'Expect God's Favor': Interview with Joel Osteen

The megachurch pastor says that by expecting the best, we can enjoy the abundant life God wants for us.

BY: Laura Sheahen

 

Joel Osteen is Senior Pastor of the largest church in America: 30,000-member Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. His weekly television show airs on dozens of channels nationwide, and his optimistic message has made him one of the country's most popular preachers. He spoke with Beliefnet recently about his first book, "Your Best Life Now."

Your book speaks about living at your full potential and getting the most out of life, which is what you say God wants for us. How does God want us to live our lives?

He wants us to live our lives happy. He wants us not to endure them, but to enjoy them. The principle of the book is that you can be happy where you are. I know people have problems say, "Well, I’ve got a terrible marriage, I’ve got a sickness I’m dealing with," but the book is a lot about having an attitude to be grateful and just making that decision to enjoy the life God’s given us.

You talk about God’s favor a lot. What is God's favor?

I believe God’s favor is something intangible where you’ve got God’s blessings on your lives. I'm not saying it’s not a struggle, but you believe for good things.

There are so many people who don’t expect anything good in life. They don’t expect to get breaks, they don’t expect to get promoted, they don’t expect anything positive. So I just try to get people to say, I believe if we expect God’s favor, if we declare it, if we thank him when we do see good things happening, then we’re going to see more of that.

It almost seems like cognitive therapy: Think your way happy, be optimistic, and expect the best.

I think a lot of it is. A lot of psychological principles and even medical principles, you see them coming around to what the Bible said hundreds of years ago: a merry heart is good like a medicine. I’ve read many articles on how a positive attitude, laughing every day and being happy, does help people to recover and live longer.

Is this what you're hearing from your Lakewood church congregants—that they're not expecting the best?

No, I wouldn’t think it’s from the Lakewood people because they’re all fired up. But the message is so much bigger and goes out to so many more people.

It’s easy to get negative because you get beat down. You go through a few disappointments and it’s easy to stay in that negative frame of mind. Choosing to be positive and having a grateful attitude is a whole cliché, but your attitude is going to determine how you’re going to live your life.

Your book makes the case that if we confidently wait and work, God will make our wrongs right--we'll see God's justice. In parts of the book, it seems like God's justice is expressed in terms of prosperity.

I feel like that gives a bad rap because I don’t in the least bit consider myself a prosperity-type preacher. I don’t think I’ve ever preached a message on finances.

It’s just more an attitude of God wants to bless us where we are. When I say 'bless,' I don’t mean go drive 10 Mercedes and stuff like that. I’m talking about being happy and having good marriages and good relationships. I think sometimes I get grouped in with a prosperity-type... like that’s all I focus on, but I don’t mean it to come off like that.

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