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God is With Me (Joseph)

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
March 6, 2016 5:00 am

God is With Me (Joseph)

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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Genesis chapter 50. If you have a Bible, I hope that you do or I hope that you can look around with somebody that is around you. Pull out your phone, turn your Bible on.

If you are super cool and wear skinny jeans and you have a digital Bible, pull that out. I want to begin our message today with a question I want you to consider. The question is this, how would your outlook on life change if you believe that God was really with you in every situation you had ever gone through in your life? Find yourself in now. God was in it and God had directed you to it. Whatever we went through in your past God was in that. He was in that divorce that you went through.

He was in that bad grade that you received. He was in the fact that you got passed over for a promotion or an opportunity that you really felt like you deserved, but you didn't get it. God was somehow in that, you being passed over. That he was in that disability that you were born with and can't understand why. He was with you. You've experienced prejudice in your life and unfairness.

You've been treated unfairly. But somehow he was in the fact that you had to move here to Raleigh and you didn't really want to come to the Triangle area, but you're here now. And somehow God was in that. How would your outlook change if you knew God was in that, he had a plan in it, even though it felt out of control and it felt painful, I know that he was in it.

Now you say, well, J.D., that's the problem. I'm just not sure I believe that about everything in my life. I'm not asking you to believe it yet. I'm saying just suppose for a minute, just imagine that you did.

How would your outlook on your life, how would your attitude towards your life and the situation you're in now, how would that change if you really did believe it? I say that because a Bible teacher named Andy Stanley says that that is the question that is presented to us in the life of the guy we're gonna take a look at this weekend, whose name is Joseph. His story is in Genesis 50.

Sometimes bad things happen to good people, sometimes really good things happen to bad people and you just can't figure it out, can't figure out why it's happening. That's what you're gonna see happen to Joseph. But in Joseph's life, you're also going to see what it looks like if you believe that God is with you in it all. Toward the beginning of the book of Genesis, if you remember from a few weeks ago, and we saw that God had given this promise to Abraham, that he would bless Abraham and his descendants. He would be their God, he would never leave them. He would watch over them and everything.

He would defend them from everything. Well, the writer of Genesis, who was Moses, is going to illustrate for us what that promise looks like in action through the life of Joseph. Genesis, I believe, I've always said this, Genesis is the most important book in the Bible. And the character that gets more space in Genesis than any other character is Joseph. Nearly a quarter of the book of Genesis is about Joseph. All right, so let me give you the last scene in Joseph's life, and then we're gonna walk you through the story that leads you up to that point. Here it is, Genesis chapter 50, verse 15. When Joseph's brothers saw that the father was dead, they said, oh, now it's gonna be that Joseph's gonna hate us, he's gonna pay us back for all the evil that we did to him. Verse 19, but Joseph said to them, do not fear. Brothers, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God, he meant it for good, to bring it about so that many people should be kept alive as they are today. So do not fear, I will provide for you, and I will provide for your little ones.

Okay, here is the story. If you remember, Abraham was the man, sterile old man, who was selected to be the patriarch of this chosen family that was gonna be the nation through which God blessed the world. Abraham's old, so in his old age, he has this miracle baby named Isaac. And Isaac is going to have two sons, one is named Jacob, the other's named Esau.

Esau is the older brother, he was the man's man, he drove the Ford F-150 and all that kind of stuff. Jacob, less of a man's man, he drove the Mini Cooper, the Miata, whatever. But Jacob is the one through whom the promise is going to go. So Jacob is going to have 12 sons, Joseph and 11 other dudes.

Now, I write it like that on purpose because that's how Jacob saw it. Jacob, of all people, should have known the problem, the damage, psychological damage, that would be caused by a daddy playing favorites. Since Jacob himself was the victim of that with his dad, Isaac. Remember, Isaac had preferred Esau over Jacob. By the way, have you noticed how messed up these families are in the book of Genesis?

There's hope for your family, just be encouraged, all right? But at any rate, when Jacob talked about Joseph, Jacob's face lit up and his eyes sparkled, Joseph always got the extra piece of chicken, Joseph always got the extra brownie, Joseph got to have friends over. To make matters worse, Jacob gives to Joseph this coat of many colors. Now, technically in Hebrew, it says coat of long sleeves, which means it was this long ornate robe with long sleeves that was worn as a status symbol that was supposed to demonstrate you didn't have to do manual labor. When I lived in Southeast Asia as a missionary, the young men there would always grow their pinky fingernail out to about an inch and a half. It looked totally disgusting, but they did it as a way of demonstrating as a status symbol that showed I don't do manual labor.

