Joel Osteen - Recognize God's Goodness
I want to talk to you today about recognizing God's goodness. When you look back over your life you can see the faithfulness of God, times where he made a way, where you didn't see a way, he opened a door and a dream came to pass. You were at the right place, you met that person and fell in love. Even when you made mistakes, he showed you mercy and coverage and brought you out, and here you are blessed and moving forward. You didn't get to where you are by yourself, wasn't just your talent, wasn't just good brakes, it was the hand of God. He's been working behind the scenes in your life, pushing back forces of darkness, lining up the brakes that you need. Even before you were born in your family line God was orchestrating things in your favor.
A grandmother that always prayed for you, she spoke faith into you and told you what you could become - that wasn't a coincidence, that was the goodness of God, putting the right people in your life. Or maybe a great-great grandfather that you never met, but he lived a life of integrity, he gave, he served, because he honored God, he put you in a position to be blessed. God has been working on your behalf for generations. Some of the favor that you're seeing didn't have anything to do with you, you stepped into opportunity, good breaks, promotion, because of those who went before you. Other people worked harder, but they didn't get the position. They were more talented, had more experience, but the door didn't open. You're reaping from what your relative sowed, seeds a favor that didn't start with you.
Psalm 105:44, "They harvested what others have planted". Someone in your family line made it easier on you, they made sacrifices, they got up early, they went the extra mile to do the right thing. They may have never seen the fullness of what they were believing for, but God never lets a seed be sown without a harvest. They sowed it, so you could benefit. That's what the scripture says: you will live in houses that you didn't build, you will reap from vineyards that you didn't plan, it's talking about generational blessings. I know I'm reaping from the seeds that my parents and grandparents have sown.
My grandmother on my father's side of the family made 10 cents an hour washing people's clothes during the great depression. She worked 12 hours, made a $1.20 a day. She never really had much, but God is faithful, those seeds didn't go unharvested, and some of the abundance that I'm seeing today is not so much what I've done, it's simply where God put me in my family line: I'm reaping what she sold. It didn't happen in her generation, but it happened in my generation. That's why I take time every day to say, "God, I recognize your goodness. I know I didn't get here by myself, you chose to bless me, you chose to show me mercy".
It's easy to think, "Well, Joel, I'm successful because I'm talented. I'm blessed because I'm wise, I'm smart, I'm a hard worker". Let me ask you: where did you get that talent? It came from your father in heaven. Where did you get the wisdom? Where did you get the funds to go to school? How could your parents afford it? Why did the scholarship go through? Why did the loan go through? Because God favored you, he chose you to succeed, he chose you to go further than those before you. You could have been born generations back, perhaps when your family struggled and made sacrifices, didn't see the increase that you're seeing. You are living in the day they dreamed about. In one sense it didn't have anything to do with you, it's just the hand of God putting you here at this time, where you can reap what others have sown.
My father was raised in a family, they didn't know anything about God. They were good people, but they just didn't have any kind of faith. For several generations back as far as we can see it was the same thing. This could have continued on, didn't passed down to me and my children, but God in his mercy put a man by the name of Sam Martin in my father's life, they were friends growing up. In high school Sam would get there early and write scripture verses on the chalkboard.
My dad was so embarrassed, he tried to distance himself. Sam was determined, he kept talking to my father about the Lord. Didn't see my kids doing any good, cause my dad wouldn't listen, but you never know when a seed is going to take root. You don't have to convict people the Holy Spirit is the one that convinced. You just keep sowing the seed and at the right time when the soil of their heart is softened, the seed will take root. A seed can live for years, you may not see anything happening with your loved ones, with your friends, no sign of them changing, don't worry, the seed is still alive.
When my father was seventeen years old, one night at two o'clock in the morning he was walking home from a nightclub. He looked up with the stars and begin to think about his destiny: what he would do with his life? He didn't know anything about religion, but he could feel God was drawing him that night. The next morning he called his friend Sam and said he wanted to go to church with him. They sat on the very back road. At the end of the service, the pastor invited people to the front to receive Christ. My father wouldn't go, he was too afraid. Sam leaned over and said John, if you'll go I'll go with you. My father stood up and walked down the aisle with this friend Sam Martin, his life was never the same.
