Michael Youssef - A Biblical Response to the Current Crisis
Whenever there is a crisis, whenever we face a crisis of global proportion like the one we're facing right now. There are all sorts of opinions and information. Some of that information is false, some of it is true, but rumors start flying. I know. You already heard this a million times. This, or these are unprecedented days. These, this is an unprecedented crisis. This is a pandemic like we have never experienced in our lifetime. It's all true. But my purpose today is not to rehash the information that you're hearing about on, you hear it from television, and you hear it from the media, all day long. No, my natural inclination, and I know that it is the natural inclination of all Bible believing Christians, is to ask the question, "Lord, what are you teaching us"?
God, what is God teaching us in the middle of this crisis? In the middle of this global panic, what is God saying to his people? What lessons that he wants his people to learn from this? It is important that we ask that question. In times of crisis, whether it'll be personal crisis or be family crisis, or where it be national crisis, or be like today, a global crisis, wherever we are. Whenever you get to a crisis, you must always ask the question, "God, what do you want to teach me"? In these inexplicable times in which we live, there's only one place where you can find an answer to these questions, and it is in the infallible word of God.
And the Prophet Joel was speaking to God's people during his time, during one of the toughest economic crisis that Israel has ever faced. And you read chapter 2 and you think there's an invading army coming in, but no-no, he's not talking about a foreign army invading. He's talking about locusts that are coming into the land. The corona virus is threatening global devastation, fear and panic. During that time, when which God's people were facing those kinds of situation, the prophet Joel speaks of this invading army of locusts, that is invading the land. This is not a devastating war, but it's a devastating tiny little insect, army of locusts. We are in a modern replica of what the Prophet Joel and the people of God were experiencing at that time. Coronavirus, or covid-19, is a tiny little virus. You can't see it with the eyes and yet it is sweeping across the globe. Not just in a specific location but globally, 150 countries plus.
So the question in both situations, at the time of Joel, as in our the time, "What is the word from God? What is God speaking to us? What is God saying to us? What does God wants us to learn"? Please hear me right on this one. When you hear or read the prophet Joel, particularly chapter 2, I know that there are some people, some people who are at the sound of my voice, "I'm not gonna like it". They're not gonna like it. Why? Because most of us want to live in denial of reality. Most of us want a quick fix. We want to be told that science can save us, that our ingenuity will save us. Listen to me. I know we want to hear a word of hope in the midst of this devastation. I know that we want to find a silver lining in this cloud. I know that I want somebody to discover a breakthrough, and believe me when I tell you, I pray every single day that God, supernaturally, somehow gives us a breakthrough. But listen, let's hear God and hear what he has to say in the midst of the crisis, before it gets worse.
Let's heed God's word lest our trouble is multiplied. Let's accept God's medicine that is worthy of the name. Now I don't want you to, for a moment, to think that I'm an unfeeling person. 40 years of retirement saving has been devastated. The question is, I'm saying this to show you that I am not made of stone, I'm not made of metal, I have a feeling too. I have a stake in this too. But I've also learned that the quicker we learn the lesson that God has for us, the quicker we get to the victory side. The first thing Joel warns us of is this. This crisis, and whatever crisis we're facing, is a minuscule example of the crisis is gonna be in the day of judgment, the dreadful day that the Bible talks about.
This is God's loving wakeup call. This is God's loving warning. This is God's gracious invitation to everyone at the sound of my voice. This is God's merciful alarm bell. For if we are not prepared to deal with a small virus, what are we to do when we face a day of judgment? Let me read to you verses 1 and 2, Joel chapter 2. "Blow the trumpet in Zion. Sound the alarm in my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, and is close at hand". Verse 2. "A day of darkness and gloom, a day of cloud and blackness, like dawn spreading across the mountain a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be again in the ages to come".
First of all, he wants us to view every crisis, every crisis, not just this crisis, but every crisis, especially the one because we're in the middle of it. He wants us to view that as a dress rehearsal. This is a dress rehearsal of the day of judgment that is coming, of that big and dreadful day, that's coming. He's reminding us that the big one is coming. He said, "Don't waste this crisis. Don't waste this dress rehearsal. Don't waste this warning signs. Don't waste God's alarm bells. Let them be a reminder of the day that is coming, when God will shake everything that is to be shaken. Prepare yourself for the big one". How? How? How would you prepare? He gives us two ways. Two ways by which we prepare.
First of all, this is my own words, not the Prophet Joel. He's saying, "Tear away the idols out of your heart, don't tear your hair out". And secondly, he says, "Lead others to worship and bow down to the living God. Don't join in their panic. Don't fret like they are. But instead, let them see your confidence in your God". First of all, he says, "Tear the idols out of your life, not your hair". I know we have a saying, when we're having a hard time or difficult day, say, "I'm tearing my hair out". You see, in Israel there was a tradition, and the tradition was, when a person is in deep grief, is in deep mourning, would be actually tear his clothes.
You see it all the time in the old Testament, and he tore his garments, and he tore his garments. But like all traditions, some would go through the motions of tearing their garments without the inner transformation. They went through the outward appearance but they did not inwardly changed. After all, it is much easier to go through the outward motions. It's much easier to just be willing to do anything to get out of the crisis for the time being. And that is why the Prophet Joel said, "In times of crisis, it is your heart that needs radical change, not your circumstances. It is your heart that needs transformation, not the economy. It is your heart that needs complete surgery, not your situation".
Look at verses 12 and 13. Look again. Verses 12 and 13. "'Even now,' declares the Lord," meaning it's never too late. "'Even now,' declares the Lord, 'Return to me with all of your heart, with fasting and with weeping and with mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.'" So instead of looking at the current crisis and blissfully, as some probably do, say, "Where is God? Where is God? Why doesn't he do something"? Accept this as his loving warning to you and to me and to all of us, so that we may repent and turn to him before it's too late. What does this rending of the heart, that he's talking about? What does this repentance that he's talking about?
