Good news and bad news…
Bad news… comfort can kill you.
Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley did an experiment some time ago that involved introducing an amoeba into a perfectly stress-free environment: ideal temperature, optimal concentration of moisture, constant food supply. The amoeba had an environment to which it had to make no adjustment whatsoever.
So you would guess this was one happy little amoeba. Whatever it is that gives amoebas ulcers and high blood pressure was gone. Yet, oddly enough, it died. Apparently there is something about all living creatures, even amoebas, that demands challenge. We require change, adaptation, and challenge the way we require food and air. Comfort alone will kill us.
- (Study source: Chris Peterson, "Optimism and By-pass Surgery," in Learned Helplessness: A Theory for the Age of Personal Control [New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1993]) Citation: John Ortberg, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat (Zondervan Publishing House, 2001), p. 47+
Good news…. God has allowed enough challenges in life to help you.
Last week we celebrated the most significant event in human history… the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s the ultimate power of God… and sets into place our eternal destiny. That eternal destiny transformed life for the first who chose to follow Jesus… and has for millions ever since.
But those timeless events didn’t just light up the end of life… but the whole of life’s road.
Jesus… John 16:33
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
> When you see the risen Christ… you will see the reality of trouble in relationship to triumph.
Paul… Philip. 3:10
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death..”
> Paul is saying, ‘I see something worth everything… I want to know the whole of what it involves… triumph and challenge alike.’
None of us enjoy all the challenges that can come into our lives ….
- Mike was studying for a test one evening. He was very quiet for a long time. So
naturally his parents became curious. When they checked on him, they overheard this
prayer: "Now I lay me down to rest, And hope to pass tomorrow’s test. If I should die before I wake, that’s one less test I have to take."
- One day Linus and Charlie Brown are walking along and chatting with one another. Linus says "I don’t like to face problems head on. I think the best way to solve problems is to avoid them. In fact, this is a distinct philosophy of mine. No problem is so big or so complicated that it can’t be run away from!"+
We all face challenges… may relate to our relationships… resources… or our health.
> Good news is that God knows… He has the last word.
- Series: Facing Life’s Challenges… God’s Way
Begin with one of the most remarkable and revealing lives in history… the life of Joseph… one of the great Patriachs in history.
So remarkable is his life that thousands of years later Broadway and Disney have had huge success in retelling the story in theater and movie productions …proving how timeless and telling this life is.
> But of course God isn’t interested in the success of sales … but of lives.. our lives.
Joseph – A picture of the faithful journey to success.
· Raised up in father’s eyes…dreams to fit…Cast away by family jealousy (Gen. 37)
· Rises under Potiphar (39:1-6)…Framed when loyal (39: 7-20)
· Rises under warden (39:20-23)…Forgotten when helping (Gen. 40)… 2 years go by
· Rises under Pharaoh (Gen. 41)
Dream inspired by God of what his life was to be… of the road ahead… only to face the sharpest and strangest of turns.
Each of us are likely to find and face life’s challenges on different levels. We spend the first 20 to 25 years developing certain dreams… a certain vision for what our lives may become… and invariably we face some unexpected challenges along the way…. Dreams for marriage go unfulfilled…. The company closes… the doctor says “cancer.”
How can we succeed “When Our Dream Roads Take Strange Turns?”
Joseph reveals the wisdom to…
1. Reaffirm God’s presence … by not presuming God’s intents.
What’s one of the most common responses to challenging times?
> We assume God is far away.
One of the most common responses I’ve seen in our human hearts… is an unspoken… even unconscious idea that God has forsaken us. It may not be something we say to others… or even ourselves out loud… but we can begin to assume God isn’t really on our side…. Or at least He’s not very involved with us.
We tend to misinterpret or overly interpret our circumstances… project assumptions about God. I’m convinced such assumptions can become the very seeds of destruction.
- It’s the very seed that was sown into the minds and hearts of Adam and Eve.
Joseph – left in a pit and later a prison. Maybe you have felt left in a pit by your family… friends… financial circumstances… only to feel left by God.
> Whether in a pit or in prison… Joseph affirmed that God was with Him… able to work… that God was bigger than he was.
"We both had dreams," they answered, "but there is no one to interpret them."
Then Joseph said to them, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams."
> He still believed God was the one who is sovereign over dreams !
So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.
 Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it."
 "I cannot do it," Joseph replied to Pharaoh, "but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires."
> We see that he hasn’t given up on God… hasn’t decided to trust in his own strength… rather he’s trusting in God’s sovereign presence and purpose to be with him.
Because he never gave up on God…. he could discover God was with him.
> What are my assumptions about God’s goodness in my life?
2. Reaffirm God’s potential … by making the best of bad situations.
Another common temptation in challenging times is that of simply becoming passive to any potential we could pursue. When we feel like a victim of circumstances… we can lose all sense of having choices … and simply decide to give up.
