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The Choice to Obey

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Charles Spurgeon once wrote, "The first thing God requires of His child is obedience." But human nature often rebels against obedience.

The Bible is full of examples of individuals who disobeyed God. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Lot's wife blatantly looked back to see the destruction of Sodom. Jonah refused to go to Nineveh. Moses struck the rock, instead of speaking to it as God commanded.

We all can remember incidents when we have disobeyed—whether it was against an authority figure, a law of the land, or a biblical principle. Most likely we even remember our punishment or the consequences we suffered. The act of disobedience brings guilt, sadness, and shame.

There is no long-lasting pleasure in getting our own way. It brings grief to our heavenly Father because He longs for us to walk with Him. Our disobedience separates us from Him. Yet God extends His grace toward us even when we disobey His Word. Therefore, our response should be to seek His forgiveness with a repentant heart and to learn from the consequences of our disobedience.

When we face a hard decision to choose between what is right and what we want, how do we respond? No matter how you may be ridiculed or how hard it may be to follow God's guidance, obedience is its own reward.

Jesus lived a life of obedience. His earthly ministry was to do the will of His Father. Like us, Jesus had a choice, and He said, "Not my will, but yours" (Luke 22:42). The Lord desires our obedience, but He never demands it. The choice is ours.

Prayer: Lord, I pray that my love for You would not be based on feelings, but evidenced by my obedience. Thank You for the grace and patience You show me as I learn to walk in obedience to You. Amen.

“And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands” (2 John 1:6).


The Satisfaction of Completion

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

When we take time to look at the world around us, we become aware of all the work we have to do as believers. The dying world in which we live is desperate for the Gospel. There are billions of people who need to hear the Truth of God’s Word. We truly have our work cut out for us.

However, in all our striving to advance the Kingdom of God, we sometimes forget one of the biggest Truths of God’s Word. On the Cross, Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The work He came to do, to fulfill God’s promise to mankind by making the ultimate sacrifice for the sin of the world, is finished.

However, in our hearts, the work of the Holy Spirit is still taking place. Once we submit our lives to Jesus, the process begins and does not end until we get to heaven. It is not up to us to finish the work that only God can do in our lives; we can only choose to be willing servants He uses to draw others to Himself. We cannot live a holy life without Him. His gift of salvation can only be received through faith in His Son. Strive as we may, eventually we will stumble. But God has promised to do what we cannot do for ourselves. He has sent His Son to save us.

While we can look forward to the day when God looks at us and pronounces a completion of His work in our hearts, we must remain faithful and allow the Holy Spirit to continue His transforming work in our lives.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for the work You have started in me. Please continue shaping me into the person You want me to be.

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).


The Fountain of Life

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Quenching our thirst comes quite easily for most of us. Our minds tell us we need water, so we find the nearest source of water and drink. But do we apply this same principle to our spiritual lives?

Anything in life can become routine, even our relationship with God. We feel our thirst for Him, but what do we do about it? Sometimes, we look to sources other than God Himself, and while that may divert our attention for a moment, our deep thirst for Him remains.

Our bodies are designed to let us know when we need to replenish our internal water supply. Our mouths become dry and our brain quickly alerts us to the problem. The Holy Spirit also alerts us to our spiritual thirst: when we get low on our relationship with God, we need to go to Him.

But what is our response? Those who remain thirsty do so because they forget where the well is. They forget there is an unending source of refreshment and revitalization found in relationship with God.

The longer we remain numb to the problem, the larger the problem grows. We may know we are thirsty for God, but if we make no effort to pursue the fountain of life found in an intimate relationship with the Savior, we are robbing ourselves of our most refreshing moments in life—moments in God’s presence.

When was the last time you enjoyed time alone in God’s presence? No matter how long you have been away, He welcomes you back.

Prayer: Lord, help me to be sensitive to Your Holy Spirit and to recognize that You are the only source that can quench my thirst. Amen.

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God” (Psalm 42:1).


I Thirst

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

With his last breath, Thomas Hobbes, the self-confessed atheist said, “I am taking a fearful leap into the dark!” On his deathbed, the French agnostic Voltaire sadly spoke these words: “I am abandoned by God and man. I shall go to hell.”

In contrast to these two men, who died without Christ, is Christian evangelist Dwight L. Moody, whose last words were: “This is glorious ... Earth recedes; heaven is opening, and God is calling me.”

For believers, the moment we take our last breath is the first moment we will draw in the heavenly air of our new home; our abode with the Lord Jesus Christ. To be out of earth’s atmosphere is to be in His holy presence.

