Having Faith, as small as a mustard seed can move mountains!
We Can Do All Things, Through Christ Jesus, Our Lord!
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 07/16/18
Speed His Coming
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 07/16/18
Jesus has called us to faithfully share the Gospel until He returns. As we do, we can be encouraged that we are speeding His coming.
Read 2 Peter 3:10-18. At the day of the Lord, "the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare" (2 Peter 3:10). Christ’s return and final judgment are more certain than tomorrow. So what kind of lives should we be living today?
First, Peter tells us that we are to live holy lives—set apart for God’s use. Second, Peter says that we are to live expectantly—looking forward to that day. A righteous life lived in joyful anticipation of Christ’s return will "speed its coming" (2 Peter 3:12).
The statement "speed its coming" is staggering. Far from fearing Christ’s impending judgment, we must seek to hasten the day when we will be with Christ for all eternity. God’s Word promises that as you pray and faithfully proclaim the hope of Christ, you hasten His return.
Just listen to Jesus’ words: "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14). Every nation must hear the hope of the Gospel. So with our eyes fixed on that day, let us work diligently to proclaim the Good News, bearing in mind that "our Lord’s patience means salvation" (2 Peter 3:15). As long as Christ’s return is yet to come, there is still time for us to proclaim to the nations, "It’s not too late!"
Prayer: Jesus, I pray for Your work in the world—may many come to a saving knowledge of Your Gospel. Give Your people strength, perseverance, and great love to fulfill Your Great Commission. Use me to proclaim Your Truth today. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming" (2 Peter 3:13-12).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 07/15/18
A Sure Coming
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 07/15/18
Satan tries to distract us from living with hope in Christ's return. He knows that we are the most dangerous to him when we are living for that great day.
Read 2 Peter 3:1-10. When believers live their lives in light of Christ's return, they will live faithfully, work diligently, and pray zealously. They will be lifted high above their circumstances, purified by the hope of eternity.
Beloved, you don't need a seminary degree to know that Satan does not want us to live this way. He will do everything he can to keep us from believing that Christ is coming. In 2 Peter 3:1-10, Peter sets the record straight: Christ's second coming—and His future judgment—are certain.
Peter encourages us to keep Christ's return at the forefront of our minds. We must allow the fact that we will one day stand before Christ and give an account for our lives influence our decisions now.
When Jesus returns, He's not going to find me in a white robe up on a mountain. He's going to find me hard at work. He's going to find me serving, ministering, and sacrificing. For I am living to hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:23). I am living for my audience of one!
Have life's concerns distracted you from eternity? It's never too late to begin living intentionally for the Lord. Christ is coming, in the fullness of time, right on schedule. Plan on it.
Prayer: Jesus, thank You for the promise of Your return. I am looking forward to that day when all will be made new and I will see You face to face. May the hope of eternity with You refresh and invigorate me for service to Your Kingdom today. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare" (2 Peter 3:10).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 07/14/18
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 07/14/18
Satan will entice you to use your freedom to sin. But true freedom means we are free from sin—free to serve Christ and live holy lives.
Read 2 Peter 2:17-22. One of Satan's most clever tactics is to entice us into slavery by giving it a new name: freedom. Schooled in the art of seduction, he will keep at it until he overpowers the voice of the Holy Spirit—if we let him.
In verse 19, Peter warns us that false teachers will promote a false, unbiblical 'freedom' that actually gives us license to sin. They will twist the Truth, saying we are free to sin because God's grace will cover it.
If Christian freedom is not properly understood, it can be easy for us to fall into this trap. But here is the Truth: When the Bible speaks about our freedom in Christ, it is referring to freedom from sin—and freedom to serve Christ. Before Christ came into our lives, we were slaves to sin, but since Christ has saved us, we are free from that merciless slave master (see Romans 6:15-23). By the Spirit, we now have power to say 'no' to our lusts and joyfully serve our Lord Jesus.
Beloved, do not be allured by Satan's arguments of cheap grace. Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commands" (John 14:15). Train yourself each day to reject unrighteousness and experience true freedom in Christ. It's never too late to serve Him with your whole heart today.
Prayer: Lord, I rejoice in the freedom You have secured for me in Christ—freedom to live in the peace and joy of holiness. Show me how I can serve You today. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for 'people are slaves to whatever has mastered them'" (2 Peter 2:19).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 07/13/18 to 07/01/18
Surrendering Our Pride
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 07/13/18
Many false teachers start out with good intentions but then fall victim to pride. We must be sure to not make the same mistake.
Read 2 Peter 2:10-16. Many false teachers do not start out as false teachers; rather, they are simply people who have lost their way by thinking of themselves more highly than they should. Slowly, they exchange the Truth of God's Word for their own feelings, opinions, and interpretations—despising God's authority in the process (see 2 Peter 2:10).
Pride is at the very core of this blasphemous exchange. When our pride is not surrendered to the Holy Spirit, we become bold and arrogant, thinking that we know better than God. This is the problem with so many false teachers. They critique Scripture, saying, "This is right; this is wrong. This happened; this did not happen." They judge God's Word instead of allowing it to judge them.
True believers come to Jesus in a posture of brokenness and humility, not arrogance and self-will. But even genuine believers have the potential to become blind to pride, for it is a subtle foe. That is why every one of us needs faithful friends to hold us accountable.
Beloved, God is patient, but He will not be mocked. Whether you are at the beginning of your Christian walk or have been following Christ for years, ask God today to reveal if there is any hidden sin in your heart. He alone can save us from being ambushed by our pride.
Prayer: Lord, I surrender to You. You alone are all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful. Thank You for Your patience and for the gift of Your Spirit who leads me to repentance. By Your grace, may I grow in righteousness and humility for Your glory. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings" (2 Peter 2:10).
Beware of False Teachers
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 07/12/18
There is nothing more offensive to God than the distortion of His Word. We must call out false teachers and, above all, pray that they would repent.
Read 2 Peter 2:1-9. When a fellow Christian compromises God's Word on major issues, how do you respond? In this passage, Peter passionately denounces false teaching, and we are to do the same.
False teachers will never directly tell you, "I don't believe the Bible." They are far too subtle for that. Instead, they introduce destructive heresies—preaching half-truths cleverly blended with error so that the undiscerning believer might be deceived and manipulated. As these false teachers modify God's Word to accommodate our worldly culture, wittingly or unwittingly, they promote Satan's lies.
In every generation, the battle before us is to keep God's Truth free from Satan's deception and to allow it to free people for eternity through the blood of Christ—even false teachers who promise freedom but are themselves "slaves of depravity" (2 Peter 2:19).
One of my most fervent prayers is that I will never compromise the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I pray also that those who do compromise it will understand what a grave sin they are committing against the Lord. God is patient and longsuffering, and He may give false teachers an opportunity to repent. Let this drive us to pray for and witness to everyone, even false teachers, while we still can.
Prayer: Lord, help me to stand firm in faith and boldly proclaim Your Truth in love. May those who have lost their way repent and find mercy in You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you" (2 Peter 2:1).
Hold Fast to Truth
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 07/11/18
All Scripture is given by God and is therefore completely trustworthy. We must hold fast to every single word.
Read 2 Peter 1:16-21. Today, it is very popular to say the virgin birth, the Noahic flood, and Jonah's three days in the belly of a whale are just fables—and furthermore, that the universe wasn't created in seven days and that Christ's resurrection is just metaphorical. But Peter cautions us to hold fast to all Scripture.
"Listen to me," Peter pleads, "I am an eyewitness to the life of Jesus Christ. I followed Him for more than three years, and I heard Him affirm the historicity of these very events. I experienced the majestic power of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. I was there."
Peter boldly testifies to the trustworthiness of the Gospel proclaimed by the apostles. He reminds us that all Scripture has been given to us through the direction of the Holy Spirit—not just the sections that our culture finds believable.
So confident was Peter in Christ and His fulfillment of Scripture that, when it came time to die for his faith, he asked to be crucified upside-down, considering himself unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus. Let me tell you something: No one has ever asked to be crucified upside-down for mere fables.
Prayer: Lord, help me hold fast to Scriptural Truth with the same assurance that Peter displayed. I long to submit to You and honor Your Word. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation of things" (2 Peter 1:20).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 07/10/18
The greatest challenge the church faces today is falling victim to false teaching. This was Peter's deepest concern.
Read 2 Peter 1:12-15. Now, more than any other period in my lifetime, I am seeing mass confusion and chaos. People are no longer able to distinguish between Truth and fiction. But the tragedy of all tragedies is that fake news is preached from many a pulpit across America today.
My friend the late Dr. Adrian Rogers once said, "It is better to be hated for telling the truth than to be loved for telling a lie." And this is precisely Peter's passion in 2 Peter 1:12-15. He determined never to stop proclaiming the Truth, unto his dying breath. His deepest concern was that the church would be firmly established on the Truth of the Scriptures. For this reason, he made every effort to ensure believers are not misled by false gospels.
Beloved, this is just as relevant for us today. Peter's burden was not that the church be financially affluent or politically correct, but that we would remember and hold fast to the true Gospel. Every day, our culture tries to influence our thinking. But it's never too late for us to take a stand. Today, don't let worldly thinking lead you to believe false gospels, which are no gospel at all. Refresh your memory. Remember the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
Prayer: Jesus, there is no gospel like Your Gospel. You alone save. Only Your Gospel answers the just wrath of God against sin through Your loving sacrifice on the cross. May I, like Peter, proclaim this Good News unto my dying breath. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things" (2 Peter 1:15)
A Firm Foundation
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 07/09/18
To build lives that glorify God, we must build on the immovable, eternal, and sure foundation He has provided: Jesus Christ.
Read 2 Peter 1:5-11. Any decent architect knows that a strong building must have an immovable foundation. In 2 Peter 1:5, Peter tells us that our faith, if it is to be strong, must be built on the righteousness of Christ—our only hope for eternal salvation.
In verse 5, Peter begins with the words, "For this very reason." Since we have already been saved by Christ's righteousness and given everything we need to live a godly life, we are equipped to build our lives as a monument to God's glory. We can pursue spiritual maturity each day.
In this passage, Peter clearly gives us the blueprint for building godly lives: To faith we add goodness, then knowledge, then self-control, then perseverance, then godliness, then mutual affection, and then love (see 2 Peter 1:5-7).
Peter knew from experience that these wonderful qualities are the fruit of the Holy Spirit working in us. So he exhorts us to make every effort to walk by the Spirit and thus confirm our calling and election—our identity as sons and daughters of the living God (see 2 Peter 1:10).
It's never too late to build productive and effective lives for Christ. When we begin on the rock of Christ's righteousness, we can build with confidence, knowing that "he who began a good work in [us] will carry it on to completion" (Philippians 1:6). Amen belongs here!
Prayer: Lord, thank You for freeing me from the bondage of sin to build a life of beauty and righteousness with Christ as my foundation. Use me for Your glory. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love" (2 Peter 1:5-7
Everything We Need
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 07/08/18
Power for Christian living does not lie in hard-to-attain experiences. It comes from realizing God has already given us everything we need.
Read 2 Peter 1:3-4. Have you ever been frustrated trying to chase the next spiritual experience? Or felt that something was missing in your life with God? If so, you are not alone. Many of us have been there. Truthfully, our problem is not that we lack what we need—it is that we have not fully appropriated all that He has already given us.
When we first receive Christ, we receive everything we need to live a godly life (2 Peter 1:3). We are filled with the Holy Spirit and become recipients of every covenantal promise of God—promises like:
Today, before you search for the next mountaintop experience, remember the promises of God. Before you give in to depression and despair, remember the promises of God. And long before you say, "It's too late for me," remember the promises of God. As you allow these precious promises to permeate your mind, you will participate in the "divine nature," living in the abundance of all that Christ has given you (2 Peter 1:4). He has already given you everything you need; don't let anything hold you back from living fully for Him.
Prayer: Father, I know Your promises are sure and unchanging. Thank You that my experience of Your presence has no bearing on the Truth that You are with me. Thank You for empowering me with Your Spirit so that I can live abundantly with joy, holiness, and hope. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness" (2 Peter 1:3).
There Is Still Time
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 07/07/18
If you are alive and in Christ, there is still time for you to be used mightily by God. You are needed and your faith is precious.
Read 2 Peter 1:1-2. I think every one of us can testify to the fact that there have been points in our lives—maybe even now—when we have felt defeated, discouraged, and despondent. In these moments, it can be easy to say to ourselves, "It's too late for me. My situation is hopeless. It's too late for forgiveness, restoration, and healing. It's too late to be used mightily by God and make a difference in this world."
Beloved, I am here to tell you that these statements are all authored by Satan's publishing company. I have news for you: God specializes in using the repentant sinner. Just consider the life of the apostle Peter, the author of the very epistle we are studying.
When the chips were down, Peter denied His Lord three times. But afterwards he believed in a forgiving God, throwing himself on His grace and mercy, and God used him to build His church. If you are a servant of Christ, with faith in His righteousness and breath in your lungs, it is not too late for you to make an impact.
