Michael Youssef - From Valley to Victory - Part 20
Now, back in the days when I used to travel to Asia a great deal, and I think back then my wife would say, "A great, great deal", I found people, particularly in India, all over Asia, they are pursuing happiness. They're pursuing fulfillment. They're looking for it in Eastern mysticism. They're looking for it in finding some guru in which he's gonna help them find themselves, and I found also that there were people there in Asia, the so-called gurus, who are really happy to release them from their money.
Today, I wanna show you from the life of the Apostle Paul that when we pursue your God-given dream, and let me assure you God has a dream for every one of you. God has a vision for every one of you, but when you pursue that God-given dream in your life you're gonna overcome obstacles, you're gonna defeat any enemy, you're gonna meet every challenge, and you're gonna be victorious even in the worst of your circumstances. He shows us how to have joy in fulfilling God's purpose for your life. He shows us the motivation, which can only help us not just persevere, but thrive in life regardless of the circumstances.
First of all, Paul shows us here that it is the pursuit of that dream. It is the pursuit of that vision. It is the pursuit of God's purpose for your life. It's going to be, first of all, self-sacrificing. Secondly, it's gonna be God-glorifying. Thirdly, it's gonna be forever dreaming. You never stop dreaming. And, finally, constantly kneeling. Self-sacrificing is a true secret for fulfillment. Some of you are already saying, "What are you talking about"? I mean, everything I learned in school, everything I hear in the media, everything I see in the movies, everything in our culture says that fulfillment is, get it all, and grab it all, and keep it all. In the New Testament every believer in Jesus Christ is a priest.
You don't need to go to a priest for confession because every man and woman, boy and girl who surrender their life to Jesus Christ, the New Testament said, you are a priest. Can I get an amen? Question: what was the greatest joy in the fulfillment of a life of the Old Testament priest? Offering sacrifices to God, right? Today, we don't offer lambs or grains or stuff like that. No, no, no, no, in the New Testament we, all the priests, are offering themselves to God, amen? And because every believer is a priest in the New Testament, therefore every believer in Jesus Christ has a sacred call on his and her life.
Whatever you vocation is, God is calling you to offer sacrifices to him on a daily basis. Scientists tell us that the way we perceive ourselves impacts the way we live. When I perceive myself as a member of the royal family, I'm gonna behave like it. If you perceive yourself as a child of the living God who gonna inherit the entire universe with Jesus, you're gonna live like it. When you perceive yourself as a man of God and a woman of God, then the devil has no right to come into your life and harass you. And when he does you can kick him out in Jesus's name. When you perceive yourself as a priest who will delight himself in living up to the calling of constantly offering oneself as a sacrifice to the Lord, you will constantly offer your time and your talent, your treasure up to the Lord as a sacrifice.
When you perceive yourself as a foreign diplomat representing your home country, which is heaven, you are gonna be very anxious to represent your country, your home country well. Now, whether you know it or not, this is how God perceives you. He perceives you as a priest, as a man or woman, boy or girl with a holy calling on your life and therefore it is time for the army of the living God to see themselves as God sees them, not as they see themselves.
Verses 15 and 16. Paul's priestly duty was to offer God as a sacrifice with thanksgiving all of the Gentiles whom God used Paul to bring to the kingdom of God, who moved from hell to heaven, from darkness to light. And your priestly duty, I don't know what it is. Your priestly duty may be that you're gonna sacrifice some comfort zone, things in places in your life and witnessing for Christ in a hostile community. Your priestly duty may be to give sacrificially to the work of God. Your priestly duty may be to give a word of encouragement to everyone you meet. Your priestly duty may be serving your family. Your priestly duty may be helping others. Whatever your priestly duty may be, it is your offering of a sacrifice to the Lord.
That's the first thing. Fulfilled life is self-sacrifice life. Secondly, a fulfilled life (look at verses 17, 18, and 19) is God-glorifying. Paul said, "Therefore," Paul said, "I'm a priest offering sacrifices to God, serving him with all my heart, bringing the offering to the Lord, which is the souls of those who have been saved. Secondly," he said, "therefore I glory in my financial net worth"? Hello? "I glory in my real estate holdings"? No. "I glory in my degrees and my accomplishments"? No. "I glory in Christ Jesus". Beloved, Paul accomplished so much. Third of the New Testament has his name, at least a third, if not more, but he doesn't glory in any of that. Instead, he said, "God did it all, although he used me and for which I'm very grateful, but he did it all".
Beloved, listen to me. God must always get all of the glory. It is okay to brag about Jesus. It's okay to boast of the Lord. Don't miss what I'm gonna tell you. When you do that, you're gonna be helped over the pitfalls of life. Let me tell you I know those pitfalls that I'm talking about. It's gonna help you over being constantly complaining and murmuring and seeing every little problem as a huge thing and you can't get moving from it. It's gonna help you stop playing the martyr mentality. It's gonna help you from constantly falling into self-pity. "Oh, me. Poor me. Why is this happening to me"? Had Paul learned not to brag on the Lord, he would have said the following.
