PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON LIFE AND MINISTRY FROM DR. MICHAEL YOUSSEF
This month in honor of Dr. Michael Youssef's 50th year of preaching, Leading The Way is featuring Dr. Youssef's own reflections on his journey to follow God's call on his life. May these candid insights inspire you to press on in the faith—and give God all the glory.
I remember praying, "God, I am so grateful that You have called me for this work. I promise I'll be as faithful as I can to You."
"I sense that this one will serve God's purpose," our family pastor had said. It was a statement that saved my life from abortion, but I resented God's call on my life even from the womb. Until one day at an evangelistic meeting in 1964, God softened my hardened heart, and I finally surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. His loving kindness to me has never failed.
Despite disappointments and uncertainty about my future as a young man, God directed my steps. His work for me was to preach His Gospel, and He opened the doors for my escape from Egypt and my ministry training first in Lebanon and then in Australia. As a seminarian, I was given opportunities to preach in different churches and receive correction and guidance from rectors. Every time I stood before a congregation and declared God's Truth, it further confirmed my call.
RESTLESS FOR A REASON
In Atlanta we established our home, built blessed friendships, engaged our community, and settled into a church. Our church allowed me to serve by leading a regular Bible study and occasionally even preaching. But after a while I realized I was restless. I had been so busy doing God's work that I had made it very difficult to hear from God. When I slowed down and took time to listen to the Lord, He made it clear that I was to preach His Word consistently and faithfully. And He started to open doors to begin the work of planting a church through faithful friends.
After a busy season of planning, facing challenges, seeking God, and seeing Him guide our steps, 52 people including my family attended the first service of The Church of The Apostles on Mother's Day 1987.
It was all coming together, piece by piece. I remember praying, "God, I am so grateful that You have called me for this work. I promise that I'll be as faithful as I can to You—first and foremost—and to the people. And I know You will prosper the ministry of Apostles. Help me to keep on trusting and obeying."
LEARNING AN IMPORTANT LESSON
In those early years of pastoring and preaching, God taught me some important lessons. On one occasion, after running myself into the ground, I came down with double pneumonia. During that time, God spoke to my heart, "Michael, I can do everything without you. But you cannot do a single thing without Me. You cannot minister to people before ministering to Me." I cried, feeling the conviction of the Lord's words. I realized that I needed to prioritize worshiping Him no matter how long my to-do list. Soon after, I began to commit the firstfruits of my day to the Lord. I saw that I had more energy for the work at hand and my ministry was more effective and efficient. I believe that God blessed our church because I learned to see myself as His servant first. I turned to Him to fill me. What I can give people is nothing, but what He can give me is everything.
The leadership of the church learned the lesson as well. During those early days, we were severely tested as we defended the Truth of God's Word. But we knew that if we worshiped and praised Him, if we trusted and obeyed Him regardless of the circumstances, then His work would be done through us.
TRUSTING GOD'S WAYS ABOVE MY OWN
God had great things in store for The Church of The Apostles though many times I could not see what He was orchestrating. For example, I knew God would build up an international ministry, but I couldn't see how He would fulfill this vision through our small, local radio ministry in Atlanta. Not long after we took a leap of faith, Leading The Way expanded globally through dual-language messages in Arabic and English broadcast to the Middle East, followed quickly by requests for programming in Mandarin, Indonesian, Turkish, and Persian.
But God didn't stop there. For many years, I had half-seriously said, "I will never go on television. I have a face for radio." I didn't believe Christian television audiences would respond to the serious-minded preaching of God's Word. But God pushed me into that ministry too. Eventually, we also launched THE KINGDOM SAT, a satellite television channel dedicated to delivering the Gospel 24/7 into the Arabic-speaking world and Europe. Today, Leading The Way broadcasts the hope of the Gospel in 27 of the world's most spoken languages across six continents.
A PASSION FOR PREACHING CHRIST
Preaching and pastoring for The Church of The Apostles has been a great blessing. It has brought me joy even when it has tested me. We have stood for the Truth of the Gospel when certain positions have been unpopular. When people criticize me for standing firm on God's Word, I know that I'm in Christ and not compromising. I'm trying to please the Lord and not people. When I know I am abiding in the Lord, I am joyful.
It is the great privilege of my life to answer God's call to passionately proclaim the Truth of Christ. Through His mercy, I pray we will advance His Kingdom with even more passion and energy in the coming years. I want to sprint into eternity, falling exhausted into the arms of Jesus—and give Him all the glory.