Joel Osteen - Don't Settle for Less
I want to talk to you today about "Don't settle for less". All of us have dreams that we are believing for, promises that God has spoken to us. At one time we were excited about them, but too often when it's taken longer than we thought, because our health hasn't improved, we didn't get the promotion, our child isn't making good decisions, we get discouraged and quit believing for the fullness of what's in our heart. It's easy to water down what God's promise to us, "I don't like this job, but at least I'm employed is good enough. I was believing for a nice house, but I guess this apartment will do. I was hoping to get well, but I've learned to live with this sickness, I guess I'm at least okay". No, okay is not who you were created to be. Good enough is not what God promised you.
The enemy can't stop God's plan for your life, but he'll do his best to convince you to settle along the way. If you're going to become all you were created to be, you have to keep a fire in your spirit, there has to be a holy determination, a resolve that says "I refuse to settle for less than what God's promised me". You have to make up your mind, you're not going to be talked out of it, you're not going to water it down, you're not going to let good enough be good enough. It may be taken longer than you thought, it may be more difficult, the good news: is it's not too late, you haven't missed your chance, what God promised you is still on the way. Not a watered-down version, not a partial healing, not a make-do promotion, not a good enough marriage, know exactly what God promised you. What you were excited about before the delays, before the bad breaks is still in row.
God doesn't abort a dream, he doesn't get talked out of what he's promised, he doesn't water down what he's spoken to us. Now, maybe the reason you're not seeing this favor is you've settled, you've accepted that your dreams not going to happen, you'll never get well, you'll never get out of debt - as long as you think that way it will limit your life. I'm asking you to pull up your stakes, pack up your belongings: mediocrity is not your home, good enough is not your destiny, getting by is not where you belong. You may be there now, but that is not your permanent location. Don't settle for an okay marriage, okay job, okay health, okay life. Yes, we should be content, but you shouldn't be satisfied with less than what you know God put in your heart.
But sometimes instead of stirring our faiths up and believing for the best, we move the goalposts back to justify what we're saying. "I can't seem to break this addiction, but if I can learn to manage it that's good enough. I'll never reach my dreams, but hey, I'm doing as good as my coworker, that's not too bad". No, instead of justifying it, moving that goalpost to fit what you think is going to happen, why don't you leave the gold there and say "God, I don't see how this can work out, I don't see how it can get well, how my family will be restored, how can reach my dreams, but God, I know you wouldn't have promised it if you weren't going to bring it to pass. I know you have a way where I don't see a way, so I'm not gonna settle here, I'm gonna keep believing, I'm gonna keep dreaming, I'm gonna keep stretching my faith". That's what allows God to do great things.
Genesis 15, God told Abraham he was going to have a son. The problem was, Abraham was 75 years old, his wife Sarah was 65, they'd never had children she had been barren all these years, now she had gone through the change of life - it was impossible in the natural. Year after year went by with no sign of a baby. Every thought told them it's been too long, you're wasting your time, you're both way too old, it's never going to happen. Finally Sarah said to Abraham to sleep with her maid, that way they could have a baby. She thought that's the only way it would happen. It was so impossible, she watered down the promise, she reduced it to what she thought would happen.
Many times we do like Sarah: when God speaks something to us, instead of coming up to his level, believing for the unusual, the uncommon, the extraordinary, we bring it down to our level. When I got word that the Compaq Center was coming available and the rockets were going to move out of this building, something came alive on the inside, I knew it was supposed to be ours. But even though I was excited in my spirit, my mind said "There's no way we'll get the building: it's too expensive, the city will never let our church have it". I was tempted to water it down. Voices whisper "Joel, come back to your senses, don't get your hopes up, it's never going to happen".
It's easy to get talked out of the great things God has in store. And there will be times God speaks things to your spirit that don't make sense to your mind, "Sarah, you can't have a baby at 80. Joel, you'll never get the basketball arena. Dodie, you'll never beat terminal cancer, just accept it. You'll never write your book, never start your business, never build that children's home you're dreaming about, you don't have the resources". You may not, but God does. He's not asking you to figure it out, he's asking you to believe. Why don't you take the limits off of him?
