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Joy In Trials

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

During the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad, builders had to construct an elaborate trestle across a deep canyon. After it was built, the chief engineer wanted to test it. A train loaded with double the normal train cars and supplies was driven to the middle of the bridge, where it stayed for an entire day.

Someone asked the builder, “Are you trying to break the bridge?” The answer was no. “I am trying to prove that the bridge will not break,” was his reply.

In the same way, God allows us to be tested. There is a spiritual hedge of protection around the life of the believer that can only be penetrated with God’s approval. In times of testing, God wants to strengthen us through the trials so that we will be made ready for His service.

James opened his epistle with bold advice to believers during a time when many Christians were being persecuted and tortured for the name of Christ: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

Whether we like it or not, how we respond to hurt, disappointment, and spiritual setbacks will affect our spiritual growth. If we go through trials with a reluctant attitude and an unteachable heart, we will miss out on the blessings God has for us, but if we go through our trials with joy, trusting God to prune us, we will find that our trials are producing growth and character strength in our lives. Only when we view our trials from a godly perspective will we reap the blessings of spiritual maturity.

God does not allow us to face needless trials. Most of what we face comes as a result of living life in a fallen world. However, we must learn to say no to anything that would prevent us from living holy lives before a holy God. When spiritual tests come, it’s tempting to fight God’s perfect working in you—but don’t resist the purifying work of the Holy Spirit. Look to heaven and have confidence that Christ is working out His purposes in you.

Prayer: Father, when I am facing a trial, give me the strength to walk in joy, trusting that You are working out Your good purposes in me. Amen.

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4).

God, Just Tell Me What to Do - Book Image
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*Giving offer available through August 31, 2014. Offer not available in Australia.

Waiting on His Timing

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

In fervently seeking God's will for our lives, there are moments when we clearly hear God's voice, and moments when we do not wait around to let Him finish His sentence. We may hear what God is saying, but we do not always listen to every part of His direction for us. Following God completely means there must be a total commitment to obedience—no matter how long we have to wait for God to fulfill His promise.

Hailed as a hero in the realm of faith, Abraham had his moments of weakness, which proved to be costly. Even though he heard God's promise that his offspring would be innumerable, Abraham struggled to wait, mistakenly assuming that maybe God meant his offspring would come through his maidservant, Hagar.

God fulfilled His promise to Abraham; Sarah had a child. However, he almost missed the blessing of the Lord. Even when we make mistakes, God still stands by His Word—He never fails us. However, we must be diligent in our faithfulness to what God calls us to do. Acting on our impatience can delay the timing of His best for our lives. God does not choose to make us wait because He enjoys watching us suffer; we wait because His timing is always the best for us.

Waiting on God's best for our lives proves we believe Him. It demonstrates our faith in who He is and what He has promised. As we wait on His perfect timing, we will experience the great joy of seeing His promises fully realized in our lives.

Prayer: Lord, teach me to have patience in following You today. Help me to trust You when it would be easier to take a shortcut. Amen.

“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD” (Psalm 27:14).

Disobedience: The Trail to Spiritual Stagnation

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

There are times when we confuse our happiness with God’s will. When everything is running smoothly, we presume that we are in the center of God’s will. However, when things take a turn for the worse, we tend to presume just the opposite—that we are not in God's will.

Our initial reaction to friction in our lives is to change something. If everything looks unsettled, then we must be doing something wrong. As Abraham dealt with what he viewed as a delay in receiving God's promise for his life, he tried to change his own circumstances. If God was not going to open Sarah's womb, Abraham sought an alternative way to fulfill God's promise for his life.

God desires to fulfill His promises for us. He never intends for us to hear His promises and then try to make them happen ourselves. When our lives reach a point where there seems to be no way out, we must be obedient at all costs. Disobedience delays God’s promises for our lives. 

Anyone can obey God when life is easy. When obeying Him means helping someone with minimal effort on our part, we joyfully oblige. But when obeying God involves waiting or making a sacrifice, we are often tempted to run in the opposite direction.

God will ask you to do difficult things in your spiritual walk. What He asks of you may be inconvenient or uncomfortable, but when you hear Him calling you, do not delay. Instead, follow His lead, knowing that all you do will be for your good and for His glory.

Prayer: Lord, help me to be obedient today, no matter how easy or difficult it might be. Amen.

“If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land” (Isaiah 1:19).

The School of Obedience

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

True, genuine obedience is not an act born out of defiance. It is born out of love. It is a desire to show our Lord and Savior our respect and worship by submitting our lives to Him.

From a young age, Moses learned of God's hand on his life—how he was saved from certain death and adopted into Pharaoh's home. Moses, like us, had to learn the lessons of obedience. And like us, often he did not pass with flying colors the first time. Because of uncontrolled anger, he had to flee Egypt. But God would later ask Moses to return to deliver the Israelites from bondage.

At first Moses did not want to obey. He had all kinds of excuses, like not being qualified for the task and not being a good speaker. In the wilderness, Moses continued his education in the school of obedience. Some lessons he passed right away; others he failed and had to repeat.

Sound familiar? Do you feel like you are learning the same lesson over and over because you've not quite grasped it? Are you still holding on to your insecurities, fears, and uncertainties? Are you obedient in some areas and rebellious in others?

You can't rely on your own strength to graduate from the school of obedience. Instead, place your trust in the great Teacher. If you are willing to surrender your will, God will change your life. Your submission to Him will be a demonstration of your love and devotion.

Prayer: Lord, show me the fears and insecurities that keep me from obeying You. I surrender my will to Yours today. Amen.

“If anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:5-6).

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).

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