Joel Osteen - You Are Not A Victim
I want to talk to you today about You Are Not a Victim. We all go through things that are unfair: people that do us wrong, the company let us go, we came down with an illness. It's easy to live with a victim mentality, thinking we're at a disadvantage, we were shortchanged, we can't do anything great, look at how we were raised. We can't love again, the last person hurt us. We can't live happy, we've been through too much. As long as you accept that you're a victim, you're going to get stuck. You may have been through unfair situations, but don't use it as an excuse to feel sorry for yourself, to give up on life, to not pursue your dreams.
My mother had polio as a child, and one of her legs is much smaller than the other. As a little girl she had to wear a brace, she couldn't run and play like the other children. She could have lived as a victim, "I don't look up to par, I'm not as attractive, I'll never get married". I never heard her complain. She never saw herself as being at a disadvantage, she's gone on to live a full, blessed, favor-filled life. Married for almost 40 years, had five children, one son very good-looking - none of that would have happened (and it wasn't Paul), it would not happen if she had seen herself as a victim.
You have to take the hand you've been dealt and make the most of it. Nothing that's happened to you has stopped your destiny: that person that did you wrong, they walked away, it may have been painful, but they didn't ruin your life, they don't have that much power. If they could stop God's plan, they would be bigger than God. Don't let one bad break, one injustice, one difficult season cause you to be sour, have a chip on your shoulder.
When my father went to be with the Lord, I lost my best friend. I had worked with him day in and day out for 17 years, we'd traveled the world together, suddenly he was gone. I was tempted to think, "God, where are you? This isn't fair! Why did this happen"? When we go through loss, things we don't understand, that victim mentality will always come knocking at the door. We have to make the choice: are we going to live bitter, discouraged, thinking we're a victim of our circumstances, we're a victim of the loss, a victim of this unfair boss, a victim of this pandemic? Or are we going to believe that God is in control, that He's ordering our steps, that his plans for us are for good? Instead of having a victim mentality, switch over to a victor mentality. That bad break is not how your story ends. The loss, the sickness, the injustice is not going to limit the rest of your life.
God said in Isaiah 61:7, "He will pay you back double for the unfair things that have happened". If you're going to see the double, you have to know that God is going to make it up to you. It may be unfair, but God is a just God. He saw what happened, he knows who hurt you, what you lost, what you're struggling with. He's not going to just bring you out, he's going to bring you out better. Get rid of that victim mentality, quit dwelling on who hurt you, what you lost - you're not a victim, God always causes you to triumph. That bad break wasn't fair, you didn't like it, but what you can't see is it set you up for double. That boss that overlooked you, you didn't get the credit, you could feel like a victim - now get ready, God's going to make it up to you, that set you up for promotion, increase, favor that you wouldn't have seen if that had not have happened.
Here's the key: nobody can make you be a victim. They can do things that are not fair, you can go through things you don't like, you don't understand, but none of that can force you to have a victim mentality. You have to give permission to become a victim. You have to make that choice: "I'm at a disadvantage, I'm going to feel sorry for myself. This bad break has stopped my future". I'm asking you to not give permission, don't allow that victim mentality to enter your thinking. When unfair things happen thoughts will whisper, "Just your luck. Another bad break. You're scarred now, life will always be difficult". That's when you have to dig down deep and say, "No, thanks, I refuse to be a victim. I refuse to live bitter, angry, thinking that I've been short chains. I know God is still on the throne. I know he didn't bring me this far to leave me. What was meant for my harm he's turning to my advantage".
Think about Joseph in the scripture. As a teenager his brothers were jealous of him and threw him into a pit, they ended up selling him as a slave. Joseph was working in Egypt, a foreign country for a man named Potiphar. His dreams were shattered, he lost his freedom, in one sense he was a victim of his brother's jealousy, a victim of bad breaks. He had plenty of reasons to have this victim mentality, but Joseph didn't go there, he didn't sit around in self-pity, he didn't give up on life. He kept being his best, treating people right, believing that God was in control.
Potiphar's wife falsely accused Joseph. She lied about him, and he was put in prison for something that he didn't do. Another reason to have a chip on his shoulder. Now, he was the victim of this lady that was dishonest. But in prison Joseph kept shining, before long he was put in charge of the whole prison. One of his cell mates was Pharaoh's former butler. He had a dream one night that he didn't understand. Joseph interpreted the dream, told him that in three days the butler was going to be released and reinstated as the Pharaoh's butler. All Joseph asked for in return was for the butler to put in a good word for him.
