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Joel Osteen — The Power of Letting Go


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I want to talk to you today about the power of letting go. We all go through disappointments and setbacks and things that we don't understand. Maybe you prayed for a loved one but they didn't get well. Or maybe you worked hard for a promotion but you didn't get it. You stood in faith for a relationship but it didn't work out.

One of the best things you can do is release it. Let it go. If you go around dwelling on it, wondering why this didn't work out, why my loved one didn't get healed, why I didn't get that promotion, all that's going to do is lead to bitterness, resentment, self-pity. Before long you'll be blaming others, blaming yourself, maybe even blaming God. You may not have understood it. It may not have been fair. But when you release it, it's an act of your faith. You're saying, "God, I trust you. I know you're in control. And even though it didn't work out my way, you said, 'all things are going to work together for my good.' so I believe you still have something good in my future".

There is power in letting go. Not letting go of your dreams. Don't let go of your promises. Let go of the frustration of having to have it your way. Take your hands off the wheel and say, "Okay, God. I'm going to let you drive. You know the best path for my life. You can see the detours, the dead ends. You know the shortcuts. God, I'm going to let you take me where you want me to go". That's a very freeing way to live. But so often we'll trust God, we'll stay in faith, as long as God does it our way.

It's like this mountain climber I heard about. He was climbing up this huge cliff, almost to the top, when all of a sudden he lost his footing and began to fall. He reached out and miraculously grabbed a bush growing out of the rocks. He was dangling hundreds of feet in the air, holding on for dear life. He shouted out, "Is anybody up there"? In a few seconds a voice boomed out of the heavens and said, "Yes. I'm here. What do you need"? He said, "God, I can't hold on any longer. Please rescue me". God said, "Okay, son. Turn loose of the bush and I'll catch you". After a long pause the man said, "Is there anybody else up there"?

That's the way we do many times. "God, help me but do it my way, the way I have planned; the way I want". No, in order for God to help us we've got to be willing to let go. Maybe something didn't work out your way. Instead of being frustrated why don't you have a bigger view? Maybe God has something better in store. Maybe God closed the door because you're believing too small. Maybe it didn't work out because what you're praying for would be second best and God loves you too much to do it your way. The question is will you trust him to do it his way? Will you take your hands off the wheel and let him do the driving?

A few years after Victoria and I were married we found this house that we really wanted to buy. It was on a beautiful lot, it had big trees, had a swimming pool. This was our dream house. We were sure it was supposed to be ours. We made a very strong offer just a little less than they were asking. We didn't hear anything back. Week after week still nothing.

Nobody lived in the house so we would go out practically every day and pray over the house. We would even march around it like the people of Israel going around Jericho. We would quote scriptures. We would bind. We would loose. We'd sing. We'd shout. We'd dance. We did the holy Macarena. As far as we were concerned that was supposed to be our house. Our mind was made up. We were consumed by it.

About three weeks later our Realtor called and said, "I'm sorry. They sold the house to somebody else". We were so disappointed. We thought, "God, we prayed. We believed. We stood in faith. What happened"? The scripture says, "God's ways are not our ways. They are higher and better than our ways". Sometimes what we're believing for is not God's best. We have good intentions but God loves us too much to answer that prayer. I've found anything you have to have in order to be happy is out of balance. If you have to have that house, you have to have that promotion, you have to meet that person; you're putting too much emphasis on it.

It's good to have dreams. It's good to have goals, to stand in faith, to be determined. But you have to be mature enough to put that dream on the altar and say, "God, this is what I want. This is what I'm praying and believing for. But God, you know what's best for me. If it doesn't happen my way, on my timetable, I'm not going to get bitter and be frustrated. God, I trust you. My life is in your hands".

At first Victoria and I, we were kind of discouraged. We felt like God had let us down. The wind was taken out of our sails. Eventually, we did what I'm asking you to do. We let it go and said, "God, you know what's best for us". About three weeks later we came across this older rundown home in a nice neighborhood, close in to the city and everything just fell into place. We ended up buying that house. We fixed it up and lived there for two years and then we sold it for twice what we had paid for it.

But that older home to us it didn't make sense. It wasn't anything like what we had envisioned. We wanted something nice and new. But God knew what he was doing. It was a step on the way to our divine destiny. At the time it looked like a step backwards. The townhouse we were living in was much nicer than this older home. But God can see the big picture. If he would have let us buy that house that we really wanted we would have been stuck at that same level year after year. God had to close that door to move us one step closer to where he wanted us to be.

