Executive Times






2005 Book Reviews


Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential by Joel Osteen


Rating: (Read only if your interest is strong)




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Every now and then, I’m led into temptation and will pick up a best seller that falls outside the range of my typical reading. When I saw popular TV and megachurch minister Joel Osteen’s new book, Your Best Life Now, climbing the best seller lists, I decided to read it. I was prepared to read something preachy, and was ready to wince at a simplistic seven step program. I was not disappointed. There were more exclamation points that Osteen’s smiling face on the book jacket led me to expect. Slogans abound, for example, “God wants you to be a winner, not a whiner.” I feel more positive already. After reading the smiley face stories he presents, I came away saddened and depressed, as well as dismayed that 30,000 people show up at his Texas church each weekend and thousands more watch him on television. It didn’t take long for me to have heard enough nostrums, but I plodded through to the end of the book.


Here’s an excerpt, all of Chapter 8, “Understanding Your Value,” pp. 65-71:


My dad went to a high school football game with a dear friend of ours named Jesse. Jesse’s son, Jeff, played on the defensive squad, so he rarely touched the ball during a game. But on one particular play, the punter kicked a short punt and Jeff fielded it. He ran over, caught the ball, took a half step to his right and a half step back to his left, his eyes darting in every direction, searching for some daylight. But there was no running room to be found. Just then, about ten guys from the opposing team clobbered him. I mean, he didn’t advance the ball one inch.

For a long, awkward moment, Daddy sat silently staring out at the field as the referee untangled the pile of players climbing off Jeff. Daddy was feeling badly for Jesse, and he was trying to think of some­thing good to say, but the play had been a disaster. Even Daddy couldn’t come up with anything positive. About that time Jesse punched Daddy in the ribs. He had a big smile on his face as he nodded toward the field where Jeff was just getting to his feet. Jesse said, “Pastor, did you see those two good moves?” Only a loving father could see his son’s two good moves, rather than the fact that his son just got tackled by every­body but the cheerleaders!


God Sees Our Two Good Moves

But friend, that’s the way our heavenly Father looks at us. He’s not dwelling on the times we get knocked down. He’s not dwelling on our faults. No, God sees our two good moves. God focuses on the things you’re doing right; He sees the best in you. You may not always control your temper as you know you should. Or you may slip and say things you wish you hadn’t said. Seek forgiveness from God and from anyone you may have offended, but don’t go around beating yourself up, living in condemnation. As long as you are pressing forward, you can hold your head up high, knowing that you are a “work in progress,” and God is in the process of changing you. He’s looking at your two good moves.

That’s not to condone wrongdoing, but the truth is, we all have areas in which we need to improve. We can’t become so focused on our faults that we cease to enjoy who God made us to be. You’ve got to be happy with who you are right now and accept yourself, faults and all.

An important factor in seeing yourself God’s way is to understand your intrinsic sense of value, whether you make the right moves or the wrong moves. Too often we focus on our faults, weaknesses, past mis­takes, and failures. Rejection and other painful experiences steal our self-esteem and make us feel unwanted and insecure.

Your sense of value cannot be based on your achievements, how well you perform, how somebody else treats you, or how popular or successful you are. Your sense of value should be based solely on the fact that you are a child of the Most High God. As His unique cre­ation, you have something to offer this world that nobody else has, that nobody else can be.

It’s vital that you accept yourself and learn to be happy with who God made you to be. If you want to truly enjoy your life, you must be at peace with yourself. Many people constantly feel badly about themselves. They are overly critical of themselves, living with all sorts of self-imposed guilt and condemnation. No wonder they’re not happy; they have a war going on inside. They’re not at peace with themselves. And if you can’t get along with yourself, you will never get along with other people. The place to start is by being happy with who God made you to be.


Learn to be happy with who God made you to be.

You may not be perfect—nobody is! Sure, you’ve got some flaws— we all do! But to be truly free, you must have a healthy respect for your­self in spite of those “imperfections.”

Some people are always putting themselves down. “I’m so slow.” “I’ll never break these bad habits.” “I’m unattractive. Look at my nose; what am I ever going to do with my hair?”

Don’t be so hard on yourself! Certainly, there may be some things in your life that you aren’t happy about; you may have some habits you need to break. But remember, God is not finished with you. He’s in the process of changing you.

