Michael Youssef - The God Who Encourages Us
In times like these, God's people must only go to God and his Word for an answer. We must hear the Word of God loud and clear for his children from Haggai, "Be strong, be courageous, be proactive in witnessing. Be not afraid. Do not cease in prayer. Be totally trusting in God's plan for your life". Why is that? Why is that? Because God deeply cares about every one of his children. He deeply cares for everyone whom he has redeemed with his own precious blood. We're not redeemed by gold or silver or some earthly wealth but we're redeemed by something far more precious than this whole world: the blood of Jesus.
And today I wanna talk to you about the God who encourages us. The God who encourages us in the midst of this discouragement in life. Make no mistake about it, Satan's number one tool against the believers is the spirit of discouragement because discouragement is a lethal weapon in itself. But don't ever forget that encouragement is also a great weapon because encouragement strengthens the weak. Encouragement uplifts the faint-hearted. Encouragement gives hope to the hopeless. Encouragement buoys the fallen. And that is why our God is the God of encouragement. He is the God who encourages us. Our God is the God who comes in the middle of crisis, any crisis, certainly in this current crisis, and he encourages us. And he has done that throughout Scripture. Hundreds of times you read it throughout the pages of the Scripture.
In the Word of God you read it again and again and again and again: "Be of good courage," "Be courageous," "Be encouraged," "Be strong". Why? Ah, that's a good question. Ha, ha, ha. Because God knows when a person is being discouraged he or she needs the encouragement of the Lord. Beloved, I can tell you right now and you can take this to the bank, courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is fear that is smothered in prayer. Courage is fear smothered in prayer. Turn with me to Haggai chapter 2, looking at verses 4 and 5. In fact, I'm gonna get to the whole rest of the chapter very briefly but those are the two verses I want you to underline in your Bibles. God is encouraging the very discouraged remnant of his. He's encouraging the remnant who are just returned from exile by the prophet Haggai.
Hear me right, please. I believe with all my heart this is a word from the Lord for every one of us who are discouraged today. At that time in history, I always put it in historical context. In that time in history, they have just returned from exile in Babylon and they were moving forward and they were making plans. They were trying to do the work of God as well as their own work. And then, the economy collapsed and the people lost hope. And they began to experience frustration and discouragement. January and February of 2020 we were humming along, just progressing in the humdrum of life, enjoying one of the great economies in the world. We were busy with life's pleasures, we were occupied with making a living. We were just humming along and, wham, all of a sudden, that little virus we can't even see with a microscope hit us and everything changed.
This is similar to the time of Haggai. The people of God were pursuing prosperity. They were rebuilding their lives, and the people were kind of getting along fine and the people of God were experiencing an economic restoration and, wham, all of a sudden, they were hit by hopelessness. In the year 520 BC, 520 BC, God sends a word to this discouraged community, his people, and he sends them a word through the prophet Haggai. In chapter 2, verses 4 and 5, he said to them, he said to the governor, Zerubbabel, he said, "Be strong, Zerubbabel, the governor. Be strong, you Joshua, the high priest. Be strong, you all my people".
Now, if you're like me, and you hear these words, "Be strong," if you're anything like me, you're bound to have asked, "God, how can I be strong when uncertainty is all around me? How can I be strong when I missed my graduation? How can be strong when my retirement money has been decimated? How can I be strong? What do I do now if life is never gonna return to normal as they've been telling us? How can I be strong when everyone says we will never see those good old days again? How can I be strong when I've lost my job? How can I be strong when I cannot pay my bills"? Ah, you've got to read the second part of verse 4: "For I am with you".
This is the only true source of strength. This is the basic ingredients for strength. This is the secret to encouragement. When you feel alone, standing for the truth, the truth of the Word of God, I want you to hear those words from the Lord saying to you, "I am with you". When you experience doubt, hear the voice of the Lord saying to you, "I am with you". Whenever you become wobbly in your trust department. I'm not talking about the bank now. I'm talking about your trust department, the department of trust in God, hear the voice of the Lord saying, "I am with you. Be strong, be courageous, for I promise never to leave you nor forsake you. I promise to honor those who honor me. I promise that I am your strong tower in the day of battle for I promise that in the world you shall have trouble but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world," amen, amen. Give God glory.
These are his promises. Rightly or wrongly, we become nostalgic in the times of discouragement. When you're going through the tough time, you become nostalgic. Even a guy like me who's not very nostalgic, I can become nostalgic. It's just a fact. And that was exactly, exactly, what was happening at that time in the days of the prophet Haggai. They were discouraged and that discouragement gave way to nostalgia. Those who remember the old days of the big temple that Solomon had built, those who remembered the Solomon's Temple and the glory and the splendor of that temple, they began to compare their day through the past. While these events causing some non-believers to inquire of the Lord and salvation and life, and I thank God for that, many others have ceased to place their faith in Jesus and they're placing their faith on science and scientists.
You say, "Michael, okay, well, what's the answer? What's the answer"? Well, thank God I don't have the answer but the Word of God does. Look at the Word of God with me. It will give us the answer. "Be strong for I am with you". Well, then what? Then what? What are we supposed to do? First of all, remember God knows where you are. God knows how you feel. God knows what you need. God does not gloss over this condition. No, he does not. God does not sugarcoat your crisis or the problem you're going through. God does not rebuke your discouragement even. God is not critical of you being nostalgic. I really believe that with all my heart. God is not being critical of misplaced sentiments, no, no. In fact, he is saying, "Don't get down on yourself so much. Don't put yourself down so much. Don't look back too much. Don't be nostalgic or sentiment because that's gonna paralyze you".