I've got big dreams and big goals but one of my main prayers now is, "God, not my will but let your will be done". If a door closes, no big deal, I let it go. If my plans don't work out, no big deal, I know God has something better. I've learned to not get so consumed by a dream that if it doesn't happen my way I'm going to get all bent out of shape.

It says in proverbs, "Since the Lord is directing our steps why do we try to figure out everything that happens along the way"? Some of you have gone through a disappointment. It wasn't fair. You don't understand it. You could easily be bitter, live with a chip on your shoulder, and give up on your dreams. No, God is at work in your life right now. He is directing your steps.

What you thought was a setback is going to turn out to be a setup. God is getting you in position to take you to a new level of your destiny. Now you've got to get in agreement with God. Shake off the self-pity. Shake off the disappointment. Quit thinking that God has let you down and he doesn't answer your prayers. No, God has you in the palm of his hand. He is directing you every step of the way.

That disappointment may not have been fair but it's all a part of your divine destiny. If you will let it go and move forward then you're going to come into something awesome that God is about to do, not ordinary like you had planned, but extraordinary like God has planned.

This is what I did when my father went to be with the Lord. My dad and I were very close. We were best friends. At 77 years of age daddy was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. We prayed. We believed. We stood in faith. But unfortunately my father went to be with the Lord. My prayers weren't answered the way I wanted. I could have thought, "God, you healed my mother. Why didn't you heal my father? God, why wouldn't you give him more years"?

When we want something so badly that we're doing everything we can to make it happen and it doesn't work out, it's easy to get negative and bitter. I was discouraged. I had lost my best friend. And sure, there is a proper time for mourning but you cannot let a season of mourning turn into a lifetime of mourning. At some point you've got to say, "God, I'm letting it go. Yes, I'm disappointed. Yes, it's hard. But just because my loved one has died doesn't mean that your plan for my life has ended".

What I thought would be the darkest hour of my life, the death of my father. And I say this respectfully because I honor and love my dad. But it turned out to be the brightest hour of my life. It launched me into what I'm doing now. The death of my father was another step on the way to my divine destiny.

When you go through loss, loss of a loved one, loss of a relationship, loss of a job, it can be very difficult. Many people get negative, and bitter, they have a chip on their shoulder. But if you can just learn to let it go and say, "God, I don't understand it but I trust you; I know you're still in control". Then just like I did you're going to step in to a greater level of your destiny.

I've learned God doesn't always take us from A to B to C. Sometimes God will take you from A to B, all the way to S, and then back to D, and then to K, and then to F, and then to Z. God's ways are not our ways. Quit trying to figure it all out and simply trust him. "Well, Joel. Why didn't my marriage make it"? "Why did this person leave me"? "Why did this company lay me off after working there faithfully for 30 years"? Here is my answer, it's very profound: I don't know why. You may never know why. But I do know God is directing your steps. God is a just God. It may not have been fair but God is fair. If you will let it go and move forward God has promised he will pay you back for the unfair things that have happened.

Some of you today, if you would just start letting things go you would come into breakthroughs, to promotions, to new beginnings. As long as you're holding on to the old-negative, discouraged, bitter-it's going to keep you from the new.

A lady asked me one time, "Joel, why did your mother get healed from cancer but my mother didn't? We prayed. We believed. We stood on the same scriptures". My answer is always the same. I don't know why. I don't claim to have all the answers but I do know God is for you. He said he would give you beauty for those ashes but you've got to let go of the ashes. Let go of the disappointments. Let go of the hurts and pains. Quit trying to figure out why something bad has happened to you.

"Why did I have this miscarriage"? "Why was I born into this family"? "Why did this person leave me"? That's just going to lead to frustration. There are some situations that we face that there are no logical explanations to. You have to be big enough to say, "I don't understand why this has happened. And you know what? I'm okay with not understanding why. I don't have to have all the answers. You are God and I am not. Your ways are not my ways. And since you're directing my steps I'm not going to waste another minute of my time and energy trying to figure out everything that happens along the way".

That's a very powerful way to live. And most of the time we can deal with a situation if we can find a file in our thinking to put it in. We think, "This happened because of this reason". In other words, "He was running with the wrong crowd and he got into trouble. That makes sense". Or, "She wasn't raised in a good environment and she got off course". That makes sense. But what about the things that don't make sense?

