Joel Osteen - Prosper Where You're Planted
I want to talk to you today about Prosper Where You're Planted. It's easy to think "When I get out of this challenge I'll be my best. When this pandemic is over I'll pursue my dreams. When I don't have this trouble at work then I'll get my passion back", but while you're waiting for things to change you're not supposed to put your dreams on hold. God wants to prosper you in the difficulty. He wants to show your favor in the famine. Don't wait for things to turn around then you'll have a good attitude - you have to be your best where you are. God doesn't have to bring you out of the trouble, he can cause you to flourish in the trouble.
You may be in a slow season, you're waiting for doors to open, hoping to meet the right person, looking for a new position, but nothing's happening. It's tempting to get discouraged, "God when are you going to do something"? While you're waiting you need to take steps to grow, develop your skills, be good to others. What you're doing while the situation is not changing will determine whether you prosper where you're planted or whether you just endure it. When God sees you giving your all when things aren't improving, still pursuing your goals, still serving, giving, excelling, he may not bring you out of the challenge when you thought, but he will cause you to prosper in the challenge. What's a greater testimony that God brought you out of the trouble or that he calls you to flourish in the trouble? That God stopped the pandemic or that you prospered in the pandemic?
Jeremiah 29:11 is a very well-known scripture. It says "These are the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope". It's interesting the context this was written in. The people weren't in a good place, it wasn't an uptime, a joyful moment. King Nebuchadnezzar had just taken the Israelites out of Jerusalem as captives and sent them to Babylon. Now the Israelites were living there in exile, not able to go home. Was a great disappointment. Their whole world was turned upside down. I'm sure they were praying, "God, deliver us. Please, get us out of here". But the word of the Lord came saying that they were going to be there another 70 years.
You can imagine how discouraged they were, thinking they had seen their best days. God knew they were about to give up on their dreams, lose their passion. The prophet Jeremiah showed up and told them to do something significant. He said in verse 5 "Build houses and live in them, plant gardens and eat the produce. Give your daughters in marriage. Increase do not decrease. Prosper in the land which you are in is exile". God didn't say "I'm going to get you out so I can prosper you. I'm going to free you from this captivity so you can build, dream, see increase". He said "I'm going to prosper you where you're planted. I'm going to prosper you in exile. I'm going to show you my favor while you're in Babylon".
But notice, they had to do something. He said "Build houses. Plant gardens. Marry. Pursue goals". They could have said, "God, that doesn't make sense, this isn't even our land. Once you free us, then we'll get our passion back". No, in captivity, in disappointment, dealing with loss you have to take steps of faith. You can't sit back and think about what didn't work out, "Why did this happen"? Be proactive, look for opportunities, shine at work, be a blessing wherever you go. God was telling them "I'm not going to turn this around immediately. You're going to be here for a while, but while you're here you don't have to live defeated, you don't have to give up on your dreams. My plans are to prosper you even while you're in captivity. I'm going to prosper you even though you're in exile".
We all have times where what we're hoping for is not happening as fast as we would like. We're believing for a breakthrough, to meet the right person, see our family restored, but it's been a long time. It's tempting to get sour, lose our passion, but while you're waiting instead of dragging through the day, if you'll start being productive, building houses so to speak, pursuing dreams, using your gifts, God will cause you to prosper in exile, he'll prosper you on the enemy's territory. He's not waiting to bring you out, he'll prosper you in the pandemic. He'll show you his goodness while you're in captivity. Like the Israelites, life may have thrown you a curve, you feel like you're in exile, gone through a disappointment, breakup, a child's off course. You could settle where you are, accept that it's not going to work out. No, get your passion back - you're not in exile by yourself, you're not alone in captivity, the Creator of the universe is right there with you. You may not understand it, but it's a part of his plan. If you're going to reach your highest potential, you have to keep doing the right thing when the wrong thing is happening. Keep believing, keep dreaming, keep growing. God didn't bring you this far to leave you. It may not turn around as soon as you would like, but how do you know God is not going to prosper you in the difficulty, cause you to flourish in the fire, take you to new levels in the midst of that challenge?
We've all seen this with the pandemic. It seemed like it was getting better, and then another strain. We see the conflicts in Afghanistan, the earthquakes, the hurricanes. In one sense we could say "We're in Babylon. There are difficulties, situations that are not changing". Here's the key: we're not supposed to surrender, put our dreams on hold, "It's too much to overcome. Just endure 'till he comes". God is saying to us what he said to the Israelites, "Build your houses. Pursue your dreams. Go after your destiny". The situation around us doesn't have to change, God will prosper us in Babylon, he'll prosper us despite what's happening around us. Don't live with the survivor mentality, "If I can just make it through, I'm on the enemy's territory". We may be on the enemy's territory, but we are God's property. God controls the universe. He doesn't need permission from anyone to bless you. When it's your time to be promoted, to see increase, to build, to take new ground, no person can stop him, no bad break, no loss, no pandemic - all the forces of darkness cannot stop what God has for you.
