Joel Osteen — The Power of Your Vision
I want to talk to you today about the power of your vision. Too many people are stuck in a rut, not because they're not talented, not because they don't have God's favor, but because their vision is limited. They don't see themselves accomplishing their dreams, being promoted, living healthier. They just see more of the same.
What you see is what you're going to move toward. We all have vision. Every one of us has a picture in our mind of our self, our family, our future. The real question is what does your picture look like? Do you see yourself rising higher, overcoming obstacles, living an abundant life? Or is the picture you have of yourself struggling, defeated, addicted, overweight, never getting good breaks? The pictures you allow in your mind will determine what kind of life you live.
You have to protect your vision. If your vision is limited your life will be limited. Seven times in the scripture God asks, "What do you see"? God is interested in our vision. Before your dream comes to pass you have to see yourself accomplishing that dream. You've got to get a picture of it. Before you lose the weight, before you break the addiction, you have to see it happening in your imagination. The pictures you keep in front of you-your vision-not only drops down into your spirit but it gets into your subconscious mind. Once something is in the subconscious, without even thinking about it, just like gravity, it will pull you toward it.
Many people have negative images in their subconscious mind. They see themselves weak, defeated, inferior and they wonder why it feels like something is always pulling against them. It's always a struggle. They never feel good about themselves. It's because they have the wrong images.
If you will change those pictures and start seeing yourself the way God sees you-blessed, prosperous, healthy, strong, talented, successful-then instead of having something pulling against you it will be pulling for you. You'll be moving toward blessing, favor, promotion, increase. Our imagination is incredibly powerful. In fact, it says in Genesis, "Nothing they imagined was impossible to them". Once you get a picture of it, either good or bad, you're going to move toward it.
I read this study that was done with people that needed arthroscopic knee surgery. Their knees were worn down and they needed the joint to be cleaned out. These doctors, with permission from the family, on a certain number of patients, instead of actually performing the surgery they simply put the patients under anesthesia and made three tiny incisions around the knee but they didn't do anything. Of course, when the patient woke up they thought they had the full surgery.
What's interesting is two years later the patients that had the fake surgery reported just as much relief from the pain as the patients that had the actual surgery. And it wasn't just in their mind. When the doctors examined their knees over time they could see how their knees had improved. The doctors' conclusion was, "Since the brain expected the knee to get better, it got better. It helped it to heal".
You could say those doctors tricked the patients into having a new image and just like gravity they moved toward it. Let's make it practical. You may not feel blessed but if you'll get in agreement with God and get a picture of yourself blessed, you're going to move toward it. Your brain is going to say, "Come on now. Let's get going. They're supposed to be blessed". The medical report may not look good but instead of seeing yourself going downhill start seeing yourself strong, healthy, full of energy, full of vitality.
That's what you're moving toward. Your dream, in the natural, may look impossible but I'm asking you to look out through your eyes of faith and see yourself moving into that new home. See yourself getting married. See yourself taking that missions trip. When you see yourself accomplishing your dreams all these unseen forces begin to move in your direction.
This is what happened with Abraham. God gave him the promise that he was going to be the father of many nations. In the natural it was impossible. Abraham was 80 years old and didn't have one child. But what's interesting is God didn't just give him the promise. God gave him a picture to look at. God said, "Abraham, go outside and look up at the stars. That's how many descendants you will have".
I read where there are 6,000 stars in the eastern sky where Abraham was that night. It's not a coincidence that there are 6,000 promises in the scripture. God was saying, "Any promise that you can get a vision for I will bring it to pass". God told Abraham, "Go down to the beach and look at the grains of sand. That's how many relatives you're going to have".
Why did God give him a picture? God knew there would be times when it seemed like the promise wasn't going to come to pass. When Abraham was tempted to get discouraged and to start thinking, "It's never going to happen," he would go outside and look up at the sky. When he saw the stars, faith would rise in his heart. Something would tell him, "It's going to happen. I can see it". In the morning the thoughts came telling him, "You're too old, Abraham. It's too late. You didn't hear God right". Abraham would go down to the beach and look at the grains of sand. Something would come alive on the inside. His faith would be restored.
