Joel Osteen — Keep Your Seat
I want to talk to you today about "Keep your seat". In the old testament, the priest had to go into the temple at certain times a year and make sacrifices for the people's sins. That's how they had forgiveness. It was all based off of works. There were no chairs in the tabernacle, no reason for seats. The priest couldn't sit down. They lived under constant pressure. Their work was never done. Another sacrifice was always required.
But when Jesus was crucified, he said on the cross, "It is finished". He was talking about the old way of having to constantly work for God's goodness. The scripture says he sat down at the right hand of the father. Him sitting is a picture of rest. Under the old covenant, the priests were constantly working, trying to cover the sins, trying to be good enough, trying to make things happen. Under the new covenant, Jesus is sitting and resting, and here is the beauty.
Paul said in Ephesians we are seated with Christ in heavenly places. There is a seat of rest that belongs to you. You don't have to go through life roiled up on the inside, worried about your finances, trying to make a family member do what's right, frustrated because a dream hasn't come to pass. Do yourself a favor: take your seat. Enter into this rest.
When you live seated, you're in peace. You may have problems, but you know God is fighting your battles. People may have done you wrong. You're not trying to pay them back. You know God is your vindicator. He'll make your wrongs right. You're struggling with an illness. The medical report doesn't look good. You could go around upset, worried, instead you stay seated. You know God has you in the palm of his hand. You know the number of your days he will fulfill.
David said, "Though I am surrounded by trouble, my heart will know no fear for the Lord will bring me safely through". He was saying, "Even though everything has come against me, I should be worried and upset, but I know a secret. The battle is not mine. The battle is the Lord's, so I'm going to take my seat". But when you try to make everything happen in your own strength, pay people back, fix this problem, live worried about a child, when you stand up, God steps back. As long as you're working, he'll rest, but when you sit down, God will stand up, so to speak. He'll go to work.
That's why he told the Israelites again and again, "Be still, and you will see the deliverance of the Lord". He was saying, "Take your seat. I've got this. I'm bigger than what you're facing". This doesn't mean that we don't do anything, we sit back passive all day long. We should be responsible. We have to pray, believe, dream, but do it from a place of rest. You can work hard with a rest on the inside, knowing that you're doing your best and God will get you to where you're supposed to be.
Not working hard frustrated, thinking, "When am I going to get good breaks? Why isn't this changing? Everybody is passing me up". No, take your seat. Work from a place of rest knowing that God's favor is on your life, that he's breathing in your direction, that goodness and mercy are chasing you down. Inner rest is just as important as outer rest. Your physical body may rest, but if your mind never rests, if you live roiled up on the inside fighting everything you don't like, that's going to wear you out.
Even things we should stand against, an addiction, a sickness, dysfunction, if you're always in fight mode, pressured, thinking, "I've got to change this," constantly working, it's going to drain your joy, drain your energy. You're living under the old covenant, under works. "If I can work hard enough, if I can make myself change, if I can make this problem go away". Your heart is right, but your approach is wrong. Why don't you approach it from a place of rest? "God, I can't change this on my own. I need your help. I'm going to be my best, and, God, I know you're the Potter and I'm the clay. In your time and in your way you will help me to change".
Instead of doing, doing, doing, the right attitude is, "Done, done, done". It is finished. God has already defeated every enemy. He's already planned out your days for good. Now, take your seat. Live from a place of rest, a place of peace, a place of trust.
When I first started ministering, I would get so nervous. I knew I was supposed to step up and pastor the church, but I dreaded having to get up in front of people. All through the week, I'd have to fight these thoughts, "What if I don't know what to say? What if nobody comes? What if people don't listen to me"? When I would finish my message on a Sunday morning, for about 30 minutes I would be so relieved and so grateful, then I would start thinking about the next week. "What am I going to say next Sunday? What if I can't come up with anything"?
After about six months, I thought, "I am not living like this anymore. I'm going to take my seat". If I had not made that decision, I wouldn't have made it to 40 years old. You weren't created to carry those heavy burdens, weighted down with worry, stress, frustration. This is the reason some people have health issues. They can't sleep at night. They have digestive problems, high blood pressure. It's because there is no inner rest. They haven't learned how to take their seat. On the inside they're constantly worried about their child, trying to figure everything out, frustrated because it's taking so long.
