Joel Osteen - Pruned for Promotion
I want to talk to you today about Pruned for Promotion. We all go through times where it feels like we're going backwards. We were doing so good business, was strong, our family was happy, we knew we had God's favor, but then things turned, we lost a major client, our child didn't get the scholarship, a friend walked away. We wonder what happened? What did we do wrong? But just because you're having difficulties and things you don't understand doesn't mean you're not in God's will. God is ordering our steps. Sometimes he will order a cutback.
Just as there are seasons of growth, there are seasons of pruning. Without the pruning, we won't become all we were created to be. And God won't allow a cutback, if it's not going to eventually work for your good. It may be uncomfortable, you don't understand it, you lost a contract you, lost a relationship, lost an opportunity - God wouldn't have let you lose that, if he wasn't going to give you something better. He may have pruned a friend out of your life, there's a better friend coming. You may have lost a job, there's a better job on the way. You suffered a setback in your health, better health is in your future. Don't be discouraged by the cutback, it's a sign, new growth is coming.
Jesus said in John 15, "I am the vine, you are the branches. My father is the gardener. Every branch that doesn't produce fruit He cuts away". This makes sense when we have things in life, that are not productive. A friend pulling us down, a job not leading anywhere, he'll cut those things away, so we can put our attention and focus on the things that are moving us forward. We can understand losing something, that's not adding value, but he goes on to say, "Every branch that does bear fruit, the gardener cuts back so it will bear more fruit". The only way to go from fruit to more fruit is to be cut bad.
And there are times in life where we will lose something, that doesn't make sense. You're going to work with a good attitude, helping others, faithfully raising your children, you're doing the right thing, but the wrong thing happens. Instead of being discouraged, slacking off, having no passion, recognize, it's a pruning season. Without that cutback you won't see new growth. And you may be satisfied to stay where you are, not be uncomfortable, not rock the boat, but God is not satisfied. He loves you too much to let you miss your destiny. He has new levels in front of you. Will you trust him in the cutback seasons? Will you keep doing the right thing in the times of pruning, when things have gone backwards, when you could be discouraged?
Jesus said, "If you abide in Me, you will bear much fruit". He talks in this passage about fruit, more fruit, and much fruit. The way to increase is simply by abiding. He was saying, when things happened you don't understand, things that don't make sense, when you could be bitter, you could slack off, instead, if you'll trust me, if you'll believe I'm still directing your steps, if you praise me, even when it's not fair, if you'll stay faithful when you could be frustrated, if you'll abide. That means you keep doing the right thing, you keep a smile on your face, you keep being good to people, you keep expecting God's favor, then you're passing the test, you'll come into more fruit.
When you prove to God that you'll be faithful in the cut back seasons, he'll release you into much fruit, he'll take you where you could not go on your own. But we're not going to see these new levels, without going through seasons of losing, things we don't understand, seasons that are uncomfortable, seasons were what worked in the past, is not working now. Don't be discouraged, the cutback season is all a part of the process, it's a sign, that new growth is coming.
I talked to a man, the company he worked for sold, they let all the employees go, and for the longest time he couldn't find a new job. He ended up having to move back home to another state, he was living with his mother. He's in his 50s. He said, "I" never dreamed I'd be here at my age. I don't know what happened". I told him what I'm telling you: You came into a cutback season. It's not a surprise to God. Now whether you stay there or not depends on what you do. If you get bitter, complain, talk about how bad life is, then you'll get stuck. But when you recognize that cut back is a sign that new growth is coming, that more fruit is in your future, that God is getting you prepared for new levels, you make this decision to trust him, to believe that he's in control, then things are going to change in your favor. You're going to see new doors begin to open.
I saw him about a year later, he had a new job, he had just moved into a beautiful new house. He said, "Joel, I am happier and more fulfilled, than I've ever been". Don't let the cutback fool you. The enemy didn't get control of the pruning shears, he didn't overtake God, and now he's directing your steps, God is still in control. You may not like the cutback, it may not make sense, this is what faith is all аbout: "God, I don't understand it, but I trust You. I know You wouldn't have allowed it, if you didn't have a purpose. I want to thank You, that I'm not just going to come out, but I'm gonna come out better".