You are desperately needed in the spiritual battle raging today. The church needs people like you and me to take a stand for Christ. And 2 Peter was written to show us how.
Prayer: Father, thank You for 2 Peter and its message to both encourage and exhort me to stand firm on Your Truth. I know nothing is impossible for You, so use me—though I am a broken vessel—for Your glory. I know that, as You do, You will transform me and bring healing. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: Grace and peace be yours in abundance" (2 Peter 1:1-2).
Closer Than a Brother
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 07/06/18
Whether we realize it or not, faithfulness is at the heart of all relationships. It is the very thing that prevents families and societies from falling apart. And it is the one element that has the ability to encourage us to persevere in times of failure and heartache.
The psalmist writes, "The LORD preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full" (Psalm 31:23). Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the apostle Paul lists faithfulness as one of the fruit of the Spirit.
In fact, one of the first things we learn about God is that He is faithful. As children, we often sing the song "Jesus Loves Me," and we know He does. No matter what we have done in the past or what we will do in the future, God's love for us never changes. It is eternal, infinite, and faithful.
Far from compelling us to presume on God's faithful, unchanging love, the amazing grace of God is the catalyst for our repentance so that we are saved to new life in Christ. This new life begins the moment we are born again of the Spirit so that, through Him, we become like Jesus—faithful, the kind of friend who "sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24). Jesus remains at our side even when others abandon us, and we should follow His example in our relationships with others. Who can you be faithful to today?
Prayer: Lord, thank You for my friends. Please help me to be a good friend to them. I pray I will follow Your example and will stand by my friends when they need me the most. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23).
Attacks on Integrity
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 07/05/18
Goodness grows out of righteous integrity. The person who manifests God's goodness thinks good thoughts, speaks good words, and performs good deeds. What the person thinks lines up with what he speaks, and what he speaks lines up with what he does. He is consistent in the integrity of his life.
Through self-justification and excuse-making, Satan attacks our integrity and tempts us to disguise our sins so that we fool ourselves about what is truly good. Whether it is the woman who justifies leaving her husband because she is unhappy or the alcoholic who explains away his drinking as stress relief, these people are not experiencing goodness—they are living a lie. The problem is that our flesh prefers the lie—but this is the way to destruction.
Writing to the Galatians in the middle of the first century AD, Paul warns against the very same sins we face today, and he tells us they are obvious: "Sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like" (Galatians 5:19-21).
Lies and deception fragment our lives. We are torn between what we do and what we should do. It is always Satan's purpose to separate us from God and to divide us from one another. Satan seeks to create disharmony in our emotions, thoughts, and motives. The works of the flesh create confusion over what is right and wrong and cause division in our relationships, birthing distrust and alienation. They are in direct conflict with the Spirit, who produces "love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" in our lives if we will but walk in the light of Truth (Galatians 5:22-23).
Prayer: God, forgive me for justifying my sins. There are inconsistencies in my life that can only be corrected with the help of Your Spirit. Show me how I can develop integrity and goodness in my life today. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called 'Today,' so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness" (Hebrews 3:13).
Truth and Freedom
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 07/04/18
Do not be casual about attacks on Truth, for they are attacks on your individual freedoms as well as on our nation. Truth and freedom are inextricably linked. Many Christians are concerned about the systematic loss of religious and political freedom in our time as our culture flees Truth in favor of sinful, self-pleasure that only enslaves. That's why it is paramount that churches stand firm in Christ and faithfully proclaim His Word. History has shown that as the church goes, so goes the society. Jesus said it clearly in John 8:32: "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
What might be the consequences to our nation if Christians falter in fighting for God's Truth to prevail? Is God's Truth an important factor when you make business, financial, or political decisions? What do you need to do to help guard Truth and freedom? Develop more intimacy with the Lord in prayer? Learn more about God's Truth from the Bible?
God is sufficient to give you wisdom and power in these areas if you only ask. Pray that God will strengthen you to contend for the faith and for Truth in your home, work, and community. Prayerfully approach your decisions as a family member, neighbor, and citizen.
Prayer: God, help me to always carefully consider Your Truth so that I live in accordance with the unadulterated Gospel and proclaim this Good News in word and deed. I know You are the only source of freedom. Give Your church in this nation strength to stand firm for Your Kingdom and glory. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel" (Philippians 1:27).
Let Truth Be the Light
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 07/03/18
One of God's greatest desires for us is that we come to know Him intimately. He made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may have constant fellowship with Him, laying the foundation for a powerful relationship that transforms our lives and causes us to become who we were created to be. However, in relating to God, we must be honest about living and walking in the Truth.
Establishing Truth deep into our heart so that it transforms our character takes work. Though we have heard all the right answers and know the Truth, sometimes we act as if we do not really believe it. What we truly believe is best determined through how we live, not just what we say.
To walk in the Truth is to walk in the light, unashamed of how we live before both God and man. When we are walking in the Truth, living out God's Word in our everyday lives, there is no need to deceive. The Truth needs to make no apologies or excuses for its deeds.
In our journey with God, walking in His Truth must be the standard by which we live. It is in God's Word that we find His Truth. And if we trust Him and His Word, we will be people who not only hear His Truths but who live them out and let them define us.
The book The Day America Told the Truth reports that two out of three Americans believe that there is nothing wrong with telling a lie. To thrive in our journey of faith, we must be people who value Truth despite the deceitful trends of modern culture. We must let Truth light our way, comforting us and strengthening us to declare the excellencies of the one true God, our Savior who has brought us out of darkness and into the light of His perfect plan for us.
Prayer: Lord, help me to live out the Truth of Your Word in all that I do. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God" (John 3:21).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 07/02/18
Everything valuable comes with a price—and freedom is no exception. Whether it is our freedom to choose our place of worship, to travel across borders, or to pursue the career of our choosing, our freedoms are costly. We owe an untold debt to those who fought and sacrificed for the political and social liberties we enjoy today.
While we should always be grateful to the men and women who have sacrificed to secure our earthly freedoms, our overwhelming thanks should be directed to God for the greatest sacrifice of all. The Lord Jesus—perfect, holy, divine, and deserving of all worship, honor and blessing—died on the cross to redeem us eternally. Because of His blood poured out for us, we can experience everlasting and true freedom—freedom from sin.
Whatever blessings of political freedom we experience in this world cannot be compared to the freedom that Jesus gives. The daily liberties we treasure on this earth are fleeting, but our spiritual freedom as children of God will last for eternity.
Prayer: Father, thank You for sacrificing Your Son so that I might find true freedom in You. Help me to never take that for granted. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Corinthians 3:17).
Who Is the Unknown God?
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 07/01/18
In his Breakpoint commentary, Chuck Colson lamented the idolatrous condition of our world. He reported:
Between 1976 and 1997, the number of Americans who believed in astrology grew from seventeen to thirty-seven percent. During the same period, the percentage of Americans who professed a belief in reincarnation nearly tripled—from nine percent to twenty-five percent. . . . In addition, up to half of all Americans [believe] in necromancy (that is, conjuring up the dead).
According to Colson, only one conclusion can be drawn from the findings: It's as simple as ABC—Anything But Christianity. We lack discernment about spiritual issues.
As G. K. Chesterton remarked through his insightful character Father Brown,
People readily swallow the untested claims of this, that, or the other. It's drowning all your old rationalism and skepticism, it's coming in like a sea; and the name of it is superstition. . . . It's the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense and can't see things as they are. . . . And a dog is an omen, and a cat is a mystery, . . . (The Incredulity of Father Brown).
Today's lack of true spiritual discernment is the same problem that Paul faced in Athens. The Athenians did not believe in God. Instead, they believed in many gods, and in order to ensure that every god was represented in their worship, they even erected an altar with the inscription "TO AN UNKNOWN GOD" (Acts 17:23).
How miserable life must have been for these people. They were ensnared in their unbelief, struggling to satisfy the uncertain demands of false gods to earn favor. So with compassion, Paul boldly preached the Good News of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Likewise, though people today are lost in unbelief, they do not have to remain that way. All the authentic spiritual experience and fulfillment we seek can only be found through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Lord, open the eyes of my heart so that I can discern Your Truth. When I encounter the lies, deception, and confusion of this world, strengthen my heart to choose only You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. . . . I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you" (Acts 17:22-23).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 06/30/18 to 06/01/18
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/30/18
In 2 Corinthians 8-9, Paul deals extensively with what it means to practice grace giving. In fact, in these two chapters alone, the word "grace" is mentioned six times.
We learn from these chapters that grace giving is God-honoring. When everything is going well in your life and you give God the crumbs, you are not honoring God. But when everything is blowing up in your face and you give to God sacrificially, you do honor God—something He will never forget. Problems are a part of living, but don't use problems as an excuse to not practice generosity.
It is because of the grace that we have freely received that we can be sympathetic with other people's trials. Our trials give us the ability to minister to others with compassion.
That is the difference the grace of God makes, and that is why the apostle Paul writes, "In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity" (2 Corinthians 8:2).
What did they have to be joyful about when they were in the midst of severe trials? Well, they had joy in the fact that God's grace was poured out upon them. That is truly enough to make you joyful until you close your eyes in death. They had joy in the fact that they had been brought by God out of darkness and into light and that they were on their way to eternity in heaven.
Prayer: God, I pray that I would honor You as I practice grace giving. When I am in the midst of trials, help me to remember that, because Your grace has been poured out on me, I have a reason to be joyful. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity" (2 Corinthians 8:2).
Give Yourself Away
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/29/18
Deep down, every one of us is generous. We all give our money, our time, and our energy away to someone. The problem is that some people are only generous for their own benefit. Even when they're "giving," they're really only looking for something in return (see Luke 6:34-35). This kind of lifestyle has no place in God's Kingdom. Sincere, Biblical generosity gives to others without expecting to ever be paid back.
Jesus, of course, was the most generous person who ever lived, giving His life for people who did not deserve it and who could never pay Him back (see Romans 5:8). As leaders, our lives should be marked by radical generosity. We should give financially when appropriate, being very openhanded when a need is presented. But generosity with money is only a start. Generous leaders see the needs of the people around them as opportunities to share the love of God, to invest in others, and to build genuine relationships.
Jesus took one boy's lunch and multiplied it so there was enough food to feed everyone present. The accounts say there were five thousand men present, which means there might have been an equal number of women and children present.
Jesus could have warned the crowd in the morning that they should bring a sack lunch. He could have shrugged off the needs of those people, saying, "Not my problem." The disciples knew that the people would be hungry, and they offered a sensible suggestion to Jesus: Send everybody home before dark.
But Jesus didn't send the people away. He provided for them. That's the generosity of Jesus. He gave when He didn't have to and with no expectation of anything in return.
Would others consider you a generous person? Make it a point this week to be intentionally generous with someone in need. If possible, try to give secretly (see Matthew 6:1-4).
Prayer: God, thank You for the generosity You displayed when You sent Jesus to die on the cross for my sins. Reveal ways that I may generously give of my resources to help those around me who are in need. May You use me as an example of a generous leader. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?" (1 John 3:17).
Loving People over Tradition
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/28/18
Jesus never broke even one of the laws His Father gave to Moses, but He was notorious for placing the needs of people above the man-made rules of His day. Over and over again in the Gospels, we read that Jesus had compassion on the large crowds and on the people who came to Him for healing. He healed people with all kinds of infirmities on the Sabbath, something forbidden by the traditions of the elders (but not by the Old Testament).
Jesus values people more than He values the rules of tradition. As Jesus-style leaders, we must do the same. This, of course, does not mean we can flout the rules just for the sake of rebelliousness or relevance. Traditions stand the test of time because they have proven helpful to people. But it is possible for a custom to overstay its welcome. A godly leader will choose the welfare of people over tradition for the sake of tradition every time.
The leadership style of the scribes, Pharisees, and priests burdened and oppressed the people. They derived their authority from ancient writings and procedures. When speaking on a given subject, they would cite an ancient teacher: "As Rabbi Hillel taught . . ."
Jesus came with a completely new and different leadership style. He taught the people how to have better relationships, how to love and forgive each other, how to resolve conflicts, how to deal with worry and anxiety, and so forth. Unlike the nitpicky and irrational rule-making of the scribes and Pharisees, the teachings of Jesus made logical sense. His teachings were compassionate and liberating.
Think about the places where you have influence—your home, work, church. Are you holding to rules for the sake of tradition? Take time to evaluate your rules. Are they causing unnecessary pain or hardship for someone you know?
Prayer: Father, help me to create God-honoring expectations for those I lead. I pray the guidelines I set forth for my team, my family, and others under my leadership would be to their benefit and not created out of any fear or insecurity I may have. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'" (Galatians 5:14).
Empowered by Kindness
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/27/18
Kindness is a characteristic of God. Out of His kindness He made a covenant with the nation of Israel. And out of kindness, He kept His side of this covenant while they rebelled and disobeyed.