Because if you do manual labor, you could never maintain a pinky like that, right? So in this culture, the way that you demonstrated status was to wear one of these coat of many colors. Typically, it was the older brother who got to wear it, who got exempted from the work, but Jacob gives it to Joseph, who was one of the youngest brothers, right?

So the rest of the kids get their clothes off the clearance rack at the Dollar General, Joseph's forts a new trench coat from Saks Fifth Avenue. All right, and then to make matters worse, Joseph starts having these dreams. He's about 15 years old, and in one of these dreams, he dreams that he and all of his brothers and his mom and dad are out in the field sheaving wheat, and then Joseph's sheep of wheat gets a lot bigger than everybody else's, and then everybody else's sheep of wheat starts bowing down to his sheep. So Joseph shares this dream with his family one night over dinner, and he says, well, I think the interpretation's obvious. One day, all of you are gonna bow down to me.

I'll do the commanding, you'll do the submitting. This, of course, went over like a barbecue at a bar mitzvah with his brothers. By the way, you know, in almost every way in this story, Joseph is a role model for us, but I would not advise you to imitate him here.

If you have a dream where all your friends and your family bow down to you, you keep that junk to yourself, okay? All right, well, one day, all of Joseph's brothers are out in the mountains feeding the goats. Of course, Joseph doesn't have to go because, you know, he got to stay home and play with his Pharaoh PlayStation or whatever it was. So his dad says to him, hey, Joseph, your brother's been out for a while.

Why don't you hop on that new ATV I bought you, and why don't you zoom out in the mountains and figure out where they are and check on them? So Joseph goes around, he finds them, and of course, they're all slimy and stinky from working with the sheep. And here comes Justin Bieber with his wavy hair and his tight jeans and his coat of many colors. And he's like, hello, brothers, older brothers, how is everybody? You guys still talking about my dream?

I had another dream where I'm the big gerbil and you guys are the little runt gerbils. And in the middle of this, one of his brothers says, you know, I'm about sick of you. And so he grabs him, he throws him into a pit, and they start planning out how they're gonna kill him. To make a long story short, instead of killing him, they decide to sell him into slavery, but they take his coat and they rip it and they dip it in goat's blood, and they take it back to their dad, Jacob, and say, Dad, we're so sorry, we found this on the road.

Obviously, a wild animal, a wild hyena has eaten Jacob. We're so sorry, Joseph is dead. Meanwhile, back to Joseph, he shows up on the slave market in Egypt, and this Egyptian named Potiphar buys him to be a slave. Now, Potiphar happens to be the captain of Egypt's armies.

He's the most powerful man in Egypt outside of Potiphar. And then we see this phrase for the very first time in the life of Joseph. Genesis 39, two, and the Lord was with Joseph.

And you're tempted to read that and say, really? I mean, if anything, it sounds like the Lord was with his brothers. I'm sure Joseph was asking that question.

God, where are you when my brothers are selling me into slavery? But Joseph somehow understood that even in those things, that God was with him and God was behind them. And so instead of becoming depressed, which is what I probably would have done, he says, okay, God has me here and he serves God faithfully.

And when Potiphar sees that the Lord was really with him and that the Lord caused everything that he did to succeed in his hands, he made him overseer in his house and he put him in charge of everything that he had. Now, y'all, this is a crucial turning point in the life of Joseph. What if Joseph had said what I would probably have said, well, clearly God has forsaken me.

And he'd slipped into a depression. Or maybe if he had said, well, there can't possibly be a God who would allow something like this to happen. I mean, I can't believe in a God that would let that happen to me. If Joseph had said that, the story would have stopped right here. But Joseph doesn't say that. What he says is, even in this, I believe that God is with me.

And so instead of going into the depression or unbelief, he serves God faithfully in the place that God places him. Potiphar sees that God is with him and he elevates Joseph to be in charge of everything in his house. Enter Potiphar's wife. Potiphar's wife decides that Joseph is a lean, mean hunk of Hebrew kebab. The writer of Genesis, by the way, says that Joseph was handsome in both form and appearance. That's the same phrase that we saw last week to describe Rachel, you know, who Jacob means he was just really like, he had a great face and a great body is the simple way of saying that.

So, you know, he looks really good. So one day when Potiphar was out doing military stuff, Mrs. Potiphar comes in with her tight jeans and her clear heels doing her walk like an Egyptian routine. And she propositions Jacob.

