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The Unseen Battle

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Right now, an invisible war is happening. A spiritual battle is being waged, and we are right in the middle of it.

Paul wrote, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world” (Ephesians 6:12).

James wrote, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

Peter wrote, “Be alert and of sober mind, for your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

And John wrote, “I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray” (1 John 2:26).

In these letters we see a common theme: that our enemy the devil is at work, and if we are not vigilant, we can easily become prey to his schemes.

Satan will do everything he can to get us to stumble in our race of faith. As a matter of fact, he would love to see us forfeit the race entirely. Through deception and temptation, he works to rip apart our relationships, our witness, and ultimately, our devotion to Christ. What can we do to ensure that the enemy’s tactics do not succeed?

The Word of God gives us great news: “[Christ’s] divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life” (2 Peter 1:3). We are not helpless victims in this spiritual battle because Christ has already given us the victory.

Through the Holy Spirit, we can put to death our earthly desires and set our minds on the Lord. When the burden of temptation feels too great, we can call upon God’s Spirit for help, trusting that we are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us (Romans 8:37). When we find ourselves falling into old habits, we can begin to take those thoughts captive and submit them to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Instead of simply fleeing temptation, we can also actively pursue righteousness.

Is there anything keeping you from running your race? Keep asking God for strength. Keep putting on your spiritual armor. The next time you falter in the race, do not give up or give in to despair. Remain in God’s Word, and remember that Christ has already given you the victory.

Prayer: Lord, I confess those areas of my life where I have not been putting on my spiritual armor. Today I submit my thoughts to You and pray that You would help me to continue taking every thought captive. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:11-12).


Remove Every Hindrance

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

From the day you decide to follow Christ to the day you see Him face to face, you are running a spiritual marathon. However, many think the Christian race is a sprint, attending as many Bible studies and church activities as they possibly can until they are spiritually exhausted. Others become so discouraged by their own spiritual baggage—the heavy weight of anxiety, unforgiveness, shame, or selfishness—that they become discouraged or spiritually lazy, afraid of the work it might take to get to the finish line.

How can we remove every hindrance in our race of faith and finish strong for Christ? In Hebrews 12:1-2, we find the key: “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Jesus Christ Himself is our greatest motivation for finishing the long marathon. During His life on earth He endured opposition, ridicule, scorn, blasphemy, torture, and betrayal. Yet Jesus endured because He was motivated by the glory that was awaiting Him. Jesus is our prize. He is the motivation we need to keep running, persevering, and moving forward. He is the One who will be standing at the finish line waiting for us.

Anxiety, unforgiveness, unconfessed sin, and doubt are all obstacles that can weigh us down and grind our race to a halt. But through the empowerment of God’s own Spirit, we can fix our eyes on Jesus, throw off everything that hinders, cling to the Truth, and press on.

Is there anything holding you back from running the race with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength? If there is a hindrance in your path, lay it before the throne of God. If you are discouraged or weary, wondering if you will be able to cross the finish line, remember Jesus. If you are feeling weak, tired, or unmotivated, fix your eyes on Christ. He alone is worthy of your endurance, and He alone has all power in heaven and earth to pick you up, brush you off, and get you back in the race.

Prayer: Lord, I lay these hindrances at Your feet knowing that I cannot run this race on my own. I need Your Spirit. Help me to fix my eyes on You and to overcome every hindrance that stands in my way. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1).


Faithful To God and Others

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

As we continue looking at the foes to faithfulness, another foe is indifference to God’s Word. We lose a capacity for faithfulness when we lose our zeal, our ardor, our first love, our deep desire to stand up for the Truth and witness to the lost. Those who are authentically filled with God’s Spirit are excited about the things of God. They rejoice at the salvation of lost souls. They delight in seeing God at work. They are enthusiastically eager to worship God and to serve Him.

If you are genuinely faithful, you will find yourself actively pursuing a relationship with God. Are you spending time praising and thanking Him, confessing your sins to Him, and listening to what He speaks to you from His Word? Faithfulness also involves a desire to know God’s Truth. Are you seeking to grow in your understanding of God’s principles, purposes, and promises? Do you read and study the Bible on a daily basis?

Faithfulness extends from growing a relationship with God to also growing a relationship with believers. It means going to church, even when you don’t feel like it, and developing friendships with other believers: “Let us not give up meeting together...but let us encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:25).

Faithfulness produces a deep assurance that we are connected to God with a bond that cannot be broken, a bond that extends into eternity. God’s faithfulness to us leads to our faithfulness to Him and to other people.

Prayer: God, thank You for being faithful to me, even when I am unfaithful. I pray that You would reveal to me specific ways in which I can be more faithful to You and to others. Help me to stay zealous for You and Your Word. Amen.

“God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful” (1 Corinthians 1:9).


Understanding Faithfulness

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Faithfulness stands at the heart of who God is and what He wants to do in and through us. It is rooted in commitment and trust. Trust is produced when we make a promise and then keep it, when we make a commitment and then honor it, and when we say something and mean it. Consistency, reliability, and proven track records are all aspects of faithfulness. Faithfulness means giving your best to any effort you undertake, whether it is a task or a relationship.

