Joel Osteen - When God Doesn't Listen
I want to talk to you today about When God Doesn't Listen. We know that God is omnipresent, he's everywhere at the same time. He can see everything and he can hear everything, but there's a difference between hearing and listening - hearing is unintentional. You can be asleep and hear your alarm, you aren't listening, you are simply hearing. Listening means you've tuned in, you've given your attention, you're interested.
A while back I asked Victoria if she had gone to the grocery store, I was looking for the short answer, but Victoria is much more expressive than I am, she likes to give the details. She told how she had gone and who she ran into, what they had been doing and how their cousins, next-door neighbors, grandfather's best friend had just had a baby. I wasn't looking for any of that, I just wanted to know did you get the chicken wings? The whole time she was telling the story, I was hearing it, but I wasn't listening. I was there, but I wasn't tuned in.
It may surprise you that even though God hears everything, he doesn't always listen. There are certain things the scripture tells us, that God doesn't pay attention to. Now, I wonder if we're talking to God about something that he's hearing, but he's not tuned in, he's right there, but he's not listening?
Luke 15, there's a story of two sons. The younger son asked his father for his inheritance early. He knew it belonged to him and he wanted it right then. His father agreed. The young man took the funds and left home. He went out and started partying, living wild, spending it on all kinds of wrong things. Well eventually the money ran out, there was a great famine in the land, nowhere to get food. He ended up working in a hog pen, haven to eat the hog food to survive. It was nobody's fault except his own, he brought the trouble on himself.
Sitting in the hog pen: dirty, smelly, feeling depressed, he began to think about home. He said, "Even the farmhands that work for my father eat three meals a day, here I'm starving. I'm going to go back home and see if my father will hire me, as one of his staff". He had his big speech all lined up, he had already practiced what he was going to say, "Father, I have sinned against you and against God. I am no longer worthy to be called your son, I don't deserve to live in the house, I'm just asking you to hire me as one of your farmhands". The son returned home, you can imagine how nervous he was, he had practiced this speech again and again.
When his father saw him a long way off, he took off running toward the son. I'm sure the son thought, "Oh, great, he's so upset, he's not even going to allow me back on the property, he's going to come out here and berate me and tell me how foolish I've been". But when the father got to the son, he grabbed him and hugged him. Wouldn't let him go, gave his son a kiss. I can see the father weeping tears of joy, so excited. Now it was the son's big moment to give his speech, he knew this would either make him or break him. He started off, "Father, I'm unworthy to be called your son. I've dishonored the family name, I've made so many mistakes". He did it so passionately, so genuinely, but the scripture says, "The father wasn't listening".
Right in the middle of his big speech, when the son was pouring out his heart, telling how unworthy he was, the father was no more paying attention, he looked over at his staff and said, "Quick, go get the best robe and put it on my son. Go get a ring for his finger, shoes for his feet and kill the fatted calf. We're gonna have a party, my son was lost, but now he's found". I can see the son thinking, "Dad, I'm trying to tell you how unworthy I feel, how sorry I am, but you're not even listening".
Are you telling God everything wrong with you, how many mistakes you've made, how you don't deserve to be blessed? "God, I blew it again. I don't see how you could even love me". Can I tell you? God is not listening. You are wasting your breath. This can save you a lot of time and emotional energy. You are not worthy because of what you did or didn't do, you're worthy because of what Jesus did. You don't have to go to God and try to convince him to forgive you, convince him that you know you're not good enough, you're just a weak worm of the dust - he tunes all that out. If you want God to not only hear, but to listen, then go to him with the language of faith. "Father, thank you that your mercy is bigger than my mistakes. Thank you, that you're not holding my past against me. Thank you that I'm forgiven, that I'm redeemed".
Don't go through life beating yourself up, dwelling on your mistakes and failures. The moment you ask God to forgive you, he forgave you. You don't have to keep going back to God and saying, "I'm sorry for what I did, I'm just so undisciplined. I know I don't deserve your goodness". I can imagine, God turning to the angel Gabriel and saying, "If someone's saying something, I hear it, but I'm not tuned into that". When you're telling God all the times you fail, how you don't deserve to be blessed, God is not saying, "Good, I'm glad you finally feel unworthy. I'm glad you're finally down on yourself". He's not paying attention. All that's doing is making you feel bad about yourself, it's keeping you from expecting his favor.
