God bless you. It’s a joy to come into your homes. And if you’re ever in our area, please stop by. Be a part of one of our services. I promise you, we’ll make you feel right at home.
I’d like to start with something funny, and I heard about this pastor. He’d been out bear-hunting all day long, searched and searched through the woods with no sign of a bear. Finally, in frustration, he threw his gun on the ground and he went down to the stream to cool off. About that time, he sees this huge grizzly bear running toward him full-speed about a hundred yards away. He falls on his knees and says, “God, I need protection. Please, convert this bear into a Christian.” Miraculously, the bear froze in his tracks, put both paws up toward the heavens, and said, “Thank you, Lord, for this food I’m about to eat.”
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 stepping into the unknown. When I type an address in my navigation system, there’s an option that comes up that says “Route Overview.” If you click that, it will give you all the details of your trip. There may be 15 different instructions.
“Travel six miles on this freeway. Get off at Exit 43. Go 400 feet. Turn left on the intersection.” Your whole route is clearly laid out. You know where you’re going, how long it’s going to take, what to expect. Knowing these details makes us comfortable, where we can relax.
In the same way, God has a route overview for your life. Before you were formed in your mother’s womb, he laid out your plan. He not only knows your final destination, but he knows the best way to get you there. But one difference between God and a navigation system is God doesn’t show you the route overview. He doesn’t tell you how it’s going to happen, how long it’s going to take, where the funds are going to come from, who you’re going to meet. He leads you one step at a time. And if you’ll trust him and take that step into the unknown, not knowing how it’s going to work out, then he’ll show you the next step. Step by step, he’ll lead you into your destiny.
The challenge is we like details. We wouldn’t have any problem taking that step of faith, starting that new business, going back to school, moving to that new location, if we knew where the money was coming from, how long it was going to take, that the right people would be there. If we had all the details, it’d be easy to step out. And here’s the key. God doesn’t give us details. He’s not going to show you a blueprint for your whole life. If you had all the facts, you wouldn’t need any faith. He’s going to send you out not knowing everything. If you’ll have the boldness to step into the unknown, do what he’s asking you to do, doors will open that you could have never opened. The right people will show up. You’ll have the funds, the resources that you need.
The scripture puts it this way: “God’s word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.” A lamp implies you have just enough to see in front of you. God is not giving you the light for the next 50 years. It’s like the headlights on your car. When you’re driving at night, you can only see a hundred feet in front of you, but you don’t pull over because you can’t see your destination 50 miles away. If you keep driving as you go further, then you will see more. Will you take that step with the light that you have?
If you’re waiting for all the details, you’re going to be waiting your whole life. We all want to be comfortable, but being in God’s perfect will will make you a little uncomfortable. There’s a healthy tension to where you have to stretch, you have to pray, you have to believe. You’re not sure how it’s going to work out. That’s when you’re growing. That’s when you’re learning to trust God in a greater way. And God is not just interested in the destination. He’s teaching you along the way. He’s getting you prepared, growing you up. On purpose, God will put us in situations where we’re over our head, where our friends can’t help us, where we don’t have the experience.
And too often, we shrink back and think, “I’m not going there. I’m not qualified. I’m too nervous. What if it doesn’t work out?” God knew you would be nervous. He knew you wouldn’t feel qualified. That’s a test. Are you going to talk yourself out of it? Are you going to let the fear of what you can’t see hold you back, or are you going to be bold and step into the unknown?
In the unknown is where miracles happen. In the unknown is where you discover ability that you didn’t know you had. In the unknown is where you’ll accomplish more than you ever dreamed. Just because you don’t have the details doesn’t mean God doesn’t have the details. He has the route overview for your life. He wouldn’t be leading you there if he didn’t have the favor, the provision, everything you need to go to the next level.
One thing I like about my navigation system is it gives me exact details. “Go 9.3 miles down this freeway.” Then it counts down the whole way. “Eight miles left. Seven miles. Six miles.” It’s all right in front of me. God is just the opposite. He’ll tell you, “Go down this road.” The first thing we do is ask for details. “How far do you want me to go?” No answer. “What do you want me to take?” No answer. “Who’s going to be there to meet me?” No answer. Can you endure the silence of not knowing everything? Will you trust God, even though you don’t have all the details? Will you take that step of faith even when you’re uncomfortable, you’re nervous, not sure how it’s all going to work out?
