Tag Archives: Covenant

Life in the Pit

****Spoiler alert****

Joseph organizes a nation and saves the world from famine through a clever food program.

****Spoiler alert over*****

Joseph saves the world from famine and reunites with his brothers.

How many of you would want to join Joseph in that operation?  I know it sounds very worthwhile. If you only knew the ending you might just sign up for the assignment.

Save the world?  Sign me up.  I am totally in . . . the pit that is.

But if you knew how Joseph got to that place would you sign up to join him?  He was hated by his brothers, thrown into a pit, sold into slavery after they decided not to kill him, taken to a foreign land to serve as a slave, falsely accused of rape, thrown into prison, and betrayed and left there 2 years longer than necessary.

Count me out.  No wait, I am supposed to say, “Whatever your will, Lord.”  Honestly, it doesn’t sound fun.  Thankfully, I have not been called to this (“Lord, please don’t call me to this.”).  But there are a few things (or it could read – But there are at least 3 things…) we can learn from Joseph’s story that will help us whatever God has called us to do.

  1. God’s purposes are accomplished through difficulty

To say Joseph had it hard is an understatement.  Any one of the things that happened to him would be enough by itself.  Take them all together and whoa…that is a lot.

God had a purpose in all of it.  Genesis makes clear that God had a purpose for Joseph.  Genesis 45:4-8 says God sent Joseph into Egypt.  Genesis 50:20 says that God meant for all of this to happen to Joseph.  Why?  Because he wanted to save many people.  He means to bring blessing to the nations as He promised Abraham.

That God intends to save through turmoil is a picture of Genesis 3:15.  This verse states that one would come to rescue mankind from the work of the serpent at great cost to himself.   Now we can see the parallels to Christ.  He came and was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23).  God had a plan to save many through the suffering of Christ.  The blessing of the nations promised to Abraham has come to fulfillment.  However, the salvation won by Christ does not come without the suffering.

God can use an unwanted foreign slave to bring about His purposes.

Wonderful.  Jesus suffered so I don’t have to.  Right?  Well yes and no.  Certainly the ultimate suffering we avoid because of Christ.  But today, before He returns, we still experience suffering.  Does God have a plan?  Most certainly.

Romans 8:28 tells us “that for those who love God all things work together for good.”  God is in the business of taking everything that happens to us, including our own suffering, and working it for good.  We must define this good because many, especially in Africa, twist what this good means.  They teach that God is out to make us healthy and wealthy this very day.

The good God has for us is defined by the next verse.  It is that we might be “conformed to the image of his Son.”  God wants to make us more like Christ every day and works all things to that end.  He wants to build our character (1 Peter 2:21), our hope (2 Thessalonians 2:16), our joy (Hebrews 12:2), our peace (John 14:27), and our love (John 13:34), among many other things.

We should pray that our suffering ends.  But that is not our only prayer.  We should pray for God to work his purposes in our lives through any suffering we endure.

Going through great difficulty to accomplish saving the world shows us that. . .

  1. God is sovereign in salvation

If you want to win a championship, you pick the best players.  Much money is spent analyzing NFL prospects for the draft so they can pick the best players.  The school playground is example enough to know the best players are picked first.

God doesn’t operate by normal playground rules.

You don’t pick the worst players to win championships.  That is why I am not in the NFL.  Who would pick an unwanted brother serving as a slave in a foreign land?  Not me.  But God picks such an unlikely person to bring about His salvation.

But why does God pick the unlikely Joseph?  It is to show He is sovereign in salvation.  God is in control and will bring it about.  It depends not on any person (Romans 9:16).  It does not depend on good works.  It is 100% from God.

God chose to use Joseph to show His power.  He wants to show that He alone can bring about salvation.  The salvation of many people through the food program of Joseph points us to how Christ brought salvation.  People thought Jesus wasn’t the man for the job (John 1:46).  People thought dying wasn’t the way forward (Mark 8:31-33).  But God brought salvation and demonstrated His power through the resurrection (Romans 1:4-5).

This brings us great hope because our salvation does not depend on us.  It depends on God.  We are to believe in Christ.  We are not to earn salvation in any way.  We simply trust in God who brought about salvation.

What God wants from us is. . .

  1. We should be faithful even in hard circumstances

The one thing Joseph did was to be faithful.  He had the opportunity to have an affair.  Potiphar’s wife pursued him to do just this.  Yet he refused.  He fled when she tried to force the issue.

