Joel Osteen — Unconditional Trust
I wanna talk to you today about "Unconditional trust". It's easy to trust God when things are going our way. We're getting good breaks. Our business is blessed. Our children are healthy. That doesn't take much faith. Life is good. But what about when things aren't going our way? Our prayers aren't being answered. The problem isn't turning around. We're not seeing favor.
Too often, we get discouraged, think, "God, why aren't you doing something. You can see I'm being mistreated. My health isn't good. I worked hard, but I didn't get the promotion". We think, "When it changes, we'll be happy. When I meet the person, when my health improves, when we have this baby, then we'll have a good attitude". That's conditional trust. "God, if you meet my demands, if ya answer my prayers the way I want, on my timetable, then I'll be my best".
The problem with conditional trust is there will always be things we don't understand. Something that's not happening fast enough. It didn't work out the way we wanted. We prayed just as hard for my father when his health went downhill as we did for my mother. We quoted the same scriptures. We asked God to restore his health, to let him live. But my father went to be with the Lord. It didn't happen the way I wanted. And if I would have had conditional trust, I would have gotten upset, bitter, "God, why didn't you answer my prayers"? The truth is, God did answer my prayer. It just wasn't the way I wanted.
Are you mature enough to accept God's answers, even though they're not what you were hoping for? God is a sovereign God. We're not going to understand everything that happens. Faith is trusting God when life doesn't make sense. There will always be unanswered questions. "Why didn't my loved one make it"? "Why am I not getting better"? "Why did this person leave"? Some things are not going to make sense, but God wouldn't have allowed it if he wasn't going to bring good out of it. And you may not see it at the time, but God knows what he's doing. He has your best interest at heart. It's not random. It's a part of his plan. Dare to trust him.
I didn't wanna lose my father, of course. He was one of my best friends. I'd worked with him here at Lakewood for 17 years. We had traveled the world together. I didn't know what I would do when my dad was gone, but I found God had another plan. He had something else for me to do. I couldn't see it at the time. I wanted God to do it my way, but God had a better way. I thought I would spend my life behind the scenes, doing production, runnin' the cameras. I didn't think I could get up here in front of people. I didn't know this ability was in me.
But God can see things in you that you can't see in yourself. His plan for your life is bigger than your plan. But it may not happen the way you thought. God doesn't take us in a straight line. There'll be twists, turns, the disappointments, the loss, the bad breaks. There'll all a part of his plan. But if you have conditional trust, you'll get discouraged and think, "Why is this happening? I'm going the wrong way". But God is still directing your steps. Trust Him when you don't understand. Trust him even when it feels like you're going the wrong direction.
What I thought would be my darkest hour, the loss of my father, and I say this respectfully, in one sense, it turned out to be my brightest hour. It launched me into what I'm doing today, into a new level of my destiny. But sometimes, we want things so bad, we're not going to be happy unless it happens our way. "I can't be happy unless I get the house, unless I meet the right person, unless we have the baby". That's out of balance.
Anything you have to have in order to be happy the enemy can use against you. And it's good to be honest with God. Tell him your dreams. Tell him what you're believing for, "God, this is what I want. I'm asking you to heal my loved one. Turn this problem around. God, open these new doors". It's fine to ask, but then be mature enough to say, "But God, if it never happens, if I don't get the promotion, if my loved one doesn't make it, if my health doesn't improve, I'm still going to trust you".
But see, we can get so consumed with what we want that it can become like an idol. That's all we think about, all we pray about. It's always on the forefront of our minds. Turn it over to God. Pray, believe, then leave it in God's hands. Don't get so focused on what you want that you miss the beauty of this day. Everything may not be perfect. There are things that need to change, but God has given you the grace to be happy today. It's very freeing when you can say, "God, it's in your hands. I trust you not conditionally, if it works out my way. I trust you unconditionally, even when I don't understand it".
In the scripture, the apostle Paul had what he described as "a thorn" in his flesh. It was something either physically or spiritually that he didn't like. It was bothering him. Three times he asked God to take it away, but God didn't remove it. Paul was honoring God. He was being his best. He wrote half of the books in the new testament. You would think God would fix what was bothering him. But God said to him, "Paul, my grace is sufficient for you". He was saying, in effect, "I may not remove it just yet, but I will give you the grace to handle it".
