Having Faith, as small as a mustard seed can move mountains!
We Can Do All Things, Through Christ Jesus, Our Lord!
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 06/24/18 to 06/23/18
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).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 06/22/18 to 06/01/18
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).