Hope Over Despair

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This morning we’re going to be in Genesis chapter 50 primarily. I’m going to set up a sketch for us on the life of Joseph. But what I want to do is use his story as an illustration for us in the practice of faith when we go through adversity. The idea of how to have faith when your feelings aren’t there. And sometimes I’ll jokingly say, when I wake up in the morning, I don’t always wake up singing Chris Tomlin songs to the Lord. I have great days in the Lord and I have challenging days in the Lord. And when it comes to faith and feeling, we all wrestle with how to walk with God when we don’t always feel like it.

And while I very much enjoy having wonderful feelings when I walk by faith, feelings don’t always follow faith. They are connected to one another, but not necessarily dependent upon each other. And what I mean by that is, I think there’s glory given to God when we follow God when it’s difficult than when we follow God just because it’s easy. Does that make sense?

Now, last week we talked about the idea of the Christian life representing this idea of kingdom. That God is a King who came to deliver his kingdom for us, that we could find redemption in Jesus and Jesus was victorious. And now we live for that King. And because of that, we’re able to sacrifice. We’re able just as Jesus gave his life, the New Testament calls us to lay down our life for Him. And the reason we’re able to do that is because nothing in this world we have to worry about losing, because in Jesus we gain everything. We have a victory.

But, when we walk in this world, there’s also adversity. And so when we practice that faith, that faith is more important than feeling. And so some days I’m not going to feel like it. Some days I am. And when you read through the Bible, you see this struggle of individuals walking with Jesus in the midst of adversity. And that’s exactly where the end of Genesis comes. You think the book of Genesis has written to a bunch of Hebrew slaves. And they’re walking with the idea of understanding, well, how did this even happen to us that we were in slavery? A lot of people’s idea of God is when things are going well, God is for you. And when things aren’t going well, God is not with you. But God rains on the just and the unjust. Sometimes good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. And how do you walk with God in all of that? And the end of Genesis really sets up that picture for us.

But in light of that, I’m going to read this Psalm to us. This is Psalm 46. And this Psalm is reflective of exactly where we’re going to be in the story of Genesis. I just want you to, in an attitude of worship, I don’t think this passage needs really much exposition. I really just think just reading these words, you see the expression of what the psalmist is saying in this battle in our own lives for faith in the midst of adversity and feeling.

And this is how it’s written. It says, “God is our refuge and strength. A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountain slip into the heart of the sea. Though its waters, roar and foam, though the mountains quake, it’s swelling pride. There is a river who streams make glad the city of God, the holy dwelling, places of the Most High God is in the midst of her and she will not be moved. God will help her. When morning dawns, the nations made an uproar. The kingdoms tottered. He raised his voice. The earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Come behold the works of the Lord. Who has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth. He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two. He burns the chariots with fire. Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our stronghold.”

When I think of the character of Psalm 46 lived out, I think Joseph is one that displays what this Psalm possesses beautifully. When I think about my own walk with the Lord, I want to be more like Joseph. If there’s any character in scripture where I say, Lord, if I could have a little bit more of me in this, it would be the life of Joseph. I think Joseph balanced the journey of life between faith and feeling, trusting in God while in adversity. Looking to God’s promises over his problems. How do you deal with the challenges of life?

If we believe God was with us in everything we experience, how would it change the way we look at our life and events? That God is with you in everything. In the divorce, in the promotions, and the graduations, in the surgeries, in the injustices, and in the justices, and in birth, and moving, and sleepless nights, and in restful nights. You can imagine being the Hebrew slave. And you look at your people and you’re wondering how in the world did we get to this place, slavery in Egypt? And maybe even how in the world did we get to 12 tribes? And wondering how did God fulfill his promise to Abraham? Especially when we were coming out of slavery. Maybe we would be asking similar questions.

Remember, we looked at this together in Genesis chapter 12, 15, 17, 22. God promises through Abraham that God would build a nation and through that nation, bless all nations. And here are these Hebrew slaves who would represent that nation. They find themselves in slavery. And Joseph’s life becomes an illustration to tie to Israel story and I think relate to our own story in following after God in the midst of adversity.

And if you follow the story of Genesis, we’re going through the peaks of understanding what the totality of what scripture is about. Seeing this theme that God has piecing together, or pulling together for these various stories, this large theme of his hand of redemption for all people as Jesus comes to this earth and gives us life for us. And these individual stories lay out this greater scheme of God’s plan. And we’ve seen this in Abraham and the giving of the promise and as you fall along in Abraham, Abraham has Isaac. He becomes the child through which the promise is delivered. And Isaac has Jacob and now Jacob has Joseph.

