Andy Stanley - How to Respond to a Crisis
So today we're in part two of our series, better for it. And the truth is, we're all kind of ready to get back to normal, or maybe some version of normal or a lot of people are referring to it as the new normal. But I think we would all agree that to get back to normal and not to have gained anything from all this pain would really be a shame. In fact, pain without gain is always a shame. So if we're wise, we will pause long enough to ask the question, what have we learned that we want to carry forward? Or to the point of our series, how can we be better for it?
Specifically and we asked this question last time we were together. What have we been doing, think about this, what have we been doing? Or let's personalize it. What have you been doing? What have you been doing that almost led to your undoing? Or perhaps, what were you doing that actually has led to your undoing that you need to learn from and consequently make some better decisions in the future? Second question, again, we asked this last week, is what should we begin doing that we should have been doing all along? What should we begin doing that we should have been doing all along? Because again, it would be tragic to forget the lessons that we've learned and it would certainly be tragic to lose the perspective that so many of us have gained.
Now, last time we were together, we asked these questions in light of our finances, we asked the question, how can we be better for this financially? And I poked around a little bit, I ask you some difficult questions. For some of you it was a little bit offensive, because you're right in the middle of a financial crisis and here I am asking, hey, what decisions do you need to make to ensure this doesn't happen again? Or what financial decisions can you make to ensure that you're better for it next time? And it seems a little bit early, but as we talked about last week, it's not too early.
Then we ask the question, how can we better be better for this relationally, because quarantining has caused some of us, have allowed some of us to learn some things about our family, our marriages, our friendships that, well, we've just neglected over time. So we asked the question, what have we learned relationally? How can we be better relationally? What have we learned that we can carry into the future? And then I asked, how can we be better for this personally? And we probed around a little bit as it relates to your faith. What are the questions you're asking maybe for the first time, or what are the questions that you're asking for the first time in a long time?
Now, today, we're gonna go in a little bit different direction. Today, we're gonna do a little bit deeper dive, because and you know this, simply wanting to be better for this, simply intending to be better for this, means that nothing may happen as a result, because simply wanting, intending and wishing doesn't require anything of us and it won't bring about any change. For there to be actual change, you have to engage with the question and specifically to be better for what we have just come through and to be better for what you are currently going through you have to engage your superpower.
That's right, your superpower. You have a superpower and here's your superpower. It is that innate ability that empowers you right now, to be better for actually anything that comes your way or when you think about your past, it empowers you to be better for anything that has come your way or came your way. Now and you know this, we have no control over what life throws at us, right? Think about it, six months ago, social distancing was for people like me, introverts.
Six months ago, kids were throwing toilet paper into trees. Six months ago, if your mama heard you'd miss church for eight or nine weeks, she would be convinced that you are going to hell, right? So, so much has changed. We didn't choose this pandemic, right? We didn't choose this parentheses in time. We didn't choose the pandemic, it actually chose us. But, and here's the point, it left us with choices. It left us with choices. And this is where your superpower comes in.
This is where your superpower comes in. Your superpower as we're gonna discover in fact, as we begin talking about this, it's gonna remind some of you of your own history. Your superpower actually empowers you to turn bad things into good things. It empowers you to turn wrong things into right things. And it actually empowers you to thwart the evil intent of evil people. It has the power to reverse the course of your life, but your superpower and the ability that you have, that we all have, is easy, easy, easy to miss during times of crisis. And if you lose sight of it, especially in times of crisis, and especially in times of adversity, you will become a victim. But if you engage your superpower, you will be better for it, and you will be better for it in every single major arena of life.
Now, what is this superpower? It's so simple. Your superpower, my superpower is our ability to respond, our respond-ability, our ability to choose a response rather than simply react to circumstances. Your ability to choose a response rather than have it dictated to you by circumstances, rather than having it dictated to you because that's just what people do in those circumstances. Rather than having it dictated to you because of what's been modeled for you.
Reacting, you know this, reacting actually sets us up to become a reflection. Reacting to circumstances just sets us up to become a reflection of the things we despise. Reacting just sets us up to become a reflection of the people that we don't respect and to react and maybe this is the most difficult part or maybe this is the most heartbreaking part, to simply react to circumstances causes us to relinquish our power and to relinquish our destiny, and certainly to relinquish and give up on our legacy. But the right response, a thoughtful response, if you're a Christian, a faith-filled response has the power to redeem pain and suffering.
