Joel Osteen — The Odds Are For You
I want to talk to you today about "The odds are for you". It's easy to go through life thinking of all the reasons why we can't be successful, why we won't get well, why we'll never meet the right person. We look at our situations in the natural and think the odds are against us.
I talked to a man that struggles with an addiction. He said, "Joel, my dad had this same addiction. My grandfather struggled with it. The odds don't look too good for me". But as long as you think the odds are against you, you'll get stuck where you are. You have the most powerful force in the universe breathing in your direction. God has crowned you with favor. He has armed you with strength for every battle. He wouldn't have allowed that difficulty if he wasn't going to turn it around and use it to your advantage.
And the odds may be against you, but the Most High God is for you, and he is a supernatural God. He parts Red Seas. He turns water into wine. He opens the eyes of the blind, and your circumstances may look impossible, but the God who can do the impossible is working behind the scenes, arranging things in your favor, turning negative situations around. Since God is for you, that means the odds are for you. Don't go through life thinking, "Not me, Joel. I come from the wrong family. The odds are against me". No, turn it around. "I've been born into a new family. My heavenly father controls the universe. I have Royal blood flowing through my veins".
When you know the odds are for you, you'll put your shoulders back. You'll carry yourself with confidence, and you'll expect to do great things. All through the day, this should be playing in our mind: "The odds are for me. I'm destined to accomplish my dreams. I'm destined to overcome this challenge. I'm a child of the Most High God".
But don't be surprised when you find yourself in situations where it feels like the odds are against you. You don't see a way out. There aren't any logical solutions. God puts us there on purpose so that when he turns it around, nobody will get the credit except him. Everyone will know it is the hand of the Lord, and when your circumstances seem impossible, instead of being discouraged, "God, why me"? No, get ready, you're in perfect position for God to show out in your life. He is setting you up to show his favor in amazing ways.
That's what happened to a man in the scripture named Gideon. The midianites and two other armies came against him. They were about to attack the Israelites. Gideon sent word to his men to come and fight. Thirty-two thousand warriors showed up, and Gideon was feeling good. That was several times more men than his opposition. He liked those odds. But just when he was about to attack, God said, "Gideon, you have too many men. If you defeat the midianites, you'll think you did it in your own strength". He instructed Gideon to let everyone go home that was afraid.
Twenty-two thousand men left. Gideon nearly passed out. Two thirds of his army went home. He didn't like these odds anymore, and when he thought it couldn't get any worse, God said, "Gideon, you still have too many". He told him to do something else, to eliminate more men. Nine thousand, seven hundred men left. Gideon only had 300 men to fight this army of thousands and thousands. These odds seemed impossible, looked like he would be wiped out.
What Gideon didn't realize was God wasn't setting him back, he was setting him up. He was about to show out in his life, and Gideon and those 300 men went to the enemy's camp in the middle of the night. They blew their trumpets and let out a loud shout. The midianites got confused and began to fight among themselves, and the Israelites defeated them. They didn't have to lift one finger. They didn't even have to go to battle. It looked like a setback, but the truth was, God was setting Gideon up. He was putting him in position to show himself strong.
And when the odds seem like they're against you, the obstacles look bigger, stronger, more powerful, don't worry, like Gideon, it is a setup. God is about to make things happen that you could never make happen. He's going to turn that situation around without you having to go to battle. He's going to heal you without the extensive treatment. He's going to promote you without all of the qualifications. Keep the right perspective. The odds are for you. You may feel like the underdog, but you and God are a majority. You don't need everyone to be for you. You don't have to have all the support, the encouragement. You have the one that matters. The Most High God is breathing in your direction.
Later, when the Israelites when to different cities, normally, these armies would attack, but the leaders said, in effect, "Gideon, we saw what your God did to the midianites". They weren't afraid of Gideon. They were afraid of the God of Gideon. They knew the Lord was on his side.
God wants to give you victory to where people know the Lord is on your side. Maybe you didn't have the support growing up, the encouragement, the stability. You should have been a statistic, but here you are, defying the odds, leaving your mark, going further than you ever dreamed.