And if God is not removing what you want removed, if he's not changing what you want changed, don't use that as an excuse to live sour, bitter. God has given you the grace to be where you are with a good attitude. You can enjoy your life in spite of what's not working out. And sometimes, the reason our prayers aren't answered the way we want is because it's not the right time or God has something better that we can't see, or perhaps he's using the difficulty to do a work in us, to help us grow, to get stronger.
Unconditional trust says, "God, I don't like it. I'm uncomfortable, but I'm smart enough to recognize you're God and I'm not. You're on the throne. You're in control of my life. And you said your plans for me are for good. You said you would lead me down the best path for my life. And even though I don't understand it right now, God, I trust you".
Are you living frustrated, unhappy because something is not going your way? That's conditional trust. You'll live a lot freer, a lot happier, if you'll quit fighting what God is not changing. Quit being upset over what he's not removing. Paul said, "I have learned how to be content". Didn't happen automatically. He made this decision, "I'm not going to live sour because God hasn't removed this thorn. When he wants to remove it, he'll remove it. But until then, I'm going to be happy where I am, thorn and all".
The truth is, we all have some thorns, things that God is not changing. He could if he wanted to. He's God. All he'd have to do is speak and that problem would turn around, that person would treat you right. Wouldn't be any big deal. But since he's not doing it yet, will you do like Paul and be happy where you are, thorn and all, trouble and all, loneliness and all? It takes a mature person to say, "Even though God is not removing this, I'm still going to have a smile. I'm still going to be good to people. I'm still going to give God praise". That's unconditional trust.
This is what happened with the three Hebrew teenagers in the scripture. They wouldn't bow down to the king's golden idol and the king was furious. He was going to have them thrown into a fiery furnace. They said, "King, we're not going to bow down. We know our God will deliver us. But even if he doesn't, we're still not going to bow down". That's unconditional trust. "I believe God's going to turn this situation around. But even if he doesn't, I'm still going to be happy. I believe I'm going to get the promotion, believe my health is improving. I believe the right person is coming. But if it doesn't happen, I'm not going to get bitter, sour. I know God is still on the throne. If he's not changing it, he has a reason. My life is in his hands".
Dare to trust him. Not just when things are going you way, but even when you don't understand it. The Psalmist said, "God will work out his plan for your life". You don't have to work it all out. You don't have to make it happen in your own strength, try to manipulate people, fight all your battles. Why don't you relax, take the pressure off yourself, and let God work out his plan for your life? He can do it better than you can. He knows the best path. And that's what these teenagers were saying, "We know God will deliver us from this fire. But even if he doesn't, we're not going to get upset and start panicking. We know we're not doing life on our own. The most high God, the Creator of the universe, is working out his plan for our lives".
All the forces of darkness cannot stop what God has ordained. That sickness can't stop him. Trouble at work can't stop him. The disappointments, the setbacks, and you may have a lot coming against you. You feel like you're about to be thrown into a fire. The good news is, you're not going to go in there alone. You couldn't be put in that fire unless God allowed it. The enemy is not in control of your life. God is in control. He is working out his plan.
Sometimes his plan includes fiery furnaces. Sometimes it includes giants, Red Seas, Pharaohs, people that don't like you, obstacles that seem insurmountable. You don't see a way, but since you know the Lord is directing your steps, you don't try to figure it all out. It may look like the end, but like these teenagers, you have unconditional trust. "I know God will deliver me, but even if he doesn't, I'm still going to have a song of praise. I'm still going to have an attitude of faith. I'm still going to live my life happy".
The king had these teenagers thrown into the furnace. The fire was so hot, when the guards opened the door, they were killed. In a few minutes, the king came to check on them. He looked through the window and couldn't believe his eyes. He said, "Didn't we throw in three men bound? I see four men loosed, and one looks like the Son of God".
What was that? God working out his plan for their lives. But I wonder what the outcome would have been if they would have had conditional trust. "God, if you deliver us from this fire, then we'll stay in faith. God, if you do it our way, we'll keep a good attitude". But when the king didn't change his mind, when God didn't remove the obstacle, if they would have gotten negative, complained, "God, we don't understand it. We prayed, we believed, we stood in faith. Why didn't you turn it around"? Maybe the furnace would have been the end. Maybe we wouldn't be talkin' about them today.