The Scripture says we are God’s workmanship.1 The word work­manship implies that you are not yet a finished product; you are a “work in process.” Throughout our lives, God is continually shaping and mold­ing us into the people He wants us to be. The key to future success is to not be discouraged about your past or present while you are in the process of being “completed.” The Bible indicates that we go from glory to glory as we are being transformed into God’s image.2 Whether you realize it or not, right now God is moving you onward toward greater things. The path of the righteous gets brighter and brighter.3

When you are tempted to get discouraged, remind yourself that ac­cording to God’s Word, your future is getting brighter; you are on your way to a new level of glory. You may think you’ve got a long way to go, but you need to look back at how far you’ve already come. You may not be everything you want to be, but at least you can thank God that you’re not what you used to be.

Our value is intrinsic. It is not something you or I have earned; indeed, we cannot earn it. God built value into us when He created us. To God, we are His ultimate creations. That means you can stop obsessing about all your faults and give yourself a break. Every per­son has weaknesses. Even the great men and women of the Bible made mistakes. They all had shortcomings, but that didn’t stop God from loving them, blessing them, and using them to accomplish great deeds. Besides, we need to learn how to keep our flaws in perspective. You may think there is a lot wrong with you, but there is also a lot right with you.

The great news is that God knows everything about you, both good and bad, and He still loves you and values you unconditionally. God does not always approve of our behavior. He is not pleased when we go against His will, and when we do, we always suffer the consequences and have to work with Him to correct our thoughts, words, actions, or attitudes. And while you should work to improve in the areas where you fall short, nothing you do will ever cause God to love you less.. . or more. His love is a constant you can depend on.

Understand, your value in God’s eyes never changes. Some people want us to think that the moment we do something wrong or get off course, God gets His big marker out, crosses our name off His list, and says, “I knew they couldn’t do it. I knew they didn’t have what it takes.” No, God is a forgiving God. He is a God of second chances. No matter how many times you fail Him or how many mistakes you make, your value in God’s eyes remains exactly the same.

Imagine that I am handing you a new, crisp one-hundred-dollar bill. Would you want it? Probably so! Suppose I crumpled it up so it wasn’t quite as good-looking as it was the day it came from the mint. Would you still want it? Sure! But wait, what if I took it out in the parking lot, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it until the picture on the bill was barely perceptible? It’s now dirty, stained, and soiled. Would you still want it?

Of course. Why? Because it is still valuable despite the rough treat­ment it has experienced. A hundred dollars is a hundred dollars (for­getting about exchange rates, inflation, and other factors, for the moment). It doesn’t lose its value simply because it has aged, is not as pretty as it once was, or has taken some bumps and bruises in life.

That’s the way God sees each one of us. We all go through chal­lenges and struggles. Sometimes we feel like that hundred-dollar bill, all crumpled and soiled. But just as that hundred-dollar bill still has value, we do, too! In fact, we will never, ever lose our value. Our value has been placed in us by the Creator of the universe, and nobody can take it away from us.

Don’t let other people, systems, or circumstances influence your estimation of your value. You may have gone through some traumatic, painful experiences in which somebody mistreated you, used you, or rejected you. Maybe your husband or wife walked out on you and you went through a bitter divorce. Maybe a good friend turned on you for no reason, and you now feel alone and worthless. Or, maybe you felt rejected as a child, and you are living with feelings of guilt and shame. Perhaps you’ve even convinced yourself that the negative things that happened in your past are all your fault, that you deserve nothing but heartache, pain, guilt, and condemnation.

Friend, nothing could be farther from the truth.


God Knows Your Value

I recall talking to Steve, a young man who had suffered severe rejection as a child. Steve’s parents continually beat him down verbally, telling him that he was never going to make it in life, that he’d never amount to any­thing. Day after day, those destructive words pounded into his thoughts and his subconscious mind, destroying his self-image and his sense of value. Steve told me later how he discovered the root cause of the prob­lem was the fact that his parents had hoped for a baby girl. They had been sorely disappointed when he was born. Seventeen years later, he was still living with tremendous guilt and shame. And for what? Being born! Sadly, Steve was convinced that he was to blame for all the heartache in his family, that he was the reason his parents were so unhappy, that he’d done something wrong, that his life was one horrible mistake.

I told him, “Steve, you cannot allow your self-esteem and your sense of value to be determined by how other people treat you. The Bible tells us that God accepts us even if everybody else in this world rejects us.”