Just like with Abraham there will be times when it seems like your dream is not going to come to pass. It's been too long. The medical report looks too bad. You don't have the money, the connections. You could easily get discouraged and give up. No, just like Abraham you've got to go back to the picture God gave you. When you close your eyes you have to see yourself strong and healthy. See the problem turning around. See your family restored. See yourself paying off your house. Your vision is what's going to keep you encouraged. God is saying to us what he said to Abraham. "If you can see it I will do it. If you'll get a vision for it I will bring it to pass".
Several years ago a lady came down to the altar for prayer. She had just gone through a very painful divorce. Her husband of many years left her for another woman. She was very devastated, very heartbroken. She didn't see how she could ever be happy again. I did my best to encourage her and tell her God was going to give her beauty for those ashes and God was going to pay her back for that unfair situation. She listened, but it didn't seem like my words had much of an impact. She was very depressed. She couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel.
When our vision is negative, our life is going to follow that same direction. Sometimes it's difficult. You don't feel like doing it, but you cannot afford to sit around in self-pity. Life may not be fair, but God is fair. You've got to shake off the disappointments and get a fresh new vision. Your life is not over because somebody left you. If they walked out on you, you didn't need them. God's plan was not canceled because of a disappointment, an unfair situation, or even because of a mistake you made. If you'll get a new vision instead of being a setback God will turn it into a setup to do something greater.
She was weeping and weeping and telling me all the reasons she would never meet anybody and how she was too old and just too unattractive, on and on, none of which were true. I asked her to do something that would help her to have a new image. I said, "Get a picture frame and put it on the table by your bed with no picture in it, just an empty frame. Every time you see that frame you just imagine that's going to be a picture of you with the new person God brings into your life".
As an act of faith she put that picture frame there. Every time she saw it she would begin to thank God that he was directing her steps, bringing the right person into her life, giving her beauty for her ashes. She got rid of the picture of defeat, being lonely, being depressed. She started seeing herself beautiful, happy, with the person of her dreams.
Three years later she showed up to the altar. Once again she was weeping and weeping, but this time they were not tears of sadness. They were tears of joy. You see, she had this very handsome gentleman by her side. She said, "Joel, this is the man that I saw in that picture frame that you had me put up. We're going to get married next Saturday". The scripture says, "Weeping may endure for a night but joy is coming in the morning".
My question is, "What's in your picture frame"? What do you see when you look out into your future? More of the same? "I've reached my limits. My business will never succeed. I'll always be lonely, overweight, addicted". That's going to keep you where you are. You've got to change what's in the frame. You've got to put a new picture in there. Start seeing yourself strong, beautiful, successful, fulfilled. Your life is not going to change until you change the picture.
This is what my father did. He grew up extremely poor, had no money, no education, no real future to speak of. But at seventeen years old my father gave his life to Christ. God called him to preach. He began to see himself ministering to thousands of people. That was unheard of back there in the 1930's. There weren't big churches like we have today.
Daddy had never been to seminary, especially not at seventeen, never had any formal training. All he knew how to do was pick cotton. But my father changed the picture in the frame. Instead of seeing himself poor, defeated, barely getting by, he started seeing himself touching the world. He went on to do exactly that.
Friends, your life is going to follow your vision. If you have a small vision you're going to have a small life. But if you will let the seeds of greatness that God is planting on the inside take root, if you'll have a big vision, God will take you places you never thought possible.
I remember as a little boy Lakewood was in our very first auditorium. It held 200 people. My father would get up on Sundays. He would point to the right and say to the congregation, "Can you see that new sanctuary seating a thousand people? Can you see it totally paid off"?
All that was out there was an empty field with cows grazing in it. The visitors thought my father had lost his mind. But he wasn't looking at it in the natural. He was looking out through his eyes of faith. Eventually that sanctuary came into reality plus many, many others.
Some of you today, if you would just put new pictures in your frame your life would go to a new level. You don't have to figure out how it's going to happen. All you've got to do is believe. One touch of God's favor can bring any dream to pass. One good break, one promotion, one phone call and what looked like an impossibility all of a sudden is a reality.
