NEW YORK — Lakewood Church Pastor and New York Times best-selling author Joel Osteen and his family told thousands of New Yorkers who attended his Night of Hope event at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn on Friday that they are "pregnant with possibility" and shouldn't abandon their dreams.
Osteen, along with his wife, Victoria, and mother, Dolores, shared testimonies about how they endured harsh trials — yet emerged from their ordeals feeling blessed — as the crowd eagerly listened.
Dolores testified of her battle with cancer in 1981 when she was given just two weeks to live. Despite the initial diagnosis, she continued to believe that God would heal her, and instead of being bitter, she chose to use her remaining time to forgive those who hurt her and to ask forgiveness of those whom she hurt.
She also wrote letters to her children, and to a pastor to whom she felt she spoke harshly, asking for their forgiveness for how she may have treated them.
"When I mailed those off to the children and the pastor, I felt clean inside. Did you know when you forgive you feel clean inside?" said Dolores, who beat her prognosis and attributed her long life to God and to never giving up hope in Him.
"Whatever you need in your life, God will do it for you. He doesn't love me any more than he loves you. He loves everybody the same. So keep on believing in faith until the answer comes," she concluded.
Joel Osteen then shared that his father and former senior pastor of Lakewood Church, John Osteen, was 77 years old and on dialysis when he encouraged his son, who had been working at the church doing video editing and other behind-the-scenes jobs, to preach.
Joel had initially turned his father down, telling him, "I'm not a minister," but confessed to feeling something strong come over him after declining the offer.
"I felt something so strongly on the inside that said, 'Joel, you need to do it,'" said Osteen. "So I went and picked up the phone and said, 'Daddy, I changed my mind. I'll do it for you.'"
Osteen explained that although he felt called, he was not confident in his abilities and said the week leading up to his first sermon was "the most miserable week of my life."
His father was checked into the hospital the Friday before Osteen was scheduled to preach and watched the service on television. That Sunday ended up being the last of his father's life. After John Osteen died his son felt lost.
"That next Friday he had a heart attack and he went to be with the Lord," said Osteen. "I was kind of in a fog the first day or two. But after I got past that fog, I felt that same desire to step up and pastor the church. Everything in mind in the natural sense said, 'Are you crazy?' But I took that step of faith, never dreaming that it could grow."
"What I thought could be my darkest hour actually launched me into my brightest hour," added Osteen.
"Sometimes when we go through a loss or difficulty we think it will never be like it used to, but losing a loved one, a job or relationship — none of that is a surprise to God. Your life is not over because you go through some kind of loss. You keep moving forward. You're going to come into that next chapter, and I believe if you stay in faith it will be a chapter of greater victory."
Osteen followed his testimony by calling to the stage his wife, Victoria, and children, Alexandra and Jonathan, who had been leading worship throughout the afternoon.
He said his wife always believed he would pastor his father's church.
"Sometimes you can see things in other people that they can't see in themselves," said Osteen as he burst into tears while standing with his family. "I'm really happy, but I don't know why I cry all the time."
After a brief World Vision presentation, Osteen's family left the stage and the pastor began to preach his sermon, titled "Pregnant With Possibility."
Osteen said Christians have a calling or purpose that might live inside them that they cannot physically see or predict. In the same way, a woman who has just found out she is pregnant cannot see or hold her child.
"Just because you don't see anything happening doesn't mean it's not going to come to pass. The seed that God put in you has already taken root. Conception has occurred. Just like the woman, you may not see any sign of it for a while. But don't get discouraged, your time is coming," he said.
Osteen explained that these possibilities could be dreams of new businesses or a healing, and that believers will experience great difficulty before some of these things come to pass, just like the increasing pain for a woman who is about to give birth.
"I am looking at people who are pregnant with possibility. Quit telling yourself you can't get ahead. You are pregnant with your destiny, abundance and talent. You are about to give birth to what God put in you," he said.
Osteen also stressed the importance of Christians not judging themselves based on their current circumstances. Like Sarah in Genesis who delivered a child at over 80 years old, miracles can still come for believers when it seems impossible.
"Don't let what you see around you talk you out of your dreams," he said.
Osteen also talked about his father who had grown up poor on a cotton farm. When Joel was younger, his father had shared with him that he had a vision that one day he'd pastor a large church.
He described his father's vision as "conception," and said those looking at him in the natural would see the feat as impossible, but the elder Osteen never gave up and went on to pastor a 6,000-member church.
"He didn't let people talk him out of it. He didn't let his environment hold him back. He kept praying, believing and taking steps of faith. He gave birth to what God put on the inside," said Osteen. "When you give birth you'll go farther than you ever have."
Osteen said that once believers understand that possibilities are alive in them, they won't need to rely on other people. He explained that, too often, people look for deliverance from the outside even though God has put it on the inside. They need to believe in what God has promised.
He also encouraged the crowd to keep pushing through adversity when they make the decision to believe.
"Pain is a sign that you're about to give birth," he said. "It's a sign that you're getting closer. In these tough times this is when people abort their dreams."
"It's all a part of the process. Keep believing, keep trying, and at the right time, you're going to give birth. What you couldn't make happen on your own is going to be the hand of God."