The Psalmist said, "Be still and know that he is God". This infers if you're not still, if you're not seated, you won't really know that he is God. You won't see his favor, his blessings, his goodness like you should. When things come against you, like with me, it's easy to let your mind constantly play all the what-ifs. What if it doesn't work out? What if the report isn't good? What if they don't change?
Remember, when you're working, God is resting. If you'll start resting, turning that over to God, then he'll start working. He sees what's happening. He knows how big the challenge is. He knows who did you wrong. The good news is he already has the solution. He's not going to just bring you out. He's going to make the enemy pay and bring you out better than you were before. Now, do your part. Take your seat. Quit trying to figure everything out. Some situations, there is no logical solution, and you have to turn your mind off, in one sense.
The scripture says lean not to your own understanding, and it's okay to say, "God, I don't see how this can work out. I don't see a way," but don't stop there. Follow it up with, "But I know you have a way. I know this is not a surprise to you. You had the solution before I had the problem, so I'm not going to worry. I'm going to live from a place of peace".
David said God will make your enemies your footstools. A footstool, of course, is something you put your feet up on. It's another picture of rest. God could have said he would make our enemies like grass so we could walk on them, or like sand so it's soft. God used footstools to remind us to stay at rest. When you face challenges, things you don't understand, things that are not fair, one of the first things you need to do is put your feet up.
Come back to a place of peace. You have to do this by faith because every voice will tell you why it's not going to work out. "You're not going to get well. You saw the diagnosis". "Your family will never be restored. There is too much strife". That's the enemy trying to deceive you into standing up. He'll do everything he can to keep you from staying seated. He knows when you're seated, in peace, trusting God, he doesn't have a chance.
When you live from a place of rest, all the forces of darkness cannot stop you. God has the final say. It may have been meant for your harm, but God is going to turn it into a footstool. Not just a place of rest, but instead of being a stumbling block to stop you, it's going to become a stepping stone to take you to the next level. It says in Hebrews labor to enter in to the rest of God. That sounds like a contradiction, labor to rest, but God used the word "Labor" because he knew it's going to take work to stay seated.
It's easy to stand up. It's easy to be offended and try to pay people back. It's easy to live worried, discouraged by problems. That's why it says labor to enter his rest. It's going to take effort, and this is one of the few times that God tells us to work, and it doesn't say work to straighten out your neighbor, work to make the problem go away. He said work to stay seated.
Maybe you're trying to break an addiction. Yes, you have to be disciplined, you have to be determined, but if there is a war going on, on the inside, where you're upset with yourself, frustrated because you're not further along, trying to force it to happen in your own strength, you're not tapping into the grace that's available today. You're like that priest that had to make a sacrifice again and again.
No, you're under the new covenant. Christ defeated every enemy. The price has already been paid. You are not working to get the victory. You are working from victory. When you know that you've already won, there's a rest. You don't live worried. You don't lose sleep at night. You know the outcome. God said he always causes you to triumph, and it may not turn out every time the way you thought or on your timetable, but God's ways are better than our ways. This is what trust is all about. What I'm saying is when you live from a place of peace, you'll not only enjoy your life more, but God will make things happen that you couldn't make happen.
My parents started Lakewood in 1959 with 90 people. For about 13 years, the church didn't really grow. They had less than 200 people. My father had much bigger things in his heart. At 17 years of age, he knew one day he was going to pastor a church with thousands, but he wasn't seeing any of that. His friends would come by and say, "John, what are you doing out here still pastoring this little church"? They meant well, but sometimes your friends can be discouraging. They were saying, "John, why don't you stand up? Why don't you make something happen? Why don't you do it in your own strength"?
My father's attitude was, "I'm going to keep doing what I know God asked me to do. I'm not going to be frustrated because it's not growing. I'm not going to slack off because it hasn't turned out my way. I'm going to keep my seat". He lived from this place of rest, knowing that God is in control, that God is keeping the records.
These are tests that we have to pass. One of them is being faithful when nothing is changing, doing the right thing when it's not growing. It's easy to get frustrated, "God, I've got bigger things in me. Why isn't it changing"? No, keep your seat. God is watching you. He sees your faithfulness, he sees you doing the right thing when it's hard, and at the appointed time, in your due season, God is going to catapult you further than you can imagine. You are not falling behind. You are being prepared. God is getting you ready.