I often think about where would I be without Sam Martin? What if God had not put him in my father's path? I wouldn't be up here, I wouldn't be married to Victoria, wouldn't have my children. Many times when I'm praying, I say, "Lord, thank you for sending martin, thank you for putting him in our life, I recognize that's your goodness".
If you knew all the things God has been orchestrating behind the scenes to get you where you are: people, promotion, protection, opportunities, you would be amazed. If this one person had not been at the right place and interacted with someone in your family, you wouldn't be here today. God's been thinking about you long before you got here. The scripture says: "You didn't choose God, he chose you". You didn't here on your own, the Creator of the universe chose you. When I think about all that God has done: the things I know about and the things I don't know about, I can't keep it to myself, I have to say, "Lord, thank you for your goodness. I recognize your favor in my life".
As you've heard today, my parents founded Lakewood on mother's day in 1959, 60 years ago with 90 people in an old run-down feed store. They cleaned out the building, borrowed some old wood pews. Didn't look like much, but the scripture says, "Don't despise the day of small beginnings". Don't get discouraged because where you are is much smaller than what's in your heart. As a young man my father knew, one day he would pastor a church with thousands. But you have to be faithful with the small, before God will trust you with much. That's a time of testing, a time of proving. It's easy to think, "Well, Joel when I'll see some growth, when I'll get some good breaks, then I'll give it my all". No, you have to give it your all right where you are. God is watching, he sees what's not growing, he sees when you're in a feed store and others are in a nice building, stay faithful, your time is coming.
Sometimes now, when I pull up to the Compaq Center and I see this huge building on the freeway with all the people, I feel a tear running down my cheek. It's because I remember where I came from, my mind flashes back to the feed store, as a little boy sitting on the front row with the 90 people, watching my father minister. I think about my grandmother, that made 10 cents an hour, my grandfather that worked at the factory all those years. When I realized how far God has brought us, how he's opened doors I never dreamed would open, how he's taking us further than we ever imagined. I can't help, but say, "Lord, thank you for what you've done in my life. Thank you, for taking me further than I could go on my own". When you look back over your life and see the faithfulness of God, the times he protected you, promoted you, healed you, favored you, don't take it for granted. It wasn't a lucky break, it wasn't an accident, that was the goodness of God.
In Deuteronomy chapter 8, God told the Israelites he was bringing them into the Promised Land. He described it as a land of abundance, flowing with streams and rivers, the clusters of grapes were so large, it took two people to carry. There was so much iron and copper in the ground, it was as common as stone. After promising all this increase and favor, God gave them a warning, he said in verse 11, "Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God. For when you have become full and prosperous, when you have built nice homes, when your silver and gold has multiplied, do not forget the Lord your God rescued you out of slavery. Do not forget he led you through the wilderness with poisonous snakes. Do not forget he gave you water out of the rock, he fed you with manna, which your fathers knew not".
God was saying in today's language: "When your business takes off, when your health turns around, when you have that baby I promise, when you get the Compaq Center, don't let it become so common, that you don't recognize it was my goodness, that you don't take time to thank me for what I've done". In one area of our lives we're all in the Promised Land, we've seen God do amazing things, freed you from an addiction, give you healthy children, bless you in your career, you know it was God's favor. At the time you were so grateful, my challenge is don't lose that sense of all, live with that amazement at what God has done. Go back over the times where he made a way, protected you, open that door that shouldn't have open.
If you don't remember what God has done, then it's easy to start taking the credit and think we got here by ourselves, we did it in our own power. The problem with forgetting is that God won't share his glory, he'll take you incredible places, he'll open amazing doors, but if you don't recognize it's his goodness, the same God that opened the door can close the door. That's why God gave them such a strong warning, he said, "I am taking you into a land where you will lack nothing, you'll have beautiful houses, businesses that are blessed, resources more than you can imagine. My only requirement is that you don't forget, it was my favor that brought you here, it was my angels protecting you in the desert, it was my power keeping enemies from defeating you. I was the one that pushed back the Red Sea, I was the one that gave you water out of the rock. I was the one that brought you in to this land of abundance".