It is out of kindness that Jesus left the splendor of heaven to become a man. It is out of kindness that He died on a cross to pay the wages of our sin. Out of eternal love and kindness, He offers us His precious gift of salvation.
But God's kindness did not stop at the cross. It continues today in the lives of those who accept His Son as their Savior. The more we allow Him to work in us, the more His fruit becomes evident to those whose lives we touch each day.
As we continue to live and grow spiritually, there are several things we need to know about kindness. Sometimes, kindness requires putting ourselves in another person's place. We need to view others as Christ does.
Additionally, while we may find it easy to show kindness to others, we must learn also to show kindness to ourselves. We must not allow past failures and sins to prevent us from growing, but remember that God's forgiveness is complete. When we pray and seek His forgiveness, He gives it. Therefore, we must learn to forgive others and ourselves, too.
Kindness gives birth to kindness. Love extended leads to more love. As you begin to show kindness to others, you will be set free from feelings of self-condemnation. You will find yourself being empowered by the Holy Spirit to exercise more kindness more often.
Prayer: Father, thank You for the kindness You have shown to me and will continue to grant me as I journey with You. As I grow in kindness toward others, help me also show kindness to myself remembering Your unfailing grace and love. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, . . . yes, the many good things he has done for Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses" (Isaiah 63:7).
Applying the Word
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/26/18
The key to truly making the most of our Bible reading is to apply what we have learned. Seeking out Truth will take work, but the work will be in vain if we don't allow the Truth to transform our lives. "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:2).
As you study a passage, take notes on what the Holy Spirit is saying to you. Ask yourself what the passage was saying to the original reader and what the passage means. Then ask yourself how you can apply this Truth to your life today. Review your notes often to remind yourself what you have learned. Make a plan to incorporate these Truths into your life.
God knows what we need. When we are open to the Holy Spirit's promptings, He will give us encouragement when we are struggling, rebuke us when we are rebelling, and challenge us when we need to step forward in faith. He will also use His Word to warn us when we are about to head down the wrong path. Whatever situation we are going through, God will use His Word to give us the knowledge and the wisdom to handle it.
Prayer: God, teach me to apply the Truths of Your Word to my life. Help me to be willing to take the time to seek out Truth and to hear what You want to say to me through Your Word. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like" (James 1:23-24).
God’s Wisdom for Us
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/25/18
If we want to truly delight in God, we must treasure His Word—not as a china ornament, but as a map in the wilderness.
The Word of God is a treasure of infinite value given to us by our gracious heavenly Father, but many Christians today live as if they're trapped in poverty. Imagine a person with great worldly wealth living on the streets, begging for handouts, even though they have a fortune in the bank. Likewise, the children of God should not struggle hopelessly through daily life when we have access to the wisdom and direction of our Almighty God.
As God's children, we must learn to apply Scripture to every area of life and every circumstance we face for our good and for His glory. If we aren't allowing God's Word to direct our decision-making and relationships, we will quench the work of the Holy Spirit to sanctify us and bring us into a deeper relationship with our heavenly Father. God gave us His Word to use, not just adore. If we're going to live for Christ and delight in our Lord, we have to let His Word refine us and disciple us.
In what area of your life do you need God's wisdom? Soak it up from the pages of His Word, and you'll experience the power and grace of the great I AM as He transforms you "into His image with ever-increasing glory" (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Prayer: Lord, I know you have brought me from death to life and are renewing me from day to day as I live out the Truth of Your Gospel. Give me wisdom to apply Your Word to every area of my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long" (Psalm 25:4-5).
A Lamp and a Sword
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/24/18
When we wield the Word of God as a lamp to our feet and a sword against sin, we become more and more able to delight in God's presence.
The Puritan John Owen once advised: "Be killing sin or [sin] will be killing you." It's true. If we're not engaged in the battle against sin, we will become spiritually stagnant. So, how do we kill sin? The answer is not only found in the Word of God; it is the Word of God. In Ephesians, Paul described the armor of God and included this one offensive weapon: "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God" (6:17). By keeping God's Word on our lips and in our hearts, we have a weapon at hand, ready to attack sin and gain ground in pursuit of righteousness.
But the Word of God is not just a weapon to wield against our sinful nature and the temptations of Satan and the world. It is also our comfort, our light in the darkness. When we stumble and fail, the Gospel proclaims us yet victorious. God's Word affirms our peace with God through faith in Christ, who is our righteousness (see 1 Corinthians 1:30). We are no longer under law, but under grace—no longer enemies, but children of God—so we can delight in the presence of our heavenly Father and trust Him to complete the good work He has begun in us (see Philippians 1:6).
Prayer: Father, thank You for making me Your child and for arming me with Your Truth. Help me to keep Your Word before me to light my way and guard my heart. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11).
Don’t Quench the Spirit
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/23/18
In the middle of summer, it is difficult to resist the appeal of a soft drink commercial on television. No matter what brand it is, the beverage maker promises that drinking an ice-cold glass of his soda will quench our summer thirst. We all know that a cold drink on a hot day will not make our thirst disappear forever but will in fact suppress it for the moment.
The common English usage of the word quench might confuse us when we read Scripture warning us not to quench the Spirit of God. The Greek word that is translated as "quench" means "to extinguish." This word has a stronger meaning than "temporary suppression." It means "to extinguish, snuff out, or put an end to." A modern English translation says, "Do not put out the Spirit's fire" (1 Thessalonians 5:19). The same word can be used to describe the snuffing out of a candle.
This does not mean that we can permanently remove the Holy Spirit from our lives. The Spirit is indestructible in His Person and inextinguishable in His strength. Rather, quenching the Spirit means we can resist something the Holy Spirit wants to do in us or through us. It is refusing to follow His leading, ignoring His warnings, and charging ahead to do things our way and in our own timing.
We all come to crossroads where we have the opportunity to yield to the Holy Spirit or to quench the Spirit's work. We may sense that we are to serve in some way, to give money to meet a need, or to change a destructive habit. To quench the Spirit is to say no to the Lord in these moments and to choose instead to pursue our own personal goals. Just as it is possible to disobey God even when His will for us is abundantly clear, it is also possible for us to live in such a way that the Holy Spirit withholds His power from our lives.
Have you lost the power of God by putting out the Holy Spirit's fire? Today you can repent and ask God to forgive you. Then, commit your day to Him. Ask God to help you obey the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to renew His power and work within you.
Prayer: Father, I know that You tell us in Your Word to not grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). Today I ask You to guide me as You have promised. Help me today to obey the voice of Your Spirit. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it'" (Isaiah 30:21).
By the Spirit
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/22/18
When we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to transform our lives, we will discover increasing joy in the presence of God.
Many years ago, I struggled with my weight. I would go on crash diets and would see amazing results, but those results were short-lived because what I really needed was a lifestyle change and the power of the Holy Spirit to work that change in me.
When we try to resist the devil in our own strength, it might work for a little while. We'll take one step forward, but we'll soon find ourselves taking two steps back. The same is true when we try to overcome temptation through our own efforts, with our own determination. We need power that we simply don't have on our own. We need the power of the Holy Spirit.
You may be thinking, I'm saved. I'm going to heaven. What does this really matter? Friend, the Christian life is about so much more than making it into heaven. To know true intimacy with God, to experience the joy of His presence, is a taste of heaven right now.
Are you seeking greater joy and freedom? You don't have to struggle tirelessly with sin. Instead delight yourself completely in God's Word—and watch as the Holy Spirit transforms you from the inside out.
Prayer: Lord, I want to experience true intimacy with You and complete joy in Your presence today. Help me submit to Your Spirit in my inmost being so that I might keep in step with Him each day. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).
Dwell in His Fortress
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/21/18
To delight in the presence of God means that we have confidence in Him as our refuge, our Redeemer who defeated the powers of sin and darkness at the cross.
The Bible declares that God is our refuge, our fortress, our rock—an image of security and safety (see 1 Samuel 2:2; Psalm 18:2; 42:9). But the only way to enter the protection of this invincible fortress is by knowing and resting in the Truth of who God is. Only when we have grasped the freedom that Christ secured for us on the cross can we have unshakable confidence in Jehovah-nissi, "God our banner." Only when God's Word finds a home in our heart can we have true peace.
It is not enough to read the Bible. We must "let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly" (Colossians 3:16). That means we must allow the deep Truths about God revealed in Scripture—His character and promises for us—to penetrate our heart, deepen our faith, strengthen our character, and lead us in the way of righteousness through His Spirit. Only the Word of God can sustain us under the pressures of life and protect us from the enemy. Only the Word of God can give us hope, joy, and victory for eternity.
Are you looking for a refuge from the stresses and storms of life? Look to God's Word and dwell on His faithfulness. Reflect on His character and run to the one who is your safe haven.
Prayer: Lord, You are my safe haven. I am confident in Your strength alone. You are my fortress and my salvation forever. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But the LORD has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge" (Psalm 94:22).
Reach Out to Him
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/20/18
To delight in God's presence, we must know Him—His character, attributes, and heart—as He has revealed to us in His Word.
The reformer Martin Luther once wrote, "God is everywhere; however, He does not want us to reach out to Him everywhere. Only in His Word. Reach out for the Word and you will grasp Him aright. Otherwise, you are . . . setting yourself up for idolatry." People are drawn to greatness, whether the grandeur of creation or the fame of the eloquent. But if we stop at the creation and do not look beyond this to the Creator, we will wind up worshiping false gods and miss out on the only majesty that will satisfy our souls—the one true God, who deserves our complete worship and submission.
The good news for us is that God wants to be known. That's why He chose to reveal Himself specially to us through Scripture. It is through His Word that God shows us His divine qualities and matchless character—His faithfulness, love, mercy, justice, grace, power, holiness, and more—that enable us to delight in His presence.
As you read, hear, and study the Bible, you will only fall more in love with the Lord. So plumb the depths of Scripture, and proclaim with the psalmist: "In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches" (Psalm 119:14).
Prayer: Lord, open my eyes to see Your majesty so that I might praise You all the days of my life. Help me delight in submitting to You and Your Word. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, 'The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, . . .'" (Exodus 34:6).
Fix Your Eyes on Jesus
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/19/18
To delight in God's presence, set your heart and your mind on Christ. Never take your eyes off of Him.
If you want to fail miserably in delighting in God—keep your eyes on others. Chase their acceptance, emulate their successes, critique their weaknesses. When I was about 18 years old, the man who was then discipling me taught me this repeatedly. He said, "If you ever want to fail and fail miserably, keep your eyes on church leaders. The bigger they are, the greater your fall." I have never forgotten that.
No matter what direction you take, what temptation surrounds you, or what obstacles are in your path, the Bible gives clear instructions for success: Keep your focus on Jesus (see Hebrews 3:1; 12:2). Look to Him alone as your example, your guide, and your moral standard. Spend every minute of every day in His presence—and you'll find supernatural peace and security, no matter what you're facing in life.
How do we keep our eyes on Jesus? By allowing Him to be the number one influence on our daily choices—not finances, fear, or the approval of others. As you do, He will make known to you the path of life, and He will fill you with joy in His presence (see Psalm 16:11). So fix your eyes on Jesus today—and learn from Him, who made Himself low, how to make your soul soar in God.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for Your Word that reveals to me Your awesome character and love. Help me to follow Christ, clothing myself in Him as Your Word instructs me to do for my own good and delight. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith" (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Taste and See
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/18/18
To delight in the presence of God, you must first taste and see that He is good.
Over and over again in the Bible, God draws near to the people He loves so much. He walks with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3:8). He speaks to Moses from a burning bush (see Exodus 3). And, ultimately, He puts on flesh, becoming one of us (see John 1:14). Over and over again, God draws near to us and invites us to taste and see—to experience Him for ourselves.
God calls each one of us to come to Him and develop a firsthand understanding of His love and kindness. No one else—no pastor, spouse, or parent—can do this for you. You must personally experience His presence and learn what it means to delight in Him.
How do you experience the presence of God? Begin by spending time in His Word. Our God has given us a 1,200-page letter about who He is. So, turn to the Scripture today and connect with your heavenly Father. As you do, the experience of the Psalmist will become yours: "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Psalm 119:103).
Taste and see that the Lord is good. The sooner you begin, the sooner you will be able to experience His wonderful presence working in and through you.
Prayer: Father, thank You for drawing near to me, for giving me Your Word, for giving me Your Son, for giving me Your Spirit. You are good. I praise Your holy name! I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him" (Psalm 34:8).
He Is Our Father
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/17/18
Many of us have memories of our fathers. Some memories may be good, but others may be sad or painful. Whatever our feelings toward our earthly father, there is no comparison to our heavenly Father. He is greater than any earthly father could possibly be. Jesus reminds us, "Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:9-11). Our heavenly Father loves us with an unconditional love and will never cease to demonstrate His mercy and grace toward us.
That is why Jesus taught His disciples to pray, "Our Father." The phrase "Our Father" reduces all the complications of life to a very simple relationship. Through faith in the shed blood of Christ, we have been redeemed from sin and have been adopted into God's family. As a child of God, have you exercised your right to call Him your Father?
