Joel Osteen — Just Remember
I want to talk to you today about "Just remember". When you look back over your life, some of the things you faced at the time you didn't think you could make it through. The obstacle was so large, the break up hurt you so badly, the medical report was so negative you didn't see a way but God turned it around. He gave you strength when you didn't think you could go on. He brought the right person when you thought you'd always be lonely. He promoted you, gave you that good break, things fell into place.
Now you're further along than you ever imagined. It wasn't a lucky break. It wasn't a coincidence. It was the hand of God. You should've been stuck, addicted, broke, depressed, lonely, but God made a way when you didn't see a way. You can say like me, "I didn't get here by myself. It wasn't just my good luck, my hard work, my talent. It was the favor of God. He made things happen that I could never make happen on my own". But none of us like difficulties. If we had a choice we wouldn't go through them. But those challenges not only prepared you for your future, but now you have a history with God.
When you're in a tough time, you don't see a way out, instead of being discouraged, negative, you can go back and remember how God turned your health around. Remember how he gave you that baby when the specialist said you couldn't have a child. Remember how he brought you out of that trouble that you got yourself in. When you remember how God has protected you, promoted you, healed you, restored you, faith will rise in your heart. Instead of thinking, "I'll never get out of this problem", you'll know, "God did it for me once, he'll do it for me again. He made a way in the past, I know he's going to make a way in the future". Don't complain about the problem. It's not random. You're going to need that victory in the future. God is taking you from glory to glory. When you come through this challenge, that victory will be the fuel you use that gets you to the next level of glory.
This is what happened with the Israelites. They were up against huge armies, people that were stronger, had more equipment, more skill. The Israelites had just come out of slavery. They had no military training, no weapons, they were just trying to survive out in the desert. They were headed toward the Promised Land but they had all these enemies to overcome. They were very discouraged. They didn't know how they could do it. God said to them in Deuteronomy 7, "You may think, 'how can we conquer these nations that are much stronger than us?' But don't be afraid. Just remember what God did to Pharaoh. You saw with your own eyes the miraculous signs and the amazing power God used to bring you out". God was saying, "When it looks impossible, you don't see a way out, the way to stay encouraged, the way to keep your hopes up is just remember what God has done".
Like the Israelites, every one of you has seen with your own eyes times where God made a way. You thought you were stuck but God opened a door, he caused somebody to be good to you. Or you lost a loved one. You didn't think you would ever be happy again but God lifted you out of that pit. He turned your mourning into dancing. When you face tough times, your dream looks impossible, every voice says, "It's never going to happen". Just remember. Go back and replay your victories. Relive the times God made a way. Remember how he put you at the right place and you met that person and fell in love. Remember how he spared your life from that accident. Remember how the medical report said you shouldn't be here but here you are alive, strong and healthy.
If you're going to overcome those obstacles, if you're going to reach your highest potential, you have to learn to just remember. When you're constantly thinking about God's goodness, how he's protected you, vindicated you, promoted you, not only will faith rise in your heart but it's that attitude of expectancy that allows God to do great things. On a regular basis, we should go back over the major victories in our life. Remember the day your children were born. That was a great miracle. Remember how God gave you that job, how he protected you, how you met the right person. Develop this habit of remembering what God has done.
I remember in my early twenties walking into a jewelry store to buy a battery for my watch. Minding my own business and out walked the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen. It was Victoria. We ended up dating for a year and a half and she couldn't keep her hands off of me so we got married. At least that's the way I remember it! I recognize that wasn't a coincidence. That wasn't a lucky break. That was God directing my steps, putting me at the right place at the right time. When I think about that, it reminds me how God is in control of my life. If he was directing my steps back then, I know he's directing my steps right now.
The apostle Paul talks about in the scripture "The mercies of God", not singular but plural. And every one of us has experienced some of these mercies. Walking into the jewelry store that day, that was one of the mercies of God.
When I was first married, I was driving on the freeway during a big rainstorm. I lost control of my car, started spinning around and around, crossing the different lanes of the freeway. At one point I looked up and this 18-wheeler was coming right at me. I was going the wrong direction. We were so close I felt like I could touch his front grill and I thought, "Boy, that's it. I'm done". All I could say was "Jesus". When you're in trouble, you don't have to pray long. Some of you would've said something else, but we won't talk about that. Somehow that big truck missed me, the driver pulled over, he came up to my window, his eyes were this big. He said, "I can't believe I didn't run over you but at the last second a big gust of wind blew my truck into the other lane". He said it was the wind, I know it was the mercies of God.
