Joel Osteen — Secret Frustrations
I want to talk to you today about secret frustrations. We can be blessed in many areas, with good health, good family, a good job, but then just have one thing that's not right. One temptation we can't seem to overcome. One thing in a relationship that's not fulfilling. Or maybe one nagging health issue. Nobody can see it. On the outside we seem fine but on the inside we're frustrated.
I talked to a lady last week. She volunteers as one of our prayer partners. She and her husband have been believing to have a baby for many years with no success. Every so often during the services she'll pray for people in that same situation - to have a child. Over time, again and again, they'll bring their babies back, so happy. She sees their prayers being answered but her own prayers not being answered. She looks like she's on top of the world. She's beautiful, successful, great husband. But what you can't see is this secret frustration, that one thing she can't understand.
Life is full of contradictions. You're helping other people get well but you don't feel that well. Your coworkers are all being promoted. You're working just as hard, producing just as much, but nobody notices you. If we're honest we all have these secret frustrations, things that we know God could change. We know he could open the door. He could remove the temptation. He could give us the baby we've been dreaming about. But it's not happening.
We have to realize God is a sovereign God. We're not going to understand why everything happens. There are some things that God doesn't remove, some situations he waits a long time to change. You have to trust that he knows what's best for you. Everything that's not changing, what he is not removing, if you will keep the right attitude, it won't work against you. It will work for you. Don't let the contradictions of life cause you to be sour and give up on your dreams.
The apostle Paul wrote over half of the new testament. He came from an influential family, was highly educated. God used him in incredible ways. But as effective as Paul was he had this secret frustration. He called it a thorn in his flesh. Scholars have debated for years whether that was a physical condition, some kind of illness, or whether it was emotional, the people coming against him, the persecution. But whatever this thorn was, whatever was bothering Paul, he asked God three times to remove it. One version says, "He implored God to take it away". That means he gave it his best argument. "God, you know I'm being my best, serving you, writing all these books. The least you could do is heal me". If anybody had pull with God it would have been Paul. But what's interesting is God didn't remove the thorn. He said, "Paul, my grace is sufficient for you. My power shows up best in weakness".
Is there something you've been imploring God to change? Situation in your health, your finances, a relationship? You've asked again and again. Nothing is improving. I'm not saying to give up and settle there. What I'm saying is until God removes it don't let it steal your joy. Don't let it sour your life. You have the grace to be there. The right attitude is, "I'm not going to let this secret frustration, this thorn in my flesh so to speak, frustrate me anymore. God, I believe your grace is sufficient. I know at the right time you will change it. But even if you don't change it I'm still going to be my best and honor you".
You have to make up your mind that if your spouse never changes, if your health never improves, if you have to put up with that grouchy boss the rest of your life, you are not going to complain. You are not going to use it as an excuse to slack off. You're going to tap into this grace. It is sufficient for you. Here's a key. Don't stay focused on the frustration. If Paul would have gone around thinking, "God, why won't you remove this thorn? Why won't you change my child? Why won't you help my business grow"? If he would have stayed focused on the why's of life he would have never fulfilled his destiny. Faith is trusting God when life doesn't make sense.
A man named Smith Wigglesworth was one of the great ministers of the early 1900's. He would have large meetings where he would see hundreds of people healed, all kinds of miracles. But most of Wiggleworth's life he suffered from kidney stones. Many times he would leave the services in so much pain that he couldn't walk. Have to go home, lay on the floor, hour after hour, try to get some kind of relief.
Here he had just seen all these great miracles but he didn't receive his own miracle. He could have gotten bitter. "God, this is not fair. You healed them. Why don't you heal me"? No, he had this attitude, "Your grace is sufficient for every situation. Even when I don't understand it. Even when it doesn't make sense. God, I trust you. I'm not going to let this secret frustration keep me from my destiny".
If you're going to reach your highest potential you can't be a weakling. You have to be a warrior. There will be things you don't understand, things that don't make sense, but God knows what he is doing. His ways are better than our ways. He is the potter. We are the clay. When it's time to be removed he will remove it. Until then, dig your heels in and fight the good fight of faith. You have the grace you need for every situation.
