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From JO’s sermon tonight:

I want to talk to you today about “Trusting When You Don’t Understand”. We all go through things in life that don’t make sense: a friend walked out of a relationship, the company is downsizing they don’t need us anymore. Or we were being our best, then the pandemic hit, business went down, children can’t go to school, dreams are put on hold. Sometimes it feels like we’re going backwards. It’s easy to live frustrated and think “God, why is this happening”? But we’re not going to understand everything that happens. God’s ways are not our ways, he can see things that we can’t see. And just because it’s not fair doesn’t mean that God is not in control.

Your steps are being ordered by the Lord: if he allowed it to happen he’s going to bring good out of it. He promises: all things work together for your good. On its own it may not be good, it wasn’t fair, you’re uncomfortable, but when it all comes together you’re going to see how it works to your advantage. The difficulty the, delay, the betrayal was all instrumental in you reaching your destiny. But none of us like bad breaks, lost, delay, but without that difficulty you couldn’t become who you were created to be. It may look like a dead end, but really it’s setting you up for promotion. That door closed, so a bigger door could open.

That person that left you it was hurtful, but it wasn’t just their choice: God moved them out of the way so he could bring someone better. Well, that struggle was difficult, you didn’t do anything wrong but you had opposition at work, your child wouldn’t do what’s right: it wasn’t fair, but what you couldn’t see is: it was growing you up, developing your character, getting you stronger, more confident, more determined. Without it you wouldn’t be prepared for the blessing, the increase the new levels that are coming your way. You may not understand what you’re going through, you could live worried, discouraged: try a new approach, “God, I don’t understand it, but I trust you. I know you’re in control, you’re working all things for my good, so I’m not gonna live upset, I’m gonna stay in peace knowing that you will get me to where I’m supposed to be”.

In John 13, Jesus was about to be crucified. He and his disciples were eating dinner together at what we now know as “The last supper”. These disciples had spent the last few years with Jesus seeing incredible miracles, him healed the sick, raised Lazarus from the dead, feed thousands with a little boys lunch. They were with Jesus when he made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, with people lining the streets shouting “Hosanna”. It was an experience greater than they ever imagined. But that evening as they gathered for dinner, the mood quickly changed. Jesus told them how his hour had come, how he was going to be betrayed and crucified. Instead of people celebrating, they would mock him.

After dinner, Jesus took a bowl of water and a towel and he washed the disciples feet. He said in verse 7 “You don’t realize now what I’m doing, but one day you will understand”. Jesus was telling the disciples in effect “You’re going to walk through some things in the days to come, that you don’t understand. Up to this point there’s been people cheering me on, but now I’m about to be betrayed, there’s going to be opposition, persecution. I said I would never leave you, but I’m about to be taken away”. He knew they were going to feel lonely, confused, afraid, so he told them right up front “You’re not going to understand it now, but one day you will”.

Like these disciples, there will be times in life that you don’t understand what God is doing, things don’t make sense: trouble, delays, closed doors, people that betrayed you, prayers that haven’t been answered. It doesn’t make sense now, but don’t worry one day you’re going to understand. God is going to connect all the dots. He doesn’t allow things that he doesn’t have a purpose for. That trouble is not a surprise to God, the sickness didn’t catch him off-guard, the child getting off course is not going to stop his destiny. God is still on the throne, he’s still ordering your steps. You can’t see it right now, but behind the scenes God is lining up things in your favor.

When it’s the right time, when it all comes together it’s going to work for your good, you’re going to see the hand of God. You’ll look back and say “If that hadn’t have happened, I wouldn’t have this position. If that door hadn’t have closed, I wouldn’t have met this person. If I hadn’t have gone through that difficulty, I wouldn’t have stepped in to this new level”. Now, don’t waste your time trying to figure everything out. There are some things you’re not supposed to understand right now. We can’t see the plan of God, we can’t fathom how he does things. We think natural – he’s super natural.

If you’re always trying to figure it out it’s going to frustrate you. Instead of using that energy trying to understand what’s happening, use it to thank God that he’s working, thank him that he’s fighting your battles, thank him that he’s making your crooked places straight, thank him that you’re surrounded with his favor.

The scripture says (Psalm 138:8), “God will work out his plan for your life”. You don’t have to work it out, you don’t have to live frustrated over what’s not happening, discouraged over disappointments. You’re not doing life by yourself, the Creator of the universe is breathing in your direction. You keep honoring him and he’ll open the right doors, he’ll bring the right people, he’ll turn negative situations around, he’ll make things happen that you couldn’t make happen. His plan for your life is much bigger than your own. If you’re going to stay in faith, you have to learn to trust when you don’t understand.

After Jesus was crucified, I’m sure the disciples thought “Was he really the Son of God? Did we waste our time with him? I thought he said he would never leave us”? There was a time of doubt, confusion, where it looked like Jesus abandoned them. But as time went on, they begin to realize: the crucifixion was a part of God’s plan. Judas betrayal was a part of the plan. The opposition, the mocking, the ridicule, it all had to happen. It was leading to redemption to salvation.

Are you frustrated because you don’t understand what God is doing, upset because that friend betrayed you, discouraged over the contract you lost? How do you know that’s not leading you to your destiny? Without the betrayal we wouldn’t have salvation, without that situation you don’t understand, you couldn’t see the fullness of what God has in store. And sometimes we’re trying to pray away what God is going to use to take us to the next level. I know it’s uncomfortable, but the betrayals are necessary, the lonely nights are necessary, the delays, the struggles, it’s all necessary.

If Jesus couldn’t reach his destiny without these things that don’t make sense, that weren’t fair, people that did him wrong, how can we reach our destiny without them? But the way to stay in faith is to recognize that it’s all a part of God’s plan. It’s not happening by accident, the enemy didn’t somehow get the controls of your life, wrestled them away from God, now God is standing by, hoping things work out. God has you in the palm of his hand, nothing can snatch you away. Him being for you is more than the world being against you. It’s very freeing when you can say, “God, I don’t understand it but I trust you. Doesn’t seem fair, but I’m not gonna live bitter. Had some bad breaks, disappointments, but I’m not going to go around sour. I know you’re still in control and you will work out your plan for my life”.
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A friend of mine is in commercial real estate, he specializes in hotels: he’ll buy them, run them for a few years then turn around and sell them. At one point he owned over 200 hotels, most of them were small in rural areas. His dream was to own a large hotel in a major city. A couple of years ago he had a rare opportunity to purchase this prestigious hotel in New York City, it was in a premier location, overlooking central park. He was so excited, he worked for months and months arranging the funding, he found a partner that would go in with him. Financially this was a huge undertaking, he was going to have to stretch, leverage everything he had including his house. For it to work occupancy had to be strong, business had to be good, this was the only way he could make this huge payment.

After over two years of putting it together, this January he was supposed to finally close on the property, but at the last minute his business partner backed out. He couldn’t believe it: he scrambled to find another loan, stretched even further, now he was way over his head. The day he went to closing, his bank called and said they had changed their mind and wouldn’t lend him the funds. He was so disappointed, this was his dream a prestigious hotel, two years worth the work – all for naught.

He couldn’t understand why it didn’t work out? What he couldn’t see was three months later this pandemic would hit, in New York City would be the epicenter. All the hotels had to close, no income, no business, no customers, he would have this huge payment and no way to make it. He told me: if that deal would have gone through he would be bankrupt, he would have lost all his other hotels, his personal finances would be gone. Sometimes what we think is a bad break is really God protecting us. You may not understand what God is doing now, but one day you will understand, one day you’ll say “I’m glad that door didn’t open, I’m glad that prayer didn’t get answered, I’m glad that relationship didn’t get started”.

I’m asking you to trust when you don’t understand. God can see the big picture for our lives: all we can see is a little down the road. God knows where the dead ends are, he knows where the shortcuts are, he’s ordering your steps. I used to just thank him for the open doors, but now I thank him just as much for the closed doors, because if it’s not supposed to be mine I don’t want it. If God is closing a door – don’t fight it. If you tried your best and it didn’t work out… yes, be persistent, but at some point you have to accept it as God’s plan and move on. That’s a sign that God has something better, something more fulfilling, more rewarding. Does it mean that it’s never going to happen? It may just mean that it’s not the right time.

But too often we get discouraged, bitter, it’s not fair, but if you believe that God is ordering your steps then you’ll trust him with the open doors, and trust him with the closed doors. You’ll trust him with the good brakes, and trust him with the bad breaks. How we respond to these tests has a great impact on whether new doors are going to open, whether we see things turn around. If we go through difficulties discouraged, “God, why did this happen? Why did they do me wrong? Why did my business partner back out? Why did my health go down”, that’s going to keep us where we are.

It’s significant that Jesus washed the disciples feet. The scripture tells us to put on the armor of God. Part of the armor is our shoes of peace. When he washed their feet, he was saying “As you go out and walk through things you don’t understand, stay in peace”. He didn’t wash their eyes, he knew they wouldn’t be able to see what he was doing. He didn’t wash their ears, he knew they wouldn’t understand what was happening. So he washed their feet and sent them out into something they didn’t understand. It’s like us today: who would have ever thought this year would have turned out like it has? A pandemic, the economy shutting down, not able to go to work, people’s lives put on hold. So much uncertainty, unrest, tension. There are a lot of things we don’t understand, troubled that we’ve never seen.

Like Jesus washed the disciples feet, you’re his disciple. If you would have been there, he would have washed your feet. I could imagine him doing that today: he’s saying “You’re going to walk through things you don’t understand, see difficulties that you’ve never seen. There’s going to be plenty of opportunities to live upset and afraid, but don’t worry, I’ve washed your feet, I prepared you for what you’re going to face, I’ve armed you with strength for the battle. It may not make sense, but it’s all a part of my plan”.

God is getting you ready for new levels of influence, new levels of favor, new levels of leadership, new levels of resources. Now, make sure you keep your shoes of peace on. Don’t panic over the pandemic, don’t fear the unknown, don’t lose sleep over what doesn’t make sense – God has equipped you, empowered you and anointed you. You’ve been raised up for such a time as this: no weapon formed against you will prosper. You keep walking in faith, trusting when you don’t understand, and you’re going to walk into blessings, favor, healing, freedom, abundance, victory like you’ve never seen.

I’ve learned: when you stay in faith when you don’t understand, you’re going to come into blessings that you don’t understand. When you trust God when it doesn’t make sense, you’re going to come into favor that doesn’t make sense. Could it be that the disappointment you’re so upset about is really a blessing in disguise? You can’t see it, but it’s a part of a divine plan, a critical piece that God is going to use years down the road to take you where you’ve never dreamed. But right now that situation by itself doesn’t make sense, it seems random, just a bad break, when in fact it’s the hand of God setting you up for increase. Without that challenge you won’t see the far and beyond favor that belongs to you.

Trust him when it doesn’t make sense. I know this is not easy, we don’t like closed doors, unfair situations, being uncomfortable, but God uses these things to move us into our purpose. It’s not just the good breaks that will take you into your destiny. The closed doors are as important as the open doors, the betrayals are just as important as the divine connections – God uses them all. When you understand this, you won’t live upset when your plans don’t work out, you won’t go around sour because somebody did you wrong. You’ll stay in peace knowing that God wouldn’t have allowed it, if he wasn’t going to use it for your good. It may not feel good, but this is where you have to show God what you’re made of.

Anyone can be happy when things are going their way, anyone can thank God when doors are opening, but if you want to pass this test and see God’s favor in new ways, you have to thank him when it doesn’t work out, you have to have a smile when you could be complaining. Be good to others when someone is not being to you. This is what faith is all about. Not “God I’ll trust you as long as you keep me happy, answer my prayers, change my husband, move my boss, keep me in the AC, it’s hot outside”. The problem with that thinking is: God uses difficulties to get us to our destiny. If you’re not willing to be uncomfortable and keep a good attitude when things don’t work out, it will keep you from rising higher.

When I was in my late 20s, I received a certified letter in the mail saying that we hadn’t filed our tax returns properly, and now we owed thousands of dollars. The men that did our taxes lived in another state, he wasn’t familiar with a certain law in Texas. Now we had this unexpected bill. To make matters worse, about half of what we owed was in penalties. We were a young couple, settled up for a down payment for a house, and this was going to take all of our funds. I thought “God, this is not fair. We hired a professional, he messed up, now I’m having to pay for his mistake”. Nothing about that situation seemed good, I thought “It’s just a bad break, let’s pay it and move on”.

We ended up finding a man that helped us get that straightened out, he’s a tax attorney, he came over to our house every night for several weeks. We filed the forms, did the paperwork. We became good friends, we’d go out to eat, run errands together. 10 years later, when I was working for my father in the television department at Lakewood, someone offered us a construction permit for the last full-power television station in Houston. Tv stations in major cities are very valuable, but I didn’t know where to start. I was young, I didn’t know anything about buying a permit for a television station, then I thought “I’ll call my friend, the one I met during the tax issue”.

Three months later we had a signed contract, we put the station on the air. My father went to be with the Lord, and I became the pastor. Few years later we acquired the Compaq Center, it was going to cost a hundred million dollars to renovate. We decided to sell the station. We were told by an expert, a man that sells more stations in the us than anyone else, that we would get a certain amount. We believed it was worth much more, but he was very vocal about how it would never sell for that amount, how we were wasting our time trying to get that much. He gave us all the reasons why it wasn’t going to happen, the market was down, too much supply, too many stations for sale. He had all the facts as to why it wasn’t as valuable, and why it wasn’t going to attract a buyer.

We let that go in one ear and out the other. Don’t let people talk you out of what God put in your heart. Sometimes people have too many facts, they have too much information: don’t let their doubt get off on you. God is not limited by what the experts says, his favor on your property, your business, your gifts, your talents will cause things to happen that shouldn’t happen.

We had a buyer come to us and offer almost twice what he said we would never get. When he heard the figure, he nearly passed out. We sold the station and used those funds to help renovate the Compaq Center. What’s interesting is: none of this would have happened, if I had not had the tax problem some twenty years earlier. I was discouraged by it, it was a bad break, it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t realize: God was ordering my steps, that was a critical piece for me to fulfill my destiny. I thought back then it would only be the good brakes, open doors, things falling into place. I didn’t know God would use disappointments, bad brakes, things that weren’t fair.

Like Jesus told the disciples, “You’re not going to understand what I’m doing now, but one day you will understand”. Now, looking back I can see it so clearly: if I had not had the tax problem, I would have never met the attorney. Without my attorney friend I would have never pursued the station. Without the station we wouldn’t have the funds to renovate the Compaq Center.

I wonder if you’re upset about something now that later on you’re going to realize: it had to happen to get you to your destiny. You didn’t like it, it wasn’t fair, but God used it to connect the dots, it was instrumental. You wouldn’t have met the person, you wouldn’t have been at the right place, you wouldn’t have sold the property, you wouldn’t have started the business. Maybe like with me, what you’re discouraged over now is really a blessing. You can’t see what God is up to, but later on you’re going to understand. God knows what you’re going to need twenty years from now. A disappointment today, a setback, a betrayal, you may not see how that works out for your good until years down the road.

When our daughter Alexandra was a little girl, she loved to put puzzles together. Every couple of weeks we get a new puzzle and work on it, and sometimes it take two or three days to complete. Invariably we’d find a piece that wouldn’t fit anywhere, we would try every option, put it here, there, still nothing. I was convinced that the manufacturer made a mistake, they did something wrong, left something out, they put this piece in from another puzzle because it does not fit, I was so frustrating. What’s interesting is: every time we got close to the end, and more the pieces came together, all of the sudden that piece that I was so sure it was a mistake would fit perfectly into place. Didn’t make sense on its own, I had to wait for the pieces to come together.

You may have some pieces in your life that don’t make sense: why did I not get that promotion I worked so hard for? Why did I have that tax issue, was it my fault? Why did that person walk out of a relationship? By itself that piece doesn’t fit, right now it’s not going to make sense, you have to wait for the other pieces to come together. The scripture says (Romans 8:28), “All things work together for good”… God is in the process of connecting the dots in your life. Be patient and let him work out his plan, trust him when the piece doesn’t make sense. I can assure you: your manufacturer didn’t make a mistake. When God designed the plan for your life, when he made your puzzle so to speak, he didn’t accidentally put in a wrong piece, something that didn’t fit. He didn’t leave something out, you have been fearfully and wonderfully made, everything is serving his plan.

But here’s a key: he never said, “You’re going to understand everything. I’m going to show you what I’m doing. It’s all going to make sense”. He said my, “Ways are not your ways”. He said, “Walk by faith and not by sight”. You have to trust him when you don’t understand, stay in faith when it doesn’t make sense. God is working behind the scenes in your life right now. You’re on the verge of seeing him connect some dots. This is not the time to be discouraged, this is the time to stir your faith up. If you’ll do this, I believe and declare: you’re about to step into a new level of favor, breakthroughs, healing, divine connections. Things you haven’t understood in the past you’re about to understand. God is about to bring it together, you’re going to see what he was up to, in Jesus name.

From JO’s sermon tonight:

I want to talk to you today about “You’re Still Going to Make It”. We all have dreams and goals and things we know that God has promised us. We start off excited, we’re sailing along fine, making progress, then a storm arises, an unexpected challenge: a sickness, a breakup, we lose a loved one, a contract we were counting on doesn’t go through. It’s easy to get discouraged and think it’s never going to happen, but God doesn’t promise something and then change his mind, he doesn’t put a dream in your heart and then take it back. What he starts he finishes. You may not see a way, but God hasn’t run out of options. We think natural, but God is supernatural. He has ways we’ve never thought of and God wouldn’t have allowed that storm if it was going to keep you from your destiny.

If that bad break, that lost, that person that walked away, if that was going to stop your purpose God would have kept it from happening. We may not like it, but it’s a part of the process. Storms come to us all, the good news is: God is in control of the winds, he’s in control of what’s trying to stop you. And all he has to do is shift the winds and instead of holding you back, they will propel you forward. They were meant for your harm, but he knows how to turn them around and use them to your advantage.

You may be facing a situation where you don’t see how it could work out, in your health, your finances, a relationship. Every voice says, “There’s no way, it’s too late. The obstacles are too big”. God is saying: “You’re still going to get there. I’m still on the throne, I’m working behind the scenes. I’m fighting your battles, I’m arranging the breaks you need, I’m lining up the right people”. What God promised will come to pass, you’re still going to get well, you’re still going to meet the right person, you’re still going to break that addiction you’re still going to accomplish your dreams. Where you are is not an accident. God may not have sent the storm, but he is in control of the storm. Here’s the test: when you trust him, when you don’t see any sign of things improving, will you stay in faith, when every thought tells you, “It’s never going to work out”?

This is what the apostle Paul did. He was a prisoner on a boat headed to Rome. He’d been arrested in Jerusalem for causing a disturbance, even though he was found not guilty he had appealed to Caesar. While they were sailing on this several month journey, 276 people on board, they encountered a huge storm, with hurricane-force winds. The waves were so big, they were battering the boat back and forth. For 14 days they didn’t see the sun nor the stars. The boat had become so beaten up, it was taking on water. The crew started throwing cargo and supplies overboard. They were despondent, they had quit eating, the scripture says: all hope of them being saved was gone. But in the middle of the storm an angel appeared to Paul, he said in acts 27:24, “Don’t be afraid Paul, for you will surely stand before Caesar. God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you”.

Paul had this promise that he would make it to Rome, but all the circumstances said he would never get there. Everywhere he looked – the winds, the waves, the crew – said he wasn’t going to make it. He could have thought, “God, I must have heard you wrong. You said I would stand before Caesar, but I’m in a sinking boat in the middle of the ocean, stuck in a hurricane”. Sometimes what God promises looks just the opposite of what we see. “God, you said I was going to get well, all I see is sickness. You said I would lend to not borrow, but I see debt, lack, struggle. You said my children would be mighty in the land, but I see addictions, compromise”. Here’s the key: you can’t be moved by what you see, you have to be moved by what you know. Don’t let that storm talk you out of what God promised.

In the middle of the storm, when it looked impossible, no sign of things improving, Paul went up to the crew and said: it’s going to be alright, get something to eat, God promised that I would not only stand before Caesar, but that all of your lives would be spared. The next verse is the key: he said, “And I believe it will be just as God said”. See God can make all these promises, but if we don’t take the next step and say like Paul, “God, I believe, what you promised me will come to pass”, then the promises won’t do any good – we have to mix faith with them. When Paul told the crew that their lives were going to be spared, no doubt waves were splashing him in the face, wind so strong almost knocking him down, had to hold on to the boat. It had been this way for two weeks, he could have been depressed like the rest of them, complaining. Instead he was talking about what God promised, he was speaking life in the face of death, he was talking victory in the middle of defeat.

What you’re saying in the storm will have a great impact on whether you stay there or whether you come out. If you’re saying, “I’ll never get well, I can’t break this addiction, I’ve had it since high school. Joel, these people that did me wrong, this injustice, it ruined my life”. If you talk defeat, you’re going to have defeat. If you think I’ll never get out of this trouble, then you never will. In the middle of the storm you need to declare what God promised you, “I am coming out. This too shall pass, I am not moved by the waves, the winds, the opposition. I know, God being for me is more than the world being against me. I will get well, I will prosper and succeed, my children will serve the Lord”. Get an agreement with God.

