Summary: Even in the place of your affliction, trust the Lord to use you for His glory; trust Him to make you forget your pain; and trust Him to make you fruitful as you live your life for Him.
In 1969, in a science lab in New Jersey, Canadian physicist Willard Boyle and his colleagues invented the concept of an electronic eye. Using their knowledge of mathematics and the behavior of light they provided the science behind digital cameras known as a charged-coupled device or CCD. The CCD technology revolutionized photography, as light could now be captured electronically instead of on film. CCD technology is used on the Hubble telescope and the Mars Lunar probe. It was Boyle’s invention that allowed us to see the surface of Mars for the first time. In 2009 Boyle was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics.
A few years after the original invention of CCD technology, Boyle walked into a store to purchase a new digital camera based on his invention. During the visit, the salesman tried to explain the intricacies of the digital camera, but stopped, feeling it was too complicated for his customer to understand. According to one long-time friend, Boyle was normally a humble man, but on this occasion he was taken aback by the salesman’s arrogance and disrespect. So Boyle bluntly replied: “No need to explain. I invented it.” When the salesman didn’t believe him, Boyle told the salesman to type “Willard S. Boyle” into his computer and see for himself. A Nikon representative in the store heard the exchange and immediately came over to have his photograph taken with the famous inventor. (Allison Lawlor, “Master of Light invents a photo revolution,” Globe and Mail, 5-21-11; www.PreachingToday.com)
There are a lot of “Willard Boyle” types around here. They seem like ordinary people, but when you do a little research into their background, you discover that they are indeed very remarkable. I’m not talking about some of the world-famous scientists, scholars, and individuals that have made their way to Washington Island. I’m talking about all those of us who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible says that we are a chosen people, kings and priests in God’s Kingdom (1 Peter 2:9), given the “right to be called sons of God” (John 1:12). Through faith in Christ, we join the ranks of believers from all ages whom God has used in remarkable ways even in difficult times and difficult places.
Is that where you find yourself today – in a difficult time and place? Then let me encourage you from the story of Joseph who found himself in an Egyptian prison after being sold into slavery. He had been a slave and a prisoner for 13 long years (Genesis 37:2; 41:45), forgotten by his family and those he tried to help. But even there, in the place of his affliction, God used Joseph in a remarkable way.
If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Genesis 41, Genesis 41, where we pick up the story at the end of those 13 years, two years after he helped one of Pharaoh’s officials in prison. Joseph had asked this official to mention him to Pharaoh, but that official forgot all about Joseph.
Genesis 41:1-2 When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. (NIV)
Now, cows coming out of the water to graze are not an unusual sight anywhere where it’s hot. They like to stand about half submerged in water where they find refuge from the heat and the flies. Then when they get hungry, they come out of the water for some grass. This is not an unusual sight even in ancient Egypt. What was unusual was the scene that followed.
Genesis 41:3-6 After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank. And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up. He fell asleep again and had a second dream: Seven heads of grain, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads of grain sprouted—thin and scorched by the east wind (NIV) – i.e., a dry, devastating, desert wind.
Genesis 41:7-8 The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven healthy, full heads. Then Pharaoh woke up; it had been a dream. In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him. (NIV)
All the scholars and experts of Egypt were clueless. And these were men who had done extensive research in this area. Magicians and wise men were experts in the interpretation of dreams and omens, but Pharaoh’s dreams had them stumped.
Genesis 41:9-14 Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was impaled.” 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. (NIV)