And now she's pretty direct. The only thing she says in the story 39.7 is lie with me. That's it, that's her only, in Hebrew it's literally two words, sex now.

Sex now, she says it over and over and over again. Well, Joseph won't do it because A, it is against the laws of God and B, it would be a betrayal of his master who has trusted him with so much. But we always assume by the way that she was really good looking, but there's nothing in the Bible that says that.

Maybe she looked like Jabba the Hutt, we don't know. But whatever, I mean, maybe it was easy to say no, I don't know, but hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. And so she steals Joseph's coat and she says to Potiphar, he left this coat behind when he was trying to rape me. Well, Potiphar believes his tramp wife instead of believing Joseph. And so he throws Joseph into prison and there we see the phrase again. Verse 21, but the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love.

Can't you hear Joseph like, really, God? Could you be with me a little less next time maybe? Sounds like you're with Potiphar's wife. Steadfast love, doesn't feel very steadfast. Feels like you took a little vacation, felt like you turned your head when they sold me the slavery.

You turned your head when she was accusing me. God, it doesn't feel very steadfast. Verse 22, but then God gave him favor with the keeper of the prison and the keeper put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph's charge because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.

How would your outlook and attitude in life be different if you really believed in whatever situation you were in that God was behind it, he had put you there. Joseph is in prison, but his spirit soars free in all situations because he believes that God is with him and God had put him where he was. Well, after several years in prison, a couple of Pharaoh's court servants get thrown in there with him. One's a butler and one's a baker, and both of them have a dream. And so they tell their dreams to Joseph. And so Joseph says to the butler, your dream means that within three days, you're gonna be released out of here and restored to your position in Pharaoh's court. The baker says, that sounds awesome. What's my dream mean? He says, your dream means that within three days, you're gonna be hung by your neck and the birds are gonna pick the flesh off your face and eat your eyes out of your sockets. How do you respond to that if you're the baker? But sure enough, it all takes place. Joseph says to the butler before he leaves the prison, hey, he says, man, listen, when you get out of here, remember me because I am here unjustly. And the butler says, I promise, I'll never forget you.

How could I? But promptly forget about him as soon as he's out, forgets about him for more than two years. Again, can you imagine Joseph at this point? God, really? I'm not asking for a whole lot.

I'm just asking for a little justice. Then two years later, Pharaoh has his own dream. And it's a strange one. He sees seven fat cows come up out of the Nile followed by the Nile River, followed by seven skinny cows. And the seven skinny cows eat the seven fat cows. And then they turn to Pharaoh and say, eat more chicken. No, no, no, they don't say that. Nobody can figure out, it just ends with the meat and the cow.

So nobody can figure out what it means. And then the butler's like, oh yeah, oh yeah. I remember this dude in prison who interprets dreams. So they go get Joseph out of prison and they bring him to Pharaoh. And Pharaoh says, I hear that you can interpret dreams. And Joseph says, well, no, no man can interpret dreams. But I know the God in heaven who can interpret dreams.

When he says that, by the way, everybody in the courtroom is like, oh no, he didn't. Because see, Pharaohs believed that they were God. And you don't tell the most powerful man in the world who thinks he's God that he's really not God, but you know the God who is God and it's not him, right? How much confidence would you live with in life if you really believe that God is with you?

Might you lose your fear of man and just be able to say what you know is true to people that are in front of you because you know that God's behind it? All right, well, Joseph goes away and he talks to God and comes back and says, God told me what your dream means. He says the dream means that he's gonna send seven years of feast. That's the seven fat cows followed by seven years of famine.

That's the skinny cows. And the seven lean years, the seven famine years are gonna be so bad it's gonna gobble up all the years of feast. He says, so if you're smart, you'll lay up now kind of like storehouse stuff so that when you go into the famine, you'll have food.

And so they do that. Pharaoh was so grateful that he promotes Joseph to be the prime minister of Egypt so that he can get Egypt prepared. Joseph is literally over everybody in the kingdom except for Pharaoh, which by the way, included Potiphar and his wife, which should have been a fun reunion. Fast forward now about 10 years, the predicted famine has come and things have gotten really, really bad and the whole region is starving just like Joseph had said.

The only place in the whole region that has food is Egypt. And that's because of Joseph's warning. Joseph's family, his dad and his brothers are affected also.

