God bless you. Thanks for letting us come into your homes. And if you’re ever in our area, please stop by. Be a part of one of our services. These are the finest people in all of Houston, Texas right here at Lakewood. We love to have you, but thanks so much for tuning in. I like to start with something funny, and I heard about this elderly minister. He was close to death. He sent word for two of his members, an IRS agent and a lawyer, to come to his house. Upon arrival, he motioned for them to sit on each side of the bed. The men were very moved that they could be with the minister in his final moments. At one point, the lawyer asked very sincerely, “Sir, why did you choose both of us?” The minister mustered up some strength and said, “Jesus died between two sinners. That’s the way I want to go.”
Say it like you mean it. This is my Bible. I am what it says I am. I have what it says I have. I can do what it says I can do. Today, I will be taught the word of God. I’ll boldly confess. My mind is alert. My heart is receptive. I will never be the same, in Jesus’ name. God bless you.
I want to talk to you today about miracles out of mistakes. We’ve all made wrong choices and done things that we knew were not the best. It’s one thing when other people do us wrong. We had a bad break, and it wasn’t our fault. We can have faith that God will restore. He’ll pay us back. But when we bring the trouble on ourselves, when we blow it, it’s easy to live in regrets, thinking that God is not going to help us. We made the mess.
But here’s the beauty. God knew you would mess up before he called you. He knew we would get off course, at times, give into temptation. He didn’t base his plan for your life on you making perfect decisions. God has a plan even for your mistakes. What you think is a failure, you blew it, nothing good could come out of that, God has a way of making miracles out of mistakes. He can take what should have left you lonely, disappointed, what should have limited your career. Instead of setting you back, God knows how to turn it around and set you up to move you towards your destiny.
But too often, when we make mistakes, we go around down on ourselves, guilty, not expecting anything good. Voices tell us, “Too bad. Just live with the consequences. It’s all downhill from here.” But be encouraged. God is full of mercy. He doesn’t turn his back when we make mistakes. He doesn’t say, “I’m done with you. You’ll never get it right.” Just the opposite. He comes running to us. He’ll not only help you clean up the mess you made. He’ll take it one step further and make miracles out of those mistakes.
Paul said it this way: “All things work together for good when you love the Lord.” All things means even our mistakes, the times we blew it, got off course. God knows how to work it for our good. And you may be in a complicated situation, a problem that seems like it will never work out. There are other people involved, different personalities, legal circumstances. It seems too complex, but God has it all figured out. He can see things you can’t see. His ways are better than our ways. You may have brought the trouble on yourself. God is saying, “I’m going to correct those complications. I’m going to resolve complex issues. I’m going to make things work out that you could have never made work on your own.”
That’s what he did for Abraham. In the scripture, God gave him the promise that he and his wife Sarah were going to have a baby. Year after year went by, and nothing happened. They decided to try to help God out. Sarah told Abraham to sleep with her maid Hagar. He did and they had a baby boy that they named Ishmael.
They were so excited, thanking God for the promise, but Ishmael wasn’t the promised child. No disrespect to him, Ishmael was a mistake. He was born out of Abraham and Sarah’s impatience. They got in a hurry, took matters into their own hands, and had this baby. Now there was strife and division in their home. Sarah was upset with Abraham, saying “What in the world were you thinking, sleeping with my maid?” He said, “What do you mean? You’re the one who told me to do it.” She said, “You shouldn’t have listened to me. You should have known better.” Every time Sarah saw Hagar, she became more and more upset. Finally, she gave Abraham the ultimatum. “Either that lady and her son leave or I’m leaving. I’m staying in the house with that woman.” Abraham was in a complicated situation. Two women mad at him. He’s trying to please both of them. He needed divine intervention.
He was at a crossroads. He has to send his son away, out into the desert. It looked like that would be the end of Ishmael. The problem was he loved Ishmael. That was his son. He was conflicted, thinking “I love Sarah and I love Ishmael. How did I get myself into this mess?” God could have said, “Abraham, if you had listened to me, you wouldn’t have this mess. You should have waited. You should have been more patient. It was your own fault.” Instead, God said in effect, “Yes, Abraham, it’s complicated. Yes, it’s dysfunctional. There’s strife and division, but I wouldn’t have let you get in this mess if I didn’t know how to bring you out of this mess.”
God told Abraham, “I’m going to bring out of your son Ishmael a great nation. I’m going to multiply his descendants and make him extremely fruitful.” And even though Ishmael was considered a mistake, born out of what the scripture calls “works of the flesh,” trying to make it happen on our own, God, in his mercy, said, “I’m going to take that mistake and make a miracle. I’m going to bring something significant out of him, Abraham, in spite of your failures, in spite of how you blew it.”