Everything you went through deposited something on the inside. The delays made you stronger. The fact that you're not as far along as you would like, that was ordained by God. Those people that didn't support you, the people that walked away, you could have become bitter, instead you stayed seated. You kept your peace. Now, get ready. Your time is coming. God has something bigger than you think, more rewarding than you can imagine. He's going to exceed your expectations.
That's what happened to my father. He ended up pastoring a church with thousands and thousands, but sometimes the reason we're frustrated is we're trying to change things that only God can change. You can't make people do what's right. You can pray for them, you can encourage them, but they have their own free will. Don't let them steal your joy. You are not responsible for other people's happiness. You cannot keep everyone in your life happy. You are responsible for your own happiness, and I don't mean to live selfishly, but sometimes we take on a false sense of responsibility. We think we have to keep all of our neighbors happy, all of our co-workers happy, all of our friends, all of our family.
I've learned some people don't want to be happy. They just want your attention. They want you to cater to them and come running every time they call. If you don't, they'll try to make you feel guilty for not meeting all your demands. What they really want is to control you. Don't fall into that trap. Be nice, be kind, but don't be a doormat. You have a destiny to fulfill. You have an assignment.
It's very easy to let people cause us to stand up, lose our peace, live frustrated. No, sit back down. Stay at rest. I had to learn this lesson because I always felt responsible to keep everyone around me happy. It was easy when I was young. Had a few friends, a few family members, but as I got older and had more family, more friends, cousins, relatives, colleagues, neighbors, I ended up spending half my time putting out fires, calming this one down, cheering this one up, running over here so this one wouldn't be offended.
One day, I realized I can't become who I'm created to be if I'm trying to please everybody around me. I had to draw that line in the sand and say, "I'm sitting down. I'm staying in peace, and I'm not going to let people who won't take responsibility for their own happiness make me feel guilty and try to control me". I'm a nice person. I say I'm mean, but I'm not. I will go the extra mile, but some people are high-maintenance. They will drain all the life, the energy, the good will out of you if you allow them to. They are not being disciplined to manage their own life, their own emotions. They'll expect you to keep them fixed, but you cannot fulfill your destiny, you can't accomplish your assignment unless you put up some boundaries and not let people pull you out of rest, make you feel guilty, get you upset, like you have to keep them happy.
That is a codependent relationship. They can't be happy without you. That's not healthy. Be nice, but be firm. You have to labor to enter into this rest. God wouldn't have said labor if it wasn't going to be uncomfortable at times. I know you're like me. You don't want to hurt people's feelings, but you are not doing them a favor by catering to them. You are enabling their dysfunction and that's keeping you from moving forward. You have to set some boundaries. "I'm not going to come running every time they call. I'm not going to change my plans and not spend time with my family to go help them for the 400th time this month".
Some people are alarmists. Every time they call, it's a major crisis, a major emergency. It's got to be dealt with right then. I don't know about you, but I have enough drama in my own life. I don't need somebody else's drama. If you're a drama queen, call my brother Paul. He'll help you out.
Years ago, I had this friend I went to high school with, and we played basketball together, and he's a fine, young man. I enjoyed being around him, but he started becoming overly dependent on me. I had to call him. I had to tell him what all of our friends were doing. I always had to go pick him up. I felt pressured. I was young and didn't know any better. I did it, but he got married, I got married, and I didn't have the time like I had before. He couldn't understand it. He would get upset.
I tried to keep him happy. I'd go see him, "Let's go play basketball. Let's hang out". It was never enough. He'd call back again upset. Got to the point where when I saw his name on my phone, I didn't want to answer it. I felt guilty, so I did, but he'd tell me all the reasons why I wasn't being a good friend. One day, I learned what I'm telling you. I am not responsible to keep everyone around me happy, and I was nice, but I stopped answering his call, and the funny thing is, I didn't feel guilty. I felt good about it. I knew he was pulling me out of rest.
There are some people you cannot stay seated with them in your life. If you don't make an adjustment, you'll be frustrated for the next 20 years. Be respectful, but put up some boundaries. "Well, Joel, what if they get upset? What if they don't want to be my friend"? Say "Thank you, Jesus". They did you a favor. Here is the bottom line. When you get to heaven, you are not going to answer to people about what you did with your life, how you spent your time, how you used your gifts. You're going to answer to God.
