Theme: Handling life when it doesn't make sense
As a believer I have learned that whenever I trip over troubles and trials or stumble over sufferings of any kind it is usually the case that I am struggling over some part of God's plan for my life. Deep down I know that what I'm confronting is good for my spiritual growth or God would not have allowed it but UI resist it anyway. My human nature automatically shies away from any voluntary participation in physical pain, mental anguish or emotional conflict. I instinctively long to be insulated from hurts, shielded from tragedies or sheltered from misfortunes.
But the truth is all of us have unforeseen problems pop up in our lives and some of them can seem pretty hopeless and overwhelming when we're in the midst of them Though God hasn't revealed everything we would like to know on the subject of problems, He does have reasons for a allowing troubles to come into our lives. Many people think that when they go through problems that it is because God is mad at them or perhaps He has abandoned them. They think, "I must be out of God's will or these things wouldn't be happening to me." That kind of reasoning is often wrong. Many times your problems are exactly God's will is for your life for if God allows them they come with a divine purpose. 1 Peter 4: 12-13 (the message), "Friends, when life really gets difficult don't jump to the conclusion that God isn't on the job. Instead be glad that you are in the thick of what Christ experienced. This is the spiritual and refining process with glory just around the corner."
Sometimes it is within God's will that we experience problems. We may not understand His reasons for them as we're working our way through them, but we do afterwards and it was always for our good.
Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." In this message I want to share with you the story of Joseph one of God's people who had a real encounter with some serious problems that unexpectedly invaded his life. Problems that came as a complete surprise to him. I you have ever despaired because life didn't make sense or everything seemed to be going against you - then this story is for you.
If we can learn to do what Joseph did in his trying times then when we are facing our problems we can reap the same benefits that he did. The story is found in the book of Genesis. It starts in chapter 37 and ends in chapter 50. We'll begin in Genesis 37: 1-11 with a description of a troubled family.
I. A Troubled Family
Read Genesis 37: 1-11. I need to draw your attention to a few details in Jacob's life to see what made Jacob's family the dysfunctional family as described in verses 1 through 11.
6. If that
wasn't trouble enough - when Rachel had trouble bearing children
according to the custom of the
7. Leah - not to be outdone did the same with Zilpah her handmaiden and the race to produce children was on.
8. The result was that Jacob ended up with four quarreling wives and all the ingredients for what we would call today - a dis-functional family.
9. There was a population explosion at the Jacob residence of 12 sons as all four Mrs. Jacobs bore children We don't know how many daughters.
II. Joseph the Dreamer
As we pick up the story in verses 1 through 11 we see that: Jacob the father is the classic example of the passive pre-occupied father. He is much too busy making a living and coping with the squabbles of his four wives to deal effectively with the wrongs that occurred in the lives of the boys.
Joseph was the eleventh son born to
Jacob and the first son born to
Joseph dreamed another dream . In this one not only the eleven stars bowed down to him, but also the sun and the moon did too. Now - how many brothers did Joseph have? That's right - eleven. It didn't take dad long to figure out who the sun and moon represented in the dream. This time not only the brothers got angry but dad got a little hot under the collar too.
Don't miss this spiritual truth in what was happening to Joseph. Though Joseph didn't understand what was happening and though his brothers at this point scoffed at his dreams and though Jacob didn't know what to think - God was playing out the opening scene in a drama that would be a part of Joseph's life for the next 23 years.
Though God was busy during those years
silently leading, guiding and molding Joseph's life and working out a
plan to bless Joseph beyond his wildest dreams, from Joseph's
perspective it wouldn't appear that way. From all he was encountering
at times it would have been easy to think that God and the world was
against him. The scripture again and again states that in the midst of
it all -
Truth to Consider
I want us to see three scenes in Joseph's life that reveals how God directed things to cause them to bring Joseph from a pit to a prison to a palace. There were three scenes demanding different roles that were played out to perfection by Joseph that won for him heavens highest award to man which is God's approving "Well done thou good and faithful servant."
1, A Pit Experience
After they threw him in the pit they sat down to have a little celebration before going back home. Along came a trading caravan passing by on its way to Egypt. One brother said, "Why don't we sell little brother to them that way we will still be rid of him. We won't be guilty of killing him and we can make some money on the deal." Now the brothers may have thought that was the end of Joseph, but the story of Joseph is just getting started. The bible says, "The Lord was with Joseph."
So even though some bad things were happening to Joseph, God was still watching out for him. The caravan was going to Egypt so that's where Joseph wound up and was sold as a slave to a fellow named Potiphar, a captain in Pharaoh's army. Joseph became a slave in Polisher's house.
Scene 2, A Prison Experience
The first person focuses on what is lost. The second person focuses on what still remains. I think Joseph was this second type of person He understood that you bring who you are into everything you do and into everything that life brings to you. You see regardless of what had happened Joseph was still Joseph and he saw himself as a person of character and integrity.