We rarely think about the difference between life lived here on earth and the one we will have in heaven. Instead, we often focus on our temporary home; how we can make it larger, decorate it with our favorite things, and enjoy it.

At some point, our perspective has to switch from earthly thinking to heavenly thinking. The short time we spend on this earth is not even a fraction of the time we will spend in eternity. Jesus was accustomed to setting this vision for others to reach. He never missed an opportunity to prepare His followers for His death, but more importantly, He wanted them to understand His resurrection and future blessings that would be theirs.

Even His last words, “I am thirsty” (John 19:28), remind us that nothing this world has to offer can satisfy our needs. Only Jesus has the ability to provide the “living water” that satisfies our souls.

Prayer: Lord, thank You that I don’t have to thirst anymore. I can simply come to You and find satisfaction. Amen.

“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst’” (John 4:13-14).


Praise-Enhanced Prayers

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Do you sometimes struggle with the right words in prayer? Do you wonder exactly what to pray for? You are not alone. God will empower you for meaningful prayer as you begin to praise Him.

Praise sets the stage for prayer that is focused, specific, and powerful. Praise reflects our acknowledgment of all that God is and all that God has done, is doing, and has promised to do. The more we praise God, the more we realize that He not only wants to know about our needs—He also wants to provide for our needs. God wants us to ask Him to meet our needs, not because He is ill-informed, but because He wants us to be aware of His provision for our every need.

By praising God for being all-powerful and all-merciful, by praising Him for his patience and forgiveness, we realize that He is already supremely concerned about and fully capable of handling any petition we could ever make.

One of the questions I hear most about prayer is, “How can I know if my prayer requests are within the will of God?” We begin by finding in God’s Word the promises that God makes to all believers, so that we can focus our prayers on them. Then we can make our petitions in light of the things that count for eternity. As you develop a lifestyle of praise, you will become more in tune with the will of God.

Prayer: Father God, You have promised in Your Word that You love me and that You understand the struggles that I face. Thank You for providing for my every need. Amen.

“For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD” (Psalm 117:2).


Faith-Boosting Praise

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Sometimes we all feel like we could use a boost in our faith level. Praise empowers our prayers and builds up our faith. When we make our petitions before God, we can pray with expectancy and confidence that we will receive God’s best.

If you are praising God for His mighty strength and His wondrous creation, you will begin to discover that prayer comes more naturally to you. Our praise builds our faith, putting us in a position to pray, “All things are possible for my God.”

Praise puts us in the position of seeing God as bigger and more powerful than any enemy coming against us. Praise builds our faith so that we can make petitions with boldness and confidence.

You will find that focusing on the many attributes of God will give you a confidence in Him that cannot be shaken. When our faith is founded on the goodness and power of our mighty and unconquerable Savior and Lord, our faith is likewise mighty and unconquerable.

Prayer: Holy God, thank You for increasing my faith as I praise You. I know that You are able to handle anything that comes my way. Amen.

“Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!” (Psalm 66:20).


Praise in Spiritual Battles

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

We are in constant spiritual warfare against Satan. He tries to enslave our bodies with addictions and excesses, our minds with heresies and paralyzing doubts, our spirits with guilt and shame. He seeks to take away our joy, rip apart our families, and wreck our relationship with Jesus Christ and His church. When you are facing trying times and temptations, these are the moments when praise is most needed.

Praising God empowers us to defeat the devil. Why is this? Because praise speaks the truth about God, something the devil cannot stand to hear. The great strength of our praise in spiritual warfare is that through it we are declaring with childlike faith that God loves us and has gained the victory over Satan. God loves and God wins. Period.

So how do you praise God during spiritual struggles? Praise God for sending Jesus to win the eternal war over your soul. Praise Him for using the Holy Spirit to convict you of your sins and convince you of your need for a Savior. Praise Him for His guidance and strength in overcoming obstacles. Praise Him for His overwhelming love for you, even when you struggle with temptations.

You can spend hours praising God for your salvation, and you will not even have scratched the surface of how much God is worthy to be praised. In our praise, we defeat the forces that seek to destroy us, undermine our faith, diminish our influence, and demolish our integrity.

Prayer: God, thank You for your love and for sending Your Son to die for me. Thank You that in the midst of spiritual battles, I can find victory as I praise Your holy name. Amen.

“Praise be to the LORD my rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliver, my shield, in whom I take refuge” (Psalm 144:1-2).

 


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