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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Joel Osteen » Joel Osteen - Let Go Of The Past

Joel Osteen - Let Go Of The Past

Joel Osteen - Let Go Of The Past - Your Best Life Now
TOPICS: Your Best Life Now, Forgiveness

Everyone has a past. We've been hurt, offended, disappointed, things happen we don't understand. But we can't move forward if we're always looking backwards. If we'll let it go we'll step into the new things God has in store. I'm Joel Osteen. No matter where you are or what challenges you're facing you can start living Your Best Life Now.

The past can weigh us down like a load of heavy baggage. We've all had negative things happen to us, people did us wrong, the company let us go, the clerk was rude to us. It's easy to go through life offended, in self-pity, blaming ourselves, blaming our coworkers, even blaming God. Because we're always looking back, reliving the negative we end up carrying around a pile of baggage that does nothing but weigh us down. One of the best things you can learn to do is drop it. Let it go, whether it happened 20 years ago or 20 minutes ago, don't carry negative baggage from yesterday into today.

You won't live a victorious life if you're always reliving what didn't work out, who hurt you, the mistakes you've made. The reason it's called the past is because it's done, it's over, it's history. Now do your part and let it go. "Well Joel this person walked out on me. They broke my heart, that's why I'm bitter". They hurt you once, don't let them continue to hurt you by always thinking about it. That's going to keep you down, discouraged, no passion. As long as you're dwelling on it you're going to miss the new things God wants to do.

God said he would give you beauty for ashes, but you have to let go of the ashes before you receive the beauty. He said he would take what was meant for harm and use it to your advantage. But you have to do your part and drop it. Quit thinking about it, quit reliving it. Move forward, there's a new beginning in front of you. But God will not release new opportunities as long as you're reliving the old hurts, old failures. You may have had a lot of negative things in your past, things that weren't fair, you had a rough childhood, your business didn't make it, you lost a loved one. You could easily go through life with a chip on your shoulder, not trusting anybody, bitter, resentful, but everything you went through deposited something on the inside.

You're not defined by your past, you're prepared by your past. You're stronger, more experienced, you have greater confidence. If that hadn't have happened you wouldn't be prepared for the new levels that are coming your way. Don't go around with the poor old me mentality, feeling sorry for yourself. I've heard it said, "You can be pitiful or you can be powerful, but you can't be both". You may have made some mistakes. You blew your marriage. You didn't raise your children right. You have a lot of regrets, but you can't do anything about what happened yesterday. Living guilty and condemned is not going to make anything better. It's time to drop it. If you'll get rid of that negative baggage you'll not only feel a weight lift off of you, but you'll step into the new things God has in store.

The scripture says (2 Corinthians 3:17), "Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom". Not where the Spirit of the Lord was. If you're always thinking about yesterday, last month, last year, there's no freedom there. That's where the Spirit of the Lord was. This is a new day. There are new victories, new relationships, new opportunities. Quit living in what was and come over into what is. Right now there is freedom for you. Right now there are new beginnings, joy, peace, restoration. Crying over what happened yesterday doesn't bring freedom. Living in regret of what you should have done, could have done better doesn't do anything productive. Being offended, upset, frustrated over what didn't work out will only keep you in mediocrity. It's time to drop it and move forward.

Nothing that's happened to you was a surprise to God. When he laid out the plan for your life he already knew every person that would hurt you, every loss you'd go through, every mistake. The good news is for every setback he's already arranged a comeback, for every disappointment a new beginning, for every failure restoration, for all the ashes he has beauty. You have to put your foot down and say, "That's it. I may have been through some disappointments, may have made some mistakes, but I'm not going to waste the time I have left worried about what I could have done better, bitter over what didn't work out, upset over who did me wrong. I'm leaving what was and I'm coming over into what is. I'm dropping the offense, dropping the self-pity, dropping the blame, dropping the failure. I'm done carrying the negative baggage. I'm gonna live my life free".

Here's the key, if somebody did you wrong leave it up to God. He'll be your vindicator. If you've made mistakes quit beating yourself up and receive God's mercy. It's new every morning. There are things you don't understand, worked hard but you didn't get the promotion. You did your best but your marriage didn't make it. Instead of dragging that negative baggage you have to be mature enough to say, "God I don't understand it, but I trust you. I know you wouldn't have allowed it if it wasn't going to somehow work to my advantage. So I'm not going to get bitter, not going to live looking in my rear view mirror. I'm gonna keep moving forward knowing that my best days are still up ahead". Just like that you can drop it, all that hurt, that baggage you can let it go. You can't change your history but you can choose how you face what's in front of you. You can start living Your Best Life Now.

You may have had a rough start, but you don't have to have a rough finish. The scripture says, "Better is the end than the beginning". That's God's word for you today, better is the end. Keep your eyes on what's ahead. Maybe you've had a disappointment, somebody broke your heart a dream didn't work out, the medical report wasn't good. Don't get stuck in what happened yesterday. Don't keep dwelling on the negative. God is saying, "Something better is coming". There may be some rough spots in the middle, but don't stay focused on the betrayal. Better is coming. The loan didn't come through, don't sit around in self-pity, better is coming. You pray and believed, but the medical report wasn't good. That's one report, but God has another report. He says, "Better is coming".

Now don't cancel out the better by living in yesterday, dwelling in the negative, regrets, failures, what didn't work out. If your mind is always in yesterday you're going to move in that direction. You can't go forward looking backwards. Receive this into your spirit, better is coming. Healing is coming, breakthroughs are coming, new opportunities are coming. Paul said in Philippians, "I focus all my energies on this one thing. Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead". Here's a man that wrote over half of the New Testament. He could have said, "I focus all my energies on being a better writer, on improving my leadership skills, on impacting the culture more effectively", but he said in effect, "what's more important than all of that is letting go of what lies behind".

He knew if we carried negative baggage it would keep us from our destiny. Paul had been through a lot of adversities. He was falsely accused, beaten with rods, put in prison, gone without food, shipwrecked, on and on. If he hadn't learned this principle he would have become bitter, discouraged, "God why did this happen to me? Look what I've been through. It's not fair". He felt so strongly in one translation he said, "I'm not all I should be yet, but this one thing I do forgetting what lies behind". He was an expert at dropping it. So how do we drop it? Quit thinking about it and quit talking about it. Don't rehearse all of the negative things that have happened to you.

The reason some people never see the better is because they're always opening up old wounds. Every week they call their friend, "Can you believe what they did to me"? Happened 27 years ago and they're still dragging it up like it happened yesterday. If you're going to get free you need to not only drop it, you need to bury it, have a funeral for it. Put it away once and for all. Make a decision that you're not going to talk about it another time. That betrayal, the disappointment, that injustice, it's dead, it's over, it's buried, it's in the past. If you go dig it up it's going to stink. It's not only going to make you sour, but nobody's going to want to be around you. When you're bitter you push people away. When you're offended, upset, holding a grudge, that pushes opportunities away. You have to get the stink out of your life.

A while back I was traveling home from a big event. We left on a Thursday and came back on a Friday night, but I had forgotten to take any extra socks. I put my socks on Thursday morning, traveled to the city, finished a busy day. Then the next morning I put those same socks on. Went out, worked, spoke at an event, shook hands with hundreds of people afterwards. Course I had perspired, been hot. We got on the plane and I was tired. I took my shoes off, I put my feet on the chair in front of me. My wife Victoria nearly passed out. She said, "Joel put your shoes back on. Your feet stink so badly". I said, "They do not stink, they smell just fine". I couldn't smell a thing.

That's the problem when you stink for so long you don't know it. When you're carrying around unforgiveness, bitterness, mad at somebody, offended at your neighbor you may not realize it but it's making your life stink. It's pushing people and opportunities away. Why don't you let go of the stinky stuff? Get rid of yesterday's socks. There's an amazing future in front of you. There is beauty for ashes, there is joy for mourning, there is dancing for happiness, but you have to do your part and move forward.

Mark chapter 11 Jesus was talking about what we should do when somebody does us wrong. He said in verse 25, "Forgive them and let it drop. Leave it and let it go". Notice the principle, drop it, leave it and let it go. Unforgiveness only locks you into your past. It makes you a prisoner to your pain, your bad memories, your regrets, but you have the choice to leave that captivity. Forgiveness is the key to that freedom. Forgive the people that hurt you. Forgive the boss that did you wrong. Forgive the friend that betrayed you. Forgive the loved one who broke your heart. Forgive the parent who mistreated you. Forgive your brother or sister. Freely you have been forgiven so freely give. Drop it, leave it, let it go.

Renee Napier: May 11th 2002 my sister-in-law came and knocked on the door. The next words that came out of her mouth were, "There's been an accident. It was Meagan, she didn't make it".

Eric Smallridge: I woke up unconscious in the back seat of my truck. They said that they were going to take a blood sample. I asked them, "What for"? And they said, "Well don't act like you don't know that there's two girls dead in the car over there".

Renee Napier: How am I gonna breathe? How am I gonna manage without my daughter? You know just what's life gonna look like without her? I don't know, I mean it's just, Megan I miss you, I miss her so much. I miss her every single day.

Eric Smallridge: The results came back for the blood test that said I was extremely over the limit. I think it was two and a half times the legal limit.

Renee Napier: My first reaction was, "Why did he get to live and my daughter died? Why did two innocent girls die and he lived"?

Eric Smallridge: As I was led into the courtroom that was the first time I'd actually faced the families.

Renee Napier: He pled not guilty when I knew that he was intoxicated and I knew that it was his fault that this happened. It was the choices that he made that caused this. I had a lot of anger in me and looking at him I'd been looking for remorse and sorrow from him and I had not seen it and I still didn't think I was seeing it during that trial. I didn't see it in him.

Joel Osteen: Renee had lost her daughter in a terrible tragedy, something no parent should ever face. How could she possibly move on?

Renee Napier: I knew that the bitterness would eat me alive. I knew that the anger would as well and I knew that it would chip away at the person that God intended for me to be. It would chip away at the mom I'm supposed to be, at the friend that I'm supposed to be and so I made a choice. It's all about choices. I made a choice, I'm not gonna be bitter. I'm not gonna hate him. I'm not gonna be angry forever. I'm gonna deal with it as it comes and I thought, "You know, I gotta trust God that this is the right thing to do".

Eric Smallridge: After a long seven day trial I stand for judgment of the jury and I hear them find me guilty of two counts of DUI manslaughter. Those first couple days in jail, the chaplain came to the door with a Bible that my mom had sent me. As I read, obviously I started in Genesis, started at page one and I couldn't believe these stories that were so relevant to my situation, to every situation that I've ever come into. Hope just started to reenter my soul.

Renee Napier: When I looked at Eric at the sentencing I saw a young man who made a really horrible choice. He's facing a long time in prison.

Eric Smallridge: What I was really expecting was for someone in the audience, for something, a loud outburst of hatred to come towards me cause that what I was feeling for myself.

Renee Napier: Grief is suffocating at times, but my faith in God sustains me. Eric I'm telling you here today that I forgive you. I actually did it a year ago. Forgiveness is such an essential part of healing. I've never hated you or your family. In fact we agonize for everyone who is affected by this.

Eric Smallridge: I remember it so vividly. She stopped what she was doing and she made a point of turning and facing and looking at me when she was giving her victim impact statement. And she looked at me and she said, "Eric I forgive you". And talk about being a living example of what the Bible says. I strove from that moment on to figure out how she could possibly do that.

Renee Napier: Because God gave us, it's a command, he gave us that command. He didn't give us an option. He didn't say, "Forgive, but only if they do this and you don't have to forgive if they do this". It's forgive 70 times 7. It's you have to forgive.

Eric Smallridge: A belief is only as strong as the actions that it produces and whenever she turned to me and said, "I forgive you", I was all in for Jesus Christ.

Joel Osteen: Renee's extraordinary decision to forgive Eric was just the beginning. Over the next five years Eric found his faith in God. From jail he developed a relationship with Renee's family and then Renee decided to do something even more remarkable. She pleaded to the judge to reduce his sentence.

Renee Napier: Now that Eric has said that he's taking responsibility I feel like 22 years, and my family we feel like it's too long for him to be there. I think we should go back before the judge and see if he'll restructure the sentences to concurrent.

Eric Smallridge: They called us for a hearing in 2006. The Napier family to show up that day on my behalf, to have written letters to the judge, I mean I'm undeserving you know. The grace, underserved mercy.

Renee Napier: My heart was about to pop, I was just so thankful that my children had compassion on him and that they were forgiving him as well.

Eric Smallridge: And then the judge came back and he told me that this was something he had never seen in the 20 years plus that he had been on the bench. And he said, "Because of this and what's going on I believe this is a mitigating factor and I'm gonna reduce your sentence".

Joel Osteen: After Eric's sentence was reduced Renee wanted to tell the world about the dangers of drinking and driving. While Eric was still in prison Renee petitioned for Eric to be allowed to travel and speak in high school auditoriums. Their first speaking event together was at Meagan's former high school.

Renee Napier: I just prayed and I said, "God I've prayed so much up until this point and I don't even know what to pray right now except this, please show up because I know that if you show up then I don't have to worry about anything". And so I walked into that gym and got before those students and God just was there in that moment and then when I introduced Eric they were so shocked, they were not expecting that.

Eric Smallridge: I was escorted out there by an officer and they unhooked my handcuffs so I could hold the microphone and in that moment Renee walked up to me and she didn't just hand me the microphone, but she gave me a hug. Feeling the love of someone that I had hurt so deeply, feeling the forgiveness in action. It wasn't that she just said it, but now she was showing it outwardly for everyone to see.

Renee Napier: I felt like the audience really needed to see that I was genuine. That somebody can make a horrible choice that takes the lives of two girls and can be forgiven and then healing can begin and you can actually be in the same place at the same time with this person and you can be okay.

Eric Smallridge: I didn't think in those early days after the accident that this was something that I would ever overcome, the grief that I caused on May 11th of 2002. Overcoming my past is a renewed life through Christ.

Renee Napier: The most important thing is to live with love in your heart and forgiveness so that you can have peace and joy because honestly I think that's what we're all striving for.

- Hi, Pastor Joel.
- I need some help.
- Dear Pastor Joel...
- I have a question for you.
- Pastor Joel...
- My anger sometimes gets the best of me.
- I don't know what to do.
- My stepson drives me nuts.
- I need some help.
- My marriage is falling apart and I wish we'd never married.
- How can I get my thoughts right?
- How do I know which direction God wants me to go?
- God isn't answering my prayers.
- Where's God when I'm struggling?
- Dear Pastor Joel...
- How do I choose...
- I don't understand what's going on.
- I can't get my life...
- Hey, Pastor Joel.
- My marriage is struggling.
- I don't know what to do.
- Do you even read these questions? All I know is, I want to start living my best life.
- Where do I start?
- But where do I start?

I get questions like this all the time, week after week people call in, write in, reach out to us on social media. I've learned that letting go of the past is one of the hardest things for us to do especially when we blame ourselves for the things that have happened. Maybe you need to bury that mistake you've made. You've lived guilty, condemned, down on yourself long enough, put it behind you. No more talking about it. No more letting the accuser make you feel unworthy. "You don't deserve to be blessed. You're a failure". Those lies will stink up your future. Quit letting the negative play.

When the defeat, the mistake, the hurt comes back on that movie screen of your mind do yourself a favor, change the channel. Have the attitude, "I'm not going backwards. I'm not living in regrets. I'm not rehearsing failures, I'm moving forward. I may have had some bad breaks, but I know better is in the end". If you'll get your mind going forward your life will go forward. Or maybe there's something you've gone through that doesn't make sense. You don't understand why God would allow it, an illness, a betrayal, a loss. People ask me, "Joel, why did your mother get healed and my mother didn't"? We're never going to understand everything. Don't get caught up in the why's of life.

The scripture says (1 Corinthians 13:12), "We see now in part through a glass dimly, but one day we will see in full". One day it will be clear. If you're always trying to figure out why you're going to get frustrated and bitter. Best thing you can do is drop it, leave it alone. If God wants you to know why he's God, he'll tell you why. But if he's not revealing it to you then you need to let it go. Some things God doesn't want us to know. Proverbs 25:2 says, "It's God's privilege to conceal things". If you're going to trust God you have to accept that there are going to be unanswered questions. We have to be mature enough to say, "God I don't understand why this happened, but I'm okay without understanding why. I don't have to have all the answers. You're God and I'm not. I trust that your ways are better than mine".

Things will happen that don't fit perfectly into our theology. We can't sacrifice what we know about God because of one thing we don't understand. We should all have a mental file called the "I Don't Understand It" file. When things come up that don't make sense, you don't see an answer instead of getting confused, frustrated, just put it in your "I Don't Understand" file and keep moving forward. Know that God is for you. He holds you in the palm of his hand. He says, "The end is better than the beginning". My challenge today is quit looking back. Get out of the was and come over into the is. God wants to do something new, but you have to let go of the old. Be like the apostle Paul, focus your energies on letting go of what lies behind.

Is there something you need to drop today? A hurt, a failure, a disappointment, an offense? There's no better time than now. Today can be a turning point. Make a decision with me, you're getting rid of all the negative baggage. You're going to drop it, you're going to leave it and you're not going to go back an pick it up again. You're going to let God be your vindicator. You're going to receive his mercy for the mistakes that you've made. If you'll do this I believe and declare God is going to heal your hurts. He's going to give you beauty for ashes. He's going to release you into new relationships, new opportunities. Like the scripture says, "Better is coming". Joy is coming, healing is coming, favor is coming, the fullness of your destiny in Jesus' name. Now go out and start living Your Best Life Now.
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