The angel said: Paul, every one sailing with you will be saved. Here Paul was a prisoner on the boat, he didn’t have any influence there, the crew saw him is secondary, just another inmate we have to transport. They thought Paul was sailing with them, but notice how God sees you, he said Paul: everyone sailing with you will be saved. You may have some enemies, people that look down on you, they think they have the upper hand. Don’t worry, you’re not sailing with them, they’re sailing with you. Nothing can snatch you out of God’s hands. You may feel like you’re on the boat of the opposition, like you’re at a disadvantage at work, at school, but people don’t determine your destiny, they cannot stop God’s plan for your life. You may be on their boat, but remember, they’re sailing with you. God is going to get you to where you’re supposed to be.

Without Paul on the boat all the people would have perished. The hurricane would have caused it to stink, there was no chance in the natural, all the circumstances said: it was doomed, just a bad break, but there was a man on that boat with a calling on his life, a man with a purpose, with the destiny. This is showing us: a storm cannot stop what God has purposed. You may be in a situation it doesn’t look good, it would stop a lot of people, but it can’t stop you. Why? You’re a Paul, you have a purpose, you have an assignment. There’s a calling on your life, something God has ordained you to accomplish. You’re not just filling up space, you’re a person of destiny. There’s a Caesar you’ve been called to stand before, there’s a dream God put in your heart. It’s not an option, God has purposed it.

There’s a giant you’ve been called to defeat. Maybe it’s a generational curse, something that’s held your family back. That’s why the storm is so bad, the enemy would love to convince you to get discouraged, give up, think you heard God wrong. Know that storm is a sign you are close to your destiny. The enemy would not be sending the winds, the rain, the trouble, the sickness if he didn’t know Caesar was right up ahead. What you’ve been called to do, your greatest accomplishment, something more than you can imagine, freedom that your family has never seen is right past that storm. The reason it can’t defeat you is: you’re a Paul.

Here’s the key: the destiny in you is greater than the storm around you. The purpose in you cannot be stopped by the waves, by people, by opposition. Stay in faith and keep declaring what God said about you: I will stand before Caesar. That means: I will fulfill my destiny, I will set new standards for my family, I will break these cycles of defeat, depression, dysfunction that have been passed down. I will pay my house off, I will keep my family together, I will take new ground. If you’re going to come out of the storm, you have to know you’re a Paul, there’s a calling on your life. The enemy knows it, he wouldn’t be fighting you if he didn’t know: you were destined to do great things. He knows it, God knows it, now make sure that you know it.

See what God has spoken over you it’s not just a nice thought, it’s not just something that he hopes will come to pass – it’s a command: Paul, you will stand before Caesar. He didn’t say, “I think you will, if the weather holds up, if these people don’t get too upset”. What God speaks the only thing that could keep it from happening is not the storm, not the opposition, not people, not the sickness, the only thing is if we don’t believe. God works where there’s faith. If Paul would have said, “God, I don’t think I can stand before Caesar, I’m a prisoner, I’m in a hurricane, these people don’t like me”. Don’t let doubt stop your purpose. Don’t let the storm talk you out of your destiny. You don’t have to figure out how it’s going to happen, all you have to do is believe. In the face of that storm with the winds, the rain coming against you, dare to say like Paul: I believe God, just what you said will come to pass.

Here’s how good God is, he told Paul that everyone sailing with him would be saved. Even Paul’s enemies had the promise that their life would be spared. If it was up to us, we would say: God, wipe them out, they don’t deserve it, let them have it. But God is so merciful, some of your enemies will be blessed because of you. When the favor on your life helps them to rise higher, they’ll have a change of heart. Instead of being against you, they’ll be for you. Instead of trying to push you down, they’ll lift you up.

After two weeks of being battered around by the storm, the crew noticed a small island off in the distance. They tried to steer that way, but the winds were too strong. When the boat got close, it hit the bottom and broke totally apart. Now all the people were in the water. They grabbed pieces of the boat and begin to swim to shore. In a few hours all 276 had made it safely to the island, no one lost their lives. But when the boat hit bottom, broke apart, I’m sure some of them panicked and thought, “Oh, great, we’re done now, we don’t even have the boat, there’s no chance. But they made it to the shore without the boat”. God is saying you’re going to make it without what you thought you had to have. You’re going to make it without what you’ve lost. You’re gonna make it without what didn’t work out.

I was very close to my father, I worked 17 years with him behind the scenes at Lakewood, and we had traveled the world together. I used to think: what’s going to happen, when my father is not here? 1999 he suddenly went to be with the Lord. I still miss him, but I realize now, I made it without my father, I made it without going to seminary, I made it without the formal training – all these things I thought I had to have, I didn’t need them. When I stepped up to pastor the church, most of the people were for me, but there were a few that I had known for years, they were very for my father, but they weren’t supportive of me. They loved me, but they wanted me to do it their way. I’ve learned: you have to be you. There’s no anointing on your life to be like somebody else, you’re anointed to be you.

At first it kind of bothered me that they weren’t for me, I’m worried about what if they leave or if they don’t support me. Eventually they did leave, but it wasn’t what I thought. Things didn’t fall apart, I made it without their support. I made it without their encouragement. I made it without the boat. Sometimes God will take things away that we think we need, so we have to depend on him and not people, not the contract, not the position. Can I tell you? You’re going to make it without that person that walked away, without that friend that betrayed you, without that spouse that left you. I know, it’s painful, but they weren’t your Savior, you already have a Savior, he’s got you in the palm of his hand.

If they left you, then you didn’t need them. If you had to have them to fulfill your purpose, they would have stayed. You have to accept that they weren’t a part of your destiny and move forward. As long as you’re looking back, focused on what you lost and why didn’t they stay, why did my boat break apart, you will miss the new things God has in store. You can still get to the shore, it just may not happen the way you think. God’s ways are not our ways. We can get so set on how we think it’s going to happen, what we need, who’s going to be there, that we get discouraged if it doesn’t fit into our plans. We have to stay open, God knows what’s best for us.

You’re going to make it without the contract, that didn’t go through. You worked hard, but you weren’t chosen. You deserve the promotion, but you got skipped over. That’s not the end, that means God has something better, he knows how to open new doors, how to cause opportunity, promotion, contracts that you didn’t see, coming finds you. Don’t sit around discouraged, “Oh, just my luck. Why did this happen to me”? I can tell you why: there’s a calling on your life, there are new levels in your future. That storm cannot stop you. God knows how to get you to the shore, but it may happen an unconventional way, without the boat. You may have to swim to the shore, but the grace will be there to do it. You’re going to make it like I did, without that loved one you lost. Sure you still miss them, but that didn’t cancel your destiny. It may feel like the end, but really it’s a new beginning. You are stronger than you think, you have more in you: more talent, more courage, more determination. God is not going to leave you in that storm. The boat may have broken apart, but you’re still going to get to the shore. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy is coming in the morning.

In the scripture David made it without his family believing in him. I’m sure he was discouraged when his father didn’t call him in, when the prophet Samuel was choosing one of the sons as the next king. He was tempted to be offended when his older brother made fun of him for being the youngest in heaven to take care of the sheep. He could have thought, “God, is not fair. My own family doesn’t believe in me”. But David understood this principle, his attitude was, “I can make it without their support, I can make it without their approval, I don’t have to have their encouragement”. Instead of depending on people to approve you, why don’t you go to God and get your approval from him? Instead of counting on others to courage you, why don’t you start encouraging yourself. Start speaking faith, favor, victory, blessings over your own life.

But if God would have let the boat make it to shore, would have been so much easier, it wouldn’t had to go through all this drama and distress, they could have just pulled up like a cruise liner and God often enjoyed the island, but sometimes the boat doesn’t make it. Paul and the crew grabbed the broken pieces, the wood that was floating, they used that to help them swim to the shore. We think we have to have the boat, but God is so amazing, he has a plan even for the broken pieces, the remnants, things most people would discard, God will use them to take you to where he has prepared. Their brokenness became their breakthrough.

Now quit being discouraged over what you’ve lost, what you have left is what you need. God didn’t let you lose so much, that you can’t make it to where he’s taking you – you didn’t need the boat. What they thought was of no use, discarded pieces of wood, was actually what they needed to make it to the shore. When you’re in a storm you have to do like Paul: grab on to the broken pieces, that means keep believing that you’re coming out, keep declaring favor over your life, keep thanking God for his goodness, he didn’t change his mind. The boat may have fallen apart, but you’re still going to stand before Caesar. What God promised is still going to come to pass.

My father had a dream as a 17 year old boy, that one day he would pastor a church with thousands of people. Back in the 1930s that was unheard of, there weren’t any large churches. Against all odds he was able to go to college, he started pastoring a successful, growing church. They had almost a thousand members. They just built a beautiful new sanctuary, everything was going great until a storm hit. My sister Lisa was born with something like cerebral palsy. My father began to search the scriptures in a new way. He started speaking to his congregation about how God is a healer, how he wants us to live an abundant, victorious life. Much to his surprise they didn’t like his new message of faith and they asked him to leave. He was devastated, he had spent years pouring into those people, now it looked like his dream was over. But that storm is not keeping you from your destiny, it’s leading you to your destiny. God is directing the winds.

He and my mother went out and started Lakewood. My father had lost over 90% of his congregation. He was no longer affiliated with his denomination, he didn’t have support from his colleagues. Lifelong friends never spoke to him again. But God says: you’re going to make it without the support, without what you’ve lost, without the new building. The boat may have fallen apart, but God is still on the throne. What you lost is not near as important is what you have left. My father was faithful. Lakewood grew and grew. Just like God promised, he pastored a church of thousands. But suppose he would have been bitter because they asked him to leave, suppose he had given up because of the bad brakes, the betrayals, he’d have never made it to the shore. He would have never stood before Caesar so to speak.

You don’t know what God is up to. These storms that none of us like are a part of our destiny. Are you sitting on the sidelines, discouraged over what you’ve lost, what you didn’t get, who didn’t stay? God is saying, “If you’ll get your passion back, if you’ll start believing again, you’re still going to get there”. Despite what you’ve lost, despite who was against you, despite the mistakes you’ve made, God’s calling is still on your life, his assignment is still in your future, new levels are still waiting on you.

In the scripture there’s the story about a little boy named Mephibosheth. He was the grandson of king Saul and the son of Jonathan. David and Jonathan were best friends. Mephibosheth was born into royalty, destined to one day take the throne. But life didn’t turn out the way he thought, his father and grandfather were killed on the same day in a battle. The maid that took care of him, when word reached their city, she grabbed Mephibosheth took off running out of the house, trying to hide him from enemies that were coming. She tripped on the steps, dropped Mephibosheth and both of his legs were broken. He became permanently crippled, he could no longer walk.

Years had passed. Now, instead of living in the palace like he thought, he was living in one of the poorest, most rundown cities of that day. Seemed like a bad break, just bad luck, wasn’t even his fault the maid dropped him. But God is not dependent on what someone else does or doesn’t do to get you to your destiny. People may have dropped you, but God knows how to pick you back up.

Years later king David was reminiscing about how much he loved his good friend Jonathan. He asked his men if any of Jonathan’s relatives were still alive. They said, “Yes, his son is, but he’s crippled living in the slums”. David said, “Go, find him and bring him to me”. You can imagine as these officials from the palace start searching the slums, word quickly spread: they’re looking for Mephibosheth. When he hears, he thought, “Oh, man, I’m done. Now they have finally found me”. He expected the worst, but they picked him up and carried him to the palace. They cleaned him up, put new clothes on him, brought him before David. He was afraid, didn’t know what was going to happen. David said, “Mephibosheth, don’t worry, from now on you’re going to live in the palace with me. Every night you’re going to eat dinner at my table. Not only that I am giving you all the land that belonged to your father and your grandfather”.

Like him, it may look like there’s no way what God promised you could still come to pass. It’s too late, you’ve had too many bad breaks, the odds are against you – if Mephibosheth were here, he would tell you: you’re still going to get there. Despite who dropped you, despite how unfair it was, despite how impossible it looks. You’re going to make it without the boat, without what you thought you had to have. God has the right people already lined up to help you, people that will make up for what you didn’t get. Now, don’t stay focused on what you’ve lost – what you have left is what you need. There’s power in the broken pieces. May not look like much, but when God breathes on them, you will make it to the shore. Now believe and declare: you’re still going to get well, you’re still going to meet the right person, you’re still going to accomplish your dreams. Favor is coming, healing is coming, promotion, vindication, breakthroughs, the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus name.

Secret to Solving Problems

From JO’s sermon tonight:

I want to talk to you today about The Secret to Solving Problems. We all face challenges and things were believing will turn around: a child that’s off course, a sickness we’re dealing with or a dream that seems impossible. We prayed, we believed, but nothing is changing. Sometimes God won’t allow you to solve your own problem, the secret is you have to help someone else solve their problem. You have to take the focus off yourself and be good to others in your time of need. As you sow that seed, that’s what’s going to bring the harvest that you’re waiting for.

You’ll be tempted to think, “I can’t help them, Joel, got my own problem. I need to spend my energy trying to fix my situation”. But if you’ll take your hands off of your problem and go be good to someone else, God will put his hands on your problem and make things happen that you couldn’t make happen. While you’re working on their situation, God is working on your situation.

A friend of mine struggled with his teenage son for many years. It was like they were on different wavelengths. He tried his best to be loving and understanding, but they just couldn’t get along. Invariably there would be an argument, everything was so contentious. He had prayed about it, quoted scripture, asked God to help him, but nothing was getting any better. He was the coach of the neighborhood baseball team, there was a young man on the team, that came from a single-parent family and was struggling in his schoolwork. When this father learned about it, he took that young man under his wing. He started bringing him home from baseball practice with his son, and he would help him do his schoolwork. He tutored him, he mentored him and became a father figure in his life.

This young man looked up to him, admired him greatly. About six months after he started doing this, his relationship with his own son began to improve. They got closer, started doing things together. Today they’re the best of friends, you can’t pull them apart. The secret to his problem being solved wasn’t in praying more, wasn’t in working harder, it was in helping solve someone else’s problem. The scripture says, “When job prayed for his friends, his healing quickly came”. Don’t you know how many times job prayed for himself, when he wasn’t feeling well? “God, please restore health back into me. Please free me from this pain”, and that’s good that’s releasing your faith, I’m simply saying don’t stop there, because there are times when your breakthrough is connected to helping someone else get their breakthrough.

Now maybe you’ve been praying diligently, standing in faith so strong, but nothing is improving – now it’s time to go be a blessing. Look around: where is a need you can meet? Go pray for that neighbor, that’s under the weather. Go encourage that co-worker, that’s struggling. Go help that friend accomplish their dream. As you’re helping others, you may not be able to see it, but God is helping you. He’s lining up the promotion, the healing, the breakthroughs. You can’t sew a seed without reaping a harvest.

When I was 10 years old, Lakewood was in an auditorium that held a thousand people. The church was growing, we needed to expand the building. My father asked the congregation to be praying about what they could give toward it. There was a small Spanish church, about six blocks down the road from Lakewood. They had started construction on a new building, it was an auditorium to hold a hundred people. My father noticed that their construction had stopped, for several months no one was working. He didn’t know anyone there, he had never met the pastor, but one afternoon leaving Lakewood he pulled in and talked with some people. They told how they started the construction and had complications, it was costing more than they thought, now they had run out of money, the building was just sitting there indefinitely.

Well my father was believing to raise funds to expand Lakewood. We needed the finances, but he told the congregation, instead of giving money for our building he was going to take up an offering for their building. Lakewood gave the finances, it was enough to finish their auditorium. In the natural that didn’t make sense. We needed the funds, we had the problem, but my father understood this principle – when you helped solve somebody else’s problem, God will help solve your problem, it’s not always going to make sense. Proverbs 11:24 says, “It is possible to give away and have more, it is also possible to hold on too tightly and lose everything”. God’s ways are not our ways. Everything in you is going to say, “Focus on getting out of my problem, accomplish my dreams”. “Once this problem is solved, Joel, then I’ll help others”. No, helping others is what’s going to cause that problem to turn around. Giving your time, energy, resources – that’s what’s going to open the windows of heaven and cause your dreams to come to pass.

You would have thought, “Giving away those funds would have kept Lakewood from expanding”. It was just the opposite. The funds came in for the foundation and we paid it off. Funds came in for the steel, the seats, the walls, the lights – the building was built debt-free, no complications, no delays. And not just that building, over the years my father built building after building, expansion after expansion, he paid cash every time, he never lacked resources, never lacked the funds. I believe it all started by helping that Spanish church. He had a need, he had a problem, he didn’t just pray, he didn’t just believe, he helped someone else solve their problem.

When you make sacrifices to help other people’s dream come to pass, God will make sure your dream comes to pass. Don’t stay focused only on yourself, “My goals, my problems, my trouble at work”, get your mind off yourself and go be a blessing, sow a seed. Doesn’t have to be finances, you can sow encouragement, go to the hospital and visit that loved one, cheer them up. Call that friend and speak life into their dreams. Take that elderly neighbor dinner each night, make an extra plate for them. The scripture says (Proverbs 3:27), “When it’s in your power to do good, don’t withhold it from others”. That means when you know you can be a blessing, you have the resources to help that person in need, you can teach them the talents you’ve learned, don’t put it off. When you help solve their problem, you’re not just being good to them, you are setting a miracle in motion for yourself. When you show favor, the scripture says, you will receive favor.

Here’s the beauty: when you help others, what you give is going to come back to you, but not in the same proportion – press down, shaken together, running over. My father helped that Spanish church that one time, but the blessings from that obedience are still coming today. When you’re in difficult times, more than ever you need to look for opportunities to do good. When your dream seems impossible, find somebody else and help their dream come to pass. It’s good to pray, to believe, to work hard, but there are some things that are not going to happen if you’re only focused on yourself. As you bless others, God will bless you. As you show favor, favor will come to you.

The last Sunday that we had services at our old location, I was driving down the road that final time, leaving the services, feeling so grateful for all that God had done. My mind was flooded with good memories and overwhelmed with where God was taking us. I looked up and there was a beautiful rainbow in the sky, it’s as if God was smiling on us, saying “This chapter is over, but another great chapter is just beginning”. About that time I passed the small Spanish church, that my father and the Lakewood members had helped over 40 years earlier. Their little sign outside said, “Thank you Lakewood for giving us our building”.

My mind flashed back to that time when I was a little boy. I wondered: would I be going to the Compaq Center, if my father had not helped them in their time of need? Would I be seeing the favor, the growth, the influence. That he could have thought, “We got big problems, we need it more than they do, we have all these challenges”, but he didn’t withhold the good when he had the opportunity. Much of this comes down to trusting God. “Joel, I can’t help somebody else, I’ve got my own problems. I can’t give away what I need from my dreams, I’m counting on that”.

When you give your time, your energy, your resources, your talent, you will never end up with less. That is a seed you’re sowing, that’s going to keep coming back to you. I am reaping a harvest from seeds of obedience, that my parents sowed 50 years ago. When you live a life of generosity, making sacrifices for others to come up higher, that’s not only going to impact you for the good, it’s going to impact your children, your grandchildren, those seeds are going to keep on producing.

2 Kings 19, king Hezekiah was on the throne of Israel. He was one of David’s descendants the Assyrian army had surrounded the people of Judah and were about to attack. They were much bigger and stronger, Hezekiah didn’t stand a chance. Isaiah the prophet told him, “The Assyrian army will not enter Jerusalem. They will not shout their arrows over the city walls, but they would return home in defeat”. That night the angel of the Lord destroyed 185.000 of the enemy troops. The rest of them went home, just like Isaiah prophesied. Hezekiah was so thrilled. I can imagine he wondered, “Why God blessed me such a way? Why he showed him so much favor”. Isaiah said in verse 34, “Hezekiah, God didn’t do this because of anything you did. He protected you for the sake of his servant David”.

This was three hundred and five years after David died, yet those seeds of obedience, seeds of being good to people were still producing in their family line. Every time you help someone in need, it’s not only going to help you, but you are storing up blessings for your children. Every time you help solve someone’s problem, every time you make sacrifices, so they can go further you’re sowing a seed so not only you can go further, but those that come after you in your family line to go further. Like Hezekiah, they will see favor, blessings, protection, because you made decisions that honored God.

In the scripture Joseph had a big problem. As a teenager God put a dream in his heart, that he would be in leadership and do great things. But his brothers were jealous of him. They didn’t like his big dream, they threw him into a pit. They were going to tell their father that he was killed by a wild animal. They ended up selling Joseph into slavery. He was working for a man named Potiphar in Egypt. Even though Joseph had a big problem, even though his dreams had been shattered, what was he doing? Sitting around in self-pity, blaming God? No in the midst of that problem, he started helping Potiphar with his problem. He ran Potiphar’s whole household, he organized all the staff, made sure the grounds were clean, the property protected, the supplies in place.

Instead of focusing on his problem, he was being good to someone else. At one point Joseph was falsely accused and put in prison. Surely now he would be bitter, depressed, but in the prison some of his cellmates had a problem. They had a dream and didn’t understand what it meant. Joseph didn’t say, “Too bad for you. I’m depressed, I don’t like being here”. He said, “I can interpret dreams, let me help you with your problem”. He interpreted their dreams. One of the cellmates was released. Two years later the Pharaoh, the leader of the country had a dream and didn’t understand what it meant. The former cellmate said, “I know someone that can interpret dreams”.

Joseph came before the Pharaoh, told him how the dream had to do with the food supply, how there were years of famine coming and how important it was to store up the grain, get everything organized and prepared before the drought. The Pharaoh looked at Joseph and said, “You’re the right man for the job. Nobody can do it better for you”. He made Joseph second-in-command of Egypt. What was Joseph doing for Pharaoh? Solving a problem, strategically getting everything lined up, using his expertise, his talents, his skills to help the people that were holding him captive. Joseph was so excellent, that other nations came to study his operation.