Just like Joseph said, the butler got out, went back to his position, but he forgot all about Joseph - another reason Joseph could feel like a victim. 13 years after he was thrown into the pit, Joseph interpreted a dream for the Pharaoh, he was made the prime minister of Egypt, second in command, only to the Pharaoh. But during those 13 years practically every day Joseph had to fight having a victim mentality. Thoughts would whisper, "Look at where you are. You've done the right thing, and all these bad breaks have happened. Your own family turned on you. This lady lied about you, it's never going to change, just accept it". Joseph's attitude was, "I refuse to be a victim. I'm not a victim of my brother's jealousy, not a victim of this lady that lied about me, not a victim of this butler that's forgotten about me. They did me wrong, but God said he would make it up to me. They forgot about me, but God remembers me. They tried to push me down, but I know God will lift me up".
What's interesting is all the bad breaks, all the betrayals, the rejection was a part of God's plan. That's what led him to see his dream come to pass. If Joseph had seen himself as a victim, he would have missed his destiny. If he had been bitter about his brothers, angry over Potiphar's wife, in self-pity because the butler forgot about him, we wouldn't be talking about Joseph. This didn't happen automatically - he refused to be a victim, he refused to let his mind rehearse all the negative things, he refused to live with the chip on his shoulder. He didn't give permission to a victim mentality.
I wonder where you will be in five years if you will just keep refusing to be a victim? I wonder how far God will take you if you'll just not live bitter over who hurt you, not try to get revenge on the friend that did you wrong, not lose your passion because you're dealing with an illness, not give up on a dream because a door closed, didn't happen the way you thought? Every voice will say, "You're a victim. Come on, accept it. It's not fair, God's forgotten about you". Don't give it the time of day. God is watching you. He sees you shaking off the self-pity, doing the right thing when it's hard, being good to people that weren't good to you, giving it your best when you're not seeing progress. Your time is coming. Suddenly doors are going to open, suddenly the right people will show up, suddenly you'll see promotion, vindication, dreams coming to pass, bigger than you've imagined.
But when we say we're a victim, we're saying, "What someone did to me has limited my future". People don't have that kind of power over you. Circumstances cannot stop what God has ordained for your life. The scripture says (Isaiah 14:27), "What God has purposed, who can annul"? The only way it will stop you is if you start living like a victim: discouraged, in self-pity - shake that off. Those disappointments are setting you up for double. That betrayal, the closed door, the person that tried to make you look bad - it looks like they succeeded, you didn't get the promotion - God saw it. It was a part of his plan. It's setting you up for something bigger than you've imagined.
Joseph could have been bitter after his brothers threw him into the pit, that wasn't fair, but it was a step on the way to his destiny. What you can't see is that bad break is leading you to a new level. Potiphar's wife falsely accused Joseph, caused him to be put in prison. Joseph didn't understand it at the time, but that was a necessary step to get him to the throne. We're not going to understand everything that happens along the way, there will be plenty of opportunities to be a victim - these are tests: will you keep the right attitude when it's not fair, you feel like being discouraged, why did this happen? No, refuse to be a victim. Don't play that wrong. It may have been meant for your harm, but at some point like with Joseph, God is going to turn it to your advantage, it's going to catapult you where you can't go on your own.
I met a young couple from New Orleans, they just bought their first house there, they were excited. The men had a good job, moving up in his company. They had a little baby on the way, their first child. Life was good, then the storm Katrina hit, wiped out their whole neighborhood. They lost not only their home, but all their possessions, their car, their clothes. His company closed down, didn't have a job. They moved to Houston with just the clothes on their back. When I saw them they were numb, their whole world had fallen apart. Everything in their thinking said, "You're a victim, just accept it, life will never be what it could have been".
I told them what I'm telling you, that God knows what you've been through, he's seen the tears you've shed, the heartache you've felt. He's not going to just bring you out, he's going to make the enemy pay, but you have to do your part and refuse to be a victim, refuse to live bitter, in self-pity, thinking you've seen your best days. I could see faith begin to rise in their hearts. Week after week they kept coming to Lakewood, hearing about how God is fighting our battles, how when the enemy comes in like a flood the Lord raises up a barrier. They shook off that defeated mentality, and started having a victor mentality.
