Joel Osteen - Keep Believing For Your Loved Ones
I want to talk to you today about "Keep Believing for Your Loved Ones". We all have someone that we're hoping will change: a family member is off course, a child that's not making good decisions or a friend that's struggling with an addiction. We've been praying believing, but it doesn't look like it's making any difference. It's easy to get frustrated and think that we're wasting our time, but if they're going to reach their destiny, they need someone who will wait on them, someone that will keep praying, keep encouraging, keep speaking faith into their future, telling them, "You may be off-course, you may be compromising, but I still believe in you. I know you have seeds of greatness, the hand of God is on your life".
They need someone, that will stand in the gap, that will believe for them when they can't believe for themselves. Someone that will cover them with mercy, not judge them, not find fault, but that will help love them back into wholeness. We write people off too easily: where they are now is not where they're going to end up. Don't judge them by the present.
Before the apostle Paul was a follower of Christ, before he wrote half of the New Testament his name was Saul and he hated believers, he was the biggest enemy of the church. He went from city to city, having believers arrested and even killed. If we would have seen him, we'd have thought this guy doesn't have a chance, he's a terrorist, he's against everything we stand for. Yet, God told Ananias: go pray for Saul, he's a chosen vessel to bear my name. Some of the people we're tempted to ride off, are chosen vessels, they're going to advance the kingdom, they're going to do great things. All they need is someone to wait on them, someone to say, "Yeah, they're of course, but I'm gonna send them a text and let them know, that I'm praying for them. I'm going to invite them to lunch, not to straighten them out, not to judge them, but to let them know that I love them, that I believe in them, that if they need anything, all they have to do is ask". Will you wait on someone while God is changing them?
John chapter 4, Jesus was in Samaria waiting by a well. He had sent the disciples into the city to get food. While he was waiting, a Samaritan woman came out to get some water. Back then the Jews and Samaritans didn't have anything to do with each other, but Jesus asked her for a drink of water. She said, "Sir, you're a Jew, I'm a Samaritan, why are you asking me for something"? Jesus said, "If you knew who I am, you would ask me and I would give you living water". She said, "Sir, please give me this water". Jesus asked her to go call her husband. She told him that she didn't have a husband. Jesus said, "You're right, you've had five and the men you're living with is not your husband". She said, "Sir, you must be a prophet. We know one day the Messiah will come". Jesus looked at her and said, "I am the Messiah".
This woman went back home told everyone what had happened. The scripture says many Samaritans believed in Jesus, because of her. What's interesting is Jesus could have gone into the city to get food with the disciples. He was hungry, but he chose to wait at this well. Notice who he was waiting for: a woman that didn't have a good reputation. He waited for a woman that had been married five times, a woman that had blown it. I'm sure people had written her off, thought this lady is messed up. When she walked by, I could hear them whisper, "There she is. Wonder who she's married to this week".
They'd laugh, gossip. We look down on her because she was married so many times, the truth is: this woman had been rejected by men, she'd been pushed down by life. Jesus waited for a woman that didn't feel valuable, a woman that had very little self-worth. You would have thought he would waited for the mayor of the city, for someone with prominence and influence. After all Jesus was busy, he had a lot of demands, but he chose to wait for a woman that didn't have it altogether. He didn't judge her, he didn't condemn, her he spoke life into her, he lifted her, he valued her.
It's significant that the Samaritans didn't worship Jehovah, they worshipped idols, they had stone Gods that they prayed to. Jesus waited for a woman that came from a different faith, a woman that didn't worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The first person Jesus ever told he was the Messiah wasn't the religious leaders, wasn't the chief priests. When Jesus wanted to announce one of the most important things he would ever say, he announced it to this woman. Society said, "Forget about her, she's done, she doesn't make good decisions". God said, "No, I'm not only going to wait on her, I'm going to honor her by telling her who I am".
I think about how many times God has waited on us, he waited when we were off course, he waited when we wouldn't forgive, he waited when we were addicted, when we were compromising, when we had a bad attitude. He could have said, "That's it, I'm done with you, but he waited, he showed us mercy, he picked us up when we fell, he kept the addiction from taking our life, he protected us when we chose the wrong friends, he kept that accident from taking us out, he waited when we didn't believe, he waited when we ignored him, he waited when we were bitter.