We must be faithful in all areas of life—whether they are little things or big things. In being faithful, we keep appointments and promises. We remain faithful to our spouse, not only through fidelity but also by making decisions with their good in mind. At the office, it means doing our best work even when no one is watching.

You will find that your faithfulness decreases as you diminish your relationship with God. If you find yourself spending less time in prayer, becoming sporadic in your church attendance, or negligent in your giving of tithe or time, you’ll also find your faithfulness suffering. But God calls us to be faithful to Him, just as He is faithful to us.

You’ll find another foe to faithfulness is compromising God’s Truth. When we begin to interpret Scripture to fit our own desires, we diminish our ability to rely upon the faithfulness of God, which in turn diminishes our own ability and motivation to be faithful. If we see God as someone who changes His mind or who is capricious in His judgments, we will have little desire to follow Him. However, as we trust in the Lord, believing that He is who He says He is, and give our all to Him, we will find that God is developing His kind of faithfulness in us.

Prayer: Father, help me to be faithful in every area of my life. Help me to be especially faithful in my relationship with You. Help me to spend time in Your Word and to never compromise Your Truth. Amen.

“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2).


Until He Returns

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Christ will return, and His return should motivate us to work hard and give sacrificially to the work of God. In the parable of the ten minas in Luke 19, Jesus essentially said that we are to remain occupied in working hard for His Kingdom until He returns.

There are two types of Christians: those who occupy themselves with God’s work and those who do not. Which one are you?

Are you taking advantage of every opportunity to witness for Christ? Are you being faithful with God’s blessings and resources? Are you serving God with all of your heart and soul?

During this life we will be refined with fire that will test us: are we laying a foundation of material wealth or of eternal blessings? Are we working for our own glory and comfort, or for the furthering of God’s Kingdom?

What does God want us to do until He returns? As Christians we are called to serve Him willingly and to obediently do whatever He calls us to do. We are to witness to those who do not follow Christ, lovingly warn them of the coming judgment, and joyfully share of God’s love and plan of salvation. We are to equip and encourage our fellow believers so that they may also go forth and further God’s Kingdom.

Prayer: Father, I pray that I will spend my days working for the furthering of Your Kingdom and not for my own personal gain. Amen.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42).


Tests of Faith

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

If we are going to live lives of faith, we must realize that our faith will be tested—not just once, but many times over the course of our lifetime. We will experience great joy, but we will also face defining moments when the intent of our hearts is revealed and the level of our faith is checked.

Abraham loved Isaac. Almost every time he looked at his son, he was reminded of the fulfillment of God's promise to him. He had chosen to believe the Lord even at a point in his life when it seemed impossible to have a solid sense of faith.

Then came the day when the Lord made a request of him that did not seem to fit the nature and character of God: “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about” (Genesis 22:2).

Few of us would know how to respond to a command like this one. More than likely, we would pray, "Lord, surely You have made a mistake." But Abraham never questioned God's reasoning or judgment. Once again he made preparations to obey the Lord.

Early the next morning, he saddled his donkey, gathered two of his servants and his son, and headed out to do what the Lord had asked him to do. Most of us know the conclusion to this story: God provided a ram as the sacrifice.

There may be times when the Lord requires you to be willing to give up something that you love deeply. When God has fulfilled a promise or provided a great blessing, it can be easy to worship the blessing over the blessor. But in these moments, whether He gives or takes away, God simply wants to know that your love for Him is not outweighed by something or someone else.

Prayer: Lord, You and You alone are my first love. I pray that nothing would outweigh my love for You. Help me to cast down all idols that keep me from worshiping You fully. Amen.

“To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).


Fearlessness: Walking with the Shield of Faith

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Sometimes life gives us more than we can handle. There are moments when our burdens topple the smooth plans we have made for our lives. Our natural tendency is to hold on to what we have, clutching tighter than before. But God says we should do something different.

To walk truly fearlessly in the face of life's threatening storms, we must fully place our trust in God. He wants us to see if we really believe what He says in His Word. In moments of crisis, do we immediately release our lives into His hands?

When life’s boat begins to rock upon the waves, God wants you to focus on Him more than ever. To walk fearlessly, upholding faith as your banner and shield, you must know who you are following.

God does not lead us down dark alleys only to abandon us. However, He may take us through some of life's most tumultuous storms, holding our hands every step of the way. 

After hearing about the kidnapping of Lot and his family, Abraham rounded up 318 men and went on a rescue mission. Abraham was fearless—not because he had 318 men to back him up, but because he was walking under the shield of faith. He trusted God and desired to obey Him no matter what.

Walking fearlessly with our heavenly Father means that we have come to a place of complete dependency upon Him, a place where we know He has His best in mind for us no matter what. The challenges that come our way can be conquered when we place our faith in Him. As our trust in God grows, we realize that while He will not shield us from life's challenges, He will shield us from defeat.

Prayer: Lord, help me to live free from fear as I fully place my trust in You. Amen.

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you” (Psalm 56:3).


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