Joel Osteen - The God Who Stoops
I want to talk to you today about The God Who Stoops. We think if we can live good enough then God will bless us, if we can clean ourselves up, get rid of this bad habit, not fail anymore, then God will show us his favor. The problem is: we can't live that way. We all make mistakes, we have times we give into temptation, let our emotions take over. The condemning voices come saying "You blew. It it's your fault. God's never going to help you". But that's not the way our God is. When you can't come up to his level, he says "Don't worry I'll, come down to yours". He's not so high that he won't come low. And it's good to see him as powerful, holy, the Creator of the universe, but if you only see him that way you'll be intimidated, overwhelmed, "I'll never measure up". You have to see him as the God who stoops. He comes down to the messy places. He's a God that will get his hands dirty.
When you've fallen, when you're broken, when you knew better but you did it anyway, you think "You're far from God", no, get ready he's coming after you. The scripture says "He leaves the 99 sheep and goes after the one sheep that's lost". He could have stayed with the 99, that are on course, he could have been satisfied, "I don't want to trouble. That sheep shouldn't have wandered off in the first place", but he goes to the messy places. He went to the hog pin to get the prodigal son. He'll go into a club, he'll go into dysfunction, into failure, into compromise. You can't get too far down, too far off course, too many mistakes that God will leave you alone. He'll come down to where you are. The beauty is: he comes not to condemn, not to point out all your mistakes, he comes to lift you, to restore, to free you to set you on a new path.
Psalm 113:6-8 says "He stoops down from the heavens to look at the earth. He lifts the poor from the dirt, and the needy from the garbage dump. He sets them among princes". He'll stoop all the way to a garbage dump, all the way to the dirt. Notice what he does: he doesn't just bring you out, but he honors you, he sets you among princes. He doesn't hold our mistakes against us. He takes what was meant for harm and uses it to our advantage. And I thank God that he's all-powerful, I thank him that he's holy, but I also thank him that he's the God who stoops, the God who picks me up when I fall, the God who shows me mercy when I get off course, the God who comes to messy places, that rescues me, sets me in a place of honor, restores me. Where would we be without the God who stoops?
My father was a teenager growing up during the great depression, very poor. He knew nothing about God. He had to drop out of high school to work on the farm, try to keep food on the table - no future to speak of. His parents were good people, but they didn't have any kind of faith, any kind of spiritual awareness. It looked like my father would be the same, just struggle through life, mediocre, no purpose. But at 17 years old he was walking home from a nightclub at two o'clock in the morning. He looked up at the stars and for some reason he began to think about God, and what he was going to do with his life? He felt this sense of destiny. On the coffee table at home there was a family Bible. It was just there for decoration, they never read it. He walked in that night and was drawn to it. He went over and opened it up, the pages fell to a picture of Jesus standing at a door and knocking. The caption read "If you'll open the door I'll come in".
My father didn't understand religion, he didn't understand theology, but he did understand opening a door. The next day he went to church with a friend for the first time. At the end of the service the pastor invited people to the front to receive Christ. My father wouldn't go, he was too afraid. His friend said "John, if you'll go, I'll go with you". My father walked down the island, gave his life to Christ. He went on to become a minister, started Lakewood, did great things with his life. Why did he feel that way coming home from the nightclub? What was that? The God who stoops. Sometimes we say "We found God", the truth is God wasn't lost. We didn't find him, he found us. He chose you before you could choose him.
I love the fact that you can never get so low that God won't come down and pick you up. You're not too far off course, you haven't failed too many times, you haven't had too many bad breaks. God is coming after you right now. He's breathing on your life in a new way with fresh vision, fresh passion, new doors are about to open. The greatness God put in you is about to come out. What he's destined for you to accomplish it will come to pass. Now don't write yourself off, and don't write anyone else off, don't give up on your child, don't quit praying for your loved one. The Psalmist said "God wherever I go I can't get away from your presence. If I go up to the heavens you are there. If I go to the depths of the ocean you're still there". There's no depth that God won't stoop to to free you, to restore a family member, to bring your child back home.
