Joel Osteen — You Are Not Damaged Goods
I want to talk to you today about how you are not damaged goods. I was in a grocery store and down one of aisles there was a whole section called damaged goods. It was mostly canned products that had been marked down because of some kind of flaw. The can was dented. The label was torn. The color was off. The store couldn't sell it for the full price because they had an imperfection. They were considered less valuable, inferior, damaged goods.
What's interesting is if you bought one of those cans, you opened it up, can of corn, can of peas, can of peaches, you would find there's nothing wrong with the inside. The can may have been dented but it didn't affect the contents. The label may have been torn. On the outside it wasn't perfect but on the inside where it matters there was no difference. The damaged goods peaches that were sold for half price tasted just as good as the peaches that were sold for full price. The corn, the peas, may have been labeled inferior, less than, but that's all it was; just a label.
It's the same principle in life. All of us in some way have been damaged. You can't live very long without making a mistake, being hurt by someone, going through a breakup, damaged by a divorce, damaged by an unhealthy childhood, damaged by an addiction. Too many people go around wearing the damaged goods label, feeling washed up, less than, focused on their mistakes, focused on what they've been through. No you've got to get out of that section. That's not where you belong.
You may have been dented on the outside, but like those cans, there's nothing wrong with the inside. That setback did not affect your DNA. That loss, that disappointment, didn't change who you are. That mistake, the failure, the weakness, didn't stop your destiny. You may have been bruised on the outside but on the inside you still have the blood of a winner. You still have the DNA of almighty God. You've been crowned with favor. You are full of potential, talent, creativity, wisdom. There is nothing wrong with your contents.
Listen, people can't keep you from your destiny. Bad breaks can't stop you. Weaknesses can't stop you. The only thing that can really stop you is you. If you wear the damaged goods label it can keep you from becoming all God has created you to be. I don't believe in giving anyone the rights to feel sorry for themselves. Life happens to us all. If you get knocked down get back up and go again. If you have a bad break don't sit around in self-pity. Shake it off and move forward. If you make a mistake don't go through life beating yourself up. Receive God's mercy and do better next time.
You may have failed but you're not a failure. You may have lost but you're not a loser. You may have had unfair things happen but you're not a victim. You're a victor. Now do yourself a favor. Take off the damaged goods label. Quit thinking about your mistakes, who hurt you, what didn't work out. God knows every person that has done you wrong, every disappointment, every struggle, every bad break and he has promised if you will stay in faith he will pay you back double for the unfair things that have happened. I've heard it said God can bring greatness out of a great mess. Sometimes we focus on the mess, the dysfunction, the broken dream, the weakness but in all the mess God sees greatness. He knows how to take your troubles and turn them into trophies, how to take the test and make it your testimony.
This is what happened to a young boy named Ishmael. He was the child that Abraham had out of wedlock with Sarah's maid Hagar. Ishmael wasn't the promised child. He was born out of Abraham and Sarah's impatience. They got tired of waiting year after year. They knew they had a promise but it wasn't happening as fast as they would like. So Sarah talked her husband Abraham into sleeping with her maid Hagar and they had this little baby boy named Ishmael.
Ishmael was born into a dysfunctional home. He was born into distrust, confusion, chaos. He would have been considered damaged goods, a mistake, not the right one. The funny thing is it was Sarah's idea but she got mad at Abraham for having a baby with another women. Sarah turned on Hagar, her once trusted maid and now she can't stand the woman. She told Abraham, "You better get your mistress and her son out of my life really, really fast". You talking about a messed up situation. They were in a love triangle and they were all living in the same house.
You think there's drama in your home? You should have been in Abraham's home. And he is called the father of our faith. That gives me hope for my own family. It got so bad that Sarah gave Abraham an ultimatum, "Either your mistress and her son leaves or I'm out of here". Abraham ended up sending Hagar and his son Ishmael out into the desert.
Now think about Ishmael. He is the innocent one in this whole ordeal. He didn't get to choose who his parents would be. He didn't choose what family he would be born into. He didn't do anything wrong. He just showed up and life threw him out into the cold. He could have had a chip on his shoulder, thought, "God, this is not fair. Why was I born into this mess? Why is my mother a mistress? Why couldn't I be Isaac, the promised child and stay here with my family"? He had all these disadvantages. He could have seen himself as damaged goods and just faded off into the sunset.