Sometimes it's good to look back and say, "Lord, thank you for waiting you're me. Lord, thank you for giving me another chance, thank you for cleaning up the mess I made, thank you for covering me when I didn't deserve it".
God has waited on all of us, now he's asking, "Will you wait on someone for me? Will you wait on that friend that's not making good decisions? Will you call them, encourage them, let them know that you care? Will you wait on that neighbor that doesn't believe in me, that makes fun of your faith? Will you stand in the gap, keep letting your light shine? Or will you wait for that family member that's been off course for years, struggling with issues"? Seems like the more you pray the worse they get, you're ready to give up, God is saying, "Wait on them, keep praying, keep loving, keep encouraging.
My mother prayed for a man named Bill Nash for many years. Bill was a country-western singer, he grew up in church, his parents were missionaries to Mexico, he had a strong foundation of faith, but in his teens he got off-course and started running with the wrong crowd. He ended up struggling with drugs and alcohol, instead of singing in church he was singing in bars and clubs. Deep down he was unhappy, he knew he was running from God, but he couldn't get out on his own. Driving down the freeways, my mother would see his name on the marquees at the clubs where he was playing. Every time she would pray for him, "Lord, bring Bill back home, help him to fulfill his destiny".
This went on for years, didn't look like anything was happening, but when you pray things are happening that you can't see, your prayer maybe what's keeping them from sinking deeper. Because you're standing in the gap, that's why the enemy can't take them out. One Sunday morning Bill was flipping through the channels, he came across my father on television, he was talking about how God is full of mercy, how he's bigger than any mistake. That Sunday Bill showed up at Lakewood, hadn't been to church in many years, sat in the very back. Someone noticed him and brought him down to see my mother, he didn't know that she had been praying all those years. That day Bill recommitted his life to Christ. The faith that was planted in him as a little boy came back to life.
Several months later Bill gave his first Christian concert at Lakewood. Now he and his wife Kim have an outreach to teenagers, to help them stay on track. Proverbs says, "Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it". You may have a child that's off course, the good news is: you've trained them up to know the Lord, that faith was deposited in their spirit, the promise is: in the end they will not depart from it. Now, it doesn't say anything about the middle. They may make some wrong terms, like Bill, there may be times you don't see how they're going to get back on track. What are you supposed to do? Wait on them, keep loving, keep encouraging, keep praying.
"Well, Joel, they won't listen to me. They don't take my advice, they won't return my call". Don't worry, God knows how to get their attention, you keep praying and things are happening: in the end they will not depart. They may be off course now, but your declaration should be, "They're coming back. As for me and my house we will serve the Lord". Now, you don't have to force people to change. When they're grown you can't make them do what's right, don't always be trying to correct them, threaten them, teach them a lesson. Sometimes you just need to love them. The scripture says, "Love never fails". You can love them back on track, love them when they don't deserve it, love them when they won't listen, love them when they're making poor choices. It's easy to write them off, think, "You know, better I'm not going to have anything to do with you". Now, God waited on you, will you wait on them?
In the story of the prodigal son, the young man took his inheritance left home and wasted it all living wild, partying. He got so low, he ended up in a hog pen - desperate, barely even surviving. He decided to go back home and try to get a job as a hired servant at his father's house. The scripture says, "When the father saw the son coming a long way off, he took off running toward him". Notice, the father was waiting. I could imagine several times a day, he went out to the end of the driveway and looked, said, "Father, thank you for bringing my son back home. Thank you for protecting him. Thank you, that he'll fulfill his destiny".
He ran out and gave his son a hug. He told his staff, "We're gonna have a party and celebrate the fact, that my son has come back home". Never once did the father bring up the sons past, he never went into an "I-told-you-so" speech. You can live here, but you don't really deserve it. He was full of mercy. I've learned, everyone is on a journey. Where they are now is not where they're going to be in 10 years - give them room to change. They may not believe like you, they may not have your same views, that's okay, just keep loving them.
Sometimes we think we're supposed to convict people, tell them everything they're doing wrong, straighten them out. No, the Holy Spirit's job is to convict people, our job is to simply plant the seed. That seed may fall on hard soil, their heart may not be open. The good news is: the seed never dies.