When we come to our heavenly Father in prayer, He removes our fear. He gives us hope and confidence. He banishes our uncertainty. The apostle Paul said, "You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father'" (Romans 8:15).
Your heavenly Father is interested in every area of your life. In Him you have protection, safety, security, serenity, peace, and salvation. Friends may disappoint you, and family may let you down, but your heavenly Father will never leave you nor forsake you (see Hebrews 13:5). He is eager to hear your prayers to Him.
Therefore, call upon Him. Place your trust in Him. Share your hopes, problems, dreams, and concerns with the one who knows you better than you know yourself. As your Father, He will give you joy for today and hope for tomorrow.
Prayer: Father, thank You for adopting me as Your child, making me Your heir. Help me fully embrace my standing before You, resting in Your grace and love. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty" (2 Corinthians 6:18).
Champions Know How to Repent
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/16/18
God hates sin—He has made this clear to His children in His Word. And He has equipped us with Scripture and His Spirit so that we can recognize sin in our lives and wage war against it. Yet despite all of this, we can still fall into Satan's traps, leading us to stumble in our pursuit of righteousness. When this happens, how should we respond to our failure so that God is honored, and we are able to break free of sin's grasp?
All too often, we simply want to be pardoned from our sin. The thought of repenting is almost foreign to us. To repent means to stop what we are doing and to go in the opposite direction. However, most of the time we want a simple dismissal of our actions and a warning not to commit them again.
But true repentance means that we recognize we have sinned and offended the heart of God, and true repentance causes us to come clean and desire wholeness again.
David discovered that grieving God's heart was painful. Therefore, simply saying, "I'm sorry," would not do. He approached God with true humility and brokenness that showed his heart was in the right place. Later, David wrote, "My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise" (Psalm 51:17).
Whenever we come before God with a heart that is contrite—sincerely sorry for what we did wrong and longing to change our ways—God is moved. He sees that we recognize what we did was wrong and that we want to be pure again.
True repentance means we love God more than we love our sin. When we run back to Him as prodigal children, He opens His arms and welcomes us with His unending grace.
Prayer: Lord, instill in me a heart of repentance that returns to You when I realize I have sinned. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death" (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Champions Know When to Lean on God
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/15/18
In today's society, people desperately try to avoid blame. There is always some excuse to explain away the actions of people who need to be held accountable. While our society loves to bestow grace, it struggles to see how grace and consequences for our actions can live together. Adopting this type of attitude can stunt our relationship with God.
God is a God of grace and redemption, so much so that He sacrificed His only Son for the forgiveness of our sins. Yet, Jesus' death was the consequence of our sin. The consequences of sin are not dismissed simply because grace is endowed upon us.
Confessing our sins to God and taking full responsibility for our actions tests our belief in this Kingdom principle. Do we really think we need to confess our sins? And if so, do we think it is our fault that we sinned?
If we intend to experience wholeness, we must confess our sins to God and ask for His forgiveness. Whenever we turn to Christ—even in the midst of our brokenness—He is there for us, putting back together for us the shattered pieces.
A true champion knows when to lean on God—and that time is always. We cannot conquer the sin in our lives on our own. We need to put on the altar those attitudes and habits that produce sin in our lives and invite God to bring about the cleansing that purifies us. When we are diligent to confess our sins and accept responsibility for our actions, God is faithful to respond and lovingly restore us to wholeness.
Prayer: Lord, help me to be more aware of my sin and more faithful to confess it to You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy" (Proverbs 28:13).
Champions Learn from Their Mistakes
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/14/18
On the tennis court, a young woman flashed a smile of admiration at her opponent after he hit a winning shot. His floating backhand carried so much spin on it that the moment it hit the court, it bounced back over the net before the woman had a chance to hit it.
Sensing that he had spotted a weakness in the woman's game, he attempted the same shot again. But this time, the woman never let the ball hit the court. Instead, she smashed it back over the net and at her opponent's feet for a winning shot.
A lesson learned? Most of us would hope so. However, many people fail to learn from their mistakes and are doomed to repeat them over again. Possibly, in an effort to impress his court companion, this fellow tried the shot yet again and was met with the same result. God wants us to learn from our mistakes, not just so that we don't make the same mistakes repeatedly, but so that we gain wisdom to help us with other trials.
Whenever we feel that we have already conquered a certain problem, we must take time for some serious reflection. Are we confident in our own ability or in God? In pride, do we think there is no room for improvement, or are we humbly considering ways to honor God even more—applying what we have learned to other areas of our lives?
True champions do not spend their lives trying to get it right—they spend their time getting better. If we desire to be all God has called us to be, we must be a people who are willing to strive until we get it right and then go on to get it even better!
God wants you to learn all you can from life's difficulties. As you go through each one, ask Him to help you grow in your faith and show you ways you can honor Him with your life.
Prayer: Lord, please help me discern what lesson You want to teach me in each situation in my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon" (Psalm 92:12).
Champions Have Humility
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/13/18
Becoming a champion challenges our faith in more ways than we think. When we experience a great deal of success and numerous victories in our lives, human nature begins to enjoy the praises that are given to us.
Before we know it, the excitement that people have for us changes the way we view life, and we start believing our own press. Instead of dwelling on who got us to this point, we begin dreaming about where we are going to take ourselves in the future.
Humility is the mark of a true champion. Godly love is emblazoned on his or her heart. Most people can sniff out false humility miles before they get to it. They hear the cliché about how we had nothing to do with it, and they know we do not believe a word we are saying.
Sincere humility, however, is not making ourselves doormats or denying, ignoring, and undermining the gifts and talents God has given us. When we put God first, we begin to understand what true humility is. It is recognizing God as the reason for our success, the mastermind behind the plan that has brought success to our lives. Humility also means we are quick to acknowledge—and to believe wholeheartedly—that God is the one who has designed this plan and equipped us with the tools to accomplish it.
When our focus in life is to honor God, we naturally put Him first in everything we do. There is no tension in our hearts over who belongs on the pedestal. We know we would be nothing without God. He is our everything, and for that we must give Him our hearts and our sincere devotion.
Prayer: Lord, help me to walk in sincere humility, honoring You with everything I do. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Humility is the fear of the LORD; its wages are riches and honor and life" (Proverbs 22:4).
Champions Show Grace and Kindness
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/12/18
Inside each of us there is a hunger and a thirst for justice. We want to see the guilty person get his just due. Yet, when it comes to ourselves, we want mercy and grace extended in our direction. We may be deserving of the worst kind of punishment, but we long for someone to give us a second chance before harshly condemning us.
Although God is just in His ways, He also is merciful. In fact, God's Word makes it simple: "Mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13). God would rather extend mercy toward us than the harsh consequences of judgment. That is why Jesus gave His life for us—so we would not have to suffer the consequences of sin. Jesus paid the debt we owe for our sin.
As believers pursuing the heart of God, we must emulate His heart. As God's heart beats with love and kindness, so, too, should ours. That means that when someone sins against us, we do not revile him for his actions and sever our relationship with him; rather, we should lovingly approach him and seek reconciliation.
Instead of carrying around in our hearts a thirst for vengeance against someone who has wronged us, we should bestow upon him an abundance of grace and kindness, knowing that such an act can soften even the hardest of hearts. As we live for Christ in these ways, we prove that His grace and kindness can transform a heart of sin into a heart that loves God.
Set a goal to demonstrate God's grace and kindness to everyone, for all men and women are in need of His life-changing compassion.
Prayer: Lord, fill my heart with grace and kindness for the world around me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit" (Job 10:12).
Champions Have Hearts of Love
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/11/18
There is something contagious about a heart of love. People who are selfless with their love can make giant waves in this world, whereas those who cling to selfish desires cause only ripples. In fact, those who have hearts of love view the people around them as being most important. A heart that bears the marks of God's intimate love is not a selfish heart.
The Truth is that when we look directly into God's heart of love, we are transformed forever. The selfish desires that once dominated our heart's landscape vanish in an instant—replaced by a desire to lavish love on others.
As God begins to transform our hearts through His grace and kindness, we become vessels willing to reciprocate this type of love. Something happens inside of us. We begin to realize the twofold effect of loving God and loving others—not just friends and family, but those who cross our paths every day.
Hardened hearts begin to melt beneath the warmth of Christ's love overflowing from our lives. People who we never thought would let the name of Jesus roll off their lips suddenly praise Him because we have taken the time to love them the way God has commanded us to love. Once we learn how to abide in His love, our feelings of jealousy, greed, and anger die a quick death.
A true champion extends grace and kindness because he knows the transformation that has taken place in his own heart and because he realizes those who receive God's love and grace have no other course of action but to give God's love away.
Prayer: Lord, help me to be a conduit of Your love to the people you put in my path. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35).
Champions Victoriously Honor God
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/10/18
In the New Testament, Jesus made it clear that we have to make a choice: Either we will serve God or we will serve something else.
You can dedicate your life to living for the Lord, or you can spend your life living for yourself. However, to truly honor God in a way that places Him in high esteem over everything else, He must be at the center of your affections.
Many people do good works. Some non-believers even do more good works than Christians. Yet, a look at the heart reveals their true motivation—whether their deeds are truly done for themselves or for the people they are serving. Some Christians are doing good works out of guilt or obligation, as opposed to the purest reason: love for God.
To honor God is to serve Him out of our strong desire to see His name exalted, not our own. If we are doing something in order to earn recognition, is God at the center of our motivation? If no one would ever know what we did, would we still do it? Do we serve others because we love God so much that we want to be the hands and feet of Christ to our dying world? Or do we serve others because it will get us noticed and recognized as great humanitarians by our friends and communities? Is our service self-serving?
God knows our hearts, and He knows if our lives are honoring Him or honoring ourselves. As believers who desire to honor Him, we must endeavor to put Him at the center of all we do. All our decisions, all our thoughts, all our actions—they must be centered on God.
When you do this, you honor Him more than you ever imagined.
Prayer: Lord, help me to place You at the center of my life in everything that I do. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge" (Psalm 62:7).
Champions Are on the Lookout
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/0/9/18
The longer we walk down the road with God, the more self-aware we must become. To go the distance, we cannot wander aimlessly toward God, oblivious to our surroundings. It takes focus and determination, as well as a heart bent on serving Him and putting Him above everything else in our lives.
As we pause to analyze our hearts, we must be on the lookout for anything that would open the door to sin in our lives. As David faced trial after trial, he tried to stay focused on the Lord. It's when he lost his focus that he found disaster waiting around the next bend.
By keeping your mind and heart set on God, you can be on the lookout for the very things that can trip you up spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. If you feel bored, lonely, tired, or rejected, beware. These feelings can betray you and lead you to sin. If you slip into laziness and refuse to hear God's Truth, you may also be strolling down a dangerous path.
When we choose to be led by our flesh—which is what happens when we allow our feelings to tempt us into acting contrary to God's Word—we are destined to sin. God loves us dearly, and He desires the best for our lives.
To serve and honor Him at every turn in life, we must follow the voice of the Holy Spirit and not our flesh. In our desire to live holy and righteous lives, we must determine to rely upon Him for guidance and direction. When we do, we will avoid potential pitfalls and heartache.
Prayer: Lord, allow Your Holy Spirit to be the voice of direction for my life today. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness" (Romans 6:13).
Champions Focus on God
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/08/18
Everyone loves to pull for the underdog. Whether in sports, business, or the movies, we always like to see the character with the most obstacles to overcome conquer them. It stirs our souls because we secretly wish we would have the courage to accomplish something extraordinary.
There is one consistent trait that moves even the weakest person on to triumph, and that is true focus. The men and women in the Bible who accomplished great things for God's Kingdom had great focus. Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, and even Samson trained their eyes to stay put on the Lord.
Taking your eyes off God can result in failure, just like keeping your eyes firmly fixed on Him can bring some of the greatest victories you will ever know. In your weakest moments, ask yourself if you are focused on God or on your situation. Whenever self-pity sets in, know that failure is lurking nearby. Bemoaning about difficulty demonstrates that your faith has been rocked. Confidence in God can vanish when you try to solve your problems apart from Him.
Keeping our focus on the Lord keeps us from repeating past failures. As we realize that He is the one who leads us through impossible situations, we rely less upon our own strength and more on His.
Trusting Him for direction and confidently following His lead are marks of a champion—a champion who is focused firmly on Him.
Prayer: Lord, help me to stay focused on You at every moment today. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness" (Colossians 2:6-7).
Waiting for His Best
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/07/18
At times, life will seem uncertain. Things we once held as familiar will change. This is when it helps to remember that God never changes. Throughout our trials and struggles, He remains the same, faithful and sure.
You may be going through a difficult time. No one seeks out adversity. However, when it comes, you can find hope by taking time to see your circumstances as opportunities for God's glory to be displayed. Self-sufficiency and pride are revealed when we are at our weakest point. God wants us to learn to depend on Him alone. Hard times provide the right opportunity for us to learn God-dependence instead of self-reliance.
