Joel Osteen — Use It Or Lose It

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I want to talk to you today about "Use it or lose it". God has placed gifts and talents on the inside of each one of us. There is potential in you that you've not yet tapped into. It wasn't designed to you don't become everything you were created to be overnight. These gifts were put in you on a time release. They are destined to open up at certain points throughout your life. You will come into seasons of new growth, seasons of new opportunity, seasons where you discover talent and ability that you didn't know you had.

We weren't created to reach one level and get stuck. You may have finished your education, but you haven't finished learning. You may have that position you've always dreamed of. You're satisfied, but that's not your final step. God is not satisfied. He's put more in you. He has new talents, new abilities, even new levels, but too often, we have gifts lying dormant because we're not taking time to develop them. We're not being disciplined to study, to grow, to become better. We have talent that's being underutilized because we're comfortable. We don't want to have to stretch and do something out of our routine.

We think, "Oh, man, I'm doing good enough," but good enough is sometimes we're stuck because we're intimidated. We let thoughts of fear and doubt talk us out of it, things like, "You can't take that management position," "You can't write that book," "You can't lead that class," "You're not qualified," "You come from the wrong family".

All the what-if thoughts come: "What if you try, and fail? " "What if it doesn't work out? " "What if you get up there, and you're embarrassed?" Well, what if you get up there, and you succeed? What if you go to a new level? What if you set a new standard for your family? Don't let fear keep you from your destiny. That is a time-release gift trying to come out. Don't miss your season. You look up, and another year is gone. Life is flying by. You don't have time to waste being unfocused, intimidated, letting opportunities pass you by.

You have to draw that line in the sand and say, "That's it. I'm going to get focused. I'm going to be intentional. I'm not going to play it safe my whole life. I'm going to start stretching, taking steps of faith to release these gifts Paul said in romans, "God has given each person the ability to do certain things well". You have a gift. There's something you're good at. Find out what it is, and do it well. Maybe you can sing, and you've never had a lesson. You can figure out how things work technically, you can stand up in front of people, lead that class. You don't even think twice about it. It's just who you are. Those are gifts that God has invested in you.

Here's the key: God is expecting a return on his investment. Do you have gifts that are being underutilized? You're not taking time to develop them. You're too busy to put forth the extra effort to stretch, to learn, to become better, or perhaps you can feel that stirring on the inside. You can feel that desire in your spirit. You know you should, but you keep talking yourself out of it, letting it intimidate you.

Jesus said in Matthew 25, "Those who use well what they've been given, even more will be given to them... But to those who are unfaithful, even what little they have will be taken away". If you don't use well what you've been given, if you're not taking time to develop your talents, to maximize your potential, then it can be taken away, but when you use well, you're responsible, you're focused, you're passionate, you study, you grow, you get better. Because you're using well, even more will this scripture came from the parable that Jesus told about the talents.

There was a man that went on a long journey. He left three of his employees different amounts of talents to take care of while he was gone. A talent, back in those days, was about $1,000. To one man he left five talents; to another, two talents; and to the third man, he left one talent. The man with the five immediately went out and invested those talents. Over time, he gained five more. The man with the two invested those and gained two more, but this third man was afraid. He went out and dug a hole in the ground and buried his talent.

Months later, when the owner returned, the man with the five talents came and said, "Sir, here are your five talents that you gave me plus five more that I gained". The owner said, "Well done. You've been faithful over a little. Now I'm going to the second man said, "Sir, here are the two talents you gave me, plus two more that I gained". The owner said the same thing, "Well done. You've been faithful with what I've given you. Now I'm going to give you more". This third man came up and said, "Sir, I was afraid. I didn't want to lose what you gave me. I didn't want to take any risks, here's the one talent that you gave me".

This owner, who represents God, could've said, "I understand. You played it safe. At least you didn't lose when I gave you". Instead, the owner was furious. He was so angry, he said, "You lazy man. You should've at least put my money in the bank so I could've earned some interest. Now take from him who has one and give it to the man who has ten".

You would think, since God is so loving, so merciful, he would've said, "Look at this poor guy. He only has one talent. He's afraid, insecure. Go get a few talents from that man that had 10, and give it to him". It was just the opposite. God was showing us this principle: if you don't use it, you'll lose it. If you're always making excuses, waiting for the perfect time to take a step of faith, "Joel, one day I'll get out of my comfort zone," "One day I'll step up and teach that class," "One day I'll hone my skills," your one day may never come.