This is what Abraham did. God told him to leave the place he was living, pack up his family, his belongings, and head out to the land that God was going to give him his inheritance. The only problem was God didn’t give him any details. The scripture says, “Abraham went out not knowing where he was going.” I can imagine Abraham telling his wife Sarah, “Honey, I’ve got great news. We’re going to move. God promised me he’s taking us to a better land where we’re going to be blessed in a new way.” I can hear Sarah saying, “That’s so exciting. I can’t wait. Where are we going?” Abraham says, “I don’t know. He didn’t tell me.” She asked, “Well, what should I wear? Will it be cold or hot?” He says, “I’m not sure.” “Well, Abraham, are you sure God told you this? How are we going to provide for our family? Where are we going to get food for our staff and animals? This seems like a mistake.”
If you’re going to step into the unknown, it’s going to take boldness. It’s not always going to make sense. People may not understand it. Your own thoughts will tell you, “You better play it safe. This is too big a risk. What if it doesn’t work out?” Abraham understood this principle that just because he didn’t have all the answers, just because he was nervous didn’t mean he wasn’t supposed to do it. The scripture says, “The steps of a good person are ordered by the Lord.” If you’ll take the first step not knowing all the details, trusting that God knows what he’s doing, then every step of the way, there will be provision, there will be favor, there will be wisdom. And yes, it’s uncomfortable not knowing. You have to stretch, pray, believe. But each step, you not only have God’s blessing, but you’re growing. You’re getting stronger.
In the scripture, Peter was the only one that walked on the water, and he was the only one willing to get out of the boat. I’m sure the other disciples said, “Peter, you better stay in here with us. Look at those waves. It’s dangerous. You could drown.” But when Jesus asked him to come, he had the courage to step into the unknown, and he walked on the water. “Well, Joel, but he sank.” Yeah, but he walked more than you. He walked more than me.
What’s familiar, staying in the boat, although that’s comfortable, instead of being a blessing, it can become a curse. Familiarity can keep you from your destiny. What you’re used to, how you were raised, the job you were in at for years. Don’t let your comfort keep you from becoming all God created you to be. If Abraham would have put his comfort above fulfilling his purpose, we wouldn’t be talking about him.
You cannot play it safe your whole life and reach the fullness of your destiny. Don’t let the what if’s talk you out of it. “What if I fail? What if they say no? What if I don’t have the funds?” You’ll never know unless you try. And when you come to the end of life, will you have more regrets from the risks that you took or from the risks that you didn’t take? “What if I get in this new relationship, Joel, and I get hurt again? That’s what happened last time.” What if you get in it and you’re happier than you’ve ever been? What if it’s a divine connection? “What if I take this position and I’m not good at it, I’m not successful?” What if you take it and you excel? What if you discover talent you didn’t know you had? What if it opens doors to more opportunities?
I can tell you, every significant accomplishment in my own life, every major victory, I’ve had to step into the unknown. When my dad went to be with the Lord, I had never ministered before. I stepped up to pastor the church. I didn’t know how it was going to work out. I didn’t know if I could minister. I didn’t know if anybody would listen to me. Every thought told me, “Joel, don’t do it. It’s a big mistake. You’re going to get up there and not know what to say.” I knew I was over my head. I knew I didn’t have the experience, but I also knew when we are weak, God’s power shows up the greatest. I couldn’t see way down the road. I couldn’t see any of this that we’re doing today. All I could see was, right then, “Step up and pastor the church.” If God would have shown me all of this, I’d have said, “No way. I can’t do that.”
Sometimes, the reason God doesn’t tell us what’s in our future is because he knows we would talk ourselves out of it. What God has in store for you is going to boggle your mind. The places he’s going to take you, the people you’re going to influence, the dreams you’re going to accomplish, it’s going to be bigger than you’ve imagined. You know where it is? It’s in the unknown. It’s in what you can’t see right now. It’s in what you don’t feel qualified for.
When you find yourself in a situation where you’ve over your head, you don’t think you have what it takes, that’s God stretching you. He can see things in you that you can’t see in yourself. And it may be uncomfortable, but don’t shrink back. Keep stretching. Keep believing. Keep dreaming. Step by step, God is leading you. Some of you are about to step into the next level. You’ve been on that step long enough. You’ve passed the test. Now the next step is coming. It’s going to be a new level of influence, a new level of talent, a new level of creativity, a new level of your destiny.
Victoria and I were driving to another city the other day, and I had my navigation system on. And at one point, we were on this country road for about a hundred-mile stretch. And there were all these intersections and different roads that veered off, and I keep thinking that I had missed my turn, and I had to keep looking at my navigation system. I noticed that as long as I was on the right path, the lady on the GPS system didn’t say anything. I wish she would have come on and said, “You’re doing good, Joel. Keep going forward,” but she never said a thing until it was time to do something different.
Sometimes, God is silent. You don’t hear him saying anything. It’s easy to think, “I must be off course. Something must be wrong. He’s not talking.” But like the lady on the GPS system, that means you’re on the right course. Keep doing the right thing. Keep praying, believing, stretching. The next step is coming, but you have to pass the test of being faithful where you are, being your best with what you have. Then the next step will be a favor step, a promotion step, a healing step, a breakthrough step.
