Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: When you face an uncertain future, be certain that God is in control and that He cares for you; be certain that He will not forget the dream He has for you, nor will He forget you.

There is a little church in Galena, Kansas, where it is customary for people celebrating birthdays to come to the front of the sanctuary. There, they give a special offering while the congregation sings “Happy Birthday.”

On the other hand, if you’re a little shy, you can give your offering to an usher who takes it forward as an anonymous offering. One Sunday, an usher came forward and proclaimed, “I have here an ominous birthday offering.”

A grey-haired man spoke up, “Aren't they all?” (Anita Heistand, Galena, Kansas, “Lite Fare,” Christian Reader; www.PreachingToday.com)

Sometimes the future seems ominous. That was certainly true ten years ago today when two planes flew into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and one crash landed in Pennsylvania on its way to the White House or the Capital building in Washington D.C.

Today, besides the uncertainty of another potential terrorist attack, people face other kinds of uncertainty. It may be financial uncertainty or just the uncertainty of growing older.

Daniel Gilbert (a psychologist at Harvard), citing a recent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, said “that Americans are smiling less and worrying more than they were a year ago, that happiness is down and sadness is up, that we are getting less sleep and smoking more cigarettes, that depression is on the rise.”

The real problem is not financial, he said. It’s not that people don’t have enough money. It’s that people don’t know what’s going to happen. Will I have a job next week? What's ahead in the future for me?

The future seems ominous, or at the very least uncertain, and that uncertainty puts people on edge. Professor Gilbert referred to a Dutch experiment where researchers told one group of people that they would receive 20 strong shocks. The researchers then told a second group that they would receive only three strong shocks along with 17 mild ones, but they wouldn't know when the strong shocks would come. The results? Subjects in the second group sweated more and experienced faster heart rates. It was the uncertainty that caused their discomfort, not the intensity of the shocks.

Another study showed that colostomy patients who knew that their colostomies would be permanent were happier six months after their procedures than those who were told there might be a chance of reversing their colostomies. Once again, uncertainty caused the unhappiness.

Daniel Gilbert concluded, “An uncertain future leaves us stranded in an unhappy present with nothing to do but wait… Our national gloom is real enough, but it isn't a matter of insufficient funds. It's a matter of insufficient certainty.” (Daniel Gilbert, “What You Don't Know Makes You Nervous,” The Week magazine, 6-5-09, p. 14; www.PreachingToday.com)

So what do we do in these uncertain times? What do we do when the future seems ominous, and we really don’t know what’s going to happen?

Well, there are some things we can learn from the life of Joseph in the book of Genesis. He had a bright future, when all of a sudden life took a turn for the worse and he was sold into slavery. Then he was falsely accused and thrown into prison. To say the least, he was living in uncertain times. His future seemed ominous, but his faith remained strong.

What did he do, and what can we do to remain strong in uncertain times?

Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Genesis 40, Genesis 40, where Joseph has been in prison for some time.

Genesis 40:1-3 Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. (NIV)

Now, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker were two very important officials in Pharaoh’s cabinet. The chief cupbearer usually became a trusted advisor and friend to the king, because the king trusted him with his life. You see, it was the chief cupbearer’s job to make sure there was no poison in the king’s food or drink, so he would taste it first before he gave it to the king, risking his own life for the king each time he sat down to eat. As a result, the king and his chief cupbearer became close friends. And the chief baker provided most of the king’s food, so he too was an important, trusted official.

Well, it just so happens that they end up in the same prison as Joseph. Do you think so? Do you think it “just happened”? No! GOD put them there, because GOD had a plan for Joseph that involved Pharaoh. Now watch as God works His plan.

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