I’m sure that Joseph was grateful to be out of prison, to have this influential position, but deep down he still missed his family. He never thought he would see his father again, whom he loves so much. He had already accepted that it was too late. But as Joseph was helping Pharaoh with his problem, back home in Israel his brothers were loading up the camels, about to head to Egypt to try to find food. They had heard the only place that had the supplies was at the palace, where Joseph was in charge. Notice, what God was doing. While Joseph was working on Pharaoh’s problem, God was working on Joseph’s problem. He couldn’t see it at the time. Everything looked just the same, but what Joseph didn’t know was the camels were coming, his brothers were on the way.

I can imagine one evening, there was a knock on the palace gates, the guards looked outside, saw this caravan of camels. They asked the people what they wanted? They said, they were looking for food. One of the guards went to Joseph, said, “Some people just arrived, they want to purchase grain”. It was late in the day, Joseph was tired, he was about to say, “Tell them to leave, don’t bother us”, but for some reason he changed his mind and went out to meet them. He couldn’t believe it, it was his brothers. You would think he would want to get revenge, the truth is he was so grateful to see them, he was overwhelmed with emotion.

They didn’t recognize him. Eventually he told them who he was and they all wept together. He asked if their father was still alive? They said that he was. All those years Joseph spent helping other people with their problems, doing the right thing, even when it wasn’t fair. That whole time God was watching. God sees your faithfulness, he sees you helping others when you need help. You encouraging that friend, when they need encouragement. You praying for that neighbor that’s not well, when you’re fighting an illness. May seem like nothing is happening, but God is working. What you can’t see is the camels are being loaded up. What you thought would never happen is still on the way.

Joseph’s father and whole family came to Egypt to live with Joseph. His father thought Joseph was dead. Joseph thought that his father had already passed. But now, the two of them were embracing, weeping, it was a dream come true, Joseph’s problem was finally solved. It didn’t happen the way Joseph thought, he didn’t go back home to Israel, but his family was able to come to Egypt and enjoy all the blessings and honor, that God had given Joseph. But none of this would have happened, if Joseph would have been ingrown. “I’m not gonna help this man Potiphar, had my own problems. I’m not gonna help these prisoners, they’ve never done anything for me. I’m not gonna interpret Pharaoh’s dream, use my expertise to run the food supply, he needs to do something for me”.

Joseph understood this principle: when you’re working on someone else’s problem, God is working on your problem. You may think that you could never get well, never break that addiction, never accomplish your dream, it’s been too long. But if you’ll do like Joseph and just keep being good to people, keep helping solve their problems, keep helping their dreams to come to pass – what you can’t see is the camels are coming. What God started, he’s going to finish. It’s going to surprise you, there’s going to be a knock on the door, something that you weren’t expecting. Like when Joseph’s brothers showed up at the palace unexpectedly, healing is going to show up for you unexpectedly, freedom from addictions unexpectedly, suddenly the right person find you, suddenly that door of opportunity opens.

You thought it was too late, but the whole time you were helping others, the camels were in row. God has not forgotten about you, those seeds you’ve sown have not gone unnoticed. Those times you’ve come to church and served in the kids ministry while you had problems at home, you sang in the choir, you prayed for others when you weren’t feeling well. You could have stayed at home, “God when you do something for me, then I’ll be my best”, but you just kept being your best, making sacrifices to help others, giving away what you needed for your dreams – get ready for some surprises, get ready for God to show out in your life, get ready for something that you haven’t seen. It’s going to be unusual, out of the ordinary and it’s going to thrust you into your destiny.

When I worked for my father here at Lakewood those 17 years doing the television production, my goal was to make my father look the best that I could. When I started I didn’t have a lot of experience, but I found the best lighting consultants, the best camera people. The first year we hired an older gentleman, that used to produce the “Today Show’s”. I was with him every minute, he trained me how to put the program together. I would spend hours trying to improve the lighting and making sure the stage looked the best that it possibly could. At one point we were going to remodel the platform area. We had some top designers helping us. We were going to make a new podium as well. So I had them mock-up a podium, just temporary, so we could check the size and see how it fit my father.

He came down and stood behind it, and we looked at it on camera and made several adjustments. I wanted it to fit him just right. I wanted the stage area to be as perfect as can be. When we finished the remodel, it looks so beautiful on camera. I was so proud, it made my father shine. A year later my father went to be with the Lord. I never dreamed one day I would be standing behind that podium. One day I would be the one on that beautiful platform. I thought I was building it for my father, really I was building it for me. When you’re helping other people, you think you’re doing them a favor – really you’re doing yourself a favor. Because when you help others shine, God will make sure that you shine. When you help someone else rise higher, God will cause you to rise higher. You are sowing a seed for where you’re going.

My friends Rob and Laura Koke, pastors of a great church in Austin, Texas. Years ago their sixteen-year-old son was killed in an automobile accident. It wasn’t easy, but they didn’t get bitter, they didn’t give up on life, they kept moving forward. Eventually they started a charity in his name called “The Caleb Foundation”. They built hospitals, orphanages, schools, done great work all over the world. At one of their orphanages in Haiti, called “Caleb’s House” there were some young men that grew up there and were about to graduate from high school. They decided to bring a few of them to Austin, to be interns at their church. One of the young men that came noticed Rob and Laura’s daughter, they started dating ended up falling in love. A few years ago their daughter married this young man, that grew up in the orphanage that they started. All birthed out of the loss of their son.

What if Rob and Laura wouldn’t have reached out to help others in their time of need? They could have thought, “Well, I could have been bitter, and certainly man, God, we lost a loved one, well this isn’t right, this isn’t fair”. Instead their attitude was, “Yes, we’re hurting, but we know, when we help others, God you’ll help us. We know, when we work on their problems, you’ll work on our problems”. They started sowing seeds, taking care of orphans, giving an education to the less fortunate. Being good to people without expecting anything in return. When they started that orphanage, they never dreamed that their son-in-law would grow up there. They never dreamed that he would marry their daughter and become a part of their family. When you help others, you may think you’re just being good to them, but you don’t know what God is up to. You can’t help someone without God being good back to you. You don’t know the blessings and favor that are connected to you helping someone else rise.

But I wonder what we miss, when we live ingrown. We only focus on what we’ve lost, how we’ve been hurt, “God, I’ve got this big problem, you got to help me”. Go, be a blessing, your miracle is waiting for you as you help others. And sometimes the reason you can’t solve your problem is because what you need is found in solving someone else’s problem. If you will help them succeed, like with Rob and Laura, your son-in-law will show up, things will happen unexpectedly, that you didn’t see coming. I know, many of you have been doing this, going out of your way to be good to people, making sacrifices to help solve their problems – get ready, the camels are coming. What you’re believing for is already in row. I believe and declare, those seeds you’ve been sowing are about to come back to you, press down, shaken together, running over. It’s going to be more than you can imagine. Promotion, healing, breakthroughs, the right people, the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus name.

Windows of grace

From JO’s sermon tonight:

I want to talk to you today about windows of grace. There are times where we’re going along minding our own business, and suddenly we know we’re supposed to do something. We feel it so strongly in our spirit, this urging telling us to forgive the person that hurt us. Or we’ve struggled with an addiction for years, but suddenly we have a new desire to be free, we’ve dreamed about starting our business, writing that book, all of the sudden we know it’s our time. Those are not just nice thoughts, that’s God speaking to us. God doesn’t ask us to do something and not give us the ability to do it. With that urging, you’ll feel faith rising up, you’ll have the faith, the determination, the strength, the favor to do what you couldn’t do before.

But here’s the key: it’s a window of grace, it’s not going to last forever. Too often we hear the still small voice, but we put it off. “I know I need to forgive, but I’ll do it later. I know I need to get in shape, take care of my health, I’ll do it soon. I feel this new passion, this confident to step up and lead my department, I’m gonna do it one day”. The problem is, that window is going to close. Don’t take the grace for granted, that is a destiny moment where God is making a way where you can come up higher. When you feel that faith, you have to step into it. That’s God saying, “This is your time, this is your moment”.

The scripture says (Hebrew 3:15), “Today if you hear his voice, harden not your hearts”. That’s not just talking about salvation. When you hear his voice telling you to have a better attitude, to treat your spouse more respectfully, to tithe your income – the reason it’s so strong, is God is opening a window of grace. That’s the time to obey: not tomorrow, not next week, but right then. When that window opens, you’ll feel a divine empowerment, God breathing in your direction in a new way. You will have the grace to forgive, the confidence to step up, the power to succeed.

A friend of mine struggled with smoking since high school, he was in his forties, he didn’t like to smoke, he tried to quit many times, but wasn’t able to. He finally accepted it, that that was his lot in life. One morning he woke up and felt so strongly, that it was his time to stop smoking. He had a new determination, a new passion, he said, “I’ve never felt faith like this, I knew I was going to break it”. The problem is, he kept putting it off, saying “Tomorrow I’m gonna start”. Tomorrow would come, he felt it just as strongly, “Later I’ll get serious about it”. The next week he didn’t feel it quite as much. A month went by, still hadn’t done anything, now he barely had the desire to stop. A couple of months later he was back to thinking he could never break it. He said, “Joel, I know I could have stopped. I know that what’s God talking to me, but I missed my season”.

That window doesn’t stay open forever, there is a time limitation where God gives you this opportunity to come up higher. When you have the faith for it, that’s the time to act. Don’t talk yourself out of it, don’t make excuses, “Later I’ll get serious”. You’re not always going to feel what you feel. That grace is on you for that season, to do what God’s asking you to do. Today when you hear his voice – obey, step into that grace, take advantage of what God is offering you. And if the window closes, yes, God will open another window, he’s merciful, but you don’t know how long that’s going to be. You don’t have time to go around the mountain again and again, like the Israelites – they turned an eleven-day journey to the Promised Land into 40 years, because they kept complaining, talking about how big their obstacles were.

When God brings something to light that you need to deal with: a bad attitude, jealousy, saying hurtful things – you wouldn’t feel that conviction, unless the window was opening to change, but you have to step into it. Dig your heels in and be more disciplined, bite your tongue when you could be disrespectful, have a smile when you should be discouraged: the grace is there. As you tap into it, you will feel a force enabling you, empowering you. What is that? You’re in a window of grace.

In the scripture there are two Greek words used for time: one is chronos, that’s where we get our word chronological. It deals with ordinary time: minutes, hours and days. The second Greek word is Kairos: it’s defined as an opportune moment, a passing instant where an opening appears. It has to do with an appointed time, with a season of favor. Now, God has already ordained these Kairos moments for you. You’re going to come into opportunities, that seem over your head, you’re going to be tempted to shrink back: God wouldn’t have put you there, if you couldn’t do it. It’s a Kairos moment, it’s a season of favor.

All of the sudden you know, you can beat that depression, you know lack and struggle is not your destiny, you feel faith rising up. Those are not just encouraging feelings, you’re coming into a Kairos moment, a special season a favor that God has strategically designed for you. If you will step into it, doors will open that you couldn’t open, bad habits, addictions that have held you back will be broken. Get ready for some Kairos moments, moments that thrust you ahead. And when they come, don’t be intimidated, that obstacle may be big but our God is much bigger, he would not have opened that door if you didn’t have the favor to go through it.

But it is a window of grace, it’s not going to last forever, you can’t keep putting it off and expect it to be there in a year. When you feel it, you have to stir your faith up, “Father, thank you that this is a new day, I am stepping into new levels of favor, wisdom, determination, discipline, creativity, anointing, and every force that’s trying to stop me is being broken”. Get an agreement with God: he will open the window, but you have to take advantage of it.

This is where the Israelites missed it. They had been in slavery many years, God brought them out, and they were headed toward the Promised Land. They made it through the desert, fought off enemies along the way, finally came to the land flowing with milk and honey. They were camped next door to the Promised Land. This is what they had been dreaming about, all they had to do was go in and take the land, God had already promised them the victory. This was one of their Kairos moments, an incredible door was about to open, an opportunity of a lifetime. With that Kairos moment comes the favor to accomplish, the power to overcome, the strength to defeat the opposition.

The problem is: the Israelites didn’t recognize, that they were in a window of grace. They said, “Moses, these people are too big, we’ll never defeat them, we felt like grasshoppers compared to them, let’s go back to Egypt”. Even though God promised to take them into the land, even though they were in a Kairos moment, where they had to favor, the strength, the power, they turned around and went back into the desert. They didn’t understand, God won’t give you the opportunity and then not give you the grace to do it. You may be up against some big giants, but the favor on your life is bigger than anything that’s trying to hold you back.

And God was so put out with the Israelites, he told Moses that they were never going to enter the Promised Land. Moses told the people what God said, how they were limiting their destiny, being weak and intimidated. The scripture says, they turned and went back toward the Promised Land. They said, “Moses we have done wrong, now we are ready to enter the land God promised”. You wouldn’t think Moses would say, “Great, I’m glad you change your mind, let’s go in”. Moses said to them, “Do not enter the land now or you will be crushed by your enemies”. What happened? That window of grace closed, that Kairos moment past. Moses knew, if they tried to go in out of God’s timing, when the window of favor wasn’t open, they would be defeated. That’s why it’s so important to not put off what you know God is telling you to do.

When you feel that urging, that knowing, whether it’s to break a bad habit or to step into something that seems over your head, if you keep delaying the window is going to close. And your mind may tell you all the reasons why it’s not going to work out, you can’t accomplish that dream, you don’t have the connections, you can’t forgive that person, they hurt you too badly. You’ve always been negative, bitter, jealous that’s just who you are – that is not who you are, that’s why you’re hearing this, there’s a Kairos moment coming your way, there’s a window of grace about to open.

Now, don’t do like them, put your shoulders back, hold your head up high and step into it. God is about to take you to a new level, things that have held you back are being broken, new doors are about to open, giants are about to be defeated, talent is about to come out of you that you didn’t know you had. You are coming into a season of special favor. Yes, you always have favor, but there are moments where that favor will show out, you’re going to see an opportune time where God thrust you ahead.

Now do your part, start believing your favor, start praying bold prayers, start speaking victory over your life. Don’t go around talking about how big the giants are and how you could never get well, never meet the right person, never start your own business: zip that up, start declaring, “This is my time, God’s favor is on my life in a new way, I have the grace to rise higher, the grace to forgive that person, the grace to break this addiction, the grace to accomplish my dream”. Be bold, be strong the Lord your God is with you.

This is what I had to do. When my father was 77 years old, he was at my sister Lisa’s house one Monday evening to eat dinner with Lisa and my mother. Lisa had just finished cooking her favorite dish, right before she put those TV dinners on the table, my father said to them, “I’m going to call Joel and see if he’ll speak for me this Sunday”. My mother laughed and said, “John, you were wasting your time, Joel is not a minister”. I had worked behind the scenes here at Lakewood for 17 years, doing the television production. My father tried to get me up to speak many times, but I always told him “No”. I didn’t have any desire to get up in front of people, plus my dad was a great pastor, I thought who would want to listen to me? You know, I ain’t been trained to do this.

Well, that Monday evening I was eating dinner at my house as well, my dad called and said, “Joel, I just wanted to see if you would speak for me this Sunday”. I had told him “No” dozens of times before, I’ve kind of laughed and said, “Daddy, I’m always honored that you ask, that you had that much confidence in me, but I’m just not a minister”. He never pressured me, he encouraged kids to follow our own dreams. We hung up the phone and I sat down to finish eating dinner. A couple of minutes later I felt something so strongly on the inside, telling me that I needed to do it. I don’t know how to explain it, I just knew that I knew, I was supposed to do it.

It didn’t make sense to my mind, but God doesn’t speak to our mind, he speaks to our spirit. Not out loud, but down in here you’ll feel in urging, a knowing. You don’t have to hear words, you just know it. Many times we don’t recognize – that’s God talking to us. All of the sudden you know, you’re supposed to get your finances in order, you know you’re supposed to break away from a friend that’s holding you back, you know you’re supposed to go back to school, improve your skills. We think, “Oh, that’s just me, I’ll think about it, maybe I will, maybe I won’t, no big deal”. No, that’s not just you, that’s God talking to you, that’s God opening a window of grace.

You’re coming into a Kairos moment, a special season of favor to do, what you couldn’t do, to go where you couldn’t go. The question is: will you step into it or will you put it off and let the window closed? Time is of the essence, the longer you wait, the less passion you’ll feel and the less likely you’ll be to do it. Don’t put it off, it’s an opportune moment. It’s not months, it’s not years, it’s a passing opportunity. Unless you grab hold of it, stretch your faith, make the changes, then you’ll miss your moment.

Five minutes later I called my father back and told him that I had changed my mind and that I would speak for him that Sunday. Lisa and my mother nearly passed out, I was going to speak my first sermon in 36 years. I didn’t want to do it, but I knew I was supposed to do it. The truth is: that was the most miserable week of my life. I so dreaded having to get up in front of people, no offense, but y’all were very scary. I told Victoria, “Please don’t talk to me until Sunday afternoon, at one o’clock. I’m gonna do this one time, make my father proud and then I’m done”. You’ve heard that say, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”.

I spoke that Sunday, never dreaming that would be the last Sunday of my father’s life. Now, I often think about where would I be, if I would have said “No”, if I would have ignored that feeling. That was a Kairos moment, something God ordained to thrust me into my destiny. It’s not like I could have done it a month later, my father would have been gone, wouldn’t have had the same impact. And one reason I was able to step up and pastor the church, is I thought, “What are the chances of me speaking the last Sunday of his life? I had told him no for 36 years, but it just so happened that last time I said yes” that’s why I felt it so strongly, I knew I was supposed to do it.

But here’s my point: I could have said no, I could have ignored it, I could have said, “I’ll do it later, I don’t feel qualified, ask me again at the same time next year”. But by the grace of God I stepped into it. Don’t miss your Kairos moments, you don’t know where they’re taking you, you don’t know what doors are going to open, you don’t know what one good decision, one step of faith, one getting out of your comfort zone and obeying that still small voice, how that’s going to cause a domino effect of awesome things in your life.

If I had not said yes to that one speaking invitation, I don’t believe that I would be a pastor today, we wouldn’t have probably the Compaq Center, the books, Sirius XM, nights of hope – those all followed that one act of obedience. “Well, Joel, that’s exciting for you, but it’s kind of depressing for me, because I think I’ve already missed my window”. You wouldn’t be hearing this, if God wasn’t about to open another window. There is a Kairos moment coming your way, something that’s going to thrust you ahead, a power that’s going to free you from every addiction, break every chain that’s held you back, and release you into a future greater than you’ve ever imagined. Now, when it comes step into it, stretch your faith, pursue that dream, make the necessary changes. Don’t let it pass you by.

In Acts chapter 24 the apostle Paul was brought to Caesarea to go on trial for sharing his faith. He was standing for the governor, a man named Felix, presenting his case. Felix was very intrigued by Paul, the main trial was going to take place later, so he had Paul taken into custody. In a few days Felix and his wife sit for Paul to come visit with them. Paul discussed his faith, the importance of living a godly life and having self-control. Felix felt convicted, he had lived compromising, giving in to carnal desires, he knew he needed to change. This was one of his Kairos moments, a window of grace. But Felix said to Paul in verse 25, “Go away for now. When a more convenient time comes, I’ll call for you”.

He put it off, he didn’t want to deal with the conviction. Two years later he was out of office, we never read about Felix again. I don’t know if that more convenient time ever came. That’s why the scripture says, “Today, when you hear his voice obey”. Are you waiting for a more convenient time, ignoring the still small voice, talking yourself out of taking that step of faith? You don’t know how long that window is going to be open. Don’t do like Felix and keep making excuses, this is an opportunity to come up higher, to see God’s favor in a greater way.

My friend Devon Franklin is a movie producer in Hollywood. When he was a young man, he had a dream to own his own company making films. He went to Los Angeles to be an intern at this big movie studio. Instead of producing films, he was running errands: taking the executives coffee, bringing their lunches, but he stayed faithful, and one door after another open. He got a position helping produce will smith’s movies, he ended up as a vice-president at Sony Pictures. A great position, but his dream was to own his own company. He produced the movie “Heaven is for real”, opening weekend it made 30 million dollars, a huge success, nobody predicted those kinds of numbers. His boss called and congratulated him and said, she was going to give him a promotion and increase his salary.

As he was going to meet with her, he heard God saying to him, “This is the time to leave Sony and start your own company”. He said, “God, that couldn’t make sense. These people love me, I’m about to get this huge promotion”. Deep down he couldn’t get away from it, he knew he was supposed to make a change. He told his boss that he was going to leave, and that he wanted Sony to fund his new company. She looked at him and said, “Yes, we can do that”. He nearly passed out, this was more than he could imagine. He would not only have his company, but his old company would fund it.

They signed all the paperwork, several weeks later this boss that liked him so much was involved in an email controversy and she suddenly lost her job. If he would have waited a couple of months to start the company, he would have never had the funding, that was a Kairos moment, a window of grace. You can do the right thing at the wrong time, and miss your destiny. Timing is critical. When God says to do something, you need to do it. It may not make sense now, but God knows things that we don’t know. When he says “Forgive”, you may think of a thousand reasons not to, just do it, God knows what’s best for you.

