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Summary: The third in a series on the life of Joseph, this three-point expository sermon reveals that Joseph tended, toiled, and trusted while waiting in prison for God to act.

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Joseph: Hope for Troubled Times (3)

Scott Bayles, pastor

Blooming Grove Christian Church: 6/1/2014

ILL. Before James Garfield became President of the United States, he was the principle of Hiram College in Ohio. One day, an affluent father once asked him if a particular course of study could be simplified so that his son could graduate in two years instead of four. “Certainly,” replied Garfield. “But it all depends on what you want to make of your boy. When God wants to make an oak tree, he takes a hundred years. When he wants to make a squash, he only takes two summers.”

Have you ever wondered what God wants to make of you? Or, perhaps, how long he’s going to take? We don’t like to wait, do we? We’ve got schedules to keep and things to do. We weave through traffic looking for the fast lane. We frown at the person who takes eleven items to the ten-item express checkout. We drum our fingers while the microwave heats our coffee. We really don’t like to wait! We don’t like to wait on the doctor, we don’t like to wait on the pizza, and we certainly don’t like to wait on God.

ILL. Phillips Brooks, the famous Boston pastor, seemed particularly agitated one day. So his secretary asked him what was troubling him. He responded, “The trouble is that I’m in a hurry and God isn’t.” Isn’t that always the trouble?

What are you waiting for? Maybe you’re waiting for a job to open up, or your kids to brighten up, or your spouse to lighten up. Maybe you’re waiting for God to make a move—to heal you, to help you, to herd you in the right direction.

Joseph knows all about waiting. We read his story in a few minutes, but it took a life time for Joseph to live it. He spent a whole afternoon in the pit—that deep, dark cistern his brothers threw him in. It only takes us a moment to read “the Midianite trades arrived in Egypt, where they sold Joseph to Potiphar,” but it took Joseph over 700 miles and thirty days to experience it. The Bible summarizes Joseph’s service in Potiphar’s house in just one chapter—twenty verses. But Joseph served as Potiphar’s slave for ten years. And after ten years of faithful service, Joseph was thrown in prison, where he continued to wait.

My question for you today is—what do you do while you’re waiting?

If anyone offers us an example worth following, it’s Joseph. As I read chapters 39-40, I see at least three things Joseph did while he was waiting. The first is that Joseph toiled while he waited.

• JOSEPH TOILED WHILE HE WAITED

When last we left Joseph he was thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Potiphar’s trollop of a wife accused him of rape and got him a stint in the royal cell-block. But look what Joseph did while doing hard-time:

“But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden. Before long, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. The warden had no more worries, because Joseph took care of everything. The Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed.” (Genesis 39:21-23 NLT)

Do you ever have those days where you just don’t feel like showing up for work or even getting out of bed? When life is the pits, I think its human nature to pull the covers over your face or slump down into the nearest recliner, rip open a box of Twinkies and call it quits. Maybe you just don’t have the energy to deal with the bill collectors that keep calling, or the boss that keeps yelling, or the customers that keep complaining, or the kids that keep crying, or the spouse that keeps nagging. When things keep going from bad to worse, it’s easy to throw in the towel and surrender to the discouragement, depression and darkness of the pit.

Joseph went from the open pasture, to a dark pit, to a person’s possession, and then to the royal prison! If ever there was a time to give up on life, this was it. But he didn’t. When Joseph was a slave, the determined to be the best slave he could be. His situation suffered a setback, but his attitude didn’t. He may be a prisoner, but he’s going to be the best prisoner he can be. I don’t know what Joseph’s job was in that prison; he may have been digging ditches, or making license plates, or just keeping his cell tidy. But no matter what it was, Joseph did everything he was asked to do to best of his ability. And before long, Joseph was running the whole penitentiary.

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