This is what happened with Saul in the scripture. He was the biggest enemy of the church. He was very educated, an influential leader, but he was against believers. He went around having them arrested and put in prison. It looked like he would be the last person that God would have anything to do with - he was creating havoc, making the disciples miserable. But God loves to redeem people that we think are not redeemable. He loves to take people that look too far gone, not a chance, and make them into a chosen vessel, bring them into purpose and destiny. On his way to arrest believers Saul had letters in his hand from the council, permission to put them in jail, suddenly a bright light shined down from heaven, knocked Saul off his horse. A voice boomed out saying "Saul, why do you persecute me"? He said "Who are you, Lord"? The voice said "I am Jesus". God was saying, "You're against me now, but that's not your purpose, that's not who I created you to be. I love you too much to let you miss your destiny. Even though I'm a God who sits high, even though I'm all powerful I'll stoop low to get you into your calling".
God will go to great lengths to bring you into your destiny. You may feel like you've missed it, you've made too many mistakes, you're too far off course - the good news is: we serve the God who stoops, the God that will reach down to redeem, to restore, to set you among princes. He's not going to just bring you out, he's going to honor you, promote you, give you influence, cause you to shine.
That day was a turning point for Saul, he became the apostle Paul, went on to write over half of the New Testament. One verse he wrote in Romans talks about the grace that God freely gives us. If anyone understood grace it would have been Paul. The word he used for "Freely" in the original language is "Promiscuous", meaning that God's grace will go to anyone. If someone is promiscuous they're unrestrained, they're loose. That's the way God's grace is: it's not looking for perfect people. You can be struggling with an addiction and grace will come looking for you. You can be working in the wrong kind of place, and grace will come knocking on your door. You can be dishonest, manipulative, and grace will show up at your house. You can be discouraged, thinking you messed up too many times, you brought the trouble on yourself - like the prodigal son grace will come into that hog pen. You can't get so low that God won't stoop down. His grace is unrestrained, it doesn't have limitations, it will go after anyone.
See we look at people and make judgments based on how we were raised, how we see things. We think, "God wouldn't have anything to do with them, they're not living right. They party too much. He's too dishonest. Her dress was too short. They use bad language. They come from a different religion". The longer I live, the more I realize: God will save who he wants to save. He'll stoop down to people that don't have a good reputation. Just ask Zacchaeus: he was dishonest, he cheated people, everyone knew he was not trustworthy, yet Jesus called him out of a huge group of people said "I want to go to your house and have dinner".
The religious leaders, the priest, the council members he couldn't understand it. Why would Jesus go to this guy's house? There were a lot of fine, upstanding people in the crowd, Zacchaeus was a notorious sinner? It's because they knew God as all-powerful, being holy, righteous, but they didn't know him as the God who stoops. If you only know him as this majestic Creator of the universe, then you can be judgmental, write people off. But when you realize even though he sits high, he stoops low. He doesn't disqualify people because they're off course now. He knows there's a Saul, they're a Zacchaeus, he comes down to redeem, to restore, to sit among princes.
I was at one of our events several years ago and afterwards I was meeting people. This young man came through the line, I could smell marijuana, it was very strong. This was before it was legal anywhere. My first thought was, "Man, this is a night of hope, not a night of dope". After a couple minutes I started feeling really good... But you know, it's easy to judge peoplem you know, "Why do they do that? Why does she go with him? Why isn't he more disciplined?", but when you know God as a God who stoops, a God that comes down to lift people, that his grace is promiscuous, that it goes to anyone, then you can be a lifter, you can be a healer, you can be a restorer. Where would you be without the mercy of God? What if God had not stooped down and brought my father into his purpose, where would I be? How many times has God stooped down to you, shown your mercy when you didn't deserve it, got you out of a problem you got yourself into, lift you out of that garbage so to speak?
And it'd be one thing if he did it condemning, judging, berating, but God doesn't find fault, he doesn't say a word. That's taught me not to judge other people. If we walked in their shoes, if we had their same experiences, we don't know what kind of decisions we would make. Since God stooped down for you why don't you stoop down for someone else? You're never more like God than when you're helping the hurting, restoring the broken, lifting the fallen. There's enough judgment in the world, there's enough criticism, fault finding - let's be lifters, let's be encouragers, let's help someone else experience the God who stoops.
This young man told me how he had never been to church, he didn't have much guidance growing up, he had been passed from foster home to foster home, he'd gotten into trouble, struggling with substance abuse - a lot had come against him. But he said, "My girlfriend and I started watching you on television, when I hear you speak, I feel something on the inside that I've never felt". I told him that's your Heavenly Father drawing you, that's God saying "I have a plan and purpose for your life". That's what the Psalmist said, "God stoops down from the heavens and lifts those in the dirt, and sets them among princes".
