Sermons

Summary: If we want to overcome our fears, then we must always remember: God is faithful and we are forgiven.

In an issue of the AARP Bulletin, readers were asked to respond to the question: What’s your strategy for coping with stress? The answers ranged from “eat a chocolate chip cookie” to “have a stiff drink.” But Don Betz of Oakdale, Minnesota, offered his own unique solution. Every January 1st, Betz says, “I give my wife $1, and she worries about everything for both of us.”

But that is not the whole plan. Betz added, “If someone else wants to be worry free, they can also send her a dollar.” (“Sound Off,” AARP Bulletin, March 2005; www.PreachingToday.com)

I suppose there are a lot of strategies for handling stress, but few of them work very well, not the least of which is letting your wife do all of the worrying. So then what is a good strategy for handling stress? What is the best way to overcome worry? What is a good antidote for anxiety?

Well, I think we can learn some lessons from Joseph’s brothers in the Old Testament. They’re in a high state of panic after they returned from Egypt. They were like a bunch of country boys going to the big city, which was intimidating enough. But then they had to beg to buy grain from a powerful Egyptian ruler, who accused them of being spies. He took one of them as prisoner and demanded that they bring back their youngest brother to prove the veracity of their story. There is a severe drought in the in the land and now they have to go back to Egypt to buy more food.

If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Genesis 43, Genesis 43, where we pick up the story and learn some important principles about coping with stress.

Genesis 43:1-7 Now the famine was still severe in the land. So when they had eaten all the grain they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go back and buy us a little more food.” But Judah said to him, “The man warned us solemnly, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’ If you will send our brother along with us, we will go down and buy food for you. But if you will not send him, we will not go down, because the man said to us, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’ ” Israel asked, “Why did you bring this trouble on me by telling the man you had another brother?” They replied, “The man questioned us closely about ourselves and our family. ‘Is your father still living?’ he asked us. ‘Do you have another brother?’ We simply answered his questions. How were we to know he would say, ‘Bring your brother down here’?” (NIV)

Do you sense the anxiety in their words? Israel and his sons are afraid. They’re afraid of starving to death. They’re afraid of losing their little brother, and they’re afraid of appearing again before this powerful Egyptian ruler who took one of them prisoner last time they were there.

Genesis 43:8-10 Then Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life. As it is, if we had not delayed, we could have gone and returned twice.” (NIV)

In essence, Judah offers his own life for his brother’s life. That’s what he means when he says to his father, “You can hold me personally responsible” and “I will bear the blame” if he dies. He’s desperate. He knows they’ll all die anyway if they don’t get any more food.

Genesis 43:11 Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds. (NIV)

These were delicacies probably not found in the land of Egypt. You see, Israel is eager to appease the anger of the mighty Egyptian ruler, hoping against hope that he won’t take his youngest son, as well.

Genesis 43:12-14 Take double the amount of silver with you, for you must return the silver that was put back into the mouths of your sacks. Perhaps it was a mistake. Take your brother also and go back to the man at once. And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.” (NIV)

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