Joel Osteen - Abiding, Not Striving
I want to talk to you today about Abiding, Not Striving. It's easy to go through life thinking we have to make everything happen: make our business grow, make ourselves get well, make our child do right. There's this constant pressure: always something we need to fix, some area we need to improve in, so we live striving, trying to force a door to open, do better then we'll gain approval, work harder then we'll get the good break. It's like there's a war going on inside, no rest, no peace. You weren't created to live that way. Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God". One translation says, "Stop your striving and know that I am God". As long as you're in this striving mode, trying to fix everything, thinking that it's all up to you, then you're not going to know he's God, you're not going to see his favor and his goodness like you should.
It's very freeing when you realize: you don't have to make everything happen. If you'll keep God first place, he'll bring the good breaks to you. He'll cause the right doors to open. He'll send the healing. All striving is doing is wearing you out, causing you to feel overwhelmed, can't sleep at night, have digestive problems. Take the pressure off. It's not your job to fix everything. You can't make people do what's right, make your co-worker like you, make your business grow. Your job is to be your best each day, honor God, and he will bring dreams to pass, he'll turn negative situations around. Even areas you need to improve in, don't be down on yourself because you're not where you want to be. God is the potter, you are the clay. He's changing you from glory to glory. You can't make yourself grow any faster than he has planned. You may not be where you want to be, but learn to enjoy the glory that you're in right now.
How much more peace could you have if you got out of the striving mode? How much more would you enjoy your life if you would turn those situations over to God? Quit trying to do what only he can do. It's not work harder, perform better, then it will happen. Live from a place of peace. Do your best and then rest. When you stop striving, you'll know he's God. He'll make things happen that you couldn't make happen.
John chapter 15, Jesus was talking to his disciples. This was one of the last times they would be together before he was crucified. He said in verse 5, "I am the vine, you are the branches. If you abide in me, you will bear much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing". Imagine how important these words were. He could have talked to them about performing miracles, being strong, starting new churches, but when he was about to leave he told them "This is how you're going to be successful. This is how you're going to overcome challenges. This is how you'll fulfill your destiny - abide in me, and you will bear much fruit". The word "Abide" in the original language means to depend, to rely on, to relax. He was saying, "If you'll depend on me, if you'll rest in me, then you can relax".
You don't have to strive, you don't have to force things, live worried, pressured, wondering how it's going to happen. When you're abiding, you're going to bear much fruit. You would think it would be just the opposite: if you'll work harder, put in more effort, then you'll see the dream, then you'll get the promotion, then the problem will turn around. No, not if you'll strive you'll bear much fruit, but if you'll abide you'll see increase, you'll see favor. See, faith has a rest. When you don't see how something can work out, the medical report's not good, your finances are down, it's easy to get all stressed, all worked up, "I got to fix this". Don't fall into that trap. Instead of striving, start abiding. Stay in peace. "God, I know you're still on the throne. I can't make this happen in my own strength, but I believe, because I'm connected to you, I'm depending on you, I'm relying on you, that you're going to cause me to bear much fruit. That I'm going to see this situation turn in my favor".
When you're abiding it takes the pressure off. Instead of focusing on what you can do, you're focused on what God can do. You're depending on his goodness, his favor, his power. As long as you're striving you're limited to what you can accomplish. The problem is: we all face giants that are too big, people that are more powerful, a medical report that says "There's no way". Our strength, our effort, our talent, no matter how hard we try will not be enough. That's why God said "Apart from me you can do nothing". You can't overcome that challenge. You can't break the addiction, accomplish your dream just with your own willpower, your own hard work. You need power from on high. When you're abiding, there's a force that breathes in your direction, a favor that opens doors that you couldn't open, that breaks chains that are holding you back, that releases healing, creativity, increase that will catapult you into your destiny.
One of the best prayers we can pray every morning is "God, I'm depending on you today. I'm relying on you, and God, I'm going to relax in you. I believe, because I'm connected to you that I will bear much fruit". And I'm not saying that we sit back and do nothing, we have to use our gifts, be our best, but don't become dependent on just your ability, your efforts, thinking that you have to make it happen. Do what you can, and then leave it up to God. As long as you're abiding in him, you're going to bear not a little fruit, not some fruit, but much fruit. If you'll start abiding, and not just striving, you're going to see more fruit with less work. You're going to go further with less frustration. You're going to accomplish more in less time.
