Genesis Series # 6 CHCC: March 4, 2007
Pit Stops in Life
I’m glad we’re doing a series on the book of Genesis. It’s an incredible book. Genesis is God introducing Himself. It’s not just a book of philosophy or theology … it’s a book of true stories about real people. God introduces Himself by introducing the first people who got to know Him.
We’ve already talked about several of them: Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Hagar, Jacob and Esau (remember – you don’t want to be like Esau!) Their stories are not there just to entertain us. They were recorded so we can learn who God is and what it’s like to know Him.
For the next 4 weeks we’re going to learn about the life of a man named Joseph. Almost a 4th of the book of Genesis is about Joseph. Genesis chapter 35 tells about his birth --- and Genesis chapter 50 (the last chapter of Genesis) ends with his death.
Joseph was the favorite son in a large family of 12 brothers. At the beginning of Genesis chapter 37, it looks like Joseph is “on top of the world.” But by the end of Genesis 37, he’s is in a deep Pit.
Joseph’s jealous older brothers literally threw him in a Pit. We can think of this as the first “PIT STOP” in Joseph’s life. Like Joseph, most of us have been through a “Pit Stop” or two in our lives. When this happens, we can’t help but wonder, why would God let this happen to me? Why does God allow trouble in our lives? Why do innocent people suffer? Why are we hit by sickness or accidents when we least expect it? Why do we so easily fall into sin traps that threaten to ruin our lives?
To tell you the truth, it’s kind of a “downer” to think about the “Pit Stops” of life. So I thought we’d start out with a little humor. Thinking about “Pit Stops” reminded of me of a movie I saw recently (It’s a favorite of my grandson, David, by the way.) The movie is called CARS. (Introduce film clip)
Video Clip from CARS (3 minutes)
I’m sure Joseph would have avoided his first PIT STOP if he could. But the truth is, Joseph needed a PIT STOP. You see, one of the first things we learn about Joseph is that he was a DREAMER. He was a dreamer who needed to WAKE UP … and the PIT STOP was his Wake-Up Call.
1. Wake Up
Joseph was a confident but naïve 17 year old. He was the 11th of 12 brothers --- but he was the FIRST BORN of Jacob’s beloved wife, Rachel. Now, we all know how common sibling rivalry is. Older siblings often find their younger brothers and sisters to be somewhat annoying. It’s common for older brothers or sisters to look at a younger sibling and think, “Boy, mom and dad are spoiling that kid. They were so tough on me, but they let little “Jr.” get away with everything!”
You can take that natural rivalry and multiply it a thousand times to understand Joseph’s situation. The first thing we read about Joseph in verse 2 is that Joseph returned from the fields where his brothers were herding sheep. As soon as he got home, he gave his father a bad report on his brothers. In other words, Joseph told on his brothers. At least, that’s how his brothers saw it.
So just imagine how they felt when this annoying little tattletale came up to them and announced: “Hey guys! Guess what I dreamed last night? We were all binding up sheaves of wheat when all of a sudden MY sheaf stood upright. And then --- get this! --- all YOUR sheaves of wheat gathered around and bowed down to mine. Cool, huh?”
Then a few days later the little spoiled brat says, “Guess what? I had another dream where the sun, moon and 11 stars were bowing down to me!” Genesis 37:7, 9
Now, if you’ve read the story, you know those dreams were prophetic. The dreams came from God, and they showed what God planned to do in Joseph’s life. But the fact that Joseph thought his brothers would be excited about these dreams is our first clue that Joseph was clueless.
It’s kind of like Joseph was sleep waking through life. Joseph was such a dreamer that he didn’t even notice the real world around him. He had no clue that the hostility and jealously of his half-brothers was growing into outright, murderous hatred.
The next time Jacob sent Joseph out to check up on his brothers, they saw him approaching in the distance and they said, "Here comes that dreamer! … Let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams." Genesis 37:19-20
I want to take a minute here to talk about these brothers. The study you’re doing in the Pueblo groups will focus on the jealousy of these brothers and what it did to them. Their bitterness and resentment toward their younger brother turned them from decent men into murderers. That’s the danger of harboring bitterness in your heart.
Now, it’s not like the brothers had no REASON to resent Joseph. And that’s how it is with most of us. If you are holding a grudge against someone, you probably have good reason. But that resentment and bitterness will ruin you if you don’t let it go.
The brothers who should have mentored and helped Joseph grow up right are the very ones who threw him into a Pit. When Joseph landed at the bottom of that Pit, his days of dreaming ended abruptly. But God knew Joseph needed a Pit Stop if his dreams were ever going to become reality.
It makes me think of a young couple who had life going along just like they’d Dreamed. They were happily married with 2 good jobs and 2 healthy little children. Then --- unexpectedly of course --- they had a major Pit Stop. The mom had a serious car wreck. She ended up with a severely broken leg that caused her to have her leg in a kind of a therapy-machine for months.
Suddenly everything changed. She lost her job, so money was tight. Her husband had to do most of the housework and take care of the kids because she couldn’t get around. And they had to rely on other people to help out when he was at work. But they looked back on that hard time as a BLESSING. Why? Because they WOKE UP from a kind of “auto-pilot” they’d been on.
They realized that they were headed the wrong way … focusing too much on their careers and not enough on their marriage and their children. Dad realized that he needed to spend more time with his kids and take more part in the home life. When the people in their Church helped them out, they both realized how important their Church Family was to them. The Pit Stop ended up sending them on down the right road, better prepared for what might come around the next bend.