Now, don't find it in your Bible. I'm making it up, okay? He would have said the following. I know human nature, 'cause I'm one of them. "Oh, let me tell you about my experience in Iconium. Do you know Iconium? I was stoned in Iconium. Man, because I stood firm, I got stoned. The truth is everywhere I go, I got stoned for Jesus". Not stoned in the way you think about it, young people. This is stoned with stone. You know what I mean? Stoned. "You know dear old Barnabas? He always managed to save his pretty face. Every time there is trouble, Barnabas is gone. Oh, but not me. I stood firm. I wouldn't flinch. In fact, one stone knocked me down completely. It would kill the average man, but not me. I'm Paul.
When I got up from being beaten by these stones, I found that all of my companions, they cut and run, and I stood alone". Oh, but that's not how Paul saw it, right? That's not how he saw it. That's not how he perceived it in his life. He gave God all (how many?) of the glory. He gave God all... how many? All of the credit. In Galatians chapter 6, verse 14 he said, "May I never boast except in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ". And here in Romans he said, "To be sure," to be sure, "God accomplished a great deal through me, but only through his power that he gave me in order for signs and wonders and miracles take place. To be sure, it's the Holy Spirit who accomplished his purpose in my life, but it's only his power that enabled me to do this".
Beloved, listen to me. I know today's many a preacher, they brag about all sorts of things. Some brag about the power of the positive thinking. God bless them. Some brag about their communication skills. There are some who brag about the fact that they have power in their tongue. Whatever they say, it happens. We need to get back on the mourner's bench and cry to God, instead of bragging about all of our abilities. For a fulfilled life, it has to be self-sacrificing. For a fulfilled life, it has to be God-glorifying.
Thirdly, verses 20 to 29, it's forever dreaming. Listen to me. God has a dream for you, God has a vision for you, and if you don't know what it is you better stay on your knees until he gives it to you, because he does have one for you. You are his child. If you're his child, he has a dream for you and the moment you stop dreaming for God, you have died before dying. I want you to contrast this with the Apostle Paul. He had a clear vision. He had a dream. He had a goal, God-given dream, God-given vision, God-given goal to accomplish in his life. What was it? To preach the gospel where it's never been preached. That's a big goal. Verse 24. His ultimate destination is Spain.
You say, "Why Spain"? Because back then Spain was thought of as the edge of the world. That was it. In order to fulfill this vision, this dream that God gave him, he said, "I'll first take the offerings from the Gentile churches to take it to the Jewish church in Jerusalem because they're in desperate need". And it's thanking the Jewish believers for giving us Jesus and redemption, and so he said, "I'll take that offering from the Macedonians and the Corinthians and all the other churches, and I'm gonna take it to Jerusalem, and then I'm gonna buy a ticket". That's not in your Bible. "But I'm gonna go on a trip and go to Rome and fellowship together and then you give me some financial help and help me along the way to Spain".
That's the goal. That's the dream. That's the vision. I want you to listen carefully, because some of you are gonna say, "Well, wait a minute. What happened"? Well, from the book of Acts you find out things did not work out that way. It was not exactly the way he anticipated for the dream to be fulfilled, but it doesn't matter. Paul knew that God was calling him to go to Rome and from Rome he's gonna go to Spain, but it didn't happen that way. Instead of buying a ticket and going on a voyage, he ended up being the guest of the government, a prisoner, because when he went to take the money to Jerusalem some rowdy bunch of nonbelievers turned against him and wanna kill him.
And then, when he stood before the king he said, "I appeal my case to Caesar". And the king said to Caesar, "You shall go," so he ends up in Rome as a prisoner, not as a passenger. And even so, as a prisoner, the ship got wrecked, where he was floating on the driftwood in the Mediterranean for days on end and then when they landed he had a snake that bit him, a venomous snake. That literally the people there, the local people, thought he's dead, but God saved him through it all and took him to Rome. He arrived in Rome.
Question: did Paul make it to Spain? The question before that: does Paul fulfill his dream, the God-given dream that he gave him? Did Paul achieve his vision for life? Actually, some people say, yes, he did go to Spain. Other people say no. We don't have it in the Scripture, so we don't know. Historically, you can go either way. Question: does it really matter whether he went to Spain or not? I wanna hear your answer. God bless you. Does it really matter? No, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. When God gives you a vision for life, and he has a vision for every one of you. When God gives you a dream and a purpose for living, when God directs you and says, "This is the way I want you to go," accomplishing your dream is not the issue. Are you with me?
