Joel Osteen — Thank God in Advance
I want to talk to you today about thanking God in advance. We all have dreams and goals that God has placed in our heart, things we're believing for, situations we're praying to turn around. These promises start off like seeds. They don't come to pass overnight. There's always a period of waiting involved.
From the time we pray till the time we see it come to fulfillment that's called the trial of our faith. This is when many people get discouraged and give up. They start believing the negative thoughts. "It's never going to happen. It's taking too long". Now that seed is lying dormant. It's still alive. It still has potential but you have to do your part and start watering the seed.
The way you water it is by thanking God in advance. You can't wait until you receive the promise. You have to thank God that the answer is on the way. Maybe you're struggling in your health. The medical report doesn't look good. Don't talk about how you feel. Say, "Father, thank you that I'm healthy. Thank you that I'm strong. Thank you with long life you are satisfying me". That's not just being positive. That's watering the seed.
In your finances, maybe you're struggling. Business is slow. All through the day, "Father, thank you that whatever I touch prospers and succeeds. Thank you that I'm coming out of debt. Thank you that your favor surrounds me like a shield". When you thank God in advance for the answer, it not only waters the seed but that strengthens your own faith.
This is what Abraham did. God placed the seed in his heart that he would have a baby. Twenty-four years went by. There was no sign of a child. It looked impossible. Abraham and Sarah were nearly 100 years old. Every voice said it wasn't going to happen. They could have easily talked themselves out of it. But the scripture says, "Abraham grew strong in faith by giving praise to God".
Notice when you give God praise it gives you strength. When you thank God in advance for the answer, that's what keeps you encouraged. You're not going to stay strong in faith by complaining. You're not going to stay determined it you're talking about how bad it is. "Well, God. You promised me this baby but seems like I'm too old". "God, you said you wanted me to be blessed but my business is so slow". "God, you said you would bring me out of this trouble but these people are so much more powerful than me".
No, switch over into praise. "Business may be slow, but Lord, I want to thank you that you prosper me even in a desert". "These people may be powerful, but Lord, I want to thank you that you are all-powerful".
Praise makes you strong. Praise keeps you moving forward. So often we think, "I'll give God praise after the problem turns around". "I'll thank God after business picks up, after I see the solution". No, if you don't learn this principle to thank God in advance you won't have the strength you need to wait for the promise. What keeps us strong is getting up in the morning saying, "Father, thank you that my dreams are coming to pass. Thank you that this problem is turning around. Thank you that you are bigger than this obstacle".
I'm sure Abraham got up many mornings and was tempted to be discouraged. The negative thoughts came saying, "Come on, Abraham. You're an old man. It's not going to happen. You've been waiting five years, ten years, 20 years. You must have heard God wrong". If Abraham would have dwelled on those thoughts and went around worried, thinking, "Maybe I am too old. Maybe I did hear God wrong. Maybe I'm wasting my time," he would have given up.
The way he stayed in faith, day after day, month after month, for 24 years, is he would get up each morning and say, "Father, thank you for the son you promised. Thank you that Isaac is on his way. Thank you that Sarah will conceive. Thank you that you are true to your word".
When you give God praise, God gives you strength to keep believing that what he promised will come to pass. All through the day, just like with Abraham, negative thoughts will come to try to get us to abort our dreams.
Here's a key. Every time you're tempted to worry let that be a reminder to thank God the answer is on the way. When the thought comes saying, "You're never going to get well" instead of worrying, turn it around. "Father, thank you that you are restoring health back unto me". When you do that you're getting stronger. Your faith is being built up.
The thought says, "You've made too many mistakes. God will never help you. There's nothing good in your future". Turn it around. "Father, thank you that your mercy is bigger than any mistake I've made. Thank you that the path of the righteous gets brighter. Thank you that my best days are still out in front of me". This is how Abraham stayed in faith. He thanked God for the promise long before he saw the promise. When you give God praise, God gives you strength to keep believing.
When we were trying to acquire this facility, my mind was bombarded with negative thoughts saying, "Joel, it's impossible. This city is not going to let a church have it. You're just wasting your time". For three and a half years, every morning the same discouraging thoughts would come. When I would give in and start thinking about them I could feel myself getting weak, discouraged, losing my joy.
I did what I'm asking you to do. I would catch myself. Instead of worrying I would turn it around. All through the day, "Father, thank you that you have given us that building. Thank you that it already has our name on it. Thank you that you are bigger than any obstacle. Thank you, Lord, that you are fighting our battles for us". That's what kept me strong those three and half years when I didn't see anything happening.
