Summary: A first-person sermon of Joseph his life story and learnings with his brothers.
“Getting Into Shape: When the Going Gets Tough”
Gen. 45:1-8 & 50:15-26
Oh my dear brothers. As much as I have trusted God throughout these years, I admit I never envisioned such a glorious reunion, let alone being together to bury our father. It’s been so long since we’ve been together and so much has happened. You’re absolutely right Levi. In some ways, it started with those dreams - you remember the dreams I had, don’t you? I’m so sorry for lording them over you. I did not intend for my dreams to become your nightmares. But I was so excited and convinced that I was destined to rule. It turns out I was right, but wasn’t anywhere near ready. God had to shape me. Now, looking back over these years I have another conviction: “It was not you who sent me here but God. You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned that when our best laid plans don’t work out we must focus on the PURPOSE OF LIFE. The two dreams I had from God were significant. I knew God had a special plan for me – a plan in which I was going to be a great leader. In my young mind the dream marked me as God’s special person. It gave me A SENSE OF DIVINE DESTINY, the knowledge that I would be used of God. Very much like it was for our great-grandfather Abraham – a picture forms in the mind and a vision stirs soul. I didn’t know all the details, but I’ve learned that that’s okay. God acts in hidden and unforeseen ways. In fact, His purpose is mostly evident in retrospect. The life of faith mostly involves trust in the presence of God, when we can’t see God. This sense of divine destiny carried me through the pits and prisons of my life. It’s what sustained me in the hard, confusing, difficult times of life; it emboldened my character and gave me strength; it infused me with energy to stay the course rather than to quit. A sense of purpose gives us a way out of struggles - a pathway around limitations into the possibilities of God. We must relate everything to God’s overarching plan.
But I also learned that THERE IS A DIVINE PURPOSE FOR YOUR LIFE as well. God had a plan and purpose for you. You may not have known the particulars - that’s OK. God was shaping you so He can use you. That’s what gives purpose to life. The God who gives the dream also prepares the dreamer to realize the dream.(1) The God who gives the promise prepares us to receive the promise. (ii) God had to replace my arrogance with a more godly character, my self-assurance with dependence and trust in Him. After the transmission of the dream there needs to be transformation of the dreamer. (iii)
What’s that Simeon? You’re wanting to know how I wound up here, in power in the royal palace. Let me tell you – it’s quite a story. When plans don’t work out we should focus on the purpose of life but also on the PATH OF OBSTACLES. I dreamed some dreams but this is not a dream world. The REALITY IS THAT LIFE IS FILLED WITH OBSTACLES, HARD TIMES AND PITFALLS. They greet us the moment we leave our mother’s womb. Our decisions impact pursuit of our purpose. Actions and decisions of other people affect our pursuit of our purpose. So do accidents, tragedies, illnesses, and a host of other unplanned, unpredictable circumstances. I said goodbye to our father Jacob and left for a short journey to see you, my brothers; 22 years later you and he said “Hello” again.
Your treatment of me was only the first of many obstacles and trials. But imagine what it was like for me, just a 17 year old youth. Hitched to a camel, bound to a people I did not know, leaving behind my family and home, with no idea what the future held, wondering, “Where is God? What’s the future hold for me? What about my dream?” Imagine me, with such high expectations, becoming a slave -- taken where I did not want to go, with a people I did not want to be with, in a situation I did not create. I was truly hemmed in, chained, bound, trapped – a hostage! The going was tough!
In addition to being left in that pit and spending time in service as a slave, I experienced temptation from Potiphar’s wife and because I refused her advances was imprisoned for 2 years, and then ultimately was exposed to all the trappings of wealth and power. I faced obstacles that challenged my body, soul, mind, faith, and attitude. Whenever we pursue and try to live out God’s purpose the reality is that there will be obstacles.