When our son, Jonathan, was a little boy, less than a year old, we were on a boat with some friends. He was in the baby carrier and we'd set it on the bench there in the boat. As we were traveling along, something whispered to Victoria, go hold onto your son. She walked over and held onto the baby carrier. About 30 seconds later, the boat hit a huge wave, everything that wasn't tied down went flying over board. He too would've been thrown into the water if not for the mercies of God.
Many of you, you can say like me, you wouldn't be alive if it wasn't for God's mercy. Some of the things you've done, the crowds you used to run with, the drugs, the alcohol, that should've taken you out but God showed you some of his mercies. Not once, but again and again. Maybe you shouldn't have that position you're in. You weren't the most qualified but the mercies of God gave it to you. Or perhaps that sickness said it was going to be the end but the mercies of God said, "This is not your time".
When you recognize what God has done, you don't take for granted that all through your life it's been his hand getting you to where you are. Then it's easy to honor God, it's easy to be grateful. It's easy to serve, to give, to help others. You realize where you are in life is because of the mercies of God. You know you're driving a mercy car. You're living in a mercy house. You're working at a mercy job. You didn't just marry over your head, you married mercy. Maybe you should've had a nervous breakdown but mercy showed up. You should be depressed but mercy turned you around. You could be in prison but mercy kept you out. Or you tried to take your life, mercy kept you alive. Mercy gave you that baby. Mercy gave you that idea. Mercy opened that door. Don't take it for granted.
Keep it on the forefront of your mind. You're not just lucky, you don't just keep beating the odds. It's the mercies of God. In fact, the reason you're still here, the reason that truck couldn't run over you, the reason those drugs couldn't kill you, the reason the sickness couldn't take you out is because God has a destiny for you to fulfill. He has an assignment for you to accomplish. His mercies are never going to give up on you. His calling is irrevocable. He chose you before you could choose him. You might as well recognize you're a marked man, a marked woman. The Creator of the universe has his hand on your life. The sooner you surrender your will to his, the better off you're going to be. You're not giving up anything. You're gaining purpose, destiny, a life that he's designed, a life more rewarding than you ever imagined.
David said, "If it had not been for the goodness of God, where would I be"? He was saying in effect, "If God had not shown me some of these mercies, I wouldn't have defeated Goliath. I wouldn't have been able to outlast king Saul trying to kill me in the desert without the mercies of God. Or I wouldn't have been restored after my mistake with Bathsheba without God's mercy".
A young man told me how he's had a serious drug problem for many years. The other day he was out partying with some friends and accidentally got all these different kinds of drugs mixed up. He took so many that his friends began to panic. They thought for sure he would pass out, have convulsions. But those drugs had no effect on him. It was like they had lost all their power. He said, "Joel, I came to church today because I'm one lucky guy". I told him what I'm telling you. It's a lot more than luck: it's the mercies of God. Psalm 129 says, "From my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me but they have never been able to finish me off".
Sometimes you need to just thank God that you're still here. Cancer couldn't finish you off. Depression couldn't finish you off. That divorce, the legal problem, the bankruptcy couldn't finish you off. The person talking about you. The haters, the critics, the naysayers, they tried to push you down, make you look bad. They did their best but their best was not enough. You're still standing, you're still strong, you still got a smile. They couldn't finish you off. You got knocked down but you got back up again. You had a setback, a breakup, but you're still in the game. You went through a loss but you didn't get bitter, you kept moving forward. That setback could not finish you off.
My father, when he was a little boy, fell into a large fire. That fire should have taken his life but the fire could not finish him off. He was raised during the great depression with nothing but poverty could not finish him off. His first marriage as a young man didn't make it. He was told he could never be in ministry but divorce couldn't finish him off. Years later, some people turned on him, asked him to leave his church. But betrayal couldn't finish him off. He had high blood pressure most of his life. That couldn't finish him off. Had to raise my brother Paul, that came very, very close.