God wants to bring the promise to pass, but he is looking for people that will thank him before the walls fall down, before Isaac shows up, thank him before the building is theirs, before the healing comes, before the legal situation turns around. The mistake we make so often is when these thoughts of worry come and it doesn't look like it's ever going to change we start begging God. "God, please help me. God, I'm begging you to give us that building. God, please give me that baby".
No, begging doesn't get God's attention. Once you pray and ask God to bring the promise to pass, you ask God to heal you, you ask him to restore a relationship, from then on you don't need to ask God one more time. He heard you the very first time. Now every time you think about it you should thank God that the answer is on the way.
I know people, and they're good people, but they ask God for the same thing, the same way, year after year. "God, please get my children back on track. God, please cause them to straighten up". They're sincere but the right approach, instead of asking for the same thing, the same way, year after year, is switch over into praise. "Lord, I believe you heard me the first time and I want to thank you that my child is straightening up. Thank you that they'll fulfill their destiny. Thank you that they're making good choices".
That's what Abraham did. He didn't grow strong in faith by praying every day, "God, please bring this promise to pass. God, I'm begging you to give me this baby". He prayed once and he spent the rest of the time thanking God.
In the scripture, there was a lady that came to Jesus and started begging him to heal her daughter. She said, "Please, Jesus. My daughter is so bad. Would you please? I'm begging you to heal her". Jesus was normally so compassionate. Throughout the scripture, he went around healing everyone. A blind man said, "Jesus, have mercy" and Jesus went over and healed him. A soldier came up and said, "My daughter is sick. Will you come to my house"? Jesus went out of his way again and again to heal so many different people.
But what's interesting is this lady that kept begging and begging, Jesus ignored her, didn't give her the time of day. After a while, she realized begging wasn't going to do her any good. The scripture says, "She fell at Jesus' feet and started worshipping him, started thanking him, started giving him praise". All of a sudden, Jesus stopped what he was doing, looked at the woman and said, "Your daughter is perfectly well. You can go home. Everything is okay".
What begging won't do praising will do. I'm asking you, don't be a beggar. Be a believer. Once you pray switch over into praise. None of this year after year, "God, please heal me. God, please give me that promotion. God, I'm just begging you". No, zip that up. All through the day, "Father, thank you that I'm healthy. Thank you that my business is blessed. Thank you that promotion is coming".
When our son Jonathan got his driver's license a couple of years ago, we bought him a used car. Our daughter Alexandra is thirteen years old. A few months after he got that car, Alexandra came up and said, "Daddy, when I get my driver's license are you going to buy me a car"? She wanted to get this on record early on. I said, "Yes, Alexandra. I'm going to buy you a car". She said, "You promise"? I said, "I promise".
Do you know since I have given her my word she has not asked me one time to buy her that car? She is totally convinced that I will do what I said. So much so, that she talks about that car as if it's already hers. She has no doubt that car is coming. But how would I feel as a father if she came up every day and said, "Daddy, please get me that car. Daddy, I'm begging you. When I get my driver's license please get me a car". It would make me feel bad. I would say, "Alexandra, don't you believe what I said? You don't have to keep asking me. You certainly don't have to beg me. Just believe that I'll do what I said".
This is how God must feel when we ask him again and again for the same thing. When we beg him, God says, "Don't you trust me? Don't you have the confidence that I will do what I promised"? When Alexandra goes around talking about that car, dreaming about what color it's going to be, excited about what's in her future; that brings a smile to my face. From time to time she'll come up and put her arm around me, long blond hair, blue eyes as beautiful as can be and she'll thank me for that car that is to come. She'll tell me how much she loves me and how proud she is to be my daughter.
When she does that I think, "Do you want one car or do you want two"? Thanking does a whole lot more than begging. When you're constantly giving God thanks, telling him how much you love him, how great he is, how proud you are to be his child, that causes God to want to go out of his way to be good to you. But if we go around thinking, "Oh, man. Life's hard. God, can't you see I'm struggling? God, I'm asking you, I'm begging you, God. Just help me get through this". That doesn't get God's attention. Praise gets his attention. Thanking him in advance for the answer. Acting like it's on the way. That's what brings promises to pass.
One time Daniel prayed and asked God to help him. Day after day went by. Nothing got better. It looked like that God didn't even hear his prayer. But on the 21st day an angel showed up and said, 'Daniel, the first day you prayed God heard you and dispatched me with the answer but it took me 21 days to fight through the forces of darkness".