It's not the issue. Moses had a dream to go into the Promised Land. I stood where Moses stood on Mount Pisgah. I looked down there, when he saw it with his eyes, but he never made it there, and yet that was his dream. He never accomplished it. David had a dream to build a great, wonderful, fantastic temple for God, for the worship of God on the hill in Jerusalem. Did he see it? No. He gave his entire financial net worth for the building of it, he drew the plans for it, but he never saw it. It doesn't matter whether you accomplish the dream or not. You and I must understand things from God's perspective. We get into trouble when we keep it from our perspective. I do this all the time. I fail miserably. Trust me.
When I go and see things from God's perspective, from the eternal perspective, and from God's perspective, it doesn't matter if you accomplish your God-given dream or not. From God's perspective the important issue is how faithful you've been in your work toward God-given vision. My beloved friend, please listen, listen, listen, listen. God is not interested in the destination as much as he's interested in your faithfulness along the journey. Can I get an amen? How many people give up their God-given dreams, their God-given vision the moment they face opposition? "Oh, God might not be in it".
How many people live with memories of shattered dreams? Why? Because they give up halfway through the journey. They give up the moment the first obstacle raises its head. How many people are spending their lives wondering what it would have been like had they not given up the pursuit of their God-given vision, dream in life? Paul understood the vital importance of pursuing God's dream for life, the vital importance of faithfully pursuing God's vision. The vital importance of pursuing your Spain, and your Spain, and your Spain, and your Spain, and my Spain are all different.
Listen to me. The pursuing of your God-given dream in your life may endure hardships. It may encounter obstacles. You have to cross high mountains. You may have to walk through the flood. The important thing is that you continue the journey. I am absolutely convinced that there is a desperate need in this 21st-century Christianity, among God's people today, is having a vision for life, is having God's dream for life, is endeavoring to accomplish great things for God. The faithful foot soldiers of the cross, they need to invade the world, instead of allowing the world to invade the church.
The faithful soldiers of the cross need to overcome Satan's strongholds, instead of giving him the opportunity to create more strongholds. The faithful soldiers of the cross, they need to dream of turning the world upside down, but instead we sit in our comfort zones, and we get lulled to sleep, and the devil loves it. He really does. You must understand that God is interested in your purposing in your heart. God is interested in the process. God is interested in your faithfulness and the step that you take each day. God is interested in your commitment that you make. God is interested in the sacrifices that you offer to him. God is interested in your pursuit of his given dream and vision and purpose for your life.
Fulfillment can be found in a life that is self-sacrificing. Secondly, God-glorifying. Thirdly, forever dreaming. Finally, constantly kneeling. Look at verses 30 to 33. Verse 30, "I urge you, brothers, sisters, by the Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Holy Spirit, to join me in the struggle and praying to God for me". Notice how Paul's prayer request is so specific. If you go on it says basically two things. He said that he will be delivered from the unbelievers in Jerusalem and, secondly, that he'll make it to Rome, and God answered both prayers, because people were taking prayer seriously.
Beloved, sometimes when I hear people talk about prayer, particularly in the media, they even say among Christians, says, you know, it's just like good wishes. Honestly, sometimes I don't understand when people talk about prayer. Paul said, "Join me in the struggle of prayer". Prayer, my beloved friends, real prayer is often agonizing. Real prayer is often groaning. Real prayer sometimes is like a childbirth. I've never been through it, but I'm told it's very painful. Real prayer, God said to Ezekiel, like standing in the gap.
Have you ever stood in the gap? Do you know how painful that is? Real prayer is spiritual, is straining. Real prayer is self-denying, self-sacrificing. Someone modernized how today that prayer would be the Apostle Paul talks about. I'm gonna read it to you so I don't mess it up. It goes something like this:
O Lord God, we modern Christians can be so self-absorbed. We look with condescension and sometimes even boredom on the missionary enterprise. That's even when we think about it at all. Forgive us. We worship your Son in church on Sunday when we sing our choruses and our songs with euphoria, and we think that's all we need to do to honor him. But what do we know of honoring Christ when we remain contented to let whole nations and peoples and tribes around the world live and die without even bowing to the one whose name is above every name? We have privatized our faith. We have privatized our faith. We have trivialized faith as a mere benefit like a favorite television show or a hobby. We don't hear the gospel as a war cry anymore. We don't hear the gospel summons to risk-taking, or as a command to see the Lord Jesus Christ honored in our hearts, or as an exerted effort toward his being honored in our lives. O Lord, give fresh vision, power for the gospel among us today. O Lord, help us. Amen.
Now, my beloved friends, get serious. If you wanna be truly fulfilled in life get serious about self-sacrificing, get serious about God glorifying, get serious about forever dreaming, and get serious about constantly straining and kneeling in prayer.