God is showing these Hebrew slaves, at the end of Genesis, that He was with Israel going into Egypt. And he’s with Israel coming out of Egypt. No character I think takes more space in the book of Genesis than does the life of Joseph. About 25% of the book of Genesis shares with us the story of Joseph. I’m not going to be able to encapsulate all of that to you. I just want to give a snippet to us, but God is going to demonstrate his presence and promises through Joseph’s hardship and how we are to walk with God in it.

The story of Jacob, Joseph’s father Jacob had 12 kids. And the Bible tells us he played favorites with Joseph. Out of all of his 12, Jacob made no distinction here as to which child was his favorite. If there was any doubt, everyone knew that it was Joseph. Which is a good reminder as we jumped into the store to say to us that families were messed up. And so it should make us feel good about our own right. If God still loves them, God works through them, then God can use us. And what Jacob ends up doing is giving his son what we call the coat of many colors. And it’s a fancy way of saying, “Son, you’ve got the nice coat. Let all your brothers do the dirty work and you can just to sit back and tell them what to do.”

And so Jacob gives his son Joseph this coat to distinguish him from his brothers. And Joseph didn’t play nice. He acted, I think, somewhat superior to his brothers. In fact, when you read in Genesis 37 this is what it says to us to sort of give this backdrop to the story. In verse three it says, “Now Israel,” who is Jacob, “loved Joseph more than all his sons because he was the son of his old age and he made him a very colored tunic. His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms. Then Joseph had a dream and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more and said to them, ‘Please listen to this dream which I have had. A for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field and lo my sheave rose up and also stood erect. And behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf.’ Then his brothers said to him, ‘Are you actually going to reign over us or are you really going to rule over us?’ So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.”

This attitude they carried towards Joseph, they built with this anger because of the love the father extended to Joseph above the other brothers. And then Joseph coming with this sort of superior arrogance to his brothers and saying, all of you shall bow down to me. So it gives you, in this same chapter, the decision of the brothers, it says in verse 27, “Come and let us sell him,” so his brothers come and capture their brother Joseph. And they come up with this idea, “Let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him.” There was this debate among them if whether they should just kill their brother or sell him into slavery. And they said, “For he is our brother, our own flesh. And his brothers listened. And then some Midianite traders passed by. So they pulled him up and lifted Joseph out of the pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites for 20 shekels of silver. Thus, they brought Joseph to Egypt.”

Verse 31 tells them how they shared this story with their father. It says, “So they took Joseph’s tunic and slaughtered a male goat and dip the tunic in the blood. And they sent the very collared tunic and brought it to their father and said, ‘We found this. Please examine it to see whether it is your son’s tunic or not.’ And then he examined it and said, ‘It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.'”

So the brothers not only sell Joseph into slavery, but they lie to the father and lead their father to conclude that Joseph has been eaten by a wild animal, at the command of the father for Joseph to go check on his brothers who were out taking care of the animals. When you get to this point in the story, let me just throw out the question. How would you feel if you were Joseph?

Been betrayed by the people that are supposed to love you. They are supposed to look after you, supposed to care for you. You think all of the thoughts that could be circulating in Joseph’s mind. But here’s what Genesis 39 tells us. “The Lord was with Joseph.” You don’t get any record of any complaint, but rather what you discover is this confidence that Joseph has in the midst of his circumstances. Because above it all, God is with him.

As you get to chapter 39, you get to more adversity that Joseph faces. Not only by the betrayal of his own brothers who then lie to his father about his death. But while he’s in Egypt, he gets sold to Potiphar. And he rises in position in Potiphar’s house to the point that he’s leading Potiphar’s home. And during this time he gets the eye of Potiphar’s wife. And Potiphar’s wife tries to tempt Joseph to the point that she actually grabs ahold of him. And Joseph in the middle of this, decides to not give in to that temptation and he runs away. And when he runs away, she’s got a hold of his garment. So much so, that to free himself, he takes off the garment and runs. And when Potiphar’s wife sees this garment in her hand, she decides to scream. And she accuses Joseph of trying to attack her. And what happens to Joseph is Joseph is then thrown in prison.

And then it says in verse 21, “But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him.” Again, no record of complaint in the midst of adversity, but just the recognition of God’s hand. And while he’s in jail, most of us probably would think that this is not a very spectacular place to be. But then it begins to give us an idea in verse 23 of something about the life of Joseph. It says, “The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. Whatever he did, the Lord made to prosper.