What I want you to see is the first day you prayed God heard you. The first time you asked God set the miracle into motion. The very first day the answer was on the way. That's why you don't have to keep praying about the same thing, begging God, asking again and again. The answer is already on the way. The promise is already in motion. The breakthrough is already en route. The right person is already in your future. The victory is already up ahead of you.
You've prayed about it. Now switch over into praise. Start thanking God that it's coming. Start thanking him in advance for the healing, the restoration, the promotion, the vindication, the dream. It's headed your way.
Even Jesus, when he was on the earth, he thanked his Heavenly Father for the answer before it came. His friend Lazarus had been dead for four days. Jesus stood at that tomb, looked up to the heavens and said, "Father, I want to thank You that you have heard me". Past tense. Lazarus was still dead yet Jesus was thanking his Heavenly Father that he was alive.
If Jesus thought it was important enough the thank God before the answer came then we should certainly get in a habit of not only asking, not only making our requests known, but let's take it one step further and start thanking God for the answer even when we don't see any sign of it happening. I mean, Lazarus was still wrapped up in grave clothes, been dead for four days. I'm sure the people around Jesus must have thought Jesus had lost his mind. Here he is thanking God for life when the man was still clearly dead.
This is what faith is all about. You can't just look at it with your natural eyes. Some of you today have situations that look dead: your health, finances, a relationship, a dream. Your mind tells you it's impossible. No use even believing. But would you dare be as bold as Jesus and say, "Father, I want to thank you in advance that you have a resurrection coming. God, I know you can bring things back to life. You have the final say. I may not see a way but I want to thank you in advance that every promise you have spoken over me will come to pass".
This is what Elijah did. There had been a drought in the land for three and a half years. The people were struggling, barely making it. But Elijah didn't complain. He didn't start begging. He understood this principle. He went on the top of mount Carmel and started thanking God for the rain that was coming. He thanked God that the answer was on the way. He thanked God that the clouds were already starting to form.
Six times his assistant went out to check for rain. Came back each time and said, "No rain. Not a cloud in the sky". Elijah didn't get discouraged. He didn't start begging, "Come on, God. I've been asking you again and again". No, he just kept saying, "Lord, thank you for the rain that's coming. I may not see a way in the natural but I want to thank you that you are a supernatural God".
You know the story. On the seventh time, that assistant came back and said, "I saw a cloud up in the sky this time". Elijah said, "You better get ready. I can hear the sound of the abundance of rain". As he kept thanking God... before long, the heavens opened up. The promise came to pass.
You may be in a drought today. Don't complain about it. Don't keep begging God to change it. Don't ask again and again for the same thing. Do like Elijah; switch over into praise. Every time you're tempted to worry, tempted to get discouraged, tempted to complain, you've got to dig your heels in and say, "Father, thank you for the rain that's coming. Thank you for the healing that's coming. Thank you for the favor that's coming. Thank you for the restoration that's coming. Lord, I want to thank you not for just a little bit, not for barely get by, but like Elijah, thank you for the abundance that you have in store".
Now, you may not see anything happen for a week, a month, a year. Or like Abraham, for many, many years. The question is, "What are you made of"? Anybody can quit. Anybody can get discouraged and give up. But here's the key; as you keep thanking God your faith is getting stronger. If you'll keep thanking him in advance, then like Elijah, you won't get discouraged even though you don't see anything happening. Sometimes it is difficult. You may not feel like doing it. Jeremiah said, "If you will offer up the sacrifice of praise,' that means, if you will do the right thing when it's hard then God will cause the captivity of the land to be reversed and the fortunes to be restored.
This is saying if you'll thank God in advance, even when you don't see anything good happening, if you'll offer up that sacrifice of praise then two things are going to take place. God is going to reverse negative situations and he is going to restore what should have been yours. This doesn't happen by complaining. It doesn't happen by begging. It happens when you get up in the morning and say, "I don't see how this could ever change, but Lord, I want to thank you that the answer is on the way. Thank you that healing is coming. Thank you that the problem is turning around. Thank you that my children will fulfill their destiny".
If you live like that you might as well get ready. God is going to reverse and he is going to restore. He is going to reverse finances that were going down. He is going to reverse a business that was slow. He is going to reverse a bad medical report. He is going to reverse a legal situation. Not only that, God is going to restore what should have been yours. He is going to restore the years you've lost because somebody did you wrong; an unfair situation. He is going to restore a relationship, restore a dream. It's going to happen because of your praise, because you're thanking God in advance.