"Well, Joel I can't think of any good reason to get my hopes up, seems so unlikely, so impossible". Let me give you one great reason, the Most High God is on your side, he is breathing in your direction right now. You wouldn't be hearing this if he wasn't about to do something unusual, uncommon, something that you didn't see coming. You can't explain it, it didn't make sense, people will scratch their hands thinking "How did you beat the sickness? I saw the medical report. How did your business take off so fast? You didn't have the connections". No, but you have the favor of God. You have his blessing on your life. What he's promised you will come to pass. Not a watered-down version, not a get by version, not a good-enough version, get ready for the fullness of what God said. Make room in your thinking for the abundant, overflowing, more than enough life that belongs to you.
The mistake Sarah made is: she reduced what God promised to what she thought could happen. "Abraham, I'm 80 years old, surely God didn't mean I would have a baby, let me find the maid and you can have a baby with her and we'll call that child our own". No, you don't have to take up for God, you don't have to try to make sure he doesn't look bad, in case he doesn't come through, let me help God make this happen. God doesn't need that kind of help, he flung stars into space, he spoke worlds into existence, he's not at a loss at how to turn your situation around, at how to bring your child back on course, at how to open a new door for your business.
Don't reduce it to what makes sense to you, don't let what you don't have talk you out of what God does have. Get in agreement with him, "God, this seems impossible to me, but I know you can do the impossible. I'm looking at it in the natural, but I know you're a supernatural God, you can take me where I can't go on my own".
When the three Hebrew teenagers were about to be thrown into a fiery furnace because they wouldn't bow down to the kings golden idol, the guards tied their hands and feet with cords. They were thrown into the furnace bound. They should have instantly been killed, the fire was so hot when the guards threw them in the guards lost their lives. But in a little while the king came to check on them, he said "Didn't we throw three men in bound? I see four men loosed and one looks like the Son of God".
Here's my point: you may feel like your hands are tied, you've done your best, you've worked hard, you prayed, you believed but it seems like you've reached your limits, it's never going to work out. The good news is God's hands are not tied, he's not limited by what's limiting us. And I believe today some chords are being broken, some chains are coming off. What's restricted you in the past has lost its grip. That addiction that's held you back, the sickness, the financial difficulties, the trouble at work - this is a new day, the fourth man in the fire has shown up. Like these Hebrew teenagers you're going to come out not found, but loosed, free, healed, promoted, vindicated, with that dream you're believing for. Now start seeing yourself free, see yourself breaking the addictions, see yourself rising to new levels, fulfilling your purpose: your hands are not tied anymore, God is releasing you into new levels of your destiny.
Abraham slept with Sarah's maid and they had a son that they named Ishmael. And they loved Ishmael, they were happy to have him, but he was not the promised child. No disrespect to him, but Ishmael represents a spirit of good enough: "This is not what I was believing for, but it's close, it's good enough. I'm not completely well, but at least I'm better, that's good enough. I was hoping for that management position, didn't work out, this other job is good enough". You don't have to settle, God is not going to give you a substitute blessing, he's not into counterfeits, he is not into making do, he has the real thing coming. Now, you may have some good enough areas in your life, but don't stop there, don't let that spirit of good enough cause you to be satisfied. You have to keep stretching, keep believing for the fullness of what God promised.
25 years after God told Abraham he was going to have a son, Ishmael was now 13 years old, God came to him again and said in Genesis 17: Abraham, Sarah is going to bear you a child. When Abraham heard this, the scripture says he fell down laughing, saying "God, I'm a hundred years old now, Sarah is ninety, how could she possibly have a baby at that age"? Seems so impossible, so unlikely, he went on to say "May Ishmael enjoy my inheritance". He was saying, "God, I'm okay with good enough, I'm okay with the substitute blessing. We love Isaac, we love Ishmael". What was he doing? Moving the goalposts. God said, "Abraham I am not a God, that gives good enough blessings. You may be satisfied with a look-alike, with a make-do, but not me. I love Ishmael, but I didn't say your made was going to have a son, I said Sarah was going to have a son. By this time next year she will give birth, you were to name him Isaac".
