Joel Osteen — The God Who Exceeds Expectations
I want to talk to you today about "The God who exceeds expectations". We all have things that we're believing for, dreams to come to pass, problems to turn around. We'd be happy if they worked out our way, but sometimes what we have in mind is not God's best.
We think ordinary, God thinks extraordinary. We think, "Let me have enough to get by," God thinks abundance. We think, "Let me manage this addiction," God thinks freedom. We're asking for the possible when God wants to do the impossible. He specializes in exceeding our expectations, and what he has in store for you is bigger, more rewarding, more fulfilling than you can imagine.
Paul said in Ephesians God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think, and I believe this is going to be a year where God exceeds your expectations. He's not going to do what you're asking for, he's going to exceed it. He's going to open doors you never dreamed would open. He's going to take you further than you can imagine. You're going to look back and think, "I never dreamed I'd be this blessed, never dreamed I'd have this position, never dreamed I'd marry somebody this great". Get ready. God is about to exceed your expectations. He's going to make things happen that you didn't see coming. You didn't deserve it, you didn't work for it. It's just the goodness of God showing favor on your life.
This is what happened to a man in Acts chapter 3. He'd been crippled his whole life, and every day his family would carry him to the temple and set him outside by the gate. As people came in, he would ask them for money. He was 40 years old and had done this his whole life, day after day. He knew the routine. People would come in, he would beg for money, and here and there they would throw some coins in his bag. This is how he survived.
One day, Peter and John came to the temple. The man went through his same speech, "Can you spare some change? Will you help me out"? Most people ignored him and kept walking, but Peter stopped and said to the man, "Look at us". The scripture says the man looked up expecting to receive a gift. I can see him hold his bag out, thinking they were going to throw some coins in, but Peter said, "I don't have any silver or gold for you, but I have something better. In the name of Jesus, rise and walk".
Peter took him by the hand, pulled him up, and instantly he was healed. He started walking. He was so excited, he took off running, leaping, thanking God; but notice, the man was expecting a few coins. He was expecting the ordinary, the same thing that had happened the last 40 years, but God showed up and exceeded his expectations. He didn't see it coming. He thought he would have to lay by that gate and beg the rest of his life, but one moment of favor, one exceeded expectation thrust him to a new level, changed his whole life.
I can hear him saying, "I never dreamed I'd be able to walk. I never dreamed I could run and play with my children, never dreamed I wouldn't have to beg the rest of my life". God has some of these I-never-dreamed blessings in store for you. You may not see how it can happen. The medical report doesn't look good. You've gone as far as your education allows, perhaps you're in a limited environment. The good news is none of that stops our God. He controls the universe. One touch of his favor will catapult you where you could not go on your own.
Like Peter told the crippled man, I'm telling you rise up and walk. It's your time to be free, it's your time to break bondages, it's your time to go to new levels, and I believe that every force that's holding you back is being broken right now. God is releasing healing, favor, opportunities, restoration, freedom. This is a new day. God's doing a new thing. He's about to exceed your expectations.
I love the fact that this crippled man, even though he had low expectations, even though all he was expecting was a few coins, God didn't say, "Too bad. I had something much better, but you don't have enough faith. I was going to let you walk, but you're not expecting enough". God is so merciful. Even when we don't have the faith, even when we think we've reached our limits, God says, "That's okay. I'm going to show you favor in spite of that".
The scripture says when we have faith the size of a mustard seed, nothing is impossible. A mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds. God could have said, "If you have great faith, if you never doubt, never get discouraged, then I'll do something big". But God knew there will be times that we didn't have the faith we needed to reach our destinies, so he said, "If you have just a little bit of faith, that's all you need, then I'll show up and exceed your expectations".
The fact that you're here today, the fact that you're listening, that tells me you at least have mustard-seed faith. That means you have the faith you need for God to show out in your life. You have the faith for God to catapult you to new levels, but, like this man, you may feel like you're stuck, doing the same thing. You have some kind of disadvantage. Now you're expecting a few coins, so to speak, expecting the ordinary. That's where he was, yet God showed up and did the extraordinary. You may have a good reason to settle where you are, but God loves you too much to let you miss your destiny. It may seem like another ordinary year, same thing, everything looks routine. No, get ready. God is about to show up and do something unusual, something that you haven't seen. He's going to exceed your expectation.
