Michael Youssef - The Secret of Blessings
In the past few decades, many a church have come to define praise and worship as merely and only as music and singing and in some places being entertained, but this understanding is far, far from the biblical definition of praise and worship. Don't misunderstand me. Singing and praising God in a song is very powerful and is an essential part of worship. Somehow the devil managed to get Christians sideways on this issue and the focus on the style of singing rather than the substance of worship, focus on the form of music rather than the heart of worship, and that is why today so many people think that if they have the right kind of music they have worship, or if they have the right kind of praise band, they have worship.
The word "worship" comes from the Latin word "worth-ship". Can you say that with me? And here comes my biggest fear for this generation. That our focus on one aspect of worship, mainly singing and music, lessens from the value and the worth of what Jesus means to us. Why? Because if praise and worship is only relegated to emotional experience, if praise and worship is relegated only to a certain genre of music, if praise and worship is relegated to mere words, empty words, if praise and worship is relegated to just getting on an emotional high on a church on Sunday, then we have diminished the worth and the value of our praising of God.
And that is why an Epistle to the Hebrews chapter 13, verse 15. "Through him," talking about Jesus, "through him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God". What is that sacrifice? Singing and jumping up and down? That's not much of a sacrifice. If it does anything, it helps us kinda get some heaped-up emotions out. Sacrifice was extremely important to a Jewish believer in the Old Testament, in the old covenant. It was God's provision for them to be forgiven and be cleansed from sin in the Old Testament and, as you know, just about every believer in the early church, the first church, just about every believer with a handful of exceptions were all Jewish.
The church was made of Jewish believers, and these Jewish Christians understood that Christ on the cross offered the one and only sufficient sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins of everyone who would come to him, but many of them wondered if God still wanna receive sacrifices. Remember, they are not used to going to worship empty-handed. They're not used to this, and there were all sorts of offerings, but the Jewish believers, as I said, they knew without a shadow of doubt that all of these offerings, all of them, have found their fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
So, what do they do now? God no longer required grain offering or blood offering of animals. He only wants the sacrifice of praise and spiritual worship. He wants worship that is in spirit and truth, and that is why in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul said believers are to offer their thanksgiving continuously in every situation, but there is more. They knew that this does not mean that they just come to God and worship him in words, empty words, and that is why Paul tells the Corinthians that on the first day of the week, as you gather together to worship, you put aside a part of your income as God enabled you to.
And that is why the New Testament teaches that praising God in words and deeds are inseparable. That praising God in words and actions are inseparable. That praising God in words and in service are inseparable. Listen to what James said. "This is pure undefiled religion in the sight of our Lord God and Father: to visit the orphans and widows in distress and keep ourselves unstained by the world". We say we don't have the time to go around and do this. Many people work long and hard, you see, and that is why in the early church, the Bible tells us in the book of Acts, many of them, including Barnabas, went out and sold his piece of land in Cyprus and brought it at the apostles' feet. And then, the apostles laid hands on seven deacons so they can go out and do the work.
And so, the participation of the giver and those who are serving become equal in the sight of God. Everybody participated. How? By financially sacrificing to the ministry, but that does not absolve us from doing right when the opportunity arises. It's not a secret that the Christian faith is the only faith that is filled with paradoxes. These paradoxes run 100% contrary to the natural mind, 100% in opposite direction to the societal norm. The societal norm, the natural mindset, if you wanna get ahead, well, grab for everything you can get, or you can... it doesn't matter how many people you step on to get to where you wanna go. You look after number one, right? But the biblical paradox said that you can only be strong by surrendering. That you can only have power by serving. That you only experience joy by mourning over your sin, and you can receive untold blessings by giving.
I want you to turn with me, please, to 2 Corinthians chapter 8, verse 9. I'm gonna come to the context in a minute. I'm just gonna read the verse. I'm gonna come to the context, because it's to do with a group of Christians in the city of Macedonia, but here is what the verse said, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, and yet for your sake's he became poor, so that through his poverty you might become rich". And that's exactly what Jesus promised. Luke 6:38 he said, "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over they'll be poured into your lap. For by the measure you are to give, it will be measured back to you in return".
What is Jesus saying? Listen carefully. He is saying that giving sacrificially is the secret of activities of God's giving-back program. Uh-oh. Is Michael preaching prosperity gospel? No, no, this is pure biblical truth and just because some people might pervert it for their own personal gain, it doesn't make it less truth. And Paul gives us a living example of some people who took God at his Word, who took God's promises at face value, these Macedonians.
The Macedonians gave sacrificially, the Macedonians gave joyfully, and yet, they gave not out of abundance, but they gave out of desperate conditions. The Macedonians understood what it means to trust God. They understood what it means to lay up treasures in heaven. The Macedonians understood that there is greater joy in giving than in receiving. The Macedonians understood that their confidence is in the promises of God, that he will supply all of their needs, and that caused them to become hilarious givers. The Macedonians refused to allow their circumstances to smother their generosity, and that is why you see them truly being a role model church for worshiping in the New Testament.
Question: where did the Macedonians get the idea of generous giving and expressing it as a true worship? I want you to read it. "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, and yet, for your sakes he became poor, so that through his poverty you might become rich". He is that worth-ship. Hear me out, please. Whenever there is true love, there's always a sacrifice. You see, only love give sacrificially, only grace give sacrificially, and the grace of Jesus caused him to give everything and come to our Earth and die on a cross. Had Jesus given himself, his life, for perfect people who loved him...
You say, "He did this because they loved him". But he gave his all for undeserving people like me. He gave his all for sinful people. He gave his all for rebellious people. He gave his all for worthless people, though he was rich. What does it mean? What does it mean? That he was just a billionaire who gave up his fortune for some good cause? No, he owned everything in the universe. His wealth is measured by his splendor. His wealth is measured by his glory. His wealth was measured by his supernatural power. His wealth was measured in his attributes. His wealth was measured in terms of eternity, for he had no beginning and no end.