When Joshua and the Israelites came to the Jordan River, there was no way to get across. They had heard how Moses held up his rod and the Red Sea parted. I’m sure Joshua thought the same thing would happen for him, but God had a different plan. He told Joshua to go tell the priest to walk into the river and then the waters would part. I’m sure the priest thought, “Joshua, that doesn’t make sense. You want us to walk into the water? We could drown.” The priest got up to the shore and nothing happened to the water. They got a couple of feet from the bank. Still nothing. Thoughts started telling them, “What if it doesn’t part? What if Joshua made a mistake? What if you get out there and you can’t come back?” They could have talked themselves out of it. Instead, they dared to step into the unknown.
The scripture says the moment their feet touched the water, the waters upstream began to pile up. On the other side, it flowed downstream. Before long, the whole riverbed was empty. They were able to walk across on dry ground. Notice the miracle happened along the way. We think, “God, part the river and then I’ll go.” God says, “Go, then I’ll part the river.” If you will step into the unknown, along the way, you’ll see miracles. Along the way, the right people will show up. Along the way, doors will open that you could have never opened.
God could have just as easily parted the waters before they stepped in. He was showing us this principle. When you don’t see how it can work out, every voice says, “You better play it safe,” but you take that step of faith and do what God is asking you to do, you too will see Jordan Rivers part. And God, on purpose, puts us in situations where we can’t do it on our own. It looks impossible. That’s a test of our faith. If we stay in the boat, we’ll never walk on water. We’ll never see the fullness of our destiny. And if God would have parted the water first, that would have been a lot less stressful for them. They wouldn’t have had to stretch and pray and believe. But here’s the key. God uses the journey to get us prepared for where we’re going. When you have to stretch your faith, believe that he’s making a way, and thank him that things are changing in your favor, your spiritual muscles are getting stronger. You’re developing a greater trust, a greater confidence in God.
When we received word that this place, the former Compaq Center where the Rockets used to play basketball, was coming available, something came alive on the inside of me. I knew this was supposed to be ours. What I didn’t know was how complicated it would be trying to acquire it. God will give you the first step, but he won’t tell you everything. I was excited about the possibility of moving Lakewood here. This was more than I could ask or think. But what I didn’t know was that it was going to cost a hundred million dollars to renovate. I didn’t know a company would file a lawsuit to try to stop us. Sometimes, it’s good to be naïve. That’s called having childlike faith. All I knew was that dream was alive in my spirit, and I did what I’m asking you to do. I stepped into the unknown.
This facility was owned by the City of Houston. My parents and our family, we knew the mayor. I called him, and the mayor was in favor of Lakewood having it. The first miracle. We needed 10 votes from city council members. We only had nine. But the night before, the main vote, a council member, after being against us for two years, suddenly changed his mind and voted for us, and we got the building. Another miracle.
A week later, a large company filed a lawsuit to try to keep us from moving in. We were told it could be tied up in the court system for up to 10 years. Here I’d already announced it to the church. People had already given funds. I would wake up in the middle of the night sweating, thoughts telling me, “Joel, you’re going to look like a fool. There’s going to be a big mess when you have to give it all back.” But like Joshua, along the way, miracles kept happening. The CEO of this large company flew in from out of town to meet with us. We were told by our attorneys that it was a ploy just to confuse things, but he said, “Joel, I watch you on television. My son-in-law is a youth pastor. Let’s work something out.” Two days later, we had an agreement. The lawsuit was dropped. We were on our way.
When you go out not knowing, you’ll see Jordan Rivers part. You’ll see Compaq Centers fall into place. God will make things happen that you could never make happen. Don’t get stuck in the boat. Don’t let the fear that you can see all the details hold you back. You’re not supposed to see everything. God is leading you step by step. When you’re in the unknown, you’re having to stretch, pray, and believe, that’s when you’re really growing.
Those three years we were in the battle over this place, that’s when I learned to pray like I had never prayed. If I had known how long it was going to take, how much it was going to cost, I’d have said, “No thanks, God. I don’t want that responsibility. I’m too young. I don’t have the experience.” God knows what’s in you. He uses these steps to stretch you, to develop you, to get you prepared for the next level. The journey is more important than the destination because if you don’t get prepared on the journey, if you don’t learn what you’re supposed to learn along the way, you won’t be able to handle where God is taking you.
