Joel Osteen — The God Who Crosses His Arms
I want to talk to you today about the God who crosses his arms. God has things in store for you that you don't see coming. It may seem like you've reached your limits, you've gone as far as you can, but God is going to open doors you never thought would open. You didn't have the training, you weren't next in line, but somehow you were chosen for the promotion. God has unexpected favor. He's going to do things that we didn't deserve.
That's what happened in Genesis 48. Jacob was an old man and about to die. His son Joseph was the Prime Minister of Egypt, second in command under the Pharaoh, and Joseph was Jacob's youngest son and his favorite. He'd given Joseph his coat of many colors and was so proud of him. But for many years, Jacob thought Joseph was dead. His brothers told their father that Joseph had been eaten by a wild animal. Jacob was heartbroken and lived with all this pain.
Some 13 years later, Jacob found out that Joseph was still alive and in this position of great honor, and Joseph eventually brought his father and his family to Egypt, gave them a place to live, and took care of them. Now, Jacob was 140 years old and about to pass. Joseph went in to say his goodbyes and to get the blessing from his father. He took his two sons with him, Manasseh and Ephraim. When Jacob saw the boys, he asked who they were. Joseph said, "Dad, these are my sons, your grandsons".
Imagine how Jacob must've felt. He never thought he would see Joseph again. He'd already accepted that he was gone, now God not only let him see his son, but he saw his grandsons. His heart was overjoyed, and like Jacob, you may have given up on the dream, you think it's been too long, now you've accepted that you'll never get well, you never meet the right person, never start that business. But what God put in your heart, he's not only still going to bring it to pass, but it's going to turn out better than you thought. Not just your son, but your grandson so to speak. It's going to exceed what you're thinking.
Jacob called Manasseh and Ephraim over, and hugged them and kissed them. He said to Joseph in verse 5, "I'm adopting as my own sons your two boys. They will inherit the same thing as you and your brothers". What's interesting is these boys were born from an Egyptian mother. Back then, the Egyptians worshiped idols, they didn't believe in Jehovah. She didn't have a heritage of faith. You would think God would say, "Not going to have anything to do with those boys. Not going to bless someone from a family that doesn't worship me". But God doesn't disqualify you because of how you were raised.
You may come from a family that didn't honor God. There was a lot of compromise, dysfunction. The good news, that doesn't have to stop you. Like Manasseh and Ephraim, God is adopting you in spite of what they did or didn't do, and you may kind of feel like you've been under a generational curse because of how you were raised. God is choosing you to start a generational blessing. You're the difference maker. You can be the one to affect your family line for generations to come.
And it was extremely significant that these boys were adopted by Jacob. Not only did he overlook who their mother was, but they were grandsons, not sons. They should've had to wait another generation, 40 years to receive what Jacob was giving them. Normally, it would've come from their father, Joseph. He would've passed down the blessing, the inheritance that was given to him. These boys were receiving something that they didn't deserve.
This was showing us the character of God. There are things that we don't deserve. We were off course, doing our own thing, but God who is full of mercy said, "I'm going to reach down in spite of your past, in spite of your mistakes, in spite of what your family didn't do, and I'm going to adopt you anyway". Paul said in Ephesians, "God has adopted us into his own family," and because you've been adopted, you're going to come in to blessings that you didn't earn, favor that you didn't deserve, houses that you didn't build the scripture says, vineyards that you didn't plant.
Your past is not going to limit you. How you were raised is not going to keep God from blessing you. Like these boys' mother, there may have been people that didn't honor God, didn't make good choices. God is not holding that against you. He's saying, "I'm adopting you anyway. Not as my grandchild, not as my great grandchild, I'm adopting you as my own son, my own daughter". Joseph's sons shouldn't have been heirs for another generation, but because of what Jacob did, they were thrust 40 years down the road.
There are things that should take you years to accomplish, years to get out of debt, years to break an addiction, years to set a new standard. But God is going to do for you what he did for these boys. He's going to catapult you ahead. You're going to see things happen faster than you thought. It should've taken you a generation, but God's going to do a quick work. Because you're honoring him, because you say, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord," God is speeding things up. What should've taken you your whole life is going to happen in a fraction of the time.