So Jacob sends his sons, Joe's other brothers, down to Egypt to buy food. Immediately, Joseph recognizes them, but I guess they don't recognize him because of the whole makeup, cobra head, headdress thing that he wore as vice Pharaoh. When he sees them, he's so overcome with emotion that he can barely control himself. He burst into tears, his mascara starts to run. Eventually, after putting them through all these tests to see if they changed, he just can't stand it anymore and he strips off his headdress and he says to his brothers, it's me, it's Joseph.

Now, let me ask you a question. Do you think this was a moment where they were glad or do you think it was a moment where they were sad? What emotion do you feel like they were feeling at this moment?

This is the old crud moment. We sold this dude into slavery 25 years ago, thought we'd never see him again and now he's the most powerful man in the world. But Joseph sensing their terror says to them, 45, five, don't be distressed, don't be angry with yourselves because you sold me here. Because I don't look at it that way. I think of it as God sending me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, you see, it was God. How would your outlook on life change?

How would your attitude towards your past change if you believe that in everything you'd gone through and in every situation you're in, that God was with you? To see his brothers return now and they get their father, Jacob, and they bring them to Joseph. And after all these years, they are reunited. Well, after many, many years, Jacob dies and that brings us back to that last scene we looked at in Genesis 50 and here it is one more time. When Joseph's brother saw that the father was dead and they said, now it's gonna be that Joseph was just doing this so he didn't make our dad sad. Now he's gonna hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him. Joseph said to them, do not fear, brothers, for am I in the place of God? Yeah, as for you, you meant evil against me. But see, God meant it for good to bring it about that many people should be kept alive as they are today. So do not fear.

I will provide for you and your little ones. Thus he comforted them and he spoke kindly to them. There are a couple of ways that you can interpret Joseph's life. Listen, first and most importantly, you can and should interpret it as a picture, as a premonition of Jesus. Did you hear the echoes of Jesus's story all through Joseph's story? I want you and our year of reading the Bible together, I wanna teach you to read the Bible this way so that you just see this stuff instinctively.

You don't need me to get up here and explain it to you. One day, many years into the future, another savior would come and walk the exact same path that Joseph walked. He would be betrayed by his brothers.

He would then be lied about and falsely condemned. Of course, unlike Joseph, Jesus was not just sold into slavery, he was put to death. But like Joseph, he would be raised from that pit to sit onto the highest throne of the land. And like Joseph, instead of exacting vengeance from that throne, he would use his exalted position to forgive and save his brothers.

And like Joseph, he would weave tears of joy when we were reconciled to him. Jesus is the whole point of this story as he is every story in the Bible. The main point of the Joseph story is not to amaze you with Joseph's incredible faith.

It's certainly not to try to tell you that regardless of what bad things have happened to you, as long as you avoid the aggressive cougars in your life, you're gonna be president of the USA one day. The whole point is to show you that in all things, God is fully in control of history, working out his perfect plan to put Jesus on the throne and then to save and glorify the church through his exalted reign and resurrection, okay? But in light of that, in light of that, the other way you can interpret Joseph's life is as a picture of what it looks like to live with the assurance that God is with you because Jesus is on the throne.

You're not gonna be the one on the throne one day, Jesus is. So Jesus is the real Joseph. But in light of that, what you can do is then begin to read your life like Joseph read his with the assurance that God was with you in every situation. Just like God was in complete control of Joseph's life, working it all for his good plan, so he is in control of your life because you are sons and daughters of Abraham, just like Joseph was. He is working all things for his good purposes in your life just as he was with Joseph's. So I ask you again, how would your outlook on life change if you really believe that in all things, God was with you and had been with you and that he had guided everything according to his appointed purposes? Because that is exactly what Joseph believed.

See, let me take you through his last statement and show you, because it's kind of the heart of Christian faith. All right, verse 19, chapter 50. You meant it for evil. You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. I know that God's got a purpose in everything, Joseph said, even in the bad things, even in the bad things, he was overriding what other people meant for evil, he was overriding it for good. The slavery led to Potiphar's house, which led to the false accusation, which led to the prison, which led to the forgetting, which led to Pharaoh, which led to a throne from which Joseph could save God's people. God was as much in the pit and the prison as he was in the palace.

Now, a couple of things here that I wanna make sure you see. First, believing this does not reduce the sin of others. Notice that Joseph doesn't downplay what his brothers did.

He calls it evil. You see, I say that because sometimes as a means of coping with our past, we try to downplay the bad things that people have done. Oh, well, you know, they were just confused.