When it comes to relationships, this is especially true. A temporary setback in a close relationship can become an open door for a fresh commitment and blessing. Remember, each season has a purpose. In times of stress and pressure, one of the most common mistakes is to make permanent decisions based on temporary circumstances.
God, however, wants us to be willing to wait for His best. If you have been praying for that "right" person to come into your life, be willing to trust Him to bring to pass all His promises in His good timing. The answers to your prayers may not come in the way you imagine.
However, God will never waver in His goodness toward you. He will keep His appointment. He always honors His Word and will accomplish His purpose in your life. God is a matchmaker, working to bring things about for your good and His glory. If you will trust Him, He will match you with blessings, people, opportunities, healing, joy, and peace.
Prayer: Father, thank You for Your faithfulness—for assurance of salvation and hope that does not disappoint. Help me to have deeper faith in You and to anticipate with joy the fulfillment of Your promises. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to give you hope and a future'" (Jeremiah 29:11).
The Right Perspective
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/06/18
As we face discouraging events in our lives, there is a danger lurking—self-pity, which can quickly become a source of deadly comfort. The gloomy clouds hanging over our lives should never be permitted to remain, especially in light of God's hope and Truth.
Pressing through any disappointment means being careful not to linger long in a place of discouragement. While each of us will face times of discouragement, we must also realize that discouragement has the ability to rob us of something very important—our godly perspective.
As David entered into a place of discouragement, he found himself grasping for hope. He needed to gain the right perspective on his situation, but it was difficult. No matter how hopeless or how discouraging our situations might be, God has the ability to bring eternal hope and peace to our lives when we need them the most.
Discouragement wars against the very trait that faith and hope in God bring—courage. In order to stand up to the trials and tribulations of a fallen world, we must turn to God for courage and make a commitment to stand strong in our faith through Jesus Christ.
God's best for your life does not include remaining in a place devoid of hope, faith, and courage. Therefore, when facing discouragement, turn to God. He will bring the hope and courage you need to live victoriously over life's hardships.
Prayer: Lord, give me the right perspective in every situation so that I can go through each one trusting You for wisdom to live a godly life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/05/18
No one escapes difficulty. It is a part of living in a fallen world, but we do not have to live with feelings of defeat, discouragement, and criticism.
One of the hardest lessons we will ever learn is how to take a negative situation and turn it into a positive one. In Psalm 23, King David reminds us that it is all a matter of faith and perspective. He writes, "Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me" (v.4).
You may be thinking, "But you don't know my circumstances. There is no way for you to understand the pressure I feel or the discouragement that plagues my heart." While we can't truly know or understand the hurt another person may be experiencing, we do know that there is one person who understands perfectly, and that is Jesus Christ.
He was rejected, betrayed, criticized, and crucified. If you are looking for someone to identify with the pain that you are feeling, do what David did—look up and realize there is someone who is walking through the valley with you. No matter how dark life becomes, Christ will lead you on to victory.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for Your mercy and love that sent Jesus—the Son of God—to walk this earth and know the struggles of life in a fallen world. It gives me comfort to know that You understand and lived perfectly for Your glory and to secure my salvation. May I place all my anxieties at Your feet and trust You in all things. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).
God Is Our Guide
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/04/18
When we find ourselves in one of life's darker moments, we often forget that Jesus is the light of the world. We grope in the dark for something that will shed light on our situation and lead us to hope. Sometimes we trip and fall numerous times before the Truth in our heads makes its way to our lips.
Stuck in a cave while hiding from King Saul, David quickly learned where to turn when groping got him nowhere: He cried out to God. Throughout the book of Psalms, we read David's heartfelt cries to the Lord.
David yearned for God to reach down and bring him salvation from looming disaster. And time and time again, God answered David's prayers by delivering him from his enemies.
When trouble struck, David turned to God almost immediately because he realized one important fact: He was helpless without Him. Understanding our depravity is a key step for us in turning to the Lord in prayer.
When we think we can solve all our problems on our own, we make a huge mistake. Failure to consult the Lord on which direction we should take only leads to more trouble. Plotting and trying to determine our own course leaves us exhausted and confused.
However, when we realize that we, like David, are helpless without God, we quickly turn to Him in prayer. Fumbling around in the dark only results in scars and rough tumbles. There are no light switches in caves, only passageways to the surface—and God is the best guide we could ever have.
Prayer: Lord, help me understand that I cannot solve all of life's problems on my own. I need You more than anything or anyone else. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!" (Psalm 66:20).
Waiting with Joy
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/03/18
Reading about the apostles of the New Testament, our views can be skewed somewhat by knowing the entire timeline of their ministry. We read highlights and letters, dramatic bits and pieces of lives that proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus along with the power of the Gospel. The days, months, and years they spent waiting for God to do the impossible in a post-resurrection world seem mere pauses in a flurry of God-orchestrated activity.
Regardless of the vision we may have for our lives or the direction in which we have been led by the Holy Spirit, we cannot expect to get ahead of God's timeline. After Jesus left the earth, the disciples spent a substantial amount of time waiting for prayers to be answered as well as wondering when God was going to rescue them from dire situations. We, too, must be willing disciples, waiting patiently for God to work in our midst.
God's plan often includes curves in the road we never expected. Ten years passed from the time Paul encountered the risen Christ to the time God commissioned him to ministry. Ten years! During that time, the Lord was preparing him—softening his heart and positioning him so that he could be used to impact the church in the first century and for generations to come.
Waiting on God can be difficult. In our eagerness to see Him move, we have a tendency to try to prod God along. We want to see His glory here and now. Yet, God does not let us venture into new territory alone. He prepares the hearts and minds of those we are to encounter on our journey so that the fullness of His plan becomes apparent in the aftermath. In the midst of our waiting, God is working in the lives of others, too—preparing their hearts and minds for maximum impact when our journeys intersect in His timing. In these moments of intersection, we are reminded of the lovingkindness of God exercised toward us when He calls us to wait. May the Truth of God's love and sovereignty give you confidence and joy even in your waiting.
Prayer: Lord, quiet my heart and help me to remain patient as I wait upon Your plan to unfold in my life. I trust in Your faithfulness and Your power. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD" (Psalm 27:14).
Champions Stand Strong
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/02/18
One of our initial and natural responses to difficulty is to look for an immediate solution. We do not like tension and pressure in relationships. We despise disunity and spend enormous amounts of time trying to repair such problems. But when attempts to bring about resolution fail, we often run, abandoning the problem and situation altogether.
Our society is watching to see how we respond to conflict and trials. Are we going to run when things get tough, or will we stand firm in peace and seek the Lord's will for our next steps? Where we are placing our trust directly impacts our response to difficulty and suffering. If we are trusting in our own abilities to resolve situations, we can easily lose heart when we fail. But, if we trust in God and commit our every circumstance to Him—resting in His sovereignty and love for us—we will bring glory to His name and show the world exactly where our hope lies.
While God may not cause the difficulties we face, He certainly uses them to mature us. He shapes and fashions us more into His image as we learn to trust Him more. And it is in these times of testing that God begins to refine our hearts in new ways.
Running from the trials and tribulations in our lives in an attempt to escape difficulty carries some harsh consequences: We may escape the testing, but we will also escape God's blessing.
God enjoys rewarding His children with blessings from heaven. But no reward comes without personal sacrifice. His wondrous blessings await those courageous enough to face each challenge, dying to themselves and trusting in the one who gives true life.
Prayer: Lord, give me the strength to face every challenge You send my way with hope in Your unfailing love. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love" (Psalm 33:18).
From the Depths of Depression
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 06/01/18
While many men and women of the Bible sought earthly contentment apart from God, there were others whose unsettled lives ultimately drove them into the Lord's presence. Their wandering led them in the opposite direction of their ancestors. They ran to God instead of away from Him.
David, in all the upheaval of his life, was constantly running to God. Even with all his candid questions and passionate expressions of vulnerability, we don't sense that David ever lost faith in God's power to make things right. What may surprise you is that David, a man of faith, appeared to have several bouts with what modern psychologists would label depression.
Even though an estimated 10 percent of the U.S. population is affected by depressive illness at any given time, Christians often are ashamed to admit they are enduring their own dark periods of despair. The life of David, however, teaches us that every person, even those who trust God, at some point enters a dark valley. In fact, almost anyone who responds to the call of God will one day face doubts and questions, difficulties and trials, that will lead him or her through the door of depression. Jeremiah was known as the "weeping prophet" because he anguished over the sins of God's people and the judgment he saw coming as a result of their disobedience. More than once he withdrew in defeat and asked God why he had even been born.
Like Jeremiah and other dedicated servants of God, David experienced a similar bout of depression (see Psalm 63). Yet his hunger for God, even in the pit of despair, is a vivid demonstration of the Biblical response to depression. If we are willing, we can turn our despair into a passionate pursuit of God.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I confess that at times I have been overwhelmed with feelings of despair. But I draw hope from the example of Your servant David, who continued to seek You even in the darkest valley. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy" (Psalm 126:5).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 05/31/18 to 05/01/18
He Is Our Rock
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/31/18
You've probably heard the old adage popularized by Benjamin Franklin, "In this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes." But there's actually a third inevitable fact of life. No matter who you are, where you're from, or what you do, you will experience hardship of one sort or another. In fact, Jesus promised His disciples nothing less, saying, "In this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33). But where should we go when our troubles threaten to overwhelm us?
Read Psalm 28. Though David became the most celebrated king of ancient Israel, he had his share of trouble. As a young man, he found favor with King Saul, defeating Goliath and succeeding in his every mission. But with each achievement, he also earned the resentment of jealous King Saul, and eventually he found himself on the run, hiding in caves.
When David finally became king, he still endured an intense war over the throne of Israel. And as king, he succumbed to terrible temptations. He endured the loss of children and harrowing strife within his family. His own son even plotted a coup d'état, and, once again, David found himself on the run. Yet, through it all, David faced his suffering and the wickedness of his own sin by turning to His merciful God.
Psalm 28 is a beautiful example of how David dealt with his distress. In this prayer song, he pours out his heart to God, declaring, "To you, LORD, I call; you are my Rock" (v. 1). Do you know why the Bible refers to God as "the Rock"? It's because a rock is a symbol of changelessness, permanence, invincibility, and immovability. God is the Rock because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever and His promises never fail. And that is why David comes to Him with his problems and sin.
When times get tough, we tend to focus on our circumstances. But our circumstances are constantly changing. God, however, never changes, and He is faithful even when we are not. When the world seems to be falling apart and we can't bear the weight of our brokenness, He is the one to run toward. He is the one to cling to. He promises, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5; cf. Deuteronomy 31:6).
Prayer: Lord, You are my rock and my salvation. Help me to build my life on You, experiencing Your faithfulness and love in my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold" (Psalm 18:2).
A Greater Good
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/30/18
Many Christians have the erroneous belief that if they just try hard enough to be good then they can escape the trials of life. But the Bible teaches us something completely different: "A righteous person may have many troubles, . . ." (Psalm 34:19). However, we can find joy in the conclusion of this verse: ". . . but the LORD delivers him from them all." No matter what we face in life, God will be there with us. Only God can turn our worst tragedies into victories.
Read Psalm 3. During the time David wrote this, he was in hiding from his own son Absalom, who was plotting to dethrone him (see 2 Samuel 15). David had experienced a bitter betrayal by his own son and by some of his closest friends. His life was on the line. His heart was broken. David cried out, "LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me!" (Psalm 3:1).
Have you ever been betrayed by people you loved and trusted? Sometimes the emotional and spiritual wounds made by another person can hurt far worse than any sword. One of Satan's favorite tricks is to cause dissension in our families, in our relationships, and in our churches. When we maliciously speak against another person or stir up rebellion, we become an Absalom in the household of David.
But sometimes these personal attacks on us can be used for a greater good. If you are experiencing a trial right now, ask God to show you how He wants you to use it. Are you being disciplined for a sin in your life? Confess and repent of that sin today. Is your trial an opportunity to share your personal testimony? What may seem like a dark valley may be the open door to share about Christ's grace and provision in your life.
Prayer: God, show me how You want to use this trial I am going through today. Forgive me for my sins. Help me to be sensitive to Your Spirit for opportunities to bring You glory in the midst of this difficult time. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Blessed is the one you discipline, LORD, the one you teach from your law; you grant them relief from days of trouble" (Psalm 94:12-13).
Deliver Us from Pride
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/29/18
Each day our prayer should be, "Lord, deliver me from evil."
Many times, this becomes a routine prayer and we forget that the evil we face is the result of Satan's handiwork. We quickly cry out to God when we are under spiritual attack or when we are the object of someone's mistreatment. However, we often forget to pray against the enemy's assaults before they hit. We should pray, "Lord, deliver me from the evil one."
When David was young, his heart was set on godly obedience. When victory came, he honored God through prayer and praise. But after he became king, he allowed pride to find a place of residence in his heart.