But I wonder, how many times we're fighting what God has ordained. Now, I believe in standing against sicknesses, addictions, dysfunction, but every difficulty is not the enemy, it's the gardener. God prunes us. He cuts things back not to limit us, but to get us prepared for new growth. Are you discouraged over something you lost, something that didn't work out, thinking the enemy is hindering, you when in fact it's the hand of God? We give the enemy too much credit. He can't touch you without God's permission. We believe that God is directing our steps, when good things are happening.
It's easy to thank him in the harvest seasons, the growing seasons, the promotion seasons, but in the pruning seasons you have to dig down deep. Your praise in the cutback seasons carries more weight, than in the harvest seasons. You're not only showing God that you trust him, but God is doing a work in you. Your character is being developed, your spiritual muscles are getting stronger. We may not like the pruning seasons, but God is the gardener. He knows, when to cut something back or we'll get stuck. He will not prune something away, if you needed it, he is not going to cut something back without giving you more in return. Dare to trust him.
A couple of years ago, I planted some trees along my fence in the backyard to help block the view. I bought the biggest ones I could find. They were about 15 feet tall, and they're the type, that form a thick hedge that you can't see through. There outside my kitchen window, and I was constantly checking their growth, I could measure, how close they were getting to the telephone lines, they were doing really good.
About six months later, the men that helps with my landscaping, trims the trees and trims the bushes. He said, it's time to do that, is it okay? I told him, yes, but not to touch the trees along the back fence. I wanted that thick hedge. He said okay, but they're not going to grow like they should. I said, what do you mean? He said, when we pruned them, it stimulates new growth. If we don't cut them back, they won't be as tall and thick as they should be. I'm not a gardener, I thought just the opposite, to grow in, there doing good, don't bother them. The gardener knew, if he didn't bother them, if he didn't take them through a cutback, it would actually limit their growth. Next year they wouldn't be where they should.
In the same way God is your gardener. He's not going to cut you back without a purpose, he's not going to prune you, if it's not leading to more fruit. It may not make sense to you. You feel like you're going the wrong direction - God knows what he's doing. That landscaper said to me, let me trim them and watch where they'll be next year, you'll be surprised at how big and full they are. You may have been cut back, God is saying, watch where you're going to be next year, watch the people that are going to come into your life, watch the opportunities and the new doors, that are about to open. You won't be complaining about the cutback, you'll be saying, Lord thank you for pruning me. Thank you for getting me prepared, thank you for taking me to new levels.
What I want us to see, is the pruning is not because you've done something wrong, it's not because God has forgotten about you, it's a test: will you abide? Will you stay in faith? Yes, the pruning seasons are not comfortable, we don't like it, but it's all a part of the process, it's what leads to much fruit. But you can't get too much, without being cut back. If you don't understand this, you'll be frustrated. "Joel I come every Sunday, I volunteer at the hospital, I'm always cheering people up, and now I'm the one that's down, I had a bad break". That's not the enemy trying to stop you, that's God getting you prepared for new levels.
The Apostle Paul never prayed for God to remove his difficulties, he prayed that God would give him strength to endure, whatever came his way. And if we could pray away the cutbacks seasons, Jesus would have done it. The scripture says, He endured the pain of the Cross, looking forward to the joy that was coming. Some things we have to endure. The way to do it is to know, that it's not permanent, and to know, that you're going to come out better. Keep reminding yourself, that cutback is leading to new growth.
And what's interesting, is God cuts us back when we're bearing fruit, not when we're off course, doing things wrong, but when we're doing things right, when good things are happening. Now I could have taken the pruning shears, and thought I'm gonna save some money this year, I'm gonna trim my own trees. The problem is, I don't know when to prune and I don't know where to prove. Some plants need to be cut back in the spring, others cut back in the fall. Sometimes you may skip a season. Pruning shears in the wrong hands can be detrimental. I can have good intentions and cut at the wrong time, at the wrong place, and damage my trees, do more harm than good.