When the people in the temple saw the crippled man up walking, running, thanking God, they couldn't believe it. The scripture says they were astonished, and what God is about to do in your life is going to cause people to look at you in astonishment. They're going to think, "How could you be so blessed? I know where you came from". "How could you be free when so many around you are addicted"? "How could you be so strong, so healthy, so energetic? The medical report said you weren't going to get well". God is going to make you an example of his goodness. When he exceeds your expectations, people are going to take notice. They're going to see the favor on your life.
When I look back over my life, I can see time and time again where God exceeded my expectations. I was 22 years old and single when I walked into a jewelry store to buy a battery for my watch. Out walked the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen to wait on me. It was Victoria. I had never met her. She looked at my watch and said, "You need more than a battery. You need a new watch. Would you like to see one"? I said, "Of course, I would". I was so smitten with her, she could have sold me an electrical plan. She put that watch on my wrist and said, "'that looks really nice". She checked the price and said, "It's listed for this amount, but I can sell it to you for half price".
Do you see how badly she wanted me? I went in there to buy a battery for my watch, and I walked out not only with a new watch, but in one sense, I walked out with a wife, I walked out with two children, I walked out with more than I could ask or think. Victoria is an exceeded expectation, and I remind her she got me for a bargain, for half price, but I would love to tell you that I believed for all the increase, the favor, the promotion, the Compaq Center is all my idea, is because I had great faith. That's not the case. The Compaq Center wasn't my idea. This was God exceeding our expectations.
I grew up with season tickets, watching the Rockets play basketball here. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought one day we would own this facility, and if you ever think that God can't exceed expectations, just look around. You are sitting in an exceeded expectation.
"Well, Joel, I don't have great faith". Neither did I. "All the odds are against me". Same thing with the crippled man. None of that stops our God. When he exceeds your expectations, it's not going to be a little exceeded, a little more than you thought, a little blessing, a little increase. God is going to exceed it abundantly above what you're thinking. His idea of abundance is more than we can ask or think.
When I wrote my first book in 2004, I found out the publisher was going to print 250,000 copies. I couldn't believe it. I called Victoria and said, "The publisher must have lost their minds. They're making a huge mistake". My father would sell about 10,000 copies of each of his books, I was basing it on that, but God doesn't want you to stay at the same level of your parents. He wants you to set a new standard. He's going to exceed your expectations in greater ways than how you were raised, and like that crippled man, I was expecting the ordinary, I was expecting the way I had grown up, but God showed up and did the extraordinary. He exceeded my expectations in an abundant way.
That book went on to sell millions of copies. Here's what I'm saying: what God has in store for you is much greater than you've imagined, and I believe sooner than later, you're going to come in to some of these exceeded expectations. Why don't you put your faith out there? Instead of thinking, "Oh, it's not going to happen for me. Joel, you're just trying to get my hopes up". You can't have faith if you don't first have hope. Give God something to work with. Dare to say, "Lord, I want to thank you that you're going to exceed my expectations. Thank you that you're going to take me where I could not go on my own".
I heard about this man that had kidney problems most of his life. They continued to go downhill, and he got to the place where he needed a transplant. His wife prayed and believed that she would be a match. She went in for the test and found out she was a perfect match, and they were both so grateful. They went to the Mayo Clinic to have the transplant.
When the surgeons opened up the wife to take out the kidney, they were pleasantly surprised. They found she had three kidneys instead of two. This is very rare, but all of her kidneys were perfectly healthy. They removed one kidney, gave it to her husband, left her still with two.
That was God exceeding their expectations. God has it all figured out. He knows what you're going to need. He knows who you're going to need. He's lining up the right breaks, the right people. He's directing your steps, and Paul talked about in Ephesians the surpassing greatness of God's favor. You're going to come into these moments where you see God surpass anything you've imagined. You couldn't have made it happen. It's just the goodness of God.