Oh, well, they were just doing what they thought was right. You know, all families have struggles. This marriage, it just wasn't meant to be. A lot of people's parents get divorced. Joseph, of course, imagine Joseph trying to say that. Well, you know, sibling rivalry is normal. Being sold into slavery, covered up by the lie that I've been eaten by animals, ah, that happens to everybody.

He couldn't say that. Part of experiencing God's healing for your past, listen, involves facing up to the fact that people have sinned against you. Your parents sinned against some of you. A former spouse sinned against you. A boss has sinned against you. There have been friends that have genuinely hurt you. They have sinned against you. And you don't want to cope with it by just saying, well, it wasn't that bad.

It was bad. It's just that that's not where the discussion stops. God overwrites the evil that they did with good, right? Second, knowing that God has a good plan in everything doesn't mean you can always see it. I mean, here, sometimes you can. Here in Joseph's life, you can.

Each stage of the journey was a necessary part of the end. But in the middle of it all, Joseph couldn't see that. He hadn't read the book of Genesis. He didn't know how the last chapter was going to turn out.

It wasn't until the very end that he could see it. Recently, my wife and I together, we read the book Seven Women by Eric Metaxas, Seven Women Who Changed the World. And there's a chapter in there on Corrie Ten Boom. Corrie Ten Boom was the Dutch Christian who in World War II was put into a concentration camp because she was helping to smuggle Jews and help them escape the Holocaust. So when she ends up in a concentration camp, she's there with her sister, Betsy, and she said it was everything that you would think it would be. It was awful. She said the torture, the execution. She said one of the overlooked things that made it so bad was just the filth.

They never let us shower. She said we just stayed in filth. And because of that, there were just these, it felt like swarms of fleas always around us. She said my sister, Betsy, who was stronger in faith than I was, one day looked at me and says, you know, the Bible says we are to rejoice in all things and give thanks in everything, which means we need to thank God right now for these fleas.

And Corrie said, you are out of your mind. There is no way on God's green earth I'm ever gonna say thank you for one of these fleas. She said, my sister looked at me and said, well, then you're in sin.

I'm gonna thank him for the both of us. And she bowed her head and thanked God for those wretched fleas. She said, in our barracks, we would meet every day, every afternoon we'd meet and we'd have a little time of worship with just a small group of us and we'd say Bible verses to each other and we had a small Bible that we'd, somebody had smuggled in, we'd read the Bible and it was the source of life to us. She said, one thing I could never figure out was the guards would never come into our barracks.

It was the only place on the entire concentration camp where they wouldn't go. She says, one day it dawned on me why they wouldn't come. In fact, she said, one explained it to me. They would always walk by and look in, but they couldn't tell what they were doing.

If they'd come in and found them worshiping, they would have beaten them or even worse, they could have killed them. She said, the reason they wouldn't come in was because of those fleas. She says those flea, they didn't want to get fleas on them so they just stayed out of the barracks so that they could keep fleas off of them. She says, and Betsy looked at me and said, thank God for those fleas.

Now here's my question for you. Who are the fleas in your life? Name them right now. You got them in your mind, right? They might be sitting right next to you, right? Who are the fleas in your life?

Can you thank God for the fleas knowing that he's got a purpose for them, even if you can't quite see it right now? Sometimes you die, of course, without seeing it. I've heard that life is, in many ways, it's like a tapestry. If you've ever seen one of these tapestries, like in the Biltmore house, these enormous, ornate works of art that every strand is in its place and it's beautiful. You flip it over on the back and it looks like this chaotic mess, all these strings and it just looks disastrous. Life for us looks like that side of the tapestry. And it just looks like this chaotic mess, like there's no rhyme or reason. What happens is one day in eternity, God just flips it over and you're like, oh, every single strand was in its place. Sometimes the growth happens in you.

Sometimes what God is doing is he's doing stuff in you. I've told you before, this ancient culture of Japan was famous for its pottery. Lots of ancient cultures made pottery, but this Japanese people did something with their pottery that nobody else did. They would take, the last stage was to take the pots and they would shatter them into 100 pieces.

Then they would pick up the pieces and they would melt gold and piece back together the pots, now held together by this gold that fuses the pieces together so that the value of the restored pot was much greater than the value of the pot before it was broken. And I've showed you that gives you a picture of what Jesus will do in our lives. He lets life break us. He lets life crush us sometimes so that he can put himself into these broken parts of our lives, into these cracks and these parts of our lives that just feel like they're crushed so that the value that we have of knowing him through the pain is greater than if we'd had never gone through it. Sometimes the pain that you experience enables you to minister to other people that go through the same pain. God lets you become like Jesus to know what it means to suffer so that you can care for those in suffering.