What happened? The Lord was on your side. The medical report said you wouldn't make it, but here you are, strong, healthy, and whole. The Lord was on your side. Perhaps the odds said you'd be addicted like your father, you would struggle like your grandfather, but here you are, free and clean. You broke the curse. You set a new standard. How could this be? The Lord was on your side.
When we were trying to acquire this facility, the former Compaq Center, every expert told us that we wouldn't get it, that the city wasn't going to let a church have it. On the surface, the odds were against us, but we understood this principle. When you don't see a way, when you feel outnumbered, when the giants look bigger, they have more resources, more experience, that means God is up to something. Like Gideon, he's getting you in position to launch you to the next level. God made things happen that we could never make happen, and some of the same people that were against us, the same ones that said we would never get it, today, they are our biggest supporters.
I saw one of the council members that voted against us, a very vocal opponent. He said, "Joel, that was the biggest mistake of my political career. I watch you every Sunday. I bring people to your services. I don't know what I was thinking back then". I didn't tell him, but he was a part of the setup. God was using him to launch us forward.
That's what it says in Exodus. God caused Pharaoh to harden his heart so that he could bring great glory at the expense of Pharaoh. God had told Moses to go tell Pharaoh, "Let my people go," but God knew that Pharaoh wasn't going to let them go. He caused him to harden his heart. God was setting up the odds to be against the Israelites so he could show his favor, and some of the people and circumstances that have come against you, you may not like it. It wasn't fair, but it was ordained by God, not to stop you, not to defeat you, but so that God can show out in your life.
Now, quit complaining about what didn't work out, "Why am I facing these huge giants"? Those obstacles that look like they're stopping you, if you'll stay in faith, it's just a matter of time before God turns them around and uses them to push you forward. The odds are against you for one reason, so that God can bring great glory out of your life. He wants to make you an example of his goodness.
You remember when the three Hebrew teenagers wouldn't bow down to the king's golden idol? This king got so furious, he was going to have them thrown into a fiery furnace. He told his men to heat up the fire seven times hotter than normal. What was God doing? Making the odds even greater.
God knew the fire wasn't going to burn them. He knew they weren't going to be harmed. So he had them turn it up even hotter so that it would become a greater miracle, and when these three Hebrew teenagers came out of that fire without the smell of smoke, there wasn't any doubt that the Lord was on their side. In fact, this same king said, "Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego," those three Hebrew teenagers.
When it feels like the odds are against you, the fire has been turned up seven times hotter, Pharaoh won't let you go, God took your army from 32,000 to 300 men, don't panic. Don't fall apart. It's a setup. God is about to show out. He's about to make you a testimony. He's going to do something that people cannot deny. They're going to know the Lord is on your side.
I talked to a man that cut his hand and developed a severe infection. He tried for several days to tough it out and hope that it would go away, but it kept getting worse. He started running a high fever. He got to the point where he couldn't eat. He finally passed out. He was rushed to the emergency room unconscious.
The doctors told his family that he had some kind of toxic shock, and there was only a 50% chance that he would live. They had to find the right kind of antibiotic to treat him, and every hour that went by not treated, his chance of survival went down 5%. If they didn't find something in the next few hours, the doctors said that he probably wouldn't make it, and if somehow he did survive, he would become a vegetable.
Twelve hours went by, and they couldn't find the antibiotic. One day, still nothing. Two-hundred and sixty-four hours later, they finally found the right treatment. He wasn't supposed to still be alive. He was told he would never be able to walk, talk, function properly, but today, he's perfectly healthy. You would never know anything was wrong. But God could have healed him the first day.
The doctors could have found the right treatment the first few hours. That would have still been a great miracle, but sometimes God will let the odds grow greater to where you don't see a way out, then suddenly God will step in and make things happen that you could never make happen.
Don't let the odds fool you. Don't let the fact that you don't see a way, the financial situation looks too far gone, you've tried to break that addiction for years, now you think it wasn't meant to be. No, get ready, this is a setup. This is not the time to give up. This is the time to stir your faith up. All through the day, "Lord, thank you that you're bigger than this sickness, greater than this addiction, more powerful than these opponents". If you'll stay in faith, like this man, you're going to become a testimony. People are going to look at you and see that God's favor is on your life.
