Joel Osteen — Activate the Right Genes
I want to talk to you today about activating the right genes. We receive our DNA from our parents. These genes that are passed down tell us what we're going to look like, how tall we're going to be, what color our hair is.
People tell us often that our son Jonathan has his mother's eyes. He looks just like Victoria. I say, "Thank God". Not only are physical traits passed down through genes but even personality traits, our demeanor, our attitude, our sense of humor. Our daughter Alexandra is very neat and organized. From the time she was a little girl she kept her room perfectly clean, everything in place; spotless. We never asked her to do that. That trait came from my grandfather. He was the same way. My mother is like that and now our daughter. It's been passed down for four generations.
Somewhere there is a gene that says, "Be neat. Be organized. Keep everything perfectly in place". But just as good characteristics can be passed down so can negative characteristics. If one of your parents was an alcoholic there's a ten times greater chance of you becoming an alcoholic.
For years we thought, "Well, too bad. It's in my genes: depression, addictions, low self-esteem. Nothing I can do about it". But recently researchers have discovered something they call epigenetics. That word means, "On top of the genes". What they found is just because a gene has been passed down doesn't mean that it has to be activated. It can be affected by your decisions, by your environment and by your experiences. Now, while we cannot deactivate what color our hair will be or the shape of our eyes, there are certain genes that we can, in effect, turn on or turn off.
They're discovering what the scripture says that just because you inherit something doesn't mean you have to pass it down. You can deactivate the negative genes that have been passed down to you. In other words, just because your mother was depressed doesn't mean you're supposed to be depressed. You may have a natural tendency toward that. What you have to do is turn off that gene. Deactivate it. Don't pass it down to your children. It's easy to use it as an excuse. "Well, momma was depressed. Grandmother was negative. Great-grandmother was a complainer. Joel, that's just who I am". No, that is not who you are. You are a child of the Most High God.
And just as you got your physical DNA from your earthly parents you've got your spiritual DNA from your Heavenly Father. He put in you genes of joy, genes of strength, genes of peace, genes of victory. Now you get to choose which genes come alive. You may have had a lot of negative baggage passed down to you. In your family line are addictions, divorce, depression, low self-esteem. Don't be passive and just accept it. God has raised you up to put an end to it. You've got to draw a line in the sand and say, "That's it. I'm turning off the depressed gene. I am not going to live my life discouraged. This is the day the Lord has made. I am going to choose to be happy".
What are you doing? Deactivating the depressed gene. You're turning it off. Why don't you turn off the negative gene? Turn off the alcoholic gene. Turn off the self-pity gene. This is a new day. Don't blame the past, blame momma, blame granddaddy. Take responsibility and start activating the right genes. If you'll start making right choices you can override the negative things you inherited. You can break a generational curse.
You have the power not only to put an end to it but you can start a generational blessing. You can pass down things that will make it easier on your loved ones. After all, our children have enough to overcome without carrying around all of our negative baggage. Even if you don't do it for yourself do it for your children. Do it to make it easier on those that come after you. The scripture calls this negative baggage an iniquity. It talks about how it can be passed down for four generations. The things you struggle with, they didn't just happen to show up. Somebody in your family line opened the door.
I talked to a young lady that deals with anorexia. She's skin and bones. She told how her mother has the same problem. Her grandmother struggled with it as well. That's not a coincidence. That is an iniquity being passed from generation to generation. It will continue until somebody rises up and puts a stop to it. Somebody has to deactivate that gene. God said in Deuteronomy, chapter 30, "I set before you life and death, blessing and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants will live".
Notice your decisions don't just affect you. They affect future generations. No man lives and dies unto himself. We've heard a lot about the generational curse but what's more important is our generational choice. Every right choice you make you start to override the wrong choices of those that have gone before you. When you choose life, you choose blessing, you choose the victory, you and your descendants will see God's favor.
I was reading about the famous author Ernest Hemmingway. While he was one of the greatest writers of his day his family had a long line of depression, alcoholism and suicide. Hemmingway took his own life in 1961. His sister committed suicide five years later. His brother committed suicide sixteen years after that. His granddaughter did the same thing in 1996. What's interesting is Hemmingway's father took his life in 1928.