That's why I never get tired of thanking God for what he's done in my life. You hear it all the time: "Lord, thank you for giving us the Compaq Center. I realize, we didn't get this in our own strength, this is the hand of God. Lord, thank you for healing my mother from terminal cancer back in 1981". "Well, Joel, that was almost 40 years ago". Yeah, but I'm not gonna forget, I'm gonna keep thanking God. "Lord, thank you for leading me into that Jewelry store, where I met Victoria for the first time. Thank you, that she couldn't keep her hands off of me". That was a lie, but that wasn't a coincidence, that was God directed my steps.
The same God that led the Israelites through the desert and didn't let poisonous snakes harm them, think about all the times God has protected you. On the freeway that car swerved at the last moment, barely missed you, that wasn't a lucky break, that was his angels protecting you. Or you weren't next in line, but somehow you got the promotion, then another good break and another and now you're living at a level you never dreamed. Like me you've seen God's show out in your life, you have some Compaq Centers, family members that God's heal, a person you met that changed your life for the better. Have you forgotten what God has done? Have you convinced yourself it was just fate, it would have happened no matter what? That's what causes blessings not to last.
It's like this man I heard about. He pulled into a crowded parking lot, he couldn't find a parking space anywhere. He prayed, "God, please help me to find a place to park". He pulled around the next aisle, right on cue this car up front back down. He said, "Never mind, God, I found one". Sometimes we have short memories, we forget God is the one that opened the door, he's the one that caused that college to accept you, he's the reason your company chose you over somebody else, he's the reason your health turned around. Sure the medicine helped, but God is the healer. Don't forget about all the prayers he's answered for you. Take time to acknowledge his goodness not only are you thanking him, but you're reminding yourself: "I didn't get here by myself". You're keeping the right perspective, giving God the credit.
This is where king Nebuchadnezzar in the scripture got off course. He said in Daniel chapter 4: how great is our God, how mighty are his wonders, his kingdom is everlasting. He started off good giving God the credit, talking about his power, and God continued to increase him. But somewhere along the way he started taking the credit, he forgot it was God who was giving him the power to succeed. In verse 29 he looked out over the city and said, "Is this not the great Babylon that I have built by my might and by my power, for the honor of my glory and my majesty". Listen to all the my's: my might, my power, my glory, my majesty. His attitude was: I'm something great. The problem is, we weren't created to contain glory, we were created to give God glory. God will show you his favor, as long as you let that glory flow through you and back up to him. But the moment you start keeping the glory, that's when the favor is going to stop.
As Nebuchadnezzar was up there bragging to everybody about how great he was, verse 31 says, "While he was still speaking, a voice came down from heaven and said, Nebuchadnezzar this day you have lost the kingdom". Why is that? God won't share the glory. If you're going to keep it, he'll step away, but when you're constantly bragging on God's goodness, thanking him for what he's done, giving him the honor, you're going to continue to rise higher. The scripture says, "God opposes the proud, but gives favor to the humble". When you humble yourself and say, "God, I know, it was your goodness that got me to where I am, it was your mercy that brought me out of these mistakes, it was your power that kept these enemies from defeating me, it was your favor that opened these doors. God, I recognized your goodness". When you give God the credit, he'll take your places that you've never dreamed.
When I have friends come to see this building, first thing I always tell them is, "Look what the Lord has done". When I see my mom healthy and whole still after all these years - "Look what the Lord has done". When I see our son Jonathan up here ministry now, I didn't even think I would be a minister, now my son is a minister, it's three generations - "Look what the Lord has done, that's the goodness of God".