In the scripture, Mary and Martha sent word to their friend Jesus that their brother Lazarus had died, and Jesus was in a different city, and they thought that he would come right away and pray for Lazarus, and they had seen Jesus heal people before. They knew that he could heal their brother. One day passed, and Jesus didn't show up. I'm sure Martha thought, "Jesus, where are you? What's taking you so long"? Another day went by, still no sign of Jesus. Finally, Lazarus died.
When Jesus arrived at their house, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. Mary and Martha were so upset. They said, "Jesus, if you would have been here, our brother would still be alive". The odds weren't that good when he was sick, but now that he was dead, they looked impossible. He was already wrapped in grave clothes, wrapped up like a mummy. You know the story. Jesus went to the tomb, and he spoke to Lazarus and told him to come back to life, and when he did, Lazarus woke up. It was a great miracle.
My point is, sometimes God will wait on purpose till the odds are way against us. You're ready to bury the dream, bury the promise, bury the relationship. You don't see a way, but God's ways are not our ways. Mary and Martha were praying for a healing, but God had something better in store. He had a resurrection, and what you're tempted to give up on, you don't see how it could happen, maybe God is not going to do it the way you're thinking. Maybe he has something better for you.
Twice, we tried to buy property to build a new sanctuary on. Both times, that property was sold out from under us. We couldn't find any more large tracts of land. I was discouraged. I didn't think we'd ever have a bigger sanctuary. Then one day, suddenly, the Compaq Center became available. I was praying for a healing, but God had a resurrection, something better than I'd ever dreamed.
The odds may be totally against you today, but can I tell you, God is totally for you? He has not brought you this far to leave you, and your circumstances may look dead. God didn't show up on time. You've been asking and asking. Dare to trust him. He has you in the palm of his hand. You may not see anything happening, but he's working behind the scenes, and when he speaks, dead things come back to life. He's not moved by the odds.
When Jesus found out that Lazarus was dead, he didn't say, "Oh, man, I waited too long. What am I going to do now"? God controls the universe. The odds do not determine what he can and cannot do. Back in those days, the Sadducees, these were the people that were very against Jesus. They believed that the spirit left the body three days after a person died. It wasn't a coincidence that Jesus waited till the fourth day to show up. He did this on purpose so when he raised Lazarus, there would be no doubt about it.
And sometimes, God will let the odds become greater, not just so you, but so your critics, so your neighbors, so your relatives, so your co-workers, they won't be able to deny what God has done, and I love the fact that from that moment forward, Lazarus became a testimony. Everywhere he went, he didn't have to say a word, people pointed at him. You could hear them whispering, "Look, there's that guy. He was dead. He's not supposed to be here". He defied the odds. He was a living testimony. That's what God wants to do for you, show you his favor in such a way that people notice, that you stand out. You're going to become a living testimony.
I know a young lady that applied for a scholarship at a prestigious university. Twenty-six hundred other students applied as well. The challenge was, there were only 12 scholarships available. Those odds were less than half of 1%. She could have thought, "What's the use? No use even trying. These are impossible odds".
Instead, she did what I'm asking you to do. She dared to believe that God would open the doors that she was supposed to go through, and it doesn't always happen the way we think. God knows what's best. But if you're letting the odds talk you out of stretching, out of dreaming, out of believing, then you're going to miss the fullness of your destiny.
If you can accomplish everything in your own strength, you don't need God's help. But when the odds are against you, you don't see a way, you don't have the connections, the finances, you're too young, too old, that's when you have to dig you heels in and say, "God, I know these odds are no problem for you. I know this is a setup for you to show out".
That's what this young lady did. Several months later, she received a letter saying, "Congratulations, out of the 2600, you're one of the 12 that we've chosen". Are you letting the odds talk you out of your dreams, talk you out of your health, talk you out of your freedom? Not long ago, the lottery was at a record amount. I read where the odds of winning it were 1 in 300 million, and they used this example that if you laid pennies on the ground side by side from Seattle to Miami and you marked one of those pennies with a special X, the chances of you winning that lottery were the same as you choosing that one special penny between Seattle and Miami. They were basically saying, "Forget about it. You're not going to win".
