Joel Osteen - Moving Forward
I want to talk to you today about Moving Forward. It's easy to go through life looking in the rearview mirror, focused on what didn't work out, on what hurt us, on the mistakes we made: "If only I would have finished college. If only I would have spent more time with my children. If only that company wouldn't have laid me off after 20 years, that's just not right". But as long as you're living in regrets, focused on the negative things of the past, it's going to keep you from the bright future God has in store. You've got to let go of what didn't work out, let go of the hurts and pains, let go of your disappointments, your failures. You can't do anything about the past, but you can do something about right now and whether it happened 20 years ago or 20 minutes ago, let it go and move forward.
If you keep bringing negative baggage from yesterday into today, it will poison your future. You may have had an unfair past, I'm not debating that, what I'm saying is you don't have to have an unfair future. You may have gotten off to a rough start in life, but it's not how you start that matters, it's how you finish. Don't let what somebody did or didn't do for you be an excuse to live sour. Don't let a bad break, a divorce, a betrayal, a bad childhood cause you to settle where you are. Move forward and God will pay you back. Move forward and God will vindicate you. Move forward and you'll come into a new beginning. Nothing that's happened to you is a surprise to God. The loss of that loved one didn't catch God off guard. The business that didn't make it, the relationship that didn't work out did not stop God's plan for your life.
Now, the real question is, are you going to get stuck, fall into self-pity, become bitter, let the past poison your future or are you going to shake it off and move forward knowing that your best days are still up a ahead? In your automobile, there's a big windshield in the front and a very small rearview mirror. The reason the windshield is so large and the rearview mirror is so small is because what's happened in your past is not nearly as important as what's in your future, where you're going is much more significant than where you've been. But if you stay focused on the past, you'll get stuck where you are. This is the reason a lot of people don't have joy, no enthusiasm for life. They're dragging around all this negative baggage from the past.
Somebody offended them last week, they've got that stuffed in the resentment back. Last month they lost their temper, said some things they shouldn't have, they've got that in their guilt and condemnation bag. Ten years ago, they lost a loved one, they still don't understand it. They've got that hurt and pain in their disappointment bag. They carry around their bag of regrets, all the things they wished they would have done differently. They've got their divorce in a specific bag, been mad at their spouse for years. If they went to take an airline flight, they couldn't afford it. They've got 27 bags they drag around with them everywhere they go.
Friends, life is too short to live that way. Learn to travel light. Every morning when you first get up, forgive the people that did you wrong the day before. Forgive your spouse for what they said. Forgive your boss for being rude. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you've made. At the start of the day, let go of the disappointments, the setbacks from yesterday. Start every morning afresh and anew. God did not create you to carry around all that baggage, and some of you have been holding on to it for years. It's not going to change unless you do something about it. You gotta put your foot down and say, "That's it. I'm not living in regrets anymore. I'm not focusing on my disappointments. I'm not dwelling on who hurt me, on what didn't work out. I'm letting it go and moving forward with my life.
See, we should focus on what we can change, not what we cannot change. What's done is done. If somebody offended you, mistreated you, disappointed you, you can't undo that. You can either get bitter, pack it in a bag and let it weigh you down, or you can forgive them and go on. If you lost your temper yesterday, you can either beat yourself up, carry around the guilt and condemnation, or you can ask for forgiveness, receive God's mercy, and do better today. If you didn't get that promotion, you can get sour, go around with a chip on your shoulder, or you can shake it off knowing that God has something better in store. No matter what happens in your life, big or small, if you will learn to let it go and move forward, then your past doesn't have to poison your future.
I met a lady after the service a few years ago who had been through a divorce. We prayed several times that God would bring somebody new into her life. One day she met this man, fine godly man, very successful. She was so happy about it but she made the mistake of dragging all of her negative baggage into this new relationship. She was constantly talking about what she'd been through and how she was mistreated. She had a victim mentality. The man told me later she was so focused on her past, so caught up in what she had been through, he couldn't handle it. He moved on.
That's what happens when we hold on to the hurts and pains of the past, it will poison you everywhere you go. You cannot drag around the baggage from yesterday and expect to have good relationships today. You've gotta let it go. Quit living life looking in that rearview mirror, start looking out the great big windshield. You may have had some bad breaks, but that did not stop God's plan for your life. He still has something amazing in front of you. When one door closes, if you'll stay in faith, God will always open up another door. When one dream dies, don't sit around self-pity, talking about what you've lost, dream another dream. Your life is not over because you lost a loved one, you went through a divorce, you got laid off. You wouldn't be alive unless God had another victory in front of you.