Friends, don't lose your praise. The battle may be tough but keep praising. People do you wrong; keep praising. The report doesn't look good; keep praising. Finances go down; keep praising. As long as you have praise coming out of your mouth then it's not over. I've learned God won't let a praiser be defeated. Don't lose your praise.
I Samuel 17, the Philistines were on one side of a mountain. The Israelites were on one side of another mountain. There was a valley in between them that they were fighting over. The scripture says the valley belonged to Judah. It belonged to the Israelites. Judah means praise. Every morning and every evening for 40 days Goliath would come out and stand on the Philistine's side of the mountain, this huge giant and he would shout threats and insults toward the Israelites, trying to intimidate them, bring fear, cause them to panic.
First thing they heard in the morning was Goliath shouting, "You're days are numbered. You don't have a chance". The last thing they heard before they went to bed was, "I'm so much bigger than you. You might as well give up". The enemy works the same way today. When you first get up you'll hear his threats. "You're not going to make it. You don't have the money. Your health is not good. You're children are never going to straighten up". The last thing you hear before you go to bed, "It's not going to work out. Too much is coming against you".
For 40 days the Israelites couldn't sleep at night. They were intimidated, worried, living in fear. But one day a young man showed up named David. He had a secret weapon. He came from the tribe of Judah; the tribe of praise. David knew the valley they were fighting for didn't belong to fear, didn't belong to discouragement, didn't belong to intimidation. He knew that valley belonged to praise. His attitude was, "I may be in a low spot. I may be in a tough time. I don't see a way out. But I know this valley doesn't belong to discouragement. Intimidation is not going to keep me up at night. Goliath, you're not coming into my valley. This valley belongs to praise".
I can imagine David began to thank God for what he had done in the past and then he switched over and started thanking God for what he was about to do. He said, "Goliath, this day I will defeat you and feed your head to the birds of the air". He was saying, "Lord, I want to thank you for the answer that's coming. Thank you that things are changing in my favor". David went on the conquer that enemy.
When you're in a valley, like David, fear will try to occupy that valley. In the morning, anxiety will try to come into that valley. At night, before you go to bed, stress, doubt, intimidation, will try to keep you up at night. But know this; that valley doesn't belong to the enemy. It belongs to praise. Now you've got to take your valley back. All through the day when the thoughts come saying, "It's not going to work out. The problem is never going to turn around," don't dwell on that. Don't let that occupy that valley. Turn up your praise. "Father, thank you that you are still on the throne. Thank you that you are bigger than this obstacle. Thank you that you are fighting my battles. Thank you that the answer is already on the way".
When you learn to give God praise in the valley you will defeat every giant. It doesn't matter how big that obstacle is. You and God are a majority. He will always cause you to triumph. And really, any of us can give God praise when we're on the mountaintop. That's easy when everything is going our way. But it takes a man or woman of great faith to say, "God, nothing is going my way. I don't feel well. I'm tired. These people are doing me wrong. Business is slow. I could easily be discouraged. I could easily complain. But I know a secret. This valley belongs to praise. So God, I want thank you that I'm coming out. I want to thank you that you are restoring and reversing. I want to thank you that things are changing in my favor".
You do that and you won't stay in the valley. Praise causes God to go to work. Praise breaks chains that are holding us back. Praise opens up supernatural doors. Praise causes things to fall into place. Some of you have prayed about the situation long enough. You've got to switch over into praise. Get up every morning, "Father, thank you that my dreams are coming to pass. Thank you that healing is coming. Thank you that promotion is on its way".
That's what is going to keep you strong, not begging, not praying again and again. No, remember; like Daniel, the first day you prayed God heard it and set the miracle into motion. It's already on the way. As you keep giving God praise he is going to keep giving you strength to believe. And yes, sometimes it's difficult. You may be in that valley but don't you dare let fear occupy that valley.
Don't let intimidation in that valley. Don't let doubt and complaining come into your valley. That valley belongs to praise. If you'll dig your heels in and offer up that sacrifice of praise, God promises he is going to reverse and restore. Like Abraham, you will see the dream come to pass. Like David, you will defeat every giant. Like Elijah, the drought will come to an end. I believe and declare; you will see the abundance of rain, abundance of joy, abundance in your health, abundance in your finances, abundance of God's goodness. In Jesus' name.