Someone says, "Aren't you worried about your child? He's not getting better". Just answered, "No, I'm not worrying, I'm abiding. I'm trusting, I'm believing. I know that God's in control". "Well, you lost that big contract, aren't you upset?" "No, I know I'm connected to the vine, to a supply line, that will never run dry. Not going to live stressed, I'm abiding, I'm at peace. I know another opportunity is coming". "What about the medical report? Does it look good". "Yes, but I'm not moved by what I see, I'm moved by what I know. God is restoring health back unto me. I'm depending on him, I'm relying on him, I'm going to relax knowing that nothing can snatch me out of his hands".
Are you striving or are you abiding? There are plenty of opportunities to strive. We can all live worried, stressed, trying to fix everything in our own strength - that's overwhelming. Come back to a place of peace. The scripture says (Matthew 6:8), "Your father knows what you need". He knows what you're facing, he knows the dreams he's placed in your heart, he sees the struggles, the unfair situations, the times you were put at a disadvantage. You don't have to do life on your own, trying to make up for it, trying to accomplish the dream. Jesus said "Come to me, and I will give you rest".
Stop your striving, depending on your own efforts, your own ability - that's draining. If you'll start depending on him, you'll feel that load lift off of you. Because God has you in the palm of his hand, he hasn't let go of you. You may not be connected to him, but he's not disconnected from you. But if you're going to feel his strength, see his favor, you have to stay connected to the vine. You can only do so much in your own efforts, but when you get up each day and say, "God I'm not going to worry today, I'm not going to live frustrated by what I can't change. God, I'm depending on you. I can't do this on my own, but I know connected to you I can do all things. Connected to you I can accomplish my dream. Connected to you I will see this problem turn around".
It's significant that Jesus used fruit in this illustration. We have some lemon trees in our backyard. I see the lemons out there hanging on the vine. They're just abiding. They're not struggling, they're not frustrated, thinking "Why am I not growing faster? How am I going to change from green to yellow? I'm the wrong color. What if I don't ripen"? I've never walked by and heard a lemon complaining. I've never seen a worried lemon. They just hang there drawing strength from the vine. They're not stressed because they know: as long as they're connected to the source, to the vine, they're going to get everything that they need.
And sometimes we wonder: "How can I accomplish my dream? What if I don't meet the right person? What if I don't get this scholarship"? No, as long as you're connected to the vine you don't have to worry. It's not your job to figure everything out. There are things that you can't see because you're the fruit, you're not the vine. The vine is where the lemon is getting nutrients, that's what's causing it to develop pulp, grow seeds on the inside, turn from a flower blossom to form a thick outer skin. Quit worrying about how everything is going to work out. God has already planned out all of your days. There's not a problem you have or will ever have that he doesn't have a solution. He's the one that's going to cause you to bloom. Like that lemon, he's developing in you what you need to blossom, to grow, to fulfill your purpose.
You shouldn't live with that unrest on the inside, thinking that you're limited. Because you're connected to the vine, you can stay in peace. God is bringing the nutrients you need, the right people, the right breaks, the healing, the favor, at the appointed time you'll ripen, you're going to go from green to yellow so to speak, you're going to see doors open, the medical report turn around, the dream will come to pass. Now do your part: quit striving and start abiding. Live from a place of peace, a place of rest. When you're tempted to worry, try to force things to happen just say "No, thanks, I'm connected to the vine. God, I'm depending on you, so I'm going to relax, I'm going to enjoy this day, knowing that you promised I will bear much fruit".
Most of the good breaks I've seen in my life, they've come when I was simply abiding. Just being my best, honoring God, I walked into a Jewelry store and met Victoria. I wasn't trying to force it, "God when am I going to meet someone", frustrated - I was simply abiding and the blessing came to me. When we needed a larger auditorium, we tried to buy property, twice those doors closed. I was disappointed, but I did what I'm asking us to do. I said, "God, you're in control. I'm not going to live frustrated, trying to make something happen. I trust you. I know you know what's best". I came back to that place of peace and just kept abiding, kept being faithful. One day out of the blue a friend called and said, "The Compaq Center was coming available". I called the mayor, things fell into place, and here we are. The Compaq Center came to me.