What am I saying? God has the final say. People can't finish you off. A bad break, betrayal, rejection, sickness. When the enemy comes in like a flood, the scripture says God raises up a barrier. God will put a stop to it. The forces that are for you are greater than the forces that are against you. You may be in a difficult time. Don't get discouraged. Just remember the Red Seas God has parted in your life. Remember how God's delivered you from the Pharaoh, so to speak. How he snatched you out of that harmful situation. How he closed that door that would've been a big mistake. How he blessed you with that position.
You have a history with God. You've seen his mercies not once, but again and again, showing out in your life. You need to announce to that cancer, "You can't finish me off. The God who spoke worlds into existence breathed his life into me. He controls the number of my days". Announce to that depression, fear, anxiety, "You're not going to finish me off. God promised I will finish my course with joy". Or that person at the office that's trying to push you down, make you look bad, don't get discouraged. They don't control your destiny. They can't stop God's plan for your life. When those negative thoughts come telling you, "This sickness is going to sink you. This legal problem, this depression it's going to be the end". Just answer back, "You don't realize who you're dealing with. I'm a child of the most high God. You cannot finish me off". God is called the author and the finisher of our faith. What he started in your life, he will finish. Not a bad break, not a disappointment, not a sickness, God is the finisher.
In the scripture, Saul was one of the greatest enemies of the church. He was headed toward Damascus to persecute believers. He had permission from the courts to arrest any followers of Christ. He was on his mission, had papers in hand when suddenly a bright light shone down from heaven. It was so strong that it knocked him off his horse. He fell flat on his back and couldn't see. The believers in Damascus had this powerful enemy coming toward them. He was going to cause them heartache and pain. It looked inevitable but in a split second God stopped it.
There are times you knew nothing about but something was coming your way. A bad break, an accident, a sickness. It was already en route. It should've finished you off but God said, "No, I don't think so. That's my son, that's my daughter. He put a stop to it". That 18-wheeler should've finished me off but God stopped the truck. Some of these things you knew nothing about but God stopped the cancer, stopped the betrayal; stopped the rejection. It was all behind the scenes. That's the mercies of God. And sometimes you need to thank God for what didn't happen. Thank him for the enemies he stopped that you knew nothing about.
Well, you say, "Joel, this sounds good today. It's encouraging but I've had a lot of bad breaks, gone through a lot of disappointments, I didn't get the promotion I worked hard for. This person walked out of my life". Here's the problem. You're remembering the wrong things. I can't find one place in the scripture where we're supposed to remember our defeats, remember our failures, remember our bad breaks. "Well, this company laid me off 27 years ago. It wasn't right". Can I tell you respectfully? It's time to get over it. Quit thinking about it, quit talking about it; quit reliving it. All that's doing is depressing yourself. You're making yourself defeated.
Has God done anything good for you in the last 27 years? Have you see one promotion, one healing, one sign of his favor? If you will start remembering your victories, the times God healed you, the times he promoted you, the times he stopped the accident, the times he turned the problem around. When you're remembering the right things, you're going to move forward in faith. You'll see more of God's favor.
David said in Psalm 34, "Let all who are discouraged take heart". He goes on to tell how to do it. The next verse says, "Come, let's talk about God's goodness. I prayed and the Lord answered my prayer". He was saying, "When you're discouraged, when you don't see a way out. Come and let's talk. Not about your problems, not about what didn't work out. No, let's talk about God's greatness. Let's talk about your answered prayers. Let's talk about the Red Seas that have been parted".
What you're saying in your tough times will make you or break you. If you go around saying, "I'll never get out of this problem. It's just too big". You'll get stuck. But if you'll turn it around and say, "God, I want to thank you for your greatness in my life. Thank you for giving me this job. Lord, thank you for freeing me from this addiction". When you're always talking about God's goodness, you won't be down and discouraged. You'll have a spring in your step, a smile on your face. You'll know God's done it for you in the past; he'll do it again for you in the future.
A friend of mine is a big fisherman. In his house, he has all these impressive fish mounted on the walls. A large swordfish over his fireplace. A blue marlin hanging on the wall next to his television. In his family room, there's this big hammerhead shark, it must have been 10 feet long up there on the wall like a trophy. The first time I went there, we spent over an hour just going through the house, taking in all those impressive fish. He told me how he caught them, what kind of bait he used. That blue marlin took him over 2 hours to struggle and reel that in.