And if you wanna get God's attention. If you want him to take you where you've never dreamed and turn impossible situations around, do like these teenagers, "I know God will deliver me from this fire". Have a statement of faith. But then follow it up with, "But even if he doesn't, God, I'm still goin to honor you. I'm still going to be my best". When you live like that, you take away all the enemy's power. He's expecting you to get upset, to be worried, if it doesn't work out, to fall apart, live in self-pity.
When you have unconditional trust, you can't be defeated. And you may have challenges that look bigger, stronger. In the natural, you don't have a chance. Don't be intimidated. "The forces that are for you are greater than the forces that are against you". The scripture says in Job: "You will not be harvested before your time". You may get thrown into a fire, but if it's not your time to go, you're not going to go. God has the final say. Right now, he is working out his plan for your life. There may be some fiery furnaces. Are ya only going to trust him if he delivers ya from the fire, if he takes away all the thorns, if he does it your way? Or are you going to have unconditional trust, trust him like these teenagers, even if he takes ya through the fire?
Looking back over my life, things haven't turned out the way I thought. I had a plan. I had it all figured it. And I told God what to do, when to do it, what I needed, who to use, how to get me there. I gave him good information, my very best. The funny thing is, God didn't take my advice. He had his own plan. And what I found is God's plan has always been better than my plan. His ways have always been more rewarding, more fulfilling, bigger than my ways.
If God would have done everything I asked, answered my prayers the way I wanted, on my timetable, it would have limited my destiny. I wouldn't be where I am. I couldn't see it at the time, didn't make sense. Seemed like a good thing. But one day, I learned what Isaiah said, that, "God's ways are higher than our ways. His plans are better than our plans".
Quit being discouraged over something that didn't work out the way you wanted. Don't live frustrated because maybe somebody left that you wanted to stay. A door closed that you wanted open. God knows what he's doing. And you may not see it now, but one day, when you see what God was up to, you'll be glad he closed the doors. You'll thank him for not answering those prayers. The longer I live, the more I pray, "God, not my will, but let your will be done". I don't fight the closed doors anymore. I don't get frustrated when things aren't changing as fast as I would like. I know that God is in control.
And as long as you're honoring him, being your best, at the right time, God will get you to where you're supposed to be. It may not be where you thought. God is going to take you further than you ever imagined. And I believe in praying for our dreams and praying bold prayers, believing for big things. But I've learned to let God do it his way. Hold tightly to what God put in your heart, but hold loosely to how it's going to happen. Don't get set in your ways. Don't be discouraged because it hasn't happened the way you thought. God is working out his plan for your life.
Couple a years after Victoria and I were married, we sold our townhouse and we were going to buy our first home. We were so excited. We looked for months and months and we found this house that we really loved. It's on a beautiful lot, big trees, so picturesque. It was like our dream house. And we made an offer not much less than they were asking, and we didn't hear back for a couple a weeks. And the house was empty, so we would go out at night and pray over it and thank God that it was ours, dream about living there, and, "Here's where we'll put our furniture. And here's where we'll put a swing set one day".
We were sure it was going to happen, but they called back and said they weren't going to accept our offer. We knew that was the devil trying to take our house, 'cause that was supposed to be ours. Have you noticed the devil gets blamed for a lot of things he had nothing to do with? We went back to that house and we started marching around it, praying, binding, loosing, doing everything we could. A few days later, they sold it to somebody else. Have ya ever felt like God let ya down? He could've changed it so easily. We were right there, but the door closed.
We'd say, "God, where were you? This was our dream house". But if you're only going to be happy if God does it your way, that's not trusting. That's giving God orders. You'll be frustrated. Why don't you put your life in his hands? He knows what's best for ya. He can see things that we can't see.
Couple of months later, we found another house in close to the city. We purchased that place. Two years after that, we sold half of that property for more than we paid for the whole property. We ended up building a new house there. God blessed us in ways greater than we ever imagined. But now, sometimes, I'll drive back by that other house I wanted so bad and say, "Lord, thank ya for closing this door. Thank ya that it didn't work out".
Some of the things that are not working out in your life now, one day you'll be doing like I did, "Lord, thank you that it didn't work out my way". You could save yourself a lot of frustration if you'd learn to have unconditional trust. The closed doors, the disappointments, the delays, it's all working for you. And yes, it's good to be determined, be persistent, but let God do it his way. If he's not changing it, not removing it, not opening it, don't fight it.
