Joel Osteen - Serve Your Way Up
I want to talk to you today about Serve Your Way Up. We all want to rise higher, accomplish our dreams, overcome obstacles, but as long as we're only focused on ourselves, we'll get stuck. God brings people and opportunities across our path, so we can be a blessing. When you take time to serve, you bring that elderly neighbor food each week, you clean up at the office, even though you didn't make the mess, you mentor that young man, that doesn't have a father, that's what allows God to take you higher. When you serve others, a new level of favor is released.
We think we have to work our way to the top, the truth is, you can serve your way to the top. The Scripture says, when Job prayed for his friends, he got well. When he served others, he went higher. Something powerful happens, when you get your mind off your cell and you go out and do good for somebody else. Are you serving anyone besides you? Are you doing something for others outside of what your job requires?
Growing up we knew this older gentleman named Mr. Davis he'd been attending Lakewood since I was a little boy. He was very kind and friendly, so fun, everybody loved to be around him. When I was in my late teens, I was driving home from church one Sunday afternoon, I noticed he was pulled over on the side of the road on this main residential street. He was in his 80s, I thought something was wrong, maybe he had a flat tire. So I turned around to go check it out, I got out of my car and said, "Brother Davis, do you need some help"? He was getting something out of his trunk, he said, "No, Joel I noticed the other day, that this street sign is covered with vines, you can hardly read it, so I brought my lawn equipment to clean it up".
He opened his trunk, he had his trimmers, a garden hoe, some plastic bags. For the next couple of hours he worked cleaning up the sign everything around it. At 18 years old that made such an impression on me. I thought he didn't have to do that, wasn't his job, he could have waited to the city to trim it, but brother Davis lived to serve, he was always looking for ways to be a blessing. Maybe that's why he was so happy. Maybe that's why he lived a long healthy life. When you focus not just on accomplishing your dreams, but on being a blessing, on serving others, then you're going to have more joy, live more fulfilled.
And the reason some people are not happy is all they think about is themselves: my dreams, my goals, my problems, my family. I say this respectfully, but you need to take a break from you. It's not healthy to have you on your mind all the time. Take a break from what's bothering you, take a break from what you want, from what you're believing for, and go be good to somebody else. When you serve others, that's a seed you're sowing. God will make sure people are good to you, but if you're not getting any good breaks, you need to ask yourself: am I giving any good breaks? Am I showing people favor? Am I just doing what's required or am I going the extra mile and serving?
Isaiah said: when you feed the hungry, when you clothe the naked, when you help those in need, then your life will break forth like the dawn and your healing will quickly come. Too often we're waiting for the light to break forth, we're waiting for the healing, the promotion, the new level. The question is: have we done the first part? Have we served someone? Have we been a blessing? When that co-worker has to put their car in the shop: hey, let me swing by and pick you up, I can bring you to work this week - you just serve someone. That single mom, that's struggling to pay her rent: hey, let me buy your groceries this month, you just fed the hungry. That young colleague, that doesn't understand the computer program: hey, let me stay late and teach you what I know, I'll help you to learn. When you make it your business to serve, you're going to see breakthroughs, promotion, doors open, that you couldn't open.
Nobody may have seen what brother Davis did that day, nobody may have stopped to thank him, nobody reimbursed him for his supplies. Here's the key: God sees everything, he's keeping the records. The scripture says, what you do in secret, God will reward in the open. Don't worry, if you're not getting credit, don't get discouraged if people don't thank you, God sees your sacrifice, he sees you buying supplies for your students, he sees you taking care of that friend that's not well, he sees you getting up early to come sing in the choir. God knows how to thank you, he knows how to open the windows of heaven.
You can't be good to somebody, without God being good back to you. That's not the reason we do it, it's just the way God is. When you give, he gives you more back. When you show favor, he shows you more favor. I think about all the volunteers that make Lakewood work each week: ushers, greeters, prayer partners, people that visit the sick in the hospital, that go up to the prisons, that help those in addictions in recovery, people that teach our children during services in kids life - thousands of people that come early and stay late on their day off. They've already worked 40 hours, they could be at home resting, running errands, enjoying hobbies, instead what are they doing? Serving, helping others, giving.