The whole of our culture has begun to embrace such a spirit. America has shifted from a culture of opportunity to a culture of victimization… from potential… to passivity.
Whatever happened to Joseph, he kept on making the best of it. He was sold into slavery only to become the head servant. Sent to prison, he took over the administration. Brought before the king, he became Pharaoh’s right hand man.
- Abraham Lincoln, "Success is not letting dead ends kill you."
This parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into the farmer’s well. The farmer heard the mule braying or whatever mules do when they fall into wells. After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer … called his neighbors together, told them what had happened, and enlisted them to help haul dirt to pour into the well. Initially the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back. .. a thought struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back, HE WOULD SHAKE IT OFF AND STEP UP! This he did, blow after blow. "Shake it off and step up. shake it off and step up. . . shake it off and step up!" He repeated to encourage himself. No matter how painful the blows, or how distressing the situation seemed, the old mule fought panic and just kept right on SHAKING IT OFF AND STEPPING UP! It wasn’t long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well! What seemed like it would bury him actually helped him. all because of the manner in which he handled his adversity. THAT’S LIFE! If we face our problems and respond to them positively, and refuse to give in to panic, bitterness, or self-pity.
> THE ADVERSITIES THAT COME ALONG TO BURY US USUALLY HAVE WITHIN THEM THE VERY REAL POTENTIAL TO BENEFIT US!
> What good can I do in the present challenges of my life?
3. Reaffirm God’s principles … by growing in the character tested.
What’s another common response to challenging times?
> Justification for compromise and sin.
Here’s a guy who had his character tested. Think about it. God allowed his life to be challenged with the two most common temptations… anger and lust.
Anger = the deepest of contempt…retribution… the desire hurt or harm another. How do you know what really lies in the heart? You find out when the opportunity is there to live it out. God allowed Joseph to be placed in that position. How easily justified he might have felt. We’ll see how his character won in a moment when we come to the end of the story.
But of course there was also a remarkable temptation for …
“Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, "Come to bed with me!"
But he refused. "With me in charge," he told her, "my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?"
(Note despite all he felt towards his master on earth…. It was God who he knew he lived his life out to.)
And though she spoke to Joseph day after day (Note: ‘day after day”… not a one time thing…. how easily we can rationalize something that continues so long.), he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. (Note: How easily we might say, “Well I won’t really give in but I’ll at least enjoy staying close to this temptation… I won’t have sexual contact but I can enjoy a little affirmation from her attention.”)
One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, "Come to bed with me!" But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.”
“But he left his cloak in her hand and ran…” > Those words speak volumes.
· How easily we might justify such circumstances.. God, if you’re not going to take care of my needs… You allowed me to get into such a temptation… to be put in this position.
Ø But God doesn’t see it that way. God sees challenging times not as an opportunity for compromise… but for character.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Rudyard Kipling wrote a story about a little ship about to go on its first voyage. The captain’s daughter christened the ship and named it "Dimbula." Then she said to her father, "Now we have a great ship." The captain replied, "No, daughter, not yet. I must take her to sea." When he took the ship on her maiden voyage it began to give off creaking sounds which grew louder and louder as though each part was straining and groaning and struggling to fall into its proper place, as though the ship was trying to pull itself together. But after sixteen days at sea, as she sailed back into the harbor, the creaking and the straining and the groaning had been transformed into an even sound -- as if to say, "My master has taken me through the rough spots in which everything seemed to be coming apart, and I have become what I have been made to be. I am the ’Dimbula.’ Because I have a master, I am a ship."
-Preacher’s Illustration Service, Vol 9, Jan/Feb 1996+
> How can my character grow through the challenges I’m facing?
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ultimately we see the affirmation of God’s control…
Genesis 45:4-7 (cf. Acts 2:22-24; 7:9-10)
Then Joseph said to his brothers, "Come close to me." When they had done so, he said, "I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt!  And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.  For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping.  But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”
In the frigid waters around Greenland are countless icebergs, some little and some gigantic. If you’d observe them carefully, you’d notice that sometimes the small ice floes move in one direction while their massive counterparts flow in another. The explanation is simple. Surface winds drive the little ones, whereas the huge masses of ice are carried along by deep ocean currents.
When we face trials and tragedies, it’s helpful to see our lives as being subject to two forces--surface winds and ocean currents. The winds represent everything changeable, unpredictable, and distressing. But operating simultaneously with these gusts and gales is another force that’s even more powerful. It is the sure movement of God’s wise and sovereign purposes, the deep flow of His unchanging love.
How did Joseph succeed in the face of life’s strange turns… challenges? He was moved by the larger power at hand.
What force will we live our lives out to?