Now, quit mourning over what you've lost. Let go of what didn't work out. How do you let it go? Quit thinking about it. Quit talking about it. Quit reliving all the negative things that have happened to you. When those pictures come up on the movie screen of your mind, change the channel. You have the remote control. You don't have to watch everything that comes up. If you keep reliving negative memories, thinking about how unfair it was, "How could they do that to me"? That wound will never heal. Every time you think about it, you're reopening it. The mind is very powerful. When you replay negative experiences, you will feel the same emotion as when it first happened. Before long, you'll be sad, angry, depressed, bitter.
I know people, when that picture comes up on the movie screen of their mind, the negative memories, instead of quickly changing the channel, they go pull up a chair, so to speak, get a bag of popcorn, watch it for the next 15 minutes. The scripture says think on things that are pure, things that are wholesome, things that are of a good report. If you're going to keep moving forward, you've gotta be disciplined in your thought life. The negative memories will try to replay again and again. You gotta guard your mind. Some of you would go to a new level if you would simply start changing the channel. Quit replaying the disappointments, quit reliving the bad breaks. Every time you watch that, you think about it, you're reopening the wounded. It's making it more difficult.
I walked into a government building one time, there were 2 sets of double doors about 15 feet apart. They were both automatic doors. When you walked through the first set of doors, you had to let them totally close until the next set of doors would open. As long as I stayed at that first set, the second set would not open. It's the same principle in life. If you're sitting around nursing your wounds, feeling sorry for yourself, you're not going to see anything new. You've got to let those doors totally close. Let go of the disappointments, let go of the failures. You cannot change the past but you can change the future. If you'll move forward, you'll see the new things God wants to do, and this is what the scripture says, God will give you beauty for ashes.
Here's the key, you have to let go of the ashes before you can receive the beauty. Ashes represent our broken dreams, our failures, our disappointments, our hurts. We all have our share of ashes. As long as you're holding on to the ashes, thinking about the disappointment, mad at somebody, bitter at the past, then you won't receive the beauty. An exchange has to take place. It's an act of faith to say, "God, I'm forgiving this person that hurt me," or "I lost my biggest client but I'm not going to have a chip on my shoulder. My friend betrayed me, but I'm going to keep a good attitude". That's when God can give you the beauty. "Well, Joel, they hurt me too badly, I can't forgive them". That's a heavy price to pay. If you won't let go of the old, you can't receive the new.
"Well, we prayed for our mother and she didn't get healed like your mother. We don't understand it". I don't claim to understand it all, I'm simply asking you to let go of the ashes, let go of the disappointment, let go of the blame. Take those ashes, you're broken dreams, your hurts, your failures, even your questions. Put them into God's hands and say, "God, it wasn't fair. They hurt me. My dream didn't work out but I refuse to live life looking in the rearview mirror. You promised me beauty for ashes so right now I'm releasing the bitterness. I'm forgiving the person that hurt me. I'm letting go at the disappointments.
I know a man that lost his wife over 10 years ago. She was killed in an automobile accident. It's a very tragic situation, and of course, there's a normal period for grieving, that's a part of the healing process. That's the way God made us. But some 10 years later, this man was still grieving. He let a season of mourning turning into a lifetime of mourning. He ended up a very bitter, angry man. What happened? He's holding on to the ashes. God wants to give him beauty, but because he won't let go of the old, he can't receive the new. The enemy would love for you to spend your whole life sitting in the ashes, bitter over a relationship that didn't work out, angry over a job you didn't get, feeling sorry for yourself because of a loved one that died. No, turn loose of those ashes.
If you went through a divorce, let it go, God has somebody better in your future. If you weren't treated right growing up, let it go and God will make it up to you. If you lost a loved on, they're up in heaven right now celebrating. You know what they would want me to tell you? Move forward. Quit mourning over something that's over and done. Quit mourning over what you cannot change. If God wanted them to still be here, they would still be here. If God wanted you to have that position that you didn't get, you would have it. Shake off the self-pity, shake off the disappointment.
The apostle Paul put it this way, "Forgetting what lies behind, I strain toward what lies ahead". That word "Strain" indicates it's going to take effort. You go through a bad break, a loss, the easy thing to do is sit around, talk about how bad life's treating you. But if you're going to keep moving forward, you gotta have a strong will. You gotta rise up like Paul and say, "That's it. I am not holding on to these ashes. I know what's in my future is greater than what's in my past so I am pressing forward in life.