Potiphar began to notice this about Joseph too. Everything that Joseph did around the place was done well. The crops were doing well. The house was in better shape. The whole staff was running more smoothly. Potiphar knew a good man when he saw one and it wasn't long until Joseph was made head overseer of the entire household.
Now everything should have gone very well for Joseph in Potiphar's household but the bible says Joseph was handsomely good looking. Now that is not a bad thing unless you're working for someone whose wife was like Mrs. Potiphar or better known as Mrs. Pot of Fire. She began to pursue Joseph with seduction in mind. Joseph managed to escape until one day he made a tactical error. He let himself be alone with her in the house. She grabbed him and he managed to escape, but she held on to his coat and he left it as he fled. In anger she charged him with assaulting her and produced his coat as evidence. As a result, Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison when he believed her lie about Joseph.
In prison it didn't take the custodian long to recognize quality and character when he saw it. So after awhile Joseph is promoted in prison. He became the jailers right hand man and Joseph ends up being the chief overseer of all the prisoners.
Before concluding with scene 3 let me point out that in prison Joseph interpreted dreams of Pharaoh's butler and baker who had made Pharaoh's angry at them and placed them both in prison.
IV. Scene 3, A Palace Experience
So the ruler of Egypt sent for who -that's right - our man Joseph who was still in prison. .Pharaoh says, "So you are good at interpreting dreams. Well, I've got a doosy for you." Pharaoh told Joseph the dream and Joseph interpreted it for him.. There is going to be a famine in the land.. Joseph, gave Pharaoh a good plan on how to handle the famine. Pharaoh was impressed with Joseph's plan. He too knew a good man when he saw one. As a reward, Pharaoh made Joseph second in command over all of Egypt.
Now the story of Joseph would be great if it ended right here, but there is one or two loose ends that need to be tied up. For one thing the famine did come as Joseph predicted and the famine struck even those in Canaan where Joseph's brothers and father lived. To make a long story short, his brothers had to go down to Egypt for bread. When they got there guess who they had to deal with and bow to? Right, their long lost brother, Joseph. Now Joseph has grown up and he has an Egyptian name, an Egyptian wife and Egyptian clothes He also speaks Egyptian fluently. They did not recognize him. After hiding his identity from them for awhile and playing a couple of tricks on them he finally reveals his identity. He quiets their fears by forgiving them and he sends for his father and the rest of the family. Pharaoh gives Joseph's family the best of the farmland in Egypt. That's a quick survey of the story of Joseph. There are many things that you and I could learn from the story of Joseph, but I just want to mention a few of them.
Joseph could have surrendered to self pity, but he didn't.
Ask yourself if self pity has ever done anything good for you? Has it ever changed what has happened? NEVER!. Has it ever made good come out of bad? NEVER! Has it ever made you feel better? NEVER! Has it ever made you feel loved? NEVER! Has it ever built up your self respect? NEVER! Has it ever enabled you to achieve your goals in life? NEVER! Has it ever brought you closer to others? NEVER! Has it ever made you more loved by others? NEVER!
If you want to be filled with gloom, taken over by sadness, without friends, physically ill, problem beaten or terribly depressed then go ahead and pity yourself. Or you can do what Joseph did, refuse to bow to it.
Joseph could have let the bad memories of the past plaque him on his journey from his home to Pharaoh's palace, but he didn't. He had a number of bad memories to recall as we just discovered in his story. Many people today live plagued by the past. In the most extreme cases people sit in mental hospitals and constantly relive the tragic events of yesterday. They are trapped by the things that have happened or words that have been said to them by others. Not Joseph. Like Apostle Paul he developed divine amnesia to the past and its problems and hurts.
Philippians 3: 13-14, "One thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal..."
Joseph chose to live his life free from resentment, bitterness and revenge. The past was past - gone - finished - ended - and forever.
Remember life is not always fair, but God is! Our expectations as believers so often require that things always seem fair - especially where God is involved. When things aren't fair or don't seem fair to our advantage and God doesn't seem to intervene to stop them, we call God's character into question. Doesn't He care? If he is all powerful then why doesn't He stop this? Is He there or does He even exist?
Do these questions sound familiar. They do to me. If you have or if you're even now asking them let me lift up three truths about God we need to know.
Remember that it is the struggle that makes a person strong. It is the hardships that make a person an overcomer. It is the obstacles that provides a person opportunities to excel. Tough times come not to punish us but to perfect us. These tough times come not to make us miserable, but to mature us.
God's main goal for us is not to make us comfortable, but to conform us into the image of Christ. God is more concerned about our character than about our comfort.
I conclude with this song by Andre Crouch: