Joel Osteen — The Gracious Hand of God
I want to talk to you today about the gracious hand of God. There's a popular show on television called "The X factor". The judges study the different contestants and they try to figure out who has that indefinable something that makes them stand out. You can't necessarily put your finger on it. It's not just talent, not just looks, not just personality. There's just something about them that makes them special, something that gives them an advantage. I've heard the judges say, "I don't know what it is but you've got it". They call it the "X factor".
Well, in the same way, when God breathed his life into you, he put something on you to give you an advantage. There is something about you that makes you stand out, something that draws opportunity, something that causes you to overcome obstacles, to accomplish dreams. They call it "The X factor" but the scripture calls it "The gracious hand of God". It's God's favor. It's his blessing. You can't put your finger on it. It's not just your talent, your education, your hard work. It's almighty God breathing in your direction. You could call it "The favor factor".
I know most of you, like me, when you look back you think, "How did I get to where I am? This was not just my own ability". "How did I marry this beautiful girl"? Or like my mother, "How did I overcome that sickness when the medical report said no way"? "How could I be this happy, this blessed, after all I've been through"? That's not just good fortune, not just a lucky break. That's the gracious hand of God; his favor, his blessing, his goodness on your life.
Psalm 44 says, "It was not their own strength that gave them the victory. It was because you favored them and smiled down on them". Just like these people, the victories you've seen in the past weren't just your own doing. It was because God favored you. You wouldn't be where you are if the gracious hand of God was not on your life. Every accomplishment, every good break, every obstacle you overcame, that was God opening the door, God bringing the right people, God turning it around. It was the Creator of the universe smiling down on you. His gracious hand is at work in your life.
Now you may not have as much education as somebody else. But that's okay. You have an advantage. You have this favor factor. Maybe you don't come from the most influential family. That's alright. God's favor can take you where you could not go on your own. Deep down you have to know there is something about you that is indefinable. It can't be measured, can't be put on paper, can't be explained. Other people may not be able to figure it out. All they know is you've got it. There is something about you they like, something that causes you to overcome, something that causes you to succeed. That's the gracious hand of God.
When you realize you have this advantage, an edge, you'll go out each day not intimidated by your dreams, not discouraged thinking that the problem is too big. No, you'll put your shoulders back. You'll hold your head up high and go out with a spring in your step, confident, secure, knowing that you've got what it takes. You've got the favor of God.
Recently someone came up to me and they wanted to start this new business. They had done all this great research. They had a fantastic presentation. But on paper they didn't have the experience. On paper they weren't qualified. In their heart it was telling them, "Yes, I can do this," but their head kept telling them all the reasons why it wasn't going to work out.
But you have to remind yourself because you keep God first place, because you honor him with your life, there is something about you that can't be put on paper, something that's indefinable. It's almighty God breathing in your direction. It's God causing good breaks to come. It's the right people being attracted to you. It's the still small voice giving you inside information, letting you know things that are critical to your success. That can't be measured.
In other words, you can have less talent but with God's favor you'll go further than people that have more talent. You can have less experience, less training, but because almighty God is smiling down on you, you'll go further than people that have more training, more experience.
Some of you small business owners, you may not have all the equipment, all the marketing, all the money backing you up as some big competitor, some big company but because you honor God, his favor can cause you to defy the odds and outperform companies that should be running circles around you.
That's what happened to one of our members. His computer company, made up of three people, just had a client come to him from another company that was more than a hundred times his size. This other company has a huge staff, offices all over the world, practically unlimited in resources but this client said, "We like your work. We're going to move our account to your firm".
Now he is outperforming a company that is many, many times his size. That other company is scratching their head thinking, "What is it with this man"? I'll tell you what it is. It's the gracious hand of God. It's God's favor causing him to stand out. It's God's favor causing people to be drawn to him.
Friends, it's not necessarily how big or influential or educated someone is. When you have the favor factor that gives you an advantage. God's favor opens the right doors. His favor will bring good breaks. The favor of God will cause you to accomplish what you could not accomplish on your own. It gives you an edge.
Now, if you're going to see the gracious hand of God at work you can't go through the day intimidated, thinking that you're average and "Joel, I wish I would get some of these good breaks". No, you have to carry yourself like you have God's hand on you. You have to think like you have favor, talk like you have favor, walk like you have favor, dress like you have favor. Not arrogantly. Not thinking that you're better than somebody else but with this quiet confidence knowing that you have an advantage. You have an edge. The gracious hand of God is on your life.