I have a friend that's a minister, and she spends most of her time on the streets helping women that have gone through abuse and are struggling with addictions. Now, a while back, through a series of unusual events, she met one of the wealthiest men in the world. He asked what she did for a living. She explained how she helps women in crisis. He said, "That's amazing. I want to support you". He gave her the largest check that she had ever received.
As she was leaving his office, this man's friend came walking in. He said to his friend, "This woman helps ladies that are in trouble. I just gave her a gift. How much are you going to give"? Without missing a beat, the friend said, "I'm going to give the same amount that you just gave". This lady walked out amazed, thinking, "I never dreamed I would have two of the wealthiest men in the world supporting my ministry".
What was that? God doing more than she could ask or think. You may wonder how you're going to accomplish your dreams and how you're going to get out of that difficulty. God has the right people lined up. He knows how to put you at the right place. He's going to make things happen that you didn't see coming.
A few months ago, I woke up one morning, and I heard this phrase so strong in my spirit, that God is going to exceed our expectations. Victoria and I were out of town in another state. We had been trying to get a project off the ground for several months with no success, one closed door after another. When I heard that phrase, I started saying it, "Lord, thank you that you're going to exceed my expectations". I kept that playing in my mind over and over.
Later that day we were about to catch a flight back home, and Victoria said, "Let's run back and check this one last thing". We showed up at this business. We were at the right place at the right time. We needed someone to help us. It was a holiday, so we called the number. The man answered his phone, he said, "I was expecting a call from someone else. I thought this was their number, otherwise I wouldn't have answered it". We told him what we wanted. He said, "I'm out with my family, but I want to help you". He came to where we were. It all fell together.
In less than 24 hours, the whole thing was finished. It was much better than we expected, and it happened much quicker than we ever dreamed. But I believe when I heard that phrase that morning, it was a test. Was I going to let that seed take root and believe that God could exceed my expectations, or was I going to dismiss it, think, "Oh, that's a nice thought, but it will never happen"?
God is saying to you today, "I'm about to exceed your expectations. I'm about to show you favor in ways that you've never seen". Now, my challenge is let this take root in your spirit. It's easy to dismiss it, "It will never happen. The odds are against me. It's been too long".
This is what a lady did in the scripture. She was a close friend with the prophet Elisha. When he came through town, he would stay at her house. She eventually built him his own room. Elisha wanted to do something good for the lady, but she told him she didn't need anything. She was well-off and had plenty of resources. Elisha's assistant found out that the lady never had children. She and her husband had tried for many years, and now he was an old man, and she had accepted that it just wasn't meant to be.
Knowing this, Elisha called her in and said, "By this time next year, you're going to have a child". She looked at it in the natural and thought, "That's impossible. My husband is too old. I'm past the childbearing years. There's no way". Deep down she wanted to believe, but her mind told her all the reasons why it wasn't going to happen. She said to Elisha, "Sir, don't lie to me like that". She was saying, in effect, "Don't get my hopes up. That's too good to be true".
This was a dream that was close to her heart. She wanted it so badly, she just didn't have the faith. The good news is there are some things even if you don't believe, God is still going to do it. He is so merciful, he will override the doubt and do things you never dreamed, things that will bring you more joy, more fulfillment than you can imagine.
Just as Elisha said, a year later she was holding a healthy baby boy. God exceeded her expectations even though she didn't believe. That's the kind of God we serve, and there are promises God has spoken over you, dreams he's put in your heart. Seems impossible. It's been so long. You're not expecting it anymore. God is saying to you what he said to her, "I'm still going to bring it to pass".
Just because you gave up doesn't mean God has given up, and I believe, like with her, some of these things you're going to see by this time next year. You may not see a way, but God has a way. If this lady didn't believe and saw the promise fulfilled, imagine what God will do when you do believe. Put your faith out there.
"But Joel, I've been doing this for a long time, a lot more than a year. Nothing is changing. I don't see anything happening". You're right where a young lady was in the Book of 1 Samuel. Her name was Hannah. She was married for many years, but she, too, was barren, not able to have children. Her husband was married to two wives. This other wife had baby after baby. She would make fun of Hannah and taunt her. This went on year after year.