Like Abraham, we all have some Ishmaels, times we blew it, tried to make it happen on our own, got involved in things we shouldn’t have. Now it’s a mess. The accuser constantly whispers, “God is not going to bless you. You knew better. Just sit on the sidelines of life.” Don’t believe those lies. God has mercy for every mistake. God loves to make the enemy pay for bringing that trouble. If you’ll stay in faith, God will not only bring you through it. He’ll take the mess you made, clean it up, and bring you out better.
Abraham had a son named Isaac. Isaac had a son named Jacob. Jacob had a son named Joseph. Abraham was Joseph’s great-great-grandfather. You’ll remember as a teenager, Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him and threw him into a pit. They were going to lead him there to die, but the scripture says a caravan of Ishmaelites came passing by. These were the descendants of Ishmael, part of the great nation that God promised Abraham. When Joseph’s brothers saw the Ishmaelites, they changed their mind and decided to sell Joseph to them. If it had not been for the Ishmaelites, Joseph would have died there in the pit. He would have never made it to the palace, never been in charge of the food supply. During the famine, the Israelites years later wouldn’t have had what they needed to survive.
What am I saying? The mistake of Abraham became the miracle of his great-great-grandson Joseph. This is how amazing God is. He has a plan even for our mistakes, even when we blow it. The scripture says God is going to work out all things for our good. He can not only correct a complicated situation, but he can somehow use it years later to bless your descendants. Some of you are thinking, “My descendants are going to really be blessed. All the mistakes I’ve made.”
Sometimes, we make mistakes like Abraham when we’re trying to do the right thing. Our heart is in the right place, but we miss it. We believe God will help us because he’s merciful and we were doing our best. Other times, we know what the right thing is. We know what we should do, but we do just the opposite. This is when we think, “I don’t deserve God’s goodness. Joel, I made the mess. I knew I shouldn’t hang around these friends. I did it anyway. Now I’m in trouble. Now I have this addiction. I knew I should control my temper. I knew I should bite my tongue, but I kept giving in. Now I don’t have my job. Now I lost a relationship.” When we bring trouble on ourselves, thoughts of guilt and condemnation bombard our mind, saying “God is not going to help you. You knew better. Just sit on the sidelines of life.”
This is how Jonah felt in the scripture. God told him to go to the city of Nineveh. He had clear directions. He knew exactly what he was supposed to do, but Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh. He got on a boat headed in the opposite direction. The scripture says the Lord caused a great wind to blow on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that it threatened to break the boat apart. It’s interesting that the Lord sent the storm. God knows how to get our attention. And when you know you’re going the wrong way, like this boat, things are going to start to fall apart.
You can’t pray away all the winds. You can say, “Please be still all day long,” but the winds may not calm down. It’s because you’re causing the trouble, and God loves you too much to let you miss your destiny. He’s not going to let you go year after year on the wrong course and never get your attention. And sometimes, it’s the enemy fighting us, trying to keep us from our destiny. That’s why we have storms, difficulties. Other times, we’re bringing the trouble on ourselves. If we just get back on the right course, do what we know we should do, those winds would calm down.
The people sailing with Jonah said, “Who’s responsible for causing all this trouble?” Jonah said, “It’s me. I’m a Hebrew. I worship God. I know where I’m supposed to be going, but I’m running from the Lord.” When you’re running from the Lord, you’re running from your destiny. It’s not only going to cause you trouble. It’s going to bring trouble to the people around you. When they threw Jonah overboard, the winds died down. The storm stopped.
Our decisions don’t just affect us. They affect our family. They affect our children. If you don’t do the right thing for yourself, at least do it for your children. At least do it for your family. Jonah was big enough to admit, “I’m the cause.” That’s the first step to victory. As long as you’re making excuses, thinking it doesn’t matter, then the winds, the storms, the difficulty are going to continue.
When Jonah was out in the ocean, thrown overboard, I’m sure he thought, “I’m done, and I have nobody to blame. It was all my fault.” All of a sudden, a huge fish swallowed Jonah. God, in his great mercy, was saying, “Jonah, you can run, but you can’t hide. I’m not finished with you. I have a destiny for you to fulfill.” The psalm has said, “If you go down to the depths of the ocean or way up in the heavens, God will be right there.” You can’t get away from him. You haven’t made too many mistakes. You haven’t blown it too many times. God’s calling on your life is irrevocable. That means God is not going to change his mind because you got off course. He’s not going to leave you alone until you get back on the right path. The sooner you do that, the better off you’re going to be.