Most people experience their first Pit Stop early in life. That’s because one of the most important reasons for a Pit Stop is just that people need some time to GROW UP.
2. Grow Up
This was certainly true for Joseph. He was only 17 when his dad gave him a coat of many colors as a way of honoring his favorite son. That’s the main thing most people know about Joseph --- he’s the one with that colorful coat. It’s ironic, but that famous coat of many colors was quite possibly the cause of his downfall.
Back in those days, most coats were knee-length, short sleeved, and plain --- in other words --- work clothes. Joseph’s “coat of many colors was richly ornamented and long-sleeved. It was not suitable for common work. Instead, it was the kind of garment worn by an overseer or manager.
It was the kind of garment suited to the “heir” of a Middle-Eastern clan --- it was appropriate apparel for a first-born son. And in that culture, the first-born inherited everything. He ruled the family. When the 10 older brothers saw Joseph wearing that coat, it was as if their father had called in his Lawyer and changed his Will.
Think about those brothers. Their annoyance grew to anger and then to absolute hatred of this younger half-brother. When they saw him alone --- far from home --- out in a wilderness area where no one would ever know --- they threw him down in a deep pit and then debated what to do next.
What they did next was sell Joseph to a passing caravan. Then the slave-traders sold him again when they reached Egypt. Joseph worked as a Slave for several years. Then --- as if things weren’t bad enough --- he went from being a slave to being thrown into and Egyptian prison. From the age of 17 until his early 30’s Joseph went from one Pit to another.
Life was rough for Joseph. But you can bet that after going through all those Pit Stops, Joseph was no longer the sheltered, spoiled, untried young kid he’d been 14 years earlier. It wasn’t that Joseph was a BAD kid --- but he WAS a kid.
And like most of us were young, he didn’t even know what he didn’t know. He was probably pretty impressed with himself. He probably thought he was ready to take on the world, but God knew he needed time and experience before his dreams could come true.
That’s what Pit Stops do for us. They can be a WAKE UP call, or they can just give us some time to GROW UP so we’ll be ready for what’s coming next in life.
But I think there’s a more important reason that we sometimes have go through tough experiences in life. For most of us, that’s the only way we can learn to LOOK UP to God as our only true Source of Strength.
3. Look UP
Reading about young Joseph in Genesis 37, you can’t help but notice that he seemed pretty sure of himself. You get the impression that Joseph could have turned out like some “child stars.” A lot of young people are ruined by fame and fortune that comes too easy and too early. Joseph had to learn that he was not anywhere near as invincible as he felt. And --- like most of us --- he had to learn it the hard way.
Now, keep in mind that God didn’t send disaster on Joseph to punish him. This is one of the most important points we need to get from Joseph’s life. When that time comes and you find yourself at the bottom of a deep Pit, don’t EVER think that God is angry with you and punishing you. God NEVER gives us trouble to “get back at us” for something we did. Scripture is very clear about that.
But God DOES use the hard times of life for our good. He is the original expert at making good out of bad. Every single one of us is going to have to take some unexpected --- and unpleasant Pit Stops in life. When that happens, we need to learn the lesson Joseph learned --- and LOOK UP.
When Joseph hit the bottom of that deep well shaft, he had nowhere to look but UP. It was probably the first time in his 17 years that he’d been in a situation he couldn’t get out of. He couldn’t climb out or jump out or even talk his way out. He’d reached the end of his own power. Joseph couldn’t escape from that Pit on his own. He couldn’t free himself from Slavery on his own. He couldn’t get out of that dark Egyptian Prison on his own. Joseph learned his limits … He learned that he had nowhere to look but UP.
That’s when Joseph learned that when God was all he had, God was all he needed. He learned that God Himself was enough. He learned that God … and God alone … could make his Dream come true.
I remember back when I was in my early 20’s I went to a Seminar where Bill Gothard said that God often works by this means: The birth of a vision; the death of a vision; the fulfillment of a vision. You see that principle at work in a lot of the Bible characters, like Joseph.
Since then, I’ve seen God work that way in my life and other people’s lives over and over --- in big ways and small ways. God works this way so that we will know the vision is from Him, not just from ourselves.
About 20 years back, I had a dream of going to India as a missionary. I’d visited there several times and felt a calling to work with the South India Church of Christ Mission. I was especially close to a young man named Ragu. But that vision died when Susan and I got our request for Visa’s back and they were stamped “Disallowed.” You see, while our visas were sitting at the Consulate, Indira Gandhi was shot. All Visas were disallowed. In fact, since that time, no western missionaries have been issued permanent Visas.
For me, that dream died. We moved to San Antonio … (and of course being here is like a dream in itself!) Then, when I wasn’t expecting it at all, God brought about the fulfillment of the original vision I’d had. I heard from Ragu that he was working with a retired Preacher from Australia named John Timms. I was amazed to realize this was a man I had met years ago when I made a trip to Australia as a college student.
As it turned out I’m able to be a forwarding agent for Ragu and others I had dreamed of serving with so many years back. That’s just the way God works. And when God brings a dream to fulfillment, it’s going to be better than anything we could have planned ourselves.
Have you learned that same lesson in your life? Have you given your hopes and dreams to God so that He can bring them about at the right time and in the right way? Are you trusting in yourself or have you put all your trust in your God?
Whether you’re going through good times or bad right now, remember that God wants to make your dreams come true. He loves you … and He knows what’s best for you. Maybe you need to take a self-imposed “pit stop” today. Take some time out of your busy life to let God show you that He is all you need.