As I said earlier, it actually has the power and we're gonna see this in the story today, to actually reverse the course of a life. Your superpower, your superpower is why, your superpower is why you can be better for it, regardless of what it is. Now I know that's a big promise. Now, not only is a big promise, the reason we missed the promise is because there's a little bit of a catch. There's a reason we miss this and here's why. The response that has the potential to reverse the natural course of things, isn't natural. The response that has the potential to reverse the natural course of things isn't natural. The catalytic response, the response that has the power to turn things around in a life or as we're gonna see today in a family or even a nation, the response that has the potential to turn things around is not the intuitive response, and this is why we miss it.
And to be honest, this is why we were talking about it. But here's what I don't want you to miss. This is the life, this is the life that you have been invited into. This is the life you've been invited into whether you're a person of faith or not, but if you are a person of faith, if you are a Jesus follower, this is certainly the life that you have been invited into, the life where you choose your response, as opposed to simply reacting to the circumstances around you the way that everybody else acts, the way that your family reacts and the way that you are expected to react.
Now think about this, the history of our faith, especially if you're a Christian, the history of our faith is actually populated by men and women who responded to hardship in the most unexpected, unnatural really to use that word again, catalytic ways. They made catalytic decisions. And think about this at the epicenter of our faith, if you're a Christian, at the epicenter of our faith stands a man who think about it, who surrendered to his enemies, who chose not to defend himself at his trial, and chose not to save himself and as a result, saved others. He saved you, He saved me. The point being this, never ever, ever, never, ever underestimate. Never underestimate the power of a measured response. Never underestimate the power of a measured response.
Now, for the next couple of weeks, we're gonna talk about one biblical character that model this in a remarkable way. And part of what makes this story so remarkable is that he modeled this for over 20 years. In fact, the story spans about 30 years. And the conclusion of the story, the conclusion of the story actually illustrates the sanity preserving, course reversing power of a measured response. And as soon as I read the end of the story, because we're gonna begin at the end, as soon as I read the end, most of you are gonna know the entire story.
So I wanna ask you to do me and to do you a favor. As we jump into this story together, I want you to try mentally and emotionally not to rush to the end of the story. Because the story of this young man's life intersects with our lives in many ways, but there are two ways in particular it intersects with our lives and I don't want us to miss it. And the problem with knowing the end of the story is that we kind of extract ourselves from the story and we miss the point of the story.
So, here's how this really epic story ends, it ends with the hero of the story, making this statement. He says this, you intended to harm me. You intended to harm me and the you in the story, and especially if you know the story, the you and the story in that moment, were the power brokers, the odds were in their favor. They held all the cards, the cards were completely stacked against the hero in the story. They had evil in their hearts.
In fact, as we read the story together, or as you remember the story you remember, they created circumstances and perhaps you can relate to this. They created circumstances that generally transformed victims into perpetrators. They created a set of circumstances that generally cause the innocent to take on the characteristics and the character of the guilty. But not this time, not this time. The hero says you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good. And God's intentions in this story became a reality through one young man's catalytic, unexpected responses to circumstances we cannot even begin to imagine.
Responses, this is so important, none of which seemed to matter at the time and no single response made any visible, noticeable practical difference at the time. But every single one of his responses when taken together, were critical to the unfolding story of your faith and mine.
Now, you know the story, but here's the backstory of one of the greatest stories ever told. About 2000 BC, about 2000 BC, God wades into the mess of this sinful world by calling out a man named Abram that we know is Abraham, and he says to Abraham, I want you to leave everything you know, because I'm gonna start over, and you are gonna become the father of many nations and through one of those nations, I God, I'm gonna bless the entire world. And if you know the story that eventually Abraham has a son, his name is Isaac. And Isaac has a son, and his name is Jacob. And Jacob has 12 sons, which would eventually become the 12 tribes of Israel, the nation of Israel.
But this entire enterprise would dangle by the thread, this is amazing, this entire enterprise would dangle by the thread of a series of catalytic responses by one of Jacob's sons. And of course, his name is Joseph. Joseph, who is Jacob's favorite son by Jacob's favorite wife, which is kind of a story in and of itself, but because he was the favorite son and because he was the favorite son, his 10 older brothers did not like Joseph.