That's why the scripture says (Hebrews 4:16), "Come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy". When you need mercy don't go to God guilty, condemned, week - go boldly, go with confidence, knowing that you're forgiven, knowing that God is for you. Yes, you may have blown it, but like this young man, God is running towards you right now. Not to condemn you, not to make it guilty, but to love you. "Well, Joel shouldn't I tell God how bad I was and how unworthy I feel"? You can, but he's not listening. God listens to the language of faith. He doesn't listen when we're beating ourselves up, telling him what we don't deserve.
The enemy would love for you to live feeling condemned, he'll remind you of all the times you haven't measured up. It may not be something big, but even small things. "You didn't spend enough time with your children last week. You should've work it out. You've got mad at your neighbor. You were late to school". There's always some reason that we can feel bad about who we are. If you give in to these lies, you'll go through life feeling wrong on the inside. Now I found: most people accept condemnation easier than they accept mercy. They believe the lies from the accuser more than they believe what God says about them, that they're forgiven, that you'll redeem, that you're made worthy.
When you make a mistake: go to God, ask for forgiveness, and then move on. Don't keep asking again and again, bringing up the same failures. The first time you ask God to forgive you, he'd not only forgave you, he doesn't remember it anymore. When you go back and ask God again and again, he says, "What are you talking about? I have no account of that". When God forgave you, he deleted your files. He doesn't have a big server up in heaven, where he's keeping a backup copy, just in case he changes his mind. The scripture says, (Romans 4:8), "God has cleared our record". He has no account of what you keep asking him for forgiveness for.
Now, you know who is keeping a record? You know who has 47 backup copies? The enemy. He's called the accuser of the brethren, he'll remind you of everything you've done wrong for the last 30 years. If someone is bringing up negative things from your past in your thoughts, you can be assured, it is not God. In this story of the prodigal, the young man didn't even ask for forgiveness. Just the fact that he turned from his old way, the fact that he left the hog pen and came home, that was enough for his father to forgive him. You may not have done everything perfect in life, you can find plenty of reasons to live guilty, feel unworthy, but just the fact that you're here, just the fact that you're listening is a sign that you've turned toward God, it's a sign that you've headed toward the father's house. Right now the father is running towards you.
You may have your big speech all lined up, you're ready to tell God how unworthy you are, how you don't deserve to be blessed. Save your speech, he's not listening, there's no use beating yourself up, living condemned. God's mercy has covered everything you've done wrong. If you want to get God's attention, start speaking the language of faith, "Father, thank you that my files have been deleted. Thank you that you're not counting my sins against me. Thank you that I'm covered by your mercy".
But too often we think we have to pay God back for our mistakes. If it's something big, we have to beat ourselves up for six months. Lost my temper, told my co-worker off - that's a medium sized sin, I've got to be down on myself for a couple of weeks. Plead with God again and again, "God, I blew it. I don't know what's wrong with me". The whole time God is hearing you, but he's not listening. When we're trying to make up for our mistakes, what we're really saying is, "Jesus didn't finish everything on the cross. Let me pay for this one. I need to get back up on the cross for a little while".
Now understand, the price has already been paid in full. All your sins: past, present and future have been taken care of. And the way to honor God is not by being down on yourselves, living guilty, feeling unworthy: it's by receiving his mercy, it's by getting up when you fall and trying again, it's by still believing for his favor, still expecting his goodness. Even though you've spent some time in the hog pen, even though you've made poor choices, you have that boldness to put on your robe of righteousness, you put on that crown of favor, you enjoy the party that your father threw, because you came back home.
Suppose the son said, "Dad, I don't deserve these new clothes. Let me just wear the old ones, that I've worn in the hog pen. I don't deserve this ring that represents I'm in the family, don't throw a party for me. Just let me live out in the barn, I need to pay you back for all this trouble". The father would have said, "What are you talking about? Are you kidding? You're my son, I want to be good to you". The way to please God is by receiving his mercy.
Sitting in the hog pen, this young man made a decision, that changed the course of his life. He said, (Luke 15:18) "I will arise and go to my father's house". He was saying, "Yes, I've made mistakes. Yes, I brought this trouble on myself, but I'm not going to let one bad season ruin the rest of my life, I'm not going to sit here condemned, I'm going to arise".
Now you may have made some poor choices, you're not where you thought you would be in life. The accuser is telling you, "It's too late. You've blown it too bad, just sit on the sidelines". No, you are one decision away from seeing God show out in your life. The plan he has for you was not canceled because you spent time in the hog pen. Those decisions didn't disqualify you from his favor. All you have to do is arise, shake off that guilt, quit believe in the lies that you've seen your best days, and start heading towards your father's house. Start making decisions that honor God, break away from things that are causing you to compromise, to be less than your best. It's not too late, you're not too far off course, God still has amazing things in your future, if you're dare to arise.
Now, I believe, one reason this young man had the boldness to go back home was: deep down he knew who he was, he knew what family he belong to. When you understand your position, it will change your condition. When you understand: you are a child of the Most High God, you weren't created to live condemned, guilty, defeated. God created you to be victorious, to reign in life, to leave your Mark. Now your condition may be way down low, because you've made poor choices. You don't think you deserve to be blessed, it was your fault. The right attitude is: "I may have made mistakes, but I understand my position. The Creator of the universe breathed life into me. I may not feel worthy, but I know, he's made me worthy, so I'm going to arise and go to my father's house". In the father's house there's mercy for every mistake. In the father's house there's no judgment, no condemnation, no putting you on a guilt trip.
It's interesting, when the son came back home, his father never once brought up the sons past. He never once said, "I'll forgive you, but you don't deserve it. I'll let you live here, but I'll always remember what you did". There was no judgment, only mercy. When the father could have been upset, he was full of kindness. When there could have been a big argument, instead there was a big party. What keeps some people away from God, is they have the wrong image of him. They think when they come back home, there'll be all this guilt, "I told you so, look how foolish you've been". That's not the way our God is. When you come back, there'll be a party, there'll be a celebration.
Now, you may have made mistakes, the accuser is telling you, "Stay away, stay in the hog pen, God would never accept you". But, I believe, deep down, like this young man, you know who you are, you know God's calling is on your life. You can feel him speaking to you right now. Why don't you arise? Let today be a new beginning, no more living guilty, beating yourself up, telling God everything you've done wrong. He's already forgiven you, come on back to the father's house.
When the prodigal son returned home, imagine the next week, he went to his father and said, "Dad, I'm sorry for what I've done, please forgive me". The dad said, "Son, you're forgiven, don't worry about it". The next day he comes, "Dad, I can't believe I left you. Please forgive me". The father says, "Son, I forgave you". What if the son kept coming week after week, month after month? Even though the son had good intentions, the father would get frustrated, say "Son, you're wasting your time. I've forgiven you. Now, do me a favor, receive my forgiveness".
I know people that ask God to forgive them for the same thing over and over, it happened 20 years ago and they're still bringing it up. They think they're showing God that they're sorry, but God is not listening. "Well, Joel I'm doing it, because I feel this guilt, this remorse". The guilt is not from God, that's the accuser. The language of faith says, "I may feel guilty, but I know, I am forgiven". You can't go by how you feel, because feelings don't tell us the truth all the time. You have to go by what you know. "God, you said I'm forgiven, so I'm gonna get in agreement with you and believe that I'm forgiven".
There was a nine-year-old boy named Sam. He was visiting his grandparents during the summer, they lived out on a big farm. He had this slingshot, and all during the day he would go through the woods, shooting at different targets. He wasn't very accurate, but he kept practicing and practicing. One evening he heard the dinner bell ringing, on the way to the house he saw his grandmother's pet duck over by the pond, it's about fifty yards from the main house and he didn't think he had a chance in the world of ever hitting it, but just for fun he pulled the slingshot back, let the rock fly. Much to his surprise, it hit the duck square in the head, knocked it over dead.
