Joel Osteen - What's Blocking Your Growth?
I want to talk to you today about What's Blocking Your Growth. Victoria and I were in another city walking through a park, and it was full of these huge cactus plants. They stood over 30 feet tall and, all kinds of incredible shapes. I was amazed at not only how beautiful they were, but how big they were. As we continued through the park, enjoying all the sights, we came to this group of cactus that looked like the same type as the large cactus, but they were only my height. I went over to them, looked closer trying to figure out why they were so much shorter. I said to Victoria, "They must be a different kind". She looked up and said "No, Joel, it's that tree". There was this large oak tree, its branches were keeping the sun from hitting these cactus, they were always in the shade. What's interesting is they have the same potential as the cactus that were 30 feet tall: they're in the same soil, same climate, same weather conditions. The only difference was something was blocking their growth. Because they're constantly in the shade they're only a fraction of what they were created to be.
I wonder if something is blocking your growth. Are you under the shade of what someone spoke over you? Told you what you couldn't do? How you're not that talented? Now that shade is limiting your life. Are you under the shade of intimidation? Afraid to step out in faith, thinking of all the things that could go wrong? Or do you have friends that are blocking your growth, causing you to compromise, do things that are holding you back? What could you become, if you got out from under that shade? How high could you go if you made some adjustments? The good news is: the potential is still in you. You can still become who you were created to be, you just have to get out from under that shade. Remove what's blocking your growth, and you'll begin to blossom, you'll go to new levels. See there's nothing wrong with you, you have the life of Almighty God, he created you to rise higher, to be successful, to be confident, to leave your mark.
I was talking to a man, and he was so down on himself because of past mistakes. And he told me everything he had done wrong, went on and on. He was so focused on his past that it was poisoning his future. You may have made mistakes - we all have, but don't let guilt stunt your growth. Come out from under that shade. Quit thinking about all the things you've done wrong, living in regrets, thinking you've seen your best days. When you live guilty, you're in agreement with the enemy. He's called the accuser. He'll remind you of every mistake you've made for the last 20 years. He'd love for you to go through life feeling wrong about yourself. What he's trying to do is stunt your growth. He'll do his best to keep you in the shade. He knows your potential, he knows you were created to soar - that's why he works overtime trying to make us feel guilty, whispering "You don't measure up. You failed again. You blew your diet. You didn't spend enough time with your children". There's always some reason to be down on ourselves. You have to put your foot down and say "No, thanks, I'm not living under that shade, I know I'm forgiven, I'm redeemed. My past is over, my present is secure, my future is bright".
This is what my father had to do. He was married at an early age, and unfortunately the marriage didn't work out. Denominational leaders told him that he would never be in ministry again, that that failure had disqualified him for leadership. He eventually resigned from his church and he started selling insurance. He knew God's calling was on his life, but he was living under the shade of guilt, the shade of what people said, "You'll never be in ministry. You're not qualified". The scripture says, "God's calling on your life is irrevocable". God doesn't change his mind. He didn't cancel your destiny because you got off course. People may have disqualified you, but people don't determine your destiny. God does, and he never disqualifies you. You have to tune out all the negative words that were spoken over you, maybe from people you love, people that should have been encouraging you, showing your mercy, lifting you when you fell, instead it's the opposite: he tried to make you feel more guilty, tell you how you don't measure up. Don't stay under that shade. God still has a purpose for you to fulfill. You wouldn't be alive unless he had something awesome in front of you. Get your passion back, start believing again, start hoping again, start dreaming again.
After several years my father got back into ministry and he started pastoring. He met my mother and they were married, had five children. He pastored here at Lakewood for almost 40 years. None of this would have happened if he had stayed under the shade of guilt. I wouldn't be up here if he had let those negative words limit his life. Is something blocking your growth? Is something keeping you from standing up tall, guilt, shame, fear, doubt? You have to come out from under that shade. It's not going to leave on its own, you have to make the move. When you do like my father and you start going forward, knowing that God's mercy is bigger than your mistakes, then you're going to begin to blossom. New doors are going to open. Talent will come out that you didn't know you had. You're going to accomplish dreams bigger than you thought.
