TheBlaze's Carly Hoilman contributed to this report.
Famed preacher Joel Osteen is oft-times criticized for being too soft on theology, but in an interview with TheBlaze he made it clear that he believes embracing Jesus is essential. Just being a moral person, Osteen argued, isn't enough -- in the end it's all about the connection one has with Christ.
"To me, it’s very good to be a moral person -- that’s very commendable. But our message is about a relationship with Christ," he said. "You know, to me, that’s when you have salvation, your connection with the Creator of the universe."
Experiencing God and the love of Christ, he says, opens up the human heart and allows people to enjoy "a new level of really being able to love people."
The popular pastor visited TheBlaze newsroom in New York City on Wednesday, where we also spoke about his new book, "Break Out!," how to cope with pain and suffering, and why Christians suffer, among other subjects.
"Break Out!" is Osteen's sixth literary project -- one that promises to deliver readers "five keys to go beyond [their] barriers." Considering that his other titles -- "I Declare," "Your Best Life Now" and "Every Day a Friday," among others -- have heavily focused on self-empowerment and reliance upon God, we asked him what's different about this new release.
The faith leader said it's his best and most organized book to date -- and he hoping that people can use his five practical steps to move forward in their lives.
"It’s a faith-building book. The premise is that it’s easy to get stuck in life, put limitations on ourselves, like I did -- I didn’t think I could be a minister, you know, and I think many people do that," Osteen told TheBlaze.
"I believe a shift is coming when you believe God can take you further faster," he added.
Positivity is contagious, which is something that Osteen is keenly aware of. But life struggles have a way of getting people down, so we asked him how God wants people to respond to the pain and disappointment that often strikes in life.
While it's not always something we can understand -- or even something that is in our control -- he said it's important to realize that struggles are part of each individual's destiny and that there is a purpose behind each barrier we face.
Photo Credit: Faith Words
"There’s a chapter in ["Break Out!"] about closed doors and how we always get disappointed when we didn’t get the job, or it didn’t work out, but you have to realize you have to go through your closed doors before you get to your open doors," he said.
While life's many tests can challenge even the most resilient person's resolve, Osteen said that these troubles pose an important question: "Will you do the right thing when the wrong thing’s happening?"
"You know, you see it all through the Bible. When David was anointed to be king, but he went back to the shepherd’s fields," he explained. "It’s like it didn’t work, but, you know it was years later -- and I think that’s how you have to look at it -- like this is all part of my destiny, and I’m gonna keep a good attitude and pass the test."
Rather than monumental and life-chanhing events, Osteen said that it's many times the "small tasks that keep us from becoming everything God wants us to be."
To keep the right mindset, he recommends that people start the day by being grateful, thanking God for their job or for some other personal development worth noting. While this won't guarantee a perfect day, Osteen said it will set the proper tone.
To overcome struggles, Christians are told to trust in God. Part of having faith, Osteen argues, is believing and relying upon the Lord even when you don't understand what's happening.
"And what I remind myself too is, you know nothing is a surprise to God," he said. "It says He’s already written all of our days."
In addition to not placing limits on themselves, Osteen said that he's hoping people will read his book and learn to also stop limiting God. Rather than assuming he has bigger and better things to deal with than minute, daily concerns, Osteen believes that it's important to trust the Lord for everything.
"We’ve got to realize God’s all-powerful," he proclaimed.
When people come to him for counseling and speak about their hopes and dreams -- whether it's having a baby or getting a promotion -- he asks them, "Did you ever ask God?" While some might see this as Osteen pledging that the Almighty will deliver whatever Christians ask for, he made it clear this isn't the case.
Watch Osteen discuss his book on Glenn Beck's radio program yesterday, below:
"I believe God puts the desires in our heart, but then I think the balance of it is -- if it doesn’t happen in your way or on your timetable, you’ve got to make up your mind: 'I’m gonna trust God to do it His way,'" he said. "Otherwise you’re going to get bitter and, you know, drop out of church and say it doesn’t work. But that’s the part of faith: 'God, this is what I want--this is what I believe is the plan for my life -- this is what I’m praying for, but God, if it doesn’t happen, I’m still going to be happy. I’m still gonna be good to people. I’m still gonna go to work with the right attitude.'"