I was wondering what would have happened way back there in the '20's if the father would have deactivated the suicide gene. What if he would have risen up and said, "No. I've been made in the image of Almighty God. I have a purpose and a destiny. I am shaking off these negative, defeated thoughts. I know the power in me is greater than any force coming against me". If he would have taken authority over that negative spirit and instead activated the faith gene, the victory gene, the more than a conqueror gene, he could have changed his family line. He could have broken the generational curse and started a generational blessing.
You may be at that same place today. You could easily settle where you are, let the negative genes get passed down, make it harder on those that come after you. Or, you could make a much better choice and say, "No. Enough is enough. I am not going to live my life addicted, angry, defeated, depressed. I am not passing down that negative baggage. I'm choosing life. I'm choosing blessings. I'm going to make choices that help my family and not hinder them.
One time in the scripture God told Saul to go and destroy the amalekites, to totally wipe them out. Saul and his army went out and they defeated the amalekites but they spared the king. They captured him. He was king Agag. Fast forward hundreds of years. Esther is in the palace. A man by the name of Haman is trying to get rid of her and all of her people. It says that Haman was an Agite. An Agite is a descendant of king Agag. If Saul would have taken care of his enemy when God gave him the power to do it Esther wouldn't be having this problem 500 years later.
Could it be that if you don't put an end to what you're dealing with your family will still be struggling with it hundreds of years from now? God is saying, "This is your time. This is your moment. Your destiny is calling out to you". You can either put up with it and let it conquer you or you can say, "No. The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives on the inside of me. I will conquer this addiction". "I will conquer this depression, this low self-esteem. I will not allow it to linger for future generations to have to deal with".
Friends, you were never created to live addicted, angry, constantly having to struggle. Those genes may have been passed down but you have the power to break negative cycles. They may have been in your family for hundreds of years but when you gave your life to Christ you became a new creation. He put new genes in you. You have the DNA of almighty God. There is strength in your genes. There is power in your genes. There is freedom in your genes. Now don't settle where you are. "Oh, Joel. Everybody in my family gets divorced. Looks like I'm headed that way". "Everybody struggles with these addictions". "Everybody has financial problems". No, here's the catch. You're not everybody. God has called you to put an end to it. You are equipped, empowered and well able.
This is what the prophet Ezekiel said, an interesting scripture. "The fathers ate the sour grapes. Now the children's teeth are set on edge. 'As long as I live,' declares the sovereign Lord, 'you will no longer quote this.'" This was a proverb they were living by. Their attitude was, "Since the father had problems the children will as well. Nothing we can do about it. Since the father ate the sour grapes, since the parents had addictions, since the grandparents were depressed, then the children will struggle in those same areas".
That was their philosophy. Then God showed up and said through Ezekiel, "Stop saying that. Why do you keep using your relatives as an excuse? Why do you keep using what your parents did and the way you were raised as the reason to stay where you are? As long as the sovereign Lord lives you don't have to be held bondage by the negative things in your past". In other words, your parents may have eaten the sour grapes. Your relatives may have made decisions that put you at a disadvantage but God is saying, "It doesn't have to affect you. It may have held you back temporarily but this is a new day".
If you will start deactivating those genes, pressing forward, then all the forces of darkness cannot hold you back. You don't have to eat the sour grapes. You've been redeemed. You're not under the curse. You're under the blessing. You have stepped into a new bloodline. The good news is there's no defeat in this bloodline. There's no lack, no addictions, no mediocrity. You are a child of the Most High God.
I am here to announce that the sovereign Lord is still alive. God is still on the throne. That means you don't have to eat those sour grapes. Now, our part; shake off the self-pity. Don't make excuses. Don't blame the past. Don't blame your parents. Don't blame your circumstances. That may be the reason you are where you are but that doesn't give you the right to stay there. Start dealing with the issues that are holding you back. Start activating the right genes.
That's what a good friend of mine did. He was raised in a very dysfunctional home. His father was an alcoholic and he would get very violent. He saw him mistreat his mother, be disrespectful and go off into these fits of rage. He ended up just like his father. He was a drug addict and living a very violent, angry life. In his late 20's he gave his life to Christ and had this major turnaround. Long story short, he became the pastor of a church. A very well respected man. A large church.