When Jesus healed the man that had been crippled for 38 years there by the pool of Bethesda he told him to get up, take up his bed and walk. I believe it was significant that he asked him to take his bed with him. He didn't need it anymore after all. But God was saying, "This thing that's held you back, this thing that's kept you from being your best for so many years, I want you to take it with you as a reminder of what I've done in your life".
Even though he could walk, even though he didn't need the bed, it remained a part of his life. It was a contradiction. "I'm healed. I'm healthy. I can walk. But I've still got my bed". I can imagine him going to help someone else that was struggling. They look at him and say, "How can you help me? You've still got the bed. You're still carrying around that thing that held you back". He said, "No. It's not what you think. It's not a limitation to slow me down. It's a testimony of what God has done in my life. This bed may look like a liability, but really, it's an asset. Every time I see it, it reminds me to give God praise. It reminds me where he brought me from. It reminds me that if he did it for me once he can do it for me again".
What am I saying? Even though God frees you from certain things you may still have your bed. You may still be tempted in that same area. The weakness, the limitation, may not totally go away. But one reason God doesn't remove the bed totally. Not to slow you down, give you an excuse to go back. But rather, to remind you of where you came from. That bed is not there to discourage you but to inspire you.
I've been ministering now for close to fifteen years. When I started I was so nervous and intimidated. I was insecure. I didn't really feel qualified. Over the last few years of course I've grown, become more confident. But the truth is God didn't make me into a different person. When I get up here you may not see it but I still have my bed. Those weaknesses, those limitations, come back from time to time. But I don't see them the same way. They don't intimidate me. They remind me of my dependency on God.
Another reason God doesn't totally remove the bed because if you think you can do it all on your own and you've got it all figured out. You don't need his help. Before long you'll be right back to where you were. But if you'll see the weakness, the temptation, as a reminder to ask God for his help, to show your dependency on him, then you will continue to rise higher in spite of what comes against you. Now I can say I've got my bed I'm the pastor of the church. I've got my bed but I'm living healthy, happy, victoriously.
In the Old Testament, God told Moses to go tell Pharaoh to let the people go. Moses said, "God, how will he know that you sent me? I don't come from an influential family. What makes you think Pharaoh is going to listen to me"? God told Moses to throw his staff on the ground. When he did it turned into a snake. He picked it back up and it turned back into a staff. He told him to put his arm in his coat and when he pulled it out it was filled with leprosy. He put it in. Pulled it back out. It was clean as can be. God was showing him these signs so he would go in with confidence knowing that Pharaoh would listen to him.
But Moses had another concern. He said, "God, I can't stand before Pharaoh. I stutter. I've got a problem with my speech". You would think since God just showed him these great miraculous signs God would simply touch his tongue, make him normal, take away the stuttering. But God didn't do that. He didn't remove the problem. He was saying to Moses what he said to Paul. "My power shows up best in weaknesses. And Moses, if I needed to remove that stuttering so that you could fulfill your destiny I would have removed it".
Are you waiting for God to remove something before you can be happy? Before you can pursue a dream? Before you can finish school? No, if God hasn't removed it it's not an accident. You don't have to put your life on hold because you have a secret frustration. You have everything you need to fulfill your destiny. The scripture talks about how we have treasure in these earthen vessels.
All of us have imperfections in our clay vessels. In other words, there's probably at least one thing that God is not removing that we could easily be irritated by, live frustrated. "Joel, if I didn't have this back pain or have to struggle with this weight issue. Then I have this coworker that gets on my nerves. This legal problem". Or how about, "If I hadn't of gone through a bad childhood, the divorce, the hurt, the pain".
Whatever your thorn is God is saying to us what he said to Paul. "My grace is sufficient". Quit fighting it. Quit letting it steal your joy. When it's time to be removed God will remove it. Until then tap into this grace. "God, my life is in your hands. You know what I want. You know my dreams. You know what's bothering me. I may not understand it. It may not make sense, but God, I trust you".
Here's a key. If God is not removing it it's not an accident. There is a reason. Paul thought the thorn in his flesh was to keep him from being puffed up and too proud. Maybe that was true. Only God knows. But that secret frustration may just be a time of testing where you have to prove to God that you're going to be content and do your best even though it's not going your way. You're going to keep giving even though you're not receiving. You're going to keep honoring him even though you're not seeing things change. God could be using that to grow you up and develop your character.