But even though Abraham settled for Ishmael, even though they settled for having a baby a different way, God said in effect "I don't settle, I don't get talked out of what I promised you. You may have watered it down, but I am true to my word". What God has spoken over you will come to pass: not partially, not in an indirect way, not through your cousin, not to where you say "This is good enough", God is going to surprise you, he's going to do it even though it seems too late, even though you've made mistakes, even though you've already accepted that Ishmael is good enough, God is saying "Get ready, Isaac is coming". For some of you like God told them, by this time next year you're going to see something God promised, that you've already written off, something that you've already accepted "It's too late now". You've settled, but you don't know what God is up to. He said, "Have I spoken it and shall I not bring it to pass"?
At ninety years old, against all odds, Sarah gave birth to a son. They named him Isaac. She looked at him and said, "Who would have ever thought an old lady like me could have a baby"? God has some of these "Who would have ever thought" blessings coming your way, blessings you can't explain, favor that doesn't make sense. Who would have ever thought we'd be having church in the former Compaq Center? Who would have thought you would lead your company in selves? Who would have thought you could have a baby, when you were told you couldn't have children? Who would have ever thought you could pay your house off this soon?
What am I saying, "Don't settle for a watered-down version of what God promised you. There are dreams he's whispered to you in the night, things that seemed so big, so unlikely, you don't tell anybody. Like Abraham you could laugh: "Me? Be free from this addiction? Everyone in my family struggles with it. Me? Have overflow in my finances? Have more than enough"? Or "Me be healthy, strong, in shape, energetic"? That may seem so unlikely, you could easily discount it, God wouldn't have promised it if he wasn't going to bring it to pass. Don't do like Abraham and Sarah, talked about how impossible it is. They settled for Ishmael, while God was waiting to bring Isaac. Maybe that's why it took 25 years.
Are you settling for Ishmaels, for good enough? Are you watering down what God promised, talking yourself into it? Isaac represents something that you've never seen. Isaac is more than you could imagine, the greatness of God's favor. What would happen if we would say, "God, I've seen Ishmael, God you've been good to me, but I believe Isaac is coming. Lord, thank you for the fullness of our destiny, thank you for opening doors no man can shut, thank you for bringing promises to pass that seemed impossible". Thoughts will tell you all the reasons why it's not going to happen for you: you're too old, you're too young, you've made too many mistakes, you don't have the talent, the education, the resources - none of that stops our God: one touch of his favor and you'll see Isaac.
A friend of mine works in commercial real estate, she had a large piece of property on the Market for one of her clients for more than 20 years right on the main freeway. The owner wasn't in a big hurry to sell it. Over the years she kept raising the price from several million to 12 million, to over 20 million. People told her it would never sell for that amount, she was wasting her time. A few months ago she brought a large check to the ministry, it was the tithe, the first 10% of the commission from selling the property. She said, "Joel, I never went to school for this, I didn't have the training, but when this company called that wanted to buy the property, I met with their attorneys, I was very nice, but I said "Our price was firm". They said "Fine, we'll give you what you're asking". She sold the property.
What's interesting is, 15 years earlier she had given a $100 check to a young man in our ministry, she sewed that as a seed and said, "God, I want to be able to do more". That dream was planted in her heart. When she sold this property, this new gift was a thousand times what she had given that young man. God knows how to bring Isaac, he said in Deuteronomy, "I will make you a thousand times more than you are". We hear that and think "There's no way, Joel, nobody in my company makes that much". Your job is not your source, God is your source. Now you may have seen Ishmael, you've seen God's goodness, but there are some far out things God has in your future, goals and dreams that you can't accomplish in the natural: it's going to take the supernatural. The good news is, God knows how to do the extraordinary, things that you can't do on your own, things that will amaze you.
But sometimes the reason we settle is life hasn't turned out the way we thought, we've gone through disappointments, unfair things have happened, now we've lost our passion. This is what happened to Abraham's father, his name was tara. He had three sons. One of those sons, a young man named haran died at an early age. Tara went through this great disappointment of losing a son. Years later God told him to leave the place he was living and move to Canaan, the Promised Land. He got his belonging, his family and he started out that way. But when they came to the city of harran, the same name as the son he lost, instead of passing through the city, instead of continuing on toward the Promised Land, the scripture says: tara settled in the city of harran. He started out good, but when he came to the place that reminded him of the loss of his son, the place of disappointment, he got so discouraged that he gave up on his dream. Tara could have become the father of our faith, he's the original one God told to go to the Promised Land, not Abraham, but because of the lost he chose to settle.