The apostle Paul said it this way. He said, I went through all this suffering so that I could comfort others out of the comfort wherewith I had been comforted. I would have never known how to tell them that Jesus was sweet in the midst of this kind of pain if I hadn't walked through it myself. Maybe you went through that miscarriage, maybe you went through that betrayal, maybe you went through that brokenness so that you could tell somebody else going through the same thing, Jesus is enough for this situation because I have tasted of him and I've seen that it is good.

Will you let God put you through suffering if it means bringing salvation to other people? Here's what Romans 8 28, Paul's gonna, he's gonna summarize his life this way. Here's a verse that a lot of people know but very few people in my opinion understand.

We know, we know that for all those who love God, like Joseph, all things are working together for good. He means it for good to those who were called according to whose purpose? His purpose, that's right. For those, what is his purpose?

Oh, good question, Paul's about to tell you. Those who he foreknew, here's his purpose. He prayed that sin to be conformed to the image of his son. What is God's purpose for you?

It's to make you look like and love Jesus. And so he will allow life to shape you in a certain way that you can experience the fullness and the beauty of Jesus. And I know that sometimes what you're going through makes no sense at all.

And you just gotta trust. The story of Joseph doesn't mean that God's gonna work it all out satisfactorily to your understanding in your lifetime, but that God is gonna work it out in the grand scheme of history. One day he'll flip over the tapestry and you'll see that there was not one spurious molecule that was not one wasted second, not one wasted event. He had a purpose for it all.

One day God's gonna put Jesus on the throne and you can know as surely as Jesus raised from the dead that he is working out all of his purposes for good in your life. You say, JD, listen, I just wanna see it. I wanna understand. If I could just understand it for just a minute, then I feel like I could go through it. I understand that. That's definitely how I feel. But I can assure you, 10 seconds into eternity, it's not gonna matter.

It's not gonna matter. Here's Paul, I love this verse, 2 Corinthians 4.17. For this light and momentary affliction.

All right, hold on. Light and momentary affliction. Was Paul's affliction light and momentary?

Do you know anything about the apostle Paul? He's not talking about slow internet speed here. He's not talking about having Tom Warner Cable as his cable service.

That's not what he means there. Paul was varsity when it came to suffering. He'd been betrayed by his friends, forsaken by his nation. He'd been beaten three times with rods. He'd been stoned five times.

Not like the drinking kind, like with the rocks kind. I mean, he'd been through more suffering than most of us would have experienced in 10 lifetimes. Maybe some of you have experienced suffering at his level, but most of us haven't. It's not light and momentary, comparatively. But I know that God is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory. It's light compared to the weight of glory. It's not light compared to what it feels like.

It's light compared to what God is doing through it. And I know that in that moment he said, I'm gonna look back and I'm gonna hardly remember the suffering because of the glory that is revealed through it. Let me think about this scene in Genesis 50. It's Joseph sitting there, rehearsing with disgust, all the bitterness of the pain. Oh man, in that prison, you know what it was really like? Do you know what it was like to be in that pit? No, he didn't even talk about it.

He didn't even mention it because he's not even thinking about it. It's all washed away in joy. In eternity, you and I aren't gonna remember either. When we've been there, this is why the writer says, the hymn writer, when we've been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun. We've no less days to complain our case than when we first begun, is that right?

No, we're not gonna complain our case. We've no less days to sing God's glorious praise through many dangers, toils, and snares I had already come. It's grace that brought me safe thus far and grace that led me home. The Lord promised good to me. His word my hope secured. He was my shield and portion and always would be, and I can't remember the last phrase, but you know what a hymn is.

What is it? He willed my field as long as life endures. I knew it, I knew that he was there every step of the way. Joseph life shows you there's not one wasted event, not one wasted second, not one spurious molecule in all the universe.

He is in charge when you're in the pit and the prison as he is when he puts you in the palace, right? And in fact, what you find, listen, this is really important, is that the pit and the prison are the means to the palace. You see what Joseph's life shows you, and this is hard to hear and it's hard to teach.

It's very sobering. The path to God's blessing and salvation in the world involves suffering. God did not save the nation of Israel despite Joseph's suffering. He saved them through Joseph's suffering because of it. The apostle Paul would say, I therefore fill up in my body what is lacking in the wounds of Christ.

Everything about that verse, it almost sounds a little blasphemous, doesn't it? Like what could possibly be lacking in the wounds of Christ? Didn't Jesus say it is finished?