Osteen said that it's easy to get angry or downtrodden, but striking a balance and recognizing that God is in control is key.
Why Do Christians Suffer?
Speaking of disappointments, Osteen also tackled the difficult phenomenon surrounding why Christians suffer. Many new believers assume that they will be free from any and all pain, but the reality is starkly different.
"I believe that a lot of times, and you guys experience here, you take a step of faith, you do the right thing, and you get attacked from every side," the preacher told TheBlaze. "But I think that when you deal with it it’s, you know, again a day at a time. The Bible says count it all joy--all of the trials I’m in."
Osteen also noted that the Bible doesn't promise everything will be easy. He quoted Psalm 34:19, which reads, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous [but God delivers us out of them]."
Many times, in fact, Christians may actually suffer more, he said. Trials and tribulations spawn growth. And in the end, Osteen believes that people won't be given more than they can handle.
In his own life, he has experienced some challenges, particularly after becoming the public face of his father's ministry at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas.
Televangelist and best-selling author, Joel Osteen, right, and his wife, Victoria, left, celebrate the grand opening of the new home for the Lakewood Church, formerly the Compaq Center, Saturday, July 16, 2005, in Houston. (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jessica Kourkounis)
No stranger to critique, Osteen said that being nice hasn't always made his life easy, as he has been criticized for his theology and the manner through which he chooses to deliver an overtly positive message.
"I think we’re armed with strength for every battle. We talked about that attitude of trust, and, 'God, you’re in control,'" he said. "The more someone’s talking about me, or plans didn’t work out, or I didn’t get what I’ve been praying for, you know, 'God, you know what’s best for me.'"
Osteen said he has learned that God truly is control over his past 14 years in ministry. And he should know. Running media behind the scenes when his father, John Osteen, was still alive, he never once assumed that he would be one of the biggest names in Christianity. But God, he says, had a different plan.
"The best thing is, you know, you keep your heart pure. As long as you’re doing your best, I really believe God will get you to where you’re supposed to be," the preacher added.
What Is Success?
Considering his own story, Osteen's definition of success is an intriguing one that is anything but objective.
It's not based on fortune and certainly not on fame, he says. Finding true success is fulfilling one's purpose and destiny and doing what God has put on each person's heart.
"You know, success to somebody is being a great mom. You know, for somebody else, it’s running a big business," he said. "So I think that’s the way I see it -- it’s fulfilling your purpose."
One of the biggest struggles for most Christians is keeping up with their faith. Reading the Bible, praying, attending church -- all of these actions require time. And time, these days, is a precious commodity for most.
Considering his hectic schedule, TheBlaze asked Osteen how he keeps centered and on-track, especially in light of the celebrity status that further clouds his schedule.
Preacher Joel Osteen, left, leads prayer with Nik and Erendira Wallenda ahead of Nik's 1400 foot walk across the Grand Canyon for Discovery Channel's Skywire Live With Nik Wallenda on Sunday, June 23, 2013 at the Grand Canyon, Calif. (Photo Credit: AP Images for Discovery Communications)
"I start every day, the first half hour, just quiet, grateful, meditating, reading the scripture, praying, and searching my own heart. That helps me," he told TheBlaze.
While Osteen can't always commit to a half hour every morning, especially when his schedule is especially crazy, he always tries to. But the pastor tried every morning to search his heart and to pose some important questions to God: What am I supposed to be doing? What's best for me today?
Osteen also surrounds himself with good people and seeks a balanced existence. In addition to his public appearance, he likes to run, lift weights, play basketball and spend time with his family.
It's been a busy press week for the famed preacher, who appeared on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" Tuesday night before coming to TheBlaze newsroom. While he addressed some of these same hard-hitting issues on Fallon's program, he also joked back and forth with the host.
We'll leave you with the light-hearted exchange, below:
This story follows TheBlaze's interview with Osteen at Lakewood Church in July 2012.