That's what Nehemiah did in the scripture. He heard that the walls of Jerusalem had been torn down. The people were living there unprotected. This really bothered him. That's where he was from. God put a dream in his heart to rebuild these walls. In the natural it was impossible. He was living over a thousand miles away working as a cup bearer to the king. He didn't have the money, the manpower, the influence. On paper he didn't have a chance.
The dream was much bigger than he could accomplish on his own. But Nehemiah understood this principle. He knew he had the favor factor. One day he asked the king for permission to take a leave of absence to go back to Jerusalem and build those walls. Notice his confidence, his boldness. He wasn't high up in the king's staff. He wasn't a cabinet member, an advisor. He was working in the kitchen, cleaning the tables, not necessarily an influential position. But when he asked the king didn't hesitate. He said, "No problem Nehemiah. Go ahead and go back and rebuild those walls".
God caused him to have favor. But Nehemiah didn't stop there. He said, "King, I need your help. I need you to write a letter to all the different leaders of the regions I'm going to be traveling through telling them who I am and what I'm doing so I'll have protection, so they won't harm me". The king agreed. Nehemiah still wasn't finished. He said, "King, one more thing. I don't have any money. I don't have any resources. I need you to write a letter asking the people that own the timber mills and the supply houses to give me the materials to rebuild these walls".
Once again the king said, "No problem Nehemiah. I'll do it for you". Nehemiah left that day not only with the protection but with the materials he needed to complete the task. In Nehemiah 2 verse 8 it tells us why this happened. Nehemiah said, "The king granted me these requests because the gracious hand of God was upon me". Nehemiah recognized he had the favor factor. He knew God had put something on him. Even though on paper he wasn't qualified, he didn't have the experience, he didn't have the resources, he said in effect, "I've got something better than that. The gracious hand of God is on my life".
When you understand you have this same favor, then like Nehemiah you'll rise up with a boldness, with a confidence and you'll pursue what God has placed in your heart.
He got to Jerusalem and he saw the place was in total disarray, much worse than he expected. He found some people and shared his vision to rebuild the walls. Trying to convince them to help, he said in verse 18, "I told them how the gracious hand of God was on my life". Notice how Nehemiah was always bragging on God's favor. No doubt some of them said, "Nehemiah, you can't do this. You're not a builder. You're not qualified. You don't have the experience. This is impossible". He said, "No, no. There's something about me you can't see, something that can't be put on paper. The gracious hand of God is on my life".
They started rebuilding these walls and had all kinds of opposition. The city leaders tried to shut them down. The critics tried to stop them. These bandits came up and started fighting. One thing after another but every time the favor of God helped them to overcome. It should have taken them at least a year to complete the walls but they did it in just 52 days.
When you realize God's hand of favor is upon you, you will accomplish your dreams faster than you thought. You may be facing a situation like Nehemiah that seems impossible. Don't go around talking about how big the problem is, how you're never going to make it. "I just don't have the resources". No, zip that up and do like he did. Start declaring, "The gracious hand of God is upon my life". "How are you going to get out of debt"? "The gracious hand of God". "How are you going to get well"? "The gracious hand of God". "How are you going to break that addiction"? "The gracious hand of God". "How are you going to accomplish your dreams"? "The gracious hand of God".
The more you brag on God's favor the more of his favor you'll see. If Nehemiah would have thought, "Ah, man. I'm just average. I'd love to rebuild the walls but I don't have the money. My boss will never let me off. I live too far away," we wouldn't be reading about him today.
Some of you are disqualifying yourself. God's gracious hand is on you. You have this favor factor but you keep dwelling on everything you don't have, the mistakes you've made, how somebody else is so much more talented. You're just looking in the natural, at what's on paper, but there is something about you that cannot be measured, something that goes beyond your talent, your education, your ability. It's the favor of almighty God.
Now quit telling yourself the wall is too big, the dream is too great, the obstacles are too high. No, it's not going to happen in your own strength. It's not going to happen in your own power. It's going to happen because almighty God favors you. The victory is going to come because God smiles down on you.
Now let's get in agreement with God. Don't go around thinking all these negative, self-defeating thoughts. No, all through the day, "Father, thank you that your gracious hand is upon me. I know I have an advantage. I have an edge. Other people may not see it. They may try to push me down, disqualify me. But that's okay. I know the truth. I have the favor factor. I'm well able to fulfill my destiny".
