Summary: This message looks at how God sometimes uses suffering and always takes longer than we want to accomplish his goals for us!
In Hebrews 11 we have this great list of people who lived by faith. They were just normal people, but because they trusted God with everything they had they became extraordinary! It wasn’t that they were special...it was that their faith was special. What I love about looking at their stories is that they do more than just inspire - they remind me that if I am willing to trust God with everything I have that I can be like them...
This morning I want us to look at verse 22 and a man named Joseph. (Read Hebrews 11:22)
Joseph’s story is the last story told in Genesis. It’s a pretty amazing story. Its sort of a rags to riches story too... Joseph was born the youngest son of twelve - and perhaps, he was a little unexpected - but because he was youngest, his father loved him best. From an early age he was special - he had this ability to interpret dreams - but his brothers didn’t take kindly to his “special” talents. Instead, they sold him into slavery...which was better I guess than killing him - but not much! Imagine going from there to second in command of all that Pharaoh (the king of Egypt) had... In one snapshot you see him bound at the wrist, walking behind a caravan - and another snapshot you see him all dressed up in flowing robes, and makeup, and everyone in Egypt and the world is coming to him to buy grain.
But in the passage we read in Hebrews, we are reminded that even though Joseph had everything, he knew there was more - he knew God would do something more - so much so that at his death he commanded his heirs to take his bones with them when they left Egypt... I can almost hear his kids now - “But why would we ever leave?”
What was it that gave Joseph such resolve?
Suffering, Injustice, and Disappointment
If you read through Joseph’s life, it reads like a horror story... His brothers try to kill him, throw him into a pit while deciding - then they sell him and tell his father he’s dead. He’s sold to Potipher - the captain of Pharaohs guard and things look to be going well, but then Potiphers wife gets the hots for him and unjustly accuses him and off to prison he goes. In prison, he meets some guys that can get him out - but they forget all about him for 2 years!
But I bet that if we were to ask Joseph, he would tell us that those were the lessons that defined him...
We see suffering, or injustice, or disappointment in a different light. Rarely do we ever trust that God could be doing something in our lives - something bigger...
In the book of James it says Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
The Hebrew understanding of perfection is to become what God intended you to become. Without trials, without pain, without those disappointments, you will never be what God intends for you to become!
Listen to the way the message puts it: Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
Learning to wait ...on the Lord
There’s a saying that “Time heals all wounds” I don’t think that’s true though... For most of us, time just hardens our hurts and makes them deeper.
Joseph spent a lot of time waiting for God to move... I love the story of his time in prison. He meets these two guys, the wine taster and the baker. They both know Pharaoh, and surely God sent them to be his way out... Each has a dream, and he interprets their dreams. How could they forget him - but they do! Can you imagine your hopes all pinned on one guy who you’ve done an amazing favor - and then nothing... For two years - there is nothing...
I don’t know about you, but I don’t wait well. I am very impatient. I’m a microwave, and I think God’s more like a slow cooker... I want it done fast. I want the answer now. That’s not the way God works though...
In Psalms 37:6-8 it says