Why I Don't Hate Joel Osteen: A Sermon on a Staff
Mega-churches' wonder boy. Prosperity gospel's poster child. New York Times best-selling author for positivity. Joel Osteen draws a lot of fire, especially from disgruntled fundies and theological hard-liners.
But I beg to differ. I’ve suffered some pretty tough blows from the Enemy over the last few months, and my faith was at an all-time low. Early Sunday morning, I grimly flipped through the channels and Joel’s boyish face & lilting southern drawl got my attention. This I know. When he spoke, I was reassured that God is on my side.
He preached a sermon I have never heard before about God’s staff (not the people-kind). To my astonishment, Jewish nomads etched their names and answered prayers on their rough-hewn walking sticks. The bedouins had no room for a backpack full of commentaries. A simple piece of wood became a constant reminder of God’s faithfulness.
Joel’s “staff” sermon was a revelation. I wept at my unbelief. Then I opened my Bible.
1. The rod of God symbolized supernatural power in the face of human frailty.
Look at 80-year-old Moses. The stuttering deliverer threw down his staff and it became a snake (Exodus 7:8). This rough-hewn piece of wood turned water into blood (7:17), caused frog infestation (8:5), itchy lice (8:17), swarms of flies (8:21), dust (9:8), dead cows (9:3), locusts (10:13), hail (9:23), darkness (10:21), and finally the death of the first-born of every family and flock (11:5). Powerful stuff from a staff with a God behind it. Egypt’s mighty Pharoah was bested by a stick.
The Red Sea parted with God’s command to Moses: “Hold your staff high and stretch your hand out over the sea: Split the sea! The Israelites will walk through the sea on dry ground.” Exodus 14:16. KJV
My faith renewed. God was bigger than I remembered.
2. A staff reminds you of who you are and what God has called you to do. God commanded his people to personalize their walking sticks.
“Speak unto the children of Israel, and take of every one of them a rod according to the house of their fathers, of all their princes according to the house of their fathers twelve rods: write thou every man's name upon his rod.” Numbers 17:2
I am God’s child, deeply loved and unique. I need to remember who I am in Christ.
3. God showed favor and anointing through a staff. Aaron’s budding staff silenced the grumpy insurrectionists who surrounded him. His flowering wooden pole was such an amazing sign of blessing over his life, that it was kept in the Ark of the Covenant for generations. (Numbers 17:4-8)
4. God imparted confidence through a staff. In 1Samuel 17, gargantuan Goliath’s staff was the size of a weaver’s beam. Scrawny, scrappy David used his little shepherd’s staff to kill lions and bears by God’s Hand. He boldly stepped into the terrifying arena to face the giant because he wielded his staff with confidence. (The five stones and the slingshot helped, too!)
5. God gave comfort and protection through a staff. A Jew’s scratchy stick was usually carried throughout his or her life. In the sweet words of the psalmist, David wrote:
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 KJV
I need reminders. When my problems seem insurmountable, I become faith-forgetful. It’s time to allow the Holy Spirit to bring to my memory what God has done for me.
Thank you, Joel. I needed those words today.