Joel Osteen — Who's the Boss?
I want to talk to you today about "Who's the boss"? There's a battle taking place in all of us. It's a battle between the flesh and the spirit. The flesh is our natural, carnal desires. That's what we were born with.
Have you ever noticed how you don't have to teach a child to be impatient, to be selfish, to get upset? I was in a grocery store and this little boy, probably two years old, was there shopping with his mother. She looked like a business woman, very professional, well dressed. Her little boy was as cute as can be. He went over and got something off the bottom shelf. His mother said very lovingly, "No, son. We have to put that back". Up to that point, he had been happy, in a good mood. But when she took that away, it was like he turned into a different person. He started screaming, he fell down on the floor, flailing his hands and legs. He was throwing this big fit. You would have thought he was dying. Of course his mom was kind of embarrassed. She tried to discreetly, quietly pick him up. He screamed even louder.
Here's my point: nobody had to teach him how to throw a fit. That's what we're born with. The scripture calls it, "The flesh" or our carnal nature. It's things like pride, selfishness, impatience, getting upset. Here's the key: the flesh wants to be in control. The flesh is not going to be happy unless it gets its way. The easy way is to do like that little boy and give in.
That's okay when we're two years old. We're growing, we're learning. People understand why we're childish. The problem is not when we're two, but when we're 42 and we're still throwing a fit. We're still being ruled by our feelings. We think, "I feel like being rude. I'm going to tell them off. I feel like being lazy. I'm going to skip work. I feel like being impatient. I feel like compromising". As long as you're allowing your feelings to be the boss, it will limit how high you can go. The scripture talks about dying to the flesh. That means not giving in to what we feel.
If you live on that shallow level of always having to please your flesh, you'll never discover what's really in you. The best of you. Your gifts, your talents, your potential won't come out. You have to go beyond the surface. If you'll get past the temporary pain of not having your way and choose to follow the spirit instead of the flesh, God will release more of his favor. You'll continue to rise higher and higher.
Too many people live on this surface level of letting their feelings, their emotions, run their life. The problem is our feelings will lead us down the wrong path. Your feelings will tell you, "You're tired. You don't need to go to work today. Just sleep in". Your flesh will tell you, "They were rude to you. Don't let them have the last word. Be rude back to them". Your feelings will tell you, "I want another piece of pie. Don't make me wait, I'm hungry". If you listen, you'll hear the spirit say, "No more pie. Seven pieces was enough".
The flesh likes to be comfortable, but if you're always comfortable you'll never grow. When you discipline yourself to do the right thing, the harder it is, the more you're growing in that area. Instead of seeing it as, "Oh man, this is so painful", turn it around. "This may be uncomfortable, but I know I'm growing a whole lot. I'm making progress".
The scripture says, "No discipline at the time seems pleasant, but later on it will produce a great harvest". We need to think more about later on. Our feelings only tell us about right now, but a mature person doesn't get caught up in the emotion of the moment. They always take a step back and think about later on. Your flesh will tell you, "I want junk food, colas, desserts. Make me comfortable". At the time it may taste good, but later on you won't be as healthy as you could be. We get upset and think, "I'm going to go tell my boss off. I'm going to give him a piece of my mind". You can do that, but later on you won't have a job.
At home, we know we should bite our tongue, not say something to our spouse, but it feels good to please the flesh. We say it anyway. Later on, we're sleeping on the couch. Later on, we've entered into World War III. Even though it's difficult, it's much better to say, "Flesh, you're not going to rule my life". When you do that, later on you'll not only still have a job, have a marriage, have good health, but your character is coming up higher. God can entrust you with more.
Maybe you're at the sporting goods store and you see those shiny new golf clubs, the ones you know you can't afford right now. You know those funds are set aside for the monthly house note, but they're the latest, greatest clubs and wouldn't you know it? They're on sale this week only. Your flesh will tell you, "It's a sign from God. You heard Joel talking about your due season year. You can't pass that up". Then you'll hear a still, small voice. The spirit whispering, "Don't do it. Be disciplined. Wait for the right time".
The flesh is always much louder, much stronger. "I've got to have it. They're on sale. Plus there's a special rebate. And look, today only if you buy you get a free umbrella, two packs of bubble gum". If you give in and let the flesh be the boss, later on when you have to pay the bills, you'll be depressed. It's much better if you'll pay the price for discipline today. If you'll not get on board with those feelings, make decisions based off of wisdom, then later on there will be a great harvest.