When he says, “Take that step of faith”, your mind may tell you, “What if it doesn’t work? What if the contract doesn’t go through? What if the economy slows down”? If there are no risk, it doesn’t take any faith. If there’s no chance you can fail, then you don’t need God’s help. But where God has taken you, you can’t go there on your own. You may be talented, but your talent alone is not enough. You may be connected, but you don’t have enough connections, God has a future for you that is much greater than you imagine, you’re going to need these windows of grace, these Kairos moments.

When we acquired this building, the former Compaq Center, I was told that it was going to cost a hundred million dollars to renovate. Three years earlier I was running camera, editing my father sermons, doing the production. Do you know how much fundraising experience I had at that time? Zero. I thought, “God, I am so far over my head, but Lord thank you that this is not over your head”. I had the faith, the boldness, the confidence to do something, that didn’t even make sense. That was one of my Kairos moments. What am I saying? When God asks you to do something, he’s going to give you the faith and the favor to do it.

The scripture talks about having the faith of God. Sometimes it’s not even our faith, it’s God putting his faith in us. But you have to stay in this window, you can’t think about it for six years, and get 47 different opinions. First though you’re going to be confused, because people can’t hear what God’s telling you, they can’t feel what you’re feeling on the inside, and secondly that window is not going to last forever. If you keep putting it off, eventually it’s going to close.

In the scripture God told Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and tell the people, they had 40 days to repent or God was going to destroy the city. It’s interesting that God put a time period on it. He didn’t just say repent sometime, whenever you feel like it, no big deal, just as long as you do it. He said, “You have 40 days to make things right”. When Jonah told the people, the first thing they did was fall on their knees, the king took off his royal road, put ashes on his head and declared a citywide fast. They didn’t wait a week, they didn’t wait 20 days, immediately they said, “God, we’re sorry for the way we’ve been living and God spared the city”.

I wonder, if there’s something you could change in the next 40 days, and you would see God’s favor in a new way? Maybe God’s saying to you: you have 40 days to get your priorities in order, 40 days to forgive that person, 40 days to pursue your dreams or 40 days to get serious in your relationship with God. There’s a window of grace. It was 40 days for the people of Nineveh, I don’t know what it is for you, but I do know when these Kairos moments come, there is a time limitation, they don’t last forever. Don’t miss your moment, listen to that still small voice, that knowing on the inside. That’s when you’re going to have a divine empowerment, the favor to do what God’s asking you to do. If you will do this, I believe and declare, you are about to come in to some of these Kairos moments, new doors are about to open, freedom from addictions, restoration in relationships, healing, promotion, breakthroughs, the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus name.

From Valley to Victory

From JO’s sermon tonight:

I want to talk to you today about From Valley to Victory. We all go through difficulties in life and things we don’t understand. We have a setback in our finances, challenge in our health, or relationship didn’t make it. When we’re in the valley, it’s easy to get discouraged and think it’s never going to improve. But the Scripture says in Hosea 2:15, “God will transform the valley of trouble into a gateway of hope”. You may be in a valley of trouble, a valley of loneliness, a valley of debt – you don’t see any way out, it looks permanent. God is saying “I’m about to transform that valley into a gateway of hope, a gateway of increase, a gateway of favor”. The valley is leading you to new levels, to better relationships, to greater influence.

The medical report may not look good, you’re in a valley of sickness – God is about to transform it into a gateway of healing, a gateway of wholeness. Don’t let the valley fool you, God has the final say. Nothing can snatch you out of his hands. Maybe you’re in a valley in your finances, business is slowed, you lost the contract – that valley is not the end. It’s about to be transformed into a gateway of blessing, a gateway of favor, a gateway of overflow. God is going to open new doors, he’s going to cause opportunities to find you.

Perhaps you’ve struggles with an addiction for a long time, you’ve accepted that you’ll always be in that valley. Your relatives lived in that valley, they all struggles – No, this is a new day. God is doing a new thing. That valley is about to transform into a gateway of freedom. God has a breakthrough coming your way. He is going to make things happen that you couldn’t make happen. The Valley is not your destiny. The addiction, the loneliness, the anxiety is not going to hinder you your whole life. You were created to be free, to be happy, to live an abundant, fulfilled life.

And instead of complaining about the valley, being discouraged over what you’re going through – all through the day: “Father, thank you that this valley is only temporary. I believe what You promised, that You are about to transform it into a gateway of hope, a gateway of blessing, a gateway of victory”. That valley is leading you to the awesome future God has in store. And the truth is – you can’t reach your destiny without going through valleys. The valleys are strategic. When you’re on a top of a mountain, the only way to go higher is to come down that mountain, go through the valley, then you can go up a bigger mountain. God allows valleys not to hold us back, but because he is taking us higher. Without the valley we would get stuck.

Are you discouraged over what God is going to use to take you to a new level, frustrated, thinking that valley is permanent? Have a new perspective – valley is not there to stop you, it’s there to promote you. And what you’re up against may be bigger, you feel outnumbered, you don’t have the resources. On your own you can’t get out. The good news is: you’re not on your own. The Most High God is right there with you. He knows how to turn that battlefield into a blessing-field. That valley of trouble into a gateway of victory.

This is what happened with David. When he was a teenager he faced Goliath in the Valley of Elah. It’s not a coincidence that this battle took place in the valley. In every morning and every evening for 40 days, Goliath came down, stood on the side of the mountain and shouted insults at the Israelites, making fun, trying stir up troubles. Goliath was huge, he stood over 9 feet tall, his coat of armor weigh 125 pounds. He was the champion of Philistine army. When king Saul and Israelites army heard him, they were terrified, they turn and run out of side. This when on time and time again. And one day David showed up, 17-years-old. When he heard this threats, something rose up in him – a fire, a passion, a courage. He says, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the army of the Living God”? He was saying, “This man is not in covenant with our God. He doesn’t have the blessing of Jehovah. We may be in a valley, but Goliath can’t keep us here. He doesn’t control our destiny”.

David looked to Goliath, he said (1 Samuel 17:45-46), “You come against me with a sword and a shield, but I come against you in the name of the Lord God of Israel. This day I will defeat you and feed your head to the birds of the air”. All of the Israelites were in the same valley, they heard the same threats, but David had a different attitude – he talked back to the enemy. when you’re in the valley, like David, you will hear the enemy’s threats. He’ll try to intimidate you, “You’ll never get out of this problem, it’s too big. You’ll never get well, you saw the report. Your child will never get back on course”. Don’t do like the Israelites and believe those lies, live in fear, worried. Do like David and talk back to the enemy. What you’re saying in the valley is going to have a great impact on whether or not you come out.

The Israelites were saying, “He is too big. We don’t have a chance. We’ll never defeat him”. When you talk defeat, you are inviting defeat. When you talk sickness, you’re going to have sickness. When you say “I’ll never get out of this problem”, it’s going to keep you there. Instead of agreeing with the enemy, start declaring what God says about you. When the enemy shouts “You will never get well”, do like David, “I will live and not die. God is restoring health back unto me”. “You’ll never get out of debt. This valley of lack, valley of struggle, not having enough, it’s permanent” – “I will lend and not borrow. God is opening the windows of heaven, pouring out blessings that I cannot contain”. “Well, that child is never going to do right. He’s never going to break the addiction” – “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. My children are mighty in the land. What God has purposed for their life, no bad breaks, no addictions, no person can stop”.

It’s so important what you’re saying in the valley. If it’s going to be transformed into a gateway of hope – you have to speak words of life, words of faith, words of victory. This is where the Israelites missed it. They were talked about how big Goliath was, David was talking about how big our God is. They were magnified the problem – David came alone and started magnifying our God. And the enemy has no new trucks, he is not creative. You can go back and look what he’s done in the past, that’s how he is going to try to deceive you. In this valley, thousands of years ago he was threatening with loud insults trying to intimidate with lies – it’s no different today.

Goliath may not stand on the mountain side and shout down to your valley, but in your toughs loud threats will come, things that can keep you awake at night, cause you to live worried, stressed out. Recognize what’s happening. Don’t be one of there Israelites and run and hide for 40 days, and let the 40 days turn into 4 mounts, then 40 years. Be a David. There’s nothing more powerful against these negative threats than God’s Word coming out of your mouth. “I may be in a valley, but can I tell you: I’m coming out. I will fulfill my destiny. I will accomplish my dreams. I’m strong. I’m healthy. I’m well able”.

David told king Saul that he wanted to fight Goliath. Saul told him all the reasons why he couldn’t do it, “You’re too young. You don’t have the training, the experience. He is too big. He is the most skilled warrior”. Sometimes people will try to keep you in the valley. People will tell you what you can’t do, what you don’t have, how you just have to learn to live with the addiction. “Don’t try to start this business, there’s giants out there. You can’t teach that class, there’s too much competition, you better stay where you are”. Don’t expect everyone to cheer you on. All your friends are not going to celebrate you, challenging the stretch to the next level. But just because they don’t see it in you, doesn’t mean you don’t have it. God has put greatness in you, things that other people has never imagined, potential that’s going to catapult you to a new level. Well, don’t let someone talk you out of what God put in you. Don’t let their lack of support cause you to stay in the valley.

David could have thought, “I guess king Saul is right. I don’t have the training. I don’t come from influential family. He is much bigger than I am. Maybe I should just accept this valley”. If David would let Saul discourage him, we wouldn’t talked about him. If he would believe the threats of Goliath, he would’ve never fulfilled his destiny”. At some point we will all be where David was, in a valley with the big obstacle – we didn’t get the scholarship, the relationship didn’t work out, we lost the loved one. The fear, depression, anxiety – it feels permanent, nobody is there to support us. That’s where you have to dig down deep and say, “No, this valley is not my home. This defeat, this lack, this trouble, this addiction is not how my story ends”. You are on the verge seeing that valley transformed into a gateway of something amazing. God is about to do something unusual, out of the ordinary. Something that will thrust you to a new level.

King Saul wasn’t for David, but that didn’t stop David. David’s family didn’t believed in him. His brothers made fun of him, but that didn’t keep him from his destiny. Don’t be discouraged by who is not for you, by who doesn’t cheer you on – you don’t need them. You and God are a majority. He is breathing in your direction right now. You’re about to come out of that valley. It’s going to happen sooner that you think. There’s a breakthrough, a promotion, a healing, a divine connection, that’s headed your way. Get ready for that valley to be transformed. It looks permanent, but things are suddenly going to change, suddenly your health turns around, suddenly your business takes off, suddenly your child gets back on course. That valley is leading you to victory.

David was in this valley of Elah. Goliath is coming down to mountain to face him. David didn’t have any armor, didn’t have a sword, a shield. All that he had was a slingshot. He reached down and picked up five smooth stones from the stream. God is showing us: there’s provision in the valley. David didn’t bring the stones into the valley, he didn’t have someone helping him, giving him the stones. What he needed was right there in reach. What you need to get out of that valley is with in your rich. You don’t have to wait on some person, some good breaks, a company to call you, a neighbor to help you out. Look around you and look in you. Sometimes all you need is your praise. Praise is a weapon. Praise breaks chains, praise confuses the enemy. Praise makes you powerful.

When you have praise coming out of your mouth, you are unstoppable. The enemy cannot keep a praiser down – just ask Paul and Silas. As they sing praise at the midnight, prisons doors flung open. Just ask Jonah, sitting in a belly of a fish. As he offer a sacrifice of praise, the fish spit him up on a dry ground. All David had was the 5 small stones. That didn’t seem like much, but a stone with God’s favor is more powerful that an automatic weapon. your praise may not seem like much, but you pray – angels are going to work. When you praise, the Creator of the universe begin to change things in your favor. And most of the fight we fight are not physical, they’re spiritual.

And praise is an powerful weapon. When you praise in the valley, it’s even more effective, because enemy expect you in the valley to be negative, bitter, complaining, but when you’re going through the day saying, “Father, thank you that you are still on the throne. Thank you that you are bigger than this problem. Thank you that no weapon formed against me will prosper”. Praise will cause you to defeat giants in your life.

When Goliath saw David, how young he was, how small, he begin to laugh. He said, “Am I a dog, that you’ve come to me with a stick”? He is saying, “Is this the best you can do? Is this all you’ve got”? He discounted David, making fun of him. David didn’t pay any attention. He took a stone, put it in the slingshot. When he slung it, it hit Goliath right between the eyes, knocked him unconscious. David went over, take Goliath’s own sword and cut his head off.

Overnight David became a national hero. He went from a shepherd boy, that nobody had ever heard that to be in the talk on the town, everyone admired and love. God knows how to transform a valley of trouble into a gateway of blessing. You may be in trouble now in your health, your finances, a relationship – it’s a setup. It was meant to stop you, but God has another plan. He allowed it, cause it’s about to launch you to a new level. You are going to come out promoted, stronger, healthier, better than you were before.

It’s not a coincidence that Davit wrote in Psalm 23:4, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow death”. He didn’t say “Though I stay in the valley. Though I live in the valley”. no, the valley is not your home. The valley is temporary. You just passing through the valley. It’s just a matter of time before it’s turn into a gateway: a gateway of favor, a gateway of healing. but don’t let the valley become permanent in your thinking. Don’t go around talking about, “My sickness. My depression. My arthritis is acting up”. Don’t take ownership of it, it’s not yours. God made you healthy, whole, free, blessed, prosperous. Anything otherwise is on an foreign territory.

David said, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow death”, then the next verse he said, “God anoints my head with oil and my cup runs over”. God is showing us: you have to go through some valleys before you come to the anointing where your cup runs over. David could have started the chapter talking about “My cup runs over. God anoints my head”, then in the end talk about the valleys. He did just the opposite – it’s because valley precedes overflow.

You maybe dealing with a sickness now, but on the other side of that valley is your cup running over with good health. Things maybe slow at the office, but when you make it through the valley, there’s an abundance, good breaks, promotion. That family member is causing trouble, but on the other side of the valley is great joy, great peace. Your cup is going to run over with great relationships. None of us like go through the valleys, but if you’ll keep the right perspective, knowing that that valley is leading you to overflow, then you go through it with a good attitude.

Now, I wonder, how often we get stuck in the valley complaining “I can’t believe this happen”. God is waiting to transform it into a gateway of blessing, but we have to pass the test. How we go through the valley makes a difference.

I know a pastor that wanted to build a new auditorium, the had needed the space for long time. He sow friends building nice sanctuaries, they were doing great things, but every time he tried to move forward, he had some kind of setback. He was tempted to get discouraged, thinking would never work out. When you’re in the valley – it’s a test. God is up to something you can’t see. It’s easy to complain and live negative, but you have to trust him in the valley.

This pastor keep being his best, month after month, thanking God that he is working, declaring that a new sanctuary is on the way. Look like he was stuck, the odds was against him, said it would never happen. But God know how to transform that valley of trouble into a gateway of blessing. When it’s your time, all the forces of darkness cannot stop what God has ordained for you.

One day, unexpectedly the mayor of this small town called and told how there was a group that built the huge building for a casino, but before they moved in they went bankrupt. They had over 40 acres of parking, a building , they could fit 4 football fields inside. It was just a few miles from his church. The mayor asked if he was interested in purchasing it. The pastor told it would be over 50 million dollars, it was huge first class. The mayor said “No, you can purchase it for under 2 million dollars”. Instead of having to build his own facility, God dropped much bigger, better facility into their hands.

When you go through the valley in faith, thanking God, then you’re going to come into that anointing when your cup runs over. God is going to do things that you never dreamed. He is going to transform the valley of trouble into a gateway of abundance. You may feel like you’re stuck, you’re doing the right things, but the wrong things is happening. The good news is: that valley is not permanent, you are coming through. Well, if you could see what’s on the other side, you would be amazed. Your cup is going to run over.

Maybe a relationship didn’t work out, that person left you, now you’re in the valley – that is not the end of your story. god has an running-over blessing, somebody better that you’ve ever dreamed. Stay in faith in the valley, don’t listen to Goliath, don’t believe the lies that it’s never going to work out, “It’s too late. The obstacles is too big”. Like this pastor, that valley of trouble is leading to a gateway of abundance: abundance of joy, abundance of good health, abundance of resources.

2 Kings chapter 3, the Israelites had been traveling for 7 days on their way to attack the Moabites. They went a long way around to surprise them, but they run out of water. There was nothing for them or the animals to drink. The king of Israel said, “Has God brought us here to die”? Someone spoke up and said, “Let’s ask the prophet Elisha”. He said in verse 16, “This is what the Lord says, this dry valley will be filled with water. You will see neither wind nor rain, but you will have an abundance of water, plenty for yourselves and your animals. And the Lord will give you victory over the Moabites”.

That didn’t make sense. The valley was going to be filled with water with no rain? I’m sure they tough, “Elisha, you missed it this time. That’s impossible. Where is the water gonna come from”? The next morning they woke up, and suddenly water started flowing into the valley with no source. They went out and defeated the Moabites.

You don’t have to figure out how God is going to bring you out. It may not seem possible, you’ve looked all the options and don’t see a way – that’s okay, God has way we’ve never tough of. We think natural, but God is supernatural. He can cause the property to find you. He can have the right people knock on your door. He can heal you without the treatment. The valley doesn’t stop our God. He is not limited by what you don’t have. He is not intimidated by what you’re up against. He spoke world into existence, He flung stars in the space, He knows how to turn your situation around.

You may be in a valley that’s dry, it looks permanent – get ready, water is about to flow into your valley. You’re not going to see wind nor rain, it’s not going to be ordinary, it’s not going to happen a normal way – it’s going to be a hand of God, there’s no explanation. It doesn’t make sense – it’s God bringing water without rain, promotion without qualification, an auditorium without having to build it. A baby when you were told it wasn’t possible. don’t get discouraged because the valley is dry, there’s no water, God controls the faucet. His favor can open a door that couldn’t open. He can make things happen, that can’t be explained.

When David was 37 years old, he was about to step into a new level of his destiny and become the king of all of Israel. He was at the valley of ruffian. Ruffian means giants. 20 years earlier he defeated Goliath, now he face not just one giant, but a valley full of giants. God helped him and his men and they won the victory. The Scripture says, David renamed the valley. Instead of living in the valley of ruffian, he called it “The God of breakthrough”.

And you may be in a valley now, things are difficult, but like with David one day you’re going to rename that valley. Instead of a valley of disappointment, when you see what God does, you’re going to say, “That was a valley of favor, a valley of blessing, a valley where God showed out in my life”. Instead of a valley of sickness, a valley of suffering, that was a valley of healing, a valley of wholeness, where God made a way where I didn’t see a way. Or instead of valley of addiction, a valley of failure, that was a valley of freedom, a valley of restoration, where I saw God’s grace as never before. Don’t let the name of that valley fool you – god is about to transform that valley into a gateway of blessing.

When my father went to be with the Lord, I was in a valley of loss, a valley of sadness. I can say now – that was a valley of increase, that valley launch me to a new level. When my mother faced cancer, that was a valley of illness, a valley of pain, but now, 40 years latter she can say, “That was a valley of breakthrough, a valley where God helped me to defeat a giant”.

When king Jehoshaphat and people of Judah were surrounded by three major armies, they didn’t have a chance. but God caused these armies to become confused, and they ended up destroying each other. The people of Judah went in and gather all the spoils. Jehoshaphat named that place “The valley of blessing”. Thing may be tough right now – stay encouraged, one day you’re going to say like him, “That was a valley of blessing”.

God is working behind the scenes in your life. He hasn’t brought you this far to leave you. He sees the tears, the injustice. That valley of trouble is about to be transformed into a gateway of hope, a gateway of healing, a gateway of promotion. It maybe uncomfortable now, but the valley is necessary, God is using it to take you to a new level. Now, do your part – praise Him in the valley, keep a good attitude in the valley, be good to others in the valley. If you’ll do this, I believe and declare: like David you’re going to defeat giants that are much bigger. Like Elisha you’re going to see water without rain. God is about to do things you can’t explain, unusual favor, healing, restoration, breakthroughs. Get ready, you’re about to go from the valley to victory, in Jesus name.

Blessing Yourself

From JO’s sermon tonight:

I want to talk to you today about Blessing Yourself. We hear a lot about blessing others, being good to friends, complimenting a family member, helping a neighbor. That’s all good, we should bless others, but it’s also important to bless yourself. When we here bless yourself that can sound odd, self-centered. “I can’t bless myself, I want somebody else to bless me. More importantly I want God to bless me”. But the scripture says in Isaiah 65:16, “He who invokes a blessing on himself shall do so by saying”.

The way you bless yourself is to say what God says about you. “I am strong, I am talented, I am forgiven, I am healthy, I am valuable, I am a masterpiece”. Those are not just positive affirmations, you just invoke to blessing on yourself. When you speak it out, you give life to what you’re saying. It’s not enough to just think this. You don’t bless yourself by just dwelling on positive thoughts. Nothing happens until you speak. When you say “I am blessed”, blessings come looking for you. When you say “I am prosperous”, good brakes start heading your way. When you say “I am healthy”, health starts tracking you down.

You can’t wait ’til you feel that way then you’re going to say it. “When the medical report turns around, then I’ll say I’m healthy”. It’s just the opposite. You have to declare you’re healthy before the health is going to show up. You have to say “I am confident”, before you’re going to feel confident. If you’ll say it long enough, what happens? Is those words get down in your spirit and you believe what you say about yourself more than what anyone else says about you. When you hear yourself day after day, “I am healthy, I am talented, I am confident, I am valuable”, it’s changing how you see yourself. Over time you’re going to become what you’re saying.

