Summary: This sermon is built around the story of Joseph. It shows how God can make us fruitful and enhance our skills in the midst of different challenges.
BECOMING FRUITFUL THROUGH AFFLICTION
SCRIPTURE - The name of the second (son) he called Ephraim: “For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction” (Genesis 41:52) NKJV.
INTRODUCTION - In this sermon we will look at the life of Joseph. It’s an amazing story, the kind of story that dreams are built on. After many unexpected twists and turns, and thirteen years of toil and affliction, God blessed Joseph in an unimaginable way! As a result, he became the second most powerful man in Egypt (Genesis 41:41-44), and thereafter, God blessed Joseph with two sons (Genesis 41:50). He named his second son Ephraim, which had the meaning of being ‘fruitful through affliction’ (Genesis 41:52). The word 'affliction" is translated 'suffering' in the NIV.
Let’s look at three ‘afflictions’ Joseph went through in the period between the ages of 17 – 30, and how God made him fruitful at every stage, culminating in him becoming Pharaoh’s top Executive and Egypt’s highest civil servant. The story begins at Genesis 37:2 when Joseph was just 17 years old.
PROPOSITION – God can make you fruitful through every affliction you face
What affliction are you going through right now? How are you reacting to it? Can you believe for the God of Joseph to come through for you?
3 of the afflictions through which Joseph became fruitful are:
1) He Became Fruitful Through Rejection
Genesis chapter 37 covers this part of this story, as Joseph’s brothers take revenge on him because of their envy (Genesis 37:4-5) and reject him through betrayal (Genesis 37:12-31). It all began because of the favored status Jacob placed on Joseph (Genesis 37: 3, 4), over all the other sons. This favor included making Joseph a very special ‘coat of many colors’ and using him to spy on his brothers (37:2).
Joseph’s status now was that of being the ‘favorite son’.
To make matters worse, Joseph foolishly began to boast about his futuristic dreams, where one day he would rule over his entire family (Genesis 37:5-7,9). The envy and hatred that was simmering in the hearts of his brothers had now reached boiling point with trouble about to burst! (Genesis 37: 8, 11)
As we read further in Genesis 37, the brothers got their opportunity for revenge and initially planned to kill Joseph (Genesis 37:18-20). But, thanks to the intervention of Reuben (37:21-22) and Judah (37:26-27), they put him in a cistern and decided to sell him off as a slave. Verse 25 says that they actually started to have a meal while he was in the cistern!! Eventually they sold him off to a band of Midianite merchants who in turn sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard (37:36).
Because of his brothers’ rejection and betrayal, Joseph had lost all his rights, and was now a slave. One can only imagine the pain and loneliness this young man went through. It is certain that he would have been treated harshly, maybe viciously,by the slave-traders. God however was with Joseph and gave him favor with Potiphar (39:4), who began to see the unique faith, wisdom and skills this young Hebrew slave possessed (39:2-3).
Joseph’s status had changed from being ‘favorite son’ to being ‘favorite slave’.
As a result, Potiphar now put Joseph in charge of his entire household and of everything he owned (39:4). God in turn blessed Potiphar’s household in abundance, because of Joseph (39:5-6). Similarly, even in our afflictions, God can still make us a blessing to others!
Joseph’ status had now changed even further. He had moved from being ‘favorite son’ to ‘favorite slave’ and was now Potiphar’s ‘favorite Executive’ (CEO of Potiphar Enterprises?).
God had made him ‘fruitful through rejection’!
Friend, rejection is always painful, specially when the blow comes from someone we have loved or someone we have helped. Maybe you are going through rejection right now in your marriage, in a relationship, in your workplace and the pain has become unbearable. I once remember a lady telling me, after a painful divorce, ‘I have no more tears to cry’. But, no matter how bad the rejection, God can still make you fruitful like he did for Joseph. The lady mentioned above too had a very fruitful life thereafter, by serving God wholeheartedly. Let’s also not forget that the skills Joseph developed in Potiphar’s house were more or less what he needed later, to rescue Egypt and the surrounding nations. Similarly, God can teach us valuable lessons and enhance our skills in the midst of rejection and other afflictions.
ILLUSTRATION – In 1 Samuel 23, there is a story of how David rescued the city of Keilah from the Philistines. King Saul subsequently found out that David was in Keilah and decided to surround the city and capture him. When David heard about this, he inquired of the Lord as to whether the people of Keilah, the very ones that he had saved, would hand him over to Saul. To his dismay, the Lord revealed that they would surely betray him. Talk about rejection and ingratitude!!! The Lord however saved David, taught him to rise above ingratitude, and made him fruitful as we know so well.