Your destiny is too important to let people control you, and there are a lot of things in life that we can't change. We can't make people do what's right, we can't make ourselves get well necessarily, we can't make a dream come to pass, but we can change our approach. We can choose to not let these things upset us. We can make this decision to take our seats. Somebody cut you off in traffic, it's tempting to stand up. It's tempting to get upset, "Let me show them. Let me blow my horn". They've already moved on. They're already in the next lane. You might as well sit back down. Don't let a stranger pull you out of rest. It's not hurting them. It's souring your day.
A lot of these things are simply tests. Are we going to keep letting the same things upset us, the same people get on our nerves, the same delays sour our life? My message today is very simple: stay seated. This is a freeing way to live. When you know that God is in control, that nothing can happen without his permission, and that he is directing your steps, takes the pressure off.
You can live calm, in peace, not fighting everything you don't like. You have a disappointment, the medical report is not good, "I'm not going to worry. I'm staying seated. God is my healer". You have a setback in your finances, you lose a big client, every voice will say, "Be worried. Be upset. That's not fair". If you'll listen, you'll hear the still, small voice saying, "Stay seated. God's working behind the scenes. Payback is coming. Abundance is on the way". I wonder how much more we'd enjoy life if we would learn to live from this place of rest.
In the scripture, it compares a believer to an eagle, and it's interesting how an eagle handles challenges. A crow is one of the eagle's biggest test. When the eagle is flying, the crow will come up right behind it and pester it, do things to annoy it. Even though the eagle is much bigger, it can't turn as fast as the crow, and so instead of fighting the crow, getting upset, trying to defend itself, the eagle will simply stretch out its 8-foot wingspan, catch the winds, and rise higher and higher. An eagle can fly at heights that no other birds can fly. At some point, the crow will have to fall away. He can't breathe at that altitude.
In the same way, we all have some crows in life, some chickens and turkeys, too, people that want to irritate us and get on our nerves and do things to try to bait us into conflict. It's easy to get upset and try to straighten every crow out, but remember you're an eagle. You can go up higher. You can fly where the crows cannot fly. But if you say down at their level, try to straighten out every crow and get involved in conflicts that don't matter, that will keep you from your destiny. The crows, the chickens, the turkeys, they are simply distractions. When an eagle faces a storm, there is bad weather in its path, it doesn't bury its head and try to force its way through it, fight the wind, fight the rain, fight the thunder. Again, it catches the thermal winds and goes up higher until it's above all the turmoil.
Like the eagle, we all face storms. We all have difficulties. The key is to rise above all the turmoil. You don't have to fight your way through it. Don't let it get on the inside. Remain at rest, stay seated, and God will fight your battles. Too often, we're fighting when we should be resting. We're standing when we should be sitting, and, yes, I know we have to stand strong. I'm talking about in your spirit. Even when it's stormy all around you, things happening that you don't understand, you need to have a rest, knowing that God is still on the throne, that he is bigger than anything you're facing.
When you're an eagle, when you've learned to rise above the challenges, you'll be at peace when you could be upset. You'll have a smile when you could be discouraged. You're showing God that you trust him. You're taking your seat. Sometimes after a long day, I'll be standing in my kitchen talking to Victoria and our children, and we can talk for a long time, and at some point I'll tell them, "I have to go get off my feet". I know when I'm done, when I need to sit down and relax.
Maybe today you need to get off your feet. You're living worried about your health and stressed over your finances, upset because that child still hasn't changed. Why don't you come back to a place of peace? God has it all figured out. Those enemies you're concerned about, those obstacles, they're not going to stop you. They're going to become a footstool, and instead of laboring to try to fix everything, I'm asking you to labor to enter this rest. You weren't created to carry the heavy burdens.
There is a seat of rest that has your name on it. You may have been standing for a long time, but God is saying, "Take your seat. Live from a place of rest. Work hard, do your best, but on the inside stay in peace". If you'll do this, I believe and declare you're not only going to enjoy life more, but God's going to bring dreams to pass. Problems are about to turn around, health, wholeness, favor, victory, the fullness of your destiny in Jesus's name.