NEW YORK — Thousands gathered in Yankee Stadium in New York City on Saturday for Joel Osteen's "Come Home to Hope Event" — an evening centered around instilling in an increasingly anxious and discouraged generation a renewed sense of hope and purpose.
Osteen, who hosted the event with his wife, Victoria, focused his message on finding hope amid adversity and staying faithful in times of difficulty — a message he said was timely in the wake of COVID-19, economic turmoil and societal unrest.
"I want to talk to you tonight about freedom in the fire," the pastor, who leads Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, said. "God won't allow the difficulty unless He has a purpose for you. There is potential locked up in you that will only come out through adversity."
The speaker and bestselling author cited Psalm 4:1, where David said, "God enlarged me in my time of distress," to remind audiences that God uses difficulties and times of trial, betrayal and loss to refine and sanctify His people.
"In the fire, he discovered favor," Osteen stressed. "The truth is, it's setting you up. What you can't see is God is enlarging you. ... You're going to see new growth, new opportunity, new talent. … Don't fight the fire. Stay faithful in the fire. … God has a comeback for every setback."
"Everything is a controlled burn. The enemy can't touch you without God's permission," Osteen emphasized, citing the story of Job, who trusted God despite obstacles.
"God not only was for Job, gave him his health back, but He walked him out with double. … The Scripture says Job went on to live 140 years and enjoy his children and grandchildren. Maybe like Job, you're sitting in the ashes, looking at what you lost, what didn't work out, what you're up against. You can easily live discouraged, feels like a wildfire. The truth is, it's a controlled burn. God wouldn't have allowed it if you weren't going to come out better."
"There are seeds of increase, seeds of healing, seeds of increase, seeds of destiny that are about to pour out. … You're going to say, 'Look what the Lord has done. On the other side of the breakup, the loss, is abundance and joy. The fire is necessary to see the fullness of your destiny."
Saturday's "Come Home to Hope" event marked the first time in over three years the Osteens held a large-scale stadium event due to restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Their previous appearance at Yankee Stadium was for "A Night of Hope" in 2014. Their first visit in 2009 marked the very first non-baseball event at the stadium. This year, Lakewood also held a "Global Virtual Stadium" event for those unable to attend in person.
Victoria Osteen described their first post-COVID-19 event as a "new beginning."
"Let's recharge, let's refuel again," she told CP. "If we don't get with it ... and just really take back our lives, we're going to be just stuck in perpetual problems. Because there's always going to be problems, but it's what we do with those problems, it's how we view those problems that make all the difference in the world."
The event featured testimonials from local pastors, those who experienced God's favor amid trials, and a video message from Paul Osteen, a general and vascular surgeon who travels to under-resourced countries in sub-Saharan Africa to relieve missionary doctors and surgeons while they go on furlough.
The night of worship and praise also featured performances by Lakewood Music and award-winning artists CeCe Winans and Tauren Wells.
Wells, who performed his inspirational hits "God's Not Done With You" and "Joy in the Morning," told The Christian Post he wants to highlight a hope that "outlasts the momentary problems we face, no matter how difficult they may be."
"Pastor Joel is the perfect voice to bring hope; he's been consistent in that, and I just get to be here to support that message," Wells said. "There's a hope in eternity, and that's what we have to set our eyes on."
Lakewood Music performed their new single,“Can I Get an Amen," for the first time. Alexandra Osteen, Joel and Victoria's daughter and a member of Lakewood Music, told CP the song is an "anthem for people to declare God's promises."
"The meaning of the song is so special to us. God says His promises are 'yes and amen,'" she said. "He's given us His promises, but we have to believe them and declare them over our lives."
The crowd gathered was diverse, mirroring Lakewood Church's own demographic. The mood was positive, with many crying and lifting their hands at various points during the event.
The pastor reflected on the setbacks and pain he experienced following the death of his father and "best friend," John Osteen, in 1999. He reminded attendees that what they do in the fire and how they respond to adversity "matters."
"There were seeds of my destiny opening up during that time … that would've lied dormant without the heat," he said. "I discovered ability that I never knew I had. … When my father passed, I suddenly had the desire to step up and pastor."
"Don't judge your situation too soon," he added. "Your time is coming. God has not forgotten about you. … God allowed that fire not to defeat you, but to promote you. ... What looks like a setback is really God setting you up."
Osteen was moved to tears as he reminded the audience that God is a good God who is for them, even if their earthly father wasn't.
"You're going to go out of here with more joy, more hope, more victory," he declared. "God's right there in the difficult times to give you the strength you need, the peace you need, the wisdom you need."
Osteen closed the evening with a plea to "get involved in a Bible-based church."
"My challenge: Stay faithful in the fire," he said. "Healing is coming. ... The fullness of your destiny is coming, in Jesus' name."
Ahead of the event, Osteen told CP that about half of the people attending the "Night of Hope" events hadn't been exposed to church. Joel Osteen Ministries is working with about 200 local churches to get the 20,000-30,000 attendees plugged into their local church bodies.
"My thing is, how do we build the local church? I'm a local pastor. ... So my thing is not coming in here trying to just make a splash, but I'm going to put people in local churches, and I think this is one of the best ways," he said.
"A lot of these people that come here, they won't go to a church, not yet. They're not ready for it. But you know what? The little bit of influence I have, if they took the time to come here, I think that we can persuade them, and they'll feel that conviction to say, you know what? I'm going to get into a community of faith. So that's the goal."
Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org