He would go around the world sharing his story. But what people didn't know is he still had an anger problem. God set him free from the addictions, the drugs, the alcohol but the anger never left. He didn't show it out in public but at home, when nobody was around, the smallest things would set him off. Just like his father, he would go into these fits of rage. He too was very abusive to his wife. He didn't like it. He knew it was wrong but he couldn't control himself. He wanted to get help but he was too embarrassed. He thought, "I can't tell anybody. I'm the pastor of a church. What would they think about me? I'm supposed to be an example".
But this is where we miss it. Just because you're dealing with a tough issue doesn't make you a bad person. Most likely somebody in your family line opened the door. Somebody allowed that iniquity and they refused to deal with it. Don't be like them. Don't sweep it under the rug, ignore it, hope that it will go away. That will keep you in bondage. James 5:16 says, "Confess your faults one to another and you will be healed".
Do you know there are some issues you cannot overcome on your own? You have to swallow your pride and find somebody you can trust, a pastor, a counselor, a friend. Tell them what you're dealing with. Let them pray with you, stand with you and bring accountability into your life. When you get it out in the open and say, "God, I need help with this anger," when you take steps to overcome, you attend the celebrate recovery classes, that's when the scripture says, "You will be healed". You don't have to keep eating the sour grapes.
That's what my friend did. Today, he is one of the most kind, most gentle people you'll ever meet. What did he do? He broke the generational curse. He chose life so his children won't have to deal with it. He deactivated that gene. It's still in him. It was passed down but it's not affecting him. There is no addiction that is too much for you to overcome, no iniquity, nothing that has been passed down has to keep you from your God given destiny. The power in you is greater than any power that's coming against you.
Now don't do like he did at first and learn to function in your dysfunction. God didn't create you to have issues and things you have to hide and feel bad about yourself. He created you to be totally free. But some of you, like my friend, what you saw modeled growing up wasn't healthy. It's easy to think that that's normal. Maybe your parents didn't show much affection to you and now you're not showing much affection to your children. Or maybe there was violence, anger, disrespect in the home. Don't pass that down. Deactivate that gene. Be affectionate to your children.
"Well, Joel. I'm a man. I don't hug my son. After all, he's grown". No. Let me tell you, a real man still hugs his son. A real man treats his wife with respect and honor. Men, the scripture says that your wife is a reflection of your glory. If she's beaten down, discouraged, worn out, then you're not shining too brightly. She's reflecting your glory. You need to step it up a notch. Do something to put the spring back in her step, the smile back in her face. Take her to the mall. Buy her something new. Send her some flowers. Write her a note. Tell her how great she is. The brighter she shines the better you look. That's why I keep Victoria looking fine. She makes me look good.
But don't go to the mall today. Okay. Another thought. Fathers, your daughter is going to marry somebody just like you. If you treat your wife lousy, don't give her the time of day, put her down, that's the kind of man your daughter is going to be attracted to. Our children follow our example more than they follow our advice. They're constantly taking everything in. They're like a video camera with legs. They're always in the record mode. They're watching how you treat people. When you treat your wife like a queen, you give her compliments, encourage her, when you bring her coffee in bed, you open the car door, you bring her gifts, you make her feel loved, valued, respected, honored.
Listen, your daughter is going to marry a winner. Your daughter will marry somebody just like that. Now you may not have seen this growing up. You may have seen just the opposite. What I'm saying today is you can set a new standard. Choose life. Choose honor. Choose respect. Pass that down to future generations.
A few years back we were on vacation at this very nice hotel with our family. It was a large place. The rooms were spread out all over the property, very beautiful. When we first arrived the bellman took us to our room down this long winding sidewalk. You had to curve around through these bungalows and over this bridge and around this big lake and we finally made it to our room. It was very complicated how to get there so I paid close attention.