What's interesting is over the years he's caught a lot of small fish. Trout, flounder, smaller things but none of them were up on the walls. He only mounted the large fish. The small ones were fine, they had value, you can eat them but they weren't mountable. In the same way, God has done many great things for us. He provides our daily needs, he gives us strength, gives us wisdom, protects us. We're all thankful. We're grateful for his goodness. But God wants to do some things in your life that are mountable.
Some things that are so big, so impressive, you can hang them on your wall, so to speak. When people come over, when they see you, you have something to point at. "This is what God did in my life". You know what this building is? The former Compaq Center? It's mountable. People driving on the freeway, "That used to be a sports arena, now it's Lakewood church". They're saying, "Look what God has done". My mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a few weeks to live. Today, 34 years later, she's still alive, healthy and strong. Everywhere she goes she has something to talk about, something impressive, something out of the ordinary, a trophy of God's goodness. All of you can look back and see times where God did something unusual.
Maybe you shouldn't be living in that house that you're in. You didn't have the funds, but things fell into place. You know it was the hand of God. That's mountable. Perhaps you struggled with an addiction. You were off course but today you're healthy, you're clean, you're free, you're being a blessing to others. Like my mother, you are a living testimony. You don't have to go look for a miracle; you are a miracle. When you need to be encouraged, just go look at yourself in the mirror. You shouldn't be where you are.
Perhaps you should still be struggling, addicted, angry, depressed, lonely, but God in his mercy showed up and said, "I don't think so". When it looked impossible, he stopped it. He's given you something to talk about. You're a trophy of God's goodness. Now here's the key. Don't let what once was a miracle become ordinary. Don't lose the awe of what God has done. Like my friend when I went to his house, he couldn't wait to show off all those impressive fish that he had caught. Everywhere you go, talk about God's goodness. Not bragging on yourself, but bragging on what God has done.
I heard my father probably 1,000 times tell how he gave his life to Christ. It happened when he was 17 but at 75 he was still telling it like it had happened yesterday. He never lost the amazement. When you constantly think about what God has done, you relive your miracles, you're always in awe of his goodness then you are putting yourself in position for God to do something more amazing. God wants to give you some new things to mount. Get ready for favor that you haven't seen, opportunity, influence, promotion. He has something out of the ordinary, something impressive, a new level coming your way.
One time the disciples were on a boat. They had just seen Jesus take five loaves of bread and two fish. When he prayed over it, that multiplied and fed over 5,000 people. At the end of that day, he told these disciples to gather up the leftovers, get in the boat and cross to the other side. Now it was the middle of the night. The waves were very big, the wind so strong. They were concerned for their safety when they saw Jesus walking on the water. At first they thought he was a ghost. They finally recognized him, invited him into their boat. When he did, the winds and waves calmed down immediately.
They were relieved that they were okay. But the scripture gives us insight into why they were so worried. It says, "They didn't consider the miracle of the loaves". They were so stressed out wondering if they were going to make it to the other side when earlier that day they had seen with their own eyes one of the greatest miracles ever recorded. If they would've just remembered what God did earlier that day, if they would've just considered the miracle then they would've stayed in faith, they would've been fine knowing that everything was going to be okay. What's interesting is they were obedient. They did what Jesus asked. They were faithful. Where they missed it is they forgot what God had done.
Are you doing what they did? Letting your circumstances, a medical report, a financial situation, cause you to live worried, stressed out? Why don't you start considering your miracles? Look back over your life. Remember that time God showed up and suddenly turned it around. Look up on your wall and relive some of those mountable things God has done. How are you going to defeat the Pharaohs in your life? How are you going to overcome those large obstacles?
God is saying to you what he said to the Israelites. Just remember. You have a history with God. Every victory he's given you wasn't just for that time, it was so you could go back and use that as fuel to build your faith. You may be low on faith. You need to go back and get some fuel. It's in your past victories. Don't talk about your problems, talk about the greatness of God. Remember, the enemy cannot finish you off; God has the final say. I believe and declare if you will just remember, God is about to show out in your life. He's going to give you something new to mount. You're going to rise higher, accomplish your dreams and reach the fullness of your destiny in Jesus' name.