Joel Osteen's 'It's Your Time' - Book Review
Are you a keen student of positive thinking or Christian inspirational books? If so then you may already be familiar with the works of Pastor Joel Osteen. The minister of the Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, which he inherited from his father and grew to a flock of millions (including remote viewers), he has an impressive congregation both in real life and via his publications. But if you haven’t yet come across him, is there anything of solid worth and lasting value in his books?
For the serious Christian believer, or religious scholar, is it worth picking up one of his books?
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It's Your Time
‘It’s Your Time’ is the first book by Osteen I have read. I will put my hand up and say that I came to it as a non-believer. (Of a sort: I class myself as not-exactly-agnostic: I tend towards an ecumenical and non-faith-specific belief, while feeling that the facts available to us can only support agnosticism.) I don’t restrict my reading matter just because of this fact, however. I feel it is possible to glean useful tips for living and new approaches and ways of thinking about your life and problems, even if you don’t share a faith or culture with an author. You just need to keep an open mind and learn to sieve out the nuggets from the stuff you just can’t get behind.
What is ‘It’s Your Time’ about?
What is ‘It’s Your Time’ about? The main theme of this book is, I would say, about ceasing to focus on waiting patiently for God’s grace in your life. That’s not to say that patience isn’t good, and the book includes a chapter on its necessity and the advantages and virtues that enduring trials and troubles can bring us. But Osteen’s theme here might be summarized as the suggestion that, perhaps, an excess of patience in waiting for God’s favour eventually becomes the reverse: a lack of faith in God’s goodness, his power and willingness to bless, protect and guide us.
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Osteen inspires us – and I do, in fact, find his writing quite uplifting – to have total faith in God’s love, and in his power to transform our lives and lift up our troubles. Not some day, not at a far-off point we can only dream of, but soon, very soon, maybe even right now! He underlines the reality of God’s power and omniscience, and how great they are, and how miniscule our troubles are in comparison.
Nor does Osteen focus merely on relief from present troubles, or the blessing of small, modest requests. No, Osteen encourages us to think big: to go to God, trustingly, with the true, passionate, amazingly ambitious and ‘unrealistic’ desires of our heart. His message is that a true desire planted in your heart by God is not unrealistic: and that nothing is too great for God to do! In fact he argues that it is proper for a good Christian to ‘argue’ with God in order to attain her heart’s desire: not only that, but he suggests that, if you come from a long line of devoted and pure of heart people, then you are even due ‘unearned favour’ beyond your personal deserts.
Is Osteen's Preaching Biblical?
As a non-Christian, I couldn’t tell you just how sound the biblical basis is for Osteen’s writings and teachings. But alternatively, I can tell you that he got this old heathen all fired up and inspired with them! (And through a few days of non-stop personal griefs and troubles, so kudos to him – and to God! – for that.) I understand from a newspaper article that Osteen got some purist preachers riled up when he declined to commit himself regarding the necessity to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour in order to be accepted into Heaven. (Allegedly he has since established his position on this.)1 I guess this is just one of the things that I can’t get behind, having known some truly ethical and loving atheists, Jews, Muslims etc. If they’re going to hell, then I want to join them: I know I’ll have good company!
Enough about the content: what is Osteen’s actual writing like? I’m pleased to report that I found it delightful: relaxed, clear, easy to read and funny. Especially the funny bit! The man is a natural comedian, and that seems fair enough to me. I’m sure God put us on Earth in order to enjoy a laugh, and rejoices when he hears us doing so. Osteen is a very funny guy: I can conceive of an alternate life for him where he made it big as a stand-up comedian. I guess both pastors and comics need a little bit of the showman in them (although Osteen does claim to be naturally shy.) If he ever decides to switch careers, I guess all the practice he has had as a pastor in performing to a huge audience will come in handy.
In the final analysis, is Osteen’s argument convincing to the average, not especially religious reader? I have to say that my initial euphoria and inspiration on reading this book dissipated somewhat during the days that followed: but I feel, even so, that I have taken away something of lasting value from it, and will not look at my life in quite the same way again.
I think my favourite chapter is 22, ‘Finding Your Place of Blessing’. This is the one that really spoke to me. Here Osteen speaks of how, in order to receive God’s blessing, you need to get all your ducks in a row. God has a specific place – geographically – in mind for you, a particular job, a definite partner, mindset, career etc. If you’re in the wrong place, then no matter how much you are loved by God, you’re just not ready for the blessing you are due. You haven’t done what it takes! After reading this chapter, I have spent more time listening carefully for divine hints and guidance as to exactly where I am supposed to be, and what I’m supposed to be doing, and who with. None of us know better than God on these issues, however emphatic our preferences and opinions!
So, if your question is whether ‘It’s Your Time’ is worth reading, I guess my answer is, ‘In my opinion, yes’. It’s worth springing for new even – I did! Will it change your life? Only you can decide that. I think, in a small way – perhaps a greater way to come – it has changed mine.
1. Kalder, D. "Joel Osteen: the new face of Christianity." Guardian Online. 07/03/2010. (01/04/2010). <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/mar/07/joel-osteen-am