You've heard the saying, "If you can see the invisible God can do the impossible". When we were trying to acquire this place, the former Compaq Center, it was a three and a half year battle. All kinds of things came against us. At times, in the natural, it looked like it wasn't going to happen. But instead of worrying about it, letting those negative pictures take root, all through the day, just like my father did, I would see this place as being ours. In my imagination I could see the Lakewood sign out front. I could see myself up here ministering. I could see all of you long before you got here.
Many times at night Victoria and I would drive up to the building. If nothing was going on we would get out and walk around it and pray and believe and dream. That image was becoming engrained in our thinking. The more we saw it, the more faith rose in our hearts. In my imagination I could already see the mayor handing us the keys. I could already see the confetti falling during the groundbreaking service. I could already see it full of thousands of victors and not victims.
For three and a half years we kept that image in front of us. On December 1, 2003 when the mayor handed us the key it was just like I had seen it before. On December 13, when the confetti fell on the groundbreaking services, it was just like I had seen it before. In 2005, the week of the grand opening, a reporter asked me what it was going to be like to stand up and minister here for the first time. I didn't say it but I thought to myself, "I've ministered in this building thousands of times before".
Friends, you've got to see it on the inside before it's going to come to pass on the outside. Have you ever seen yourself accomplishing your dreams? Graduating from college? Have you ever seen yourself healthy, whole? Free from addictions? Free from any kind of sicknesses?
In 1981 my mother was very sick with cancer of the liver. She weighed 89 pounds. Her skin was as yellow as can be. I was away at college. When I came back home I hardly recognized my mother. She looked so bad. One thing my mother did was she put up pictures all over the house from a time when she was healthy. She had her wedding pictures up on the refrigerator and all over the den. On her bathroom mirror she had a picture of herself riding a horse in Montana with a big pink cowboy hat.
I thought, "What are all these pictures doing up"? My mother had put them there to create a new image on the inside. You see, when she looked in the mirror she saw death staring back at her. She didn't want that image to become engrained in her thinking. Now everywhere she looked all over the house she saw herself healthy, strong, happy, fulfilling her destiny. That's the image she let take root. Today, 31 years later she looks just like she did in those pictures, as strong and healthy as can be.
I've found life tries to push us down. Life tries to put out the fire that God lights on the inside through disappointments, bad breaks, people discouraging us. Too often we settle for mediocrity. We miss out on the fullness of what God has in store. Some of you today, your vision is too small. God has a much bigger life than you're living but you're letting how you were raised, your environment, perhaps the disappointments of the past to set the limits for your life.
You've got to enlarge your vision. Your parents may have reached a certain level, but God wants you to go further. There should be something you're dreaming about that's too big for you to accomplish on your own, something that you cannot afford, something that you're not qualified for. It's going to take God's favor, God's blessing, to bring it to pass. Friends, have a big vision. That's your faith being released.
I heard a story about a little frog that was born at the bottom of a well. Just a small circular well like you would see at a farm. It was he and his family that lived down there. This little frog was so happy, so content, all day long to swim and splash in the water. He thought, "Life is good. We've got all the water in the world to ourselves".
As he got a little older he noticed the light at the top of the well and wondered what was up there. One day, very carefully, he climbed up the side of the well. With great caution he looked over the edge and the first thing he saw was a pond. He couldn't believe it. It was thousands of times more water than he had. He hopped a little more and came to a lake. He stood there in amazement. Hopped a little more and came to the ocean where as far as he could see miles and miles of water.
He began to realize his vision was so limited. He thought he had it all but all he really had was a drop in the bucket compared to what God wanted him to enjoy. God's dream for your life is so much bigger, so much larger, so much more rewarding than you can imagine. You haven't touched the surface of what God has in store.
But too often we're like that little frog. We've been enclosed in our own little well. Our vision is very limited. It's called our environment. It's how we were raised. All we've known is a certain way of thinking, a certain way of living. It may not be bad but God has much more in store. I'm asking all of us, like that little frog, to go a little further than you're used to. Break out of your box and look out over the horizon. Dream bigger. Think bigger. See bigger. God has oceans that he wants you to enjoy.
I have friends that pastor a church in another state. When they first started their church they barely had anything. They were living in a tiny apartment, no furniture practically, could hardly pay their rent each month. They would both work during the day and then on Sundays about fifteen people would come to their apartment and they would have church. This went on year after year with no growth. They were very tempted to get discouraged. They knew God had put something bigger in their heart, but it didn't look like it was going to happen.