Jonah was sitting in the belly of the whale. It was dark, uncomfortable. It stunk. Most people would have complained. Not Jonah. He was grateful to be alive. He knew it was the mercy of God having that fish there waiting for him. And God will allow storms when we get off course. He may allow something to get our attention, but he’s not going to let those difficulties take your life. Three days later, that well spit Jonah up on dry ground.
The scripture says, “The word of the Lord came a second time to Jonah.” God gave him another chance. What did God say this time? “Go to the City of Nineveh.” Same thing he said the first time. Friends, God is not going to change his mind. You might as well do what he’s asking you to do. He’ll give you a second chance, a third chance, a 20th chance, but it’s going to be stormy until you get back on the right course. Yes, he’ll have a fish there to save you. Yes, he’ll make a miracle out of that mistake, but at some point, you have to take responsibility and say, “I’m the Jonah. I’m going against what I know is right. I’m hanging out with these friends that I know are pulling me down. I’m living negative, critical, hard to get along with. I’m not being disciplined in what I’m watching.” That’s going to cause it to be rocky, not just for you but for the people around you.
And God is not asking you to be perfect. He’s not asking you to never make a mistake, but he is asking us to deal with the things that are holding us back, to not let the same areas of compromise keep us down year after year. He has some Ninevehs for you to go to, some people for you to impact, new levels of your destiny. David said it this way: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. Though he fall, he will not be destroyed, for the Lord will be there to pick him up.” This is saying even though God is directing our steps, there will be times that we fall. We make mistakes. We get off course. God doesn’t say, “That’s it. I’m done with you.” Just like with Jonah, God will be right there to help pick you up. He’ll help you get back on the right course.
It’s like the navigation system you may have in your car. Most of us have a GPS system even on our cellphone. You type in the address, and the computer calculates the best route. Then it starts telling you where to go. Things like “Turn right in 300 feet. Stay to the left and enter the freeway.” The other day, I was driving to a friend of mine’s house. He lives about 30 miles away. The lady on the GPS came on and said, “Exit in a quarter of a mile.” Victoria and I were talking, and there was a lot of traffic, and accidentally, I passed up that exit. And if you miss a turn or you don’t obey what the lady is telling you to do, she doesn’t come back on and say, “You missed your exit. Go back and try again.” She says, “Recalculating route.”
The navigation system is designed for people who make mistakes. It doesn’t give you one way, and if you miss it, that’s it. As long as you have gas in your car or battery in your cellphone, it’s going to tell you how to get to your destination. I have never missed a turn and had the lady come on and say, “I’m sorry. You can’t get there from here. You’re just too lost.” Never once has she said, “You’ve disobeyed too many of my commands. I’m done with you. You’re finished.”
One time, I knew the way I wanted to go. I was in a neighborhood that I was familiar with, but the GPS system was telling me to go a different route. It wanted me to turn left and then go way down the street. Well, I wanted to go way down the street first and then turn left. Same difference. But for about two miles, every block, it told me, “Turn left,” and then said, “Recalculating route.” I heard that every ten seconds. “Recalculating route. Recalculating route.” What’s interesting is no matter how stubborn I was, no matter how much I ignored that lady, she never got mad at me. She never came on and said, “You’re a loser. Don’t ever get on this system. I’m never going to help you.” She just kept recalculating the route, trying to get me to my destination.
If the GPS lady can continually recalculate when we get off course, how much more will the creator of the universe recalculate our route when we make mistakes? If she doesn’t give up on us, why do we think our Heavenly Father is going to give up on us? “Well, Joel, it’s because I got so far off course. I shouldn’t have given in to this addiction. I should have raised my children better. I should have stayed in church, kept God first place.” The good news is you haven’t made too many wrong turns. You haven’t missed too many exits. Your Heavenly Father is not mad at you. He’s saying, “Recalculating route. I still have a way to get you to your destiny. That mistake didn’t stop my plan. That delay didn’t cancel your purpose.”
Why don’t you quit beating yourself up, quit reliving your failures, all the times you’ve missed it, and get back on the right path? It’s not too late. God’s mercy is bigger than any mistake you’ve made. Unlike the GPS lady, God knows the end from the beginning. He knew every mistake you would make. He has already recalculated your route. You can still fulfill the best plan God has for your life.
Abraham and Sarah did. They made that mistake. Abraham had a baby out of wedlock. At one point, Abraham lied and told everyone Sarah, his wife, was his sister. God didn’t say, “I am done with you. You are one dysfunctional family. You lie. You’re impatient.” God kept recalculating the route, kept giving them another chance. At the age of 100, Abraham saw the promise come to pass. Isaac was born, the promised child. You may have made decisions that have delayed things. You got off course, but you’re not stuck. God has a new route. If you’ll get your passion back, shake off the guilt, God will get you to where you’re supposed to be. Not some secondary place, but to the best plan that he has for your life.