Seventeen years ago when the planes crashed into the World Trade Center and Pennsylvania and Washington, nearly 3,000 people tragically lost their lives. It caused so much hurt and pain. That didn't make sense. It doesn't make sense for a baby to be born with a birth injury. I can't explain that. It doesn't make sense for a drunk driver to end someone's life. It doesn't make sense for a good person to come down with a terminal illness.

What happens when we can't find a file to put it in? Here's the answer. Every one of us needs to create a file in our thinking called an "I don't understand it" file. And when things come up that don't make sense, that you can't figure out, instead of getting frustrated, confused, simply put it in your "I don't understand it" file and leave it alone.

If you go through life trying to figure out why something bad happened, why it didn't work out, why my child didn't get healed, it's going to cause you to be bitter. It's going to poison your life. Listen, if God wants you to know why, he is God, he will tell you. But if he is not revealing it to you, you need to leave it alone. Some things God doesn't want you to know.

It says in proverbs, "It is God's privilege to conceal things". If you're going to trust God you have to accept the fact that there are going to be unanswered questions. Everything is not going to fit perfectly into our theology, but we can come back to the central theme of who God is. God is good. God is loving. God is Kind. God is fair. God is just.

Here's what I've learned. Don't put a question mark where God has put a period. If you prayed, you believed, it didn't work out. God put a period. Move forward. When my father was sick the whole church prayed. We all stood in faith but daddy went to be with the Lord. What happened? God put a period. Now we could put a question mark and say, "God, why didn't you hear our prayers? Why didn't you give him more time"? Or we could accept the fact that God put a period, that that chapter is over. This is a new day. We celebrated what God had done through my father and we stepped into the new beginning God had in store for us. Don't put a question mark. If you worked hard but you didn't get the promotion dust your face off and move forward. God has something better.

I talked to a gentleman last week. He was very discouraged because his business didn't make it. He gave it his best but it still went under. He told how he had put in all of his savings and his time, his effort. He just couldn't understand why it didn't work out. I told him what I'm telling you. That's over and done. God put a period. Don't put a question mark. Don't live in self-pity. "God, why did this happen"? No, that's simply another chapter in your book. Do yourself a favor. Turn the page. If you will move forward you will come into another chapter.

The good news is your story doesn't end in defeat. It ends in victory. God always causes you to triumph. So if you're not victorious right now just keep moving forward. That means it's not the end.

In the scripture David had a newborn baby that was very sick and close to death. For seven days and seven nights David fasted and prayed for the baby, wouldn't eat anything, wouldn't get up off the floor. In fact, his men were worried about him. They said, "David, you've got to eat something". He wouldn't do it. On the seventh day they came in with the bad news that the baby had died.

They weren't sure how David was going to respond. But when David heard the news he got up off the ground, went home, took a shower, put on some new clothes, got something to eat and went to the temple and began to worship. His men were so amazed at how he could recover so quickly. David said, "When the baby was alive I prayed for God to heal him. But now that he is gone I cannot bring him back. He will not come to me but one day I will go to be with him".

David was saying, "God put a period here. I'm not going to put a question mark. I prayed. I believed. I fasted. I did everything I could but it didn't work out so I'm going to let it go. I'm going to release it and move forward with my life".

Maybe you've done everything you could. You prayed. You believed. You gave it your all but it didn't work out. Best thing you can do is release it. Just let it go. Don't go around in self-pity, defeated, thinking there is nothing good in your future. Do like David. Freshen up. Put on a new attitude. Go to the mall. Buy some new clothes. Get something good to eat and get ready for the new thing God is about to do. I know some of you ladies are thinking, "I heard the word I needed. He said, 'go to the mall'".

I think about Eve in the scripture. She went through a great disappointment. Her son Cain killed her son Able, the first murder in the Bible. And I'm sure Eve like any mother was devastated and heartbroken. She could have thought, "God, how could you let this happen to me"? But I love what Eve said in Genesis 4:25, "God has appointed another seed for me". She was saying, "I don't understand it. It doesn't make sense but I know God is still in control. This is not the end. He has appointed another seed".

God is saying when you go through things that you don't understand it is not the end. God is going to appoint another seed. The reason God says seed is seed represents the future. It indicates what is coming. If you will let go of what didn't work out, let go of the hurts and pains, then for everything you've lost, God will appoint another seed. Everything that was taken away, another seed. You are going to give birth to more in the future than you've lost in the past. Now you've got to do your part and keep moving forward.