He did. What's lacking in the wounds of Christ is this. It wouldn't matter if Jesus died for everybody if nobody ever heard about it. So what Paul meant is, the way that they're going to hear about it, the way that they are going to obtain the blessing is through my wounds. When Jesus uses somebody, he doesn't call them to a platform, he calls them to an altar. It is through our suffering that God brings salvation to the world.

We have this idea that the abundant life is about slowly moving toward comfort and ease and luxury away from suffering and stress and worry. That's the blessed life. Oh, occasionally you'll have a sacrifice sprinkled in here and there that you're asked to bear. That's not true.

I don't care who says it, how slick their smile is, expensive their suit or if they have their own plane. Jesus said, if you're going to come after me, you have to take up your cross and follow me. It was not despite my wounds I saved the world, it was through my wounds. What does it mean for you to carry the cross? It means that the wounds Jesus received, you're going to receive also. And just like salvation came to us through his wounds, salvation is going to come to others through ours.

Now I'm not meaning that you're like some kind of, you know, just where you love, I can't wait to suffer. I don't want to suffer, but it means I'm not surprised when it comes and I don't think God has forsaken me because God didn't forsake Jesus and God brought salvation through Jesus. He didn't forsake Joseph and he's not forsaking me. How would your life change if you really believe that in everything God was with you, that he'd been with you? For Joseph, it meant that wherever he was, wherever he was, he would just serve God. He said, yeah, a lot of people were wrong to me and that's why I'm here. I may have been really unfortunate in a lot of ways, but I'm not going to be better.

I'm not even going to despair. Wherever he was, he applied himself and he said, what's it look like to serve God in this moment, in this place where I am? Here's what's more.

Here's what's more. He learned from that perspective to give grace. You see where he says that last little phrase, do not fear, I'll provide for you and your little ones. It's because he knew that God had a good plan. Listen, a plan that involves salvation, not only for Joseph's brothers, but for Joseph. It was because of that, because he knew the good thing that God was doing in history, that he was able to extend grace to the people in his life. Joseph's ability to forgive here is amazing, isn't it?

Absolutely amazing. It's not a feeling that he had that came from him being some kind of superhuman that made him different than us. He was just like you and me. It was a choice, listen, that was grounded in the knowledge that A, God had been in control of everything in his life and B, that God is showing great grace toward him and his family too. I mean, you guys have heard of the golden rule, right? Golden rule is do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Jesus upgraded that at the end of his life to the platinum rule. Do unto others as I have done unto you. I want you to start treating other people with the grace that I've shown to you. Some of you have people in your life that you cannot forgive.

And I want to explain to you why. The reason you can't forgive them is because you feel like they damaged you. You feel like they took something away from you that you can't have back, years of your life, things about yourself, and you hate them for it now. But what if you believed without taking away from the evil that they did at all, that behind all those bad things that was a good God who was taking care of you and working all things for good. You were reading the Bible together and recently I read Psalm 91. I think it was in our Bible reading plan, or I don't know, maybe it was bonus or whatever, but Psalm 91, it's always been one of my favorite Psalms. But for this week, as I was reading it, probably because I was thinking about Joseph, I just read it entirely differently.

Listen to this. He who whoever dwells in the shelter of the most high will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. That sounds good, doesn't it?

Yeah. Surely he will save you. He'll deliver you out of the deadly pestilence. He'll cover you with his feathers. Under his wings you'll find refuge. You won't fear the terror of night or the arrow that flies by day, the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side. 10,000 might fall at your right hand by those arrows and that pestilence, but it'll never even touch you. If you say the Lord is my refuge, no harm will ever overtake you. He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. They will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike so much as strike your foot against the stone. Here's the thing. I strike my foot against stones all the time.

I can help you the other night at 3 a.m. I'm working my way through the living room and I find one of those little corners that seems to be just designed for your barefoot. And you just kick it and I'm like, where is my guardian angel?

Where is he? Where was my Nicolas Cage that was watching over me making sure that nothing happened? Maybe the arrows of somebody's criticism have penetrated you deeply. Maybe it's been much worse in criticism. Maybe physically they have harmed you. Maybe you've gone through the storm of a bad relationship or the pestilence of bad health or bad finances. You don't feel like you've been shielded from those things. You ever feel that way? Is this Psalm not true? Is it just sentimental poetry that we quote to ourselves and pretend like nothing's happening? Was it not true for Joseph?