But here is the mercy of God. God said in Genesis 21, "I will bring out of Ishmael a great nation". We know God did great things with Isaac but we don't always realize God did something great with Ishmael. God was saying, "This child that's been born into dysfunction, this child that's had bad breaks, been put at a disadvantage, seen as damaged goods, I haven't written him off. He is not a mistake. I still have a plan. I'm going to bring greatness out of this great mess".
You may be in a situation now that feels dysfunctional, seems like a mess, in your family, your health, your finances, your career. You don't see how any good could ever come out of it. But if Ishmael were standing here today he would say, "Hey, let me tell you first hand. God still has a plan. It doesn't matter how you were raised, how many bad breaks you've had, how insignificant you may feel, no dysfunction, no injustice, no disappointment can keep you from your destiny". God can bring greatness out of a great mess.
Most of the time we see Ishmael as a mistake, an accident. Sarah and Abraham didn't wait for the promised child. But the truth is no baby is a mistake. A child cannot be born without God breathing life into their lungs. We hear parents say, "We weren't expecting this baby. They were a surprise". And yes, they may have been a surprise to you but they were not a surprise to the Giver of Life. In God's eyes, there is no such thing as an unwanted pregnancy. You didn't just happen to show up on planet earth. God had a plan for you long before you arrived.
God told Jeremiah, "Before you were formed in your mother's womb I knew you and called you to be a prophet to the nations". God already had an assignment for him before he got here. God was saying, "Jeremiah, you didn't start when your mother gave birth to you. Before you were formed you were with me".
In other words, our past didn't start with our family. It started with our God. I didn't come from my mother. And I love and honor my mother. But I didn't come from her. I came through her. I came from Almighty God. That means your destiny, your assignment, your purpose, cannot be messed up by who you came through. You came from the Most High God. He has the ultimate say.
In 1943, a teenager here in Houston became pregnant from a forced violent act. The young lady was distraught and confused. She planned on aborting the child but some friends talked her into having the baby and putting it up for adoption. The little boy was born at the charity ward at Saint Joseph's Hospital. He grew up in extreme poverty. His father was an alcoholic. More than once he threatened to kill his mother.
Like Ishmael, this little boy could have been seen as damaged goods, a mistake, no future to speak of. But God doesn't give life to someone without giving them a divine destiny. With the help of some loving foster parents this little boy grew up to become one of the greatest ministers of our time. Today, over 70 years later, our friend, James Robison has made a difference in people's lives around the world.
What am I saying? What looked like a mistake was not a mistake at all. If you're breathing today, if you're alive and I believe you are, you are not an accident. No matter how functional or dysfunctional your situation is, God has a destiny for you to fulfill.
You may have had a negative past but you don't have to have a negative future. This is a new day. And if you will take off the damaged goods label, get rid of the victim mentality and have a victor mentality, God will take what's meant for harm and he will use it for your good.
I love the fact that with Ishmael God brought something significant out of a child that was considered insignificant. That tells me you don't have to come from the most influential family. You don't have to have a perfect upbringing. The truth is there is dysfunction in every family. I would love to tell you that our family is perfect but then my brother Paul came along. I heard somebody say, "Our family put the func in dysfunction".
But here's the key, seriously. Don't let your heredity stop your destiny. Don't let how you were raised. What your parents did or didn't give you, how somebody treated you set the limits for your life. They may have put you at a disadvantage but you don't have to stay at a disadvantage.
I know people 60 years old still talking about what momma didn't give them and how daddy wasn't there. I'm not making light of that because those can be real hurts but talking about it is not going to make it any better. Having a "Poor old me" damaged goods mentality is not going to help. You've got to take the hand you've been dealt and make the most of it.
You situation most likely is no worse than Ishmael's. He had all kinds of disadvantages - kicked out of his home, seen as a mistake - yet God brought a great nation out of him. If you will remove the damaged goods label, shake off the self-pity, move forward in faith, God will make something significant out of your life. You will leave your mark on this generation.
