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Summary: This sermon shows how Joseph handled suffering. 1. The PLAN Of God 2. The PROMISES Of God 3. The PRESENCE Of God

How To Handle Conflict

How should we respond when other people cause us trouble? A prime example of suffering from the troubles brought on by other people is Joseph of the Old Testament. Joseph’s life can be found in the book of Genesis – chapter 37-50. We are not going to read all those chapters this morning – but allow me to tell you his story.

As you recall – Joseph was the second-youngest of twelve brothers. There was a lot of sibling rivalry in the family and the older brothers began extremely jealous of Joseph. Perhaps they had every right to be because the Bible tells us:

“His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms.” Gen 37:4 (NASB)

When the problem came to a head the brothers threw Joseph into a pit and left him there to die. But some traveling merchants came by and the brothers said, “Let’s just sell him instead of killing him.” So Joseph’s older brothers sold him to these foreign merchants, who took him as a slave to Egypt.

Now Joseph is in a foreign country. He doesn’t know anybody – at first he can’t speak the language – and he’s a slave. He is bought by a man named Potiphar. But then his troubles don’t stop there. Potiphar’s wife decides to seduce him. He refuses and she falsely accuses him of rape. Some Joseph gets thrown into prison. He is lonely and hurting and has every right to be. Nothing was going good for him – nothing.

While Joseph was in prison he made friends with a couple fellow prisoners. Both of them worked for Pharaoh – one was his cup-bearer and the other was his baker. Each of them had a dream. Joseph was able to interpret the dreams for them. The baker would be killed the cupbearer would be restored to his position of working for Pharaoh. Joseph had asked the cupbearer to remember him but the Bible says:

“Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.”

Gen 40:23 (NASB)

So here is Joseph – forgotten – alone – in prison – in a foreign land.

But then Pharaoh had a dream and cupbearer remembered that Joseph could interpret dreams. Joseph was invited to the Pharaoh’s palace and he interpreted the dream. Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph that he made him second-in-command over all of Egypt. Joseph went from a foreign slave in prison to the second greatest leader in Egypt.

As I look at this story I can see several points where Joseph could have become bitter. I could see there he could become angry – with God – with the circumstances of life – with Potiphar’s wife – and of course with his brothers.

But do you know what happened? A few years later the brothers show up. They had traveled to Egypt because they had run out of food. They don’t recognize Joseph – perhaps because they thought he was dead and perhaps he looked an awful lot like an Egyptian. And do you know what Joseph’s attitude was when he saw them? Was it anger? Was it hatred? Did he want to kill them? No! The Bible tells us in Genesis chapter fifty and verse twenty. Joseph says to them:

"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones." So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”

Gen 50:20-21 (NASB)

In other words, “You meant this for bad, but God turned it around and used it for good in my life and in your lives and in the lives of many other people.”

Conflict can come from a lot of places – family – friends – false accusations – bad situations and bad circumstances – but how you handle them makes all the difference in the world.

LEARNING FROM JOSEPH

Why was Joseph able to hang in there? Because of three important truths that he recognized in his life. First, Joseph knew that:

1. God sees EVERYTHING and He CARES

That’s very evident in Joseph’s life that he never doubted that God saw what was going on in his life and cared for him. There’s an important phrase that is found two times in the life of Joseph. It says:

“The LORD was with Joseph” Gen 39:2; Gen 39:21

Even when everything was going wrong, the Lord was still with Joseph.

The second thing Joseph recognized was that:

2. God gives everyone freedom of CHOICE

You’re not a puppet or a robot who says little prayers to God. God gave all of us freedom of choice, and when we choose to ignore what’s right – God does not force His will on us. Often when be bring a problem upon ourselves – we blame God as if it were His fault. God gets blamed for many things that He never caused! When we see a major accident or tragedy or problem or crisis we try to sound spiritual by saying, “It must be God’s will” – as if God gets enjoyment out of planning mistakes and heartaches!

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