The husband tried to comfort Hannah, "Don't worry about that other wife. I love you". None of this helped. Hannah was so distraught, so upset. She knew God put the dream in her heart. She couldn't understand why it wasn't happening. One day, she went to the temple and fell on the ground. In great distress she called out to God, said, "God, if you'll give me a son, I'll give him back to you. I'll bring him to the temple and let him live there".
When the priest saw her on the ground crying, he came over and said, "Hannah, cheer up. The Lord has heard your request. He's going to give you a son". She conceived. Nine months later she gave birth to a baby boy that she named Samuel. She was so content. She had the child that she dreamed about, and this could be the end of the story, be a great end, another promise fulfilled, but God likes to exceed our expectation.
The scripture says the Lord visited Hannah again and she bore three more sons and two more daughters. She asked for one son, but notice how good our God is. He said, in effect, "Hannah, you may be satisfied, but I'm not satisfied. I'm going to do more than you asked".
I believe one reason God was so good to Hannah was because of all the pain she had to endure, having to wait while the other wife was having babies, being made fun of, ridiculed. God sees all the heartache, all the tears, the unfair situations, the people that did you wrong, and what you're believing for may not have happened yet, it may be taking a long time, but like with her, God is a faithful God. He's not only still going to bring it to pass.
That would be good enough, you would be satisfied, but God is going to do more than you've asked. That means once you have your baby, so to speak, once you see the promise fulfilled, can I tell you God is not finished being good to you. He's going to visit you again. He's going to show out in another way. You asked for one baby, God has five more waiting for you. He's going to pay you back for what you've been through, and our attitude should be, "Lord, I want to thank you that you're going to visit me again. Thank you that you're going to do more than I ask. Thank you for exceeding my expectations".
2 Chronicles chapter 20, king Jehoshaphat was surrounded by three major armies. They were outnumbered ten to one, didn't have a chance. Jehoshaphat called everyone together to pray. He said, "God, we have no power against this mighty army without your help. Please deliver us". God said to them in verse 15, "Don't be afraid. The battle is not yours. The battle is the Lords. Tomorrow march toward the enemies, but you will not need to fight. Stand still, and you will see the Lord deliver you".
They were excited. They had this promise that God was going to fight for them, and as they marched toward those enemies the next day, they started singing, thanking God. When the enemies heard all the noise, the commotion, they got confused and started fighting among themselves. They ended up killing each other. When the people of Judah showed up, not only did they not have to fight, but those enemies left all their supplies. The scripture says they found vast amounts of equipment, clothing, and other valuables more than they could carry. It took them 3 days to gather up the spoils and take them back to their home.
Here is my point. Jehoshaphat asked for God to deliver them from those enemies, and God did. They didn't even have to fight. That was a great miracle, something worth celebrating. He could have gone back home thanking God, so grateful, but our God exceeds our expectations. Like with Hannah, he said, in effect, "Jehoshaphat, I'm going to visit you again. I'm not going to do just what you asked, I'm not going to just bring you out, I'm going to make the enemy pay. I'm going to bring you out increased, promoted, stronger". They marched toward those enemies empty handed, they came back out loaded down with supplies.
You may have obstacles in your path and challenges coming against you today in your health, your finances, a relationship. You're asking God to turn it around. Stay encouraged. God is not only going to bring you out, he's going to have some spoils there. There is going to be some plunder. He's going to bring you out better than you were before. He's going to exceed your expectations.
Now, don't talk yourself out of it. Sometimes when we've struggled in an area so long, we've gotten comfortable. Like the crippled man, we're expecting a few coins, something to sustain us, to help us make it through the year. God is about to do a new thing. You're asking for the possible, he's about to do the impossible. He's going to take you where you've never been. No more coins, no more dysfunction, no more being barren, no more stuck in your career. You're about to come in to some of these exceeded expectations.
This is a year where God is going to do more than you've asked. You've been faithful, you've honored him, now God is about to show out in your life. Every morning, "Lord, I want to thank you that you're going to exceed my expectations". If you do this, I believe and declare God is about to visit you again. You've had Samuel, he's been good to you, but you haven't seen anything yet. New doors are about to open, increase, promotion that you didn't see coming. Problems are turning around, health is being restored, exceeded expectations are coming your way in Jesus' name.