This is what Nehemiah did and today we're reading about him as one of the heroes of faith. When you are in difficult times, more than ever, you need to declare God's favor. David said in Psalm 41, "The favor of God keeps my enemies from defeating me".
Notice what's going to keep you from being defeated; the favor of God. In your finances, business may be slow. You don't see how you could ever get ahead. You need to look at that enemy of debt, that enemy of lack and say, "You will not defeat me. I have the favor of God. Whatever I touch will prosper and succeed". Speak favor over your finances. In your health maybe you're facing a sickness. The odds are against you. The medical report says, "No way". Look at that enemy of sickness and say, "You will not defeat me. The gracious hand of God is on my life. Healing is flowing through me. I'm getting stronger, healthier, better every day".
This is what Job did. He went through a nine-month period where everything that could go wrong did. He lost his business. He lost his health. Had these big boils all over his body. I'm sure it was very painful. His wife said, "Job, just curse God and die. It's never going to work out. This is the end of us". Job had plenty of opportunities to get negative, bitter, blame God. No, Job understood this principle. He knew the favor of God would keep his enemies from defeating him.
In the midst of the adversity it didn't look good. He felt bad. All the odds were against him. But he said in Job, chapter 10, "God, I know you have granted me favor". He was basically saying what Nehemiah said, "The gracious hand of God is upon me". Now, in the natural it didn't look like Job had any favor. It looked like every bad break that could have come did. But this is what faith is all about.
You can't wait till you see it before you decide to believe it. You have to believe it first and then you'll see it. You may be thinking, "Joel, I don't have any of this favor. God's gracious hand is not on me. If you knew my situation. If you could only see my problem". No, you're right where Job was. You're right where Nehemiah was. What's going to determine the outcome is what kind of attitude you have.
What's interesting is Job said, "God, you have granted me favor," in chapter 10. He didn't get restored and healed and see things turn around until chapter 42. Right at the beginning of the trouble, when it hit him the hardest, he was the most tempted to get down, that's when he dug his heels in, lifted his face toward the heavens and said, "Father, I want to thank you that I have your favor". No wonder Job came out with twice what he had before. No wonder his enemies couldn't keep him defeated.
A lot of times we think, "God, as soon as it turns around then I'll know I have your favor. Then I'll thank you". "God, as soon as I rebuild the walls then I'll tell people your gracious hand is upon me". "As soon as I accomplish my dreams then I'll brag on your goodness". No, what causes God to defeat our enemies, what causes him to give us breakthroughs and supernatural ability is when we thank God for his favor even though we don't see any sign of favor.
When you say, "Father, thank you that your gracious hand is upon me," even though nothing is going your way. When you say, "Lord, I know I've got what it takes," even though you feel unqualified, inferior. That's what allows God to do amazing things.
If Job would have just sat back and thought, "Well, I'm a good person. I love the Lord. I hope God will do something about this trouble," he would have stayed defeated. Job came out with the victory because he kicked his faith into gear and started speaking favor in the midst of the adversity.
Some of you are up against big challenges. This is not the time to be passive. More than ever, like Job, like Nehemiah, you need to start declaring God's favor. All through the day, "Lord, thank you that your gracious hand is upon me. Lord, thank you that your favor keeps my enemies from defeating me. Lord, thank you that your favor will make a way even though I don't see any way".
All through the scripture there are examples where people were in need but the favor of God turned it around. Noah was facing the greatest challenge of his life. The earth was about to be destroyed with the flood. It looked impossible. But the scripture says, "Noah found favor in the sight of God". He was able to build that ark and saved his family.
Ruth had just gone through the loss of her husband; a great disappointment. She was living in another city, barely making it, in poverty. But Ruth found favor with a man named Boaz. He was very wealthy. They ended up getting married. Ruth went on to live a life of abundance, happiness.
Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery but Joseph found favor with a man named Potiphar, the man he worked for. He found favor with Pharaoh and was put in charge over all of Egypt. In each of these cases the favor of God came in the midst of life's challenges. It came in a flood, in a famine and when somebody was being mistreated.
When you're in the tough times of life where, like Joseph, something unfair is happening or, like Ruth, you're having difficulties in your finances, like Noah, the whole world is falling apart, don't get depressed. Don't start complaining; get all worried. No, more than ever, "Father, I want to thank you that your gracious hand is upon me. Lord, I may not see a way but I know you have a way".
If you will declare God's favor it will keep your enemies from defeating you. Those enemies may look bigger, stronger, more powerful but let me tell you; God has put something on you that will cause you to be the victor and never the victim. Keep declaring his favor in times of need.
