than there are against us". That trouble that's keeping you awake at night, come back to a place of peace, God has the trouble surrounded.
Sure, we all get thrown into the furnace, but the fire is not the end. The only thing it's going to do is burn off what's holding you back. All through the day, especially when you're tempted to worry, remind yourself, "I am surrounded by the Most High". If you'll do this, I believe and declare God is going to protect you, deliver you, promote you. Things that have held you back are being broken right now. You're coming out of the furnace into freedom, into favor, into healing, into the fullness of your destiny in Jesus' name.