Now and part of the reason is this from time to time, Jacob or Jacob sort of protected Joseph from the brothers, but from time to time, he would send Joseph out to check on his brothers to see how they were doing. And from time to time, he would come back with a not so favorable report. So on this particular occasion that sets up the story, Joseph is approaching his brothers, they're miles from home, they're tending sheep, and as they see him coming, they begin to talk about Joseph and by the time Joseph gets to their campsite, they've decided they're done.
So they take Joseph, they strip him of his clothes, they throw him into an empty cistern, or well, and they're trying to decide, do we let him just die of natural causes in the well, or do we kill him ourselves because we are done with our brother? And then the story takes a strange twist, and we will pick up the story right here. Genesis, the Book of Genesis says this, Judah said to his brothers, Judah was the leader, he wasn't the oldest brother but he was the leader. Judah said to his brothers, what will we gain? What will we gain if we just killed Joseph and cover up his blood? Let's profit on this, come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites slave traders and not lay our hands on him after all. And it's like there's just a little thread of mercy that sneaks into the story, after all, he is our brother. He is our own flesh and blood.
So as you know, they sell Joseph to slave traders. They lie to their father, Jacob, they say Joseph was killed by a wild animal and they break their father's heart. The story continues. Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt and Potiphar an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites, the slave traders, who had taken him there. Now here's where we need to pause, because here's where Joseph's story perhaps begins to intersect with your story. Nobody is looking for Joseph. Nobody is looking for him, and worse, nobody is looking out for him. And perhaps that's how you feel right now. Nobody's looking for you, nobody's looking out for you, or so it would seem. And this is where Joseph's story takes a hard right turn, then the surprise.
Now the Lord, the text tells us, the Lord was with Joseph. Again, we need to pause because this creates a problem for some versions of faith. This creates a problem with some versions of Christianity. In fact, this may be the reason you left faith. This may be the reason you left your Christian faith, specifically, because of suffering in the world. Maybe not even just suffering in the world, maybe suffering in your family, maybe your own suffering, and you just could not reconcile it, I get it. You could not reconcile the idea of a good loving God with pain and suffering in the world or maybe pain and suffering in your world. Because the way that we think is simply this that if the Lord was with Joseph, Joseph would not have been sold in the slavery.
If the Lord's was with Joseph, his brothers wouldn't have thrown him in a pit. If the Lord was actually with Joseph, the Lord would have protected him from his brothers and from the slave traders, right? Because that's how we think. Because after all, this is the assumption, when God is with you, right? When God is with you, things work out for you. When God is with you, things work out for you.
Now, if you were raised with this kind of view of God, if you were raised in a faith tradition that supported this idea, here's what you need to know. Christians have never, ever believed that. If you left faith, because you could not reconcile a good God with evil in the world, perhaps you've abandoned faith or left faith, unnecessarily. Or I could say this way, if you quit believing in a good God that never allowed bad things that happen to good people, congratulations, you quit believing in a God that does not exist. But that is not the God of the Christian scriptures, it is certainly not the God of the New Testament. Over and over again, we find men and women who face extraordinary adversity and discover that God was with him in it and God was with them through it.
So, back to the story, the Lord is with Joseph, but luck is not with Joseph, prosperity is not with Joseph, justice is not with Joseph, and fairness is certainly not with Joseph. But Joseph was like you, like me, he had a superpower. He had the ability to respond rather than react. And Joseph chose to respond as if God was in fact, with him. The story continues, the Lord is with Joseph so that he prospered but don't read too much into this because he didn't prosper personally.
When his master Potiphar saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, which means, Potiphar noticed that everything Joseph touched worked out, that everything Joseph touched maybe an exaggeration kind of turned to gold. And the reason, the reason everything Joseph touched worked out is because he did everything he could. He was responsible. He responded not as somebody who had been sold into slavery, he responded as if perhaps God was in fact, with him. And Joseph found favor in his eyes, and he became his attendant.