When you see people that are blessed, successful, have good relationships, they didn't get there because they were lucky. They were disciplined. They did the right thing when it was hard. The people that reach their highest potential are the people that are good at saying "No" to their flesh. Those friends that want you to party all the time, your feelings will tell you, "Just do it! It's fun, you will have a great time". But later on, there can be addictions. Later on, trouble in relationships. If you want to see the great harvest, God's favor, blessing, increase, you have to make the decision to choose discipline today.
When I was in high school, I used to run track. One day, we got out at noon for a special program and track practice didn't start until 1:15. It was a hot, summer day in Houston and I was very hungry for Mexican food. I rounded up some of my friends and we went down to the local Mexican restaurant. As I was getting out of the car, very excited, out of school early that day, at my favorite restaurant, I heard something down here saying, "You better not eat this food. It's 100 degrees outside and in a few minutes you're going to be out on that hot track running".
I no more paid attention to that. I didn't want to hear that. I had my mind already made up. I ordered this big Mexican dinner, chalupas, enchiladas, tamales, fajitas, chile con queso, rice, beans, I had all this food. When it came out, it smelled so good I could almost taste it. But once again I heard something whispering, "Joel, you better not eat this. This is not a good idea". I thought, "Get behind me Satan. This is a good idea". I ate and ate and ate.
A few minutes later, I was out on the track. The coach said, "Today we're going to run 18 440-yard sprints". Not jogging, but sprinting. On my fourth sprint, I started feeling dizzy, nauseated; sick to my stomach. I went over, "Coach, I can't run anymore". He looked at me and said, "You don't have a choice. You have to run". I wanted to cast the devil out of him, too. I was so miserable, I would run a little while, throw up, run a little while, same thing.
The funny thing, when I was eating that Mexican food, I never thought about later on. My flesh never once said, "Later on there's going to be a problem, bro. It tastes good going down, but it's not going to taste so good coming back up". All my flesh told me was, "Give me Mexican food. Give it to me now. Don't make me wait". The spirit was trying to warn me. God was saying in effect, "You better stay away from mama Ninfa's today. Go down there to subway and get something easy, something light".
Here's my point: your feelings will tell you what you want, but that doesn't mean that's what's best for you. Your feelings will tell you, "They hurt you. Hold a grudge. Live bitter". At the same time, you'll hear a still, small voice whispering, "Let it go. Forgive. Let God be your vindicator". The flesh and the spirit are constantly at odds. You get to choose who's the boss. Nobody can make this decision for you. We can encourage you, cheer you on; tell you that you have what it takes. But only you can make the decision, "I am not going to live at this surface level. I'm not going to let the flesh control my life, taking the easy way out. I'm going to dig my heels in. Instead of letting my feelings rule me, I'm going to start ruling over my feelings".
You've heard little kids use the phrase, "You're not the boss of me"? Next time your flesh tells you, "Compromise. Get upset. Give into temptation," just answer back, "You're not the boss of me. I'm not living on that surface level, I'm going deeper. I'm going to become all God created me to be".
Paul said in Galatians, "If you sow to the flesh, you will reap decay, ruin and destruction. But if you sow to the spirit, you will reap life and life eternal". Notice, when you do the right thing when it's hard, when you sow to the spirit, you're going to reap blessings, favor, increase. Not only eternal life, but abundant life here on this earth. But when we give into our natural, carnal desires, keep doing what we feel. "I feel like being lazy, I'm going to be lazy. I feel like compromising, I'm going to give into this temptation. I feel like staying up all night watching television".
When we sow to the flesh, we won't reap anything good, but when you discipline yourself to take the high road, to say "No" to your feelings, you are sowing to the spirit. It may not happen overnight, but if you'll keep making those choices, you will come in to a great harvest. Romans talks about, "Those who follow the dictates of the flesh". That's saying, "The flesh wants to be a dictator. The flesh wants to control your life". What does a dictator do? He tells you what to do, when to do it, how to do it. They make all of the decisions; you just sit back and follow the orders.
In other words, you get stuck in traffic, your flesh tells you, "Get upset. Be stressed out". So many people follow the dictates of the flesh. Just like a good soldier, when they hear those orders, "Yes, sir. Right away sir". They get upset, go through the day stressed out. Or you wake up in the morning, your feelings may tell you, "You're depressed. Nothing good is in your future. Feel lousy". Some people get on board, they go around depressed, no passion.
