Pastor Joel Osteen asks everyone to examine what he or she really believes. Why is this important? Because we will become what we believe. Our beliefs will prove either a barrier or vehicle as we strive to go higher, rise above our obstacles, and to live in health, abundance, and victory.
In Your Best Life Now, Osteen says, "I am what I am today because of what I believed about myself yesterday. And I will be tomorrow what I'm believing about myself right now. God sees us as more than conquerors, able to fulfill our destiny. We need to see ourselves through the eyes of our Creator." He says that our self-image should mirror exactly what God says about us, not what we feel or think. And he encourages readers to be people of faith, for if you can see the invisible, God will do the impossible.
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Your Best Life Now
By Joel Osteen
Warner FaithCopyright © 2004 Joel Osteen
All right reserved.
I heard a story about a man on vacation in Hawaii with his wife. He was a good man who had achieved a modest measure of success, but he was coasting along, thinking that he'd already reached his limits in life. One day, a friend was driving the couple around the island, showing them the sights. They stopped to admire a gorgeous house set high on a hill. The property was replete with beautiful palm trees and lush green gardens in a picturesque, peaceful setting with a panoramic view overlooking the ocean.
As the man gazed at the magnificent home, he commented to his wife and friend, "I can't even imagine living in a place like that."
Right there, something inside him said, Don't worry. You won't. You will never live in a great place like that.
Startled at his own thoughts, he asked himself, What do you mean?
As long as you can't imagine it, as long as you can't see it, then it is not going to happen for you. The man correctly realized that his own thoughts and attitudes were condemning him to mediocrity. He determined then and there to start believing better of himself, and believing better of God.
It's the same way with us. We have to conceive it on the inside before we're ever going to receive it on the outside. If you don't think you can have something good, then you never will. The barrier is in your mind. It's not God's lack of resources or your lack of talent that prevents you from prospering. Your own wrong thinking can keep you from God's best.
Your own wrong thinking can keep you from God's best.
You, too, may have assumed that you've already peaked, that you've reached your limits in life, that you will never be more successful. I'll never achieve significance, do something meaningful, or enjoy the good things in life that I've seen others enjoy.
Sad to say, you are exactly right ... unless you are willing to change your thinking. That's why the first step to living at your full potential is to enlarge your vision. To live your best life now, you must start looking at life through eyes of faith, seeing yourself rising to new levels. See your business taking off. See your marriage restored. See your family prospering. See your dreams coming to pass. You must conceive it and believe it is possible if you ever hope to experience it.
To conceive it, you must have an image on the inside of the life you want to live on the outside. This image has to become a part of you, in your thoughts, your conversation, deep down in your subconscious mind, in your actions, in every part of your being.
From the time she was a little girl, Tara Holland dreamed of becoming Miss America. In 1994, she entered the Miss Florida pageant and won the title of first runner-up. She decided to try again the following year. She entered the same contest, and once again, won the prize as first runner-up. Tara was tempted to get down and discouraged, but she didn't do that. She stayed focused on her goal.
She decided she needed to change her environment, so she moved to Kansas, and in 1997, she entered the Miss Kansas pageant and won the title. That same year, she went on to be crowned Miss America. Tara Holland saw her dream come to pass.
In an interview after the pageant, someone asked Tara the secret to her success. She admitted that after she had lost twice in a row at the state-level competitions, she had been tempted to give up, but instead she went out and rented dozens of videos of local pageants, state pageants, Miss Teen, Miss Universe, Miss World-whatever she could find. She rented hundreds of videos of various pageants and watched them over and over again.
As Tara watched each young woman crowned a winner, she pictured herself in that situation. She pictured herself receiving the crown. She pictured herself walking down the runway in victory. Time and time again she envisioned herself winning. Seeing herself as a winner, said Tara, was the key to her success.
Another reporter asked her if she was nervous walking down the runway in front of millions of people watching on television and with the announcer singing the famous Miss America song.
Tara's response was interesting. "No, I wasn't nervous at all," she said. "You see, I had walked down that runway thousands of times before."