This is the beauty of God's Word. I don't know how anybody can read the Word of God and doesn't fall in love with it. This is the beauty of the Word of God because our God is the God who encourages us. Throughout the Bible, you'll see it, God does this again and again and again and again. Why? Listen to me, because that is part of God's character. He is the God who encourages us. And here, Haggai chapter 2, verses 4 and 5: "Be strong, O Zerubbabel. Be strong, O Joshua. Be strong, all of you my people". How? By remembering the presence of the Lord. God said, "Be strong because I am your strength".
In his strength, we can be strong. In his power, we can overcome. But the Word of God tells us something else I don't want you to miss. I don't want you to miss it. It doesn't just tell us not to look back but it tells us to look forward. Look forward. Look forward. Looking forward to a far greater future, to a far brighter future than you've ever seen before. Look at verses 6 all the way to 9. I wanna read it for you. Verses 6, 7, 8, and 9: "This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'In a little while I will once again shake the heavens and the earth, and the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations.'"
Who's the desire of all nations? Jesus, that's right, ha, ha. "'And the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill the house with glory,' says the Lord Almighty. 'The silver is mine, the gold is mine,' declares the Lord. 'The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,' says the Lord Almighty. 'And in this place I will grant peace,' declared the Lord Almighty".
Here's a historical fact. Every word of that prophecy was fulfilled within a matter of a few years of the pronouncement of Haggai's prophecy. Was fulfilled completely as it was foretold for we know a few years later the mighty Persian empire collapsed and the Greeks rose and they conquered the known world at that time, followed by the Romans who followed suit and expanded the Roman empire and they made highways connecting the whole known world together and they paved the way for the birth of the coming, the desired of all nations, the Lord Jesus Christ, and all this road was able to help the disciples and the apostles and the deacons and everyone who were following Jesus to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, east and west, south and north, everywhere in the world.
Fulfilled prophecy. The final and the ultimate fulfillment of Haggai's prophecy will soon take place. This is just a preparation. When the trumpet shall sound and when the shout of the archangels heard on every cell phone in the world, when the Lord himself descends to call his faithful ones to the clouds and from every corner of the globe, from Africa, from Asia, from Latin America, from the United States, from Europe, from Australia, from New Zealand, from every corner of the globe, be gathered together in the presence of the Lord Jesus, listen to me, this global pandemic is God's call for his children not to look back but to look up.
Look at verse 9 again. It needs some explanation because I need to explain this from the New Testament perspective. Of course, in the context, historically, he was talking about the new house that they're gonna build with God's presence, of course, and the Coming of Jesus is gonna be greater than the early one that was built by Solomon. But from the perspective of the New Testament, from the light of the New Testament, it's saying the glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the old house. What does it mean? It means that the glory of the temple which is the believers of the Lord Jesus Christ, don't you forget you're the temple of the Holy Spirit. That the church of Jesus Christ from every corner of the globe, the elect of God from every corner of God's earth, the body of Christ from all over the world, will no more physical glory but spiritual glory.
Don't miss what I'm going to tell you. It's very important. This glorious picture that the prophet Haggai describes here is fully developed and explained by John, the apostle John, in the book of Revelation. There, he describes for us how the faithful believers from every tribe, every nation, and every language, how they're gathered around the throne room of God, rejoicing in the presence of God. But for us who are living in one of the most discouraging days we ever lived in, most discouraging time probably in history, the question is what do we do now? What do we do now? For those of us who are facing ferocious enemy today, what do you do now? What do you do now? For those of us who are feeling uncertain and apprehensive, what do we do now?
Thank God his Word has the answer. And he said, "Beginning of this day," look at verse 10. Again, it's a little bit, can be confusing but I'm gonna explain it to you. Verse 10, this is a dramatic way for God reaching out to the unfaithful believers, the carnal Christians, the compromising believers, among his people. This is a dramatic way for those who have inverted and misplaced priorities in life. He is saying that from this day forward, make that to be a day of repentance. Make this to be a day of reconsecration. Make this to be a day of returning back to God.
Listen to me. And when you do that, he says God will bless you, and I'm gonna explain that blessing right here in verses 15 to 19. Look it with me. He said, "Please consider". How many times he said, "Consider, consider, consider, consider"? Give careful thought to how you live. And thank God that the people in the days of Haggai took notice of this warning and the Bible tells us they repented and turned to the Lord with all of their heart. Consider your lifestyle. Consider your giving pattern. Consider your witnessing call and the call on your life.
And then there's a blessing. Oh, what a blessing it is. The governor, who's a representative of all of the people, Zerubbabel, was called a signet ring of God. The signet ring is the most treasured possession of the king because whenever that signet ring is placed on something it represents the authority of the king. And when he said, "You're my signet ring. You're my signet ring," 'cause in the New Testament all of God's people are prophets and priests. And that signet ring was so precious to the king he would wear it either on his finger or would wear it around his neck, in a cord around his neck.
What does this say to us today? It's saying this, that you will be guarded because God will guard all his faithful children, that he will encourage you even in the midst of discouragement. He will watch over you, regardless of the circumstances, that he, even in the midst of disheartening circumstances, declares, "I am sovereign King of the universe, I am in control of all the events of the world. I am behind all of my promises. No matter how bleak it may look, no matter how dark it may appear, no matter how difficult it is, no matter how foreboding the surroundings, I am the Lord". Can I get an "Amen"?