As the story unfolds in the life of Joseph and the outlook in which he carried. Joseph is in prison. But we begin to see in Joseph’s circumstance that while he is in prison, Joseph’s spirit is free. Because he believes God is there to supply in his need.

And so in chapter 40 what you find is a cupbearer and a baker in jail with Joseph. And they had these dreams. And Joseph interprets the dreams. And Joseph interprets the dreams correctly. One of them is free, the other one loses his life. But the one that’s freed, Joseph says, when you’re with Pharaoh, remind them of the great thing that I have done. So in chapter 41 finally, it’s remembered that Joseph interpreted these dreams correctly. And Pharaoh himself has a dream. And he’s brought Joseph before him to deliver this dream. And Joseph gives the interpretation. And the interpretation deals with this famine that’s going to hit Egypt and it’s going to last for seven years. And when Joseph gives the interpretation to Pharaoh, it tells us in chapter 41 verse 41, “Pharaoh says to Joseph, ‘See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.'”

So Joseph goes through this adversity in slavery. And this adversity by being thrown in jail by Potiphar’s wife. And to find himself now in a position where he’s literally the second in command in Egypt. And Pharaoh puts him in charge of his household. During the famine, by God’s providence, Joseph’s father, hears in Egypt, while everyone else is starving, there is food aplenty in the land of Egypt. And so Jacob sends his sons to Egypt to buy some food for the family. And when they get to Egypt, they discover through some circumstances that build throughout these chapters that their brother Joseph is the one that the Lord used to bring deliverance for Egypt.

And in chapter 45, when Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, this is what it says. “Do not be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here. For God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years and are still five years in which there will be neither plowing, nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth. To keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God. And he has made me a father to Pharaoh and Lord of all his household and ruler over all of the land of Egypt.”

And then Joseph gives this incredible statement again. By the time you get to chapter 45 you see this presentation of his brothers. But in the midst of chapter 45 to chapter 50 Joseph’s father Jacob dies. And his brothers are now worried that maybe Joseph was only being nice to them because their father was still living. But once the father died, what’s going to happen to them?

And then Joseph gives these powerful words in chapter 50. He says, “But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid for I am not in God’s place. As for you, you meant that evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid. I will provide for you, for you and your little ones.’ So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”

Much of the Christian life is living by faith through feelings of adversity. You see this idea of following the Lord in adversity, in the life of Joseph. I think for us there’s even no greater example than Jesus who was betrayed falsely and condemned like Joseph. He was raised and use his position to save and forgive and reconcile. And so both Jesus and Joseph become these ultimate examples for us.

Even to the point when when you read in the New Testament in encourages you down that same framework. If you were to read the book of 1 Peter and the persecution of Christians, 1 Peter 3:16 says this to us, “Keeping a clear conscience so that those who speak maliciously against you, against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins. The righteous for the unrighteous to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.”

How do you do that? I would like to say my whole life I’ve been perfect at it. Every time someone showed me that I was number one as they drove by, I responded and said, “God bless you.” How do you do this? I mean this is certainly the place in our lives where the rubber meets the road. The reality of where my Christian faith is discovered in the adversity that I experience. How do I live and trust in God in my struggles?

It’s not that I don’t recognize this passage of 1 Peter 3:16 is important. It’s rather figuring out how to connect it to the circumstances in which I walk in, like Joseph and like Psalm 46 says. The point of the point of Joseph’s story isn’t to say to us, avoid sexual relations with cougars and you become president or prime minister. I’m not trying to say to you today, look, if you follow God, you’re going to get everything that you ever want in your life. There’s adversity throughout all of our experience in this world, whether you’re Christian or not.

You think about what Joseph went through, what we just said about his life. Joseph endured physical and sexual abuse. He walks with God. Maybe if I would just equate another thought that’s not expressed with Joseph, that I could also relate to us as human beings, is the idea that we go through abuse physically. We can go through abusive sexually. You can go through abuse spiritually. I think some of my life is dealing with people that have just felt some trauma in some spiritual abuse through people they trusted.

It’s hard to see God when light is convoluted in the dark. When people you trust lie to you. You put your trust spiritually with someone that is supposed to be a mentor to you. Or physically and they take advantage. Here is someone that’s supposed to represent light now convoluted in the darkness. And how do you know what to do? How can you allow those moments of hurt to refine you rather than define you? How do you trust God in the struggles?