But I can imagine Joseph's brothers, when they saw the grandsons getting the same blessing that belonged to the brothers, they didn't understand it. They said, "Dad, that's not fair. They're sons, not grandsons. You're giving them the same thing that you're giving us". Can I tell you favor is not fair? It's just the goodness of God, and when God blesses you, don't be surprised if some people get jealous.
When he speeds things up, when you break barriers, some people won't understand it. They'll start talking about you, "You don't deserve it. You're not talented. You're just lucky". It's not luck, it's favor. It's God shining down on you, making things happen that you could not make happen".
Now, stay on the high road. You don't have to convince people to like you. Some people can't handle your success, and if they walk away, let them walk. You didn't need them. If they left you, they're not a part of your destiny. Don't waste your valuable time with people that won't celebrate the blessing that God put on your life. Don't apologize for it, don't try to downplay it. You didn't choose it, God chose you. You were a grandson. He's the one that said, "I'm adopting you. I giving you what you don't deserve. I'm taking you to a new level". Wear your blessings well, it's the favor of God on your life.
After Jacob told the boys he was adopting them, he called them over to give them his blessing. In the Old Testament, the blessing from the father was very significant and very revered. What the father spoke over the sons in his final days carried great weight and would affect the children the rest of their lives. The oldest son would receive a double portion, that was the tradition. The blessing the father gave with his right hand was this double portion blessing.
So, Joseph brought his oldest son, his firstborn Manasseh, and placed him at his father's right side so Jacob could easily reach out and touch him. Ephraim stood on his left. Joseph knelt down, put his face toward the ground. But Jacob, instead of reaching out with his right hand and touching Manasseh, he crossed his arms and put his right hand on Ephraim, his left on Manasseh. He spoke the blessing over them. When Joseph eventually looked up and saw it, he was upset.
He got up in a hurry and said, "Dad, what are you doing? You've got it backwards. Manasseh is my oldest". He took Jacob's right hand and was going to place it on Manasseh, Jacob pulled it back. He said, "I know what I'm doing. Manasseh will be great, but Ephraim will even be greater. Multitudes of nations will come out of him". God was showing us that he doesn't always bless the way we expect. Ephraim wasn't next in line. He didn't deserve it, he wasn't born in the right position, but God bypassed all the tradition. He bypassed what people thought would happen and did something out of the ordinary.
When Joseph tried to stop his father, Jacob said in effect, "I know Ephraim was born second. I know this doesn't belong to him, but I'm crossing my arms on purpose. I'm going to show him favor that he doesn't deserve," and this story is not so much about one family member getting ahead of another, it's God showing us how he can take people from the back, people that don't have the position, people that feel left out, and bring them to the front.
God loves to choose people that others say are not qualified. They don't have the talent. They don't come from the right family. They've made too many mistakes. Don't believe those lies, God is about to cross his arms. He's going to put you in a position that you didn't earn. You didn't qualify for it. You weren't next in line. God's going to make things happen that you didn't see coming, and you may think, like I did, that where you are now is where you're always going to be. You've reached your limits. That would all be true except for one thing, God is going to cross his arms. You keep honoring God, being your best, he will open doors you never dreamed would open. He's going to promote you even though you weren't next in line.
You'll think, "How did I get here? I didn't have the training, the experience, the connections". Here's how, God crossed his arms. I think, "How did I end up in front of so many people"? Eighteen years ago, I was running the cameras, I was doing the production. I wasn't next in line necessarily, I wasn't the most qualified. But God crossed his arms and here I am.
How did we get the Compaq Center? We weren't the most influential group in the bidding process. We didn't have the biggest portfolio, the most resources, but God crossed his arms. He took us from the back and put us in the front.
How is my mother still alive 37 years after being diagnosed with terminal cancer? God crossed his arms. He did what medicine could not do. We can all come up with an excuse to settle where we are.