You are who you are in part today, because of what you’ve been speaking over your life. And all through the day you need to develop this habit of blessing yourself. You don’t have to do it in front of other people, but when you’re in the shower, “Father, thank you that I am creative, I am attractive, I am a great father, I have a good personality”. Driving to work, “Lord, thank you that I’m forgiven, I’m redeemed, that your mercy is bigger than my mistakes”. Before you go to bed, “I am valuable, I am one-of-a-kind, I have seeds of greatness”. Every time you say that it’s getting deeper in your spirit, it’s becoming more ingrained in your thinking.

And studies tell us that we move toward what’s in our subconscious mind. Without even thinking about it you’re being pulled toward what you’re saying. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to what you’re speaking over yourself. Other people may say things about you, but nothing is more powerful then what you say about yourself. I can tell you all day long “You’re a victor and not a victim”, that’s good, that’s helping your thinking, but it’s nothing compared to when you say “I am a child of the Most High God. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am a masterpiece, handpicked by the Creator of the universe”. You keep declaring that and you can’t stay insecure, feeling unworthy – that will get down in your spirit, you’ll put your shoulders back, hold your head up high and you’ll go places that you’ve never dreamed.

Are you blessing yourself or are you just waiting for God to bless you, waiting for your spouse to make you feel valuable, waiting for that addiction to go away? Maybe the reason it’s not happening, is you’re not invoking the blessing on yourself, you’re not declaring what God says about you. In the face of that addiction you need to declare “I am free, I am whole, greater is he that’s in me than what’s trying to stop me”. Not just one time, but all through the day, week after week, month after month keep blessing yourself, keep declaring your free, keep speaking victory. As you do that, you may not be able to see it, but freedom is coming your way.

The scripture says, “You will eat the fruit of your words”. Whatever you’re saying that fruit is developing, the fruit is growing. It’s significant that God uses fruit as the example, because fruit doesn’t develop overnight, it takes time. This is showing us: you have to keep speaking it, keep blessing yourselves. Don’t be moved by what’s not changing. You may not see results in a week, but things are happening that you can’t see.

We have some lemon trees in our backyard. The lemons start off as a little white flower, no resemblance of a lemon. Over time that flower changes into a little round ball about the size of a pea. Month after month it grows. In a year or so it’s a big beautiful yellow lemon. And as you keep saying what God says about you, those words are taking root. That freedom your speaking is developing, that health you’re declaring, the talent, the confidence, the discipline it’s growing. You’re going to come to a point where you see what you’ve been saying. You’re not speaking it by faith anymore, now it’s a reality, you’re going to eat the fruit of your words.

That’s why every day you need to spend time blessing yourself. It’s good when others encourage you, it’s good when they pray for you, but their words don’t have the authority as your words. What you say about yourself, you’re giving it the right to come to pass. When we wake up each morning, most of us brush our teeth, take a shower, pick out our clothes, get dressed. We may spend a half an hour getting our physical body ready for the day, but often we don’t spend any time getting our inner person ready for the day: our mind, our spirit, our emotions. What if you took a couple of minutes every morning before you leave the house and say what God says about you?

Make this declaration of faith, you can download it on our website: “I am blessed, I am prosperous, I am redeemed, forgiven, talented, creative, disciplined, focused, confident, secure, prepared, qualified, motivated, valuable, free, determined, equipped, empowered, anointed, accepted and approved. Not average, not mediocre, I am a child of the Most High God”.

We say that every service at Lakewood, it’s because it’s easy to forget who we are. Life tries to push us down, tell us what we’re not, what we can’t do, how we failed. Sometimes our own thoughts tell us we’re not attractive, nothing good is in our future. If you let those lies play, it will keep you from your purpose. But if you’ll make this declaration several times a day, month after month, it will get down in your spirit and you will become who God created you to be. When you’re constantly saying what God says about you, it will bring down strongholds that are keeping you back, it will get rid of impurities that are contaminating your self-image, you’ll begin to see yourself the right way, redeemed, forgiven, strong, victorious.

I talked to a man that was raised in a dysfunctional home. He was told by his father that he would never amount to anything, he wasn’t smart enough, he’d never be successful. For 40 years he believed those lies. He stayed at the lowest level position at the company where he worked, never thought he could rise higher after all he was told that he didn’t have the talent. One day he heard what I’m telling you. Instead of agreeing with what people said about him, he started speaking what God said about him: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I have seeds of greatness. I am full of potential”.

As he spoke what God said about him, he began to see himself in a new way, he became more confident, new gifts started to come out. Other people started to notice. He got promoted again and again. After 30 years of being stuck at that low level position, today he’s running his whole department, he has several hundred people under him.

Now people may tell you that your average, nothing special about you. The good news is: what you say about yourself overrides what other people say. Don’t let what someone spoke over you keep you from becoming who you were created to be. Don’t go around repeating those lies, “I’m not that talented, I’ve reached my limits, I’ll never accomplish my dreams”. Zip that up and speak blessings over your life.

The scripture says: with our words we can bless or we can curse. We can lift up or we can push down. My question is: are you blessing yourself or are you cursing yourself? Are you speaking words of faith, life, victory or are you speaking defeat, mediocrity? “I’m so undisciplined, I’ll never lose this weight, I’ll never break this addiction, I’m unattractive, I’ll never meet the right person”. You may not realize it, but you’re cursing yourself. You’re speaking defeat into your future. You have enough people in life against you, don’t be against yourself. There are forces of darkness trying to keep you from your destiny, don’t give them any fuel.

Pay attention to what you’re saying about yourself. You can’t talk defeat and have victory. You can’t talk lack and have abundance. You can’t talk sickness and have health. You may be undisciplined right now, but the way to change is not by telling how bad you are, putting yourself down – that’s inviting more difficulties. Start speaking victory. Don’t curse yourself anymore, start blessing yourself, “I am disciplined, I am determined, I am strong, I will break this addiction, I will get back in shape”.

A friend of mine struggled with smoking for many years. He tried to quit again and again, wasn’t able to do it. He was constantly saying, “It’s too hard, I’ll never break it, I don’t have the willpower”. He came down for prayer and he was very hard on himself, very critical. He told me how he was undisciplined, how he had quit for a few months and went back and how he wasn’t going to be able to break it. He didn’t realize, he was cursing himself. And I told him what I’m telling you: you have to change what you’re saying. You have to start blessing yourself. Every day start saying “I am strong, I am disciplined, this addiction doesn’t control me”.

He tried this different approach. While he was smoking, he would say “Lord, thank you that I am free”. Thoughts would tell him, “Are you kidding? You’re not free, you’re just as addicted as you were before”. The scripture says, “Let the weak say I am strong”. Don’t describe the weakness, call in strength, call in freedom, call in favor.

About six months later something interesting happened – he started to not like the taste of the cigarette. He thought it was a bad badge. The taste got worse and worse, he got to the point where he couldn’t stand it, he stopped smoking. Today he’s been free for over eight years. It all started when he stopped cursing himself and he started blessing himself. Are you speaking negative over yourself? Are you putting yourself down, talking about how you don’t measure up, what you can’t do, how you’ll never be free? Do yourself a favor: quit cursing yourself and start blessing yourself. If you keep being negative towards yourself, it will keep you from your destiny.

In the Book of Numbers the king of Moab hired Balaam the prophet to go curse the Israelites. The king knew the Israelites were stronger and more powerful. He thought if he could get Balaam to curse them, then the Moabites would be able to defeat the people of Israel. But God told Balaam to only say what the Lord says. When Balaam arrived, instead of cursing the Israelites he blessed them. The king was so upset, he said “You don’t understand. I’m paying you to curse them”. This happened three times, but every time Balaam blessed them. He told the king, “I cannot curse what God is already blessed”.

One thing God was showing us if the enemy cannot curse you. You are God’s property. He’s already put a blessing on you. People, bad-brakes, how you were raised, what’s coming against you cannot stop your destiny. You’ve already been set apart, favored, equipped, empowered by the Creator of the universe. But here’s the key: since the enemy can’t curse you, he’ll try to deceive you into cursing yourself. He’ll do his best to try to get you to go through life speaking defeat over yourself. “I’m not that talented. I’ll never meet the right person. I’ve made too many mistakes”. He can’t curse you, don’t you dare do it for him, don’t you dare curse yourself.

The next time you’re tempted to say something negative about yourself, your future, your looks, your abilities – zip it up. When you’re against yourself, you’re in agreement with the enemy. When you bless yourself, you’re in agreement with God. You were created in his image. He didn’t make any mistakes, you didn’t get shortchanged, he wasn’t having a bad day when he made you. He knew every fault you would have, he knew the areas you would struggle in. Quit beating yourself up, living unworthy – receive his mercy and move forward with your life. You have the talent you need, you come from the right family, you are well able to reach your destiny.

Now start blessing yourself. When you’re tempted to say something negative, turn it around. “You’re not attractive” -> “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. “You’ve made too many mistakes” -> “I am forgiven. I am redeemed. I am restored”. “You’ll never be successful. You’ll never reach your limit” -> “I am surrounded by favor. God has taken me from glory to glory. My latter days will be better than my former days”.

Are you blessing yourself or are you cursing yourself? You have a destiny to fulfill, there’s a calling on your life, an assignment that only you can accomplish. We need what you have. We need your gifts. We need your talent. We need your smile. We need your love. This world won’t be as bright a place as it should be without you shining, living the full abundant life that you were created to live.

There was a young man in the scripture named Jeremiah. God gave him the promise that he would be a great prophet and he would speak to nations. Jeremiah was young. He didn’t see himself as a leader, he came from an average family, didn’t have a great education, wasn’t trained to speak in front of people. But God never asked you to do something and then doesn’t give you the ability to do it. You may not feel qualified, you don’t think you have the talent, the odds are against you. You wouldn’t have that opportunity if you weren’t already equipped. It’s you, but you have to call it out, you have to start blessing yourself.

You’ll be tempted to talk about all the reasons why you’re not able: “It’s too big, you don’t have the resources, you come from the wrong family”. No, don’t curse yourself. Jeremiah said, “God, I can’t speak to nations I’m too young. I wouldn’t know what to say”. God didn’t say, “That’s fine, I understand”. God said, “Jeremiah say not that you’re too young”. God immediately stopped his negative words, he stopped him from cursing himself. God knew if Jeremiah would have gone around saying “I can’t do this. I don’t have what it takes. I’m afraid”, he would have missed his destiny.

Be careful what you’re saying about yourself. You are prophesying your future. And the odds may be against you, but God is for you. Say not “I’ll never break the addiction”. Say not “I’ll never meet the right person”. Say not “I can’t start my business”. Zip that up and get an agreement with God.

Psalm 34:12-13 says, “Do you want a long, good life? Then watch your tongue. Keep your lips from telling lies”. We think that only means don’t tell lies to other people, don’t be dishonest, but it also means don’t tell lies about yourself, don’t go around saying things that contradict what God says about you. “I’m just average. I don’t have a good personality. I’ll never do anything great”. Can I say this respectfully? That’s telling lies. God didn’t create anyone average. When he breathed life into you, he put greatness on the inside. He’s destined you to leave your mark, to overcome that challenge, to outlast the opposition, to take your family to a new level.

Now if you’re going to see this good, long, prosperous, amazing life then you have to do something very important – watch your tongue. Be careful what you say about yourself. You can’t curse yourself and live a blessed life. You can’t put yourself down and rise up to who you were created to be.

When my father went to be with the Lord, I knew I was supposed to step up and pastor the church, but I didn’t feel qualified. I had never ministered before, hadn’t been to seminary, I was afraid and insecure. My father had this big personality, strong and confident. I’m more quiet and reserved. I had plenty of opportunities to talk about what I was not, what I couldn’t do, how didn’t measure up and how intimidated I was. But one thing I learned growing up is to not speak too negative. You may think it, but don’t verbalize it. Instead of saying what I felt, I said what God said about me, “I am strong in the Lord. I can do all things through Christ. I’ve been raised up for such a time as this”.

I didn’t feel anointed, but all through the day under my breath, “Father, thank you that I am anointed”. Thoughts told me, “Nobody’s going to show up. Nobody’s gonna listen to you, Joel”. “Father, thank you that people are being drawn to me, that your favor is causing me to stand out, that when they turn me on they can’t turn me off”. Instead of cursing myself, agreeing with the enemy, I can blessing myself. Most of what I was saying at the time wasn’t true. I wasn’t strong, confident, qualified, but over time little by little I became what I was saying. I ate the fruit of my words. Are there areas in your life that you’re cursing yourself instead of blessing yourself? You’ll be amazed at what will happen if you’ll watch your tongue.

The Israelites had been in slavery for 400 years, when God supernaturally brought them out. The powerful Pharaoh and all of his army couldn’t keep them in captivity. God sent the plagues, parted the Red Sea, drowned their enemies, gave them water out of a rock in the desert. He brought them to the Promised Land, they finally made it to this place they had dreamed about. They were next door, all they had to do was go in and take the land – God promised them the victory.

Moses said twelve men to spy out the land. Ten of them came back said, “We don’t have a chance. There are giants in the land. We felt like grasshoppers compared to them”. The scripture says (numbers 13:32), “They brought back an evil report”. It seems like evil is a strong word. A negative report makes more sense, but God called it an evil report. It’s because when you get an agreement with the enemy and curse yourself, it can keep you from your destiny.

The Israelites had seen the favor of God in amazing ways, yet the spies came back and said “We’re like grasshoppers”. Here they were sons and daughters of the Most High God, favored, equipped, anointed. The problem is: they started telling lies, they started agreeing with the enemy, cursing their future. The enemy couldn’t stop them with his power, he had to deceive them into cursing themselves. They never did make it into the Promised Land. The enemy has no new tricks, he can’t keep you from your destiny, he can’t stop God’s plan for your life. God has blessed you, the enemy cannot curse you. Now the question is: are you going to curse yourself? Don’t fall into that trap, speak victory over your life.

Luke 1, an angel appeared to a man named Zachariah. He told him that his wife Elizabeth was going to have a baby, they were to name him John. Elizabeth had been barren her whole life, they were both way up there in years, didn’t seem possible. Zachariah said to the angel, “How can this happen? I’m too old and my wife is way past the childbearing years, are you sure you have the right people”? The angel said, “Zachariah, I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of Almighty God. What he says will come to pass”. But God knows the power of our words, he knows if we go around cursing ourselves, talking about what we can’t do, how impossible it is, how we’re too old, too young, too shy, too short then we’ll never become who we were created to be.

God needed this child to be born to fulfill a prophecy from earlier, so God did something unusual. The angel said, “Zachariah, since you’ve doubted, you will remain silent and not be able to speak until the baby is born”. God literally shut his mouth. Zachariah left there unable to speak. God was about to do something Zachariah had never seen, something more than he had imagined, but he knew if Zachariah went around speaking defeat, it would stop the promise.

I wonder if there are promises we’re keeping from coming to pass because we’re speaking the negative, verbalizing our doubts, cursing ourselves. A year later Elizabeth gave birth to a baby boy, just like the angel said. Her friends and relatives were so excited, they came over to the house to celebrate. One of them asked what the baby’s name was going to be? Elizabeth said his name is John. They said “John? Nobody in your family is named John. He should be named Zachariah after the father”. They looked at Zachariah, he still couldn’t speak, so he wrote it on a tablet “His name is John”.

Like with Zachariah God is about to do something that your family has never seen, something unusual, something out of the ordinary. You’re about to give birth to dreams, promises, ministry, abundance, influence that is far more than you’ve imagined. It’s going to be easy to doubt, think it’s too much, it could never happen. But the reason God has you hearing this is so you will watch your tongue. No more cursing yourself, no more speaking defeat, talking about how you can’t get well, can’t break the addiction, can’t start your business.

Get an agreement with God: start blessing yourself. All through the day, “I am strong. I am talented. I am anointed. I am healthy. I am well able”. Remember, the enemy can’t curse you. He doesn’t have that power. Now, don’t curse yourself. Speak life, speak favor, speak victory. If you’ll do this, I believe and declare, God is about to show out in your life. New doors are about to open, negative situations are about to turn around, freedom is coming, healing is coming, breakthroughs, the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus name.

From JO’s sermon tonight:

I want to talk to you today about Victory Begins in the Dark. The book of Genesis starts off telling how God created everything, it says the evening and the morning were the first day. You would think it would be the reverse: the morning and the evening were the first day, but God starts the day in the dark, at 12 A.M., nothing looks any different. If you didn’t have a watch, you wouldn’t know you’ve entered a new day. It’s still dark outside, looks the same as it did at nine o’clock, at ten o’clock, at eleven o’clock, there’s no sign that something has changed, but when the clock strikes midnight, in that one second when nothing looks any different it goes from P.M. to A.M. It’s still dark, but it’s a new day.

It would make more sense if God started the day in the light, when the sun came up at 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning, when the dawn breaks, the light comes – then it’s obvious we would know it’s a new day, we can see it: things have changed, we hear the birds start chirping, the sun comes over the horizon, we have all this evidence that we’ve entered a new day. But on purpose God chose to start the day in the dark. It’s symbolic of how he does things in our lives: he gives us a promise, he says we’ve come into a new day, he’s restoring health back into us, we’re going to lend and not borrow, our child is going to get back on course. We believed, we prayed, we stand in faith but nothing is changing, nothing looks any different, nothing feels any different – still dark outside.

“Well, my back is still hurting. My business hasn’t grown. My health hasn’t improved”. This is what faith is all about – you can’t see it, but you have to know you past midnight, you’ve gone from P.M. to A.M. Yes it’s still dark outside, yes nothing has changed, but the sun is on its way up, healing is on the horizon, promotion, freedom, the right people – it’s just a matter of time before you see the light come breaking forth.

And don’t be discouraged by the dark. The dark doesn’t mean nothing has changed. The dark is not a sign that is not working, that he didn’t hear your prayer. Thoughts will tell you, “You would have seen something by now. You would feel a little better, one of those companies would have called you back, that addiction wouldn’t be this strong”. You have to walk by faith and not by sight. If you walk by sight, you’ll talk to yourself out of it, because 11:30 at night doesn’t look any different than midnight. Everything you can see, feel, touch, smell looks just the same – there’s no evidence that it’s a new day.

But the Psalmist said (Psalm 56:9), “The moment you pray, the tide of the battle turns”. You can’t see it, but when you prayed you left the P.M. And you came in to A.M. It’s a new day. You may not be able to see any sign of it, that’s okay, victory begins in the dark. And we all go through these times where we don’t think it’s going to work out, seasons where nothing is changing. We’re being our best, but the business is not growing. We’re standing in faith, but our health is not improving. It’s tempting to think that God has forgotten about us, we’re always going to have this obstacle. The fact is: light is on the way. What God promised you is in round. You may have struggled in an area a long time, you’ve been believing for things to change in your marriage, your finances, with an addiction. It seems permanent, God is saying you’ve already entered a new day, you’ve already past midnight, you can’t see it yet but victory is on the way.

Now instead of complaining about the dark, have a new perspective, the dark means the sun is on the way up, the promise is about to come forth. Who can stop the sun from rising each morning? Who can keep light from breaking forth over the horizon? All the forces of darkness cannot stop what God has ordained for you, they cannot keep what he promised from coming to pass. In the face of that darkness, when you don’t see any light, get an agreement with God, “Father, thank you that it’s a new day. It may be still dark out, but I don’t go about what I see, I go about what I know. And I know that I past midnight. That means my healing is coming, my breakthrough is coming, my abundance is coming, my victory is coming”. When you realize God starts with darkness to bring about new things in our life, then you won’t get discouraged by the darkness, you’ll thank him in the middle of the darkness, you’ll praise him despite what’s trying to stop you.

This is what Paul and Silas did. They were put in prison for sharing their faith. The religious leaders, the Sadducees, they didn’t like them. They accused them of causing a disturbance. They were in the deepest part of the dungeon to make sure they couldn’t escape. But God won’t let you get in a problem that he can’t bring you out of. If that difficulty was going to stop your destiny, God wouldn’t have allowed it. It may seem too big for you, you could never overcome it, but it’s not too big for our God, he already has the solution.

Than trouble can’t keep you from your purpose. That’s setback in your finances, the anxiety, the depression is not permanent. It may be dark now, you’ve had some bad breaks or you brought trouble on yourself, you think you’re stuck – no, get ready God is not through with you. What he ordained for your life will come to pass. That difficulty is a setup for him to show out in your life. He’s going to do something unusual, something out of the ordinary that will thrust you into your purpose, something that will suddenly change things in your favor.

Paul and Silas had changed around their feet, guard standing outside the prison gates. It looked like they would be put away and we’d never hear from them again, all the odds were against them. But people don’t have the final say. What you’re up against maybe bigger, more powerful, more influential, but you and God or a majority. Him being for you is more than the world being against you. There’s not an obstacle he can’t move, there’s not a sickness he can’t heal, not an addiction he can’t free you from.

Sitting in the dungeon, falsely accused, they could have been depressed, “God, why is this happening? It’s not fair. We were doing what you wanted us to do”, but the scripture says, “At midnight they were singing praises and giving thanks to God”. It’s interesting that we’re told when this happened. Most other miracles we read about we don’t have the time, that detail isn’t recorded, but God had the writer tell us this time because midnight means it was a new day.

As they were singing praises, suddenly there was a great earthquake. The prison doors flew open, chains fell off their feet and they walked out as free men. It’s not a coincidence that this all happened at midnight. They may have been singing at 10 o’clock in the evening, nothing happened. Thanking God at 11 o’clock nothing happened. Praising at 11:30 still nothing. But when they hit midnight, when that new day started, suddenly things changed. God was showing us – it may be dark all around you, you don’t see a way out, but when you come into that new day, when you cross from P.M. to A.M., things suddenly shift.