Would Joseph have read this and been like, yep, that's my experience. Arrow didn't touch me. I didn't go through the pestilence.

There was no danger at all in anything that I did. The only way it could be true is if God was somehow in all those bad things, using them and transforming them for good. Ultimately, the arrow that flew in midday was not doing damage. God did shield me, but the way he shielded me was not by making the arrow go away. He transformed that arrow of hate as it was flying through the air. He transformed it into a surgical instrument of good in my life, just like he did with Joseph. I may have gone through the storm.

I may have gone through the storm, but God transformed the storm into rivers of blessing in my life. Here's how the Psalm ends. David says this, I'll be with him in trouble. God says, I'll be with him in trouble. I'll deliver him and honor him.

With long life, I will satisfy him and I will show him my salvation. I know that even in trouble, God is with me, overriding the pain for good and using it as a part of his salvation plan. Several years ago, I read a book called The Bishop of Rwanda. It's written by a pastor named John Rusihana, who went through the genocides that took place in Rwanda several years ago. He was a Tutsi and said, multiple of my brother and my family were killed in this thing. He said, it's one thing to survive a genocide.

It's another thing to try to live in a country that is dealing from the wounds of genocide, people killing other people and people who are now having to live side by side with people who destroyed their family. He said, and I learned probably more about forgiveness in those post genocide years than I could ever expect to learn in a lifetime. He said, there were two lies from the pit, two lies from hell, he said about forgiveness that most of us believe that absolutely paralyzes. Listen to these, he said, lie number one is that you're supposed to wait till the person shows they've repented before you forgive them. He says, ultimately your forgiveness is not a response to them, it's a response to Jesus.

It's about what you believe about Jesus, not about them. You want to look through them and for Christ's sake, you're saying, I forgive them for your sake, not for theirs. He said, the second lie is that forgiveness is a feeling, that you can't really do it until you feel it.

He says, it's not a feeling. He says, forgiveness is a choice that you make based on what you believe about God. You look through the wicked act that they did and behind it, you see a savior with bleeding hands and you say that I can't trust them, but I can trust him. And I trust that behind all this was a good God who never left me or forsake me.

He said, that's not a feeling, that's an act of faith and feelings God will give. I return one more time to Corrie Ten Boom, listen to this. Corrie Ten Boom, the one I told the story about earlier, said that in the concentration camp, there was one guard that was worse than all the others. She said, I'll never forget his face, the look of delight on his face that he would see us suffer. She says, I know I would never forget that face because 30 years after I was released, I was speaking in a church in Germany and after the service, an old man came up to me because I took one look at him 30 years later and I knew exactly who it was, it was that guard. He said, he reached out his hand to me and he said, about 20 years ago, he said, I became a Christian and he dropped his head. He said, I'm so, so sorry. Can you ever forgive me for what I put you through?

That ultimately led to the death of your sister. I'll read to you her words. She said, I knew I had to take the man's hand. As an act of obedience, I knew it. She said, but I didn't want to. How could I?

This is the man who was a part of the death of my sister. She said, but in my heart, I said, I know I can lift my hand. I know I can do that that much. Jesus, you gotta take it from there. She said, as I reached out my hand, the most incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, it raced down my arm and it sprang into our joined hands and then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes and his. I forgive you brother, I cried with all of my heart.

For a long moment, we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely as I did right then. Forgiveness released from bitterness is not reconciling with your past by saying it's not that bad. Forgiveness released from bitterness comes from a choice that you make based on what you know to be true about God. The behind every evil thing is a good God who said, I will never leave you, I will never forsake you and as sure as I've resurrected from the dead on this throne, I'm working for good in your life.

Why don't you bow your heads at all of our campuses, you bow your heads with me. How would your outlook on life change if right now you knew that God was with you? That through what you've been through, dangers, toils and snares, it was grace that led you.

Would it change your attitude towards your current assignment? Who would you forgive, who would you forgive right now? If you believe that even behind their evil, there was a God who said, I can use that for good. How would you think about the broken places in your life, the disappointments, if you knew that there was a God who was putting the greatest treasure into you through those wounds? How about this, could you kiss the wounds that up until now have made you weep, knowing that they ultimately came from the Savior who died for you, the Savior who sits on the throne and promises that just like he was raised from the dead, he will work all things for good in your life. I'm gonna leave you for just a minute to just soak in the Holy Spirit. Would you let him minister to you and then our worship teams will come at all of our campuses?
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-05 06:04:51 / 2023-09-05 06:26:30 / 22

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