Joel Osteen - Grass in the Desert
I want to talk to you today about Grass in the Desert. Mark chapter 6, Jesus was with his disciples and so many people were crowding around. He told them to get in the boat so they could have some time alone. Verse 32 says, "They departed to a desert place". People saw where they were heading, when they arrived there were thousands of people waiting for them. Jesus began to teach them. Late in the day the disciples said, "Jesus it's almost night. We're out here in the desert. There's nothing to eat. Send the people home". Jesus said "You feed them". They said "With what? We're in the desert, we don't have food for all these people". Jesus asked them for what they had. They gave him two fish and five loaves of bread.
Verse 39 says, "Jesus told the crowd to sit down in groups on the green grass". Three times in this passage it says they were in a desert place, now he's telling them to sit on green grass. The people were tired, hot, hungry. Jesus hadn't multiplied the food yet, they hadn't received the miracle, but while they were waiting God gave them grass in the desert, he made the hard places easier. He didn't stop them from going into the desert, he didn't keep them from the heat, but he did lighten the load.
We all go through desert places in life: problems that should overwhelm us, giants that should defeat us, bad breaks that should make us bitter. But somehow in the midst of these challenges there's a force sustaining us. We feel strength that we didn't have, courage to keep moving forward, grace to endure. We look back and think, "How did I make it through the loss of my loved one? How did I overcome that sickness? How did I raise that child that was so difficult"? It was God giving you grass in the desert, God making the hard places easier. Without his grace we would have gone under. Without his favor that sickness would have defeated you. Without him breathing in your direction you wouldn't have made it through that breakup. He didn't stop the trouble, but he did keep the trouble from stopping you.
You could have fallen apart, you could have had a nervous breakdown, gotten bitter, but God gave you green grass in the desert. He sustained you. When you could have been overwhelmed, he stepped in and lightened the load. That's why that person showed up at just the right time to help you it. Wasn't a lucky break, it was grass in the desert. That's why you had the strength to take that treatment, when you should have been discouraged worn out, it was grass in the desert. That's why this pandemic hasn't defeated you. You could be stressed out, not able to make it, but there's grass in the desert. God hasn't changed it all yet, you haven't seen the promise come to pass, you're still believing for the healing, the promotion, the spouse. The good news is: while you're waiting God is making your hard places easier. You may not be able to tell it, but if it wasn't for the goodness of God that sickness would have taken you out. Without his favor that trouble would have overwhelmed you. Without his mercy that addiction would have defeated you.
No matter what you go through: an illness, a divorce, a betrayal, because you're a child of the Most High God there's going to be green grass in the desert. It's not going to overwhelm you. It's not going to be too much. God is going to do things that don't make sense. He's going to give you strength that you can't explain, courage that you didn't know you had, favor that you didn't see coming. You may be in a desert place now, the right attitude is "Lord, I want to thank you for the green grass. Thank you for sustaining me. Thank you for what didn't take me out. Thank you that I'm still standing".
How could Joseph keep a good attitude after all the negative things that happened to him? He was betrayed by his brothers, thrown into a pit. They were going to leave him there to die, but they ended up selling him as a slave. He could have been bitter, angry, trying to get revenge, but God gave him grass in the desert, he made the hard places easier. Despite all the injustice, despite his world being turned upside down, Joseph kept being his best doing the right thing. When he faced temptation, the owner's wife tried to seduce him, Joseph could have thought, "I have nothing to lose. These people have done me wrong". He could have let his guard down and compromise, but there was grass in the desert. Joseph stayed faithful, loyal, committed.
You don't know how God is working in your life right now. Where did you get the strength to withstand the temptation? How are you able to keep a good attitude when negative things have happened? How can you still be strong and do the right thing with these challenges you're up against? It's not just your will, your determination, it's God giving you grass in the desert. He's not letting that trouble overwhelm you, he's not letting that bad break defeat you. The scripture says you'll never face anything that you can't handle. If it was too much, if it was going to stop your destiny, God wouldn't have allowed it.
Like Joseph you may be in a desert place, life has thrown you a curve, you're dealing with things that you never saw coming, people that did you wrong, a sickness that's not improving, your business went down, you don't see how you can go on - God is about to make your hard places easier. You're going to feel a strength that you've never felt. The right people, divine connections are headed your way. God is going to get you to where you're supposed to be. The desert is not your destiny. That barren place, the disappoint, the loss is not how your story ends - the desert is temporary, the trouble is temporary, the depression it's only temporary.
Joseph ended up the prime minister of Egypt. He came out of the desert into his Promised Land. We don't like the desert, but the desert was necessary. Without the opposition, without the betrayals, the disappointments Joseph would have never made it to his destiny. God won't stop the desert. He never promised we wouldn't have difficulties, but he did promise he'll give you grass in the desert, he'll make your hard places easier. Now quit telling yourself that you can't handle it, it's too much, "I'll never beat this cancer. I'll never raise these children. This pandemic is going to ruin my business" - you're defeating yourself. Victory starts in our thinking. The scripture says (Isaiah 27:5) to take hold of his strength. Try a different approach, "Lord, thank you for the grass in the desert. Thank you that I can do all things through Christ. Thank you that I'm strong in the Lord. Thank you that you're making my crooked places straight. Thank you that you being for me is more than the world being against me".
My father struggled with high blood pressure most of his life. Often the medicine he would take would make him dizzy and not feel like himself. On Sunday mornings I would come down to put his microphone on from the tv area before the service. Many times he hadn't slept much the night before, he didn't seem up to par, I would ask him if he wanted to minister or did he want us to get someone else? He would never think twice, he'd say "Yes, I'm ready". He would go out as strong, as anointed, as effective as ever. When he stepped into the pulpit, it was like he was a different person. You couldn't tell anything was wrong. I was so amazed, I thought how could he do that? I realize now, that was God giving him grass in the desert.
David said (Psalm 23:2), God makes me to lie down in green pastures. You can be in a desert, and God will create a green pasture. In a pandemic you could be worried, upset, but look at you strong, confident. You know God is still on the throne, you know he holds victory in store for the upright. You know what's meant for harm he's turning to your advantage. It's bearing all around you, but you're in a green pasture. You have grass in the desert. While others are complaining, talking about how it's not going to work out, you have a song of praise, you're expecting God's favor, you're declaring his promises.
When I looked at my father I didn't see green pastures. All I saw was a desert, barren land, him not feeling well. I didn't see how he could prepare a message, how he could get up and be effective. But God doesn't wait till you get out of the desert, he'll cause you to flourish in the desert. He'll make you prosperous in a barren land. What I couldn't see was in that desert he had green grass, he had strength to do what he shouldn't be able to do.
At 77 my father had to go on dialysis, his kidneys had quit working, often I would take him to the clinic. He would sit there for four hours, three times a week. He was used to being able to travel and go places, now he was tied down. This should have defeated him, should have taken the joy and victory out of his life, but God takes things that should be disheartening, defeating, unbearable, and he gives you the grace to keep going strong. Even though he was on dialysis he never missed ministering on a Sunday morning. I never heard him complain. He didn't talk about how bad it was, he was constantly thanking God for his goodness. That didn't make sense: he was in the desert, on dialysis, not able to travel, but God knows how to make your hard places easier.
He may not keep you out of the desert, but he will give you grass in the desert, he'll give you the grace to go through whatever comes your way. You may be up against things that seem like there are too much to handle, too difficult, too unfair, you don't have the strength, the energy, the faith. Don't worry, there's grass in that desert. God has a green pasture for wherever he takes you. Go into a divorce, yes, that's hard, but there's grass in that desert. You're going to feel strength that you've never felt. Taken that treatment, it should wipe you out, but even in the barren place you're going to discover a green pasture. God has already prepared it for you. Or raising that special needs child, it would be too much for others, but not you, there's grass in that desert.
I have a friend that was married to a professional football player - big, strong man that served in the military. Later in life he developed diabetes and ended up losing both of his legs. This lady took care of him like a king, she would get up at four in the morning before she went to work, and get him dressed and bathed. She's a large woman, she would pick him up out of the bed, and physically carry him around the house, month after month, year after year. Eventually he went to be with the Lord. How could she have that kind of strength, that kind of stamina, that kind of commitment? That was God giving her grass in the desert. You may be doing a hard thing, but you have to know, God sees you. You're not in this by yourself, he's about to lighten the load, he's going to make that hard place easier. He has grace for every season. I believe right now strength is coming into you, fresh vision, fresh anointing. You may be tired, but you're about to get a second wind, you're going to feel God breathing in your direction, bringing dreams back to life, making things happen that you couldn't make happen. You're going to say like her, "How did I make it through that difficult time"? It was God giving you grass in the desert. You stepped into a green pasture that he already prepared.
When I look back over my life, I can see these times where God made my hard places easier. When my father passed I was in a desert place. I'd worked with him for years here at Lakewood, traveled the world together. 1999 when he had a heart attack and went to be with the Lord, that was the most difficult thing I'd ever faced, my world was turned upside down. But it wasn't what I thought: I thought I would be devastated, overwhelmed, not able to go on, but I felt a peace that I had never felt. I missed my father, but deep down I knew he'd fulfilled his purpose. There was this grace to not only make it through his loss, but to step up and pastor the church. I suddenly had this desire. I never wanted to before, my father tried for 17 years to get me up to minister, but I wouldn't do it, but now I not only knew I was supposed to, but I wanted to. What was that? God giving me grass in the desert, making my hard places easier.
I didn't know how to minister. I'd never written a message before. I should have been overwhelmed, stressed out, but every week by the grace of God I came up with something to say. Our daughter Alexandra was three months old at the time, and Jonathan was four years old. How could I step up and not only start ministering each week, but lead the church, have time for my family, raise my children, keep Victoria in line... I mean love Victoria. How could that happen? God makes your hard places easier. He has a green pasture for you. When you lose a loved one, you're not going to fall apart, you're not going to give up on life, new dreams are going to spring up, new desires are going to come. He has a green pasture for when that child is in trouble, for when your business slows, for when the medical report is not good.
When you look back over your life you can see these times God gave you grass in the desert. At the time you may not have realized it, you were so caught up in what was going on and making it through, you didn't recognize - it was the grace of God giving you the strength, the favor, helping you do what you couldn't do. It's good to take time and reflect on the goodness of God, "Lord, thank you for the green pastures. Thank you for bringing me through what should have stopped me. Thank you for peace when I lost a loved one. Thank you for strength to make it through that sickness. Thank you for sustaining me, when I should have gone under. Thank you for defeating enemies that were much bigger. Thank you for giving me the stamina to outlast the opposition".
"Well, Joel, this sounds good, but I don't see this grass in the desert. I don't have these big moments where I've stepped up and done something great". Think about what could have happened? That sickness could have taken you out, but God gave you the strength to overcome. That breakup should have soured your life, left you bitter, but while you were hurting there was a green pasture. You had the strength to move forward. Now you have someone great in your life. That wasn't a lucky break, that was grass in the desert. Maybe you spent years taking care of your elderly parents, at the same time raising your children, pursuing your dreams - how could you do all that? How could you have the energy, the desire, the consistency? It wasn't just your good heart, it was God making your difficult places easier. God gives you grace for every season in life.
I talked to a lady several years back, she's in her 60s, and she just found out that she was going to raise three of her grandchildren. She wasn't expecting it, the mother had some issues she was dealing with. These children were all under the age of seven. She didn't know how she was going to have the energy, how she could help them with school work, and be there for all their events, she was so worried. I told her what I'm telling you: you may be in a desert place, something that you weren't expecting, but it's not a surprise to God. He has a green pasture that he's already ordained for you. It's going to be easier than you think. Now the key is: don't talk yourself out of it, "This is too much for me. I can't believe this happened". Don't complain about the desert, you can flourish in the desert, you can prosper in a pandemic, you can succeed in a down year. The Most High God is on your side. He makes rivers in the desert. He turns dry land into green pastures.
Jeremiah 17:7-8 said, "When your hope is in the Lord ,you will be like a tree... Not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Your leaves will stay green and you will go on producing luscious fruit". Because your hope is in the Lord, you're not going to be bothered by the drought. While others are drying up, you're going to flourish. When they're shrinking back, you're going to move forward. When they're going under, you're going to go over. Why? Your hope is in the Lord. That desert can't stop you, the sickness, the trouble, the anxiety, it cannot stop you. You may be in a barren place, but God knows how to create grass in that desert. He's going to open doors you couldn't open. He's going to cause the right people to find you. He said, "Your leaves are going to stay green". You're going to keep producing fruit not up one year, down two, you're going to be consistent, you're going to see the faithfulness of God.
See he's not limited by the economy, by your job, by the stock market, he owns it all. Keep your hope in him. You're not just going to make it, just get by, you're going to keep producing luscious fruit. Not shriveled up, mediocre, you're going to see abundance, overflow, pressed down, shaken together, running over. Not after the drought, but in the drought. In the pandemic you're going to see God show out in your life. That's what it means to have grass in the desert. You can't explain it, it doesn't make sense, it's just the goodness of God.
I saw this lady recently, she told how raising these children has been one of the most rewarding, fulfilling things she's ever done. She said specifically "It's been so much easier than I thought. I never dreamed I'd have this much energy, this much strength to be able to get so much done". Sometimes we think when we get out of the desert, out of the barren place, then we'll excel, then we'll pursue our dreams. But God is going to cause you to flourish in the desert. He's going to make those hard places easier than you think.
You may have difficult things coming against you now in your health, your finances, your family. It seems like it's more than you can handle. Like this woman it's going to be easier than it looks. Things you thought you would struggle with are not going to be a struggle, there's going to be an anointing of ease: an ease to raise those children, an ease to overcome the illness, an ease to build the business, an ease to move forward after the laws. Right now God is creating grass in your desert place. The forces that have stopped you in the past will stop you no more, God is releasing you into favor, healing, freedom, and abundance. You are strong, you are anointed, equipped, and empowered. You will flourish in the famine. You will prosper in the pandemic. You will blossom in the desert places.
This is what happened to a young lady in the scripture named Ruth. She was going along fine, life was good, then her husband unexpectedly died. You can imagine how devastated she was. Her mother-in-law Naomi was moving back to her hometown of Bethlehem. Ruth decided to go with her, so she could help take care of her. She would go out into the fields every morning to pick up leftover wheat that the workers missed. That's how she and Naomi survived. Ruth was in a desert place, a young widow, dream shattered, now living in lack and poverty. Didn't look like she had much of a future. She could have been discouraged, bitter, "God, why did this happen"? But God won't let you get in a desert where he can't create green grass.
One day the owner of the field noticed Ruth. He told his workers to leave handfuls of wheat on purpose for Ruth. Now she had more than she needed, she gathered it in in a fraction of the time. With that one good break her life became so much easier. When you're in a desert place, you don't know who God is speaking to about being good to you. God didn't speak to Ruth, he didn't say "I'm going to tell that owner to help you". God is working behind the scenes in your life, speaking to the people you need to flourish in the desert, lining up the breaks you need to make your life easier. He knows how to make a green pasture in the middle of a setback, in the middle of a loss.
I'm sure Ruth was so happy, so grateful, God had been good to her. But God didn't stop there, he created the grass, but he didn't leave her in the desert. The owner of the field Boaz fell in love with Ruth, they ended up getting married. Now instead of working in the field, Ruth owned the field. In those desert places you don't know what God is up to. Thoughts will tell you, "You've seen your best days. You've been through too much. You'll never get well, never meet the right person, never beat the addiction". Don't believe those lies. God is already lined up your Boazes, the right people. He's already arranged the good breaks, the promotion, the healing, the favor. He's not going to just make the hard places easier, but he's going to cause you to flourish in the desert, to prosper despite what you've been through.
The reason you have strength to withstand, the power to outlast, the determination to try again, is because God has something awesome in your future. If you were done, he wouldn't have created the grass in the desert. If he wasn't about to multiply what you have, do something that you've never seen, he wouldn't have made the green pastures for you to lie down in. The fact that you're hearing this tells me that your future is much brighter than your past.
Now quit telling yourself "This loss is too much for me. I'll never get past this breakup, this sickness, this trouble at work". It's all a part of your destiny. Without the desert places, you can't make it to your Promised Land. The question is: are you going to take hold of his strength? Are you going to do like Joseph, like Ruth, and keep moving forward, being your best, knowing that God is in control? Or are you going to settle for mediocrity, overwhelmed, discouraged? What you're up against may be difficult, but this is a new day. God is about to lighten the load. Things are about to change in your favor. You're going to feel a strength that you've never felt, a grace to do what you couldn't do, an anointing of ease. I believe and declare: you are coming in to your green pastures, you're going to flourish in the famine, prosper in the pandemic. Favor is coming, healing is coming, breakthroughs, freedom, promotion, the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus name.