(Photo: The Christian Post)
HOUSTON, Texas — Joel Osteen, senior pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, the largest and one of the most diverse churches in the U.S., is releasing his newest book, Break Out! 5 Keys to Go Beyond Your Barriers and Live an Extraordinary Life, next week. In his book, Osteen reveals biblical and personal examples of God's miraculous work, and shares how Christians can positively impact their lives by praying boldly, changing their attitudes, and trusting in God's plan and His timetable.
Osteen spoke to The Christian Post on Sunday about why people should pray for greatness, opposed to praying to just get by. He also explained why believers need to forgive themselves of past sins, and why Christians must stay faithful in God's plan, especially during times of great struggle, so they can live a purposeful life that reveals God's grace and power.
The following is an edited transcript from the interview:
CP: In your new book, you encourage Christians to pray for greatness opposed to praying just to get by in life. Why is it important for Christians to pray for big transformations?
Osteen: My take on it is that God wants to do big things in our lives, but so many times we limit Him with our thinking and with our prayers. I have people tell me a lot that "I pray over my food, and I pray over my child," but they never pray for their dreams or they never pray for what they really want.
I think that when you pray big it shows God that, God I trust you. It's not an arrogance, like, oh God, I want a bigger house. I don't mean that. But God, help me to reach more people, help me to set a new standard for my family. I think when you pray those kind of things, it shows God that you believe that He's a big God, and that he can do great things. So to me, it's important that we pray big prayers.
CP: You and your wife, Victoria, emphasize that believers should always trust in God's plan, especially during times of struggle. What does it mean to stay faithful and trust in God during the most difficult times in life?
Osteen: What it means is you get up in the morning when you don't feel like it. You feel like being discouraged or in self-pity or just being down; and you say, God, I'm going to choose to believe that you're in my life, in control, and like David, this is the day that you have made.
I think a lot of it is you put a smile on your face when you don't necessarily feel like it. You go out and are good to somebody.
Any of us can be happy and have a good attitude when everything is going our way. But I believe it's the real test of your character and of your faith to say, things are not going our way, but I'm still being good to people; I'm still attending church; I still have a good attitude. I think that's how you pass those tests.
If you just complain and stay discouraged it allows the enemy to keep you where you are. I think sometimes you have to praise your way out of it. It's like Paul and Silas in the prison, when they prayed the doors opened. That's what we have to do. I have a good attitude before I see the situation turn around.
CP: You often speak about the power of prayer. For those who don't pray at all, or not often enough, can you explain why prayer is important?
Osteen: Part of it is just talking to God like He's your friend. I talk to a lot of people who weren't raised in church, and they tell me they're not religious and they don't know how to pray. Just think of prayer as talking to your friend. It's simple things, like driving to work: Lord, help me to have a good day today; help me to make good decisions; help me to help my children and protect my children. I think those simple things are prayer.
There's power when you call on God, you ask Him, and you invite Him into your life. God will be in your life as much as you allow Him to.
Some people keep God in a Sunday morning box and say hey, I did my religious duty. That's fine, but the scripture says to pray without ceasing. And I think that means all through the day you're talking to God. Even if it's in your thoughts. You're saying, God, thank you for this day. Thank that you're helping me, thank you that I'm anointed. It's a spirit of prayer, and I think you can have that in your heart.
CP: Why does God want believers to exhibit a positive attitude?
Osteen: I think one reason is because God is positive, and part of faith is saying, it may be tough, but I'm not going to be depressed. I'm going to do what the scripture says, I'm going to count it all joy when I face trials. Like David, when he got up and said, "this is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad." It wasn't necessarily a good time in his life. It was a difficult time, but he was making that choice.
Why should we do this? One, it helps us; two, I think it's an example that we trust God. Meaning that we're not down because we didn't get our way or are having difficulty. That consistency of knowing that God's in control of my life and he's fighting my battles is a great example to the world, and it shows that we're trusting in Him.
CP: Why does God not only command believers to forgive others, but also to forgive themselves and let go of past sins?
Osteen: It is a hard thing to let go of mistakes we've made and sins. God wants us to do that because He knows the guilt and the condemnation will keep us from becoming who He has created us to be. There's a lot of people who won't pray bold because they tell me, "well, you don't know what I've done."
Salvation and Christ's love is a gift. You don't earn it. You've got to receive that gift. I think one of the most important things is starting off the day forgiving others and forgiving yourself. You learn from your mistakes, but I don't think you have to drag them back into today. You say, OK, you know what, I'm not going to do that. I'm going to pray. I'm going to ask God to help me, and I'm going to move forward and not carry that guilt.
CP: In your book, you share several biblical and personal examples of God's miraculous work in people's lives. Christians often feel that God is not changing their situation fast enough. And during the Sunday morning church service Victoria cited the acronym, PUSH, and said to "pray until you see it happen." Why do we need to learn to be patient, and accept God's timetable, not our own?
Osteen: God's timing is not always our own, and God knows what's best for us. There are many things that I've prayed for and I've been disappointed because they didn't happen, only to find out God had something better in store. Again, it comes back, I think, to trust. To say, God, this is what I want, I'd love to have it now; but if it doesn't happen, God, I know you know what's best for me. It's just another time that we can grow and we can show God that we're trusting Him.
CP: Many of our readers might not know that you don't take a salary from Lakewood Church. Can you share when and why you made that decision?
Osteen: The reason I did is because Victoria and I never dreamed that God would bless us in the way that He has blessed us. When I wrote my first book, I didn't know if it would sell 1,000 copies or 20,000 copies. But it sold millions and millions of copies. Well, we never did any of this for money, but God has blessed us in such a great way. My dream was always to be able to work here, and serve in the ministry and to not have to take a salary.
Not everybody can do that, it's not practical. But for us, it was important to me because I don't need to. And I think it's important to because being in the public eye, there's a lot of scrutiny, and people think, well, he's just doing it for money. This way I can say I don't do any of this for money. God has blessed us in other ways. It's really part of my message in that, you honor God and you stay faithful, you don't know where God's going to take you.
I don't tell people that God's going to make them rich. But you don't know how God's going to bless you. We never dreamed we would be able to give like we can give today. And be able to serve here and not take a salary. I feel very blessed and honored to be able to do this. It's just God doing more than we could ever ask or think.
Pastor Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church has a weekly attendance of more than 43,000 people, and provides Sunday school classes for children who have autism, as well a Spanish language church service, a prayer and healing service, and a ministry for military veterans, among other weekly programs.