But rather than sit around in their little apartment every night, feel sorry for themselves, feel like failures, they did something interesting. They would drive down to one of the big, fancy hotels in their area. They didn't even have money to pay for parking. They would have to park way down the road and walk the rest of the way. They would go into that hotel lobby and night after night just sit there and dream. They wanted to put themselves in an atmosphere of victory, an atmosphere of success.
As they would look around at all the beautiful surroundings they would begin to thank God, "One day you are going to bring our dreams to pass. One day we're going to be pastoring a church with thousands". What were they doing? Enlarging their vision. They got out of their well to help expand their thinking.
Today, 25 years later, they're living their dream. They're pastoring a very successful church. Like them, you may be at a place that doesn't seem very good. What you see on the outside doesn't match what God has put on the inside. But don't sit around in self-pity, depressed, discouraged. Go out and find someplace you can dream. Go to the park and watch the sunset. Look up at the stars and think about God's goodness. You've got to get out of that well. Find some place that inspires you, some place where your faith will be elevated.
That's why it's important to come to a church like Lakewood where people are going to build you up and not tear you down, where people are going to challenge you to rise higher, to become all that God has created you to be. Listen, I know people, they come home from work every night and watch the same depressing tv shows week after week and wonder why nothing gets better. No, if you're going to enlarge your vision you've got to get out of a limited environment. Put yourself somewhere bigger than you are right now; that atmosphere of victory and success.
I heard a famous rapper being interviewed on television years ago. The interviewer asked him why his lyrics were so filled with hatred and violence and why he always talked about killings and shootings and muggings. He said, "Oh, man. I'm just rapping about life. That's the way the world is". No, the truth is that's not the way the world is. That's the way his world is. That's the way it is the six blocks around his house. If he would drive three miles down the freeway he would see people loving their families, people going to colleges, people starting businesses, people fulfilling their destiny.
What's the problem? His vision is being limited by his environment. All he's got to do is get in a different environment, an environment that inspires him instead of depresses him.
I have friends that run an orphanage in a very poor nation. Every Friday they go down to the slums and they take these children to the beach. They call it "Dream day". As the children play in the sand and the water and they look at the beautiful ocean and they watch the magnificent sunsets, they talk to them about how God knew them before they were formed in their mother's womb, how they have seeds of greatness on the inside. They speak vision into them.
They're finding that these children from the slums are overcoming incredible odds, getting scholarships to colleges, breaking out of poverty, becoming leaders in the community.
Proverbs 29:18 says, "Where there is no vision the people perish". It doesn't say where there is no money, where there is no opportunity, where there is no talent. What limits us is a lack of vision. If you're going to enlarge your vision you need to get around other dreamers. Get around people that are going places, people that inspire you to rise higher.
If you're the smartest one in your group, your group is too small. You've got to get out of your well. You need to be around people that know more than you, people that are doing more than you. And don't be intimidated by them. God brings people into our life to help expand our vision. Only small-minded people get jealous. Only small-minded people try to compete and prove that they're really better.
No, don't be insecure. Be inspired. The right attitude is, "Hey! God, if you did it for them you can do it for me". It makes a difference who you associate with. Elisha hung around Elijah and he got a double portion. Joshua hung around Moses and he went into the Promised Land. Samson hung around compromisers and he missed his destiny. You've got to get around other dreamers. Your vision is going to be greatly impacted by who you choose to associate with.
Friends, what's in your future has much to do with what you can see. I'm asking you to see yourself blessed, prosperous, strong, healthy, talented, successful, accomplishing your dreams. Don't get stuck in a rut and just see more of the same. You may have been through disappointments but this is a new day. Your greatest victories are still in your future.
Now make sure what you put in that picture frame is too big for you to accomplish on your own. Dream big. Enlarge your vision. If you will keep the right picture in front of you, instead of having something pulling against you it will be pulling for you. Like Abraham, even though it looks impossible, God will bring the promise to pass. One day instead of just having the dream you will be living the dream. What you see will become a reality. In Jesus' name.