In 1 Chronicles 21, David decided to number the people of Israel. It was not enough for him to know that God had given him the nation to rule; he wanted to take pride in the size of his kingdom. While Moses had numbered the people as a way of taking a census in accordance with God's instruction (see Numbers 1), David numbered them as a way to boast in the vastness of his empire.
Satan had devised a way to tempt God's servant to sin. But David quickly realized what he had done and rushed to repent and seek God's restoration. His sin, however, had a major impact on the nation of Israel. Thousands died because David had allowed his heart to be tempted.
Pride is a subtle but deadly enemy. When you sense that pride has you feeling smug about your life, remember that Christ died on the cross for you. Nothing you have to offer has the ability to save you from an eternal death. It is God's grace that saves you. Therefore, lay aside every hint of pride and ask God to deliver you from everything that would prevent you from receiving His true blessing.
Prayer: Lord, deliver me from the evil one. Search my heart; reveal my sins that I may confess them and boast of Your forgiveness and restoration. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time" (1 Peter 5:6).
Champions Seek God’s Will
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/28/18
Even after we pray and seek God, there may be a time of waiting for His answer to come. This waiting period is a crucial time in our lives as believers. If we jump ahead of God, we could miss His blessing. If we lag behind, we also could miss the joy of knowing that we have followed His leading. Take a moment to ask yourself if the Lord is the center of your life. Are you doing things His way?
If so, then you are probably encountering resistance from the enemy. Satan wants to do all that he can to cause you to feel disappointed and deflated.
David, in his pure intentions to bring the Ark of the Covenant back to the temple, put the ark on a cart to transport it. And while that may seem trivial, God specifically outlined how the ark was to be transported: It was to be carried with poles (2 Samuel 6).
But David failed to do this. When the ark began to slide off the cart, one of the workers reached out to grab it and instantly died. David quickly developed a godly fear of the Lord. This fear was not a fear that God would kill him if he made a mistake.
Instead, his fear of God was based on the desire to serve and honor God with purity and integrity of heart. This included doing things God's way.
A healthy fear of God motivates us to change the way we live our lives so that we honor Him all the more. When we realize that we are doing God's work, but not the way He wants us to do it, we should immediately stop and seek His will for our lives.
Be willing to change your path if necessary in order to please the Lord.
Prayer: Father, show me what it means to have a healthy fear of You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the LORD are firm and all of them are righteous (Psalm 19:9).
You Will Get It All
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/27/18
There are many people today preaching that you can have it all—money, influence, success—right now. But Jesus never promised His followers a life of ease. Though God does sometimes bless people financially, there are no guarantees of worldly riches attached to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Rather, the Bible teaches that Christians have a much greater blessing in store.
Read Psalm 16. God's Word says that we will receive an inheritance, but this inheritance is nothing like the money, fancy cars, and luxury homes the prosperity preachers advertise. They talk about earthly things, but our true inheritance is spiritual and supernatural. What they promise will be lost at death; what God promises will last for all of eternity.
Many people assume that when David wrote Psalm 16, he was already king of Israel. But most theologians agree that David probably wrote this psalm while he was a fugitive from King Saul. As a hunted man, he had no comfort to speak of. He was deprived even of enjoying his land in Bethlehem—the portion of the promised land he had inherited through his ancestors.
And yet, David rejoiced in his inheritance: "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance" (Psalm 16:6). Through eyes of faith, David was enjoying not his earthly, temporal inheritance, but an inheritance that can never fade kept in heaven for him (see 1 Peter 1:4).
Of course, David was delighting in the promise of a glorious, eternal inheritance to come—riches, land, and other material delights—but he recognized that this would be no inheritance at all if it did not include the very presence of God. That's why he sang, "You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing," and, "LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup" (Psalm 16:2, 5). Here, David echoes the conviction of Moses, who pleaded with God on behalf of Israel, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here" (Exodus 33:15). What was God's response? I will go with you.
The greatest gift we will ever receive is God Himself. Just listen to how David finishes his psalm: "You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand" (v. 11). We really will get it all.
Prayer: Father, Your extravagant love is astounding. I delight in Your mercy and goodness—You are my greatest treasure. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But, as it is written, What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him'" (1 Corinthians 2:9, ESV).
Keep Calm and Look Up
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/26/18
King Saul was on the hunt, but he wasn't pursuing another army or some vile enemy of Israel. He was hoping to kill David, the man God had anointed to take his place on the throne. Along the way, Saul entered a cave. Unbeknownst to the murderous king, David crept up slowly behind him and cut off a corner of his robe. It wasn't until Saul was back out in the wilderness that he heard David shouting from the mouth of the cave: "Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the LORD's anointed'" (1 Samuel 24:10).
Read Psalm 37. Have you ever wondered why some of the world's most wicked people seem to prosper? "Nice guys finish last," the saying goes—and looking around, it often seems true. David must have felt this way as he thought of King Saul, safe and warm in his palace, while he was on the run in the wilderness, fleeing for his life. How, then, could David let Saul go free after he had wandered into his hideout?
David knew a Truth that the Bible declares from Genesis to Revelation, from "In the beginning . . ." to the final "Amen": God is a righteous Judge. He will make everything right in the end. Saul may have been winning in that moment, but David knew God would not allow his crimes to go unpunished forever. In fact, he was so confident of this that he stayed his hand in that cave, leaving vengeance to God.
Years later, King David reflected on those early years and God's faithfulness to him—how God protected him, took care of him, guided him through the fire and the flood, and brought him to the highest position in Israel. In Psalm 37, David wrote, "The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming" (vv. 1213).
The lesson for all of us is this: Don't sweat it when you see the temporary success of the wicked. Keep calm and look up to Your heavenly Father, for, "A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity" (vv. 10-11).
Prayer: Lord, thank You for Your justice and mercy. May I be filled with compassion, remembering Your grace for me, and also find comfort in the promise that evil will receive Your righteous judgment. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity" (Psalm 37:10-11).
Champions Don’t Lose Their Confidence
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/25/18
To walk in true confidence, we must realize its source. If we place our full confidence in our human abilities, we will be sorely let down time and again. No matter how accomplished we are, no matter how much intelligence we have acquired, no matter how talented we may be, God alone is our deliverer, and He must be the one upon whom we rely.
Though David was being run ragged through the mountains, fleeing a mad king, he never lost confidence that God was going to deliver him. However, David ventured into new situations with extreme caution, consulting the Lord before acting. "[David] inquired of the Lord, saying, 'Shall I go and attack these Philistines?'" (1 Samuel 23:2).
True champions do not lose their confidence because they know they are not the ultimate source of victory. They understand that their victory rests in a loving, sovereign Father, who has hopes and dreams for their lives far beyond what they could ever imagine.
David knew that while he was fleeing King Saul, he was under the protection of God's wing. During our journey with Christ, we can probably mark with ease the days, months, and years when we were seeking direction from Him. And with the same ease, we can tell when we were not.
When we inquire of the Lord, asking Him to prepare the way for us to walk in His calling, He is faithful to do so. When prayer becomes a discipline in our lives, we will never lose confidence, and we will walk boldly with God into whatever journey He has called us to.
Prayer: Lord, instill in me the discipline to seek Your direction at every decision-making point in my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence" (Ephesians 3:12).
Hope When You’re Hiding
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/24/18
Maybe you have just heard a negative remark that someone said about you, and fear and insecurity is gripping your heart. Waves of panic sweep over you as you wonder what you will do. David would understand your plight.
On the run from Saul, a vicious and relentless ruler, he wrote these words:
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies. (Psalm 18:2-3).
David, the future king of Israel, was forced to leave his home and the ones he loved. Almost overnight, he became a hunted criminal, though he had done nothing wrong.
Now, he was the commander of a ragtag army made up of bandits, murderers, and social outcasts. Alone and hiding out in a cave of rejection, David wondered how life had turned out so differently from what he had planned.
Today, you also may feel like a cave dweller. Friends have betrayed you, peers scorn your name, and even family members have turned against you. At night, tears stain your pillow as you wonder if God will hear your cry.
God has given you a marvelous promise: If you will seek Him, you will find He is right beside you. No matter how deep your valley may seem, God's love for you is deeper.
He is your faithful Lord and Savior, your best friend, and your eternal source of hope and encouragement. Hang in there. Don't give up. God has a wondrous plan for your life.
Prayer: Lord, I cannot imagine life without You. Today, I turn to You in the midst of my fear. Show me the greatness of Your love, and be my sole encouragement. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/23/18
David experienced victory, but he also experienced failures, just as we do. Some of his failures were monumental. He dealt with defeat. He fumbled through temptations. He allowed his own desires to lead him into huge blunders. He occasionally wallowed in sorrow and fear. But he always recovered from these setbacks.
In 1 Samuel 20, we see David hiding from Saul in self-pity and worry. In his panic, David sought help and comfort from his friend instead of going directly to God. David continued in a downward spiral. The more he took his eyes off the Lord, the more he focused on himself. In his misery, he cried out, "How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?" (Psalm 13:1-2).
In the dark cave in which he was hiding from Saul and his army, David poured out his heart to God. He turned his hiding place into a place of prayer. "I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble" (Psalm 142:1-2).
By the time we see David in 1 Samuel 23, he has remembered the key to victory: "He inquired of the LORD" (v. 2). David had learned the consequences of leaving God out of his plans, and he gave his brokenness to God. He chose to redirect his focus from his suffering to trusting in the Lord. He no longer allowed others to distract him from obeying the will of God.
The same God who used David's brokenness can use our brokenness to restore us and to glorify Himself.
Prayer: God, help me to stay focused on You and to give You my brokenness. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18).
The Source of Success
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/22/18
As David met his opponents with courage, he always remembered the source of his strength:
Once you spoke in a vision, to your faithful people you said: "I have bestowed strength on a warrior; I have raised up a young man from among the people. I have found David my servant; with my sacred oil I have anointed him. My hand will sustain him; surely my arm will strengthen him. . . . I will crush his foes before him and strike down his adversaries. . . . He will call out to me, You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Savior.'" (Psalm 89:19-21, 23, 26).
David did not take God's aid for granted or allow his successes to turn into arrogance. He remained humble and acknowledged that true victory comes only from the hand of God.
In contrast, Saul's heart was completely self-focused. His dreams and hopes and will were not aligned with God's will. So when Saul witnessed David's growing popularity after the Philistine defeat, Saul became consumed with jealousy.
As [the Israelites] danced, they sang: "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands." Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly. "They have credited David with tens of thousands," he thought, "but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?" And from that time on Saul kept a close eye on David. (1 Samuel 18:7-9).
Saul did not praise God for bringing victory through David. Instead, his only thought was how this young man was stealing his personal glory and fame. Instead of feeling gratitude toward David, Saul saw him as a threat to his own power.
When you face triumphs in life, are you quick to give God the glory? When you face an insurmountable foe, do you remember that God is the source of your strength?
Prayer: Father, help me to always recognize that any success I have is from You. Thank You for being the source of my strength. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you" (1 Samuel 12:24).
Learning to Slay Giants
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/21/18
When David was just a young man, he killed a giant named Goliath. People revel in victories like David's. They like to know that it's not always about who's bigger, meaner, and better armed. That's because we all face giants in our lives.
Read Psalm 8. These giants are usually not of the nine-and-a-half-foot variety. The giants I'm talking about are the giants of fear, anxiety, worry, discouragement, and despondency. Sometimes they take the form of addiction, restlessness, envy, bitterness, or anger. But whatever they may be, these giants have one purpose in mind: to render the children of the living God ineffective. So, the question is: How do we defeat these giants?
In our culture, we often try to understand ourselves and the problems we face without understanding God and His purpose for life. Many churches preach messages that encourage people to solve their problems on their own. They offer principles, methods, and formulas to fix the troubles their listeners encounter. But that's the core of the problem. They leave God out, and He's the only one who can solve our problems.
After his great triumph over Goliath and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, David penned Psalm 8 as a song of victory. That song of victory begins with a recognition of the surpassing majesty of God: "LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" (v. 1).
David knew who God is. That's why he could stand with his sling and a few small stones and stare down a mountain of a man, saying, "I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty" (1 Samuel 17:45). David knew there is power in the name of the Lord. David's story tells us that when we're in trouble, we need to call on the name of the God of heaven and trust Him.
Jesus gave His life for us so that the biggest giants in our lives—sin and death—could be defeated once and for all. How much more can we trust Him to give us victory over Satan's everyday attacks? Whatever your Goliath may be today, praise your God who is bigger, stronger, and wiser than any giant—and proclaim as David did, "Lord, how majestic is Your name!"
Prayer: Lord, thank You for securing my victory in Christ. Help me to live as Your champion with unshakable confidence in You that leads me to declare Your goodness to the world. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57).
Champions Have Faith Above Fear
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/20/18
Life's furious pace can be overwhelming, and the problems we encounter during those days can seem consuming. We scheme to solve our problems, yet they only grow larger and more complicated. One situation after another arises, and we feel as if we cannot face another trying moment. In fact, we respond by retreating because we are so afraid of another dilemma.