When you drive home today, in your car there is a big windshield in the front and then a very small rear-view mirror. The reason the windshield is so large and the rear-view mirror is so small is because what's in your past is not nearly as important as what's in your future. Where you are going is much more important than where you've been. But if you stay focused on the past you'll get stuck right where you are.

Listen, if one dream has died dream another dream. God has appointed another seed. Don't let one setback define who you are. Don't let one betrayal, one mistake, one divorce, one bankruptcy ruin the rest of your life. That is not who you are. That is just another step on the way to your divine destiny. Now let it go and step into the new beginning God has in store. Bottom line is you have to quit mourning over something that you cannot change. If God put a period there don't waste another minute in self-pity, defeated, wondering why this has happened. No, that chapter is over and done. This is a new day. God has another seed in front of you. He has another relationship, another business, another breakthrough; another victory. Move forward into the new.

This is exactly what David did. He said in Psalm 131, "I don't concern myself with matters that are too great for me. I have quieted and stilled my soul". David knew that situation with his little baby was way over his head. He knew he would never understand it so he didn't get negative and bitter. He released it. He quieted and stilled his soul.

When you go through situations that you don't understand let's learn to do like David and say, "God, it doesn't make sense. I don't know why this has happened. But I'm not going to get bitter and upset and confused. I'm going to quiet and still my soul. Why? Because I know God has appointed another seed. I know it's not the end".

Friends, when you can let things go and not get bitter and upset and drop out of church and start blaming God then the Creator of the universe will go to work for you. God has said he will take what was meant for your harm and use it to your advantage.

I heard about this young couple. They were going to visit their relatives. It was September 11th, the day of the attacks on our nation. Early in the morning on the way to the airport they had a flat tire and ended up missing their flight. It just so happened their plane was one of the planes that went down. If they had not had a flat tire they wouldn't be alive today.

Of course, they were very grateful. The young man's father lived in New York City. He called very frantically, very worried and the young man gave him the good news that they weren't on that flight. This father was a retired firefighter there in New York. He told his son he was going to the World Trade Center to help rescue people. Well, that was the last time the father and son ever spoke. The father was killed when the buildings came crashing down. When this young couple heard the news, the joy of their life being spared turned to sorrow and sadness and even confusion.

See, this father wouldn't have anything to do with God. Not open at all. His son had tried and tried to share his faith with no success. The son was so heartbroken, not only of course over the loss of his dad, but he just wasn't sure that his father was at peace with God. About three months later there was a knock on their door. It was a young couple holding a little baby. The man said, "Are you so and so". He said, "I am". He said, "Would you mind if we came in for a few minutes and visited"?

Come to find out the wife explained how she was in the World Trade Center the day of the attacks. She was seven months pregnant and this father ended up rescuing her and carrying her all the way down the stairs. On the way down she began to talk to his dad about his relationship to God and about receiving Christ. She said, "When we got to the bottom floor your dad knelt down on his knees and he asked Christ to come into his heart". She said, "We not only came to give you this good news, but we wanted to introduce you to our little baby. We named him after your father".

The scripture says, "Now we know in part but one day we will know in full". There are a lot of things right now that we don't understand, but I'm convinced one day they will make sense. One day we'll look back in amazement and see how the hand of God was always working in our lives, doing greater things than we imagine. At the time it looked bad. It looked like God wasn't fair. But God is fair. Some how, some way, even though we didn't know it, God took the injustice and brought good out of it. He took the tragedy and used it to save a loved one. He took the betrayal and opened up a greater door.

Why don't you trust him? Why don't you take your hands off the wheel and let him do the driving? Let go of the frustration of having to have it your way. Let go of the why's of life. Put those unanswered questions in your "I don't understand it" file. The scripture says, "Now we see through a glass dimly but one day we will see face to face".

Some of you today have things that are weighing you down, keeping you from God's best. Make a decision right now you're going to let it go. Release it to God. You can walk out of here free, into the bright future God has in store. Remember, for everything you've lost God has already appointed another seed, another breakthrough, another victory. If you will learn to let things go, let go of disappointments, things you don't understand, then as you let go God will go to work. He will make your wrongs right. He will pay you back for injustice. And I believe and declare you are going to rise higher, overcoming every obstacle, defeating every enemy. You're going to become everything God created you to be.
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