Well you say, "Joel, I can't help what I feel". I'm not asking you to not feel anything. That's not reality. God made us as emotional beings. All through the day, you will feel things, but just because you feel it doesn't mean you should act on it. David said, "Be angry and sin not". You may feel the emotion of anger. That's okay, just don't act on it. Don't fly off the handle. You may feel offended, just don't give in. "I'm not getting on board with those feelings". Or you may feel tempted to compromise, it's so strong. You don't see how you can control it. But God wouldn't ask us to feel something and not give in if we couldn't do it.
Yes, the feelings are real, but you have to ask yourself, "Is what I'm feeling going to move me toward my destiny? Is it going to help me improve? Or is it just my natural, fleshly desires that are going to keep me from rising higher"? Who's the boss, you or your feelings? Are you going to let the flesh stay on the throne, be the dictator? "My flesh said, 'get upset', so I got upset. My flesh said, 'don't clean the house', so I didn't clean the house this week, this month, this year. My flesh said, 'hook up with this other person', so I kind of messed up in my relationship". Living by what we feel is a very shallow way to live. I'm asking you to dethrone the flesh.
It's time to have a change in authority. You've seen how in foreign countries, when they have a dictator that's very oppressive, pushing the people down, they can't vote him out of the office. They don't have a democracy. They have to take drastic measures. They rise up and overthrow the dictator. They forcefully throw him out of office. In the same way, your flesh wants to rule your life. It wants to stay in control, tell you how to feel, lead you down the wrong path. Let me warn you, it's not going to go down easily. When you don't give it what it wants, it's going to throw a fit, get upset. You have to dig your heels in, be determined and say, "Enough is enough. Flesh, you're not the boss of me anymore. Feelings, you are not going to rule my life. I'm taking you off the throne. From now on, I'm going to start being ruled by the spirit".
The apostle Paul said, "I die daily". He was saying, "Everyday, I have to say 'no' to my flesh. Everyday, I have to take my feelings off the throne". This is not something that we do one time and then we're done. It's an ongoing process. Paul wrote over half of the new testament. He's one of the great heroes of faith, yet he still had to deal with his flesh. You never get to the point where you're so mature, you're so spiritual that you don't have any of these fleshly, carnal desires. Like Paul, everyday we have to learn to say 'no' to certain feelings.
One time my father had a disagreement with my mother. It was really no big deal, but my father was put out over it. He knew the right thing to do was just to let it go and move forward, but he felt like being offended. He felt like feeling sorry for himself. Instead of ruling his feelings, he let his feelings rule him. He put them back up on the throne. He decided to give my mother the silent treatment.
She would walk by him in the house and he would ignore her, act like he didn't see her. She would ask him something and he would answer back in the shortest, most unfriendly way he possibly could. He liked how it made him feel. When you give in to the flesh, there is pleasure. It feels good to have a pity party. It feels good to eat the twelfth bowl of ice cream. It feels good to skip school and go down to the beach. The flesh loves to have its way. It loves to stay on the throne.
A couple of hours later, my mom got tired of having the cold shoulder treatment and decided to do something about it. She went and hid behind a door and stayed there as quietly as she could. My father looked and looked and looked everywhere throughout the house. It's hard to ignore somebody when you can't find them. The longer he looked, the more worried he became. He thought, "Dear Lord, maybe the rapture took place and I got left behind".
A few minutes later, he passed that door where my mother was hiding. She jumped out on his back, put both legs around him and said, "John, I'm not getting off until you cheer up"! They laughed so much my father forgot what he was mad about. No matter how mature you are, everyday you have to take those feelings off the throne.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians, "Everything is permissible for me, but everything is not profitable. I will not become a slave to anything". See, there are a lot of things we can do and get away with. We can go through life, bad attitude, hot temper, compromising, impatient. That's permissible, but it's not very profitable. If you live at that shallow level, letting your feelings rule you, you can only go so high. Yes, you'll survive, but it will be much less than you were created for.
I'm talking today about reaching the fullness of your destiny. Paul said, "I won't become a slave to anything". When we let our feelings rule us, we become a slave to anger, a slave to lust, a slave to self-pity. Because we're letting our flesh stay on the throne, it's like we're serving those things, held by their power. But I believe this is a new day. The flesh is being dethroned, no more living as slaves. We're rising up and saying, "Flesh, you're not going to control us. We're going to take the throne, we're going to make decisions that honor God and move us toward our destiny".