And sometimes you see it all at once, like with Paul and Silas. Other times you see it later, but the moment you praise things change in your favor. There may be a period of darkness, where it doesn’t look like anything is happening, but if you do like them and just keep thanking God that he’s fighting your battles and thanking him that he’s making ways where you don’t see a way, then you’re going to come into these times where God will suddenly show out in your life, he’ll make things happen that you couldn’t make happen.

You may have areas where it feels dark right now, nothing is changing – that’s a test. Will you praise him in the dark? Will you thank him that what he promised is on the way? Will you talk like it’s going to turn around, believe that healing is coming, even though the medical report is an improving? Don’t go about what you feel. Your feelings don’t always tell you the truth, your emotions will try to convince you that it’s never going to work out. Your mind will tell you all the reasons it’s not going to happen, “Look how big those obstacles are”, no, walk by faith, “Father, thank you that I’ve come into my midnight, that it’s a new day. It may still be dark out, but I know you start the day in the dark. I know that means light is on the way”. Keep a song a praise in your heart.

“Well, Joel I’ve been doing this a long time, I don’t understand why nothing is changing”. God’s timing is not our timing. Keep doing the right thing, you’re in a new day. You pass midnight. It may be 3:00 in the morning, you have a few more hours so to speak before the sun comes up. I’ve learned: the longer it’s taking, the better is going to be. God is getting you prepared for the blessing he’s already prepared for you. And when it’s taking a long time, that’s because the blessing is bigger than you can handle right now, he’s getting you stronger, more mature, more confident. He’s getting other people that are involved in place, he’s doing a work in them.

Don’t be discouraged because it’s been dark a long time, that’s a sign God is about to do something that you’ve never seen, it’s going to be bigger, more rewarding, more fulfilling than you’ve ever imagined. Now keep praising him in the dark, keep being good to other people in the dark, giving, serving. When you do that, like Paul and Silas suddenly doors are going to open, suddenly you’re going to come into opportunity, the right people, healing, breakthroughs, it’s going to catapult you ahead.

When my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1981, she had been in the hospital for 21 days. One Monday evening the doctors called my father in and said there was nothing more they could do for her. They gave her a few weeks to live. My father drove her home that afternoon in the traffic, it felt like the longest drive of their life. It was a very dark time. My mother could have been depressed, giving up on life, but she knew that God is a healer and that he has the final say. She and my father went to their bedroom, laid down on the floor and prayed. God said in Psalm 50:15, “Call unto me in the day of trouble and I will rescue you”.

A lot of times in our difficulties we call people, call friends, call relatives, call experts. And that’s all fine, but make sure you call out to God, ask him to help you. He created the universe, he flung stars into place, he has all power. You don’t have to beg him, you don’t have to plead with him, he’s longing to be good to you. The scripture says, “It is the father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”. Just ask in faith for what he’s already promised. One of the most powerful things we can do is take God’s word to him, remind him what he said, “Father, you said you would restore health back unto me. Lord, I’m asking for your healing, I’m asking you to do what medicine cannot do”.

Take his word and pray bold prayers, “Father, you said my children will be mighty in the land. I’m asking you to free them from this addiction, take away these wrong friends, help them to fulfill their destiny. Father, you said I would prosper and be in good health, that I would lend and not borrow, that you are Jehovah Jireh: the Lord my provider. So, Lord I’m asking you to supply all of my needs, make rivers in the desert, give me overflow so I can be a bigger blessing”.

On December 11th 1981, when my mother and father prayed and asked God to heal her from that cancer, my mother believed that day she received her healing, that she came into her midnight that she went from P.M. to A.M. But here’s the key nothing looked any different. She was still very frail, her skin was yellow, she only weighed 89 pounds. I never heard her complain, she never talked defeat. She would go through the house quoting scriptures, “I will live and not die and declare the works of the Lord”. It was still dark, the medical report hadn’t changed, month after month no sign of improvement. All of her senses said, “It’s not going to work out”. She didn’t look good, she didn’t feel well. Her emotions, her thoughts said she wasn’t going to make it, but she wasn’t moved by what she saw, she kept thanking God, walking by faith and not by sight.

Sight said, “It’s dark, nothing has changed, you’ll never get well”, but faith said, “I’ve entered a new day. It’s dark now, but light is coming. It’s just a matter of time before the healing breaks forth over the horizon”. Didn’t happen like Paul and Silas suddenly, but over time, little by little she started getting better and better. Her skin color came back to normal, she gained her weight back, got her strength. Today almost 40 years later she’s perfectly healthy and whole – no cancer in her body. God has the final say.

It may be dark in your life right now, but don’t let the dark fool you. The dark is not a sign that you’re never going to get well. It’s not a sign that your child is never going to do right. It’s not a sign that your business is not going to make it. It may have been meant to stop you, the enemy sent it to keep you from your destiny, the good news – God has overruled that scheme, he’s turns the plans of the enemy. That darkness is not going to last, the depression is not permanent, the addiction, the sickness, that trouble at work is not how your story ends. You’ve gone from P.M. to A.M. It’s a new day. The sun is about to break forth, healing is in your future, abundance is in your future, good relationships are in your future, victory is in your future.

Instead of complaining about the dark, being discouraged by the dark, have new perspective: the dark means light is coming. Now do your part – start praising him in the dark, start thanking him that things are changing in your favor. Don’t be moved by what you see. 11:30 at night does it look any different than midnight, but midnight is a new day. God is saying: the clock has ticked in your favor, you past midnight. Things may not look any different yet, don’t worry, light is on the way. The sun has never once not come up. God has never once not made good on his promises. It may not happen on our timetable or the way we thought, but I can assure you the sun is going to come up in your life. You wouldn’t be alive if God didn’t have something amazing in your future.

“Well, Joel, it sure feels like midnight”. Midnight is a good thing. God always starts in the dark. That’s a sign he’s about to burst something new, something big, something unusual. If he started in the light, it wouldn’t take any faith. If we could see how it was going to happen, we had all the resources, the connections, the solution, we wouldn’t have to depend on him. The time to show what you’re made of is when it’s dark and you don’t see anything changing. Thoughts will tell you, “You’ll never get out of debt. You’ll never meet the right person. You’ll never accomplish that dream”. Instead of getting depressed, the right attitude is, “Yes, it’s still dark. Yes, I don’t see anything changing, but I’m not worried. I know it’s after midnight, light is coming”. God is faithful. What he promised you he’s going to bring to pass.

In the scripture, Job went to a dark time. Everything was going great, life was good, then the bottom fell out. He lost his health, lost his family, lost his business – didn’t seem fair. The scripture says (Job 1:1), “Job was the most righteous man of his day”. You would think he wouldn’t have any dark seasons, he wouldn’t have to deal with disappointments, bad breaks. But life happens to us all. Rain falls on the just and the unjust. The difference with the just, with people like you, people that honor God, is God promises to take what was meant for harm and turn it for your good. There may be dark seasons, but if you’ll stay in faith and not get bitter, God won’t just bring you out, he’ll bring you out better than you were before, he’ll make the enemy pay for bringing that trouble.

“God said to Satan, ‘have you seen my servant Job? There’s no one like him in all the land. He’s blameless, he’s a man of integrity, he has a spirit of excellence'”. I love the fact that God was bragging on Job. If you could hear what God is saying about you, you would be amazed. We think God is focused on all of our faults, our shortcomings, but God sees all the good things in you. He sees your heart to help others, he sees your sincerity, your kindness, your courage. I can hear him telling the angels, “Have you seen my son? Jim he’s really amazing. Have you seen my daughter Rachel? There’s no one like her”.

God is proud of you. He made you in his own image, he calls you a masterpiece. And just because you’re having difficulty doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong. We all go through tests and seasons that we don’t understand. What I want us to see is – the darkness is not permanent, at some point you’re going to go from P.M. to A.M. God is going to shift things, you’re going to come out promoted, increased, at a new level of your destiny.

When Job lost everything he was very discouraged, he sat down among the ashes and put on sackcloth. He went through phases of being upset, bitter, frustrated. But God knows we’re human, we feel things. There may be times where you feel those emotions, that’s okay, just don’t stay there. Job eventually got up out of the ashes, it was still dark, nothing has changed, but he made the statement, “I know my redeemer lives”. He was saying, “God is still on the throne, he has the final say. I’m not gonna drag around sour over what I’ve lost. I’m getting ready for the new things he has in store”.

Few chapters later in the middle of all the difficulty, still as dark as ever, nothing had changed, but Job said “I know God has granted me favor”. He was saying, “I know I’ve entered a new day. I know I’ve gone from P.M. to A.M. I know this darkness is not permanent”. Chapter 8, a man came along to encourage him. He said, “Job, God will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy”. He was saying to Job, what God is saying to us, “Don’t let this dark season fool you. Don’t let this pandemic, don’t let the sickness, don’t let the break-up cause you to live defeated. You’re going to laugh again, you’re going to love again, you’re going to dream again, you’re going to build again, you’re going to lead again, you’re going to flourish again”.

I’ve heard it said: what if the darkness you’re going through is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb, the darkness that proceeds God doing something amazing in your life? You’re not in the darkness of the tomb. Have a new perspective, you’re in the darkness of the womb. God is about to do something that you haven’t seen. You’re going to discover talent that you didn’t know you had. That person that broke your heart, walked out on you, they didn’t stop your destiny, you’re about to meet someone better than you’ve ever imagined. That dark time is not wasted, God is using it to birth something that you could have never experienced without it.

When my father went to be with the Lord, that was a dark time for me. But I can tell you, I wasn’t in the darkness of the tomb, I was in the darkness of the womb. God birth talent in me that I didn’t know was there. He took what I thought would be my darkest hour and turned it into my brightest hour.

The scripture says (Psalm 30:11), “God will turn your morning into dancing. He will take away your sadness and clothe you with joy”. I believe there’s sadness that’s about to be taken away, that darkness is about to lift offer you. Your going to be clothed with joy, happy, fulfilled, vibrant, with fresh vision, fresh passion. Not just come out, “Okay, hey, I made it through”. That mourning is about to be turned to dancing. God is going to make up for the sadness, he’s going to pay you back for the sorrow, the hurt, the injustice.

Now get your hopes up, like Job keep thanking him that he’s granted you favor, keep declaring “My redeemer lives”. Job went through this dark season, but that’s not where he ended. The scripture says (Job 42:10-12), “God restored back to Job twice what he had before. He was more blessed in the second part of his life than he was the first”. Yes, it was dark, but when the sun rose up he came out with double.

Don’t believe those lies that the darkness is permanent, it’s never going to change. That darkness is a sign that double is coming. The sun is going to rise in your life again. You’re going to see the goodness of God in ways you’ve never seen. He’s breathing in your direction right now. In the unseen realm things are changing in your favor, forces of darkness are being pushed back, the right brakes are headed your way. He’s going to make things happen that you couldn’t make happen. You’re going to know it was the hand of God.

When we talk about Job, we think that must have been fifty years of his life, that was such a terrible time, but some commentaries believe the difficulty was only a nine-month period. It wasn’t years and years. What you’re dealing with is not going to last as long as it looks, it’s not going to hinder you the rest of your life. The sun is going to come up sooner than you think. You’re already way past midnight, daybreak is about to happen, light is about to break forth on the horizon.

Get ready for favor, get ready for breakthroughs, get ready for double. You’re not in the darkness of the tomb, you’re in the darkness of the womb. God is about to burst something out of this that thrust you to a new level. My challenge: trust him in the dark. You may not see anything improving, that’s okay, walk by faith and not by sight. If you’ll do this, I believe and declare, God is about to turn your mourning into dancing, your sadness into joy. Like Job, you’re going to come out restored, promoted, healthy, free, better than you were before, in Jesus name.

Your Time Is Coming

From JO’s sermon tonight:

I want to talk to you today аbout: Your Time Is Coming. We all have things that were believing for: a dream to come to pass, problems to turn around. At one time we knew it was going to happen, we stood in faith, but when it’s been a long time and we don’t see anything improving, it’s easy to get discouraged and think that it wasn’t meant to be. But just because you’ve given up doesn’t mean that God has given up. God doesn’t abort dreams. The delays, the detours, the disappointments didn’t stop God’s plan. What he started in your life he’s going to finish.

The scripture (Isaiah 14:27) says, “What God has purposed, who can annul it”? It may seem like what you’re believing for could never come to pass, it’s too late, the odds are against you – God is saying, “Your time is coming”. He has not forgotten about you, he has seen the lonely nights, he’s seen the unfair situations, the times you’re doing the right thing and not getting the credit, the illness isn’t improving, the child isn’t doing better. Voices whisper, “It will never change”. Don’t believe those lies, healing is coming, promotion is coming, freedom is coming. God has already put it on the schedule, the date has already been ordained.

Psalm 102:13 says, “There is a set time for favor”. You keep honoring God, doing the right thing and you’re going to come in to some of your set times, times that God will show out in your life, times that you will see explosive blessings. You were struggling in your finances, you didn’t see how you could get ahead and suddenly you’re promoted, suddenly your business takes off, suddenly you get that scholarship. The medical report says that you’ll never get well, but suddenly your health turns around, suddenly you break that addiction, suddenly your child gets back on course. What happened? You came in to your set time.

If you could see what God has on your calendar you wouldn’t worry about the clients you lost, you wouldn’t lose sleep over that family member, you wouldn’t get discouraged over that legal situation. You may have some obstacles that are not changing, you’re praying and believing, but instead of complaining, living discouraged, all through the day, “Father, thank you that my time is coming. I’m not moved by what I see, I’m moved by what I know, that you’ve already set the time to favor me, you’ve already set the time to heal me, you’ve already set the time to turn this around”. Get your hopes up. It’s not too late. You didn’t miss your chance. You wouldn’t be alive if God didn’t have something amazing in your future.

David was 17 years old when the prophet Samuel came to his house to choose one of his father sons as the next king of Israel. David had seven older brothers, they were bigger, taller, had more experience. David’s father, Jesse, didn’t bother to bring David in from the shepherd’s fields. He thought “David is not king material, he’s too small, too young, not as talented as his brothers”. Samuel looked at the other brothers and said “It’s none of these, do you have another son”? Jesse had David come in. When Samuel saw him, he said, “That’s the next king of Israel”.

People judge by the outside: by your appearance, your nationality, your education, but God looks at the heart. Don’t be discouraged if people write you off, promotion doesn’t come from people, it comes from God. God sees: you have a heart after him, he sees your sincerity, your integrity, your spirit of excellence. What’s on the inside is more powerful than what’s on the outside.

David was anointed to be the next king, but he didn’t go to the palace, he went back to the shepherd’s fields where he was before and took care of his father’s sheep. He was anointed before he was appointed. He knew big things were in him, he knew he was going to leave his Mark, but month after month he was stuck in the lonely shepherd’s fields, doing what seemed like a menial job: feeding sheep, cleaning up their waste, shoveling manure. He could have thought, “God, you said I would be the king. You had Samuel anoint me, why am I still stuck out here? I have so much more in me”. But David understood this principle, that his time was coming, that what God promised was already on the schedule, that the date had already been set.

And even though David was doing a menial thing, taking care of sheep, he kept being his best. Nobody was watching him, he didn’t have a supervisor, he wasn’t clocking in. He could have slacked off done just enough to get by, but David went the extra mile to watch over those sheep. He fought off wild animals, kept him from harm, made sure they had food and water – he had a spirit of excellence. And because he proved to God he would be faithful taking care of sheep, God trusted him to take care of his people. If you’re not faithful in the wilderness, how can God trust you to be faithful in the Promised Land?

Like David most of the time you will be anointed before your appointed. You’ll have the promise, the dream, the calling, but you won’t go straight to the throne, you’ll go back to the shepherd’s fields. How you respond when you’re anointed, but not appointed will determine whether you make it to the palace. You have to be your best right where you are. You may have bigger things in you, you know you’re going to lead that department, you’re going to teach that class, you’re going to run that business. The promise is in your heart, you’ve been anointed so to speak, but you’re doing something much smaller than what’s in you. Will you give it your all even though you’re overqualified for that position? Will you serve others even though you have more experience than them? If you’ll pass the test of being faithful in the small, then God will trust you with much.

Saul was the king of Israel. He struggled with bouts of depression, he had these tormenting spirits that came against him. His staff told him that when these attacks came, he needed someone to play music and it would help him feel better. Saul agreed and asked them to find someone. They said, “We know a young man named David, the son of Jesse, he’s an excellent in playing the harp”. The scripture says: Saul sent a message to Jesse, saying “Send me your son David the shepherd”. Here David had been overlooked, felt like he was forgotten, people discounted him, his father didn’t believe in him, but now the king was asking for him by name.

People don’t determine your destiny. And someone may have put you at a disadvantage, you keep doing the right thing and your time is coming, promotion will come calling your name, opportunity will come looking for you, the right people will come tracking you down. God knows how to vindicate you, he knows how to cause you to stand out.

Imagine Jesse hearing the knock on the door, he answers it and it’s the king’s right-hand man, standing there dressed in their military uniforms, holding their armor. Jesse thought what in the world are they doing at my house? Am I in trouble? Have I done something wrong? The main man speaks up and says, “King Saul wants your son David to come serve him in the palace”. Nobody in David’s family paid attention to him, they didn’t give him any credit, but now the king was calling for David. I’m sure Jesse nearly passed out, word quickly spread throughout the neighborhood, “The king asked David to come work for him”. Now David is the talk of the town, esteemed, honored, looked up to. In one moment he went from the background to the foreground, from being discounted to be an admired.

You may have had unfair things happen: people left you out, tried to discredit you – God saw what happened, he’s keeping the records, he hasn’t forgotten about you. May seem like you’re falling behind, you could never reach your dreams now, it’s too late, you’ve been stuck out in the shepherd’s fields for too long. No, you know your time is coming. Keep doing the right thing when the wrong thing is happening, keep being good to people that are not being good to you, you’re going to come in to one of these set times where God catapult you ahead. Sometimes God does things gradually, little by little, but there are moments where God will thrust you 20 years ahead. He’ll not only make up for lost time, but he’ll accelerate things.

David went overnight from working in the shepherd’s fields, the lowest position, to working with the king the highest position. He didn’t have to make it happen, try to manipulate things, talk people into helping him – the king sent for him. Like with David you’re going to see opportunity that comes looking for you, that puts you years down the road. You’re going to think: how did I get here? I didn’t have the qualifications, I wasn’t next in line? This should have taken me my whole life, but suddenly God is going to thrust you ahead. Get ready for some set times of acceleration.

Hebrews 10:35 says, “Don’t cast away your confidence for it will be richly rewarded”. It’s easy to hear this and think, “Joel, this is never going to happen for me. I’ve had a lot of bad breaks, I have big obstacles in my path, I’m way behind where I should be”. That kind of thinking is going to limit your life, that’s casting away your confidence. God is saying, “Your time is coming. I’m about to do something unusual, something uncommon. I’m going to thrust you ahead. I’m going to free you from that addiction you’ve struggled with for years. I’m going to vindicate you and pay you back for the wrongs. I’m going to take you from insignificant, mediocre, to influential and powerful”.

Now you have to get in agreement with God. If you’ll start thanking him that your time is coming, talking like it’s going to happen, believing that it’s on the way, that’s what it means to not cast away your confidence. When you do this, God promises it will be richly rewarded. Look at how good God is: not just rewarded, that would be fine, but God will exceed your expectations, he’ll make things happen that you didn’t see coming.

Now, don’t get talked out of your dreams. You may feel like David, you’re stuck out in the shepherd’s fields, nobody pays attention to your gifts – you’re in prime position to be catapulted to a new level. People may not pay attention, but God sees you, he’s the one that matters, he controls the universe, he’s already scheduled your set times a favor, set times of healing, set times of acceleration. There are moments in your future that are going to cause you to stand out, moments that will catapult you to a new level, moments where favor will come looking for you.

There’s a young man that attends here. He had a dream to become a physician. He graduated from college with honors, he applied to 40 medical schools, but only three contacted him back. He interviewed with them, unfortunately he was turned down. He was so disappointed, this was always what he wanted to do. He had put all of his time and energy and focus into getting into medical school, but now that door had closed and he didn’t understand it. He had worked so hard, but instead of being sour, he kept believing that his time was coming. He knew: God didn’t bring him this far to leave him.

When things happen that aren’t fair, you don’t understand, you have to trust that God is still in control and that he knows what’s best for you. His ways are not our ways, he doesn’t always take us down the path that we thought. There will be times that doors closed that don’t make sense, people that should be for us are not around, we’re doing the right thing but the wrong thing keeps happening. None of this is a surprise to God. He’s already lined up the brakes you need, the open doors, the right people, the healing, the baby, it’s already on your schedule.

This young man attended a seminar for students wanting to get into medical school. One option they mentioned was working for the armed services. When he heard that, something ignited on the inside, he knew that’s what he wanted to do. He met a gentleman there that took an interest in him and went out of his way to put in a good word for him. Recently this young man received the news that he was accepted into the armed forces of medical school. He would not only receive a full scholarship, not have any costs for his medical education, but that he would be paid a very substantial salary while he attended college.

What happened? He came in to one of his set times. If God had not closed those other doors, if a school would have accepted him earlier, he would have never seen this opportunity that was more than he could imagine. He never dreamed he would come out of medical school with no debt, being paid the whole time. Someone would have paid me? I would have stayed in college. If you won’t cast away your confidence, God will richly reward you. You may have gone through some disappointments, things didn’t turn out the way you’ve hope – you don’t know what God is up to. The reason he closed those other doors is because he has something better.