In the book of Genesis, it talks about how God created the heavens and the earth, and the word it uses for "Creation" means that he made it out of nothing. Every expert would have said, "That's impossible, you don't have anything to work with. If you had skies, oceans, grass, air, then maybe you could make something, put it together, but you can't do that with nothing".
And it's one thing to have odds of 12 in 2600. That's not so great. It's another to have odds of 1 in 300 million. That's very unlikely. But what about when the odds are 0 in 300 million, 0 in 2600? It's impossible, there's no chance. Here's how amazing God is. He started the universe with odds of zero.
He had nothing to work with, no way in the natural, but God is not moved by the odds. He didn't check with accounting and say, "I'm about to create stars, galaxies, planets. I have nothing to work with. What are the odds of this happening"? Accounting would have said, "Zero, you have no materials, no resources". God would have said, "Thank you for your information, now let there be light," and light came at 186,000 miles a second.
He spoke worlds into creation. He didn't Google it to see if it was possible. He didn't try to figure out a way. He is the way. He didn't try to open a door. He is the door. He doesn't check with the odds to see if you can reach your destiny. He speaks, and it becomes your destiny. He's not limited by your background, by how you were raised, by your education. He is all powerful. He can take nothing and make something magnificent.
Imagine what he can do with you. You are his prized possession. He breathed his life into you. You have the DNA of almighty God. There may be odds against you in certain areas, but they cannot stop you. God has destined you to leave your mark. Don't let the odds discourage you. Don't let what you think is not going to happen talk you out of believing. Even if the odds are zero in a million, all God has to do is speak, and the odds change in your favor.
A friend of mine grew up in a very dysfunctional environment. His father wasn't around, and his mother had mental issues. When she wasn't in the psychiatric ward, she was either in jail or with different boyfriends. There was all kinds of violence and abuse in his home. At the age of 13, his mother left him at a bus stop and took off with another boyfriend. For years, this young man was in and out of foster homes, detention centers. He slept in abandoned buildings, in the woods, anyplace he could find. He had to steal food in order to survive.
How could he ever make anything out of his life? All the odds were against him, and it wasn't his fault. He didn't have a fair shot in life. But in the 7th grade, he met a junior high counselor at a small inner-city school named Cindy. Cindy could tell this young boy was troubled, had no stability. She took a great interest in him, but this boy was only in her school for several months before he dropped out.
Every day for two years, Cindy prayed, "God, please, send him back to our school". In the 9th grade, he came walking through the years. Cindy was right there waiting for him. Nobody had ever been looking for this young man. His home life was so dysfunctional, every morning, Cindy would drive 45 minutes to pick him up and bring him to school. Her motto was, "Correction does much, but encouragement does more".
That summer, he was mowing the lawn of an elderly couple. When they learned his story, they opened their home and took him in. They discovered this young boy had a gift of music, writing, and singing. He started performing at talent shows and community events. Every time, this elderly lady would be on the front row with her Bible in hand, cheering him on.
In 2008, Jimmy Wayne's song, "Do you believe me now?" hit number one on the country charts. He's toured with Brad Paisley and other stars. Today, he uses his country music platform to raise awareness about foster care and to help other children in the same situation.
Like jimmy, the odds make be against you. You don't see any way your situation could work out, but God has the right people already lined up. The gifts he put in you, the dreams, they didn't get canceled because you had bad breaks, because somebody did you wrong. They are still alive. You can still become who God created you to be, and it may feel like the fire has been turned up seven times hotter, but don't worry, your time is coming. God is saying, "The odds are for you. Things are about to change in your favor. That problem that looks permanent, its only temporary".
Now, all through the day, "Father, thank you that the odds are for me". If you'll do this, I believe and declare, like jimmy, you're going to go further than you've ever dreamed. Like these Hebrew teenagers, you're going to come out of that fire without the smell of smoke, and like Lazarus, God is going to make you a living testimony, in Jesus's name.