The scripture says, "We are unspiritual when we are under the control of ordinary impulses". It doesn't say that these ordinary impulses will go away. The feelings will always be there. The problem is when we give in we come under their control.
Well you say, "Joel, I've always had a problem with my temper. I've always been impatient. I'll never change". Well, here's how you do it. You have to quit feeding those feelings. Anything you feed is going to grow. When that emotion of anger comes, if you keep giving in, getting upset, flying off the handle, all you're doing is making it stronger. You're giving it more power. If you keep feeding that self-pity, going around feeling sorry for yourself, it's just like a person that's addicted to a drug. The more he takes it, the more he has to have it. He craves it. The desire becomes stronger.
Whatever area you're letting your feelings rule; it's going to grow. If you get stressed out every time you get stuck in traffic, you're feeding the impatience. Just imagine you're serving it a meal. You get real upset, here's a steak dinner. Here are some vitamins. If you want to get out from under the control of the ordinary impulses, you can't pray them away. They're a part of life. The way you break free is you quit feeding them. Next time you're tempted to get upset, you feel that ordinary impulse, don't respond. Put on some good praise music. Think about all you have to be grateful for.
What's happening? You're feeding your spirit-person instead of feeding your flesh. As your spirit grows stronger, your flesh is getting weaker. You have to starve the self-pity. Starve the anger. Starve the bad attitude. If you keep sowing to the flesh, you'll reap defeat. But if you'll start sowing to the spirit, you'll reap victory. Even though those fleshly, normal impulses still come, they won't control you anymore. This is how you know that you're mature. Not that you don't have any temptations, not that you've prayed away everything that bothers you. A sign of maturity is you still feel the negative emotions, but you don't act on them. You don't put them back up on the throne. You're the boss of your life, not your feelings.
Proverbs says, "A person that doesn't rule his own spirit is like a city with broken down walls". When we keep giving in to these ordinary impulses, our walls are down. We have no protection, we're defenseless; the enemy can come in and have a hay day with our life. Here's the solution: God has given each one of us self-control. Self-control is like a muscle. If you never use it, if you never discipline yourself, your self-control muscle is going to be very weak.
You have to start exercising it. Start saying "No" to your flesh. You have a destiny to fulfill. God has amazing things in your future. But the scripture says, "As long as the heir is a child, he will never receive the inheritance". If you're throwing a fit at two years old, that's okay. But if you're 20 years old, 40 years old, 60 years old, still giving in to the ordinary impulses, God is saying, "It's time to grow up".
If you'll take your flesh off the throne, God will start releasing some of these amazing things that he has in your future. See, spiritual maturity has nothing to do with how long you've been in church, how long you've known the Lord. It has everything to do with what kind of fruit are you displaying in your life? Are you not living by your feelings? Are you saying "No" to these emotional impulses?
I read something interesting about mountain climbers. When they're out climbing, one of the main things they have to watch out for are poisonous snakes. The snakes can be hidden behind a rock, they move it and they get bitten. Or the snakes can be on the ground, disguised. They look just like the terrain. They accidentally step on them. A snake bite way up in a mountain can easily be fatal. It can take hours, even days to be rescued. So constantly watching out for poisonous snakes is always on the forefront of their mind.
But there's something called "The snake line". When the climbers get to a certain altitude, when they get up high enough, because the air is so thin, they know that snakes cannot live at that level. They don't have to worry about getting bitten by these poisonous snakes at that height. In the same way, if you'll keep ruling over your emotions, not letting the flesh have control, as you continue growing, maturing, coming up higher, you will get to the place where the snakes, where the enemy, cannot bother you anymore.
It doesn't mean that you won't still feel the emotional, ordinary impulses. They'll still be there, but they won't affect you. Your flesh has been dethroned. Those feelings may try to get back up there from time to time, but you've developed so much self-discipline. You've sowed to the spirit so long, it's like you've crossed that snake line. The enemy cannot go where you're going.
Now, we may not all be there just yet, but don't worry. You're getting closer. We're coming up higher. The flesh is getting weaker; the spirit is getting stronger. Who's the boss? You're the boss. Now do your part. Keep saying "No" to the flesh. Like Paul, keep dying daily. If you'll do this, as you continue to grow, I believe and declare, God is going to release the inheritance, the amazing things he has in store. You're going to step into the fullness of your destiny and become everything he's created you to be, in Jesus' name.