"I don't have the training, Joel. I don't have the connections, the confidence, the talent, the size, the personality". God says, "I know all that. I created you. I know what order you were born in," and you may not be the firstborn son, so to speak. You don't feel like you have what you need to go further. Don't worry, God's going to cross his arms. He's going to make things happen that you couldn't make happen.
In the scripture, Gideon said, "God, I can't lead the people of Israel against the Midianites. I come from the poorest family. I'm the least one in my father's house". God said, "Gideon, I know you're not qualified. I know you're not next in line, but I'm going to cross my arms. I'm going to take you from the background to the foreground. I'm going to give you influence and ability that you've never had".
Samson could've said, "God, I don't deserve your goodness. You gave me supernatural strength and I blew it. I kept giving into temptation. Now, I'm blind, bound, grinding at the mill, and it's all my own fault". God said, "Samson, I knew every mistake you would ever make, and my mercy is bigger than anything you've done wrong. Yes, you should die defeated, feeling like a failure, but take heart, I'm going to cross my arms". God blessed Samson one more time, and he defeated more enemies in his death than he did his whole lifetime.
You may have 1,000 reasons why you can't accomplish your dream or why you can't get out that problem. God is saying to you, "I'm about to cross my arms. I'm going to show you unexpected favor, unexpected promotion, unexpected healing, unexpected breakthroughs". You didn't see it coming. You weren't qualified, you weren't the next in line. It's just the goodness of God.
"Well, Joel, this is encouraging today, but I don't know. I got some big problems. I have a lot coming against me". The scripture says, "Is the arm of the Lord too short to deliver you"? Do you think somehow God's arm can't reach you? You're too far back, made too many mistakes, miss too many opportunities, have too big a problems"? Can I tell you God's arm is not too short to deliver you, to heal you, to provide for you, to free you, to vindicate you. You're going to see God do things that you didn't see coming. When he crosses his arms, things are going to fall into place. Good breaks are going to find you. Opportunity is going to chase you down.
A man I know owns a design company. He started with three small clients. His main competitor had thousands of clients. He was just a speck compared to them, and some of the people there were jealous of his work, and they would make disparaging remarks and try to belittle him. He didn't pay any attention to it. He kept running his race, being his best.
One client led to another, and he kept growing, new doors kept opening. He came to the place where he passed up that other company, and one day, they called and asked if he would like to purchase them. Today, he owns the company that used to be hundreds of times bigger than his. He told me, "Joel, I didn't see this coming. I never dreamed I would be this successful". Now, the people that used to make fun of him, instead of calling him names, you know what they call him? Boss.
What happened? God crossed his arms. You may not have the position yet, the influence, the reputation, the confidence. You feel like you're further back. That's okay, just keep honoring God and you will come in to this unexpected favor, promotion that you didn't see coming.
The book of Luke, the angel said, "Mary, the Lord has decided to bless you". There are some blessings that come from being faithful and doing the right thing when it's hard. But there are times, like with Mary, like with Ephraim that God has simply decided to bless you. You didn't do anything to earn it.
In fact, there were plenty of reasons why it shouldn't have happened. Maybe you didn't make good choices, or you had a family member like Ephraim that didn't honor God, but God in his mercy crossed his arms. He chose to be good to you. He chose to turn that problem around that you got yourself into. He chose to open that door that you could've never opened. That's God deciding to bless you.
This is what happened with my father. He was raised in a good family, but they didn't have any kind of faith, and you would think when God needed a pastor, when he needed somebody to carry out his will, he would find somebody from a family of faith. But God doesn't always choose who we would choose, and at 17 years of age, my father was walking home from a nightclub at 2 o'clock in the morning, like he'd done many times before. But this time, there was something different. He looked up at the stars, for some reason began to think about God. He wondered what he would do with the rest of his life.
His family was very poor. They were cotton farmers. He thought he'd have to pick cotton the rest of his life. It's all he knew how to do. But as he looked up at those stars, deep down he knew he was made for more. Didn't understand anything about God, but that night he felt something special.
When he got home, he noticed the family Bible on the coffee table. It was there as a decoration. Something told him to open it. When he did, it fell open to a picture of Jesus standing at a door and knocking. The caption read, "I stand at the door and knock. If you open it, I will come in". My father didn't understand theology, but he could understand opening a door.