One thing that can easily stunt our growth is the people that we're spending time with. You need to evaluate your friendships. The people you're eating lunch with at the office, the neighbor you're hanging out with. Are they making you better, pushing you up higher, inspiring you to reach your dreams? Or are they causing you to compromise, to be mediocre, take the easy way out? You're going to become like the people you continually associate with. The scripture says (Proverbs 22:24-25), "Don't hang around angry people or you will become angry". It says "If you walk with wise people you will become wise". If you want to know what you're going to be like in five years, look at your friends. If they gossip, complain about the boss, unfaithful in relationships, hard to get along with, do yourself a favor: find some new friends. Spirits are transferable. If your friends gossip, that spirit of gossip will get off on you. If your friends are critical, that critical spirit will end up on you. If your friends run around on their spouse, that unfaithful spirit will start to tempt you. You may not realize it, but they're blocking your growth, they're limiting your potential. It's not their fault, you have to make the change.
"Well, Joel, what if I hurt their feelings? What if they get upset"? What if you miss your destiny? What if they keep you a five foot cactus so to speak, instead of the 30-foot cactus that you were created to be? How high could you rise if you weren't being shaded by compromise, by mediocrity? Now I know you love your friends, but your destiny is too great, your assignment too important to hang around people that are not adding to your life. You need people that bring out the best in you, people that inspire you to do better, that challenge you to live a life of excellence and integrity.
I have a friend that treats his wife so good. He's so loving, so kind, so Romantic. He writes his wife poetry, almost makes me sick. He sends her these loving texts that he's worked on for two days. "My darling wife, how beautiful you are today". I text Victoria, "What's up". But I would rather have a friend that inspires me to come up higher, than to sink down lower. I would rather have him challenge me to be kinder, more respectful, more loving than to be sarcastic, derogatory, belittling. Pay attention to what you're seeing modeled around you, that's all getting on the inside and over time it will start influencing how you act, how you think, how you treat people.
And some friendships were great for a season, but now you've come up higher, you've grown, you've stepped into a new level. That doesn't mean the other person's not a good person, but you've outgrown that friendship. And I'm not saying that you never speak to them again, but little by little you need to spend less and less time with them. Some of the trouble and heartache we find ourselves in, if we look back, we knew we were supposed to make a change we didn't do it. We didn't want to rock the boat. We didn't want to upset people. But what you're not willing to walk away from is where you'll stop growing.
I know this man: he's a strong believer, very talented, very influential, but he started hanging around this person that wasn't a good influence. His friends and family tried to warn him that he didn't have a good past, trouble always followed him, but this man wouldn't listen. He always took up for him and made excuses. Over time this man started compromising, giving into temptation, doing things that were totally out of his character. He ended up losing his marriage, his company let him go, he lost a big contract. He told me later "I knew he was a bad influence, I knew God was telling me to distance myself, but I ignored it". God always gives us a warning. Don't override it. When he asks you to do something, it's for your own good. If you'll get rid of the wrong people, then God will send the right people, people that will make you better, people that will inspire you and push you into your destiny.
In the scripture God chose a young man named Gideon to lead the Israeli army against the Midianites, but Gideon was afraid, he was hiding in the wine press. An angel came to him and said (judges 6:12), "Mighty hero, the Lord is with you". Gideon didn't feel like a mighty hero, he said "I can't lead the army, I come from the poorest family. I'm the least one in my father's house". Here God called him a mighty hero. God knew his potential. He knew Gideon had greatness in him. The problem was: Gideon was under the shade of fear, the shade of intimidation, "I can't do anything great. I don't come from an influential family. I'm at a disadvantage". Had the angel not come to Gideon and told him who he was, we wouldn't be talking about him. The angel was saying in effect, "Gideon, come out of hiding, come out from under that shade, that insecurity, that defeated mindset, the limited can't-do-it thinking - is stunting your growth".
God is saying to you, "You are a mighty hero". You are destined to leave your mark, but you have to make the choice like Gideon: are you going to stay in the shade, hiding in the wine press, thinking you don't have what it takes? Or are you going to step into your greatness? Are you going to believe that you're a mighty hero, equipped, empowered and anointed.
This was a destiny moment for Gideon: either stay in the shade and this opportunity would pass him by, God would find someone else. Or take that step of faith and believe he was who God said he was. Gideon made this decision that I'm asking us to make: he got rid of what was blocking his growth, a poor self-image, low self-esteem. He saw himself a new way - not weak, defeated, limited, but as strong, courageous as well able. What he did? The scripture says (judges 6:34), "The Spirit of God clothed Gideon with power". When he got out from under the fear, the intimidation, God breathed on his life in a new way. He felt a strength, a courage, a boldness that he had never felt. But too often we're like Gideon, we don't realize who we are. We're letting doubt, negative voices convince us that we're limited. "I can't do anything great, Joel, I come from the wrong family, I don't have the talent". Who told you that? Where did those thoughts come from? That's the enemy trying to keep you under the shade. He'd love for you to believe those lies your whole life. Live with the defeated mindset, insecure, afraid to step out - this can be a destiny moment for you. God is saying, "Mighty hero come out from under that shade. Mighty hero it's time to step up to who you were created to be".