Learn to embrace where you are. He's given you the grace not to just be there, but to be there with a good attitude. And if you're going to pass the test, keep a smile on your face. Keep a song in your heart. Keep passion in your spirit. Don't drag through the day disappointed. This is the day the Lord has made. He's still on the throne. He's working out his plan for your life. He's going to get you to where you're supposed to be. But living worried, frustrated, disappointed, that takes our passion. It steals our joy and it can keep us from seeing God's favor. And sometimes, the closed doors, the disappointments, they are simply a test. God wants to see if we'll trust him when we don't understand it, when life doesn't make sense.
This is what happened with Abraham. He waited 20 years to have his son Isaac. He and his wife, Sarah, were way up there in their 80s. They prayed, believed, stood in faith. They finally saw the promise come to pass. They were so excited. You can imagine how Abraham must have felt years later when God told him to take Isaac on top of a mountain and sacrifice him.
That didn't make sense. Isaac was what Abraham loved the most. This was the fulfillment of the promise. Now God was asking him to put his dream on the altar. Abraham didn't understand it. It didn't seem fair, but he was obedient. He passed the trust test. And just as he was about to follow through, God stopped him and said, "Abraham, don't do it. Now I can see you trust me more than anything".
And like Abraham, there will be times God asks us to put our dream on the altar. We have to show him that we don't have the house to be happy. If we don't have the baby, we're not gonna live bitter and sour. You're believing for your health to improve. But when you can say, "If it doesn't get better, God, I'm still going to honor you. I'm still going to be my best". You are doing what Abraham did. You are putting your dream on the altar. And when God sees that you don't have to have it, many times, like him, God will give you back what you were willing to give up.
During World War II, there was a young soldier in a library in Florida. While he was reading a book, he noticed all the hand-written notes in the margin. They were very thoughtful and heartwarming. He turned to the front of the book. It just so happened it had the previous owner's name and address. It was a lady named Holly that lived in New York city. He wrote her a letter, introducing himself and telling how he was about to be shipped off overseas to Europe the next day, and he invited her to respond and they could talk about the book.
Much to his surprise, he received a letter in return. And for the next 13 months, they wrote back and forth again and again, getting closer and closer. They were actually falling in love, yet they had never seen each other. He had requested a picture, but she refused. A year and a half later, he was coming back home through New York city. This was their big opportunity. They were going to meet for the first time and go out to dinner. She said, "I'll be waiting for ya when ya get off the ship. You'll know it's me by the pink rose I'll be wearing".
Sailing back across the ocean, he was so excited and so nervous at the same time. He stepped off the ship. The big moment finally arrived. This beautiful young lady came walking toward him. She took his breath away. She was stunning, tall, gorgeous features, in great shape. She looked like a movie star. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. He was so taken aback by it, he didn't realize she wasn't wearing a pink rose. As she passed on by, he finally came back down to earth.
About that time, this lady in her 40s walked up to him. She wasn't necessarily attractive, had graying hair, and just so happened she was wearing the pink rose. Disappointed but not showing it, he walked up to her with a smile. He saluted and said, "Hello, ma'am, you must be Holly. I'm so glad to meet you. Can I take you to dinner"? The lady said, "Son, I'm not sure what's going on, but the young lady that just passed you asked me to wear this pink rose. She said if you invited me to dinner, to tell ya she'll be waiting for ya in the restaurant across the way".
It was simply a test. Will ya do the right thing when it's hard? Will ya trust God when it's not what you thought, when you don't understand it? God said to Abraham, "Because you did not withhold your only son I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the sand on the seashore. When you do like Abraham, you do like this young soldier and you pass the trust test, God will not only give ya the desires of your heart, he'll do more than you can ask or think.
Are you living frustrated because your prayers aren't being answered the way you want, your plans aren't working out? Take the pressure off. God is in control. He knows what's best for you. You're not always going to understand it. If you did, it wouldn't take any faith. I'm asking you to trust him unconditionally. If you'll do this, I believe and declare God is going to work out his plan for your life. He's going to open the right doors, bring the right people, turn negative situations around, and take ya to the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus' name.