The next part blows my mind.  Joseph is rewarded for his faithfulness by being thrown in prison.  Then he uses his God-given gift to interpret dreams.  His reward?  To be left in prison for two more years.

Yet the whole time he was faithful.  He was faithful to Potiphar’s dealings.  He brought great increase to Potiphar.  He was faithful to the prison guard as he was given responsibilities in the prison.

We know that God was faithful to Joseph.  He was keeping the covenant He made with Joseph’s great-grandfather, grandfather, and father.  God promised to be with Abraham (Genesis 21:22), Isaac (Genesis 26:3), and Jacob (Genesis 28:15).  Genesis 39:2 makes this plain by saying God was with Joseph.

Can God be with Joseph (or us) in hard circumstances?  Is God there?  He is and He is accomplishing His purposes. We tend to think God is absent in the hard circumstances.  But He is there keeping His promises.  Hard circumstances are not a sign that God is not with us.

Being in the pit, like Joseph, is not a sign that God doesn’t care for you.  It is a sign that God has something better for you.  As seen above, that something is Christ-likeness.

Christ has promised to be with us.  The Great Commission ends with a great promise.  That promise is that Jesus will be with us always, even to the end of the age.  Ah, what comfort to us and the apostles who first heard it.  They certainly would face many hard circumstances.  Their part was to remain faithful to Christ, which they did.

There are many times life seems hard, unfair, or difficult.  Our job is to believe God and remain faithful.  We may be tempted to think it doesn’t matter, that this situation is too hard.  But our faithfulness does matter.  Our faithfulness is better than much gold (Psalm 119:72).

There are no little circumstances, only little faithfulness.  We must realize, that we are responsible for responding to God with faithfulness, even in hard circumstances.  We know it is worth remaining faithful for we have a heavenly reward (Romans 8:18).

Conclusion

A pastor I know likes to say that you are either going into a hard circumstance, in one, or coming out of one.  Life is hard.  But God is good and has good things for us, our growth in Christ.  He often uses hard circumstances to bring them about.  He is sovereign and faithful through it all asking us to trust Him.  Let us respond with faithfulness even though it may seem hard.

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Am I Forgiven?

Am I Forgiven - HymnalsI arrived late. I opened the door to the chapel at Covenant Seminary and discovered the place was packed. The worship service was already underway. I took my place standing in the back with several others. Just as soon as I had found my place, the worship leader said it was time for silent confession. I dutifully bowed my head and tried to think of sins I needed to confess. No glaring or heinous sin came to mind so I confessed other sins I could remember. Guilt came over me like no other. It felt dirtier than if I had played with pigs in their slop. I was glad when the leader stopped the time of confession. What came next I had never seen in a worship service before. Quoting from Romans 8:1, he said, “Now hear the assurance of your pardon: ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’” A wave of relief and freedom rolled over me. The dirtiness I had felt was washed away with the wonderful news of God’s proclamation over me.

This is what a worship service is supposed to do. It is to bring you into a real and fresh encounter with the living God. Ever since this service I have come to love liturgy and especially the assurance of pardon. However, I rarely find the assurance of pardon in a worship service that includes a time of confession. When it is absent, I quote to myself some passage that assures me of his pardon.

There is a general gospel flow that has been in the liturgy of churches from the early church until now. The worship begins with high praise of our holy God. Being in the presence of His holiness we find ourselves insufficient and sinful. Therefore, we confess our sins. But this is not the last word as God speaks in the service and assures us of our pardon we have in Christ. The service then moves into the wonderful redemption we have in Christ and concludes with our going out into the world in the power of Christ. These elements can be in form of songs, passages of scripture, the sermon, or pronouncements from the pastor and/or worship leader.

Not all worship services highlight these aspects. Not all do have or should have a confession of sin. However, when there is a confession of sin there should follow an assurance of pardon. I might add a personal preference that it be a clear assurance of pardon. Commonly the assurance comes in the form of a congregational song. Am I Forgiven - I am forgivenBut these often come with no introduction or hint that they are serving as the assurance of pardon.

So my plea to those who plan worship services it to include a clear assurance of pardon. It is a rich and wonderful thing God uses to speak to His people the certainty of their forgiveness in Christ. It never gets old hearing God tell me that my sins are washed away and that I am forgiven.

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