Listen to me. All these sects like Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons, and the emerging church, and all of those folks who they tell you about that Jesus is a demigod, or Jesus is the Archangel Michael, or Jesus is created spirit, or Jesus is an exalted man, all of these distortions and erroneous description of who Jesus is misses the point. You often hear me say this, and you're gonna hear me until I die. That Jesus is not the best way to God the Father. Jesus is not a great way to God the Father. Jesus is the only way to God the Father, for he has no beginning or end.
He is not created. He is the Creator. He appeared in a bodily form, but the Bible said that in him was the fullness of the Godhead. Jesus is God over all. That he is the Lord of all lords. That he is the God of all gods. He's omnipotent. He is omniscient. He's omnipresent. He's El Shaddai. He is yesterday, today, and forever. He is the only object of all true worship. He is the object of all reverence and devotion and worship. He is equal to the Father, and no one can get to the Father except through him. He and the Father are one. He alone gives us the Holy Spirit. He alone raises us up to eternal life from age to age. He is Jesus, and so, the question is, what is this Jesus worth to you? A song and a prayer and goodbye? Couple of dollars a week? What's he worth to you?
Coming to church late, leaving early, and think you are a great spiritual giant. What does it mean to worship him alone? Because Jesus gave up all of his riches so that we might become rich in mercy and in love and in kindness, so that we may become rich in eternal life, so that we may become rich in forgiveness, so that we may become rich in joy and peace, so that we may become rich in glory. And, yes, make no mistake about it, so that we may abound in all things, including material things. Through all the decades I've been in ministry, I've seen with those eyes how family members can really get cross with each other over the inheritance, few dollars, few dollars, and yet, the Bible said that God the Father will allow everyone who loves the Lord Jesus Christ to inherit all things with Jesus. That means we inherit what Jesus inherits. That we will be co-heirs with Christ. That we inherit all of Jesus's wealth and splendor and power.
Let me conclude by looking at 1 Chronicles 29:14 to 18. I'm not gonna read it. David knew in his heart by this point that God said, "You have shed too many blood and therefore you're not gonna be the one to build the temple, but your son will". And so, what does he do? He brings literally all of his net worth, and he places it there. Some people have calculated this, the gold and the silver and all that you read in the passage, in the hundreds of millions of dollars. It could be upward of a billion dollars, but I want you to listen to me very carefully, because the amount is not the important thing to God. To God, a sacrificial gift is a gift of any size in which the spirit of sacrifice has been entered into. Did you get that? Here David puts everything, and he says, "Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand".
So, what is the singer of Israel, what is he saying? Here is what he's saying. He said worshiping the Lord is expressed in the Siamese twins of giving and praising. Worshiping the Lord is manifested when you give with your heart and with your hand. Worshiping the Lord takes place with both word and action, which exactly what Paul is saying in the New Testament. When you go home read 1 Corinthians chapter 15. It's a long chapter, 58 verses. I know them. I've studied it many times, and I shared the nuggets of it with people when they lose their loved ones, because in this long chapter the Apostle Paul spends all this time defending the resurrection, the bodily, physical resurrection of Jesus. And he explained to them that because he rose from the dead, we will rise from the dead also, and he talks about how we're going to rise from the dead and all of this.
It's a magnificent, magnificent chapter, and then, as soon as the end of that chapter, in chapter 16, verse 1 he says, "Now concerning the collection..." What has the Resurrection got to do with the collection? What is Paul saying? Here is what he's saying. Heaven and giving are interactive, that heaven and giving are interconnected, that heaven and giving are intertwined. Not that we can ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever... How many evers are these? Ever buy our way to heaven. All the money in the world could not have done that, but you cannot be rejoicing about heaven when you have sent precious nothing ahead of you.
You say, "How can you say that"? Well, it's not, listen, I don't make up the stuff. I can tell you that. I'm not that smart, but look at the Scripture 2 Corinthians chapter 9, verses 6, 7, and 8. Paul affirms this biblical principle that was seen throughout the Scripture. He said, "Whosoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly. Whoever sows generously will reap generously," but listen to the rest of that. "God is able to make all grace to abound to you". God will make what? All grace abound to you. Please don't dismiss what I'm gonna say. God's desire, and this is the Word of God, for his children is abundance. God's desire for his children is to abound in all things all the time, and that is why you're the only one who can block that abounding. How? By acknowledging all day long, "Everything I have comes from God. Everything I have belongs to God. God is the owner of everything".
And you can say that until the cows come home, but if you don't give back to the owner you're not practicing what you believe, when you only intellectually believe that God does multiply the seed to the sower without you actually sowing any seed. At best, that kind of worship is halfhearted. Listen carefully. Neither praise alone, nor giving alone is enough to place you in the posture of abounding. The two must go together. Giving and praising acknowledges God's ownership. Giving and praising are the seed of further blessings. Giving and praising feed on each other. Not only that, but the spirit of praise and giving is contagious. It really is.
People, when they see you bounding in everything, they will say, "I want this. How can I get into that relationship"? In fact, when David praised God... he's the singer of Israel. When he praised God with his net worth, literally, many people were encouraged to do the same at the time of the building of the temple. But here when the Macedonians gave out of their desperation, the Corinthians began to imitate them. I believe with all my heart the reason we have never needed for 30-plus years in times of recessions, in times of difficulties, in times of up and down (and we've been through it all, trust me) is because we wanted to honor God. Even as a church, when most people say a church is supposed to take, no, no, no, no, a church gives.