Several years later I met them after service, they had just moved in to their new house that they had built here. The man has a better job, with better income, less travel. They don't just have one child, they have two children. They said, "Joel, we never dreamed we could be where we are today". That's what happens when you refuse to be a victim. When you say "No, thanks to bitterness, no thanks to self-pity, no thanks to living defeated". God will take what was meant for harm and turn it to your advantage. But as long as you're playing the role of victim, you're giving the enemy permission to keep you defeated.
Some of you have come from generations of abuse, mistreatment, things that were not fair. That victim mentality can be passed from generation to generation. "We've always been poor, defeated, shortchanged, look what we've been through. We have a good reason to feel like a victim". This "Forever-the-victim" mentality will try to take root. It will continue to be passed down until someone rises up and puts an end to it. Yes there was injustice in the past, yes there were things that were not fair, but this is a new day. The reason you're hearing this is because you're the one to break the cycle.
You're the one to say "I am not a victim, I am a victor. I'm going to set a new standard, I'm going to believe for better things, I'm going to live whole, free, expecting favor". When you have that kind of attitude, all the things that should have been yours, all the things that your relatives didn't get, what they were owed... In the scripture the first generation that had this new mindset, they were the ones that God paid back for all that belonged to their family. If you will be the first one to have this victor mentality, you will see God show out in amazing ways. Don't look to people to pay you, people can't make up for what you didn't get, only God can. He knows what you're owed, he knows what should have been yours.
The Israelites had been in slavery for 10 generations. All they knew was hardship, being mistreated, working long hours with no pay. It wasn't fair, but God was keeping the records. After 430 years God delivered them from the Pharaoh, and brought them out of Egypt. You can imagine how they had become comfortable being a victim, it's all they had known. Their parents, their grandparents, they were all slaves, all mistreated. On the way to the Promised Land when they faced adversity, opposition that was bigger, they said to Moses "Let's go back to Egypt. Let's go back to being slaves". They were saying, "We're okay with being a victim, that's normal to us, that's what we're used to". They came out of Egypt, but Egypt never came out of them.
What's interesting is when they were leaving, God caused the Israelites to have favor with their oppressors, and they gave them their gold, silver, and fine clothing. They didn't leave empty-handed. God paid them back for 430 years of working for free. In Exodus 3 God told them what to do with the gifts they received. He said "You are to dress your sons and daughters in this Jewelry and fine clothing". Why would God want them to get their children dressed up, they were about to go into the desert? It's because God's wanted these children to see themselves differently. They saw themselves like their parents, as slaves, as victims, poor, defeated, limited. God knew if they were going to go into the Promised Land, they had to get rid of that victim mentality. He didn't have the parents put on the nice clothes, didn't have the grown-ups where the fine Jewelry, he wanted to change the image of these small children.
I can imagine a mother putting a gold necklace on her little daughter, her face brightens up like never before. Father putting a ring on his son, he puts his shoulders back feeling so special. These children had worn-old hand-me-down clothes, dirty, raggedy, now the parents are dressing them in beautiful dresses, nice clean outfits. For the first time these children begin to see themselves as victorious. It's significant that the parents and grandparents, they never made it into the Promised Land - it's because they never got rid of a victim mentality. They never quit seeing themselves as anything but poor, at a disadvantage. These children had a different mindset. It started when they put on the new clothing, the nice Jewelry, something shifted in their thinking. They thought "Maybe we're not victims? Maybe we're not always going to struggle? Maybe we can live an abundant life"?
Victory starts in your thinking. As long as you feel like a victim it's going to limit your destiny. You won't pray bold prayers, you won't believe for big dreams, you won't expect God's favor. No matter what's happened in your past, no matter how many generations there's been dysfunction, abuse, lack, struggle, you're the generation that's going to set a new standard. You're the one that's going to see this shift in your thinking. We're not slaves, we're not victims, limited, at a disadvantage - we are children of the Most High God. No more forever-the-victim, no more "I always get bad breaks, it's just my luck", no more "My family has always struggled, it's just who we are". God is doing a new thing. Now do your part, and put on those new clothes so to speak. See yourself differently. Have a new perspective. You're not a victim of your past, a victim of who went before you, a victim of what didn't work out - you are a victor. God is about to release freedom, wholeness, abundance, favor like you've never seen. You've been raised up for such a time as this, to make a difference, to take your family to a new level.
I heard about this father, he was an alcoholic, he had small twin boys. Growing up he would get drunk and mistreat them, he was angry and mean. He would say things that were hurtful, curse them out, both verbally and physically abusive. These boys grew up into young men and left home as soon as they could. One son became an alcoholic, he drank, partied, never did anything productive. Someone asked him: why he drank so much? He said "Because my father was an alcoholic, that's all I've seen. I had a terrible childhood, what do you expect"?