The scripture says, "The darker it gets in the world, the brighter it's going to get in the church". You and I are the church. The church is not a building, it's people. The darker it gets around you, the more you're going to shine, the more you're going to stand out, the more you're going to see favor. Don't expect God to deliver you from every Babylon, but you can expect him to cause you to prosper in every Babylon. He may not take you out of that negative environment at work, but he will promote you in the midst of it. If God is not delivering you from the difficulty, maybe that's a sign that you're supposed to shine in the difficulty. His plans are to prosper you. He didn't say that when everything was going great, he said that when they were in captivity. If you'll have the right attitude, God's going to cause you to prosper despite what's coming against you, he's going to cause you to flourish on the enemy's territory. Not in Jerusalem, that's expected, but in Babylon. That way people will know the favor of God is on your life.
My father went through a time when felt like he was in Babylon. Back in the 1950s he had been pastoring a successful church, they just built a new auditorium, held a thousand people. His dreams were coming to pass. Then my sister Lisa was born with something like cerebral palsy. My father went to a hotel for a few days to be alone. He read the scripture like he was reading it for the first time, and he saw how Jesus went about healing people and performing miracles. He came back to his church with a new passion. He thought they would be excited, but they didn't like his new message of faith and victory. It didn't fit their tradition. There was so much contention, he ended up having to leave the church. He had spent years pouring into those people, now there was nothing to show for it, he was in exile so to speak.
But I've learned: nothing happens without God's permission. We may not understand it, it may not seem fair, but God knows what he's doing. He wouldn't have allowed it if it was going to keep you from your purpose. When you feel like you're in exile, you've been pushed out, having to start over, gone through a divorce, been betrayed, dealing with the loss, it's tempting to settle, get discouraged, think you've seen your best days - that's when you have to dig down deep and say, "God, I don't understand it. It doesn't make sense to me, but I trust you. I know you're still on the throne. You said your plans for me are for good. While I'm in Babylon I'm still going to praise you, still going to be my best, still going to pursue my dreams, I'm still going to believe for your favor".
My father was disappointed. It was like the wind was knocked out of him. But he didn't sit around in self-pity, he didn't get bitter, "God why am I in exile? Why did I get pushed out"? He and my mother went out and found an old run down building, used to be a feed store. They started Lakewood with 90 people. He had a thousand members before, now just a fraction. He had a beautiful brick sanctuary, now this little wood building. Sometimes to reach your destiny you have to go backwards, so God can take you further forward. God doesn't always do things in a straight line, in what makes sense. There will be closed doors, disappointments, people that walk away, things you didn't see coming. You look up and you're in Babylon. You were doing great in Jerusalem, but things unexpectedly changed. In these times it don't make sense, you came down with an illness, lost a main contract, the friend betrayed you, you have to remind yourself that God is still in control. Being in Babylon is not a surprise to him. Don't panic, God knows how to take what was meant for harm, and turn it to your advantage. He may not deliver you from it, but he will prosper you in it.
Being in Babylon is a test. Going through things you don't understand, things that are not fair - that shows what your character is, that shows what you're capable of handling, how much God can trust you with, how much influence you can carry, how much responsibility he can give you. What you do in the tough times will determine how high you rise. My father could have slacked off, "God, when you give me a big church I'll be my best again. When I have a thousand members then I'll study, then I'll prepare and do my best". No, my father preached to those 90 people like he was preaching to thousands. Never missed a service. While he was waiting for promotion, waiting for growth, waiting for favor, he developed his gifts. He served, he visited people in the hospital, he helped those in need.
10 years went by, the church still had less than 200 people. Those were very important years: years of testing, years of proving. God was seeing what my father was made of. Daddy proved that he would do the right thing when it was hard, that he would be his best when things weren't growing, that he would build, dream, plant, even though he was in Babylon. 1972 it was like God opened up a faucet: people started coming to the church from all over the city. It grew to a thousand, then 2 thousands, then 4, then eight - here we are today.
My father would have never reached his destiny without being pushed out of that church. What was inside of him was bigger than the denomination he was in. Don't fight the closed doors, the disappointments, the people that walk away - you don't know what God is up to. Sometimes he has to move you away from what you're comfortable with. You can't see it, but he knows something is limiting you. You may go through these seasons of testing, seasons of proving. It's easy to get discouraged, slack off, but you need to keep being your best. Nothing is changing, that's okay, keep doing the right thing.