Ah, it is the acknowledging, the confessing, the forsaking of all that has become an idol for you and for me. Our greatest need today is to acknowledge and to confess that we have placed our hopes on money and possession, that we have placed all of our hopes on credit cards and borrowing money that we could never pay back, we have placed our concerns, it's more for us, on a status symbols, not the glory of God. That we have spent more time in front of the television instead of being in the word of God. That we have spent more time on entertainment and on sports than sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with our neighbors. But God wants us to be serious about acknowledging these idols, then tear them out by repenting and forsake 'em. If we don't voluntarily turn and tear those idols out, God is gonna help us. He will take them out.
God is going to do this out of love and compassion for us. God is telling us to turn to him while we still can. Have you ever asked yourself the question, Where was Jesus when he was praying to the point of sweating blood, literally blood, coming out while he was praying? No, that was, did not happen in Pilate's hall of justice. No. It did not happen even on his way to the cross. No. It did not happen during the trial. But it took place in the garden of Gethsemane. Hebrews 5:7 tells us, "There he offered prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to him who is able to save him". Perhaps if you and I were there watching him praying with blood, tears, sweat of blood, if we witness that out of agony, we will probably say, "Wow. If he has broken like this, here, in the garden of Gethsemane, in prayer like this, what is he gonna do when he faces the real crisis of the cross"?
Here is a fact. At the time of the cross, Jesus walked to the cross with courage while all his disciples fled and left him alone. You ever thought about that? Why? Listen to me. I want to tell you why. Because he was already prayed up in the garden of Gethsemane. He was totally prepared. After spending time with God, he faced the crisis with confidence. He took notice of that big one before it happened. A lifestyle of repentance, a lifestyle of idol tearing from our lives, will make you face in a crisis in life with calm and confidence. A lifestyle of repentance will not cause you to fear any challenge in life. A repentant lifestyle will make you not even fear the day of judgment itself. The big one.
In fact, you will welcome it. You will face it with confidence. Why? Because you have already been tearing away of the idols from your life and you're already delivered from the day of judgment, and you're ready. You're ready for any eventuality. You're prepared. Joel is saying that somehow, somewhere in God's economy, in his sovereign plan, in his sovereign character, he responds favorably to genuine repentance. You see it throughout the scripture, not just here. Secondly. Lead others to come to know and worship the living God. Don't get into the frenzy of fretting like they are, because they're gonna look at you, and say, "Well you, just like in the same boat as I am".
If you read verses 15, 16, & 17 of Joel chapter 2, You would say, he would say, Well, this was just for the leaders of the church. And I think you'll be right, you'll be exactly right. "Leadership that does not lead by example is not worthy of the name". It's not worthy of the name. And the New Testament, of course, the Bible tells us that all the believers are priests, we are a kingdom of priests, and that is why those verses are important to everyone who's listening to me right now. Everyone. They are important to pastors, yes. They are important to moms and dads, yes. They important to Sunday school teachers, yes. They're important to small group leaders, yes. They're important to everyone who's a priest, called to be a priest, to intercede between the world and God.
Listen to the words of Joel again. "Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly, bring together the elders, gather the children, those in the nursing, nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room. Let the bride leave her chambers. Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the temple porch and the altar. Let them say, 'Spare your people, O Lord.' Don't make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?'" I was hoping to bring a shofar, 'cause when you say, "A trumpet," that's a translation into English, but it's a shofar that is blown. But it was a Jewish tradition in times of crisis to sound the shofar on these special days. It served the purpose of assembling of God's people.
God looks down and he may see us all scattered all over the nation, all over the state, all over the city, all over the world, but he sees us. We can call a fast. We can sound the trumpet. And this supposed to call the people to gather together in unity. They are to gather together in humility, to humble themselves in prayer and fasting and rededication of their lives. If God is saying anything today, he is saying to us believers, "In every area of your responsibilities, sound the alarm".
Sound the alarm. Remind the people of the shortness of time before judgment comes. Don't get sucked in with the soft proclamation of the Gospel. Don't fall in the trap of soothing talk and positive thinking preaching. The type of smooth talking never adequately forewarns people of the dreadful day that is coming. Call upon him. Throughout the scripture, this has been the longing of God's heart. You see it over and over again, particularly in the book of Hosea. It's vividly reveals to us the brokenness of God's heart when he sees his children turning after other things and forsaking him, and God says, "Look at Hosea. Look how brokenhearted he is when his wife, Gomer is running after other man and being unfaithful to her husband". He said, "Look at him. Look how heartbroken he is. And now, that's how I feel when my children, when my people forsake me and focus on everything else in life, except me who have redeemed them".
God is saying, "This is how I feel about my children when they forsake me. When they place their affection and their time and their money and their energy on other things". Maybe someone is watching who, to whom this message, which is to believers, is premature because you have not come to Jesus Christ confessing your sin, repenting of your sin, and receiving him as your only Savior and Lord. You haven't come to first stage yet. You need to do that now. You need to do that today. Today. Today, you can surrender to him. Today you can say:
I am sorry. I've been into religion. I'm sorry I've been involved in all kinds of rituals. But now, I receive Jesus as my only Savior, and Lord. Lord Jesus, I have lived for self. I know. I cannot save myself. Lord Jesus, you are the only one who died on that cross so that I may live eternally with you in Heaven.
You can pray that prayer right now, and mean it with all of your heart, and the Lord Jesus says that he will come and dwell in you in the person of his Holy Spirit. You have his word on it.