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Solving Dilemmas

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

We will not always face clear-cut decisions between right and wrong. Sometimes we may have to choose between two positive choices -- or two negative ones. But in keeping a daily focus on God, dilemmas will be easier to solve.

Refusing sin isn't always easy. In Daniel 3, the king enforced his threat, sending Daniel's friends into the furnace. They acted on the Truth of God's Word, and Jesus walked with them through their trial (see Daniel 3:25). Because of the way they handled their situation, the king marveled at God's power to keep the three men safe from the flames. God is glorified when we stand against sin and temptation.

Which sins tempt you over and over? Ask for God's help in leading you away from situations that present those temptations. Set up safeguards against the people and circumstances that have led you to sin. With God's help, you can overcome temptation and glorify His name.

Our best defense against bullies, persecutors, and temptations is a well-developed relationship with God. We need to know God and His Word. We need to call on Him both in trouble and in joy. It seems to be human nature to let busyness overshadow what is really important -- our relationship with God.

Prayer: Father, help me to always act on the Truth of Your Word, even in difficult circumstances. Lead me away from situations that might cause me to be tempted. Help me to grow in my walk with You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41).

The Role of Godly Friends

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

A true friend is of great worth as we seek to follow God and to make a difference in this world. Godly friends comfort us, encourage us, and keep us focused on God.

Many of us are very familiar with the story of Daniel, but we can't overlook what the Bible has to teach us through his friends. Daniel did not face his trials alone, but alongside Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They were able to strengthen each other in their faith while being surrounded by ungodly beliefs and customs. They faced their tests together, obeyed God together, and spent time together in unified prayer.

How blessed we are when we find a friend who will stand with us against the evils of this world! How fortunate we are to have a friend who will support us as we stand up for our faith.

Godly friendships are not simply a social outlet but a support system for developing our faith. Godly friends will pray with us, worship with us, and seek God with us.

Prayer: Father, thank You for the friends You have given me. Help me to remember that I should be praying, worshiping, and seeking You alongside my friends. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon" (Daniel 2:17-18).

Facing Temptation

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Sometimes battles come from bullies or situations. But other times, struggles come from within as we face temptations. A temptation is a test of our value system and resolve to serve God. While God may give us tests, He never tempts with sin. "When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desires and enticed" (James 1:13-14).

Temptations are Satan's way of damaging our reputation and witness, leading us away from God and His blessings, and planting seeds of doubt concerning God's love and faithfulness.

Daniel and his friends faced many challenges as they lived out their beliefs and their love for God. But one of their greatest temptations came soon after they became leaders within the kingdom. King Nebuchadnezzar built a giant gold statue of himself, requiring everyone to bow down and worship it. The consequence for refusal was death in a blazing furnace (see Daniel 3:1-6).

No one is immune to temptation. Proverbs 16:18 warns us, "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." With the attitude of "I can handle temptation," we become careless in guarding against it. We may not have golden statues of kings before us, but we have plenty of false idols in our society. An idol is anything we trust for security, provision, or fulfillment. Many times idols hide in our hearts. Whether it is wealth, relationships, or career, we all face the temptation to give too much power to things.

When Daniel's friends were faced with this idol, they didn't have days to consider the situation. They immediately determined the right course of action because they had spent so many hours of their life in communion with God. Their relationship with Him was key to their decision. They knew that in following God, He would remain with them no matter the consequences.

Prayer: God, I pray that I would have such a close relationship with You that I will immediately respond in a way that pleases You when faced with temptations. Help me to be aware of the idols around me and to be on guard against them. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Corinthians 10:12).

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).

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