The other son became very successful. He was running a large company, talented, disciplined, respectful. After work his colleagues noticed that he never touched alcohol. They asked him, why he didn't drink? He said "Because my father was an alcoholic". They both went through the same experience, but one son got stuck being a victim. The other son used what he saw growing up to inspire him to be better. He refused to be a victim any longer. Which son are you? We're all going to go through things that are not fair, the question is: are you going to continue being a victim? Or are you going to refuse to be a victim?
You can't be a victim and go into your Promised Land. The enemy would love to convince you to be forever the victim. Always some reason to not move forward, "I wasn't raised right. My cousin hurt me. I came down with this illness. I lost a loved one". I'm not making light of any of that, I know it's not easy, but you can't move forward if you're playing the victim role. God saw it wasn't fair, he knows it was painful, but staying a victim will keep you in pain, it will bring more heartache. You have to turn it over to God and live out of a place of wholeness, freedom, victory.
Starts in your thinking, "People may have done me wrong, but God will make it up to me, I'm leaving it up to him. I wasn't raised in a healthy environment, but that's in the past, it didn't stop my destiny. Dealing with this illness, lost a family member, my company let me go, it was difficult, but I'm not bitter, I don't have a chip on my shoulder, I know God is going to cause all things to work out for my good".
There was a young woman in California riding her mountain bike up the trails of the state park, like she had done many times before. As she was speeding down the mountainside, she noticed a blur out of the corner of her eye. She thought it was a deer, but it was a mountain lion leaping toward her. Knocked her to the ground, bit her face and wouldn't let go. All she could do was whisper "Jesus". Her friend threw her bike at it, but the lion kept dragging her all the way to the Ravine. She passed out, thought she was done. She woke up in the hospital, miraculously her life was spared. Half of her face was disfigured, she had 40 bite Marks across her body, 200 staples holding her skin together. She had to have six surgeries to repair the damage.
Everyone referred to her as "The victim of the mountain lion". And that's true in one sense, but I don't believe it's healthy to live thinking you're a victim. Negative things may have happened, but don't let what you've been through become your identity. Don't become known as "The person that went through the tragedy", "The person that lost their loved one", "The man that lost his job". That's what happened to you, that's not who you are.
When this young lady got out of the hospital she told her friends that she wanted to go back to the trail where she was attacked. They were surprised and asked why? She said "I'm not going to be a prisoner of this drama. I'm not going to let what's happened to me define who I am, and cause me to live angry, bitter, and afraid". She was saying "I'm not going to be forever the victim. This incident is not going to ruin the rest of my life". Today she's healthy, free, moving forward, raising her children.
We all have these opportunities to become a forever victim. "We can't get past it, it was too traumatic, they hurt me too badly. This disappointment too painful. This lost too much". Those thoughts of self-pity, bitterness, it's not fair, you're at a disadvantage, this has soured your life - that's when you have to do like her and say "I refuse to be the victim. I refuse to let this limit my passion, cause me to give up on my dreams". That's what allows God to pay you back for the wrongs, to bring beauty out of the ashes, to give you double for the unfair things. This is a choice that we have to make all through life. It's not "If the hurts come", "If you have bad breaks", these things are going to happen. The question is: are you going to live bitter, in self-pity? Or are you going to say "This wasn't fair, but God, I know you're still on the throne. It was a bad break, but you said you would pay me back. They did me wrong, but you're my vindicator, I'm going to trust you and move forward with my life".
Don't get stuck in the desert like the Israelites, because you have a victim mentality, be like their children, put on a new attitude, see yourself a different way, so you can go into your Promised Land. This is a new day, no more "Forever the victim", try a different approach "Forever the victor". Break that cycle. Where will you be in five years if you'll start refusing to be the victim? This is not going to happen easily, your feelings will want to feel sorry for yourself. This is when you have to be bold and refuse to be the victim, refuse to play that wrong, that's not your part. Every unfair thing that's happened to you has set you up for double. God saw it, he's promised to pay you back, now do your part play the right role, be the victor. If you'll do this I believe and declare, like with Joseph, what was meant for your harm, God is turning to your advantage. Like the Israelite children, you're going to go into your Promised Land. Promotion is coming, restoration, vindication, healing, freedom, abundance, the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus name.