Friends, today is your day. Don't put it off another year. Don't live life in neutral, not passionate, not intentional, not focused. Stir up what God's given you. Dare to take those steps of faith. God is expecting a return for what he's invested in you. I don't know about you, but I don't want anyone getting what should've been mine. I'm not greedy. I love to give, but I don't want God to have to say, "Joel, you're not using that talent, that gift. You're not staying passionate. You're not taking steps to move forward, so I'm going to take what should've been yours and give it to someone that's being a good steward over what I've given them".

No, make this you're going to stretch, you're going to grow, you're going to pray bold prayers, you're going to dream big dreams, you're not going to live intimidated, letting thoughts of defeat talk you out of it: "Well, you can't do it. You don't have what it takes. This is as good as it gets". No, let that go in one ear and out the other. Keep using what you have, and God will give you more. I want to light a new fire under us today because we're not always going to be here.

The Psalmist said our life is like a mist. We're here one moment, and then we're gone. When you're tempted to be indifferent, to not pursue what you know is in you, you have to remind yourself this principle: "If I don't use it, I'm going to lose it. If I'm not giving God a return on his investment, if I'm not being a good steward, then he's going to take what should've been mine and give it to someone else.

This is not so that you will live pressured, but so that you will live passionate, so you will stir up gifts that are being underutilized, so you will take steps of faith to become all you were created to be.

Here's the key: it's not important how many talents you have. What's important is, are you using what you have? I may have four, she has nine, he has three. God has given to every person different talents, different amounts. He's not going to as far as your neighbor? Were you as smart as your co-worker? Were you as talented as your cousin?" None of that matters to God. He didn't say to the man that brought him two extra talents, "Boy, I'm disappointed in you. Why didn't you bring me five like the first man?" No, he told him, "Well done," just like first man.

What's the point? Don't compare your talents with somebody else. You may have received three, and they received six. That's not up for you to decide. You don't have to keep up with them. Just run your race. Be the best you can be with what God's given you. If you'll be faithful with the three, God will increase you, but when we compare our talents to somebody else, we'll end up competing with them, trying to outperform them, out-dress them, out-drive them, out-build them, competing in a race we were never designed to be in. When we compare, we end up discouraged because there's always somebody more beautiful, more talented, more successful. Take the talent that you have, and hone that skill, develop it, grow, learn, study, and God will give you more.

When I first started ministering back in 1999, I didn't really know I'd only ministered one time before, then that same week, my dad died, and 2 weeks later, I found myself up again in front of 6,000 people. The first few months, I couldn't even watch myself on video. I was so embarrassed. I talked so high and so fast, and you could tell I was very nervous... as a minister's son.

I've seen some of the most experienced, articulate, incredible ministers of our day. I've seen them firsthand. If I would've made a mistake or comparing my talent to theirs, trying to compete and outperform them, I would've given up and quit right there at the very beginning. Instead, I simply took what God had given me.

I took that one talent, and I kept honing it, kept working on it, kept studying, when I would see these other ministers that are incredibly experienced, incredibly talented, instead of being intimidated by them, I would be inspired by them. Little by little, God gave me more insight, more ability, more influence, more favor. I could've looked at what I didn't have. Instead, I focused on what I did have.

I've learned you don't have to have a great gift for God to use you if you'll be faithful with what God has given you, he'll entrust you with more. Are you using well what you have, or are you comparing what you have, being discouraged, competing with someone that's not even in your race? Are you hiding your gifts, burying your talents, too busy to invest in what God's given you? Friends, developing your gifts is not an option. If you don't use it, you will lose it.

We see this principle in the book of Genesis. Isaac said to his son Esau, "Your brother has carried away your blessing". That doesn't seem fair. Surely God wouldn't let someone take his blessing, but there's a reason: his twin brother, Jacob, was born right after him. In fact, the scripture says, during childbirth, Jacob was grabbing at Esau's heels, trying to get ahead from the very beginning.

Jacob made a lot of mistakes. He didn't have integrity. He cheated people, but despite all these weaknesses, he had a boldness to become who he was created to be. One time, he even wrestled with an angel. He told the angel, "I'm not letting you leave until you bless me". The angel blessed him. He went about it the wrong way, especially at first, but he was passionate about fulfilling his destiny.