So essentially, Joseph becomes Potiphar's administrative assistant, and he's put in charge as we're gonna see in a minute of just about everything. And this sounds good, but here's what you need to understand. In ancient times, in modern times, as well, but in ancient times, if you were born free, if you were born, not a slave, that was the greatest privilege you could have in ancient times. To be born rich and to become poor, that would be bad, but to be born free and to wake up one day in a foreign land, with a master, to be born free and to wake up one day as a slave, you had lost everything. You had lost the game of life and whatever God you had chosen, you had chosen the wrong God. This was far worse than we can even begin to imagine in spite of the fact that Joseph found favor in the eyes of his master. The story continues.
So Potiphar because of Joseph's responsible responses, Potiphar put him in charge of his household and he entrusted to his care everything he owned, but here's the gotcha. And the Lord blessed not Joseph, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. To which you wanna say, but wait a minute, where's justice in this world, right? Why not blessed Joseph? Why bless his Master, why not bless the slave Joseph, who has responded so well to all these outrageous circumstances? But in spite of that, Joseph continue to respond as if God was with him. In fact, Joseph models for us something extraordinary. Joseph responded, as if God was with him when it looked as if God had, in fact, abandoned him. And this is so amazing.
And here's why this is so amazing. Unlike us, Joseph has no scripture, Joseph has no Bible, in fact, Joseph has no religious literature, there are no miracles, there are no voices, no angels appear at his bedside to say, hang in there, Joseph, God is with you, you're gonna get through this. Joseph had none of the advantages that we have when it comes to enduring faith. Joseph just decided that he was gonna live in light of the stories Jacob his father had told him, about Isaac, his grandfather and his great grandfather Abraham. He decided to respond as if God was with him. Which brings me to this. And we're gonna come back to this a couple of times today, and we're gonna come back to it next week as well.
This is the question I hope this series will cause you to wrestle to the ground because this is the life changing question. How? How would someone and your circumstances respond, if they like Joseph, were confident that God was with them? How would someone in your circumstances respond? I'm not asking you to do anything, I'm not asking you to respond, I'm just asking you to think about this question. How would someone who is like you who found themselves in circumstances like your circumstances respond if like Joseph, they were absolutely confident that God was with them? And when I say circumstances, it may mean your entire life circumstance, or it may be a particular area that you're going through right now, where there's adversity, maybe with family or finances, or a job or a relationship.
How would someone who is you respond if they were absolutely confident that God was with them, that God was up to something that there was more going on than meets the eye? And the reason this is such an important question is that your answer to this question, your answer to this question is your invitation to exercise your superpower. It's your invitation to respond rather than react. Again, never underestimate. Never underestimate the power of a measured response. Again, you have no idea what hangs in the balance of your decision to respond, rather than react, to events and circumstances that you didn't choose.
Now, if you know this story, you'll remember what happens next. It doesn't get better, it gets worse. And not only does it get worse, it gets ridiculously more complicated because what happens next, Joseph finds himself in a no-win situation, that regardless of which way he responds, there's no way out. Here's what happens, you'll remember this. Now Joseph was well built and handsome. And this is when the soundtrack changes, right? Now Joseph was well built and handsome and after a while his master Potiphar's wife took notice of Joseph and said, "Come to bed with me".
Now understand, this was not seduction, this was an order. This was not a request, this was a command. Joseph belongs to her. He is her property, and now he's in a no-win situation. If he rejects the request of his master, he'll be punished, if he says yes, and Potiphar finds out he'll be punished. All of this responding well, all of this responding in such a way as to set him up to be blessed by God clearly was a waste of time, it wasn't working and now Joseph certainly begins to feel the way we do when we've done everything we know to do right and nothing seems to work out right. And we begin to ask those questions, why care, right? Why even try?
In Joseph's case in Joseph's case, there is no potential for a happy ending. Not only will he not be better for it, he knows he will probably be dead for it. But in spite of that, Joseph deploys his superpower. And the text says that he refused. And here's what he told Potiphar's wife. He said, "With me in charge, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, everything he owns he has entrusted to my care". And then he shifts gears just a little bit. No one, no one is greater in this house than I am, my master has withheld nothing from me except you because, by the way, you are his wife. But then the shocking, unexpected, who does that, part of his response. Listen to this. And he says, "How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God"? "How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God"?
Wait, wait, