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Dealing with Bullies

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

There's a lot we can learn from Daniel's response to King Nebuchadnezzar as we consider how to deal with bullies in our lives. We see that Daniel sought God's help through praying with his godly friends. As we pray for God's help, we also need to pray specifically for the bully. Sometimes it seems that earnestly praying blessings upon someone who torments us is more difficult than confronting the bully. But the power of love will enable us to respond in a godly way. Daniel's prayers with his friends gave him boldness in going before the bullying king.

As you seek boldness, examine your motives before you speak or act. Pure motives and a clear conscience will give you strength. Proverbs tells us that, "the righteous are as bold as a lion" (v. 28:1). When we pray for boldness, our motives must be more about others and less about ourselves. Humility will keep our motives pure: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves" (Philippians 2:3). Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

In his humility and right motives, the next thing Daniel did was to do something positive for the bully. Through God's insight, Daniel was able to share the detailed interpretation of the dream with Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel helped the very man who threatened his life. Romans 12:14 tells us to "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse."

Daniel's plan produced dramatic results. The king was so grateful and impressed that he "fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor," and Daniel and his friends were given great leadership within Babylon (see Daniel 2:26-49).

Your situation may not end as remarkably, but if you seek to resolve the problem through prayer and by acting in love, then God will stand with you in your fight.

Prayer: God, help me to pray for my enemies and to respond to them in love. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44).

Overcoming Obstacles to Obedience

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

One of the most satisfying rewards of obedience is a clear conscience. When we try to hide our sins, when we live an incongruent life, when we routinely fail the test of obedience, we burn all of our energy in fighting guilt and shame. Sin has a way of clamping down on our heart and creating a sense of imprisonment and suffocation.

But when we live in obedience to God, our hearts and minds are focused and clear. There is great relief and freedom in living a godly life. Without the emotional baggage of sin weighing us down, we are able to pass the tests that come our way.

The benefits of obedience to God are clear. But one of the first obstacles we face is in knowing what to obey. How well do you know the Word of God? Can you name the Ten Commandments? Can you discern the difference between human traditions and Scriptural principles? To follow God, we need to know His Word, and we need to know God personally.

Before Daniel's capture, he not only studied the Scriptures, but he memorized them. When he was tested spiritually, he was able to make the right decisions because he knew the laws of God. Daniel was prepared for his test. Did you ever try to take an exam in school without knowing the material? It's easy to fail when we're not prepared. Knowing God's Word is crucial for successfully navigating through the tests we face.

Remember -- to pass the test, you must prepare for the test.

Prayer: Father, help me to study and memorize Your Word. I want to be prepared for every test of my obedience. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11).

The Test of Obedience

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

One of the toughest tests we face is in our obedience to God. We must decide whether to go our own way or to go God's way. We must choose between the broad or narrow path. We either follow the standards of this world or God's commandments.

When Daniel faced one of his first challenges as a captive in King Nebuchadnezzar's palace, he had to decide between the decadent pagan food of Babylon or a healthy diet that glorified God. Because Daniel passed the test in following God's dietary standards, he reaped the benefits of obedience. Not only did he please God, he also gained favor with his captors.

Daniel 1:17 tells us that, "To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds." Because Daniel followed God in obedience, God allowed him to understand and to discern the world around him.

What happens when we pass a test of obedience? God imparts His knowledge to us. He increases our understanding of His commandments. The more we obey God, the more we want to obey Him. We begin to realize that God's grace is not an excuse to sin but rather a motivation to please and to love God more fully. "And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love" (2 John 1:6).

As we follow in obedience to God's Word, God will also give us knowledge and understanding about this world. The more we obey God and understand His Truths, the more we are able to apply these Truths to the world around us. As we seek to follow God alone, He will give us the discernment and understanding needed to live a godly life.

Prayer: God, help me to follow You in obedience. Thank You for the discernment You give as I obey You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it" (Luke 11:28).

Overcoming Temptation

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Do not become discouraged when you feel that the world is hopeless. The world can be changed for good, and God will give you the strength to stand up for His Truth. God will reward you when you speak the Truth to those who are in error. God will reward you when you maintain godly living in an ungodly culture. God will reward you when you fully trust Him and strive for spiritual integrity no matter what circumstances you face.

Trust that God will help you to withstand the forces of evil in any situation. Trust that God will give you the strength to overcome the temptations of the world. "For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age" (Titus 2:11-12).

What diet do you feed upon? Are you feasting on unclean spiritual food, as the Babylonians did? Or are you following Daniel's example, keeping your soul healthy by feeding on God's Word? To combat the evil of this world, you need a steady diet of God's Word. "Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil" (Hebrews 5:13-14).

Prayer: God, I pray that Your Spirit would convict and motivate me to seek Your Truth in the Scriptures every day. Give me the strength to overcome temptation. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted" (Hebrews 2:18).

A Different Standard

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

How have you stood apart from the world in your life? Are people surprised when they learn that you are a Christian? Do you compromise your beliefs in order to fit in with your friends or co-workers? Or do you seek to do everything according to God's plan for your life?

When Daniel and his friends were studying in the palace, they were given a decadent diet which contradicted the dietary laws of the Israelites. The Babylonians not only ate what the Jews considered unclean, but what they ate had been offered to the Babylonian idols.

Instead of conforming to a new lifestyle, Daniel remembered that God had called him to a different standard. Daniel knew that God wanted him to change the world, not allow the world to change him.

So Daniel proposed an experiment which tested the results of his healthy, God-given dietary standards against those of the Babylonians. Daniel didn't argue with his captors. He didn't belittle their ways. He simply made a point that his traditional food would serve him better. And in the end, Daniel proved the Truth through his actions.

When we are confronted with ungodly situations, we must remember that we are called to godly behavior, no matter what pressures we face. We don't need to enter into heated theological debates to make our point, but instead we should live a lifestyle of Christian faith and love. "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" (1 Peter 2:12).

Prayer: God, help me to live my life by Your standard and not the world's. Help me to always demonstrate godly behavior even in difficult situations. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).

Filtering Messages

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

When Daniel was being trained in the Babylonian palace, he was fed lies about spirituality and the meaning of life. Just as we face lies every day from our society, Daniel was being indoctrinated into the pagan culture in which he was held captive. Yet Daniel held on tightly to God's Truth. God's Word permeated every ounce of Daniel's being, and he refused to let that go. And because God was the center of Daniel's identity, he did not lose focus.

Like Daniel, we must take every message we hear and filter it through God's Word. No matter how appealing a message may sound, or how often we hear it, if it does not bring glory to God we cannot let it in. We must discern the difference between man's truth and God's Truth. We must recognize what will provide only temporary happiness and what will bring eternal joy.

If we fail to hold on to God's teachings, we will become vulnerable to worldly messages and lose our effectiveness for Christ. Make a commitment to understand thoroughly what you believe -- and why. Spend time in God's Word and learn who you are as a child of God. Standing up for your beliefs will help you become a powerful tool for God.

Prayer: God, help me to spend more time in Your Word, so that I will be confident in my beliefs and will be able to easily filter the messages I receive on a daily basis through Your Word. Give me discernment to be able to recognize the difference between man's truth and Your Truth. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ" (Philippians 1:9-10).

The Weapon of Victory

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

In Jeremiah, the Lord admonishes us to pray, saying, "You will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:12-13).

Each of us would like to see great and mighty things from God. However, if we fail to pray, then we will never fully experience the power of God in our lives.

Prayer is our declaration of faith in a mighty God. When we pray, we acknowledge our need of Him and our dependence on Him alone. Calling out to God also declares our desire for His wisdom, guidance, and protection.

We have the awesome privilege of entering God's presence through prayer. It is here that we discover the will of God for our lives and receive His power so we can victoriously face the enemy of our souls.

In this life, there will be times when we struggle with feelings of disappointment. In those times, we may be tempted to wonder how life ended up feeling so unfair. If we are not careful, our spiritual focus will shift, and we will wonder, "Why pray?"

Never allow this attitude to rest within your heart. Prayer is our mighty weapon of victory. It is a matter of the will rather than emotion or intellect. When the bottom drops out of life, we must become more determined than ever to pray.

In Scripture, Paul reminds us that a spiritual battle rages around us (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). However, we are not defenseless. Prayer is a powerful and sure weapon. Therefore, we can pray and by faith know that God hears us when we call to Him.

Prayer: Father, You are a Mighty God, and I acknowledge my need for You and my dependence upon You. I pray for Your will for my life. May I receive it with joy and thanksgiving knowing You love me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds" (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).

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