I read, where a seed was found that was 4,000 years old, it had been in an airtight coffin, they planted it and the seed blossomed, it was still alive. All it needed was the right soil. Those seeds you've been planning in people's hearts they are still alive, the soil may not be ready yet, but at the right time God will soften their hearts. Some of the people that listen to me don't believe in God, some come from different faiths, but that never bothers me, I'm just sowing seeds, telling people that God is for them, that they're made in his image, that they have a purpose and destiny to fulfill. I know, at the right time the seeds will take root. What am I saying? Don't judge people by where they are now - they're in the process of changing.
I know a young lady that came from a different faith, she was raised in another country and brought up in a different religion. She'd been watching us on television, the message had really helped her. Then her work moved her to Houston, she started attending Lakewood. She would sit up at the top, as you can imagine this was very new to her. She expected to hear about how wrong her religion was, to be condemned for how she was raised - she never heard any of that, she heard about the goodness of God, about how her sins had already been forgiven, about how she could live a victorious, abundant life.
She eventually gave her life to Christ. She said, "I came from a different faith and it took me two years to make my journey to Jesus". You know why that happened? We waited on her, we didn't condemn her, we didn't say, "Be like us or you're out". We gave her room to change. You have to give people time to become who they were created to be. Too often we want to cram things down people's throats and make them believe, but some things don't happen overnight. Will you wait on that friend, keep encouraging them, even though they're not changing as fast as you would like? Would you wait on that neighbor that doesn't believe, keep sowing seeds of love, keep being good to them? Jesus said, "The way people will know you're his disciple, is by your love one for another". Not by our doctrine, not by how many scriptures we can quote, not by how right we are, but by how much we love them. You don't judge people, you don't look down on them, because they don't believe like you, you just keep loving them, keep being good to them.
A lady told me how she had been an atheist her whole life. She didn't have any kind of faith, just wasn't raised to believe in God at all. One day her daughter was in an automobile accident, she rushed up to the hospital. Her daughter was injured, but she was fine, it wasn't life-threatening. Later that evening the mother went back home, she was so stressed and so overwhelmed from such a difficult day, sitting in her driveway, she looked up and said very frustrated, "God, why did you do this to me"? She said, she heard the most loving voice, not out loud, but in her heart. It said, "That was the first time you've ever spoken to me". She felt a love like she had never felt, a peace that she had never experienced. That was the goodness of God overwhelming her.
The scripture says, "If you'll draw close to God, he'll draw close to you". We think, if someone doesn't have anything to do with God, God will say, "Fine, too bad, see if I ever help you". God is not like that, he's as close as the breath you breathe. All you have to do is call out to him, he is right there. He's not holding your past against you, he's not upset because you ignored him, he's not put off because you didn't believe in him. He's waiting for you, he has his arms held open wide, he's at the end of the driveway looking, thinking, "Maybe today you'll come back home, maybe today will be the turning point".
Are you riding someone off, because they don't believe, they're not making good decisions, they're against what we stand for? That's right where Saul was before he became the apostle Paul. Why don't you start waiting on them, showing mercy instead of judgment. It's easy to have a holier-than-thou attitude, "I can't believe what they're doing, what are they thinking"? Listen, if it wasn't for the grace of God, you don't know what you would be doing or me either.
The longer I live, the less judgmental I am. I realized, everyone didn't get what I got, everyone wasn't raised in a healthy environment, in a home filled with faith and love, with parents and friends and family, that spoke victory into me. Some people came out of dysfunction, with people that were addicted, angry, depressed. All they've seen is mediocrity, compromise. It's tempting to judge them, look down on them, but if we were in their shoes, we could be making the same decisions. Instead of finding fault with them, condemning them, why don't you spend that same time praying for them.
They're in your life because God is counting on you to help them. If you'll start encouraging them, speaking faith into them, loving them, they'll step into their destiny. And every seed you sow will come back to you, the mercy you show others is the mercy people are going to show you. But sometimes we're waiting for people to change and then we'll accept them, when they start doing right then I'll have a better opinion. But God doesn't ask us to clean ourselves up and then we can come to him, he says, "Come just as you are and I'll help you to get cleaned up". Now, God waited on us, when we were off course, he showed us mercy when we weren't at our best. Let's take that same mercy and show to someone else.