When Victoria and I were first married, she said: Joel let me put some blonde highlights in your hair, just to lighten it up and give you a new look. You know, this is not going to turn out good. I was so in love and so dumb, I mean so respectful, I would let her do anything she asked. So she put these blonde highlights in my hair, I had foiled all through it, we had to wait 30 minutes. When she took the foil off, Victoria started laughing and laughing. Now when Victoria is nervous or afraid, she doesn't panic, she doesn't get upset, she laughs. I knew this was not a good sign. When I looked in the mirror, my hair was his orange as can be. For some reason, I did not see the humor in that, I said: Victoria you have to put it back. She laughed and said: I don't know how.
Here's my point: the right tools in the wrong hands can be dangerous. Thank God, my hair grew out, and we're still married. The good news is, God is your gardener, he's the only one that can prune you, he's in control of your cutbacks. When Satan wanted to test Job, he couldn't go in and get the pruning shears, do whatever he wanted. He had to ask God for permission. When you go through a cutback, a loss, things you don't understand, remind yourself, God has the pruning shears. He is not going to prune you, to where you end up with less: less joy, less strength, less resources. That may happen temporarily, but if you'll keep abiding, that cutback is leading to more fruit. God wouldn't have allowed it, if he wasn't going to bring you out better, stronger, wiser, with new growth.
You may be in a cutback season now, wondering, how you went from doing great to where you are. You were being your best, looks like you've lost ground, yes, but that loss is not permanent. What you can't see, is that cutback is setting you up for new levels, you're about to come into a season of much fruit, a season where you see increase, like you've never seen, good breaks, promotions, relationships, better than you've imagined.
A while back a cable network, that aired our services on Sunday nights, informed us, that they were going to start running movies at that time. They had to cancel our contract. We had been on this network for 35 years, we had a loyal audience, people that watched us there faithfully each week. Plus this was our only commercial national airing. At first, you know, I was disappointed, I thought: God, I don't want to go backwards, I want to go forward. That was one of our best outlets. Here we were doing the right thing, we were bearing fruit, people were being helped, but sometimes God closes a door that we don't understand, closes doors that, don't make sense.
I've been buying air time, way back with my father's ministry for many years. There's nothing available on Sunday nights, especially commercial television. It looked like this cutback was permanent. About six months later, a man we work with called, said: Joel I couldn't find another cable network on Sunday nights, but I did get the broadcast networks, like CBS and ABC, they agreed to move their programming Sunday nights after the news, so they could air your program. The audience on the broadcast stations is three times, what it was on the cable network. I went from fruit to more fruit.
Notice how it happened, I was cut back. I didn't understand it, it didn't seem like a good thing at the time, but now I say: Lord, thank you for cutting me back, thank you for opening doors, I never dreamed would open. Thank you for ordering my steps. The cutback you're disappointed with now, if you'll keep abiding, thanking God, being your best, one day you'll look back and say that with me: Lord, thank you! You know, your ways are better than my ways, you could see things that I couldn't see. Trust him in the cutbacks seasons, believe that he's still directing steps. Remember he has the pruning shears, the enemy cannot cut you back, God has a hedge of protection around you.
In the scripture God told Abraham to take his son Isaac on top of a mountain and sacrifice him. We think of Isaac, as being a little boy, but most scholars believe, he was in his late teens. The scripture says, he carried a pile of wood on his shoulders for the fire. He could have resisted laying on the altar, resisted letting his father tie him up, but he was willing to go through with it. I believe one reason is, because he knew, the knife was in the right hands. He knew he could trust his father.
When you understand the pruning shears are in your Heavenly Father's hands, when you know, he won't cut you back, without a purpose, that whatever he takes away temporarily, is so he can bring you out with more, then like Isaac you won't fight the cut back seasons, you won't be bitter, God I was doing my best, why did this happen? You trust your father, you know, he's in control of the cutbacks, and he wouldn't have taken you backwards, if he wasn't going to bring you out with much fruit.
And I've learned, God's idea of much is very different than our idea of much. You think you're blessed now, you haven't seen anything yet. You should see what God has in store for you. I thought I was doing good all those years, working behind the scenes with my parents, putting my father's ministry on television. I never dreamed one day I would be up here, people would be watching all over the world, I went from fruit to more fruit, too much fruit. But what brought me here wasn't necessarily the good times, the times everything fell into place, it was the cutbacks. The things I didn't understand, the loss of my father. But in all those times, that didn't make sense, I've learned, I can trust the One, who has the pruning shears. I know the enemy cannot cut me back.