God told the Israelites, "You're going to be in Babylon for some years. I'm not going to turn this around overnight, but while you're here don't put your life on hold. Build, plant, marry, increase". We're all going to have these Babylon seasons where nothing is improving. Like my father, you're being your best, but not seeing growth - keep building, keep pursuing, keep serving, pass those tests. God may not bring you out of Babylon, but at the right time he will cause you to prosper in Babylon.
This is what happened with Joseph in the scripture. At 17 years old God gave him a dream that he would lead a nation and have great influence. He was excited, but his brothers not so much. They didn't like the fact that he had a big dream, and that there was favor on his life. They were taking care of sheep in another city. His father asked Joseph to go check on them. When they saw Joseph coming, they thought this was their big chance to get rid of him. They threw him into a pit. They were going to leave him there, but a caravan of Ishmaelites came traveling through, they ended up selling him as a slave. Joseph was in a foreign country, working for a high-ranking military officer named Potiphar. Here, a few weeks earlier his future looked so bright. He was wearing the coat of many colors that his father had given him, his father's favorite child, but life has a way of taking twists and turns, things that we didn't see coming. Now Joseph found himself in "Babylon" so to speak, in exile, in captivity, just like the people in Jeremiah's day.
And Joseph had every right to be bitter, discouraged - he didn't do anything wrong. But Joseph understood this principle, that there are times we're going to find ourselves in exile. Instead of sitting around in self-pity, he kept being his best, using his gifts and talents. He served with such excellence that Potiphar noticed him. He stood out from among all the other staff. Potiphar put him in charge of his whole house. The scripture says that Joseph became a favorite of Potiphar. It's interesting how Joseph was a favorite of his father, that door closed, he went into exile, but notice how God works. If you keep using your gifts, keep being your best, favor will follow you into exile. He became the favorite of his boss. The favor didn't leave him just because he changed locations, didn't leave him because people were jealous, he had a bad break, he was in captivity. The favor on your life didn't leave you because you're in a pandemic, somebody walked away, you had a disappointment, it's still there. Keep shining where you are. Keep excelling, keep serving, keep giving, the right people are going to be for you, the right doors are going to open. Being in Babylon did not stop the blessing God put on your life.
Genesis 39 says, "The Lord began to bless Potiphar because of Joseph". Potiphar was an influential, successful leader. You would think Joseph would be blessed because he worked for Potiphar, but it was the other way around. Potiphar was blessed because of Joseph, a slave, a foreigner in captivity that had the favor of God. Wherever you go there is favor on your life. The location doesn't stop the favor.
Joseph was a handsome young man. Potiphar's wife noticed how attractive he was and she tried to seduce him. Joseph could have let his guard down, thought "Big deal, had nothing to lose, I'm a slave", but Joseph had so much integrity, he was so honorable, that he wouldn't give in. She lied about Joseph, falsely accused him. Potiphar was furious, he had Joseph put in prison. Now he's not just a slave, not just in a foreign country, but he's a prisoner. On the way to your destiny don't be surprised if there are twists, people that lie about you, people that try to get you to compromise, jealous family members, co-workers that play politics. How we handle these times will determine whether we prosper where we are, or whether we get stuck where we are.
Joseph was in prison, but he didn't get sour, he didn't start complaining, he kept being his best, still serving, still using his leadership skills. Verse 21 says, "Joseph had favor with the chief jailer. Before long, he was put in charge of all the other prisoners and everything that happened in the prison". God didn't deliver him out of the trouble, he caused him to flourish in the trouble, he prospered in the prison. His environment didn't change, but he kept seeing favor, promotion despite the bad breaks.
One night one of the prisoners Pharaoh's former butler had a dream, and he didn't know what it meant. Joseph had a gift of interpreting dreams. He could have thought "I'm not going to help you, have enough problems of my own". He could have been bitter, but he used his gifts to help the butler, he interpreted his dream. What's interesting is that his gift worked in the prison. Your gifts don't quit working because you had a bad break. You went through a disappointment, you lost a loved one, you're in Babylon - use what God has given you. Be good to others. Don't put your gifts on hold because things haven't turned out the way you thought, your gifts are going to make room for you. Your gifts are going to cause doors to open. Your gifts are a key to you reaching your destiny.