When you make that choice like Gideon, say "I'm done letting fear, can't-do-it thoughts direct my life. I'm done making excuses as to why I can't go after my dreams. I'm gonna believe I'm a mighty hero", then like with Gideon God is going to show out in your life in a new way. You're going to see favor, courage, boldness like you've never experienced. What happened? You got rid of what's blocking your growth. There's a 30 foot cactus shut up in that 5 foot cactus, all it needs is to get out into the sun.
Gideon rounded up 32 000 men, as many as he could find and they headed out to face the the Midianites. He was feeling confident, he had this large army, but God said "Gideon, that's too many people. If you defeat them with this many men, you'll think you did it in your own strength". God had him weed the men down all the way till he only had 300 men. You can imagine how he felt, "God, I'm trying to be strong, trying to be confident, you called me a mighty hero, but now we're so outnumbered". That was a test. When you come out of the shade there will be times that the odds are against you. Thoughts will tell you, "You should have played it safe. It's not going to work out. You're way over your head". No, stand strong, the Lord your God is with you.
Gideon marched toward the Midianites with only 300 men. At midnight they blew the trumpets and began to shout, "A sword for the Lord and a sword for Gideon". A little earlier he was hiding in the wine press, no one had ever heard of him, now people were shouting his name. God knows how to make up for lost growth. That time you spent hiding, afraid, of course, don't worry your time is coming. God is going to make it up to you. He knows how to accelerate, how to speed things up. See, God doesn't hold it against us that we stayed under the shade. We've all made choices that should have stopped our destiny, should have stunted our growth, but God in his mercy won't just let you start growing again, he'll thrust you ahead. It's not too late. You can still become the mighty hero, you can still accomplish your dream, you can still live the abundant life. There is greatness in you. Jeremiah said there's fire shut up in my bones. There is potential, talent, increase that you haven't tapped into. Come out of hiding. Start believing you're a mighty hero. Get rid of those limiting thoughts - you and God are a majority. He's calling you out of the shade, out of anything that's blocking your growth. Step out and get ready to see new levels, new friendships, new opportunities, new talents, new victories.
That's what happened to Gideon. He defeated the Midianites, overnight he became a mighty hero. From hiding in the winepress to being known as a man of fearless courage. Gideon is now listed in Hebrews 11 as one of the heroes of faith. He wasn't like David that went out and courageously defeated Goliath, he wasn't like Abraham who believed when all hope was gone, he wasn't like the apostle Paul that wrote books of the Bible in prison. He started off insecure, intimidated, afraid. He was shaded by all these things that were blocking his growth. God was showing us: it's not where you start, it's how you finish. Where you are now it's not your destiny, there's still time to become a Gideon. You can come out of the fear, the doubt, the guilt and step up to who you were created to be, a mighty hero, a history maker. Now quit believing those lies that you've reached your limits, that you'll always struggle, "You've been through too much, it'll never work out", come out from under that shade, that's limited you long enough. God is ready to show out in your life and to do things that are unusual, uncommon, out of the ordinary, to take you where no one in your family has gone.
Sometimes the reason we're in the shade is that's what we saw modeled growing up. We were raised by people that were negative, insecure, living guilty, dysfunctional, now that's normal to us. But that's not who you are. That's a result from being in the shade. For some people fear has been blocking their family for generations - low self-esteem, addictions, mediocrity. That's what Gideon was saying, "My family we're all poor. We're all defeated, limited, afraid". That may be true for you when you look back at your family line, but here's the key: you're the one God has raised up to step out of the shade. You're the one to set the new standard, to be the difference maker. Don't let these negative things keep getting passed down. All it takes is for one person to rise up, for one Gideon to say "I'm going to step out of this fear, this addiction, this defeated mentality, these unhealthy relationships, and I'm going to set a new standard. We're going to be people that honor God. We're going to live free, confident, happy, successful, victorious".