Some things we can only learn through experience. You can't learn through reading a book, listening to a message. The scripture says, "Our faith is tried in the fire of affliction". That's where our spiritual muscles are developed. You can't get stronger if you're not put under any pressure. You have to work out, exercise your faith. It may not be comfortable. You may not like it but if you'll stick with it it's not working against you. It's working for you. You're growing. You're coming up higher. You're getting prepared for new levels.
See, you can't be promoted without preparation. God won't give you a 100 pound blessing if he knows you can only lift 50 pounds. If he gave you the 100 pounds it wouldn't be a blessing. It would be a burden. It wouldn't help you. It would hurt you. He's got to get you prepared. Your gifts can take you to a certain level but if you don't have the character to match you won't stay there very long. Character is developed in the tough times. When we're not getting our way but we keep doing the right thing.
Like Paul, we've asked God a lot more than three times to remove it. "God, get this person out of my life that gets on my nerves". "God, give me that child". "God, change my spouse". No, while God is changing it, until he removes it, if you will stay in faith, not get bitter, not give up on your dreams, here's the beauty. Even if the situation doesn't change you will change. God is growing you up, getting you prepared for new levels of your destiny.
I've learned your character is more important than your talent. You can have all the talent in the world but if you don't have strong character you're not going to go very far. We can all trust God in the good times. That's easy. I'm asking you can you trust him with the secret frustrations, the things that are not changing? You prayed and believed but he is not removing it. The question is not only can you trust God, but more importantly, can God trust you? Will you pass the test, stay in faith even when you don't understand it?
My parents started Lakewood church with 90 people in 1959. A few years later my father put somebody else in charge so he could leave the church and travel the world. He would go hold these large crusades - 50,000 people - in other countries. He was living his dream. Life was good. But around 1966, he knew he was supposed to come back and pastor Lakewood once again. My mom said, "John, when Houston hears you're back they're going to come out by the thousands". Well, Houston heard but Houston didn't care. They stayed away by the thousands.
Now, instead of speaking to big crowds like my dad was used to he was speaking to these 90 people, three times a week, year after year. He thought, "God, I know I have more in me. I'm being my best. I'm honoring you but nothing is changing. I'm not seeing any growth". A secret frustration. But what my father didn't realize is something was changing. Not the size of the congregation. He was changing. He was developing character. He was proving to God that he would be faithful in the tough times.
If you're not faithful in the wilderness how can God trust you to be faithful in the Promised Land? My father, on the outside, was happy, gave his best to those 90 people but deep down he had to deal with this secret frustration. In 1972, it was like God opened up a faucet. People started coming to Lakewood from all over the city, grew and grew to a church of thousands. Still growing today. But maybe like my father you're doing the right thing but not seeing any growth, not being promoted. It's frustrating.
It may not look like anything is happening on the outside but if you'll keep being your best something is happening on the inside. God is changing you. He is growing you up. He is getting you prepared. Now, keep doing the right thing. Keep being good to other people. Keep having that spirit of excellence. Too many people let these secret frustrations cause them to get bitter, give up on their dreams, lose their passion. Recognize it's a test. If you will stay in faith God will get you to where you're supposed to be.
Genesis 29, there is the story of two sisters - Rachel and Leah. When a young man named Jacob saw Rachel he fell head over heels for her. It was love at first sight. You see, Rachel was extremely attractive. The scripture says, "She was beautiful in every way with a lovely face and a shapely figure". Let me tell you, when God says you're fine, you are bad to the bone. Rachel had it going on. Jacob, he didn't even think twice.
He went straight to her dad, Laban, and said, "Can I marry your daughter"? Laban said, "Yes, you can. But you have to first work for me for seven years". He worked those seven years, was so excited. But Laban tricked Jacob. At the wedding, in those days, they wore very thick veils. You couldn't tell who was in there. And of course he thought it was Rachel but in fact it was Leah. The scripture says, "Leah had weak eyes and was dull looking". I'm not sure what weak eyes means but I know what dull looking is. I've got a brother named Paul. I couldn't resist.
