Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church, one of America's largest and fastest-growing churches, writes about how people can grow in their faith.
In "It's Your Time: Activate Your Faith, Achieve Your Dreams, and Increase in God's Favor," Osteen says it's important to get one's hopes up. His new book is full of biblical references, practical advice and uplifting stories from people who have overcome challenges.
Read the excerpt below, and then head to the "GMA" Library to find more good reads.
While on vacation in Colorado, I woke up early for a hike. The three-mile trail ran to the peak of Beaver Creek Mountain. At the base a sign said it should take about three hours to reach the top. Looking up to my destination, I was intimidated. The trail was extremely steep. The altitude at the base was 8,000 feet above sea level. The peak stood at more than 11,000 feet.
Just walking up the first set of stairs, I began breathing heavier than normal. I had to remind myself to take it easy. At home in Houston, I run several miles a few times a week and play a lot of basketball. But the elevation there is only fifty feet above sea level. The thinner air in the Colorado mountains had me doubting whether I could make it to the top.
I started out with just my cell phone and a bottle of water. Determined, I set a pretty good pace. The first fifteen minutes seemed fairly easy. The next fifteen minutes were increasingly difficult. I felt as though I were carrying an extra load. I had to stop every so often to catch my breath.
About forty-five minutes into my hike, the trail got extremely steep—almost like I was climbing straight up. My pathway snaked skyward through thick stands of aspen and ponderosa pine. The view was both beautiful and daunting. Despite the fact I am in shape from running and playing basketball, my legs were burning and my chest was pounding.
As I climbed over a big ridge, I had to stop for air. Sweat was pouring off my body. I thought: If there's another two hours like this, I don't know if I can make it.
Up to that point, I had not seen anyone else on the path. Suddenly an older gentleman heading down the mountain came around a curve. He wore a T-shirt, shorts, and hiking shoes and carried a walking stick. He seemed cool and calm. And he read me pretty well. As we passed, he said something that changed my whole perspective. He smiled kindly and said in a calm voice: "You are closer than you think."
Hearing those words, I felt rejuvenated, as if he'd breathed new life into my lungs. Energy surged through my body. My legs grew stronger. I caught a second wind. From that point forward, with every stride, I repeated those words of encouragement: "I will make it. I'm closer than I think."
Though the climb was difficult, though my muscles and lungs were burning, I kept saying, "I'm almost to the top. I know I can make it." And sure enough, just ten minutes later, I clambered over these big boulders and beheld a beautiful sight: the summit.
According to the sign at the base, it was supposed to be a threehour hike. But I'd made it in just under an hour! I was much closer than I'd thought when I passed that gentleman on the trail. Yet, without his encouraging words, I might have turned around. I might have talked myself out of continuing because I thought I had two more hours to go.