On the other hand, his brother, Esau, Esau knew he had the blessing that came from being the firstborn son. He knew he would get double the inheritance from their father. Back in those days, that birthright was extremely valuable, but one day, Esau had been out hunting, trying to find something to eat, and he couldn't kill anything, felt like he was going to starve. He smelled some stew that Jacob had made. He went over and asked his brother if he could have some. Well, Jacob, being the schemer that he was, he said, "Hey, Esau, I'll make a deal with you. I'll trade you my pot of stew for your birthright".

It was a ridiculous offer. Today, it'd be like saying, "I'll give you my house and my car for one meal". He shouldn't have even entertained it, but Esau was so indifferent about what he had, so nonchalant, he thought: "Hey, what good is this birthright going to do me, anyway, if I starve to death? " he traded something extremely valuable for a pot of stew.

Now, God could've stopped it. God controls the universe. He didn't have to let his brother carry away his blessing. When God sees someone that has the blessing and doesn't value it, they're not passionate about what God has given them, they take it for granted, "This birthright, no big deal," "These gifts, these talents, I'll develop them later," if we're nonchalant like Esau, not disciplined, not focused, then someone can carry away our blessing. God is saying, "I'd rather have someone like Jacob that has weaknesses, but at least they're passionate about serving me. At least they recognize their gifts. They'll go wrestle with an angel if they have to, to become who I've created them to be. I'd rather have someone like that than someone like Esau that has the blessing and doesn't value it".

The scripture says God hated Esau. I can't find anyone else in the scripture where it says God hated him. What did Esau do that was so bad? Kill someone? Lie, cheat, steal? What made God so displeased was that he had the blessing, and he didn't value it. He wasn't focused. He wasn't disciplined. He wasn't passionate.

That's why the apostle Paul told Timothy, "Timothy, stir up your gifts. Fan your flame. When I look back over my life, God's been too good to me, to live indifferent, nonchalant, not passionate. I have too much respect and awe for God to take things for granted. "Well, if I have time, I'll develop this gift, God," "One day, I'll be more focused, more intentional, more discipled". Don't be an Esau. Don't let someone carry away your blessing. If you don't value and use it, it can be taken away.

Well, you say, "Joel, I've missed a lot of opportunities, made a lot of mistakes. I guess it's too late for me". No, just the fact that you're here today, just the fact that you're listening is a sign you have a heart after God. What's happened in the past is not important. What's important is right now. You can do like Timothy and start stirring up your gifts, start using well what God has given you. If you do this, you don't have to worry.

Nobody can carry away your blessing. God has a hedge around you and your future that cannot be penetrated without God's permission. The only reason Esau lost his blessing is because God pulled back that hedge. He said, "All right, Esau, you're not going to use it, so I'm going to give it to somebody that will use well what I've given them.

When the prophet Samuel came to Jesse's house to anoint one of his sons as the next king, Jesse didn't even bring his youngest son, David, into the house. When Samuel tried to pour the oil on the other sons, it wouldn't flow. David eventually came into the house. When Samuel poured the oil, it freely flowed on David. What am I saying? You don't have to live worried, thinking, "Oh, man, I'm falling behind. Other people are getting my blessing. I'll never get the break I need". No, as long as you keep honoring God, stirring up your gifts, developing your talents, the oil that belongs to you will not flow to anybody else. God will get you to where you're supposed to be.

When David was out in those shepherds' fields as a young man, he was lonely. His father didn't believe in him. He had big dreams, but all he did, day in and day out, was take care of sheep, but instead of sitting around complaining, he would get his slingshot out, and he would sling rocks. He became an expert. He could hit a bull's-eye 100 feet away. Compared to his dream, it was a small talent, no big deal, but because he developed the small, one day that small talent led him to defeat a big giant. That took him to the throne of Israel.

What if he had been out in the shepherds' fields, saying, "God, it's boring out here. How come I didn't get a big gift, God? I don't want to mess with this slingshot. I want to lead an army". If he would've been indifferent like Esau, not valued what God had given him, that oil could've flowed to somebody else. This is where many people miss it. You have to be productive right where you are. Whatever God's given you, even if it's small, develop that gift. God invests the most in people who are productive. If you'll show God increase, God will increase you more.

