Michael Youssef - Embracing Your Mission
In the years between 1984 to 86, I have struggled in prayer. Have you ever struggled in prayer? You know what I'm talking about. I mean, it was almost like Jacob wrestling with God in prayer. And it was at times very painful struggle. My question of the Lord was very simple. "Do you really want me to birth this church"? Which is now we call the Church of the Apostles. I had so much personal doubt, I wasn't really sure whether I'm listening to God, am I hearing his voice, or am I hearing my own voice? Because, make no mistake about it, we often can hear our own voice and answer our own prayers. I'm aware of that.
So, that is why the struggle, am I listening to other voices? Deep down, I longed to obey the Lord, so the issue was not an issue of obedience, it was an issue of discernment, discerning the voice of God. I've always believed that for the transmission of the whole truth, whole biblical truth to the next generation, certainly at that time, at the time of my struggle and even this day, for that to happen, there is or has to be three legged stools in order to help in that preparation of the next generation and that next link of the chain. First and foremost is the home, and secondly is the church, and then the school, or education in general. At least that's what is on my heart at the time.
In my case, I could discount education, I could discount school, I knew that. But the home and the church have to be inexorably linked together to work together, in order to establish and affirm and train the next generation, in order for them to receive the whole truth. But what God did for me in this struggle at that time, he used self-interest for me personally to get me off my blessed assurance and go ahead and do what he's been telling me to do for two years, where I struggle in prayer. And the way God got me off my duff to do what he wants me to do when I was really not sure, it was basically a phone call that I received from a person who's now a member of this church. She called me at the church we used to attend, she was the Sunday school superintendent.
So, she called me on the phone and she said, "Yesterday, we had a meeting with the new Christian education director". He had met with the Sunday school teachers, children's Sunday school teachers. And he basically said, "You guys are giving Jesus too much airtime. We need to have well-rounded children". Listen, I believed back in '86, as I believe exactly right now as I'm standing in front of you today, that the church and the home are the two of the most important places for the next generation not only to learn but to practice biblical faith. Little did I know then that 35 years later the anti-Christian forces that were just becoming to get into some churches at the time, these anti-Christian forces, anti-biblical forces, that now become so blatant, so... you would never have imagined back then they'd be so blatant. That they would openly intimidate and harass and, yes, persecute Bible-believing Christian kids.
So much so that by 2020... there are so many Christians who caved in to that pressure, okay? Caved in, and they just said, "Well, we've got to go with the flow". Beloved, I believe with all my heart now is the time. This is the hour and this is the place where we need to fight back with every spiritual power. You heard this carefully, please. Spiritual power, spiritual weapons to save, train, equip the next generation. We do not have an option. I'm not under any illusion that the forces of evil that have been working hard, strategizing hard to affect our next generation, systematically, they've been at it for over 70 or 80 years. Open your eyes. They're not gonna be overcome overnight, I know that. I'm not under any illusion, but that's why in this team, the team that God blessed us with in this church, we are all hands on deck for the next ten years to implement, obey, fulfill God's vision for this church.
Question, why am I so passionate about this? Because, my believing friends, the Scripture tells us that our next generation is our greatest asset. Our next generation is our most important investment. Turn with me to Psalm 127, please, and keep it open in front of you, because that is what I will be going through. Psalm 127. In verse 3 of Psalm 127, it says, "Children are a heritage from the Lord". Heritage from whom? Not from society, not from anybody else, but it is from the Lord. And you heard me say this, and I'll keep saying this, our children are not ours. They are the Lord's children, he entrust them to us. He is basically telling us that the next generation is our most treasured possessions that God entrusted to us. And then he continues, "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children of one's youth".
Let me explain it at the outset that this psalm has a primary application and has a secondary application. The primary application of the psalm is for the family. The secondary application is for the church. And that is why in verse 1 is where he starts. You see, he starts verse 1, he begins by reminding us of the sovereignty of God, the God who has given us everything, the God has given us our children, that God who is giving us the next generation. God is the one who can and must be trusted to uphold the next generation. But then the psalmist hastened to tell us our responsibility toward the next generation.
Beloved, the one thing about the Word of God that makes it very, very clear, that even our responsibility cannot, cannot, cannot be accomplished without God's power and God's strings working in us. But beloved, the one thing we better not do is squander his gift, or give that gift to everything except the one most important thing of all, and that is for them to know and love God, that is to love and obey his Word, and that is to honor and revere his Word. I know and you know there are so many parents who work so hard, they work so hard, they work so hard to provide for their children, and I thank God for that. But they leave out the most important and the most treasured responsibility, that is the responsibility of training them as warriors for God, that is consistently reminding them of their importance in the kingdom of God.
That is the continuously drilling in their mind how mightily they can be used of God. And that is to demonstrate to them the greatest success in life is to be light for Jesus, wherever they may be, whatever they may be. What breaks my heart is that there are churches that are constantly planning and strategizing on how to entertain kids, how to let the kids have a good time. Now listen, I'm not against good time, guys. I like a good time as good as anybody. I'm not against a good time. Or how to be rounded kids just like that pastor said back in 1986. "You're giving Jesus too much airtime," he said. We need rounded kids, well-rounded kids.
I remember saying the moment I hung up that phone from that call, I said, "Not with my kids you're going to". And we walked out and never looked back. My plea for everyone today is not just for parents and grandparents, listen to me. I believe with all my heart this vision is for everyone. Whether you're married or single, whether you have children or you don't, everyone must put their shoulder to the plow and become involved in passing the whole biblical truth to the next generation. If you're an older man, you need to pour yourself into a younger man. If you're an older woman, you need to pour yourself into some younger women.
If you're a college students, you can get involved with elementary school students or high school students. The chain is endless. Most often, the need is for someone just to listen and may give some wise advice. Other times, a more biblical instruction is needed. In any case and in all cases, every one of us, every one of us, no one is exempted, can do something. Let's look back again at verse 1, Psalm 127. "Unless the Lord builds the house". Why do we build houses? For the family, right? "Unless the Lord guards the city". Why do we have cities? So the families can live in them. "Unless the Lord builds the house. Unless the Lord guards the city". It's all begin with focus on the Lord. Otherwise, we will feel so overwhelmed, like a mom that I talked to not long ago, so overwhelmed they say, "I want to give up".
Please don't give up, please don't give up. We're here to stand with you. The Lord gave us a precious gift, an invaluable gift of the next generation. What do you do with a gift? You lock it up in a safe? You put it on the table for display? No, you use the gift, you train the gift, you deploy the gift, you exercise the gift. And the first thing you do with a precious gift is to recognize its immense value. It's to feel a sense of responsibility toward the giver of the gift. It's to do anything possible to honor the giver of the gift. It's to invest everything, deploy, to deploy that gift.
I cannot tell you without reliance on the giver of gifts to build the next generation, to encourage the next generation, to instill a sense of responsibility for the future generation, to constantly remind the next generation that they are a gift from God, that they are a vital link in the chain, that they are the ones who will be responsible for the future generation. And that there are to be an arrow. Verse 4 literally means, "As an arrow in the hand of a mighty warrior".
See, in the ancient world, an arrow is the most lethal weapon used in warfare. And that is why the Bible describes Satan's attack on us with arrows, he calls it fiery darts. You know, in Ephesians, it talks about the armor of God, and they said the shield. Basically what the shield, when you put the shield of faith, it makes arrows fizzle out. Those fiery darts, they fizzle out, they get neutralized before they impact you. Please don't miss what I'm going to tell you. In the time of war, you are either an arrow or a target. If you are only passive, if you're only indifferent, if you're only in a defensive posture only all the time, you will keep on absorbing the enemy's arrows. But that's not what we or those who are entrusted to us supposed to be.
We are to go on the offensive. We are to learn how to aim our arrows. We are to learn how to invade the enemy's territories. I am not minimizing that defensive posture, it is important. But if you place yourself and those whom God entrusted you to go on the offensive, you will experience the unbelievable thrill of victory. And the psalmist does not say the next generations need to learn to be a nice dartboard. No, look at it with me, arrows. And arrows require a whole lot of different thinking, a whole different strategy, a whole different mindset, a whole different posture. Above all, learn to place yourself in the hand of the greatest bow holder in the universe. I'm talking about the Holy Spirit. Let me give you some training, some help regarding arrows, okay?
First of all, the arrow is very quick, it really is fast. You put the arrow in the bow and it can go a long distance. It moves like with lightning speed. An arrow is not often seen. Listen to me, some of your greatest impact, please listen, some of your greatest impact, and we might not be able to see this until you get to heaven, your greatest impact is what you have done or will do without a lot of fanfare. Your greatest ministry in pouring in the lives of the next generation may not be visible. But remember this, in ancient times, an arrow had a long range capability. Isaiah 49:2 tells us basically the same thing. See, throughout the Scripture, it's the same concept. It speaks about the power of the Word, the power of the Word of life to the next generation. He said the Word will be like arrow because of the Holy Spirit's power in it.
Listen to what the Word of God said, "He made my mouth like a sharpened sword; in the shadow of his hand he hides me. He made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver". In Jeremiah 51:11, same thing, said very something very similar. He said, "Sharpen the arrows". Beloved, this is the time, sharpen the arrows, take up the shields for defensive purposes. Why do you sharpen the arrow? For God's glory and for our blessing. There's something else I need to tell you about arrows before I finish. Arrows used to carry messages. Sometimes, you put a message in it and with the sharpness of it, and send it to the enemy, and the enemy would read it. But also other times, an arrow used as a sign, as a sign.
If you remember in 1 Samuel 20:21, you know, David and Jonathan were dear friends, were close friends. And David is on the run from this demon possessed King Saul. And Jonathan said to him, he said if the arrow goes to this side, it means that, and if it goes to this side, it means the other thing. It's a sign. His arrow served as a message. To be sure, an arrow can be used for good or can be used for evil. Satan uses arrows as well, as I already showed you. But when we bathe our training of the next generation in prayer, the next generation will become arrows in the greatest hand of all. The anti-God forces, the anti-biblical forces, the anti-family forces, they are organizing, they are scheming, they are planning their arrows to be used for evil against the next generation.
And that is why you and I have no option but to train the next generation. We need to train them not just to wear the shield of faith in order to neutralize the fiery darts of Satan's, but we need to train them to be arrows themselves. Train them to be alert, not to be deceived. My goodness, the deception that we're seeing in our culture today, the smooth talking, the double talk, the deceitful slogans that they sounds so good, but they have poison in them. We need to equip them to be sharp arrows in the hand of the holy, mighty God. We need to train them not to fear intimidation, manipulations, and wanting to be accepted at any cost. Above all, we need to train them how to pray, and live, and walk with the Lord.
But listen, this cannot be done just by speaking, by words, it has to be modeled. Most often, it is more caught than taught. Teaching is important. It cannot say, "Look, do what I say, don't do what I do". They're watching what we do. And that is why the psalmist said, "Unless, unless," say it with me. Say it again. Unless God's Word is at the center of life, God's Word is at the center of the family, God's Word at the center of the church, God's Word at the center of community, we can spend trillions of dollars in education, but we will end up with a collapsed society.
I think it was Albert Schweitzer, I'm not sure, but I think it was him who said, "Example is not the main thing in influence. It's the only thing". Now, my beloved, my beloved friends, if we are to pray and guide and train the next generation, we will be doing great exploits for God. And if we're going to do great exploits for God in the lives of the next generation, we better learn how to model Christ to the next generation. We better set our lives as role models so that they can see, not just hear, how to do great things for God.