The next day, he went to church with a friend for the first time. At the end of the service, the pastor invited people to come to the front that wanted to receive Christ. My father wanted to go, but he was too nervous. He wouldn't budge. His friend turned and said, "John, if you'll go, I'll go with you". They walked down together, my father gave his life to Christ, the first one in our family.
But I think why my father, why did he feel that drawing? Why did he look up at the stars and begin to think about his destiny? Why did the Bible fall open to a picture he could understand? Why did that friend take an interest and walk down the aisle with him? That was the Lord deciding to bless my father, the Lord deciding to be good to my family. My father, he wasn't next in line to become a pastor. He wasn't qualified. He didn't come from the, quote, "Right family".
Can I tell you none of that matters? When God decides to bless you, he'll show you favor that you didn't earn, mercy that you didn't deserve. Wasn't anything you did, it was just God crossing his arms. Where would I be if God had not decided to be good to my father? Where would my children be if God had not crossed his arms? So, my father not only went on to become a great pastor, founded Lakewood, and touched the world, but daddy broke the curse of poverty that he was raised in. He set a new standard for our family, and I believe like God did for my father, like he's done for me, God has decided to bless you. He's decided to bring your family in. He's decided to take you to new levels.
Circumstances may say it's not going to happen, you're not qualified, you're not next in line. Don't worry, God has unexpected favor, unexpected promotion, unexpected turnarounds. You didn't see it coming, and it may seem like your family will never come in, or you could never set a new standard. You keep honoring God and you will come into these moments where God has decided to bless you.
I saw a young man on television playing professional football. He had just caught the game winning catch. His teammates were piling on him, the fans were cheering, everybody shouting and going wild. Two years earlier, he was working at a grocery store stocking shelves. He was turned down by all the teams. They said he was too small. He was the star player in college, he was excited about playing professionally, but he wasn't drafted. No one wanted him. He felt overlooked, forgotten. He knew he had what it takes, but nobody would give him a chance.
One day, out of the blue, a coach that he had never met called and invited him to try out for the team. He made the team and went on to become their leading receiver. The reporter was interviewing him after the game winning catch. He thanked the Lord, then he said, "Wow, I never saw this coming". He thought his days of football were over. He had already accepted that it wasn't meant to be, then God crossed his arms. Not only was he celebrating the victory, but everyone was celebrating him, and people may rule you out, they may tell you it's never going to work out, but God has the final say. He knows how to take you from the background to the foreground.
When he decides to bless you, things are going to happen that you didn't see coming. You don't have to be the most qualified, the most experienced, from the most influential family. If you are, that's great, God can still take you higher. But you may feel like you have disadvantages, some you had no control over: what family you were born into, what nationality, what social standing.
Like Ephraim, he couldn't help that he wasn't the firstborn son, he couldn't help that his mother worshiped idols. He had no say over that. On the surface, that could hold you back, cause you to think, "Too bad, this is my lot in life". But God doesn't choose the way we choose. He's about to show you influence, ability, opportunities that you didn't see coming.
David said, "Who am I, o Lord, and what is my family that you would take me this far"? He was saying, "I'm not the biggest, strongest, most qualified. I didn't come from Royalty. I was a shepherd working in the fields, minding my own business, and Lord, look where you've taken me".
He didn't have to go after it, it came after him. The prophet Samuel showed up at his house to anoint him king, and God has some far and beyond opportunities that are about to come looking for you. The right people are going to track you down. You couldn't have made it happen. It's the arm of the Lord reaching down to promote, to elevate, to increase you. You're going to look back and say like David, "Wow, God, I never dreamed you'd take me to this level".
Now, keep your faith out there. Thoughts will tell you it's never going to happen. No, get ready, God's about to cross his arms, and I believe and declare you're coming in to unexpected favor, unexpected healing, unexpected turnarounds. God's going to take you from the background to the foreground. You're going to step into new levels, set a new standard for your family, and reach the fullness of your destiny in Jesus' name.