When the Israelites were in slavery, God said to Moses, "Go tell Pharaoh to let my people go". Moses said, "God, I can't do that. I don't speak well. I stutter". He was saying, "God, I didn't get a big gift. I just got one talent". He kept making excuse after excuse, so much so, the scripture says God became angry with Moses. He wasn't angry because he stuttered. He wasn't angry because he had flaws. He was angry because he didn't see his gift as being enough. He was like the man with the one talent, hiding it, afraid, thinking he didn't have what it takes.

God is not displeased with us because we still have weaknesses, we have shortcomings. He's displeased when we're not using what he's given us, when we're making excuses, discounting our gifts. Listen, God wouldn't have asked you to do it if he hadn't already given you exactly what you need. Quit discounting yourself: "Well, Joel, if I had his talents, if I had her looks, if I had their gifts, then I could do something great". No, take the talent that you have, whether it's five, two, or one, and make the most of that. If you'll use what God's given you, he'll give you more.

Moses kept complaining. He kept making excuses. Finally, God said to him, "Moses, who made your tongue? Who makes the deaf to hear? Who makes the blind to see?" He was saying, "Moses, I created the universe. I flung stars into space. I spoke worlds into existence. Moses, I know what I'm doing. You didn't get shortchanged. You're not lacking. I've given you exactly what you need".

Moses still didn't believe. He still wouldn't do it. He was holding a staff in his hand, a rod, and God told him to throw it down. When he did, it turned into a snake. Moses, this mighty man of faith, the one who eventually parted the Red Sea and delivered the Israelites from slavery, when he saw that snake, you know what he did? The scripture says he "Was terrified and turned and ran away".

Sometimes we see these heroes of faith in the scripture as being superhuman. It's good to know they were just like us. He was talking with God, saw a snake, and took off running. That means there's hope for you and me. God told him to do something interesting. He said, "Moses, go back and pick up that snake". Can't you hear him? "God, I'm not about to touch that snake. I'll go speak to Pharaoh now, but I'm not going to touch that snake".

Sometimes God will ask us to do things that we're afraid of. When my father died, I thought, "God, I can't step up and pastor the church. I've only ministered one time," but just because you feel fear, doesn't mean you're not supposed to do it. If you have all the confidence, courage, strength, to do it on your own, it doesn't take any faith. Faith says, "God, I'm afraid, I don't know if I can step up and speak in front of these people, God, I don't know if this new business I'm starting is going to make it, but, God, I believe you put it in my heart, so I'm going to take a step of faith, knowing that you're with me each step of the way and that you will get me to where I'm supposed to be". You have to get out of your comfort zone and do it afraid. If you play it safe your whole life, you'll never reach your full potential.

Jesus gave an illustration in Luke chapter 13 about a man that had a fig tree in his garden. He went out month after month, checking on it, but it never had any fruit. He was so frustrated, he finally said to his gardener, "I've waited 3 years. This tree has never produced one fig. Cut it down. It's taking up space that we could be using for something else".

The gardener said, "Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year. I'll give it special attention. If it doesn't produce fruit in a year, then we could cut it down.

The owner of the tree represents the justice of God. He was saying, "This tree should be further along for its age. At 3 years old, it should be producing fruit". Justice says, "Cut it down. It's taking up valuable space. Something could be put there that would make better use of the soil, the nutrients, the sunshine". The gardener represents the mercy of God. He said, "Sir, give it one more chance. Yes, it's barren, but I still believe it can produce fruit. I still see some potential in it. It's not as far along as it should be, but I know it can catch up, leave it one more year".

If God came to take a look at your fig tree, when he looks at your life, will he see any fruit? Are you producing any figs, developing what he's given you, or would that tree be barren? "Well, Joel, you said, 'use it or you'll lose it.' I can tell you, I've lost it, I've made mistakes. It's too late for me". Justice says, "You're right. You should be further along. Too bad, you're done". The good news is, the God of mercy says, "I'm going to give you another chance. I'm going to work with you another year. I'm going to give you special attention, the grace, the favor, the wisdom, the strength, the breakthroughs to step up to become who you were created to be".

My challenge is, do your part and get focused. Be intentional. Don't waste another moment making excuses. Don't be like Esau and not value what God has given you, live indifferent, nonchalant. No, stir up those gifts. Be passionate about your dreams. Dare to take some steps of faith, getting out of your comfort zone. If you will use well what God has given you, I believe and declare, God is about to increase you with more. You're about to step up to a new level. You're going to see new gifts, new talents, new opportunities, the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus' name.
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