Some of you volunteers, I have never said thank you to in person, one-on-one and of course I am very grateful, but the truth is, you don't have to have my thanks, I don't control the universe. When the Most High God thanks you, things will happen that you couldn't make happen. His blessing will take you where you've never dreamed.
Sometimes we don't want to serve, because it seems so small and so insignificant. But on the way to the big places God has taken you, he will test us with small things. Don't discount trimming the vines off a street sign. Don't talk yourself out of going the extra mile and serving your family. Getting up early, taking care of the children, making sure everything's alright. Nobody maybe saying thank you, it feels unnoticed - God sees what you're doing, that's what leads to new levels. Maybe you're working at a job that you feel is beneath you, you know you have more in you, it's tempting to think: when I get promoted, when a new door opens, then I'll be my best, then I'll give it my all. You have to first serve where you are with a good attitude.
If you will excel in that small position, do more than you have to, then God will open something bigger. Or maybe you want to be in ministry, you want to do something significant, but the church isn't looking for a pastor, they need volunteers in the children's church. We think: I don't want take care of kids, Joel, I do that all week with my own children, I want to be on the platform. It may seem small, but it's a key to you rising higher. It may not be the main thing in your heart, but it's leading to the main thing. You can't skip that step and reach your destiny. Success is not an elevator, it's a set of stairs. God leads us step by step. Will you serve, even though it seems insignificant?
This is what David did. He was anointed to be the next king of Israel when he was seventeen years old. The prophet Samuel came to his house, unannounced, and chose him over his seven older brothers. He knew, he was destined to do great things. God put this promise in his heart. But David didn't go to the palace, he went back to the Shepherd's fields to take care of sheep, like he had done for years. One day his father asked him to take some sandwiches and cheese to his brothers, who were in another city in the army. David could have thought: dad I'm not an errand boy, I'm not a gofer, I'm a king. You saw Samuel anoint me, not gonna serve my brothers, they should be bringing me food. He could have been too proud to do a small thing.
Instead, the next morning he set out with the lunches. When he arrived at their camp, he heard Goliath, the champion of the Philistine army taunting the Israelites. If David had not been willing to serve in a small area, taking his brother lunches, he would have never met Goliath. His purpose was hidden in what seemed to be insignificant. You have to be willing to do something small, before God will trust you with something great. David was led into his destiny by delivering a sandwich. You would think, when God anointed him King, he would say: David, the next step is to go meet with the commander of the army, go to the palace and strategize with the military leaders. Instead, God said: the next step - take your brother's lunch.
I wonder if a new level is waiting for you in what seems insignificant. Don't put off opportunities to do good to those around you, to serve people. Like David, you may have bigger things in your heart. What's in front of you doesn't line up with your vision. David thought: I'm a king, not a delivery man. You don't know where that small step is leading. Your purpose could be waiting for you in your next act of service, that could be, where you meet your Goliath. David was talking with some people in the army, he found out, there was a huge reward for defeating Goliath: whoever killed him, would get one of the Kings daughters as their wife, plus their whole family would be exempt from paying taxes. David was so excited, he couldn't believe it. It's one thing to not have to pay taxes, but when you marry the king's daughter, that means your status would change.
David came from a common family, they were shepherds, no doubt low income, but with one defeat he could become royalty, that would change his family line forever. When King Saul heard, that this young man David was interested in fighting Goliath, the scripture says, Saul sent for David, he had somebody bring him in. Here David went simply to bring a lunch and now he's standing in the presence of the king. It's amazing what can happen, when you serve, just being faithful, just doing something that seems small, you don't know when you're going to get called in. Promotion doesn't come from people, it comes from the Lord. When it's your time, God will cause you to be seen, he'll cause you to be at the right place, he'll cause you to be called in. David went out with a slingshot, slung the rock and defeated Goliath. Overnight he became royalty, he went from struggling, being poor to having more than enough. Not just him, but his whole family.