See, God could have given us the Compaq Center the first week we prayed, or at least the first month we prayed. That would have saved me a lot of stress. I wouldn’t have had to stretch, pray, believe. Why did he wait three years? He was getting me prepared. I was learning to trust him. My faith was being increased. My character was being developed. What’s interesting, in those three years, like the lady on the GPS, I never heard anything new. I never heard God say, “Don’t worry, Joel. I got you covered. It’s all going to work out.” I had to trust him when he was silent. I had to believe he was in control when I didn’t see any sign of it. I had to keep reminding myself the steps of a good person are ordered by the Lord. I took that step knowing that God put the dream in my heart. I didn’t know how it would turn out. I didn’t know if we’d be successful, but I believed I was doing what God asked me to do.
And here’s the key. Even if you miss it, even if it doesn’t turn out the way you thought, God knows how to use it for your good. And God would rather you take a step of faith and miss it every once in a while than to play it safe your whole life and never make a mistake. In the times we make mistakes, we miss it, we get off course, the closed doors, that’s all part of God’s plan. That’s getting us prepared for the open doors. But if you’re so concerned you’re going to miss it, you’ll never get off a dead center.
I like what my friend Joyce Myers says. She was praying. She said, “God, what if I miss you?” God said, “Joyce, don’t worry. If you miss me, I’ll find you.” But sometimes, we let the fear of the unknown hold us back. Being in God’s will, there will be a not knowing factor. You’re not going to know all the details, how it’s going to work out. You have to have this boldness to step into the unknown.
This is what my brother Paul did. You know, he’s a medical doctor. For 13 years, he was the chief of surgery at a hospital in Arkansas. He had a successful practice. Looked like that’s how he would spend his life. But when Daddy died in 1999, Paul felt the Lord leading him to come back home to Houston to help us pastor the church. His colleagues thought he was having a midlife crisis. They told him to wait at least a couple of years, get over my father’s death, not make an emotional decision, but deep down, Paul knew that’s what he was supposed to do. In his mind, it didn’t make sense. Leaving your medical practice, giving up all that training, thoughts started telling him, “What if it doesn’t work out? What if you don’t like it? What if they don’t like you? What if you get on there and Joel makes fun of you all the time?”
In the natural, it seemed like he was making a mistake. But like Abraham, Paul went out not knowing how it was going to work out. He didn’t have all the details. We didn’t have a 10-year strategy. All he knew was the first step. Go back home and help your family. What Paul didn’t know was how the ministry was going to grow. He didn’t know that after eight years of helping us faithfully pastor the church, God would open the door for him to go to Africa several months at a time and operate on less fortunate people. That was his dream to do medical missions. He thought he was walking away from medicine. What he couldn’t see, it was all a part of God’s plan. If he had not stepped into the unknown, he wouldn’t have reached the fullness of his destiny. When you have this boldness to go out not knowing, your life will be more rewarding, more fulfilling than you could ever imagine.
There was a young Jewish girl in the scripture named Esther. She was an orphan, didn’t come from an influential family, but God raised her up. Now she was the queen living in the palace. A man named Haman tried to secretly pass a law to get rid of all the Jewish people. Esther’s uncle came to the palace and told her of the ploy. He said, “You’ve got to go in and tell the king what’s going on.” The problem was, in those days, if you approached the king without him holding up his golden rod, then you could be killed. Esther said, “I can’t do that. What if he doesn’t hold it up? That would be the end of me.”
God was asking her to step into the unknown, but the what if’s started coming. “What if he doesn’t hold it up? What if he’s in a bad mood? What if he gets upset?” Just when she was about to talk herself out of it, her uncle said, “Esther, if you remain silent, deliverance for the Jews will come from someone else, but you and your family will perish. And who knows, but that you’ve come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” God was saying, “If you don’t want to do it, that’s fine. I’ll get somebody else, but the problem is, Esther, you will miss your destiny. This opportunity will not come your way again.” This was her chance to leave her mark. It was a now or never moment. I love what Esther did. She said, “I will go before the king. If I perish, I perish, but I will not let this moment pass.” Esther stepped into the unknown. She not only had favor with the king, but she was able to deliver her people. She became one of the heroes of faith.
Like Esther, we all have opportunities that won’t pass our way again. When my dad went to be with the Lord, I had to make a choice to step up or play it safe. That was one of those now or never moments. When they come your way, don’t shrink back. Don’t let fear talk you out of it. Don’t let the what if’s keep you in the boat. Be bold. Be courageous. Step into the unknown. You may not have all the details. You’re not sure how it’s going to work out. But like with Joshua, along the way, miracles will happen. God will open doors that no man can shut. If you’ll do this, I believe and declare you’re about to step in to a new level of favor, a new level of influence. Like Esther, you’re going to leave your mark, accomplish your dreams, and reach the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus’ name. 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. Keep God first place. Victoria and I will be right back to speak a blessing over you.