I was trying to make it happen in my own strength, buying that property. I knew God put the desire in me, I had bigger dreams, but it wasn't the right time. God is so merciful, he'll close doors when it's not his best. It's important to trust God's timing. When we know the dream is in our heart, we know what God promised, we go after it, we take steps of faith, and that's good. I'm not saying to sit back, but you have to be open that if it doesn't happen the way you thought, then God has something better. That closed door is God protecting you. But sometimes we get impatient. We think we're missing out, we're falling behind, but I've learned what belongs to you is not going to go to anyone else. What has your name on it will come to you. Instead of trying to force things - relax, stay in peace. God's ordering your steps, he's already lined up what you need to fulfill your destiny. If it hasn't happened yet, it wasn't the right time. If the door closed, something better is coming. You don't have to manipulate things, try to convince people to like you, force the doors to open. Let the blessings come to you. If you're having to connive and convince, you're frustrated, can't sleep at night, you need to let that go and trust God to do it his way.
This is where Abraham and Sarah missed it. God gave them the promise that they would have a child, but instead of abiding, trusting God's timing, they were impatient. Nothing was happening, they got frustrated, and decided to help God out. Sarah told Abraham to sleep with her maid. They had a son that they named Ishmael, but he wasn't the promised child. It wasn't Ishmael's fault, but that baby caused all kinds of strife and contention. It's much better to wait for the right thing, than to have to deal with an Ishmael, things we birth in our own efforts. That's what causes us heartache and pain. If your promise is not happening on your timetable, trust that God knows what he's doing. He knows what's best.
Instead of striving like they did, "I'm gonna have this baby, I'm gonna make it happen. I'm gonna marry this person even though I don't have peace. I'm gonna buy this house even though it's not what I really want". No, be patient. Don't settle for second best. Just because it hasn't happened yet, doesn't mean it's not going to happen. Keep abiding, keep doing the right thing, your time is coming. The truth is: we've all probably born some Ishmaels. We've all forced some things to happen. But here's how good God is: that didn't stop the promise. God doesn't say, "Man, you blew it. You quit abiding, now it's not going to happen". No, 20 years after God gave Abraham the promise, this was after they had Ishmael, after they had made mistakes, Sarah got pregnant at 90 years old and gave birth to Isaac, the promised child.
It may be taken longer than you thought, but don't water down your dreams, don't settle for less than what you know God put in your heart. You don't have to make it happen only in your own strength. Yes, use your gifts, do what you can, but don't force things. You keep abiding, and Isaac is coming. At the right time you're going to see God show out in your life. In the meantime relax, enjoy where you are while you're waiting for things to change. The way to pass the test is not being frustrated by what hasn't happened, not upset because your friend got married and you haven't met anyone, not giving up because the property was sold out from under you two times. Just keep doing the right things. Staying close to God. Connected to the vine. That's where your strength is coming from. That's where the favor, the blessing, the healing is.
One thing I've always liked to do since I was a little boy is catch leaves falling from trees. We lived out on an acre lot in the suburbs, and there were dozens of large oak trees on it. On a fall day the wind would blow and I would see how many leaves I could catch. Years later, not long after I'd started pastoring I came home from the church one afternoon, it had been a long day, we were dealing with some problems at the office, people coming against us. These opportunities we thought were going to work out didn't go through. I was tired, and kind of frustrated. I was in the backyard, and we had this one big tree. The wind started blowing, leaves began to fall all around me, hundreds of them if not thousands. It looked like it was raining leaves. I naturally started trying to catch them, grabbing here, grabbing there, but I couldn't catch anything. It was the strangest thing. Right when I was about to grab the leaf it would dart away. I caught more when I was eight years old. I was already frustrated, this was like pouring salt on the wound, nothing was working out.
A couple of hours later I went out for a run through the neighborhood. As I turned the corner coming down the last half mile, the wind started blowing, leaves were falling here and there, I didn't pay any attention, I just kept running. About a minute later after everything had calmed down, as this arm came up a leaf landed perfectly in my hand. I didn't try to catch it, I didn't even see it coming, it just fell right into my palm while it was in motion. It was like God said to me "Joel, you're striving, trying to make all these things happen, make the ministry grow, make doors open, make people be for you - you don't have to do that. I control the universe. What I want open will open. What's supposed to be yours will fall into your hands." you don't have to manipulate things, do it all in your own ability - God will direct the winds to find your hand. He'll cause opportunity to find you. He'll turn people that are against you to be for you.