No offense to Leah but Rachel got the looks in the family. So at the wedding Jacob had a little too much to drink. He woke up the next morning, looked over in bed and there was weak eyes staring back at him. He nearly passed out. He ran to Laban's house. "What do you mean? This is not the deal we cut. I wanted Rachel, not Leah". He said, "I understand, Jacob. But it's our custom that the older daughter has to get married off first. Work for me another seven years and I'll let you marry Rachel". He did it. Finally got to marry her. Love makes you do dumb things.
I'm sure when people saw Rachel around town, so beautiful, so friendly, they thought, "That's one blessed woman. She's so stunning. She has a husband that adores her. She comes from a good family". But what they couldn't see was Rachel had a secret frustration. Her dream was to have a baby but she was barren. She couldn't conceive. Year after year no baby. I can hear her every night, "God, please give me a child. Please remove this barrenness. God, I want a baby". On the other hand, her sister Leah gave Jacob one son after another - four boys - strong, handsome, good looking.
Life was good for Leah. She was seeing a dream come to pass - a healthy family. But Leah, too, had a secret frustration. The scripture says that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah. I can hear Leah every night, "God, why won't my husband love me more"? The point is everyone is dealing with something. Whether you're a Rachel, blessed in this area, or a Leah, blessed in this area. There will be things that can frustrate you, things that you don't understand, things that God is not removing. You have to make up your mind you are not going to let it sour your life.
Do what you can. Trust God to do what you can't. The right attitude is, "if this never changes, if I never have a child, I'm still going to be happy". "If my marriage never improves I'm still not going to be sour". "If I see somebody that's more talented, more beautiful, has more, I'm not going to be envious, jealous. I'm at peace with who I am".
When you stay in peace, not trying to figure out why they could have the baby, why she's more beautiful, why her husband loves her more. No, let that go. You're never going to understand it. If you'll live in peace God will remove what needs to be removed. He will change what needs to be changed. This is what happened with Rachel. Years later, God removed the barrenness. She had a son named Joseph. That secret frustration was taken away.
For most of my father's life he struggled with high blood pressure. He was constantly trying to find new medicine to control it. Many times the side effects would make him feel bad. Nobody knew the scripture more than my dad. Nobody had any more faith. But for some reason God didn't take it away. But I never heard my father complain. His attitude was, "God, I'm going to be my best whether you heal me from this high blood pressure or whether you don't". He had a made up mind.
Toward the end of his life the medicine would make him dizzy. He couldn't sleep a lot of nights but he would come in on Sundays and preach his heart out. Nobody even knew it. He could have thought, "God, I've served you for over 50 years. The least you could do is answer my prayer". No, he didn't let the secret frustration keep him from his destiny. He trusted God when it didn't make sense.
When he was 77 years old he had to go on dialysis. He couldn't sleep one night. He called my brother-in-law Gary and asked if he would come over and visit with him. Around 1:00 in the morning they were talking and Gary asked my father what he thought about the difficulties he was going through. My dad said, "Gary, I don't understand it all but I know this. His mercy endures forever". Those were the last words my father ever spoke.
A few seconds later he had a heart attack and went to be with the Lord. But I love the fact that even though God didn't remove it daddy didn't get bitter. He died in faith. Whatever secret frustration you're facing you have to make this decision like my father that even if it never changes you're going to keep believing. We too are going to die in faith.
This is what three teenagers did in the scripture. They wouldn't bow down to the king's golden idol. He was so furious he was going to have them thrown into a fiery furnace. They said, "King, we're not worried. We know our God will deliver us but even if he doesn't we're still not going to bow down". That's the key. Believe for your dreams. Believe for God to turn the situation around. Then take it one step further. "Even if it doesn't happen my way, even if I don't get delivered, God, I'm still going to be happy. God, if you turn it around I'm going to give you praise and if you don't turn it around I'm still going to give you praise". When you live like that and all the forces of darkness cannot stop you.
Friends, don't let these secret frustrations keep you from your destiny. Have a new perspective. You have the grace you need for every situation. If God is not removing it there is a reason. Don't try to figure it out. Trust him. If you do this, I believe and declare, God is going to change what needs to be changed. He is going to remove what needs to be removed. You're going to rise higher, overcome obstacles and become everything God has created you to be. In Jesus' name.