I read about a young lady. She was born into a dysfunctional home. She was neglected, abused, never had any kind of stability. It got so bad, as a little girl, she asked the authorities at school to be removed from her home. The judge placed her in foster care. Several months later she was adopted by a single parent mother living in a small community dedicated to helping foster care children. She began to thrive in school, became an honor student, someone that the other young ladies looked up to.
One day she was invited along with the other people that ran the foster care community to be a guest on a national television talk show. The host asked the young ladies what their hopes and dreams were. She said, "My dream is to one day go to Harvard University, get a good education, so I can help other people like those that have helped me".
A few days later she received a phone call from out of state. The lady said, "I saw you on the talk show. I have a question for you. Would you consider a scholarship to Yale University instead of Harvard"? She said, "I think I would". She went on to graduate from Yale and today is doing great things. Don't let your heredity stop your destiny. God can bring greatness out of a great mess.
I wonder how many of us would rise to a new level if we would quit blaming the past, how we were raised, what somebody said, if we would take off the damaged goods label we would see God's favor in a new way. I've found there's always something to try to make us feel badly about ourselves. It's because the enemy is called the accuser of the brethren. He will remind you of every mistake you've made, every unfair situation, every negative comment about you. He would love for you to go through life feeling damaged, guilty, less than. You've got to put your foot down and say, "No, I'm not falling into that trap. I'm not bitter because of what happened. I'm not dwelling on their negative comments. I'm not beating myself up over past mistakes. I'm going to keep that label off and move forward with my life".
When I was growing up I played baseball all through little league and junior high. I was a second baseman. I was pretty good. I always made the all star team. Like most little leaguers my dream was to one day play professional baseball. But when I got in high school it was a whole new level of talent. I was very small. I grew six inches after high school. I tried out for the baseball team along with 150 other young men for less than 20 spots. I gave it my best.
The coach called us all into the gym to announce who made the team. My name wasn't called. I was so disappointed. The coach told me afterwards, "Joel, I'd love to have you on the team. You're just too little". And he didn't mean anything by it because I was small but I took it the wrong way.
Week after week, month after month, that phrase would play in my mind, "You heard the coach, Joel. You're too small. You don't measure up. You're not good enough. There's something wrong with you". Negative voices will always play the loudest.
If you don't take control of your thought life every hurt, every critic, every derogatory comment, will play again and again. I was tempted to let the damaged goods label stick, feel inferior, insecure. I had to keep reminding myself, "People may have said that I'm too small but God says I am fearfully and wonderfully made". "People may have said I'm not good enough but God says I'm a masterpiece. People may have rejected me but I know God accepts me".
First Peter 2 says, "You have been chosen by God himself". One translation says, "He has hand-picked you". That means you weren't randomly selected. God on purpose said, "I choose him. I choose her. That's who I want to be on my team". People may tell you you don't measure up. You're not tall enough, smart enough, talented enough, creative enough. Let it go in one ear and out the other. You are not who people say you are. You are who God says you are. God says you're just the right size. You're one of a kind, equipped, empowered, valuable. Our attitude should be, "I may not have been chosen by the coach, the teacher, the friend, the supervisor, the boss. But that's okay. I know the one who matters most, the one who controls the universe, the one who spoke worlds into existence has hand-picked me. I've been chosen by the Most High God".
Friends, God has the final say. If you will stay in faith he will get you to where he wants you to be. My dream of playing professional baseball may not have worked out but do you know some 30 years later I stood at second base at Yankee Stadium. It wasn't playing baseball. We were having a Night of Hope but I still like that too. It would have never happened if I would have worn the damaged goods label.
As long as we feel less than, inferior, washed up, it will keep you from the amazing things God has in store. And sometimes we feel damaged, not because how we were raised or what somebody said but because of our own mistakes, our own weaknesses, our shortcomings. We think, "Oh, Joel. I can't expect anything good. God would never use me. You don't know what I've done". But if that were the case, if God could only use you if you didn't have any negative baggage then none of us would have had a chance.
Think about Peter, one of the disciples. He was hot tempered. He used bad language. He denied he knew Christ three times. When Jesus needed him the most, he turned his back and said, "No, I don't even know the man". Surely Jesus would say, "Fine, Peter. If you turn your back on me then I'm done with you. You had your chance. You're damaged goods". No, God never writes anybody off. And Jesus, when he arose from the grave, an angel appeared to Mary at the tomb and said, "Mary, Jesus has risen. Now go tell his disciples. And Mary, make sure that you tell Peter".