There are moments in your future, where like David, because you're serving, giving, helping others, God is going to suddenly thrust you to a new level. God knows how to change your status, he knows how to bump you up to another dimension. One touch of his favor, it not only affects you, but it impacts your whole family. And you may not see how this can happen, neither did David. He was just delivering a lunch, serving in what seemed like a small area. You don't know what God is up to do. You keep being faithful, God's going to make things happen, that you never dreamed would happen.
What's interesting is David didn't deliver the lunches, looking for an opportunity. He didn't go thinking: maybe I'll get a good break, maybe I'll make an important contact, maybe I'll meet the king. He didn't have his own agenda, he wasn't trying to manipulate things, he was just faithfully serving, doing what his father asked and the opportunity came to him. When you serve others, you are serving God, you are honoring him. You don't have to make things happen, you don't have to try to convince people to like you, talk them into opening a door - you just keep being your best where you are, going the extra mile and the blessing will come to you, the promotion, the right people, the favor, it will find you.
For 17 years I served my father behind the scenes here at Lakewood, doing the television production. I wasn't trying to become a pastor, I wasn't looking for this position, I was happy where I was. I would spend hours tweaking the lighting, adjusting the camera angles, doing all I could to make my father look good. I would go to his house every week and pick out a suit and tie for him to wear on television on Sundays. For several years, when we owned a station, every Saturday I would have to go to the station and pick up these seven large recorders, load them into my truck, bring them to the church, get them all hooked up.
I never thought much about it, I was just doing what needed to be done, but God is watching to see how we respond in the difficult times, when we could slack off, we could be sour. You have to be faithful in the wilderness, before God will take you into the Promised Land. When you keep serving with excellence, serving when no one is watching, serving on your day off, serving when it doesn't look like it will ever change, then one day like David you will come into a destiny moment, where God will open a door bigger than you've imagined.
1999 my father unexpectedly went to be with the Lord. That was like my Goliath the moment. I was never expecting to be in front of the camera, but God suddenly thrusts me into this position. It's taken me further than I've ever dreamed, but it all started behind the scenes, when nobody was watching, when I was doing what I could, to make my father look good. Not trying to get the credit, not trying to manipulate things, thinking, maybe daddy one day will choose me, maybe one day I'll be in charge. I was simply faithfully serving my father's vision. You may have a dream to have your own business or have your own ministry, but right now you're working for someone else, you're in a proving season, you need to do all you can, to help that company succeed, do all this in your ability, to help that ministry flourish. Don't wait till you get what you want. If you don't give it your best, where you are, that door won't open for you.
I've heard it said: you have to carry a crown, before you can wear one. You have to serve someone else with excellence, you have to help build their dream, help them succeed. "Well, I want somebody to serve me or someone to help me be successful". The scripture says, if you're not faithful to that which belongs to another man, who will give you your own? Every day you go to work with a good attitude and give it your all. Every time you sing in the choir, usher someone to their seats, every time you help that friend with their project, you are being faithful to another person's dream, you're showing God, that he can trust you with your own. God has a crown for you, he wants you to rise higher, give you more influenced, opportunity, than you've ever seen. The question is: are you carrying somebody else's crown? Are you helping somebody else succeed? Sowing into their dream, maybe serving in their ministry?
1 Kings 19, God told the Prophet Elisha to anoint a young man named Elisha as his replacement. He saw Elijah out plowing in the field, he went over and threw his cloak on him. His cloak was like a piece of clothing, it represented his mantle. It was an invitation for Elisha to work for him. Maybe Elisha had a dream of being in ministry, this was his big chance, God answering his prayer. I can imagine Elisha saying: Elijah I'd love to work for you, what will my position be? He thought he'd be on the platform, leading the people, getting everyone prepared to hear the man of God. I can hear Elijah say: no, I don't need anyone on the platform, I don't need anyone in the limelight, I need you to get my food, bring my water, set up a tent.
It was a test, he didn't tell Elijah that he was his replacement, he didn't tell him: a little earlier God said to anoint him. Elijah's could have said: I'd love to do it, but I don't want to be in the background, I don't want to serve in a menial position, I have big things in my heart. Instead, Elisha understood this principle, that you have to carry a crown, before you can wear one. he faithfully served Elijah month after month, year after year. In fact, three times Elijah tried to get rid of him, he told him to stay in a city while he went further, Elisha wouldn't do it. He was so committed, so faithful, that he went with him anyway.