If ever there was a man who had his share of problems, it was David. As a shepherd for his father's flock, David always seemed to be addressing some sort of problem.
There was the problem of wild animals who wanted to kill his family's sheep. So, David killed a lion and a bear. Then there was the problem of King Saul, whose fits of rage would compel him to hurl spears at David while he played the harp.
Courage is not the absence of fear; rather, it is the conquest of fear. Surely, David was afraid—he faced death on a regular basis. We see evidence of deep despair and anguish in some of his psalms (see Psalm 6, 3, 42-43, 142, et al.). However, we also see how he faced his fears by placing his faith in God, knowing there is no circumstance from which God cannot deliver us.
As problems arise, we must learn to face our fears with faith—faith that God is going to deliver us. David writes, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1). In order to conquer fear, such as the fear of mounting problems, we must lean on God's promises, knowing He will help us overcome any obstacles placed in our paths.
Prayer: Lord, increase my faith as I trust in You to help me face my fears. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies" (Psalm 57:10).
A Champion for the Lord
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/19/18
David was a champion for the Lord—but not because he was a gallant warrior who never stumbled. He did not glory in the praises of the people after he defeated Goliath. He knew someone much greater than himself had secured the victory. Though the people saw his might, he understood his weakness. David lived a very difficult life. In many cases it was tragic, lonely, and filled with broken dreams.
After the prophet Samuel anointed him king over Israel, David probably thought he would be going to Jerusalem, but instead, he ended up shivering in a dark and lonely hillside cave. Instead of accolades and praise, David had to settle for a life lived on the run from a king who was bent on killing him.
But here is what is noteworthy about David's life: He never gave up. He never lost his confidence, and he always believed he would experience God's victory. It did not matter to David if he realized the victory here on earth or in heaven. Though he sinned and stumbled in his witness for God, he never entrusted his life to anyone but the Lord.
He writes, "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God" (Psalm 42:1). What do you do when sorrow comes? When disappointment fills your soul? David responded by being available to God. He never abandoned his devotion to the Lord. He sought humility over bitterness, repentance over resentment.
Prayer: Lord, may I live my life the way David did—in love with You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked. . . . but whose delight is in the law of the LORD" (Psalm 1:1-2).
Devoted to God
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/18/18
Once while visiting President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the White House, Wendell Willkie, who had run against him and lost, steered the conversation to the choice of Harry Hopkins as an intimate advisor to the president. He asked, "Why do you keep Hopkins so close to you? You surely must realize that people distrust him and resent his influence."
Without hesitation, Roosevelt replied, "Someday you may well be sitting here where I am now as president of the United States. And when you are, you'll be looking at that door over there and knowing that practically everybody who walks through it wants something out of you. You'll learn what a lonely job this is and discover the need for somebody like Harry Hopkins who asks for nothing except to serve you."
The same thing can be said of David. When Samuel first saw him, he almost questioned God's judgment. The Lord's choice for Israel's future king was the youngest of Jesse's sons. He was ruddy in appearance and did not look like kingly material. But Samuel wasn't able to see David from God's perspective.
Many times, for us to gain God's perspective, we have to be willing to let go of our limited and often personality-skewed viewpoint. David was a man whose heart was devoted to God. He wanted nothing more than to worship the Lord and be close to Him.
Most of the book of Psalms was penned by David. Many entries were written while he tended his father's sheep. He was a content man because he had learned how to practice the presence of God. It was there in his father's fields that he realized God's hand was on his life.
God has a plan for your life, but to see it unfold, you have to trust Him and rest in Him.
David was loyal and faithful. And God knew that whatever happened in this young man's life, he would never abandon his godly faith.
Prayer: Lord, make me like David—a person with a heart devoted only to You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty" (Psalm 91:1).
David’s Call to Praise
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/17/18
If King David were with us today, no doubt he would sound this clarion call to every believer: "Praise the Lord!" He would encourage us to clap our hands, to make a joyful noise to Almighty God with instruments and voice, and to shout praises to the Most High God. That's right, shout! And David wouldn't quietly stand before us, meekly offering this as a suggestion for us to consider. No, he would be animated; he would implore us to join him and all the saints of God in praise.
So if you were to meet David today, would you gladly heed his call to praise God with your entire being—all that you are, all that you have, and all that you will ever be—every day of your life?
Praise is more than obligation—more than a simple spiritual exercise. It is something more than singing songs in church on Sundays. Praise is the path that brings us near to God and His love, His power, and His grace. It brings us closer to the throne of God, draws us into a more intimate relationship with our Creator, Savior, and Lord, and provides us a more fulfilling life on this earth.
People driven to know their reason for being. We want our lives to make a difference, to produce something of lasting value. One of mankind's great questions is "What is the purpose of my life?" For those who believe in Jesus as their Savior, their purpose is clear: We exist to bring glory to God. To find a life of meaning, we need only dedicate our lives to worshiping God—savoring and declaring His excellencies to the world. As we do, our eyes will be opened to the love and power of God and our desperate need for Him so that our experience of God grows richer, our faith deeper, and our hope firmer. As we pursue our life's purpose in following Christ, our very lives are an expression of praise to God.
Prayer: Father, help me to embrace my purpose in life—to glorify You. May I praise You today with my entire being. Praise the Lord! I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior!" (Psalm 18:46).
A Successful Warrior
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/16/18
David was able to go into battle with confidence because he began his battle in prayer. When we call upon God's power instead of fearing our circumstances, we are on the path to victory. The more time we spend in prayer and worship of our Savior, the less we will feel afraid.
The only way to be a successful spiritual warrior is to start as a successful worshiper: "Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD" (Psalm 27:6).
When we forget to seek Him on a daily basis, we become easy prey for the enemy. The enemy is always present, ready to trip us up or lure us down the wrong path. This is why Scripture warns us, "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
We desperately need God's guidance to lead us in the right direction. Yet when we neglect our relationship with God, we become insensitive to His voice. We need to remember David's cry: "My heart says of you, Seek his face!' Your face, LORD, I will seek" (Psalm 27:8).
Prayer: Father, help me always to start my day with prayer and worship. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen."But I cry to you for help, O LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you" (Psalm 88:13).
Arrows at the Enemy
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/1518
The psalmist describes the next generation as arrows: "Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate" (Psalm 127:4-5, ESV).
We should pray that our children will become arrows into the heart of the enemy. When they face spiritual warfare, when they witness the moral decay around them, when they see the enemy's foothold on our society, may they be like arrows in the hand of Almighty God used to penetrate enemy territories and shatter spiritual deceptions.
Even if you do not have children, God wants to hear your prayers for the future of His people. He wants you to model for the next generation how to live a life of faith and devotion to Him. We need to show the next generation that God is not a stranger. He is our Father and our friend, our comforter and our foundation.
Prayer: Father, I pray that my children would become arrows in Your hand that would penetrate the heart of the enemy. Help me to be a role model for the next generation that they would see what You have done in my life and praise You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light . . . and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness but rather expose them" (Ephesians 5:8, 10-11).
Our Responsibility to the Next Generation
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/14/18
We want the best for our children. We work hard to provide them the best opportunities, education, possessions, and quality of life that we possibly can. But this earthly foundation is as weak as sand compared to the solid rock we have in Christ. The psalmist declared, "Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain" (Psalm 127:1). We work and work to provide for the next generation, but how often do we call out to God to form the foundation of their lives and to watch over them?
Today we face forces that are attacking our future generations. These forces are unashamedly seeking to destroy our society, our morality, our faith, and our convictions. Unless we are firmly anchored on the Rock of Ages, unless we trust in the living God, unless we are vigilant in prayer and fellowship with God, the enemy will be able to vanquish our children.
We have a great responsibility to the next generation. They may not yet realize the dangers they are facing or how to pray for protection and guidance. But we know. We can pray big prayers to God for the next generation. We can pray for God to build our homes and our cities on His foundation. We can model for the next generation how to pray selflessly and ceaselessly to God. We can model for our children that our trust and security is in God, not in our material possessions or earthly successes.
Prayer: God, forgive me for the times I have forgotten to pray for my children. Help them to recognize the power of prayer as they watch my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just" (Genesis 18:19).
Teach Your Children Well
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/13/18
Training children to love and serve the Lord, to be compassionate toward others, and to have consistent walks of faith is the most noble and important work any parent can do. Therefore, we should find great joy in the fact that the Lord has called us and entrusted us to be parents.
Never lose sight of the fact that you are training your child not only to take a role in God's Kingdom on this earth, but also to assume a place and an inheritance in heaven.
Many parents wonder what the most important lesson is that they can teach their children. The answer is simple. Nothing can take the place of teaching your child about the forgiveness and love of God. Telling him or her about the saving grace of Jesus Christ is the most important thing you will ever do.
Too often, mothers and fathers become weary in the process and say, "I am raising children," or, "I am supporting a family." However, we need to view our parental roles as a privilege. We are training heirs to the Kingdom of God—children who will make a difference in this world for God, children who will love others in Christ and lead them to salvation, children who will live together with you in eternity, children who will know the fullness of God's blessings, guidance, and favor.
As you pursue the challenge of being a godly parent, you can be assured that God is on your team. He will provide the wisdom you need for every situation. He also will protect you and bless you as you walk in His ways and bring glory to His name.
Prayer: Lord, I realize that as a parent I have a tremendous task. I know I cannot do it on my own. I need Your wisdom to guide me each day. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain" (Psalm 127:1).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/12/18
Another role of the godly parent is to cultivate compassion for others. Job trained his children to be generous, hospitable, responsible, kind, and considerate and to be leaders in building up others and the community in unity and harmony.
This does not mean Job taught his children to compromise for the sake of agreement, but rather to hold strong principles and demonstrate genuine love.
How do we develop compassion for others? We first must experience God's love and then be challenged to pass on that love. Children first experience God's love by experiencing the love of their own parents. The more their parents express love to them, the quicker they are to show compassion.
Assure your children repeatedly of God's love, even when they disobey. Be affectionate with them, hugging and kissing them and putting your hand on their shoulders as a sign of encouragement.
Also, don't link your love to any behavioral trait in your child. Let your children know you love them just as God loves them—unconditionally. God loves us solely because we are His beloved, uniquely created children. Learn to love your children in the same way.
When you demonstrate love to your children, they gain a proper perspective of God. They learn to view the Lord as a God of love and not wrath.
Prayer: Lord, teach me how to communicate Your love better to my family. I know when I learn to love You better, I can then pass this love on to others. Thank You for Your faithfulness in my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children" (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
Walk the Walk
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/11/18
As a godly parent, you will want to cultivate consistency in your family's walk of faith. Job valued spending time with his family and communicating with them, not only speaking to them but listening closely as they voiced their concerns, needs, and opinions.
Being consistent in our faith is not the same thing as perfection, nor does it mean we are always right. Rather, consistency means we make our families a priority when it comes to our time and our schedules.
Consistency also means walking the walk and not just talking the talk of your faith. It means going with your children to church every Sunday, including attendance at Sunday school. It means praying with your family daily, memorizing Scripture together, and talking about the things of the Lord and the principles of the Bible in a natural, ongoing way.
Use every moment of your relationship with your children to establish the reality of both God's love and your love in their lives. Keep His love and the Bible's teachings at the heart of your discussions with your children about what they see on television, learn in school, or hear from other children. Make God your number one resource to consult any time they face problems, are sick, or have specific needs.
It is in this daily walking-and-talking, dawn-to-dusk way that we train our children to have the attitude of Christ and to express His love toward others. It is a daily challenge to teach our children compassion and to lead them into a consistent pattern of godly living.
Prayer: Lord, I know when the focus of my life is set on You, then the focus of my family will be the same. Help me to seek Your face by Your Spirit. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live" (Proverbs 4:4).
Believing God for Your Family
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/10/18
The very first step to becoming a godly parent is to accept Christ as your Savior. If you have never asked Him to come into your heart and forgive your sins, then you will not know how to meet your children's needs effectively. The Lord is the one who has given us the privilege of raising children, and in order to tap into His mind for wisdom to successfully fulfill this responsibility, you have to have a personal relationship with Him.
The second step to becoming a godly parent is dependence on God. Children are great imitators. If we have a sincere walk of faith, they will follow our lead. Let your love for your children be rooted in your love for God. It is only to the degree that you love the Lord that you will be able to show your love to your children and other family members.
The third step is one of humility. Your children need to recognize the fact that you are the head of the household. However, they also need to know you can make mistakes, and when you do, you are not slow in seeking God's forgiveness. When your child hears you praying, his or her life is changed. Suddenly, he realizes Mom or Dad's faith is in God and nothing else.
Make sure you find time to praise God for your salvation, His provision for your family, and the wisdom He gives each day. Thank Him for His blessings and protection. Pray for a spirit of gratitude so your children will learn to have grateful hearts instead of being consumed with their personal wants and desires.