You too may have gone through disappointments, things that were unfair - you couldn't do anything about it, you never thought you'd be where you are, but be encouraged today - he's a God who stoops. He comes to the messy places not with judgment, not with condemnation, he comes with hope, with new beginnings, with fresh vision. God won't let you get in a problem that he won't get you out of. You're not too far gone, hasn't been too long, you haven't missed your destiny, God is about to do a new thing, dreams are coming back to life, promises you've let go of are on the way. What God started he's going to finish.
John chapter 8, the religious leaders caught a woman in the act of adultery. Jesus was teaching in the synagogue, they came dragging her in. In all this commotion, disrupted the meeting, they threw her on the ground in front of the whole crowd. She was humiliated, clothes torn, people shouting insults, "Shame on you, you're a disgrace". Two things I find interesting: first off, where is the man? If you're caught in the act that means there were two, they let the man off, not this lady. The second thing is what were the religious leaders doing spying on people, doing surveillance, hanging out at their house. They should have been focused on their assignment, on helping others. But some people are looking to catch you in a mistake, hoping you'll fail. They're ready to exploit and expose any mishap you have.
Don't be like them. The mercy you show others is the mercy God is going to show you. Love covers for people. I don't mean cover wrongdoing, but you should cover them with prayer, help them to heal help, them be restored. They said (John 8:4), "Jesus the law says to ston her, what do you say we should do"? This lady had no defense, she couldn't say they got the wrong person, "It wasn't me, I didn't do it", she was guilty. She knew she was wrong. Lying on the ground afraid, embarrassed, she had no one to stand up for her. But the scripture says (John 8:6), "Jesus stooped to the ground and wrote in the dust with his finger". He came down to her level. He could have stood up taller, got up on the platform, a position of more authority, but he stooped. Everyone else was standing, just he and the woman were looking eye to eye.
I could imagine some of them thought "He was stooping down to pick up a rock and throw it at the lady", instead he stooped down and threw mercy. He said to the crowd (John 8:7), "You who are without sin, go ahead, throw the first stone". It's dead silence, nobody moved. Finally a man walked out, then another and another, from the oldest to the youngest, they all left. The whole time Jesus was stooped down on the ground writing in the dirt. That was signifying how God will get dirty to rescue you. He's not a God that stays behind stained glass windows, or even a God that just stays in the heavens - he's a God that will stoop down to a hog pin to rescue the prodigal son. He'll stoop down to the dirt to restore a lady caught in adultery. A God who will stoop down to save that one last sheep.
It wasn't till all the men left, Jesus said to the woman (John 8:10), "Where are your accusers? Hasn't anyone condemned you"? She looked around and said (John 8:11), "'no one Lord'. He said, 'neither do I condemn you, now go and sin no more'". Stooping is nothing new to our God - that's what he did 2000 years ago: he stooped down from heaven and came to earth, he stooped down from being worshipped by angels to be born in a manger, he stooped down to be mocked, betrayed, beaten and even crucified. He didn't have to, he could have said, "Father I'll pass on this assignment, let me stay up here on high", but for your sake and for mine he said "I'll stoop down. I'll go low, so low I'll be buried in a grave, so low the enemy will think I'm defeated, so low the forces of darkness will have a celebration".
The good news is: he didn't stay down. He stooped for a moment, but he got back up again, he defeated death, hell, and the grave for you and me. Now he's not only the all-powerful, resurrected Savior, but he's the God who stoops. He still comes to messy places, he'll still meet you where you are, he'll still restore you when it was your fault, he'll still defend you when you knew better, he'll still stick up for you when the accusing voices are all around. Where would we be without the God who stoops? When we didn't deserve it, when we couldn't measure up, when we made mistakes, like this lady we had no defense, he had every right to stay on the throne, be the God that he is, but in his mercy he stooped down. He came after the one lost sheep.
Years ago a friend of mine received a phone call from his uncle, he lived in another state. He told my friend there was a classmate he went to high school with, he hadn't seen in 40 years, but he couldn't get him off his mind. This classmate lived in the city where my friend lives. It was so strong, his uncle felt like he had to reach out to him, but he had no number, no contact, his name was very common, there would be thousands of people with the same name. But he asked my friend, his nephew, if he would try to locate him. And he kind of laughed and said, there are seven million people in this area, what are the chances that I'll find him?
The next day my friend went to his mailbox, there was an advertisement for a business. He noticed the man's name was the same his uncle mentioned. He thought what do I have to lose? He called the number and said, "I know this is odd, but I have an uncle by the name of so-and-so, and I'm wondering if you went to high school with him". The man couldn't believe it and said that he did. My friend said, "My uncle's very concerned about you. I wanted to know if there's anything that I can pray with you about".