When Elijah was taken to heaven in the whirlwind, Elisha received a double portion of his anointing, he performed twice as many many miracles. It would have never happened, if he had not served him all those years. Don't discount the power of serving, being faithful, helping someone else succeed. "Well, all I have my own dreams, I'm falling behind". No, your time is coming, there's a Goliath moment, a suddenly, where God is going to thrust you to a new level. You are never wasting time serving others - it's a part of God's plan. You cannot reach your destiny, without being faithful to another person's dream - that showing God, he can trust you with your own.
As a young man God gave Joseph a dream, that one day he would be in leadership, that people would bow down before him. He was betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery. He worked for a man named Potiphar, high-ranking military official in the Egyptian army. Joseph had every right to be bitter, to slack off, his own family turned on him, he was in a foreign country, it looked like God had made a mistake, everything had gone wrong. But instead of being discouraged, Joseph kept excelling where he was, doing more than required, and Potiphar noticed, and put him in charge of his whole household.
Even when it's not fair, you can serve your way up. People notice, when you go the extra mile. You should be so excellent at work, that your company can't make it without you. When your boss, your supervisor looks at you, they think: wow, they're a cut above, they're always on time, they always do more than they have to, they always help solve problems. If you're gone and nobody misses you, everything that your company runs just as smoothly, then maybe they don't need you. If you want job security, you need to be so productive, so above and beyond the norm, that there's a gap, when you're not there. This doesn't mean you have to have the most talent, it means you know how to serve well.
Joseph was eventually put in prison for something, that he didn't do. Surely he'd be sour now, surely he would slack off, no, he kept being his best. So much so, that the supervisor put him in charge of the prison. Betrayed, but still serving faithfully, not fair, but still serving with excellence - that gets God's attention. One night the Pharaoh had a dream, that he didn't understand. Word reached him, that this young prisoner, this slave named Joseph could interpret dreams. He sent for him. Joseph was standing in the palace in front of one of the most powerful people of that day. The betrayal, the bad break, the injustice - it was a test. God was saying: Joseph, will you serve me through the bad breaks? Will you serve me through the lonely nights?
When you face big challenges, it's because God has a big destiny in front of you. And Joseph passed the test. He not only served his way up, he served his way out. He interpreted the dream, the Pharaoh was so impressed, he brought him out of prison and made Joseph the Prime Minister of Egypt. When you go through unfair situations, don't get bitter, keep serving, keep being faithful, keep helping someone else succeed. That difficulty is not there to stop you, it's there to promote you.
Now do your part and serve your way out. Not negative, complaining, "All right, Joel, you talked me into it, I'll do it, but it's not fair". You can do the right thing with the wrong attitude and miss your blessing. God is not just looking at what we do, he's looking at the attitude of our heart. The Psalmist said: serve the Lord with gladness, serve with a smile, go to work with a good attitude, sing in the choir with joy. Too many people are serving with sadness, they wonder why nothing changes. If David would have taken lunch to his brothers with the sour attitude, complaining, I don't believe he would have met Goliath. If Elisha would have served Elijah negative: I can't believe I'm still taking care of this old man, this is not what I signed up for, he'd have never received the double portion.
Don't miss your blessing, because your sour. You're doing the right thing, make sure you're doing it with gladness. Remember, you're not working under people, you're not just serving your company, serving your church, serving your neighbor, you are serving the Creator of the Universe, the God who breathed life into you.
You may be in a difficult situation like Joseph, serve your way out, keep being your best where you are, don't discount the small things, taking your brother's lunch. That small act of service is leading to the big things God has in store. Many of you have been serving faithfully, going the extra mile, doing it with a good attitude, get ready, your time is coming. God is about to open a new door, he's about to put you in position, where you're not just carrying a crown, you're wearing your crown. You're seeing a dream come to pass, it's because you've been faithful to serve. Now I believe and declare, breakthroughs are coming, promotions are coming, healing are coming, new levels of your destiny, in Jesus name.