One time Jesus was traveling through the city of Jericho, word quickly spread that he was there and everyone came out to see him. They had heard of the miracles and all the amazing things Jesus had done, now the streets were packed, you could barely move. There was a man named Zacchaeus, he was the chief tax-collector. They were known for being dishonest, for cheating people, for taking advantage. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, but he was so short, he couldn't see over everyone. So, he climbed up in a tree, got in perfect position. Jesus came passing by, there were thousands of people shouting, waving, all kinds of commotion. Suddenly Jesus stopped, looked up in the tree and said, "Zacchaeus, come down, I want to go to your house and have dinner".
What's interesting is, the name Zacchaeus means "Pure one". Jesus said in front of everyone, people that dislike Zacchaeus, people that knew he was a chief, yet, Jesus called him pure one. The principle is: you have to call people what they can become, before they'll ever change. The scripture says, "Call things that are not, as if they were". If you keep calling your child disrespectful, they'll stay disrespectful. If you keep calling your loved one addicted, they'll stay addicted. You prophesy in their future. Change what you're calling people: call your children blessed, call them respectful, call them successful. That friend that's struggling with an addiction, start calling them free, whole, victorious.
Jesus could have said to Zacchaeus, "Hey you, hey guy up in the tree, hey tax collector". On purpose he called his name not only so others could hear it, but so he could hear. Everything fell silent, you could hear a pin drop, all the eyes turned up towards Zacchaeus. I can imagine, he nearly passed out, he whispered, "Did Jesus just call my name"? Somebody nodded their head "Yes". He thought to himself, "How does he know my name"? Sometimes we think people that are so far off course, that making such bad decisions, God would have nothing to do with them. The truth is: God knows their name, he's coming after them. Jesus said, "It's the sick who need a doctor, not the healthy".
There were city leaders in the crowd, there were priests, elders in the synagogue. Jesus bypassed all of them and said, "I want to go to Zacchaeus house". He was saying, "Zacchaeus, I've been waiting for you. I knew you would be here". He had dinner with Zacchaeus, he didn't condemn him, he didn't tell him everything he was doing wrong. Jesus simply loved him, showed him mercy, he became his friend. That day was a turning point for Zacchaeus, he said, "From now on I'm not going to cheat people, not going to be dishonest, I'm going to start helping others". Zacchaeus changed his ways not because he was shamed into it, but because he was loved into it. The scripture says, "It's the goodness of God that leads people to repentance".
God has people in your life right now, because he's counting on you not to judge them, not to find fault, but to stand in the gap. And some of the people we think are furthest off-course, like Zacchaeus, like Saul, they are chosen vessels. Don't give up on that child. It's been years? Keep waiting, they're going to do something great. Don't quit believing for that neighbor. They won't give you the time of day? Keep waiting, God is in control.
Friend of mine has a neighbor, that's an older gentleman. For as long as he's known him, this neighbor has been very skeptical, very cynical, negative. As a little boy he went to church, but now he wouldn't have anything to do with God - he was bitter against the church and all that it stands for. Year after year my friend just kept loving him, kept being good to him. As the neighbor grew older, seeing if there was anything that he needed.
One day he found out that this neighbor had been watching us on television and was going to attend our Night of Hope. My friend couldn't believe it, he didn't see that coming. But you don't know what God is doing behind the scenes. Just cause you don't see anything happening doesn't mean God is not working. Those seeds you've been planting are still alive.
The morning after the Night of Hope, my friend went to the neighbor's house, his wife had big tears running down her cheeks. She said, the night before, she said, "When Joel asked people to stand up at the Night of Hope for salvation, my husband stood up". What made it more amazing is this man had a stroke for years, he had never stood on his own, but that night by himself he was able to stand up. Today he's like a different person.
I'm asking you to wait on someone. "Joel, they're off course, they're not making good decisions". Neither was the prodigal son, but the father waited on him. "Well, they come from a different faith". So was the woman at the well, but Jesus waited on her. "Well, Joel, I've been waiting a long time, they're never going to change". No, your prayers are working, things are happening that you can't see. Keep waiting, keep showing them mercy, keep standing in the gap. If you'll do this, I believe and declare: you're going to see all your loved ones come to know the Lord. Those that are off-course: children, friends, neighbors, right now they're being drawn in. As for you and your house you will serve the Lord, in Jesus name.