When the Israelites were in the desert, headed toward the Promised Land, they got tired and started complaining. The scripture says even though they were stubborn and refused to obey God’s commands, he was still good to them. That was God recalculating their route. They wouldn’t obey his commands. God didn’t say, “I’m done with you. He kept giving them water when they were thirsty, food when they were hungry.” At one point, they made an idol and said, “This is the god who brought us out of slavery.” After all that God had done for them, parted the Red Sea, brought them out of Pharaoh’s hand, you would think God would say, “I am done with you. You are on your own.” But the scripture says, “In his mercy, God did not abandon them. He is a God of forgiveness, slow to become angry, full of unfailing love and kindness.”
When we make mistakes, God doesn’t abandon us. When we get off course, we don’t obey his commands, he doesn’t write us off. You can turn your back on God, but God is not going to turn his back on you. You may be off course, you made poor decisions, but God has already recalculated your route. He already has a new way to get you to your destination.
My father was married at a very early age. Unfortunately, that marriage didn’t work out. Daddy was devastated. He resigned from his church. Denominational leaders told him that he would never pastor again. He thought his days of ministry was over, didn’t think he’d ever have a family. He left the ministry and started selling insurance. Every thought told him, “You’re a failure. You blew it. Nothing good is in your future.” What he couldn’t hear was God saying, “Recalculating route. I still have a way. I make miracles out of mistakes.” God didn’t abandon him when he got off course. He fell, but like David said, God was right there to help pick him back up.
Now, eventually, my father shook off the guilt. He quit listening to the accusing voices. Two years later, he got back in the ministry. And one day, he was at the hospital visiting some of his members when he noticed a beautiful young nurse. It was my mother. He was so taken by her he started looking for any opportunity he could find to go off to that hospital. He would visit your great uncle’s second cousin’s next door neighbor if you asked him to. He was almost hoping some of his members would get sick so he could go to the hospital. My mother didn’t know what was going on. She told a friend, “That pastor has the sickest congregation I’ve ever seen.” It finally dawned on her he was up there to see her. Long story short, they fell in love, got married, had five children. I’m glad God recalculated the route, or I wouldn’t be here today. But my father went on to have a ministry, touched the world, married to my mother for over 44 years.
What am I saying? No mistake you’ve made is too much for the mercy of God. He knows how to reroute. Quit beating yourself up, living guilty, thinking you’ve seen your best days. You wouldn’t be alive unless God had something greater in your future. This is what happened with Moses. He made a mistake. As a young man, he knew God had called him to deliver the Israelites from slavery. But like Abraham and Sarah, he got in a hurry and tried to do it in his own strength. He saw a Hebrew slave being mistreated. He didn’t think anyone was watching, so he killed the man who was mistreating him. The next day, somebody told the pharaoh. Moses had to run for his life. He spent years on the backside of the desert in hiding. This is not what he had planned. It looked like he had missed his destiny. It was nobody’s fault except his own. God didn’t write him off. God didn’t say, “Moses, you knew better. Why didn’t you wait?” God simply said, “Recalculating route.”
Forty years later, Moses was still in the desert, thinking he was forgotten, given up on his dreams, and suddenly, a bush exploded in front of him. Like spontaneous combustion, it burned and burned. Strange thing was the bush didn’t burn up. Intrigued, Moses walked over to see what was going on. A voice boomed out. “Moses. Moses. Take off your sandals. You are standing on holy ground.” Moses was confused, thinking “I failed. I’ve made mistakes. I thought I was done, but I hear him calling my name.” Not once but twice. “Moses. Moses.” If God would have said it once, he would have thought, “I’m hearing things. This sun is getting to me.” God said it twice on purpose so there would be no doubt about it. At the age of 80, after a 40-year detour, God recalculated the route. Moses went on to deliver the Israelites. He fulfilled his purpose.
I believe today God is recalculating some routes. You may have made mistakes. You think you’ve blown it too many times. You need to get ready. Like Moses, a burning bush is coming your way. You messed up, but if you’ll listen, you’ll hear God calling your name. He’s saying, “Get your passion back. Shake off the guilt. Get ready to take new ground.” You can still become all God’s created you to be. He’s not finished with you. If you’ll do this, I believe and declare God is going to make miracles out of your mistakes. He’s going to correct complicated situations, restore what the enemy has stolen, and take it into the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus’ name. And if you receive it today, can you say “Amen”?
I’d like to give you an opportunity to make Jesus the Lord of your life. Would you pray with me? Just say, “Lord Jesus, I repented my sins. Come into my heart. I’ll make you my lord and savior.” Friends, if you prayed that simple prayer, we believe you got born again. Get in a good Bible-based church and keep God first place.