This is what the prophet Samuel had to do. Samuel had invested a lot of time and energy into his relationship with Saul. Back when Saul was a young man, Samuel chose him at the Lord's command to be the next king of Israel. Samuel took Saul under his wing, he did his best to make sure that Saul would succeed but unfortunately, Saul wouldn't walk in obedience and God rejected him as king. Well, you can imagine how Samuel must have felt. He had put all this time, and effort, and energy into Saul and now it looks like it was all a big waste of time. I'm sure Samuel was heartbroken, sitting around feeling sorry for himself, thinking about what didn't work out.
In 1 Samuel 16 God said, "Samuel, how long are you going to mourn over Saul"? God is asking us the same thing. How long are you going to mourn over what you've lost? How long are you going to be discouraged over a relationship that didn't work out, over a job you didn't get, over somebody that hurt you? There is a problem with excessive mourning. It stops God from releasing the new things he has for you. God told Samuel, "Fill your horn with oil and be on your way, I am sending you the house of Jesse. I've chosen one of his sons to be the next king". God was saying, "Samuel, if you'll quit mourning and instead get up and start moving forward, I'll give you another king".
Saul was his first choice, but just because Saul wouldn't walk in obedience, God didn't say, "I'm sorry, Samuel, Saul blew it, that ruins everything". No, God always has another plan. If you'll quit dwelling on the disappointment, quit feeling sorry for yourself and instead do what the scripture says, fill your horn with oil, that simply means put on a new attitude. Put the smile bang on your face, get the spring back in your step. Get your hopes up. Start expecting God's goodness, that's when you'll see the new things God has in store. Now, Samuel could have said, "God, I can't do it. I'm too heartbroken. They hurt me too bad. I spent too much time with Saul". If he would have done that, he would have missed out on choosing David, one of the greatest kings that's ever lived. Just like with Samuel, what you may think right now is a big disappointment, a big stumbling block, God is going to turn it into a steppingstone to take you into the greatest days of your life.
I have a friend that was married for many, many years. One day he came home and his wife had left a note on the kitchen table saying that she had fallen in love with somebody else and was moving away, and of course he was very devastated. When I saw him, he looked 20 years older than he really was. He said, "I don't understand it. I love this lady. I'll never find another person like her". He thought he had seen his best days. He grieved that loss. He went through a season of mourning but he didn't let it turn into a lifetime of mourning. Didn't happen overnight but eventually, he got his passion back. He put on a new attitude. He made the decision he wasn't going to live life looking in the rearview mirror, kept moving forward. About 3 years later, he met this beautiful young lady, they ended up falling in love, getting married. He told me, "Joel, I have never been this happy in all of my life. I never knew what true love really was". This is the way God is. If you'll let go of the ashes, not get bitter, God will do something greater than you've ever imagined.
When my father was alive, I used to tell Victoria, "I wonder what's going to happen to me and what's going to happen around here when my father go to be with the Lord". My father and I, we had traveled the world together for 17 years. I worked with him day in and day out here at the ministry. He'd come over to our house many nights. We'd have dinner, go watch the Astros play baseball. Much of my world was built around my father. In the back of my mind I thought, when my dad dies, it will never be as good as it is right now.
When my dad went to be with the Lord 1999, he suddenly had a heart attack, I mourned the loss of my father but I didn't get bitter, didn't have a chip on my shoulder. I didn't feel cheated. I knew the number of my father's days God had fulfilled. I knew it was a part of God's plan, and I say this very respectfully, because I still love and miss my father but what I thought would be my darkest hour turned out to be my brightest hour. I thought I would never be as happy and fulfilled as when my dad was here. But like with Samuel, God had another plan. God had something better for the new season of my life. When you go through a loss, a disappointment, it's easy to think, it will never be like it used to be. If you'll stay in faith and keep moving forward, you're right, it won't be what it used to be. It will be better than it used to be. That's the way our God is. That's beauty for ashes.
Now, my question, are you still mourning over something that you should be over? If you'll fill your horn with oil, put on the new attitude, start moving forward, you will see the better things that God has in store. In life, we all have to deal with some kind of loss: loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of a dream, loss of a relationship, and it's tempting to feel like something was taken away from us, something was stolen. You can have one of two attitudes. You can say, "God, I don't have understand it. How could you let that happen to me"? You can get angry, bitter, pass blame, but a much better approach is to take that loss and sow it as a seed. Say "God, I don't know why this was taken away, but I'm not going to let anyone steal from me. I'm sowing this as a seed, trusting you to bring me a harvest".
In other words, you didn't get a promotion that you deserved, don't get bitter. Have the attitude, "Nobody stole this promotion from me. God, I'm sowing it as a seed believing that you'll bring me an even better position". A relationship didn't work out, "God, I'm not going to live my life sour thinking that I've wasted months or even years of my life. I'm sowing this as a seed knowing that you will bring the right person into my life". See, you can't have a victim mentality. "Oh, man, I've been robbed. My loved one was taken away". No, turn it around, give it to God. Saw it as a seed, and you'll be amazed at what kind of harvest God will bring you.
I saw a story on the news several years ago about this young mountain climber. He was in a remote section of Utah hiking through the canyon all alone when suddenly this 800-pound boulder shifted and his right arm became stuck. For 5 days, he tried everything he could to free himself, had a small pocketknife. Hour after hour, he chipped away at that boulder to no avail. When that didn't work, he tried to use some of his climbing equipment to somehow shift the rock. On the third day, he ran out of food and water. By this time, his arm was no longer alive. He had no feeling in it, had no blood going to it for days. It was cold, hard, stiff. It looked like he was going to die with it. Didn't seem like there was any way out. But on the fifth day, he made a decision to do the unthinkable. He knew he had to cut off his arm if he was going to be able to live. He put a tourniquet on up here.
Somehow, someway he amputated his own arm. He then walked for 2 miles, somebody ran into him, miraculously, his live was saved, and in a sense, we all come to places like this in life where something is over and done. There's nothing more we can do it about. We may not understand it. It may not have been fair but none of that changes the fact that it's no longer alive. We could either hold on to it and let it drag us down and defeat us with it, or like this young man, as difficult as it may be, we can choose to break free, move forward so we can experience a new beginning. If something is dead in your life, don't die with it. If something is over and done, don't hold on to it, let it go. Say "God, they hurt me. It wasn't right, but I'm not going to dwell on it. I'm not going to relive that memory. I'm going to cut it off and move forward". Sometimes you have to take bold measures to keep making progress. If a dream died, don't die with it. Cut off the broken dream, cut off the relationship that didn't work out, cut off the self-pity, the unforgiveness, the negative attitude. Where you're unwilling to walk away is where you're going to become stuck.
In the scripture, Job went through a 9-month period where everything that could go wrong did. He lost his health, his business, his family. At one point it says he sat down among the ashes. He was so overwhelmed, so distraught he thought, "This is it, I'll never be happy again". When you go through a loss, a disappointment, there's nothing the enemy would love to see you do any more than to sit down among the ashes, get bitter, hold on to something that's dead, lose your enthusiasm for life. That's what Job did for a period of time he sat down. But here's the whole catch, Job didn't stay down. He got his fire back, got his passion back, he rose up out of those ashes. He said, "This may be difficult, nut I know, me redeemer lives, I know my God is still on the throne. I know I wouldn't be alive unless there was something greater in my future".
The scripture says Job came out with twice what we had before, and some of you today, life hasn't turned out the way you've hoped, gone through some unfair situations, now like Job, you're sitting in the ashes, holding on to something that didn't work out, bitter, discouraged. God is saying, "If you'll let go of the ashes, if you'll put on a new attitude, I'll do for you, what I did for Job. I'll not only bring you out, but I'll bring you out with twice what you had before". Isaiah said, "Because you got a double dose of trouble, you're inheritance in the land will be double and your joy will go on forever".
Friends, your future starts today. Don't you dare go through life looking in that rearview mirror. Look out the great big windshield in front of you. Your life is filled with possibility, there are incredible opportunities in front of you. You may have had some bad breaks, but always remember, God has promised beauty for those ashes. Now, do your part, let go of the ashes, quit reliving negative memories. Don't let a season of mourning turn into a lifetime of mourning. Be bold to cut off whatever didn't work out. Whether it was 30 minutes ago or 30 years ago, let it go and move forward. If you'll do this, you will feel a heaviness lift off of you, and I believe and declare the rest of your life will be the best of your life. God will take what's meant for harm and use it to your advantage. You will overcome every obstacle, defeat every enemy, and become everything God's created you to be. In Jesus' name.