I read about an experiment that was done with four monkeys. They put these monkeys in a room with a tall pole in the center. At the top of the pole was a bunch of bananas. The first monkey climbed up the pole as fast as he could to get the bananas, but just when he was about to take it, a large bucket of cold water was poured on him. He scurried down the pole as fast as he could, didn't want to have anything to do with those bananas. In a few minutes another monkey climbed up the pole, same thing happened - the bucket of cold water was poured, and that monkey turned around ran back down. Over time the other two monkeys tried, but once again they were doused with water came running down. Day after day even though those monkeys loved bananas, none of them would go up the pole. At one point the researchers removed one monkey and replaced it with a new one. When it started going up the pole, the other three monkeys grabbed hold of it and pulled it down, wouldn't let it go up. This happened time and time again. Finally this new monkey gave up, didn't try to go up anymore.
The researchers brought in another monkey, replaced one of the originals - same thing, they pulled him down. They brought in two more monkeys, now none of the original monkeys were in the room, but they wouldn't let any monkey go up in the pole. Eventually the room was filled with dozens of monkeys, none of them had ever felt the cold water, but not one of them would climb up the pole. They didn't know why, they just knew they weren't supposed to have those bananas.
And sometimes we're like these monkeys. We don't know why we can't accomplish a dream, why we can't be successful, get out of debt, break the addiction - all we know is nobody in our family ever did it, they lived in the shade, they let fear, insecurity, limited thinking block their growth. Now we're in that same shade. Anytime we try to move forward there are people telling us what we can't do, how it's not going to work out. It's easy to accept this and live in mediocrity, "This is just who we are". No, quit letting people talk you out of your dreams. It may not have happened for them, but you're a mighty hero, it's going to happen for you. Now, go get your bananas, this is a new day, God's favor is on your life in a new way. He's called you to set a new standard, to take your family to a new level.
I met a young man after the service a few months ago, and he just graduated from college. He was the first one in his family to ever get a degree, he was so proud. But when he told his family he wanted to go, no one encouraged him. In fact they said we're not college material. Granddaddy didn't go, great granddaddy didn't go, we're not made for that kind of work. Like those monkeys they were trying to pull him down didn't even know why. This young man not only graduated at the top of his class as a chemical engineer, but a company has already hired him. How high can you go if you'll just get rid of what's blocking your growth? Limited mindsets, other monkeys, I mean people pulling you down, friendships that are holding you back? God has a big destiny for you. There are things in your future greater than you've imagined.
But there will always be dream-stealers, naysayers, people that try to pull you into their shade. They're insecure, they'll try to talk you in to be insecure. "You really think you can go to college? You really think you can start that business? You really think you can beat that sickness? I don't see how". They've lived intimidated, they'll try to pull you into intimidation, fear, doubt. Don't take the bait, stay in the sun. God is going to cause you to bloom, to go places no one ever thought you could go. It's going to be a surprise to your family, people are going to be amazed at where God takes you.
When my father passed and I stepped up to pastor the church I was afraid and intimidated, that was definitely blocking my confidence, I didn't think I could do this. If that wasn't bad enough there were certain people I overheard saying, "He's not that good. I don't think he'll make it. He's too quiet. He's not experienced enough". Even though I halfway agreed with them, something rose up on the inside of me. I thought, "You don't determine my destiny. You don't know what God has put in me". My attitude was, "I'm already in my own shade, I'm sure not coming into your shade". Part of the reason I believe I succeeded was to simply show them that they were wrong. They meant it for harm, but God used it to light a fire in me, to create a greater determination, a greater resolve. I wasn't about to let their shade, their negative comments to limit my life. Like Gideon I felt weak, inadequate, inexperienced, but I could hear God whispering, "Joel, you're a mighty hero. It's your time to shine. You have everything you need to fulfill your destiny".
Anytime you try to go forward, there will be opposition, naysayers, people that try to pull you into their shade - don't take the bait. The fact that they're trying to discourage you is a sign that you're about to step in to a new level of your destiny.
Is there something blocking your growth? Unhealthy relationships, negative words that were spoken over you, limited thinking? How high could you go if you'd make some adjustments? Don't stay a five foot cactus when God created you to go 30 feet tall. Make a decision that you're going to come out from under any shade. No more living guilty, dwelling on the past. No more thinking weak, defeated, can't-do-it thoughts. No more hanging around people that are pulling you down. If you'll remove what's limiting your growth you're going to bloom, you're going to blossom, see favor, courage, boldness to accomplish what God put in your heart. I believe and declare: like Gideon a mighty hero is about to emerge. The power of the Most High is going to come on you in a new way. You're going to rise higher, overcome obstacles and become all you were created to be, in Jesus name. And if you receive it, can you say amen today? Amen!