Prayer: Lord, I know there are times when I forget to thank You for all You have done. Forgive my ingratitude and teach me to be grateful for the love You have shown to my family and myself. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; . . . Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up" (Deuteronomy 11:18-19).
Parenting Our Children’s Hearts
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/09/18
As parents, we have an unbelievable opportunity to focus on parenting our children's hearts and inward beliefs.
Some new parents seek to repeat their experiences from childhood, assuming that is the best practice. Others vow not to repeat their adolescent experiences for their kids, faulting their parents for their unhappy childhood. Still others base their parenting style on the expectations of other parents in their social circles.
But are any of these approaches to parenting reflective of your personal faith in God?
To pass on spiritual and moral values to build up the hearts and characters of our children in righteousness, we must take time with our kids to model a godly lifestyle and show them unconditional love with no favoritism. Family Bible reading and discussion can help instill Biblical Truths in the hearts and minds of our children, along with Scripture memorization and prayer. And you may have other Christ-honoring methods for developing a love of God and His Gospel in your children's lives. That's wonderful. But the key we must remember is to move from ideas to action. It is easy to allow this priority of leading our kids in spiritual growth and Truth to fall to the wayside.
Long hours committed to work schedules, multiple employment commitments because of lifestyle issues, and a myriad of other interests can adversely affect even the best efforts to allocate enough time to parent our children's hearts and inward beliefs.
Begin a concerted effort now to explore opportunities that will contribute to your family heritage.
Prayer: Father, help me to model to my children a life committed to You. Show me if there is anything I need to change in my parenting habits. Help me to spend time in the Word and in prayer with my children. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it" (Proverbs 22:6)
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/08/18
Yesterday we looked at two types of soil that Satan targets. Today we will look at the third.
The third type of soil that Satan targets is the spoiled soil. "The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful" (Matthew 13:22).Here the problem isn't so much the soil, but the competing seeds that Satan has tossed into the mix. How can God's seeds grow and flourish when the choking plants of busyness, material ambition, and anxieties overwhelm the crop?
Jesus encourages us: "But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown" (Matthew 13:23). This fertile soil belongs to those who vigilantly protect the seeds of God's Word from hardened hearts, shallow faith, and thorns of distraction.
What type of soil are you? Has your heart been hardened and untilled for so long that the seeds of God's Word just bounce away? Is your soil rocky and shallow because you have never made the disciplined effort to fully develop your spiritual life? Do you allow busyness to distract you from studying God's Word?
Prayer: Father, forgive me for the things in my life that have hindered Your Word from fully developing in me. I pray that You would nurture Your seeds of Truth in my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word" (Psalm 119:16)
God’s Word Must Take Root
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/07/18
Satan targets both the spiritually strong and the spiritually weak. Whatever the level of our spiritual maturity, the enemy has a plan to make us spiritually stagnant. Jesus warned against this in His parable of the sower (see Matthew 13).
In this analogy, the sower is God and the seeds are God's Word. The devil knows he has no power over the sower or the seed. This is why he focuses on corrupting the soil where the seeds land so that maybe he can prevent God's Word from taking root in our hearts.
Jesus warns against three types of soil where seeds suffer. Today we will look at the first two.
In Matthew 13:19, there is the soil by the wayside: "When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path." When our hearts become hardened due to unconfessed sin or bitterness, we lose our sensitivity to God's voice and our understanding of His Word.
The next type of soil is the shallow soil full of stones: "The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time" (Matthew 13:20-21). Fresh converts who are full of joy and wonder over their new faith can quickly fall into old habits when their friends ridicule them. Even longtime believers could be shallow soil if they have failed to mature beyond spiritual infancy.
Prayer: Father, show me if I am one of these types of soil where the seeds of Your Word are not able to take root. And by Your Spirit, make my heart fertile ground for Your Truth that brings joy and freedom. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it" (Luke 11:28).
Preparing the Soil
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/06/18
In Middle Eastern farming, there is a pathway between two fields. It is the boundary. It is the place where hard-packed earth is found. It is the strip in the field were the soil is not prepared for receiving the seed.
The parable of the sower in Matthew 13 tells us that Jesus is the sower and your heart is the soil. Satan seeks to ruin the soil on which the seed of the Word is planted. If he can, he will harden the soil of your life. Many times he does this by getting you to substitute human wisdom for God's Word. Then he succeeds in snatching away the good seed of the Gospel before it can seep into the soil and bring life.
To keep the Word of God from taking root in your life, Satan will use any means to pull you away from growing your relationship with God. Unconfessed sin, unforgiveness, and bitterness are tactics he employs to harden your heart toward God. When you cling tightly to bitterness, anger, resentment, and unforgiveness, elevating them above your relationship with God, they become "idols," displacing the supremacy of God in your life.
When Mahmud of Ghazni invaded India, his conquering forces entered a celebrated Hindu temple to destroy its idols. The temple priests entreated Mahmud to spare a certain idol, but he refused. Instead, he struck such a blow to the image that it burst open and precious stones cascaded from the hollow interior.
Likewise, for each idol you are willing to destroy, you will gain far more than you lose. Each time you surrender something to God, you will remove another hindrance to a productive life of faith and prayer. Every idol that is demolished will bring you new treasures of grace and peace.
Prayer: Lord, my desire is to destroy every idol in my life. Please show me anything I am not surrendering to You and grant me the ability to surrender it to You today. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them" (Mark 4:15).
Generous with God’s Gifts
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/05/18
During Jesus' time on earth, He told many parables to help explain what His Kingdom is like and to show what it looks like to withhold nothing from Him.
Read Matthew 25:14-30. In this parable, each of the three servants was given a different amount of money. The first two men immediately invested what God had given them, serving with joy—and the one who had been given less didn't even grumble about it. As a result, these two men doubled their investments, and the master commended them.
On the other hand, the third servant who received the fewest talents spent his time complaining about the unfairness of the master. Believing that the master was a harsh man and fearing that he would lose what he had been given, this man dug a hole in the ground and hid his wealth. The master was angered that this servant did not do anything with the talents he had been given.
Through this parable, Jesus was teaching that God has gifted each of us uniquely, and He wants us to use our gifts well. Not only that, but God is fair. Just as the master did not require the servant with two talents to create ten, God will not necessarily expect from you what He expects of others.
In this parable, God commended the attitudes of the servants, not necessarily their performance. The master told the first two men, "Well done, good and faithful servants." If he had been commending them for their performance, he would have said, "Much done, good and faithful servant. Much done." Rather, he commended the attitudes of their hearts.
As the first two servants demonstrated, if you serve with the gifts, talents, and stewardship God has given you—out of joy and a desire to maximize your stewardship—you will please the Master as you exhibit trust in His grace, mercy, and sovereignty.
Do you trust the Master enough to give Him your all? The degree of risk that you are willing to take is directly related to the level of your trust in the Master. And the risk of faith—investing yourself in the work of God and sowing seeds for His Kingdom—is guaranteed never to fail.
Prayer: Lord, help me to invest my talents rather than bury them out of fear or distrust. Teach me how to give You my all in everything I do. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously" (2 Corinthians 9:6).
God’s Rescue Plan
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/04/18
Isaiah 53:6 says, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way." All we have to do is look around to see the various directions to which people turn, just like sheep. Some people try to find happiness through comfort and pleasure. Others look for peace and security in their wealth. And many look for God—but will never find Him—in a false religion. Left on our own, each and every one of us would continue down one of these paths. Just like a sheep that has wandered off, if a sinner is not rescued soon, the path he takes will eventually lead to destruction.
Read Luke 15:1-7. In this passage, Jesus describes the Father's sheep-rescue plan. It's very simple: God chases after and saves lost sheep. Jesus says He will leave behind the ninety-nine in order to seek and save the one who is lost. This means that no matter how lost a sheep has become, no matter how far he has wandered, there's still hope. God is out looking for him. There's nothing that sheep can do, and no path he can choose to find God; He needs to be rescued. No one truly finds God. Instead, God finds us.
Every other religion exists for the sake of helping people find a particular god or gods. But Christianity declares that God has come looking for us. When Jesus came to earth, that's what He said: "The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10). He is not afraid to get His hands dirty for the sake of a little, lost lamb. God loves sinners so much that He goes to extraordinary lengths to find us and bring us home.
Notice what else Jesus says: "There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent" (Luke 15:7). Many people are so lost that they no longer recognize how lost they are. They think they are right where they should be. The Pharisees were like this, and there are people with a similar mindset today. And like a sheep that doesn't know it has wandered off, they fail to recognize the Savior's voice (see John 10:27). They miss the rescue they so desperately need.
You may not realize just how lost you have become, but there's good news: Jesus has come to rescue you!
Prayer: God, thank You for Your amazing love. Thank You for finding me and calling me out of darkness. Help me to follow You all the days of my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10).
The Pearl of Great Price
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/03/18
In Matthew 13:45-46, Jesus said, "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."
In this parable, Jesus shares that the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. There are two things you must know about pearls to understand this illustration. First of all, back then, pearls were the most precious commodity; not one of, but the most precious commodity, more highly valued than diamonds are today.
Pearls were greatly valued because diving for the oysters that contained the pearls was an extremely hazardous exercise. There were many people who lost their lives diving for these oysters. Both the beauty and the scarcity of the pearl made it extremely valuable, and people often gave all of their money and belongings to possess just one priceless pearl.
Pearls are also the only gems that are produced within living organisms. A pearl is precious because of the suffering and injury that takes place inside the oyster. First, a grain of sand gets inside the oyster, and then that grain of sand grinds within the oyster until the pearl is formed.
In this illustration, the pearl of great worth represents none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.
It was on the cruel Roman cross that the only perfect God-man who ever lived suffered, bled, and died. It is only through His grinding death on the cross and ultimate resurrection from the dead that the priceless pearl of salvation is available.
Nothing can be compared with this pearl. Only through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can we be assured of heaven. Only through Him can we find forgiveness of sins. He is the only one who provides true peace of mind, security, identity, and rest for our souls.
Prayer: Father, thank You for Jesus Christ, the pearl of great price. May my life be a reflection of Christ to this world. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings" (Psalm 36:7).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/02/18
While the parable of the lost coin is about God's love for people, it also shows us how we should seek first God's Kingdom and treasure the Lord. We should seek to be in His presence zealously because we know He rejoices over us, His children. The parable of the lost coin encourages us to get up, light a candle, and begin the treasure hunt. To find a spiritual treasure, we must begin with the light that comes from the Word of God. It is a lamp for our feet and a light on our path (see Psalm 119:105).
Through the Word, the Lord will purify our heart, sweeping it clean of sin. His Word has power to heal past hurts, remove resentments, and give us a fresh love for God and His people—a true cause for rejoicing.
When we find our treasure, namely Christ, and allow His Spirit to transform us into His likeness from day to day, we will be compelled to invite our friends and neighbors to rejoice with us and experience for themselves the love of Christ!
Luke 15:10 tells us that God shares in this joy, too: "There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." He longs for sinners to repent, and He rejoices when they do.
Have you entered into the light of His Word so that He may lead you to your worthiest treasure?
Prayer: Father, I pray that You would show me that You are my worthiest treasure through Your Word. Help me know and honor You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Luke 12:34).
The Lengths of His Love
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/01/18
Anyone who has studied the Bible for any length of time knows that while the central message of Scripture is simple to comprehend, there are many passages that require patience and hard work to unlock. Oftentimes, this is because we are now separated from the original context in which these books were written by time and culture. What was once plain to a passage's original hearers can seem foreign to us.
Read Luke 15:8-10. Here, Jesus offers us a parable about a woman who has lost one of her ten coins. On the surface, it seems this story is easily understood. Who hasn't lost a coin before? But when we see the lengths to which this woman goes to secure her missing change, we begin to see there must be more going on.
In Jesus' day, a woman who was engaged to be married would wear a semdi, a headdress that contained ten valuable coins. It was a way of telling the whole world she was off the market. To lose one of the ten coins that made up her special engagement headdress was not at all like you or me losing a quarter. How embarrassing it would have been for her if her betrothed had shown up and her semdi were missing one of the coins! It would be like an engaged woman today losing the valuable center-stone diamond in the ring her fiancé gave her as a sign of his love and his intention to marry her. She would do anything to find it.
Jesus told this story to illustrate just how valuable we are to God the Father—and to what lengths He will go to seek out every one of us. But there is a detail in this parable that many people overlook. Unlike the lost sheep Jesus described moments before (15:4-7), this coin is missing right at home.
There are many people sitting in the pews of churches around the world who think that just because they're in church, they're not lost. The Truth is being a part of a small group Bible study won't save you and going to church won't save you. Without Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you will be just as lost "at home" in the church as others are out in the world.
Once again, Jesus ends His parable with a celebration: "I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (v. 10). It's not too late to be part of the celebration.
Prayer: Father, thank You for the extraordinary lengths to which You went to rescue me. Help me to cherish You and to dwell in Your presence. May I not lose sight of You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:10).