Tuesday, July 10, 2018

God Builds Our Character in the Valleys

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”  – Genesis 50:20

Joseph is one of my favorite heroes of the Old Testament. Unlike his dad—who was well-known for his self-centered, deceitful ways—Joseph was a model of selfless integrity. Whether he was being promoted above his peers or being unjustly accused and incarcerated, he maintained impeccable character and didn’t waiver in his faithful obedience to God's word.

Perhaps you remember the story in Genesis 37-45. Joseph was the eleventh of the twelve sons of Israel (aka, Jacob), and he was the favorite son of his father for at least two reasons. For starters, he was the firstborn son of Israel’s favorite wife Rachel. And secondly, because Rachel had been barren for many years, Joseph was born to Israel in his old age. It’s not uncommon for parents to play favorites with their kids, but unfortunately, Israel did it in plain view of his entire family. He made his favorite son Joseph a “coat of many colors” to flaunt his favored status. Every time Joseph wore his special coat it shouted this clear message: “You will never be better than second best, because the boy wearing this coat is his father’s absolute favorite.”

As you might guess, Joseph’s ten older brothers weren’t too fond of his new, flashy threads. They hated him with a passion and decided to sell him as a slave to some Midianite traders heading for Egypt. Before too long, Joseph found himself hundreds of miles from home in a strange country on a different continent. Yet despite Joseph’s crummy situation, he quickly went from zero to hero. How was this possible? Because “the LORD was with him.”

As Joseph made the most of his lousy situation—working hard and obeying his master’s orders—God saw to it that he was quickly promoted to the highest position in his master’s house. And even after Joseph was falsely accused of attempted rape and thrown in jail, God saw to it that he was promoted to the highest position in the slammer. As Joseph maintained his selfless integrity, God blessed him. And within a few short years, Joseph was promoted to the second highest position in Egypt. Since Joseph had shown himself faithful to God in his small assignments, God gave him a very big assignment. And this assignment ended up saving the lives of thousands, including the lives of his own parents and eleven brothers.

There are many life lessons that we can draw from Joseph’s life. I’ll point out four: LESSON #1: Regardless of how crummy your circumstances are, you will prosper if God is with you. Therefore, in your darkest hour cling to God. If you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, no matter who rejects you, no matter who walks out on you, no matter who abandons you, God never will. And if God is with you, He will prosper you. So, when everyone around you refuses to hold on to you, you must hold on to God.

LESSON #2: No matter what people take away from you, never surrender your integrity or faith in God. Seventeenth Century Bible commentator Matthew Henry made this great point: “Those that have wisdom and grace have that which cannot be taken from them…. Joseph’s brethren had stripped him of his coat of many colors, but they could not strip him of his virtue and [wisdom].” Well said! Thieves can steal our cars; banks can take our homes, and burglars can carry off all that we own. But nobody can strip us of our faith in God or our integrity. The only way we could lose these priceless possessions would be if we were to give them away. 

LESSON #3: What people have said and done in order to harm you, God can use for your good. Romans 8:28 teaches us that no matter what life throws at us, God will always be at work for our good if we love Him and are carrying out His purpose for our lives. And in Genesis 50:20, Joseph’s story ends with the Old Testament equivalent of Romans 8:28. After Joseph’s father died, his older brothers feared that Joseph would avenge their treacherous actions. But Joseph told them frankly, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Yes, God is so strong and so good that He can transform our enemies’ greatest acts of treachery into something good. Wow! What a mighty God we serve!

LESSON #4: If you’ll let Him, God will build your character while you are being overworked and underappreciated. Consider this: If Joseph had stayed at home with his pampering father, he might never have developed the kind of character that made him a hero of our faith. When Joseph was unfairly thrust into slavery and unjustly thrown into prison, he was forced to work hard and obey orders. And through it all, God was building His godly character. In fact, one of God’s preferred methods for building our character is to place us in menial positions where we must work hard and follow orders. He gives us unglamorous jobs to do and difficult people to obey. He teaches us to serve before He teaches us to lead.

Therefore, may we never deny ourselves or our children the priceless character building that takes place in the midst of hard work and humble obedience. God can and will transform our character to be like that of Joseph. But He won’t do it on the mountaintops while we’re being pampered. God does His best character building in the valleys while we are simply working hard and obeying orders.

     Dane Davis is the Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit www.YourVictorvilleChurch.com  and join us for our worship service tomorrow at 10 a.m.

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