Don’t be discouraged by what didn’t work out, stay in faith, your time is coming. The right opportunity is on the way. It’s going to be better than you thought. That person that walked out of your life, it wasn’t fair, it was painful, but it didn’t stop your destiny. They left only to make room for someone better. God has beauty for those ashes. You haven’t seen your best days. Keep moving forward when you don’t understand, keep being your best when it’s not fair.

This is what Joseph did. How could he have a good attitude year after year after being betrayed by his family, sold into slavery, put in prison for something that he didn’t do? Deep down he knew his time was coming, he knew what God spoke to him as a teenager, the dream that was put in his heart would come to pass. He didn’t know how, when, or where, all he knew was God is faithful and that the set time was already on the calendar. He didn’t cast away his confidence.

He had plenty of opportunities to, he’d had a lot of bad breaks, but when you understand that God is ordering your steps, that nothing can happen to you without his permission, then you won’t fall apart when a pandemic hits, you won’t live bitter when somebody does you wrong, you won’t give up on your dream when life throws you occur. You know, it’s all a part of God’s plan. That setback is only setting you up to go further. God had the solution before you had the problem. He’s already set the time to turn it around, set the time to open the right door, set the time to bring you out promoted, vindicated, healthy and whole.

One day the Pharaoh, the leader of the country had a dream that he didn’t understand what it meant. The scripture (Genesis 41:14) says, “Pharaoh sent for Joseph. He was hastily brought from the dungeon in the Pharaoh’s presence”. Just like with David king Saul said send me David to the palace, the Pharaoh said send me that prisoner, send me that slave named Joseph. Both times the promotion came looking for them. You don’t have to look for the blessing, the blessing is going to come looking for you. Joseph was brought to the palace hastily: he wasn’t expecting it, it was an ordinary day, nothing special and suddenly he was in the palace. He didn’t see it coming, wasn’t any sign of it. He woke up a slave in prison, he went to bed that night the prime minister.

God has some of these suddenness in your future, you don’t see anything improving, everything looks the same, and you come into a set time, it’s going to happen hastily, in a hurry, quickly things turn around, quickly the door opens, quickly your health improves. It may be difficult now, but you don’t know any moment you could get a call like Joseph did. Send me Julie, send me William, send me maria, that’s how you stay in faith. You have to keep this hope in your heart, knowing that God has already lined up these set times for you.

If you only look at your situation in the natural you’ll get discouraged, because God puts dreams in our hearts that we can’t accomplish on our own. We don’t have the resources, the connections, the experience. This is so we’ll have to depend on him. We face challenges that we can’t overcome by ourselves, a sickness, an addiction, people that are more powerful. It looks like we’re stuck, but deep down you have to know, the forces that are for you are greater than the forces that are against you. You may feel outnumbered, at a disadvantage the sickness seems bigger, the addictions stronger, keep reminding yourself – your time is coming. One touch of God’s favor, one set time and things will suddenly change. Nothing can stand against our God: no sickness is too great, no addiction too strong, no enemy too powerful.

I talked to a gentleman that was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. The doctors only gave him 18 months to live. He heard me tell how my mother quoted healing scriptures when she was sick with cancer, how she defied the odds. Instead of accepting it and thinking his life was over, he started quoting these scriptures and thanking God that he was restoring health back unto him. The Psalmist said (Psalm 112:4), “When darkness overtakes the righteous light will come bursting in”.

When you’re in a tough time, seems like there’s no way out, the odds are against you, it’s easy to live worried, fall apart, but you have to remind yourself that God has already set the time for light to come bursting in, he’s already set the time for healing, set the time for breakthroughs. Bursting means it’s going to happen suddenly, you didn’t see it coming. You can’t explain it, it’s out of the ordinary.

When I spoke with this young man he said that yesterday was the end of the 18 months, that’s how much time he was given to live. He went back to the hospital for a checkup, the doctor said we can’t explain this, we don’t know how it happened, but we can’t find any cancer in your brain, you are perfectly well.

When you come in to your set time, God will make things happen that you couldn’t make happen. He can do what medicine cannot do. He’s not limited by what limits us. We’re natural, he’s supernatural. You may be in darkness, but instead of complaining about the darkness, being depressed by the darkness, try different approach, “Father, thank you that your light is about to come bursting in. Thank you that my set time per favor, set time for healing, set time for deliverance is on the way”. Don’t cast away your confidence, God is bigger than what you’re facing. You may not see how it can work out, logically there’s no way, the good news is you don’t have to figure it out – all you have to do is believe.

When you believe, all things are possible. When you go through the day saying, “Father, I don’t see a way, but I know you have a way. It doesn’t look possible to me, but I know you can do the impossible”. Like this man you’ll see these times where God will show out in your life. It may not have happened yet, but I believe, you are closer than you think. You are close to your breakthrough, you are close to things turning around, you are close to that child getting back on course. You wouldn’t be hearing this if you weren’t about to see one of your set times.

1st Samuel chapter 1 there was a young lady named Hannah, she was barren and not able to have children. Her husband was married to another woman as well named Peninnah, she had baby after baby, didn’t seem fair. Hannah kept praying and believing, but the scripture says the Lord had shut her womb. The good news is: the same God that shuts wombs can open wombs. Just as God shuts doors, he can open doors. Year after year went by with no sign of a baby, Hannah was very discouraged. She went to the temple fell on her knees and asked God to give her a child.

The prophet Eli saw how distraught she was and asked what was wrong? She explained how she couldn’t have children, she was asking God to open her wound. Eli said (1 Samuel 1:17), “Cheer up, the God of Israel has granted your request. You’re going to have a baby”. Eli said in effect, “You’re about to come in to one of your set times, you’re about to see God do something that you’ve never seen”.

Here’s the key: Hannah believed what he said. She went back home a different person. She had a smile on her face, a spring in her step. She didn’t have the baby yet, all she had was the promise that her time was coming. A year later she went back to the temple with her baby boy, that she named Samuel.

Sometimes like with Hannah and the other wife, it seems like everybody is being blessed except you, everybody’s getting married except you, everybody seeing promotion except you. It’s like the favor has been shut off. But don’t be discouraged about what hasn’t happened yet, your time is coming, your baby is coming, your healing is coming, your joy is coming. God is about to open up your womb. You’re about to see things that you’ve been believing for a long time, promises you thought would never happen, dreams that you’ve let go of – you are close to your set time a favor. Now, I’ve done what Eli did, I’ve announced what God said. You have to do like Hannah and say, “Yes God, this is for me”.

Let this seed take root in your spirit, don’t let it just be another encouraging message, let it ignite your faith, let it come alive on the inside. You are on the verge of seeing God do something amazing. It’s not far off, it’s not way off in the distance, you are close to your breakthrough, you are in the final stretch. Now don’t cast away your confidence, this is not the time to get discouraged, this is not the time to talk defeat, this is a time to stir up your faith, turn up your praise, talk like it’s in round. All through the day. “Father, thank you that my time is coming. Thank you that you’re the way-maker, the promise keeper, the miracle worker”.

If you’ll do this, God said you will be richly rewarded. Now I believe and declare light is about to come bursting in, God is about to surprise you, he’s going to do something that you’ve never seen, something that will thrust you to a new level. Negative situations are about to suddenly turn around. Like with Joseph and David, promotion is going to come looking for you, the right people, healing, breakthroughs, vindication, the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus name.

It Has to Go Back

From JO’s sermon tonight:

I want to talk to you today about It Has to Go Back. We all have things that come against us in life that look permanent: a child is off course, an addiction we’re struggling with, a health issue – it seems so big, so intimidating, it’s easy to be overcome and think that it will never turn around. But Isaiah 54:17 said, “No weapon formed against you will prosper”. He didn’t say nothing would ever form, we’d never have times where we feel outnumbered, it looks impossible. God said, “Trouble may come, sickness may form, people may do you wrong, but don’t worry it’s not going to prosper, that’s not how your story ends”. God has the final say. He doesn’t stop every difficulty. It may come, but he promises it’s got to go back, it’s not permanent.

That addiction is not going to hinder you your whole life, it’s got to go back. That sickness didn’t come to stay it came to pass, it’s got to go back. God didn’t create you to go through life overcome by problems, burdened down. When thoughts whisper, “You’ll never get well, never break the addiction, never get out of debt”, just smile and say, “No, thanks I know a secret – you have to go back. Sickness, you can’t stay in my body, I am a temple of the Most High God, you’re on foreign territory, you’re not welcome here you’ve got to go back”. If you’re having trouble at work, people aren’t fair, “You’re not going to steal my joy, keep me from my purpose, you’ve got to go back”.

Whatever is trying to hold you down, whatever looks permanent in your imagination you need to see it turning around, walking away from you, getting smaller and smaller. And all through the day instead of complaining, “Father, thank you that it has to go back. It may have formed, but Lord, thank you that it’s not going to prosper”.

God said in Jeremiah 5:22, “I have placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, an eternal decree, so it cannot go beyond. Though the waves toss to and fro, they cannot prevail. Though they roar, they cannot pass over it”. God put an eternal decree in the sand. One translation says “An everlasting ordinance”. You could say, God put his word in every grain of sand, that gives it the ability to keep the ocean in its boundaries. That doesn’t seem possible. The sand is tiny, it’s nothing compared to the vast ocean. The ocean is massive and powerful, yet the tiny sand holds it in place, all because God put the decree in the sand.

I can imagine the sand and the ocean having a conversation. The ocean says, “Little sand, do you really think you can keep me in my boundary? I’m billions of times bigger, stronger, mightier, you don’t have a chance”. The sands says, “Listen here, mister ocean, you may have a loud roar, but you don’t intimidate me. It doesn’t matter how small I am or what I look like, you’ll never be able to overpower me, because Almighty God put his word in me. There’s an everlasting ordinance that says I can hold you back”.

That makes the ocean so mad, he begins to churn and churn, a great storm comes, the water rushes past the sand way beyond its normal boundaries. The ocean begins to laugh and laugh, “I told you I could do it, I told you I was more powerful than you, that you’ll never contain me”. But the little sand is not worried, he doesn’t begin to complain, “God, what happened? I thought you put a decree in me? I thought you gave me your promise”? No, all the grains of sand, like a big choir begin to sing, “You’ve got to go back. You’ve got to go back. You’ve got to go back”.

Just like God promised, when the storm is over, the ocean recedes and goes back to its normal boundaries, not because the sand was more powerful, but because God put his decree in the sand. What you’re up against may look bigger, more powerful, but when you have God’s word in your heart, that’s the everlasting ordinance. His word is the decree that enables you to withstand storms that are stronger, overcome enemies that are bigger, accomplish dreams that seem impossible. When you go around declaring his promises, speaking what he says about you, “I can do all things through Christ. I am blessed and cannot be cursed. I will live and not die”, just like that sand, the Creator of the universe will push back forces of darkness. He won’t let that obstacle defeat you. It may go past its boundaries temporarily, don’t get discouraged, it’s got to go back.

Now, make sure you do your part and keep God’s word in your heart – that’s the everlasting decree. In any area that you’re struggling in, you need to find scriptures that you can stand on. It’s good to pray, it’s good to ask God to help you, but there’s nothing more powerful than saying what God says about you. Even when Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert, he said “It is written”. Each time he went back to the scripture and quoted what God said. When you’re in difficult times, don’t just say what you feel, what you think, what you want – say what God says about your situation.

The scripture says (Isaiah 55:11), “God’s word will not return void”. It will not be ineffective. When you have God’s promises coming out of your mouth, you can’t be defeated. When you go around with what he said, playing in your thoughts all day, “I’m blessed, I’m prosperous, I’m redeemed, I’m healthy, I’m a masterpiece, I have the mind of Christ, I have peace that passes understanding. I’m more than a conqueror, God always causes me to triumph. My latter days will be better than my former days”, you are activating a power, that will take you where you can’t go on your own. You will overcome obstacles that look insurmountable.

If you feel like you’re stuck in your career, you’ve reached your limits, instead of going around discouraged get that eternal decree in your heart, “Father, you said your favor surrounds me like a shield. You said you’re taking me from glory to glory, that the path of the righteous gets brighter and brighter”. When you agree with what God said, he’ll open doors you couldn’t open, he’ll do what medicine cannot do, you’ll defeat enemies that were much bigger.

Jeremiah said, “Though the ocean roars, it cannot cross its boundaries”. You may have some thoughts that are roaring in your mind, thoughts that are so loud telling you, “Look at the medical report, you’ll never get well. You’ve been single all those years, you’ll never meet the right person. This depression is permanent, you’ll never be free”.

The scripture says (1 Peter 5:8), “The enemy goes about as a roaring lion”. He loves to roar, he loves to make loud threats, loud accusations, trying to get you to live in fear, worried, thinking that what you’re up against too big, too strong, “Just accept it, live defeated, live addicted, live depressed”. Don’t let the roar fool you. He’s all bark and no bite. When God breathed life into you, like that sand, he put an eternal decree in you. He said, he will always cause you to triumph, he said, when the enemy comes against you one way, he will defeat them and cause him to flee seven different ways.

When the enemy roars at you, sometimes the best thing to do is just ignore it, don’t pay it any attention. But there are times you need to roar back at him. When those threats come loud in your thoughts, enter back boldly what God says. That thought roars, “You’ll never get over this sickness” – roar back, “I will live and not die, the number of my days God will fulfill”. When he roars, “You can’t accomplish your dreams. You don’t have the talent” – roar back, “Whatever I touch prospers and succeeds. Goodness and mercy are following me”. “Well, this anxiety, this depression is always going to sour your life. There’s no way you can overcome”. Don’t let him have the last roar, “There’s nothing too difficult for my God. What he started in my life he will finish. Though I am surrounded by trouble, I will know no fear, for God being for me is more than the world being against me”.

I talked to a young lady, she was in her mid-20s and she was so concerned that she wasn’t going to be able to have a baby. Her mother had a difficult time getting pregnant, her grandmother had trouble conceiving as well. It had been in their family line for generations. It seemed like it was going to be passed down to her. From the time she was a little girl, she was afraid that she couldn’t have children. And sometimes we believe a lie early in life, and it’s keeping us from our destiny.

She and her husband had tried to have a baby for several years, but she couldn’t conceive. She took the fertility treatments, did what she could, but still no success. She came down to the front for prayer, very discouraged. I told her to find the scriptures about having a child and start dwelling on them. The enemy had been roaring in her thoughts for years. As long as she let those lies play, it was going to hold her back, it was her time to start roaring. She began to declare what God said in Psalms, “God will make the barren woman a happy mother of children. God, you said the fruit of my womb is blessed. You said no good thing would you withhold, because I walk uprightly. Lord, thank you that my baby is on the way”.

When you get the eternal decree on the inside, God will make things happen that you couldn’t make happen. Like the ocean, infertility seemed so much bigger, the medical report said, “You can’t have children”. She was like the sand. It seemed impossible, but the sand with the decree will push back the mighty ocean.

A few years later she came down front with a beautiful two-year-old daughter. She was so happy, she said, “God blessed me with this child, and now I’m pregnant with another baby”. The enemy may be roaring in your life, it’s time that he hears you roar. You need to start boldly declaring what God says about you.

When my father went to be with the Lord and I stepped up to pastor the church, I had never ministered. Thoughts roared, “Joel, you can’t do this, nobody’s going to come, you don’t have the training, the experience, you’re too quiet”. What’s funny, is most of that was true. In the middle of the night I would wake up and those thoughts played so loud. The enemy will try to talk you out of your destiny. I did what I’m asking you to do, every time he roared – I roared back.

“You can’t do this” – “I can do all things through Christ”. “You don’t have what it takes” – “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. “Joel, you’re too quiet” – “I am strong in the Lord. I am equipped, empowered, anointed. I have seeds of greatness. I am well able to fulfill my destiny. I’m full of can-do power”. I started declaring what God promised. His words have an eternal decree. I felt like the sand, I was up against the ocean, there were times it overtook me, but every time it had to go back. 20 years later I can tell you – God is faithful, he’s taking me further than I’ve ever dreamed.

You may have things roaring in your life, telling you what you can’t become, how you’ll never get out of debt, never get free from that problem – start roaring back. The scripture says (Ephesians 4:27), “Give no place to the enemy”. Don’t let him fill your mind with thoughts of defeat, lack, insecurity – roar back, declare favor, declare strength, declare health, declare victory.

This is what my mother did. In 1981 she was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and given a few weeks to live. There was nothing more doctors could do. She weighed only 89 pounds and her skin was very yellow, she looked like she wouldn’t make it much longer. But instead of giving up, she found about 40 passages of scripture that had to do with healing. Her voice was very weak, but she would go around the house saying, “By his stripes I am healed. I will live and not die, and declare the works of the Lord. With long life God will satisfy me”.

It was barely even a whisper, but Jesus said in Mark 4, “God’s word is like a seed”. When it’s sown in our hearts, if we’ll keep believing, keep thanking him for it, keep declaring it, it will grow and become what God promised. In the natural, we could hear that word “Cancer” booming out, like thunder throughout the house. God’s promises seemed so small compared to what she was up against. But my mother wasn’t moved by the size of the ocean so to speak, she didn’t get discouraged by the roar of the waves and intimidated by the circumstances, tossing her to and fro. She just kept declaring what God said.

Week by week she got a little stronger, she would say it with a little more power, “By his stripes I am healed”. It seemed like the enemy would roar back even louder, with greater force, “You’re not healed, you have terminal cancer, you’ll be gone in a few weeks”. Mother wasn’t moved by the roar, she knew the enemy is like a roaring lion. He’s not a lion, he doesn’t have any power over you, his only weapons are deceit, fear and lies.

My mother kept watering that seed, thanking God for what he promised – the seed kept growing. A few months later, the tables had completely turned. Instead of the word cancer booming out in our house, dominating our thoughts, all we could hear was my mother’s voice booming out, “I will live and not die. God is restoring health back into me”. Now the word cancer was barely even a whisper.

The scripture says (Acts 19:20), “So mightily grew the Word of God and prevailed”. When you get an agreement with God and let his word grow, you speak his promises, thank him for what he said, then you will see that eternal decree, that everlasting ordinates come to pass. His word will prevail over sickness, prevail over addictions, prevail over fear and depression.

Like the sand, when things come against you, you could live overwhelmed, think it’s never going to work out – you need to tell it, “You’ve got to go back”. If you’re facing a health issue, don’t learn to live with it, tell the diabetes, “You’ve got to go back. Cancer, you’ve got to go back. High blood pressure, you may have overtaken me for now, but you are not permanent, you have no right to stay here, you’ve got to go back”.

“Well, Joel, the stock market being down, has cost me so much. This pandemic, not being able to work, it’s going to sink me financially”. No, start telling it, “You’ve got to go back”. “Father, you said you would open the windows of heaven, pour out blessings that I can’t contain. I know the economy is not my source, but you are my source. You said even in famine I would have more than enough”. You can’t be passive and reach your destiny. Tell the addiction, the alcohol, the nicotine, “You’ve got to go back. You controlled me long enough, this is a new day, whom the Son sets free is free indeed”. Start telling the fear, “You’ve got to go back. Anxiety, you’re not welcome here, you’ve got to go back”.

Maybe it’s a child that’s off-course, instead of complaining about the trouble you need to start speaking to the trouble. “Father, you said as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. That my children will be mighty in the land. Lord, I thank you that every force that’s trying to stop them has to go back”. If you’ll get an agreement with God, start declaring his promises, like the ocean has to recede from the sand, even though it’s bigger and more powerful, anything that’s trying to keep you down will only be temporary – it has to go back.

I talked to a lady that struggled with depression for many years. She’d gone through some health issues, things weren’t getting any better. The enemy kept roaring, telling her that she had seen her best days. She didn’t know any better, she believed those lies, she fell into a very dark place. She was a mother, but she couldn’t take care of her children. She had no desire to live, no passion, she was numb. When she would go outside it could be bright and sunny, but for her everything was grey. She never saw blue sky, never saw green grass, never saw a red bird, it was always gray, depressing.

A friend gave her a copy of my book called “I Declare”. It has 31 promises from the scripture to speak over your life. She had never heard anything like that, and at first she was too discouraged to read it, it sat on her bedside table for months. But one night, at her lowest point, when she didn’t think she could go on, she opened the book and started to read. It was like pouring life back into her spirit. She couldn’t put it down. Every day she started declaring what God said about her. She began to memorize the promises and she went around declaring health, declaring victory, declaring a bright future.

She quit believing that the depression was permanent, she always talked about it as “My depression, my illness”. She stopped taking ownership of it and started saying, “This is what I’m dealing with now, but it’s not going to be here forever. This too shall pass”. She was saying in effect “You’ve got to go back, you don’t belong here”. And little by little, things begin to turn around. She got her passion back, she started smiling again. One day she went outside and for the first time in years the sky was blue, the grass was green, color had returned. Today she’s happy, enjoying her children, living the victorious life that belongs to her.

When you get the seed of God’s word down in your heart, when you declare his promises, then you’ll tap in to that eternal decree, that power that overrules anything that’s trying to hold you back. The waves may overtake you at times, it feels like you’re overwhelmed, what you’re up against seems so much bigger – don’t worry, it has to go back. It’s not permanent, it’s not how your story ends. You may not see anything changing yet, but God is working behind the scenes. It’s just a matter of time before that trouble recedes, that depression lifts, that addiction is taken away. Like this lady your story doesn’t end in defeat. Don’t take ownership of the problem, start telling it: it’s got to go back. Something powerful happens when you speak it out.