Have you ever walked down that runway? Have you ever seen yourself accomplishing your dreams? Do you keep that vision of victory in front of you? Tara Holland knew she would never be a winner until she first saw herself as a winner. She had to reprogram her mind, to rid herself as much as possible of the hurtful memories of losing. She had to replace that vision in her mind of herself as Miss Runner-up. She had to develop a can-do attitude. She saw herself stepping onto the winner's platform. She saw herself walking down that runway in victory. She created an environment of faith and success.
What you keep before your eyes will affect you. You will produce what you're continually seeing in your mind. If you foster an image of defeat and failure, then you're going to live that kind of life. But if you develop an image of victory, success, health, abundance, joy, peace, and happiness, nothing on earth will be able to hold those things from you.
Too many times we get stuck in a rut, thinking we've reached our limits. We don't really stretch our faith; we don't believe for anything bigger. But God wants us to constantly be increasing, to be rising to new heights. He wants to increase you in His wisdom and help you to make better decisions. God wants to increase you financially, by giving you promotions, fresh ideas, and creativity.
The Scripture says that God wants to pour out "His far and beyond favor." God wants this to be the best time of your life. But if you are going to receive this favor, you must enlarge your vision. You can't go around thinking negative, defeated, limiting thoughts. Well, I've gone as far as my education will allow. Or, I've had this sickness for years. I guess it's my lot in life.
To experience this immeasurable favor, you must rid yourself of that small-minded thinking and start expecting God's blessings, start anticipating promotion and supernatural increase. You must conceive it in your heart and mind before you can receive it. In other words, you must make room for increase in your own thinking, then God will bring those things to pass. Until you learn how to enlarge your vision, seeing the future through your eyes of faith, your own wrong thinking will prevent good things from happening in your life. God will not pour fresh, creative ideas and blessings into old attitudes.
You must conceive it in your heart and mind before you can receive it.
Centuries ago, wine was stored in leather wineskins rather than bottles. Animal skins were dried and cured until the leather could be shaped into containers to hold the wine. When the wineskins were new, they were soft and pliable, but as they aged, they often lost their elasticity; they wouldn't give anymore. They would become hardened and set, and they couldn't expand. If a person poured new wine in an old wineskin, the container would burst and the wine would be lost.
Interestingly, when Jesus wanted to encourage His followers to enlarge their visions, He reminded them, "You can't put new wine into old wineskins." Jesus was saying that you cannot have a larger life with restricted attitudes. That lesson is still relevant today. We are set in our ways, bound by our perspectives, and stuck in our thinking. God is trying to do something new, but unless we're willing to change, unless we're willing to expand and enlarge our vision, we'll miss His opportunities for us.
The fact that you are reading this book, however, says that you are ready to go to a higher level; you want to reach your full potential. The good news is, God wants to show you His incredible favor. He wants to fill your life with "new wine," but are you willing to get rid of your old wineskins? Will you start thinking bigger? Will you enlarge your vision and get rid of those old negative mind-sets that hold you back?
One fellow whose marriage was on the verge of dissolution told me, "Joel, I've been this way for a long time. Nothing good ever happens to me. I don't see how my marriage could be restored. We've always had these problems."
"That kind of thinking will keep you from receiving the good things God wants to pour out in your life," I told him. "Those wrong attitudes will block the flow. You must stop dwelling on negative, destructive thoughts that keep you in a rut. Your life is not going to change until you first change your thinking."
Early in our marriage, Victoria and I were out walking through our neighborhood one day when we came upon a beautiful new home in the final stages of construction. The doors were open, so we stepped inside and looked around. It was a fabulous home, much prettier than any of the other homes in that community. Most of the other homes around us were one-story, ranch-style homes that were forty to fifty years old, but this house was a large two-story home, with high ceilings and oversized windows providing an appealing view of the backyard. It was a lovely, inspiring place.
When we came out of the house, Victoria was excited. She turned around, looked back at the home, and said, "Joel, one day we're going to live in a beautiful home just like that!" At the time, we were living in an extremely old house that had experienced some foundation problems, preventing all of our doors on the inside from closing properly. We had stretched our faith and spent everything we had just to buy that home and get into that neighborhood. Thinking of our bank account, and my income at the time, it seemed impossible to me that we'd ever work our way up to a home like the one we had toured.