I think the promises to Israel with the life of Abraham, God choose us. That would be the Hebrew slaves position. God chose us, but yet how we reconcile God choosing us with the hardship that we’ve faced? I don’t want for Joseph, or us, and Joseph’s life’s already been lived out, but for any of us, I don’t want to become a prisoner to our past. But to trust God with our future and now he has it. It’s how do we do this?

While I don’t want to be contrived towards the pain that we go through as people, I do want to talk about how Joseph works through this, through the power of Genesis 50 what he acknowledges for us. But I want to recognize in saying this, look, when go through adversity in their lives, there is a need to process that with people around us that love us and care for us. Because just because we might have this type of understanding that Joseph has in Genesis 50 doesn’t mean we always live it out. We need to be reminded of the truth that’s recognized in these things. And so I want to simplify what Joseph is saying here, but I want us to know that sometimes when we struggle in our own lives and particular areas of pain that we’ve gone through and trusting in God through those things, we need people around us to encourage us. But at the same time, I want us to see the simplicity of what Joseph says in his circumstance.

How will we trust God in the struggles? Living in the present for which God calls us happens when we’re able to face our pain and our past. When we look in Joseph’s story, Genesis 50:19-20 particularly in verse 20, I want us to know when we talk about moving forward in God, it doesn’t mean you sweep everything under the rug. In fact, Joseph didn’t do that at all. I think sometimes as Christians we get this concept of forgiveness that is not healthy to the soul. Sometimes we equate forgiveness with forgetting. And forgiveness and forgetting are not the same thing.

In fact, I would say part of what makes forgiveness forgiveness is the idea of confronting the thing that brought the pain into your life. It doesn’t mean you always have to go out and just call it out face to face, but just acknowledge it for what it was. Find the acceptance. In fact, when you go through hardship in our lives, it can be related to the idea of grieving. Counselors will tell you there’s five steps to grieving. And we get to that place of healthiness and moving forward in the grief when we get to the last stage, which is acceptance. And being able to call something what it is brings us to that resolution of acceptance. It doesn’t define you. But rather it can refine you. We’ll look at that in a minute, but look what Joseph says.

He goes through this adversity and he doesn’t sweep it under the rug with his brothers. He says, “As for you, you meant evil against me.” He called it for what it was. You meant it for evil against me. Living in the present with what God calls us to and that happens when you’re able to face the pain of our past. Number two, the reason we can face our pain and past is because of God’s presence and his promises which are greater.

And so acknowledges, while this happened, verse 20, “You meant it for evil against me.” Look what he says, “But God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” But God. God’s promises are greater. And what you intended for evil, God can intend for good.

The reason we can confront the pain of past is God’s promises are bigger than our struggles. And here comes the result. Verse 19 and 21 really share with us that resolved, but when I have promises over my pain, forgiveness is possible. When hope is greater than despair, that’s what we’re saying, it’s possible. So what does Joseph do? He puts his faith over his feelings. He learns to trust again.

And when you go through, you think about spiritual abuse, let’s say. The convolution of light and darkness. The pain happened. Acknowledge the pain. But the truth matters in these moments. The truth is what you trust in to move forward. And out of all of those things more than the fallenness of man, God is more trustworthy because his promises are true. Don’t give someone else the power for which Jesus calls you to in Him. Don’t let them dictate where God desires for you to be.

And so what he’s saying in this story is he’s trusting in the promises over his pain. And when you rest in the Providence of God, what he’s acknowledging in the story is by resting in the Providence of God, you can extend grace to others because you ultimately in Jesus win. See verse 19, verse 21, this is what his explanation is. Don’t be afraid. I am in God’s place. Verse 21, “Therefore do not be afraid. I will provide for you and your little ones. So we comforted them and spoke kindly to them because his God was greater.”

His hope that he found was in the promises of God because his God was greater. And in the greatness of his God, it became possible to acknowledge the pain of the past and offer grace to those who had wronged him. To learn to trust again. We struggle with faith and feelings. We need his promises to be bigger than our problems. Bad things happen, but it doesn’t make God’s promises untrue. But it makes his people foolish and this world sinful. But when we hold on to his promises over our problems, forgiveness is possible.

Sometimes I think in our lives we don’t forgive because we feel like someone damaged us. And we can’t get back what we lost. And so what we want is vengeance. However, without taking away from the evil that happens, what if you believe that through it all, there was a good God who could redeem it? What if God’s hand was powerful enough that none of that pain would ever be wasted? What Joseph is saying to us. Remember, be honest with the past. Trust in His promises and forgive to move forward. Because God is more than capable in the midst of our adversity to use it for His good and glory into our benefit.