If you're going to reach your destiny you have to dig down deep and say, "Yes, I've been hurt, but I'm not settling here. I've been through disappointments, but I'm not settling in self-pity. I've been betrayed, but I'm not settling in bitterness. I lost a loved one, it was painful, but I'm not settling in despair. I know, God has beauty for these ashes, I know weeping endures for a night, but joy is coming in the morning". The truth is we've all had bad breaks, we can all find a reason to live offended, bitter, angry, but if you refuse to settle, on the other side of that hurt is a new level of your destiny. You have to press past the pain, press past the disappointments, press past those lonely nights. Thoughts telling it's never going to work out, you've seen your best days.
What if my father would have settled in poverty, the way he was raised? I wouldn't be up here. What if my mother would have settled in despair when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer? She wouldn't be alive. What if Joseph would have settled in bitterness betrayed by his brothers? He would have never become the prime minister of Egypt, what if Ruth in the scripture would have settled in discouragement, when she lost her husband? She would have never meet Boaz, they would have never had a son that would become the great grandfather of king David. She would have never been in the family line of Jesus. Amazing things awaits you if you just don't settle. You may have gone through disappointments, life has thrown you a curve, you have to get your fire back. God did not bring you this far to leave you, your greatest days in your health, in your marriage, in your career and your finances are still in front of you.
Oh, boy, I feel it y'all. Somebody's receiving it. Let me tell you, your greatest days in your health, your finances, your marriage, your career, they are still in front of you, but the enemy would love for us to do like Abraham's father: get so discouraged, so disappointed, that we settle on the way to our destiny, that we missed the fullness of what God has in store. He's okay if you have Ishmael, he doesn't want you to have Isaac. This is what happened with the Israelites: God brought them out of slavery, they traveled through the desert, made it next door to the Promised Land. God told them he would give them the victory, but when they saw how big the people were, when they heard all the negative reports, the scripture says, they became too discouraged to believe. Instead of going in and taking the land they settled in the desert.
And yes, God took care of them out there, he provided for their needs, they saw Ishmael, but they never saw Isaac. And I believe many of you are next door to your Promised Land, you're on the verge of seeing a new level of blessing and favor. The question is: are you going to settle there? Or you're going to stare your faith up and say, "No, I've come too far to stop now, these giants may be big, but I know my God is bigger. I may have had this sickness a long time, this financial difficulty, this trouble at work, but I know, God is still on the throne, I will live and not die, I will prosper and succeed. As for me and my house we will serve the Lord". I know today I'm not looking at settlers, I'm looking at overcomers, I'm looking at more than conquerors, I'm looking at victors, not victims.
Now "Not settling" may mean going back to school, getting training so your gifts can come out new ways. It may mean developing your business plan, meeting with mentors to bring about your gold. Or "Not settling" for you may mean joining a support group to help break the addiction, not learning to live with it, but getting to help you need. It may mean putting more effort into your marriage, spending more time with the person God gave you to love. Perhaps "Not settling" for you is going up to the gym, taking walks at night instead of watching television, being proactive to get back in shape. But I wonder where you could be in 10 years, if you just don't settle? Who knows where God has taken you? Who knows the doors he's going to open? The people you're going to meet, the dreams you're going to accomplish, the gifts that are going to come out of you.
A more sobering thought: where will you be in 10 years if you do settle? What will you miss if you settle it in mediocrity, settle in dysfunction, settle in self-pity, in bitterness? You will miss who you were created to be. Friends, what's in front of you is way too important to settle, God has your Isaacs, he's already lined up you're good breaks, the healing the freedom, the business. Now do your part, don't let good enough become good enough, get your fire back and go after the destiny that belongs to you. Our attitude should be "I'm not gonna settle next door to by Promised Land, I am going in, I'm going to become all I was created to be". If you'll do this, I believe and declare: Isaac is coming, something more than you've imagined, new levels in your career, of freedom from that addiction, breakthroughs in your finances, healing, wholeness, abundance the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus name.