Michael Youssef - Be A Blessing To Your Earthly Home
Today immorality is glorified, and morality is scorned. Christians are openly and publicly persecuted in America, something we could never have imagined only a few years ago. They are dragged into courts for their biblical convictions. Some of them have lost their entire life savings. Many an executive and employees, both in the government and in the private sector, have lost their jobs whenever they speak the truth, biblical truth, and they take a stand on it. Tolerance has come to mean celebrating every perversion known to man, while despising biblical truth. We have come a long way in those 242 years. We have moved from being the greatest creditor nation to being the greatest debtor nation. We have come a long way since that day when 56 good and decent men signed their declaration of dependence on the Almighty God when they said, "With firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor".
These were not idle words. These were not a form of rhetoric or high-sounding phrases. These 56 men knew that, if they succeeded at best, that it would mean many years of hardship and struggle, years of diligently nurturing of this greatest experiment known in history. If they failed, they would have had to face the hangman's noose as traitors. Beloved, history testifies, clearly testifies that very few of them have survived very long after they signed that declaration of dependence on the God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. They depended on God to give us all of the blessings that we're enjoying now and the blessings that, sadly, so many people take for granted, sadly, others have failed to even appreciate, and, yet in reality, we are in danger of losing that liberty, of losing that freedom and all the blessings that they lived and died in order to hand to us.
Why did they do this? Well, these men knew that to be born free and live free is a privilege, but even more, they also free that to die free is an awesome responsibility. If you listen to me for any length of time, you would know that this legal immigrant, this legal immigrant, I am one grateful dude to the United States of America. I want to say something at the outset because I want to avoid getting letters or emails. I want you to listen to me very carefully. No, I am not confusing America with my ultimate home in heaven. No, I'm not confusing my privilege of being a citizen of this great country with the highest privilege of all of being a citizen of heaven. No, I'm not confusing my earthly home with my eternal home. I'm saying this because there are some who have accused me of idolatry. They call my patriotism and my love for this country idolatry, and they think that I'm confused about the difference of my eternal salvation and my citizenship.
I wanna tell them I am not confused. They are. So how do we live in such times and difficulties that we're seeing night after night in the news? Well, I don't have the answer, but the Bible, the Word of God, has the answer. How would a faithful citizen, how is a godly man or woman, boy or girl, live in this earthly country? Well, in the book of Jeremiah chapter 29, verse 4, the Bible gives us the answer, but before I get there, I need to place it in a historical context. Always put the Scripture in its context. After years, decades of God pleading with his people, Israel, a nation that he loved, that he protected, even when they went into slavery in Egypt for 400 years, and he brought them miraculously, supernaturally out into the Promised Land, after years of pleading with them to worship only the living God, to cease from worshiping Baal, to cease from worshiping Ashtar, after years of God warning his people of the consequences of living a compromised life, they go to the temple on Saturday, but then they live for Baal in between Saturdays.
Finally, the Lord... and I want you to notice a Scripture if you will return to it, the Lord, not the king of Babylon, but the Lord brought judgment on Israel. This is the apple of his eye. This is the people whom he loved and redeemed from the slavery of Egypt. He allowed the most terroristic and the most vicious, savage nation on the face of the earth at that time to terrorize his own people, and he allowed them to go into captivities, into exile, his people, yes, because of their rebellion and their stubbornness, refusing to turn to the one living God. Hear me right, please. When God finally brought about the judgment upon Israel and they ended up in Babylon, now there, in captivities, God began to speak to them through the prophet Jeremiah, and that is where I want you to turn now to Jeremiah 29.
Jeremiah 29, beginning at verse 4. "This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says, to all those", listen to this, "I", can you say, "I"? "all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon". You see, I am not trying to get God into Madison Avenue and market him for what he's not. I'm not trying to give God a facelift because the God of grace and mercy is also a God of judgment, and if you ever miss one of those two, you are worshiping a different God. Our God is a God both of mercy and grace but also a God of judgment. Verse 5, he said to them, "Build houses, settle down, plant gardens, and eat what you produce". Verse 7, "Also seek the peace and the prosperity of the city which," again, "I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it".
That is Babylon. Think about this. God is asking the Israelite captives to pray for Babylon because, if it prosper, you will prosper. Those who say, "I can't be involved in these earthly matters, I'm heading to heaven," as C.S. Lewis said, "When people used to accuse Christians of being so heavenly minded, that is no earthly good," he said, "Only those who are heavenly minded are of any earthly good". And I wanna say amen to that. Or in the other extreme, those who say that "Loving America is a form of idolatry," God told them to be good citizens though they were in a foreign land. They were in exile. They were in captivities. Think about this. They were not privileged to live in a land like this. They were not privileged to live in a land that was founded by good and decent people. They were not in a land that was founded on biblical foundations.
The Israelites were living in Babylon, the most vicious and savage people on the face of the earth, a Babylon which we are slowly but surely seem to becoming one, God forbid. God forbid. So I have a question for you: What is God saying to them, and what can we learn from them as we go along in our pilgrimage? He's telling these faithful people to be involved and be good citizens. He calls them to be good stewards even though they're in a foreign land, even though they're in captivities, even they are in exile. God told them to pray for the peace of Babylon. I know we hear in the Scripture about praying for the peace of Jerusalem, but didn't you ever see God saying to his people, "Pray for the peace of Babylon"?
In fact, this is the first time in the Old Testament that you hear God asking his people, the apple of his eye, to pray for their captors. Verse 7, "Seek the peace and the prosperity of the city in which I carried you into exile". Hear me right, please. In reality, all genuinely believer, if you're a Bible-believing Christian, if you are a person who believed that there is no other way to heaven, other than through Jesus Christ, if Jesus is the Savior of your soul and the Lord of your life, all of those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, in many ways, we are exiles in this earth regardless of where we live in the world. We are sojourners. We are travelers to heaven. It is what you do during your pilgrim's journey is what determines your heavenly reward.
We are to pray that God would have mercy on America, not its downfall. We are to intercede for God, to intervene, not to wait for its downfall. We are to contend in prayer that America would return to its roots, not go along to get along. We are to lovingly call men and women, boys and girls, not to wring their hands but to pray for America. We are to pray and pay any price that is required to speak the truth lovingly, carefully, thoughtfully, and leading men and women into the truth. We are to pray for a genuine Holy Spirit awakening so that the churches that have departed from the truth of the Gospel may return to the truth. Seek the peace of America. Defend the godly ideals of the Founding Fathers. Don't give in to those who seek its demise. Don't take the blessings of freedom for granted. Don't think with just something that is owed to us. No, somebody paid a price for the freedom we have.
We who truly know the Lord, listen to me, those of us who truly know the Lord have the responsibility, no, I wanna say double responsibility to be good model citizens of this great nation. Why? Because we know that our God is a great God because we know that our God is a God, can do great things in response to the prayers of his people. Historians have described the declining of great civilizations and nations in the following manner. Listen carefully. They go from bondage to faith, from faith to courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, and from dependence all the way back to bondage. Lord forbid.
Question, what can give us hope? What can give us hope in the midst of our condition in which we're in? Our God is the God who loves and hears and answers prayer of his faith-filled people. Do you believe that? I wanna give you an example. America was experiencing a terrible economic downturn. There was a run on the banks. It was known as the Panic of 1857. It was far worse depression than the 1920s. Unemployment was sky-high. Banks were closing. The economy was in shambles. People were angry and frustrated. Life became unbearable, but then there was a man, just one man. He was not a preacher. He was not a pastor. He was not an evangelist. He was a layman. That's you.
You see, this is the problem. There are so many people sitting in the pews, thinking, "Well, the people in the pulpit should do it". No, we preach the truth. You know that. But it is your responsibility. It is your God-given responsibility to make a difference. This man recognized there is only one answer to the tragic condition of his country at the time. This man believed that the power of God and the transformation of man's heart is the only answer that could save the nation, and so on September 23, 1857, this layman from the Dutch Reformed Church in northern Manhattan, placed a small ad in the newspaper, very small, announcing a lunchtime meeting for prayer for America and for Americans, in the small room in his church.
The first meeting drew six people. It was on a weekly lunchtime hour. Six people out of one million residents of New York. The following week, they got 14. The following week, they got 23. So they decided to start praying daily instead of weekly, and that prayer meeting continued until 1858, in March, which, six months. By that time, there were 5,000 prayer groups are meeting in neighboring churches and in public halls and in adjacent buildings. Horace Greeley was a famous editor in that time. He wanted to know and get reports on what really is happening in these churches.
So he sent one reporter on a horse and buggy to cover as many churches as possible during that one hour of prayer, and this reporter covered 12 of the many meetings. He counted 6,100 people were meeting in prayer, and then the landslide of prayer ensued. People began to commit their lives to Christ without a preacher. Maybe that's the answer. Often, they get in the way. Ten thousand a week were coming to Christ in New York City alone. Church bells would ring 8 a.m. and 12 noon and 6 p.m., and people will show up and pray. The revival went up the Hudson River, down the Mohawk River. In one year, more than one million people came to Christ. The revival then crossed the Atlantic and went to Northern Ireland and Scotland and Wales and small parts of England and even went all the way to South India.
The effect of that revival was felt for 40, that's four-zero, 40 years. In 1905, 25% of the student body at Yale University were meeting in a Bible study and prayer. The Atlantic City, the gambling city in New Jersey, out of 50,000 population, they could only count 50 people who were not converted to Christ. In Portland, Oregon, 240 store owners pledged to each other to close the shops between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., no, not for a siesta, but for prayer. Five years later, J.P. Morgan wrote a small book debunking the revival. Well, wait till you hear why he was debunking it. He was a godly man, so he was not really negative to be negative, for the sake. He said out of the hundred thousand people in the city of New York alone who came to Christ during the revival, 80,000 of them remained in churches.
I've got news for you: I will take those statistics any time. Eighty percent remained active in churches. I don't know about you, but we need to pray again. In Wales, judges were presented with white gloves for they had no cases to try. No rapes, no robberies, no murders, no embezzlement. The district council held an emergency meeting to wonder "What would we do with the police"? Here is the reason why, while I have prayed, and now I'll continue to pray for a Holy Spirit awakening. I have a nagging feeling, and this is only personal. It's not, "Thus says the Lord". It's not from the Word of God, that unless God intervenes, we won't see it.
As long as we seek other things, and not God alone, as long as we come to God only when we need something and we want to pray fervently if we need or want something from God, and then we take off when our needs are met, we will not experience this incredible awakening for which I prayed for more than 40 years. I was privileged in 1977, to sit at the feet of the man who was recognized globally as the greatest authority on the history of revival, J. Edwin Orr. If you see any book by J. Edwin Orr, read it. Wonderful Irishman who was living in California at the time. He realized what I've been praying for, and I reached out to him, and he reached out to me, and I had the privilege of sitting at his feet and learning all that I can learn. And, in fact, it fueled my prayer life.
Now he's gone to be with the Lord. Beloved, that is why, in seeking the peace of the city, we must pray. We must pray urgently, we must pray diligently, intentionally, and we must pray in faith by placing our whole faith, our whole trust, squarely on the one who can renew our days of old. Can I get an amen? My beloved friends, we may not right now be facing economic catastrophe, but I can tell you, and any person who's spiritually sensitive will know what I'm talking about, we are facing the greatest disasteral, moral catastrophe in the history of America.
Question: why did God allow the Babylonians, the Barbarians to terrorize his own people? Because they have forsaken the one true God. Jeremiah said, "They ran away from God, and they began to dig cisterns that are not producing any water". Why is terrorism always lurking for us in the West, always lurking in the background, ready to terrorize us? It's God's way of saying, "If you think that you can live and do things and succeed without me, you will not know peace".
Oh, dear God, have mercy. May we wake up in time and call upon the Lord, the God of heaven, to revive America again. May we wake up in time before it's too late. May we wake up in time before God says, "I've had enough. I've had enough bloodshed. I had enough pride in your immorality. I had enough pride in your abomination. I have enough violence. I had enough of churches rejecting Jesus as the only way to salvation and heaven". May God have mercy upon America.