Being the "great man of faith" that I am, I said, "Victoria, that home is so far beyond our reach, I don't see how we could ever afford something like that."
But Victoria had much more faith than I did, and she would not give up. We stood out in front of that house for thirty minutes and debated. She told me all the reasons why it could happen. I told her all the reasons why I doubted.
She said, "No, Joel; I feel it deep inside. It is going to happen."
She was so filled with joy, I didn't want to burst her bubble, so I let the matter drop. But Victoria didn't! Over the next several months, she kept speaking words of faith and victory, and she finally talked me into it. She convinced me that we could live in an elegant home like the one we saw. I got rid of my limited thinking and I started agreeing with her. I started believing that somehow, some way, God could bring it to pass. We kept on believing it, seeing it, and speaking it.
Several years later, we sold our property, and through another real estate deal, we were able to build a house just like the one we had viewed. We saw it come to pass. But I don't believe it ever would have happened had we not first conceived it on the inside. I don't believe it would have happened if Victoria had not talked me into enlarging my vision.
God has so much more in store for you, too. Start making room for it in your thinking. Conceive it on the inside. Start seeing yourself rising to a new level, doing something of significance, living in that home of your dreams. If you want to see God's "far and beyond" favor, then you must replace those old wineskins.
"I've gone as far as my parents were able to go," Steve said to me. "I've gone as far as anybody else in my family. That's good enough, isn't it?"
"No," I told him. "You don't have to be bound by the barriers of the past. God wants you to go further than your parents. I'm sure your parents were fine, hardworking people, but don't fall into that trap of just sitting back and accepting the status quo. You need to make a decision that you are not going to live an average, mediocre life. When you get up in the morning you need to have the attitude of: I'm going to do something great. I'm going to excel in my career. I'm going to enthusiastically serve other people. I'm going to break out of this mold and rise to new heights.
I tell my children all the time, "You're going to go much further than Daddy. You have so much potential. You're going to accomplish great things!"
I'm not simply trying to instill pride in our children; I want them to have a big vision. I want them to conceive great possibilities at an early age. I want them to grow up expecting God's favor, expecting to be leaders, expecting to excel in whatever they do. And I know they must have it on the inside before God can ever bring it to pass on the outside.
One day, I was driving through Houston with my eight-year-old son, Jonathan. As we drove down the freeway we came upon the Compaq Center, the sixteen-thousand-seat arena that was the former home of the Houston Rockets professional basketball team, and soon to be the home of Lakewood Church. I slowed down and pointed. "Jonathan, look over there. One day, that's where you're going to be preaching."
He said, "Oh, no, Daddy. When I get old enough, I'm going to preach in Reliant Stadium!" (Reliant Stadium is Houston's seventy-thousand-seat home of the Houston Texans football team.)
I thought, I like the fact that he's got a big dream. When I first told that story at Lakewood several years ago, after the service a lady came up and handed Jonathan a check for one hundred dollars toward that new stadium. He was so excited. He said, "Daddy, I wish you'd talk about me more often in your sermons!"
Even if you come from an extremely successful family, God still wants you to go further. My own father accomplished great things in his lifetime. He inspired people all over the world. But I'm not going to be satisfied to do merely what Daddy did. I don't want to simply hold my ground and maintain. No, I want to press on toward new heights.
If you look carefully, you will see that God has been trying to encourage you. He's allowed people to cross your path who are far more successful than you are, who have much stronger marriages, who are enjoying His favor in marvelous ways. When you see or hear about other people succeeding or doing what you want to do, be encouraged rather than jealous. Don't say, "That could never happen to me. I'm not that talented. I'll never get those kind of breaks. I'll never have that much money."
Get rid of those old wineskins. Change your thinking. Get beyond the barriers of the past and start expecting God to do great things in your life.
Excerpted from Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen Copyright © 2004 by Joel Osteen. Excerpted by permission.
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