Joseph interpreted the butler's dream, told him that in two days he was going to get out of prison. All Joseph asked for in return was for the butler to put in a good word for him. The butler agreed, got out of prison, forgot all about Joseph. Two more years passed, another opportunity for Joseph to be discouraged. But Joseph wouldn't take the bate. He just kept being his best, being good to people that were not good to him, serving in a country that he didn't want to be in. When you pass these tests like Joseph, you're not only going to prosper each step of the way, but God is going to do some unusual things. He's preparing you to go where you've never dreamed.
As you keep doing the right thing, you're proving to God that he can trust you. We always want God to deliver us from the challenge, "I'm uncomfortable, I don't like the opposition, these people aren't treating me right", but if you will do like Joseph and say, "God, even if you don't deliver me right now, I'm gonna keep shining, I'm gonna keep praising, keep using my gifts, keep being my best", then you'll not only see God's goodness along the way, but you'll come into some explosive blessings, blessings that catapult you ahead, where suddenly you're promoted, suddenly you get well, suddenly you meet the right person, suddenly you're thrust to a new level of your destiny.
One night the Pharaoh had a dream, the leader of the country, and he didn't understand what it meant. The butler suddenly remembered Joseph, two years after he interpreted his dream. He said to the Pharaoh: there's a young man in prison, a slave named Joseph, he can interpret your dream. Think about this: if Joseph had not used his gift to interpret the butler's dream, if he had been upset, in self-pity, we wouldn't be talking about him. That's what Jeremiah was saying to the Israelites, "While you're in Babylon don't waste these years being discouraged, thinking of all the reasons it hadn't worked out. No, build, dream, plant, increase". He was saying "Use your gifts. Stretch your faith, and you'll prosper in Babylon. You'll see favor in captivity".
The scripture says (Genesis 41:14), "The Pharaoh sent word for Joseph and he was quickly brought from the prison to stand before Pharaoh". He had been in captivity 13 years, it seemed like that was his destiny, but God knows how to quickly turn things around. He can quickly turn your business around, quickly turn your health around, quickly turn your family around. Joseph interpreted the Pharaoh's dream, he was so impressed, he made Joseph the prime minister of Egypt, second in command only to the Pharaoh. Looking back we can see how all those steps were necessary for Joseph to get to the throne. The bad breaks, the betrayals, delays, disappointments, they were all a part of God's plan. Had Joseph not kept a good attitude, not used his gifts, not been his best, he would have gotten stuck.
God is going to connect the dots in your life. You may not understand everything along the way, but you can be sure that God knows what he's doing. He may not deliver you out of every situation on your timetable, but if you'll stay in faith, he'll cause you to flourish at every step of the way. He'll prosper you wherever you're planted.
A few years later Joseph had a son that he named Ephraim. Ephraim means productive, fruitful. He said in verse 52, "I've named him this, because the Lord has made me prosperous in the land of my suffering". He was saying, "I had bad breaks, things weren't fair, but God caused me to prosper despite what tried to stop me". If you're going to have an Ephraim, if you're going to see God prosper you in the midst of the difficulty, you have to stay productive, keep using your gifts, keep stretching, keep being good to people. Don't put your dreams on hold because you're in Babylon. Like Joseph, God can make you prosperous in the affliction. Not when you get out, but in the pandemic, in the trouble, in the disappointment. You can shine, you can still build, still see great relationships, still accomplish your dreams.
This is what the apostle Paul did: he spent the last few years of his life in prison. He could have been sour, thinking "Man, this is how it's going to end in Babylon, in exile"? But Paul knew that those prison bars couldn't keep his gifts from coming out. While he was in prison, he wrote books of the Bible. Scriptures that we all quote today, "I can do all things through Christ", "God will do exceedingly, abundantly above what we ask", "Be strong in the Lord and the power of his might". He wasn't complaining in the prison, he was flourishing in the prison. While he was in captivity he was writing books that would encourage us 2,000 years later. If Paul were here, he would tell you, "You can prosper wherever you're planted. You don't have to wait 'till everything is perfect - you can flourish in the trouble, see favor in the famine, be promoted in the pandemic".
My challenge today is do what Paul did, do what Joseph, did keep being your best where you are. I can't promise you that you're going to come out of every Babylon overnight, but I can promise you that God will prosper you in Babylon, he'll show you favor on the enemy's territory. His plans for you are for good. He sees your commitment, he sees you doing the right thing when it's hard, he sees you being your best when you're not getting the credit. Your time is coming. I believe and declare: you're about to see God prosper you despite what's trying to stop you. You're going to see uncommon favor, favor that catapult you ahead, dreams coming to pass, negative situations turning around, new levels of your destiny, in Jesus name. And if you receive it, can you say amen today?