Jesus said (Matthew 17:20), “If you have faith the size of a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, be removed and it will move. And nothing will be impossible to you”. The mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds, it’s so tiny you can barely grasp it in your hand. Yet, God said, “If you just have mustard seed faith, if you just have a little faith, you can speak to a huge mountain, a huge obstacle and it will be removed”.

It’s the same type illustration as that tiny grain of sand up against a huge ocean. God is showing us that when we’re up against big challenges, when we’re facing things that look impossible – it’s not the size of our faith, it’s not the size of what we have, it’s what God has put in the tiny seed, it’s the everlasting ordinance in the tiny grain of sand.

How do we activate this mustard seed faith? How do we keep the ocean from overtaking us? By speaking to the mountain, it’s with our words. If you will say to the mountain be removed, then God will make things happen that seem impossible. There may be a mountain in your life right now, a mountain of debt, a mountain of fear, a mountain of addiction. When there’s a mountain, you can’t see your future, it looks insurmountable. God used a mountain to let us know, when you have these big obstacles, things that should keep you from your destiny, it’s not the end.

The mountain looks permanent, seems like it could never change – the truth is: you have what you need to move the mountain. All it takes is mustard seed faith, that’s the smallest amount of faith. Now, instead of complaining about the mountain, being depressed over the mountain, telling your friends how you’ll never get past the mountain, why don’t you start speaking to the mountain? Tell that depression, “You cannot keep me from my destiny”. Tell the sickness, “You don’t have the final say”. Tell that addiction, “You’re not going to hold me back, you have to move”.

There was a man in the scripture named Zerubbabel. He was in charge of rebuilding the temple, but everything came against him. City leaders hired lawyers to try to stop him, they wouldn’t give him permits. Other people were causing trouble and strife – it looked impossible. He could have been discouraged, but he understood this principle. He said (Zechariah 4:7), “Who are you o great mountain that stands before me. You shall become a mere molehill and I will finish the temple by shouting grace to it”. He was saying, “I have this big mountain in front of me, but I’m not worried, I know it’s going to be turned into a molehill”. How was it going to happen? What was his secret? By speaking grace to it.

Another word for grace is favor. His attitude was, “Yes, this obstacle is big, but I have the favor of God. Mountain, you can’t defeat me, I will accomplish what God put in my heart”. He didn’t talk about his mountain, he talked to his mountain. Against all odds, things fell into place and he completed the temple.

I believe today God is about to flatten out some mountains, problems that look permanent are about to be turned into molehills. No more sign of them, nothing stopping you, nothing keeping you from your destiny. Mountains of depression, mountains of insecurity, mountains of addictions, it may look like they could never change, but there’s no mountain God can’t move, there’s no wall he can’t break through. May not have happened yet, but this is a new day, God is doing a new thing. That setback isn’t there to stop you, it’s there to promote you. What God put in your heart will still come to pass. The dreams he’s given you will still be completed.

Now, do your part like Zerubbabel and start declaring favor, start thanking God that you’re coming out, start talking like it’s going to happen. As you keep God’s word in your heart, God promises it will prevail. Not the sickness, not the trouble, not the fear – you will be victorious.

When those thoughts come roaring in your mind, telling you it’s never going to work out, like the waves roaring at the beach – don’t believe those lies. Remember, like that sand, you have the eternal decree in you. You have his word. Now, tell the ocean, “You’ve got to go back. Sickness, you’ve got to go back. Trouble, you’ve got to go back. Addictions, you’ve got to go back”. If you’ll do this, I believe and declare, whatever has been hindering you is about to go back, mountains are about to be flattened out, problems that look permanent are about to resolve. Healing is coming, promotion is coming, freedom is coming, the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus name.

Ready to Rise

From JO’s sermon tonight:

I want to talk to you today about Ready to Rise. We all face things in life that try to push us down. It’s easy to lose our passion and think that’s the way it’s always going to be, but God didn’t create to be overcome, he created you as an overcomer, and he’s put something in your spirit called “Bounce Back”. Bounce back means when you get knocked down, you don’t stay down, there’s a force breathing in your direction making things happen that you couldn’t make happen, giving you strength that you didn’t have. It causes you to rise up.

Because you have bounced back that difficulty cannot defeat you. It may hold you back temporarily, but it’s just a matter of time before you rise back up. You may have things that have come against you now, thoughts will tell you “You’ll never get well. This pandemic has ruined your finances. You’ll always struggle with this addiction”. Don’t believe those lies. You may be down, but that’s not your final destination. God is saying, “Get ready to rise. Get ready for favor. Get ready for breakthroughs. Get ready for healing”. What was meant for your harm, God is turning to your advantage.

Micah 7:8 said, “Rejoice not over me my enemies when I fall, for I shall arise”. He wasn’t complaining about the trouble, he wasn’t discouraged over being knocked down – he understood this principle that there was bounce-back in his spirit. In the middle of the difficulty he was speaking victory. If you’re going to come out of that challenge you have to do like Micah, “This problem didn’t come to stay, it came to pass. God being for me is more than the world being against me. I shall arise”.

When you say that, forces of darkness tremble. When you declare “I shall arise” angels go to work. No more, “It’s never going to change. My business never going to make it. My child will never get back on course” – zip that up. If you talk defeat, you’re going to have defeat. Say with Micah, “Yes, I’ve had difficulties, I’m not denying the problem, not acting like it doesn’t exist – all I’m saying is: I’m not staying here, I shall arise. I will see the goodness God. My latter days will be better than my former days”.

God hasn’t brought you this far to leave you. He won’t let you get in a problem that he can’t get you out of. And that person that walked out on you, they didn’t stop your destiny. Quit giving them that much power, thinking that they ruined your life. God has somebody better coming.

David said (Psalm 40:2), “God lifted me out of a pit and he set my feet upon a rock”. You may be in the pit so to speak, you don’t see how you could get out – the good news is: you don’t have to get out by yourself, the Most High God is about to lift you out, he’s about to free you from that addiction, he’s about to turn the medical report around, he’s about to open new doors, bring new opportunities, new relationships. That pit is not your destiny. Get ready to rise.

Paul said (Romans 8:11), “The same spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives on the inside of you”. The forces of darkness did their best to stop Jesus, but they couldn’t keep him from rising. That tells me: nothing you face can keep you from your purpose – no pandemic, no sickness, no addiction. The enemy may have done his best, but his best will never be enough.

Few years back we had a big hurricane here in Houston. I noticed all the different kinds of trees that were blown down, huge oak trees that were 3 or 4 feet around. I saw pine trees over a hundred feet tall laying in yard after yard: big trees, small trees – none of them could withstand the hurricane-force winds. There was only one type of tree that wasn’t blown down – it was the palm tree. It’s because God designed the palm to withstand the storm. Unlike most other trees the palm is able to bend, so it doesn’t break.

A certain kind of palm can bend all the way over to where the top is almost touching the ground. During the hurricane it may stay that way for 3 or 4 hours all bent over, looks like it’s done, but when the wind dies down, when the storm is over it stands right back up to where it was before. All these other trees down on the ground – what’s the difference? God put bounce back in the palm tree. It may get pushed over, but it’s only temporary.

Psalm 92:12 says, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree”. The reason God chose a palm and not oaks or pines is he knew we would go through storms, he knew things would try to push this down and keep us from our destiny. So he said, “I’m gonna make you like a palm tree. I’m going to put bounce back in your spirit”. And you may go through difficulties, a loss, a disappointment, but at some point the winds will stop, the storms will pass and like that palm tree you’ll come right back up. You may be bent over now, you’re facing challenges, thoughts are telling you, “It’s never going to work out” – get ready to rise, you have bounced back power. When that storm is over you’re not going to be laying down, defeated, beat up – you’re gonna rise up healthy, blessed, prosperous. You’re not going to look like what you’ve been through, nobody is going to be able to tell that you even had that difficulty.

What I love about God is he doesn’t just bring you through the storm, he makes the enemy pay for bringing the trouble. When the palm tree has been over during the hurricane, you would think that’s damaging the tree and making it weaker. But research shows just the opposite – when the tree is being pushed over and stretched by the winds, that’s strengthening the root system and giving it new opportunities for growth. When the palm tree straightens back up after the storm, it’s actually stronger than it was before. When you come out of that storm, when you straighten back up you’re not going to be the same – you’re going to be stronger, healthier, better off, ready for new growth.

When you’re in difficult times you need to remind yourself, “I may bend, but I’m not going to break”. God won’t let you face anything that’s too much for you to handle. And things may be coming against you, but note this: down is not your destiny, defeat is not how your story ends, sickness, trouble, lack, not having enough is not permanent. I believe even now the winds are starting to subside, forces that have hindered you are being broken, powers of darkness are being pushed back, you’re about to see breakthroughs, freedom, joy, victory.

In Micah chapter 7, Micah lists all these negative things that have happened to him, he talked about how he was overwhelmed with sorrow, he’d gone through bad breaks – it’s very depressing. If he would have stopped there, we wouldn’t be reading about him. He went on to say in verse 7, “But as for me, I’m not giving up. I’m sticking around to see what God is going to do. I know he will make things right”. He had this attitude of faith, “I’ve come too far to stop now”. He was expecting God to turn it around. That’s why he said in the next verse, “Don’t rejoice when I fall, I shall arise”.

But sometimes we’ve been in the storm so long, we forgotten what it’s like to be standing back up. The enemy would love to convince us to settle for being bent over, living in dysfunction, bitter over who hurt us, thinking that we’ll never be happy again. We need to do like Micah, “Yes, I’ve had some bad breaks. Yes, life has thrown me some curves, but I’m not giving up on my dreams, I’m not settling for mediocrity, I’m sticking around to see what God is up to. I know he’s going to make things right”.

Don’t get talked out of your dreams. Don’t let the delays, the unfair childhood, the unexpected storm convince you that you’ve seen your best days. God is up to something. What looks like a setback is all a part of his plan. He may not have sent the difficulty, but he wouldn’t have allowed it if it was going to keep you from your destiny. If you’ll have this to the faith, God will make things right in your life, he’ll restore what the enemy tried to steal, he’ll pay you back for the wrongs, he’ll open doors that you couldn’t open, he will get you to your destiny.

In Genesis 37 Joseph was a teenager and God gave him a dream that he would be an leadership, he would have great influence. He had many older brothers, but he was the favorite son of their father Jacob. Because he was born later in Jacobs life, Jacob treated him differently. He even had them make Joseph a special robe of many colors. I’m sure Joseph was proud of that robe, made him stand out, gave him prestige. His brothers were jealous of Joseph, they didn’t like the special treatment, they didn’t like the fact that he had these dreams and he thought he was going to do something great.

One day his father asked him to travel to another city to check on his brothers. They were out working in a field. When they saw Joseph coming from a distance, wearing the colorful robe, they thought, “This is our big chance to get rid of Joseph”. They took the robe off of him and threw him into a pit. They were going to put blood on the robe and tell their father “He had been eaten by a wild animal”, but about that time a caravan of Ishmaelites came passing by. The brothers decided to sell Joseph as a slave, instead of leaving him there to die.

It’s interesting how God will always have the right people show up at the right time. That caravan had been traveling for months, they had left long before Joseph went to check on his brothers, but God has everything figured out, he knows what you’re going to need, when you’re going to need it, who’s going to need to be there. You don’t have to worry, God has it all lined up, he’s going to get you to your destiny. People can’t stop you, a bad break, injustice – God is ordering your steps. He’s in control not only of your life, he’s in control of the circumstances around you.

Now Joseph was no longer the favorite son, wearing the colorful robe – he was a slave in a foreign country, working for a man named Potiphar. Year after year went by, Joseph kept doing the right thing, being good to people that weren’t being good to him. I can imagine many lonely nights he thought about home and about that robe he used to have, and what it meant. Tears would fill his eyes, thoughts would whisper “It’s not fair. You’ll never accomplish your dream. You’ll never see your father again. You’ll never have that robe of many colors”. But deep down I can hear Joseph praying, “Father, thank you that what you started in my life you will finish. I don’t see a way, but I know you have a way. I believe I will rise again. What you promised me will come to pass”.

13 years after Joseph was thrown into the pit, the Pharaoh had a dream and he didn’t know what it meant. Joseph was in prison. Someone remembered that he could interpret dreams and they called Joseph in, he told the Pharaoh what the dream meant, how it had to do with the food supply and how they needed to store up grain and get prepared for the famine. The Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph, his advisors discussed: who should be appointed for the new position? Pharaoh told them: no one could do it better than Joseph. He put Joseph in charge of the whole nation. He said in verse 44, “No one will move hand or foot in all of Egypt without your approval”.

He had his staff bring a royal robe and put it on Joseph. He took off his prison clothes, took off his slave clothes and he put on a robe of honor, a robe of influence, a robe of authority. Imagine now Joseph thinking back about the robe his brothers took away from him, that robe that represented favor. He was disappointed at the time, he wanted it back, it didn’t seem fair, but now he realized: without losing the robe of many colors, he would have never had the robe of authority, that robe that said “I’m in charge of a nation”.

If you knew what God has in store for you, you wouldn’t be discouraged over the robe of many colors that you lost, that job that didn’t work out, the person that walked away, that loan that didn’t go through. If you could see the robe of authority that’s coming: the robe of influence, the robe of abundance, the robe of unprecedented favor, you wouldn’t be bitter over who hurts you, upset over the time in the pit, frustrated by what you lost. What God has in your future is so amazing, you’ll never complain about your past. You may be down now, but like Joseph, get ready to rise. Favor is coming like you’ve never seen. God is about to do something unusual, something uncommon that will catapult you to a new level.

Your story doesn’t end with the robe of many colors that you’ve lost, doesn’t end with the dream that didn’t work out, a relationship that didn’t make it, a business that went down. The robe of many colors were simply foreshadowing what God was about to do. It was supposed to be temporary, it wasn’t supposed to last. If the door closed – accept it and move on. Don’t spend your life wishing you had the robe of many colors back, when God has something so much better in your future. Don’t go around bitter because someone threw you in a pit, someone betrayed you, someone cheated you in a business deal, a dream didn’t work out – God saw it, he wouldn’t have let them take the colorful robe, he wouldn’t have left that bad break happen if it was going to keep you from your destiny.

How many of us are longing for the robe of many colors, wishing we could go back to when we knew we were favored, before the setback, before the health issue, before the pandemic? Here’s the key: not having the robe of many colors doesn’t mean that you don’t have favor, it means greater favor is coming. You had to lose that robe to step into the awesome future, that God has in store. You haven’t seen heard or imagined where God is taking you.

You may feel like you’re in that pit – that’s okay, the pit is leading you to the palace. You had a setback, that’s okay, it’s setting you up for greater honor, greater influence, greater authority. Don’t sit around wishing for the robe of many colors, get ready for the greater things that God is about to do.

Joseph was in charge of the food supply, there was a great famine in the land and the only place they had food was in Egypt. One day his brothers, the same ones that threw him into the pit traveled to the palace looking for food. Joseph came out, but they didn’t recognize him. The last time they saw Joseph he was in the pit, defeated, no future, but God has the final say. They knew him in the pit, but now he was so blessed, had so much influence, so much prestige – they didn’t recognize him.

That’s the way God vindicates. When he raises you up you’ll be so blessed, so favored, that your enemies don’t recognize you. 13 years earlier Joseph was down and his brothers were up. Joseph was in the pit, they were on top. Now Joseph was up and his brothers were down, Joseph was in charge and his brothers were in need. When you let God fight your battles, there will be a day like with Joseph when the tables are turned. You will be up and those that tried to stop you will be down. God knows how to make things right.

You may be in a tough time, but stick in there and see what God is up to. Keep believing, keep praying, keep dreaming – your time is coming. The pit is only temporary, the depression, the sickness, the lack is not how your story ends. God is working behind the scenes. You are closer than you think, it’s going to happen sooner than it looks, God is about to surprise you. Joseph woke up one morning in prison, seemed like another ordinary day – a few hours later he was the prime minister of Egypt. There wasn’t any sign of it. That’s the way God works: many times you don’t see anything happening and suddenly things fall into place, suddenly your health turns around, suddenly you meet the right person, suddenly you’re promoted.

The Psalmist said (Psalm 68:1), “Let God arise and his enemies be scattered”. Let means you have to allow it. You can let it or you cannot let it. We can’t stop God from arising, this is talking about in our thoughts. When you let God arise, you make him bigger than your problems, bigger than that sickness, bigger than the financial trouble. You focus on his greatness, you think about his power, you talk about how he’s brought you through in the past, you go around bragging on what he’s done, declaring his promises: “No weapon formed against me will prosper. What was meant for my harm God is turning to my advantage”.

The bigger you make God, the smaller your problems become and the more faith will rise in your heart. But the enemy is always trying to get us to let the problem arise. Maybe your child is off course, it’s easy to talk about “How he’s not making good decisions, how he’s never gonna reach his destiny, I don’t know what I did wrong”. You’re letting the wrong thing arise, turn it around and start letting God arise, “Father, thank you that as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. Thank you that my children will be mighty in the land. Thank you, that my seed, the seed of the righteous is blessed”.

That’s letting God arise. That’s what causes things to change. When you speak defeat you bring defeat on the scene, but when you speak victory you bring God on the scene. He created the universe, he flung stars into space, there’s nothing that he can’t do. Maybe you’re struggling in your finances: business is slow, you can’t go to work. You can either let that defeat arise, you’ll feel discouraged, worried or you can let God arise, “Father thank you that I will lend and not borrow. The economy is not my source, You are my source. You said you would prosper me even in the desert”.

When you let God arise, the scripture says your enemies will be scattered. Depression, lack, trouble cannot stand against our God. When you let him arise, chains that have held you back are broken. Problems that look permanent will turn around. When God arises, favor comes, new doors open, things that you couldn’t make happen. Now the question is: are you letting God arise are you letting the problem arise? All through the day it’s so important to keep a song of praise in your heart.

Instead of worrying, thinking about all the things that are wrong, what might not work out, in your thoughts, “Lord, thank you that there’s nothing you can’t do. There’s not a mountain you can’t move. You’re a way maker, a promise keeper, a miracle worker”. Take the same time that you’d normally worry and turn it into worship. That’s not just being positive, that’s letting God arise, that’s what allows the most powerful force in the universe to go to work on your behalf.

“Well, Joel, this all sounds good, but I don’t think I’m gonna rise back up. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, nobody did me wrong like Joseph, I brought the trouble on myself”. Jesus told a story about a young man like this in Luke 15. He asked his father for his inheritance early, he left home and went out and spent all the money partying, living wild, making poor decisions. When he ran out of funds, he got a job working in a hog pen feeding hogs. He was so desperate and so hungry, he had to eat the hog food to survive.

One day he was sitting around depressed, mad at himself, feeling condemned. He began to think about home and how even the servants at his father’s house had a hot meal every day, they had plenty of food. Here he was out there starving. Verse 17 says, “He came to himself and said: I will arise and go to my father’s house”. He made a decision that he wasn’t going to stay in that defeat, he wasn’t going to sit around guilty, depressed, beating himself up, but he was going to go back home.

He didn’t know how his father would respond, he didn’t know if he’d tell him to stay off the property, but when the father saw him a long way off he took off running toward his son, he hugged him and kissed him.

Now, the son was wearing these dirty clothes, he’d been in the hog pen, smelly. The first thing the father said was, “Go get the best robe and put it on my son”. Not any robe, not one that’s been used, not a hand-me-down – go get the finest robe. It’s interesting that God gave Joseph a royal robe of influence, a robe of authority. God gave this young man a robe of honor, a robe of favor.

Both of them rose out of what was holding them back. The difference between the two is: God calls Joseph to raise up. He didn’t have to do anything to make it happen, he just kept honoring God, being his best and Pharaoh called him in. But with the prodigal son he had to make a decision, that he wasn’t going to sit around discouraged, defeated, thinking about all the mistakes he had made. If he had not said, “I will arise” he would have never seen the coat a favor.

I’m wondering: are you waiting for God to do something for you, when he’s waiting for you to say, “I will arise. I’m not going to go through life beating myself up, living condemned. Yes, I’ve made mistakes, but I know I’m forgiven, I know I’ve been redeemed”? If you’ll arise, there’s a robe of favor waiting for you, a robe of honor. Those mistakes you made didn’t cancel your destiny. Quit listening to the accuser reminding you of everything you’ve done wrong, God has already forgiven you. Now forgive yourself and move on. It’s time to arise and go to your father’s house.

Proverb 24:16 says, “A good person falls seven times, but they rise again”. Get your fire back, get your passion back, nothing you’ve done is too much for the mercy of God. He knew every mistake we would ever make, he’s already taken into account all wrong turns, he has a plan even for the times when we missed it. Now arise and go get that road that belongs to you, you can still become who you were created to be.

When the winds blow in your life, the storms come, remember this phrase “There’s bounce back in your spirit”. You may bend, but you’re not going to break. Like the palm tree you’re going to come right back up. All through the day let God arise. In your thoughts keep thanking him for his promises, making him bigger than what you’re facing. If you’ll do this, I believe and declare: like with Joseph you’re going to see promotion, vindication, breakthroughs. God is going to make things happen that you didn’t see coming. You may have lost the robe of many colors, but get ready for the robe of authority, the robe of influence, the robe of favor, in Jesus name.