The phone went silent. In a few seconds he began to hear the man sobbing. He said, "I'm out in the woods about to end my life". He had all the tools to do it, everything set up. My friend began to encourage him, let him know that God still had a plan for his life. That man changed his mind, today he he and his family are back in church, they're believers, his business is more successful, he's fulfilling his purpose.
That's God stooping down. He'll come right where you are. He'll come into the lion's den, into the fiery furnace, into the accusing voices, into the club, into the hospital. Like the Psalmist said, to lift you out of the dirt, out of the messy places and set you among princes. It's good to thank God for promotion, thank him for favor, but how we should thank him for stooping down? "Lord, thank you for getting your hands dirty. Thank you for coming to the messy places of my life. Thank you for restoring me when I was broken, redeeming me when I failed, for healing me when I was hurting".
There was a young prophet in the Old Testament named Hosea. He was well respected, people came from all around to get his advice. He was single, he knew God would bring him a wife, but it wasn't what he thought. God told him to marry a young lady named Gomer, she was a former prostitute, didn't have a good reputation. You can imagine what Hosea thought? "God, do you know who she is? I'm a respected prophet, what are people going to think"? He could have talked himself out of it, but he knew to obey. Started off good, they were in love, they had a baby, but then things went downhill. Hosea would go out ministering, Gomer slipped back into our old ways. He was heartbroken. He knew she wasn't being faithful. To make matters worse, she was the talk of the town, everyone knew about Gomer's affairs.
One morning Hosea woke up, Gomer was gone. She abandoned him and the children. I can hear Hosea's friend saying, "It's about time, you need to be finished with that woman. She's brought you nothing but heartache and pain". That sounded good, but deep down Hosea still loved Gomer. Years later he overheard the town gossip saying that Gomer was still alive, she had been deserted by all the men that said they loved her, she was about to be sold as a slave. The scripture says (Hosea 3:1), "The Lord said to Hosea, 'go get your wife and bring her back home'". After all the pain she'd caused, after all the rejection, you'd think he'd say "No way. I am done, I'm over it", but we serve a God who stoops, a God that comes to the messy places.
Hosea went to the city and found her in the red light district, on the auction block about to be sold. She was beaten down, dirty, clothes torn. He got down close and whispered, "Gomer". She looked up, couldn't believe it. He smiled said, "Don't worry, I'm going to get you out of here". He went to the man in charge and said, "That's my wife, I'm taking her with me". He said, "You're not taking her anywhere, she's for sale, you'll have to buy her". Hosea took out his wallet, gave him 15 shekels, five barley loaves, he bought back what should have been already his.
Hosea is a picture of God. Gomer represents you and me. We've all made mistakes, we all went our own way, but God who is rich in mercy, when we turned our back on him he had every right to walk away, but he didn't turn his back on us. He stooped down to the messy places, to where we failed, to where we should have been finished and bought us back. Not with 15 shekels, but with his own son. Now you have to do your part and receive his mercy, receive his forgiveness, quit beating yourself up, living guilty, believe in the lies that you've seen your best days, you could never measure up - you don't have to. When you can't get up to his level, God stoops down to yours. He knew we wouldn't perform perfectly, he knew we'd fail, we'd get knocked down, we'd make mistakes - that's when the accuser works overtime, trying to convince us, "It's too late. Man, you missed your chance, you'll never get out of this challenge". No, you have a defender. You have someone that won't just stand up for you, but he'll stoop down for you. He'll come down to your level not with judgment, but with mercy.
"But Joel, you don't know where I am. You don't know all the things that I've done". I don't know that, but I do know this: his grace is promiscuous, it's unrestrained, it will go to anyone. God doesn't disqualify, he doesn't write people off. No mistake you've made is too much for the mercy of God. Nothing you've done in your past has to keep you from the bright future that God has in store. And I believe what God promised that he's about to stoop down and lift you out of low places. Negative situations are turning around, addictions are being broken, strongholds that have held you back are coming down. Like with my father, God is going to bring you out of lack and mediocrity into abundance, influence and purpose. Like the woman with the accuser, God is freeing you from guilt, releasing you from condemnation. I believe and declare: you are redeemed, you are restored, your past is not dictating your future. Get ready, new doors are about to open, new levels of joy, favor, breakthroughs, the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus name. And if you receive it can you say amen today? Amen.