When it comes to forgiveness, it’s more than a feeling. It’s first to decision based on faith. Sometimes we think in terms of forgiving other people, we have this idea that it’s gotta be about feeling like forgiving. But the reality is forgiveness is primarily built, I feel, on the promises of God. That regardless, He is greater. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting. Forgiveness means you get to be honest with the past.

Forgiveness frees me so that I no longer project my past problems, on my future successes. Forgiveness is about trusting in God’s Providence over my problems. And Joseph didn’t know every detail of how things would work out, but he understood either way he was going to win because his God was faithful. And his God uses adversity. It isn’t wasted. How would life change for us if we believed that God was with us in everything?

You think about this for a minute. God didn’t save Israel despite Joseph suffering. God saved Israel in these moments through Joseph suffering. It wasn’t wasted. Jesus didn’t save us despite his suffering. Jesus saved us through his suffering. God redeems it. God uses it. In fact, in the book of 1 Corinthians, I think it’s important for us to know that God doesn’t wait for adversity to go away and then decide to move. And we just gotta sit there and twiddle our thumbs and hoping it’s over. God is big enough to work through it all. Trusting in him.

1 Corinthians 1, Paul talks about that in our lives, that even in the present adversity that we all face that on the back end of walking through this adversity, God uses that challenges in our own life to encourage other people where they are. It’s not despite suffering, but God uses and works through it because God is more than capable of redeeming it all.

For me, I don’t think anyone lives this out better than Corrie ten Boom. Corrie ten Boom is one of the heroes, I think of the last century. I would even encourage parents, if you’ve got young kids, especially daughters, her book, “The Hiding Place,” is an incredible story of a lady who grows up in a home that she is discipled by her parents. Goes through tremendous struggle and the things that she does in her life, but trusting in God. Incredible. In fact, there’s a story within the book where she’s in concentration camp. She helped Jewish people escape and she hid them and they ended up getting caught. And her and her sister in this concentration camp. Her sister’s named Elizabeth. And while they’re in the concentration camp, they lead this Bible study. And they do so at the expense of risking their own lives. If the soldiers find out they could be killed. And one of the things that Corrie ten Boom remarks during the book is that she hates in the particular camp that she’s in or the particular house that she’s being held in because there’s so many fleas.

She had the worst home out of the entire concentration camp. There’s so many fleas. They were just getting eaten alive, and she became so angry. And her sister said to her, you need to even praise God for the fleas. And Corrie ten Boom struggled with that. And now let me just say this, look, when it comes to giving God praise, I don’t think you need to give praise to God for everything. But I do think there is a way to give things to God in everything. Does that make sense? There’s a difference between being thankful for and being thankful in.

I’m not saying look, walk out today and be thankful for cancer. But there is a way in the midst of the struggles that we face to be thankful in them. And Corrie ten Boom’s sister Elizabeth looked at her and said, you need to thank God for the fleas. Corrie ten Boom thinks why the world would I do that? And so they are leading this Bible study in this concentration camp. And all of a sudden it dawns on Corrie ten Boom. These soldiers go into every home and ransack it and pillage it and are difficult on the people. But they kept walking past her home and she realizes why. It’s because they didn’t want to be near the fleas. And in the midst of the fleas, God uses that to raise up a people to praise his name.

Corrie’s sister ended up losing her life in the concentration camp. You know what’s really amazing about Corrie ten Boom. Is after the war, she goes on to establish a home. And the purpose of this home is to help soldiers recover from the trauma of the war. And not just any soldiers. The same soldiers that killed her sister. Corrie ten Boom loves on the Nazi soldiers. How in God’s name could you ever do that? How could you turn around to the same people that hate you and respond in love? I only know one way. God’s bigger. And nothing is wasted. And he redeems it all. And I can imagine in moments like Corrie ten Boom’s, there is some days that you don’t feel like it. But your faith is bigger and God is able. And what man means for evil, God uses it for good. In what? By faith, by faith you trust.

I say that to us this morning, to say this, out of all the things that we talk about are the goodness of God’s kingdom as we go through this series together, it’s not to ignore the fact that in our lives we’re going to have struggles. And what do you walk in? Feeling or faith? We walk by faith. It’s the recognition that God’s promises and his presence is with us. It doesn’t mean we have to be thankful for everything, but in everything His glory can be made known. That while we all face hardship, we don’t want to ignore the pain of our past and the hardship that we go through. But in the middle of that, we find a place to acknowledge it and rest in the goodness of our God. The wars of this world will rage, battle even against her own soul. Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know I am God.”

A Defining Moment