What is he done in your life, are you recognizing it? Are you living amazed, filled with gratitude? Or have you let it become common? Don't forget how he freed you from that addiction, how he brought the right person across your path, how he led you through the desert, times you were discouraged, he made a way, he brought you out, he gave you water out of the rock, he provided when you didn't see how. Remember how he delivered you from a few Pharaoh's, people and circumstances that had you in bondage. If you're going to continue to go further, you have to remember it is the Lord your God, that got you to where you are, and it is the Lord your God, that's going to keep you going. Thank him for the doors he opened and thank him for the doors he closed. Thank him for the people that stood with you and thank him for those that walked away. You may not have liked it, but they weren't a part of your destiny, you didn't need them to become who you were created to be.
Verse 16 says, "He fed you with manna, which your fathers knew not". God is going to do things for you that your parents never saw. My father dreamed of building a twenty thousand seat auditorium, he said even one time that we were going to purchase the Compaq Center. He had this in his spirit, but it never came to pass in his lifetime. God put it in his spirit for his children. God has things in your future, that your parents and those that went before you can't couldn't even fathom, favor that your fathers knew not.
I say this in humility, but if my father were here now he would be amazed, not just at me being up here, but at the growth, the influence, God has done things for me that he never experienced. My father used to call me sometimes so excited, he would tell me the income for the ministry that week, the giving was a certain amount. My father came out of poverty, never raised with much and he was so in awe and so filled with gratitude, he'd have to share it with someone else. As amazing as that was, what we see now is more than 10 times what my father would call me about, he couldn't even fathom this. That's the way God is, he's going to increase you in ways that your parents never saw: influence, income, creativity, opportunities, resources.
It says, "He fed you with manna". The word "Manna" means "What is it"? They had never seen it before, it was bread that formed on the ground out there in the desert. God has some manna for you, he has some of these "What is it", things were you think, "I didn't see this coming, I never dreamed I'd be running this business, handling these resources, living in this house". You may not see how it can happen, don't worry, God has the manna, he has things that you've never seen, doors that have never opened, someone you've never met, influence at new levels. Get ready, things are about to shift in your favor, unexpected opportunity, unexpected promotion, unexpected breakthroughs. God is preparing the manna right now, he's getting things ready to show out in your life. What he's done in your past is going to pale in comParison to what he's about to do. Now here's the key: when you see the manna, favor that you've never seen, always remember - it is the Lord your God that's causing you to increase, he's the one that's giving you the power to live an abundant, victorious life.
As we celebrate 60 years here at Lakewood, I can sum up how I feel with one phrase: "To God be the glory"! Let him increase and let us decrease, God may we make your name famous, let us shine brighter, let us take new ground, let us affect the culture in a greater way. God we commit, we will always remember where you brought us from, we remember how you've defeated giants that were much bigger, how you didn't stop all the opposition, but you blessed us because of it. God, we remember how you sustained us for 60 years, may generations to come be still be telling of your goodness from this very building, may it be a continuous lighthouse of hope.
What's interesting is after king Nebuchadnezzar lost the kingdom, because he thought he had done it all in his own strength, he changed his mind, he realized: God had given him the favor, that God was promoting him, he humbled himself. Here's how amazing God is, he's so merciful, he put Nebuchadnezzar back in power. Verse 37 says, "Now, I Nebuchadnezzar, give praise and honor to the King of heaven". A few verses earlier he was saying: my glory, my honor. Now he was saying: I praised the King of heaven. Instead of taking the glory, he started giving God the glory. When he did, God gave him another chance.
I wonder if there are areas in your life like him, you think you've done it in your own strength and it's limiting how high you can go. If you will start recognizing God's favor, thanking him for what he's done, giving him the honor, then God will open new doors and take you further. He won't share the glory, but when you're quick to give him the glory, there's no limit to how high you will go.
I'm asking you to recognize God's goodness in your life. Remember how he led you through the desert, brought you through those difficulties, how you met the right person - wasn't a lucky break, that was the Lord your God, he's been working in your life even generations back. Why don't you get up every morning and say, "Lord, thank you for your goodness". If you'll do this, I believe and declare, you're about to see some manna: influence, opportunities, creativity, income that you've never seen. Like Nebuchadnezzar, God is going to give you back what you lost, your latter days will be better than your former days, in Jesus name.