Summary: When our world crumbles, we need to embrace the new life God gives us.
On Monday, April 16th, Virginia Tech was rocked by the most murderous rampage on a college campus in our nation’s history. It began in the early morning hours when two students were killed in a dormitory. A short time later thirty more students and faculty were killed across campus. Then the shooter took his own life.
In the weeks that followed story after story about the victims appeared in the media. I assure you that not one of the victims, or their families, had an inkling of notion that April 16th would be their final day on earth. What happened at Virginia Tech was an unspeakable tragedy that graphically illustrates how quickly things in life can change. Sometimes one day to the next our life can be turned upside down in a way that can never be reversed.
I went through that kind of world-crumbling experience when our previous ministry unraveled in Wisconsin. Since then I’ve come to realize that most people have the rug pulled out from under them at least once or twice during their lives. Take, for example, a friend who worked for 17 years as an executive with a large company. One day his boss handed him a shoebox and he was told to clear out his desk. His position had been eliminated. He was escorted to his office and then he was escorted out the door. Despite working faithfully for 17 years, my friend was never allowed back at the company. In the blink of an eye his world had crumbled. Nothing was ever the same again.
I’ve had people sit in my office with tears streaming down their cheeks telling me their spouse had just left them for someone else. With no warning at all, a lifetime commitment was suddenly over. Life as they had known it had crumbled. It was gone. Over.
Well, how do we survive these times? Where does God fit in when everything caves in? These are the questions I want to explore today as we continue our series: when bad things happen to good people. Last week we talked about overcoming failure. This week I want to consider when our world crumbles.
Joseph is an Old Testament faith-hero. And he has much to teach us about thriving when our world crumbles. His story begins in Genesis 37. Joseph’s father was Jacob. Jacob had two wives and twelve sons. Jacob’s favorite wife was Rachel—but Rachel was barren for many years. The fact she couldn’t have children was a source of shame in that culture. So it was a special day when Rachel finally became pregnant. And after Joseph was born he became his father’s pet child. Favoritism is lethal in parenting. It was only a matter of time before Joseph’s brothers began to resent him. In fact, the Bible says they hated Joseph.
And Joseph didn’t help himself out. He was a tattle-tale. Joseph told his dad when his brothers were doing things they shouldn’t have been doing. And Joseph also had a special gift regarding dreams. Twice Joseph had dreams that he would rule over his older brothers. This, of course, only added fuel to the fire and Joseph’s brothers hated him even more. They couldn’t stand him. That’s where we pick up the story in Genesis 37:12-28. (Read)
Joseph’s life crumbled when he was sold into slavery. Think about all the things that changed the moment he was sold to the Ishmaelites:
• At 17 years of age he was ripped away from his family.
• He was thrown into a new culture with a new language.
• He felt the hate and rejection of his brothers.
• There was also the fear of the unknown. Joseph didn’t know what was going to happen to him.
• But there’s more. When Joseph became a slave he lost his freedom. The pampered favorite son now had to clean toilets and do dirty work.
• Also, think of how lonely Joseph would have been. He not only lost his family, but he lost his friends, his home, everything.
• Think about how many questions Joseph must have had about God. God, if you there, why is this happening to me? What’s going on? God, are you there?
Eventually, things settled down for Joseph. He was sold to an Egyptian captain named Potiphar. Somehow, Joseph adjusted to his new life and God began to prosper him. We read about this Genesis 39. Potiphar trusted Joseph and gave him the management of his entire estate. Then, by and by, Potiphar’s wife began to flirt with Joseph. (Read 39:6&7) She was blunt and to the point.
To his credit, Joseph resisted. But one day he was in the house working and the other servants were gone. Potiphar’s wife tried to make a move on Joseph. He ripped himself away and ran out of the house. Potiphar’s wife had been grabbing him and as Joseph ran he left his cloak, his tunic, in her hand. That left Potiphar’s wife with a problem. How was she going to explain having Joseph’s cloak? Well, she made up a story and said that Joseph had tried to rape her. When she screamed Joseph was frightened and ran away. That was a lie, of course, but it got her off the hook.