I could see a glimmer of hope reflected in Steve’s eyes, so I contin­ued to encourage him. “I love what the psalmist said in Psalm 27:10: ‘Although my mother and my father have rejected me, the Lord will take me in and adopt me as His very own child.’ God will never reject you, Steve. He always accepts you. Don’t allow the rejection of other people to cause you to reject yourself.” It took a while for Steve to ac­cept the truth of what I was telling him, but today he is well on his way to living a happy, productive life.

Maybe you live or work with somebody who is emotionally abusive, always putting you down and criticizing you, telling you what a terri­ble person you are. Let that misinformation go in one ear and out the other. Constantly remind yourself that you are made in the image of Almighty God. Remind yourself that He has crowned you with glory and honor, that you are God’s own masterpiece. Don’t let other peo­ple play games with your mind, deceiving you into thinking that your value has diminished.

You may feel that your great aspirations have been dashed by the choices you have made or the choices imposed on you by others. You may feel that you are trapped in a rut, but there’s hope! God wants to restore your sense of value. David wrote, “God has lifted me out of the horrible pit and He set my feet upon a rock and He put a new song in my mouth.”4 God wants to put a new song in your heart; He wants to fill you with hope. He wants you to know that He loves you more than you can imagine and He can turn your dashed dreams into something beautiful.

I recently read a retelling of the timeless story The Tale of Three Trees. This fictitious children’s book relates the lofty aspirations of an olive tree, an oak tree, and a pine tree. Each of these trees had a great dream to become something special in life. The olive tree dreamed of becoming a finely crafted treasure chest. It wanted to hold gold, silver, and precious jewels. One day a woodsman chose the one olive tree, out of all the trees in the forest, and cut it down. The olive tree was so thrilled. But as the craftsmen began working on him, the tree realized they weren’t making him into a beautiful treasure chest; they were making him into a manger to hold food for dirty, smelly animals. Heartbroken, his dreams were shattered. He felt worthless and de­meaned.

Similarly, the oak tree dreamed of becoming part of a huge ship that would carry important kings across the ocean. When the woods­man cut down the oak, he was so excited. But as time went on, he re­alized the craftsmen weren’t making him into a huge ship. They were making him into a tiny fishing boat. He was so discouraged, so dis­appointed.

The pine tree lived on top of a high mountain. Its only dream was to always stand tall and remind people of God’s great creation. But in a split second, a bolt of lightning sent it tumbling to the ground, de­stroying its dreams. The woodsman came and picked it up and carried it off to the scrap pile.

All three of these trees felt they had lost their value and their worth; they were so discouraged, so disappointed. Not one of their dreams had come to pass. But God had other plans for these trees. Many years later, Mary and Joseph couldn’t find any place to give birth to their lit­tle baby boy. They finally found a stable, and when Jesus was born they placed Him in a manger made from—you guessed it—the olive tree. The olive tree had wanted to hold precious jewels, but God had better plans, and it now held the greatest treasure of all time, the Son of God.

A few years went by and Jesus grew up. One day He needed a boat to cross to the other side of the lake. He didn’t choose a large, fancy ship; He chose a small, simple fishing boat made from—you guessed it—the oak tree. The oak tree wanted to carry important kings across the ocean, but God had better plans. The oak now carried the King of kings.

A few more years went by, and one day some Roman soldiers were rummaging around in the pile of scrap wood where the discarded pine tree lay. That pine tree just knew they were coming to cut him up for firewood. But much to its surprise, they cut only two small pieces out of it and formed them into a cross. And it was on this pine tree that Jesus was crucified. That tree is still pointing people to God’s love and God’s compassion to this day.

The point of the classic story is clear: All three trees thought they had lost their value, that their stories were over, yet they became inte­gral parts of the greatest story ever told.

God knows your value; He sees your potential. You may not under­stand everything you are going through right now. But hold your head up high, knowing that God is in control and He has a great plan and purpose for your life. Your dreams may not have turned out exactly as you’d hoped, but the Bible says that God’s ways are better and higher than our ways. Even when everybody else rejects you, remember, God stands before you with His arms open wide. He always accepts you. He always confirms your value. God sees your two good moves! You are His prized possession. No matter what you go through in life, no matter how many disappointments you suffer, your value in God’s eyes always remains the same. You will always be the apple of His eye. He will never give up on you, so don’t give up on yourself.


If this excerpt from Your Best Life Now inspires you, by all means read the rest of the book. Otherwise, save your eyes for something with fewer nostrums, slogans, exclamation points and simplistic ideas.


Steve Hopkins, February 25, 2005



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the March 2005 issue of Executive Times


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