I was reading about this small fish called a Moses Sole. It's a little flounder that's found over in the Red Sea. There are also large sharks in those waters. These sharks would typically eat this kind of fish. But back in the early 1970's a group of researchers noticed something amazing about the little Moses Sole. All the other fish in that category, same size and same weight would be eaten by the sharks but for some reason these sharks would not eat the Moses Sole.
They found out this little Moses Sole has a very unique defense system. Whenever it senses any kind of danger it naturally secretes poisonous toxins out of its glands. These toxins literally cause the shark's jaws to freeze. It showed a picture of this little Moses Sole inside the shark's mouth. He had obviously come in for the kill. All the shark had to do was bite down. There was dinner. The only problem was the shark couldn't do it.
God put something on this little fish to protect him and as long as the shark was there his jaw was frozen. He would have to swim away for a few seconds before that jaw would be released and go back to normal. That's what the scripture means when it says, "The favor of God will keep my enemies from defeating me".
God has put something on you that will cause you to be victorious. The way you release these poisonous toxins, so to speak, to keep the shark's jaws frozen is by thanking God for his favor. Every time you say, "Lord, thank you that your gracious hand is upon me," toxins are released that paralyze the enemy. "Lord, thank you that I'm surrounded by your favor". More toxins, more protection is being released. But if you go around talking about how big the problem is, how you're never going to make it, that does just the opposite. That acts like bait. That attracts the enemy. That will make it more difficult.
When you're in tough times remember that little fish. If you get negative, worried, start complaining, you're going to attract more difficulty but if you'll dare just declare God's favor it will release a power that will keep those enemies from defeating you. When you really understand that you have God's favor you won't get bent out of shape when trouble comes your way. Think about this little Moses Sole. When it's in the shark's mouth his blood pressure doesn't go up. He doesn't run call 911. He doesn't get depressed and say, "Oh, this is not my day". No, he just goes about his business. He knows there is something special about him.
Before the foundation of the world God ordained that he would be protected from that enemy so he just rests in who God made him to be. When you get a revelation of who you are, a child of the most high God, crowned with favor, then when adversity comes, when you face difficulties you won't get worried, all bent out of shape. Like this little fish, you'll declare God's favor and you'll know that those enemies cannot keep you defeated.
I saw a report on the news... A few years ago. This teenage girl had driven her car into some high water on this flooded street. She ended up stranded in her car. The water was rising extremely quickly. In just two or three minutes it's already up over her hood. Now she couldn't open the car doors because the water pressure was too strong. She couldn't roll down her windows. They were electric and her car had stalled.
They were showing this all on the news. My heart was beating so fast. She was in there just praying and praying. This man jumped in the water and swam over there. He started beating on the window trying to break it open with no success. The whole time the car was floating down the road. I'll never forget seeing this. Just like in slow motion at one point the car tilted forward and the whole car went totally underwater. My heart sunk. I thought, "Man, this is just the end".
About that time another man jumps in the water and he swims toward that car like he is superman. Somehow he found the car, went underwater and disappeared for about 30 seconds. It seemed like an eternity. But in a few seconds you saw the young girl's arm come up out of the water. I thought, "My goodness! How did he get a window open or a door open under there"? A few seconds later he pulled her whole body out and he was able to help her get to the shore. She was perfectly fine. Walked off on her own two feet.
If that wasn't amazing enough when the wrecker pulled the car out of the water they noticed that no windows had been broken. No windows were down. No evidence that any doors had been open. The newscaster sat there dumbfounded. He said, "I don't know. You figure that one out".
Listen, when you walk in God's favor no weapon formed against you is going to prosper. No matter how big the obstacle looks the favor of God will keep those enemies from defeating you. Just like that little fish God has put something on you. If it's not your time to go you're not going to go. Start declaring God's favor over your life. Speak favor over your finances, over your health, over your family. All through the day, "Lord, thank you that your gracious hand is upon me".
Friends, you have this favor factor. It can't be measured. There is something about you that you can't put on paper. Bottom line is you've got what it takes. Now do your part and activate this favor. In the tough times don't complain. Do like Job, "Lord, thank you. I know I have your favor". When the dream looks too big don't give up. Do like Nehemiah, "Lord, thank you that your gracious hand is upon me". If you'll do this, like Job, you'll overcome every obstacle. Like Nehemiah, you will accomplish every God-given dream. I believe and declare you will become everything God has created you to be and you will have everything God intended for you to have.