Sam began to panic, he ran over as quick as he could, grab the duck took it and buried it behind the woodpile. He felt so badly about it, but he wasn't about to dare say anything. When he got close to the house, he realized, his twelve year old sister named Julie saw the whole thing take place. That night after dinner the grandmother said to his sister, "Julie, let's wash the dishes together". Julie said, "Grandmother, I would love to, but Sam said he wants to help you tonight". She whispered in Sam's ear, "Remember the duck". Sam went over and cleaned the dishes.
The next morning the grandfather was going fishing, he invited both children to come. The grandmother said, "I really need Julie to stay here and help me do some chores". Julie smiled and said, "Grandmother, Sam said he wants to stay with you today". She whispered in his ear again, "Remember the duck". Julie went fishing, Sam stayed and worked. After a couple of days of doing both his and his sister's chores, Sam finally had enough. He went to his grandmother said, "Grandmother, I have to tell you something. I accidentally killed your pet duck with my slingshot, and I'm very sorry". The grandmother gave him a big hug and said, "Sam, I know you did, I was standing at the window and I watched the whole thing happened. I know you didn't mean to, I already forgave you. I was just waiting to see how long you were going to let Julie make a slave of you".
Can I tell you: God is standing at the window, he's seen every mistake, every failure, every weakness. The good news is: he's already forgiven, you he's not holding it against you, he's just waiting to see, how long you're going to let the accuser make a slave of you? How long are you going to live with that guilt, believing that you've blown your future? How long are you going to ask forgiveness for the same things? My declaration is, "No more. This is a new day". We're going to rise up like Sam and say, "Enough is enough. Yes, I've made some mistakes, but I'm not going to go through life condemned, trying to pay a debt, that's already been paid, thinking that I've missed my destiny. I'm going to arise".
You can still become all you were created to be. No mistake you've made is too much for the mercy of God. You have to get back in the game, get your fire back, get your passion back. Quit believe in those lies that, "It's too late, you've made too many poor choices", telling God everything you've done wrong. He's not listening to that. If you want to get God's attention, go to him with boldness. Despite the mistakes you've made, dare to ask him for favor, dare to ask him to open new doors, to take you where you couldn't go on your own.
This is what Jacob did in the scripture. He had lived his whole life being dishonest, cheating people, he tricked his brother out of his birthright. He finally got tired of living that way. One day he went down to the brook by himself to get alone with God to make things right. An angel appeared in the form of a man. Jacob started wrestling with him, this went on all night. Jacob finally realized, it was an angel. He said to him, "I'm not going to let you leave, until you bless me". When the angel saw how determined Jacob was, how he wasn't going to give in, he touched Jacob and gave him the blessing. That night God changed his name from Jacob to Israel. He left there a different person.
But, think of the nerve of Jacob after all those years of cheating people, making bad choices, he should have been living guilty, feeling unworthy, but somehow he had this boldness to not only ask for forgiveness, but he said, "God, I'm asking you to bless me, despite what I've done wrong". You would think God would say, "Come on Jacob. Are you kidding? You don't even deserve forgiveness, much less to be blessed". But, God said in effect, "Jacob, I like your boldness, I like the fact that you're not telling me how bad you are, and how unworthy you feel, and what you don't deserve, but you're asking me to be good to you. Jacob, if you're bold enough to ask, then I'm bold enough to do it".
If God will bless Jacob after living that kind of life, why are you believing the lies, that God won't bless you, that you don't deserve it, that you're not worthy? Do yourself a favor, quit telling God all about that and go to him like Jacob, "Father, I thank you that you are full of mercy. I'm asking you to bless me, not because of how good I am, but because of how good you are". That's what gets God's attention, that's what he listens to.
How much time are you spending being down on yourself, guilty from past mistakes, telling God what you don't deserve? That's a lot of emotional energy, that's not doing any good. Yes, God hears you, he knows you're sincere, but he's not listening. God is not moved by our guilt, he's moved by our faith. It takes faith not to just believe for your dreams, it takes faith to believe you're forgiven, to believe that you're worthy. Don't let the accuser deceive you into going through life with no passion, think have you blown it too many times. Your record has been cleared, those files have been deleted. Now, do like Jacob and come boldly to the throne. If you'll do this, I believe and declare, God is about to show you favor, that you didn't deserve. New doors are about to open, the right people, promotion, breakthroughs, the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus name.