Joel Osteen gets a lot of ribbing for his never-ending smile. Nobody can be that happy. Yet the Houston pastor has a great deal going.
He leads the country's largest congregation, Lakewood Church in Houston, where about 40,000 people attend five services every weekend. Millions more watch on television. He is a New York Times best-selling author. He says his wife, Victoria, is his biggest supporter. She also is the church's co-pastor, and the couple have two children, a boy and a girl.
Osteen, 48, took over as pastor in 1999, after the death of his father, John Osteen, who started the congregation in 1959 with 90 people. Osteen said he takes no salary from the church; the family lives on book royalties and speaking-engagement fees.
His messages are positive. He starts each sermon with a joke. Messages are designed to be uplifting and motivating.
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In his new book, Every Day a Friday: How to Be Happier Seven Days a Week (FaithWords, $24.99), which went on sale this week, he shares the secrets to happiness.
Osteen has his critics. They accuse him of not preaching the whole Christian Gospel, avoiding topics on sin, hell and God's wrath.
Osteen said he doesn't listen to critics.
"Besides, I don't think it helps people to condemn them," Osteen said in a phone interview this week. "It's the goodness of God that leads people to repentance.
"The last thing I can do is tell people how bad they are. I try to speak faith into people. Jesus told people what they could become, not necessarily what they were.
"He saw their potential, and this is what I try to do."
Life is tough. People are losing their jobs, their homes and their cars, and those struggles can harm relationships.
"I want to lift people up," he said. "I also want to teach people how to live life today."
Osteen concedes that there are days when someone might not be jumping up and down with joy, but that person can be at peace and content on the inside. And, he said, it is possible to be at peace and content all the time, even in the midst of a bad economy.
Influencing the title for his newest book were studies that Osteen read. One said happiness increases 10 percent on Fridays. Another study said there are more heart attacks on Mondays.
Throughout the book are Osteen's happiness tips, including:
■ Realize that every day is a gift from God.
■ We can't control all of our circumstances, but we can control our reactions.
■ When you allow what someone says or does to upset you, you're allowing that person to control you.
■ The Bible says to be sober-minded, not sober-faced. Wherever you are, know that God has put you there for a reason.
■ If you have people in your life to love, you are rich.
■ God promises that when you praise, you will be raised.
■ When things are difficult, smile by faith.
There are dozens more.
But here is the essence of his message: "You have to find something to be grateful for when you get up. If you get up negative and bitter, then things never will change, because that keeps God from working.
"God works through faith. He is in control, and something better will happen, and God will give you strength to make it."
When he was writing the book, he said, it reinforced in his life that: "Our perspective determines how much we enjoy life. And what you have right now is enough to be happy."