A few nights later we were leaving the lobby, just eaten dinner and we were walking back to our hotel room. Our son Jonathan, he was about ten at the time, he said, "Dad, you know we're taking the long way. It's much quicker this way". I said, "No, Jonathan. I paid close attention. This is the way the bellman took us. This is the right way". He said, "No, dad. I'm telling you. This way is quicker". I said, "Jonathan, I am positive this is the right way".
For the next couple of days we always went my way. Each time Jonathan said, "Dad, we're going the long way again". I said, "No we're not, Jonathan. This is the right way". The last day Jonathan said, "Dad, can we go my way at least once"? I said, "Alright. We'll go your way". Jonathan led us down these stairs through this narrow passageway and our room was right there. I promise you it was probably a hundred yards closer than the way we had been going. I said, "Jonathan, why didn't you tell me"?
Come to find out, the bellman had taken us the long scenic route so we could see the whole property. I looked at it on a map. We were going in a complete circle coming all the way back to our room. If I would have just listened to Jonathan we could have gone straight to the room, saved us a lot of time.
Sometimes in life what we've seen modeled growing up is not the best route. "Well, my mother was a worrier. Now I'm a worrier". Can I tell you that's the long way? "Well, my dad always lost his temper. You know, Joel. Like father, like son. I can't control my temper either". That's the long way. You need to examine what you do. Ask yourself, "Am I taking the long way? Am I holding onto a grudge, not forgiving, because that's what I've seen modeled? Am I living insecure, feeling less than because that's the way the people were that raised me? Am I making poor choices, giving into temptation, compromising, because that's all I've ever seen"? Friends, that's the long way. Don't get stuck in a rut and go that way year after year. Recognize what's happening and make the right adjustments.
I heard about this lady. She wrote her autobiography in four very short chapters. It goes something like this. Chapter one, "I walked down the street. There was a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fell into it. It wasn't my fault. It took me a long time but I finally got out". Chapter two, "I walked down the same street. There was a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fell into it. It was my fault. It took me a long time but I finally got out". Chapter three, "I walked down the same street. There was a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walked around it". Chapter four, "I walked down a different street".
But too often we keep repeating the same mistakes, making excuses. "It's not my fault". Blaming the past. Blaming our parents. No. Take responsibility. Don't go down that same path again and again, losing your cool, compromising, worried, negative. If you'll break those cycles of repetitive behavior you will go to a new level of your destiny.
In 1874, a member of the New York prison board noticed that there were six people from the same family serving in one of the prisons. He was intrigued and did a study. He traced the family line back to a man by the name of Max Jukes. Jukes was born in 1720. He was known in the town as the troublemaker, a heavy drinker with no integrity. He married a woman just like him. They had six daughters and two sons.
Twelve hundred of their descendants were studied. Of those, 310 were homeless, 180 were alcoholics, 161 were drug addicts, 150 were criminals, while seven of them committed murder. Another family that lived around that same time was studied. His name was Jonathan Edwards. He was a famous theologian and the president of Princeton University. He was born in 1703 and married his wife Sarah. He was a devoted family man. They remained married for 31 years until his death. They had eleven children.
Fourteen hundred of their descendants were studied. Among them, thirteen were college presidents, 66 were professors, 100 were attorneys, 85 were authors of classic books, 32 were state judges, 66 were physicians and 80 were holders of public office, including three governors, three U.S. Senators and one vice-president of the United States.
What am I saying? It makes a difference what you're passing down. Your decisions are affecting future generations. Like the Jukes, you may have some negative things in your family line. They will continue until somebody rises up and puts a stop to it. I'm saying today you can be that person. God has raised you up for such a time as this. You have the most powerful force in the universe on the inside of you.
Don't be complacent and learn to live with things that are less than God's best. You will never change what you tolerate. You've got to put your foot down and say, "That's it. I'm not going to live my life addicted, angry, depressed, defeated. I'm deactivating those genes and I'm going to start making choices that help my family and not hinder it".
You can be the one to start a godly heritage for your family line. You can break any generational curse and start a generational blessing. You don't have to eat the sour grapes. The sovereign Lord is still alive. If you'll learn to activate the right genes, make choices that honor God, then I believe and declare you will break every negative cycle that's held you back. You and your family will rise to a new level of honor, and you will always live under the blessing and never the curse. In Jesus' name.