Now, when I'm tempted to worry and wonder why something is taking so long, and how's it going to work out, I open my desk drawer and I get this leaf out. It reminds me that what belongs to me will come to me. That the Creator of the universe, the God who spoke worlds into existence is ordering my steps. That I don't have to strive, I just have to abide, keep honoring God. Just keep walking in his ways and you will bear much fruit. The Compaq Center is much fruit, Victoria is much fruit (expensive fruit), our Sirius XM radio channel came to me - much fruit. I wonder if you're doing like I was, trying to grab a leaf? Frustrated because something is not changing, wondering why it's not working out. Stop striving. At the right time what belongs to you is going to drop into your hand. It's not going to happen by your own efforts, your own ability. Yes, use your gifts, yes be your best, but what God is about to do is supernatural. You couldn't make it happen in your own strength. You didn't have the power, the ability, the experience, but because you're abiding, not striving, you're going to bear much fruit.
As a teenager, David was out in the shepherds fields, taking care of his father's sheep. God put a big dream in his heart, he knew he was destined to do great things, but he was stuck out there. Nobody paid any attention to him, wasn't like he was working his way up, people seeing his skills, giving him credit. He could have thought, "I'm not staying here, I have more in me, I'm going to show people what I can do". But he didn't try to force the door open. He didn't get in a hurry and try to make something happen out of God's timing. He stayed faithful where he was. He took care of those sheep day in and day out, make sure they were protected, well-fed, being his best when no one was watching. What was he doing? Abiding, staying connected to the vine. "God, I'm trusting you. I know you'll open the right doors, you'll get me to my destiny".
One day the prophet Samuel showed up at David's house. He told his father Jesse that he was there to anoint one of his sons as the next king of Israel. It wasn't any of the seven sons that were in the house. They had to send a messenger out to David, to tell him to come in from the shepherd's fields. The moment Samuel saw him he said "That's the one". Notice, David didn't go after the crown, the crown came to him. He didn't manipulate things, live sour because he was stuck in the fields, complained about how he got left out. He just kept abiding, being his best, working under God not unto people, and much fruit came knocking at his door. If you'll just keep abiding, doing the right thing when no one is watching, staying faithful when things aren't changing, like with David favor is going to come looking for you, good breaks, healing, the right people are going to come knocking at your door. You're not being left out. God hasn't forgotten about you. He sees your faithfulness, he sees you doing the right thing when it's hard. Your time is coming. Stay connected to the vine, and much fruit is on the way, something better than you've imagined. The reason it's taken longer than you thought is: it's going to be bigger than you thought, out of the ordinary, something that you didn't see coming.
I walked in our living room the other day, and there was a lizard on the floor looking out the window. I didn't want to touch him, but I didn't want him in the house. I got a paper grocery bag and I was going to catch him and put him outside. I put it on the floor just right, and carefully scooted it up to him, but at the last minute he ran away. I tried this again and again. Every time he would out-maneuver me: run under the couch, I'd move that, get him in a corner, he'd run up the wall. This went on for 15 minutes. I'd chased him all over the room. Finally he was so tired, so exhausted that he couldn't run anymore. I scooped him up, opened the door and let him out. The whole time he was running I was trying to help him, but he wouldn't let me. He didn't see a way out. He didn't realize I could open a door, all he saw were dead-ends. From his point of view there was nowhere to go, but I operate on a different level. I'm thousands of times bigger, stronger, more powerful.
How many of us are like that lizard? We're trying to do everything in our own strength, solve this problem, fix this person, accomplish this dream. The whole time God is saying, "I want to help you, but you have to let me". As long as you're doing it only in your own strength, you're going to be frustrated, you're going to get worn down, exhausted. You have to depend on him. Rely on him and he'll make things happen that you can't make happen. God can see things that we can't see. We see dead-ends, no way-out, can't break this addiction, medical report's not good, it's not possible. We're natural, but God is supernatural. He can part Red Seas, he can heal sick bodies, he can cause contracts, opportunities, good breaks to come to you. This doesn't happen if you're striving, trying to do it all on your own, it happens if you're abiding, trusting him, not worried, not stressed, but relaxed, knowing that he's in control.
Every morning it's good to admit our dependence on him. "God I need you today. I'm going to stay connected to the vine. I'm going to be my best, use my talents, work hard, but God I'm trusting you to bring the increase. I know apart from you I can do nothing". You don't have to go through life all worked up, on edge. Today can be a turning point. Come out from under that pressure. You can't fix everyone, change everything, that's not your job. God is saying to you what he said to the people thousands of years ago, "Stop your striving. Be still and you will know that I am God". If you'll make this decision to abide and not strive, I believe and declare: you're not only going to enjoy life more, but you're going to bear much fruit. Like David, promotion is going to come looking for you, things you didn't see coming, healing, restoration, the right people, new levels of your destiny, in Jesus name. And if you receive it, can you say amen?