So I've done my best to just keep abiding, being faithful, when I could be frustrated, doing the right thing, when the wrong thing was happening, thanking God through the disappointments, through the loss, through the times, that didn't seem fair. If you'll keep abiding at one point, you'll come out of the cutback season, into a growing season. Out of not having enough into having more than enough.
Steve Jobs was one of the most brilliant minds of our generation, he founded Apple Computer, it grew larger and larger, became very successful. But over the years, he had conflict with his board. Eventually, they voted him out. He was fired from the company, that he founded. It didn't seem fair, he could have lived bitter, upset. Instead, he went out and started another company. It became so successful, a few years later, Apple bought his company, brought him back, and put him in charge. He said: if I had not been fired by Apple, I would have never developed these skills, that have made me into who I am.
God knows, what he's doing. He's not going to let you be cut back without a purpose. It may look like a bad break, but if you'll keep the right attitude, you'll see how it will all work to your advantage. He knows when to take something away. It is not to limit us, it's to promote us. If that person left you, it wasn't an accident, their part in your story was over, God pruned them, now keep moving forward. If that project didn't last, it wasn't supposed to, God closed the door. Don't sit around discouraged, thinking "Poor old me". Like Steve, you're being pruned to bear much fruit. Get ready for the new thing, God is about to do. Get ready for new levels of favor, new levels of abundance.
This is what my father did. Back in the 1950s he was pastoring a Thriving Church. They had just built a beautiful new sanctuary, he had 700 members. That was a big deal back then. He was on the state board for his denomination, his future looked very bright. My sister Lisa was born with something, like cerebral palsy. My father began to search the Scriptures in a new light, he saw how God is a healer, and how he wants us to live a blessed, victorious life. My sister was eventually healed. He thought, the congregation would be excited about his new message of faith and victory. It was just the opposite. It didn't fit into their denominational teaching. There was a lot of opposition, they ended up, asking my father to leave.
He was devastated. Lifelong friends never spoke to my father again. Didn't make sense, it didn't seem fair. He could have been bitter: God, why did this happen? I was being my best, why did I go backwards? He understood, every branch that bears fruit, will be cut back, not to stay at a loss, not to live defeated, but for one reason, to bear much fruit.
Sometimes the favor of God is disguised as a cutback. It takes maturity to distinguish between the enemy trying to stop you, and the gardener at work. And too often we're discouraged over what God has ordained. Instead of being sour, my parents went out and started Lakewood. They didn't have a beautiful new sanctuary, they had an old run-down feed store. They didn't have 700 people, they only had 90. A cutback looked, like they were going the wrong direction.
There are times, God will take you backwards, before he thrusts you forward. The cutbacks season is a test, seeing what are you going to do, when you have a bad break, it didn't work out, you worked hard, but the business didn't make it. You were good to that person, but they walked away. What you do in the pruning season will determine, whether you stay there or whether you come out better.
My parents just kept abiding, giving, serving, loving. They didn't focus on what they didn't have, they thank God for what they did have. This didn't happen overnight, but like God promised, they went from more fruit to much, for Lakewood grew to a church of many thousands, we're still going strong today. But we all want the much fruit. The question is: are we willing to go through the process? Will we do the right things in the time of pruning, when things don't make sense? My father would have never come into much, without the cutback. He would have never become all he was created to be in that limited environment. That's why God pushed him out.
And sometimes God will close the door, because where you are, it's too small. You may not be able to see it. It's big to you, it's fulfilling, but God's dream for your life is much bigger than yours. His idea of much is very different than our idea. I'm asking you to trust him in the cutback seasons. We're not going to understand everything that happens along the way. God knows what's best for us. That's why the scripture says: His ways are not our ways.
You may be in a time of pruning, you've had some cutbacks, you've gone the wrong direction, now you're kind of discouraged, recognize, God is getting you in position for new growth. He wouldn't have pruned you, if he didn't have something better. Now do your part: keep abiding, keep thanking him, keep trusting him, keep staying faithful. If you'll do this, I believe and declare, that cutback is not permanent. Like my father, you're about to come in too much fruit. Abundance is coming, promotion is coming, breakthroughs are coming, the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus name.