The only one God specifically called out at that historic time was Peter. Why? God knew the accuser would work overtime trying to stick that damaged goods label on Peter. If he'd worn it, he would have never fulfilled his destiny. So God specifically called his name.
Like Peter, you may have made mistakes. Blown it. Failed. You're not expecting anything good. Imagine right now God is specifically calling your name. Saying, "Tell James. Tell Susan. Tell Maria. I've already forgiven you. My mercy is bigger than that mistake. I've got a destiny for you to fulfill".
Now you've got to shake off the guilt. Quit living condemned. Take off the damaged goods label. You wouldn't be alive unless God had something amazing in your future. If you were truly damaged goods, unusable, God would have taken you on home. God has a purpose for you. You're assignment is too important. Your destiny too great. Your time too valuable to live another moment thinking that you're damaged goods. Shake it off and move forward into the bright future God has in store.
This is what my father had to do. Daddy was married at a very early age. It wasn't a good choice. The marriage didn't last. He was devastated. He thought his ministry was over. He didn't think he'd ever have a family. And unfortunately, some of the people in his life weren't very merciful. They told him, "You're not welcome in our church. You had your chance but you blew it". They stuck the damaged goods label on my father. Washed up. Unusable.
Daddy didn't know any better. He ended up resigning from the church and started selling insurance. And sometimes, your own thoughts will accuse you. Other times, the enemy will use people to accuse you. They'll tell you all the reasons you could never become what you were created to be. Don't believe those lies. God knew every mistake you'd ever make. And he's already arranged a comeback. And when you're tempted, and we all are, to look down on people, find fault, be critical, you need to realize where that's coming from. That's the accuser's influence. Jesus always lifted the fallen, restored the broken, showed mercy to those that had failed.
For several years, my father lived depressed, defeated, no passion. One day, he realized what I'm telling you. You don't have to wear the damaged goods label. You may have made poor choices, gone through failures. But our God is the God of another chance. His mercy is from everlasting to everlasting. His calling will never leave your life.
Now, quit listening to the accusing voices. Quit letting people make you feel washed up. They don't determine your destiny, God does. My father got back in the ministry. He went on to pastor churches for over 50 years. He was married to my mother for over 44 years. He saw God restore him and do amazing things. God can do the same thing for each one of us.
The scripture talks about how Jeremiah went down to the potter's house. And he was watching this potter working at the wheel, spinning around this clay pot, this vessel again and again. At one point, it says, "The vessel became marred in the potter's hands". That means it was broken, it had flaws, defects. But the potter didn't throw it into the damaged goods pile, and say, "Too bad. I've got to get something better to work with. This is not usable". No, it says, "The potter began to remake the vessel once again". And when it was all said and done, it came out stronger, more beautiful than it was before.
The potter, of course, represents God. We are the clay. All of us have flaws and weaknesses. We go through failures, disappointments, unfair situations. At times, it's like we end up broken, hurt; disappointed. But that is not the end of your story. If you will stay in faith and not get bitter, not get down on yourself; God will take your broken pieces, your hurts, the weaknesses, the unfair situations and he will use them to not just put you back together but he'll make you into something better, stronger, more beautiful than if it had not happened.
I've heard it said like this: any chef can cook something good when they have good ingredients, a good oven, good recipes, good tools, that's easy. But it takes a master chef to take ingredients that are not perfect, ingredients that are bitter, sour, and still make something good out of it. That's the way God is. He's not just a chef; he's a master chef. He can take any ingredient that you give him; anything you've been through, your hurts, the disappointments, the unfair situation and mix them together and still make something out of your life more than you ever dreamed of.
Why don't you take off the damaged goods label? You're not working with an ordinary chef. You're working with the master chef, the Creator of the universe. At times in life, you may get dented but you've got to remember, just like those cans, there's nothing wrong on the inside. You are still a child of the Most High God filled with possibility. Now do your part, shake off the guilt, quit listening to the accusing voices and move forward with your life. If you do this, I believe and declare God will bring greatness out of a great mess. Like Ishmael, he will make something significant out of your life. Like with my father, God will not only restore you but he'll bring you out better off than you were before. In Jesus' name.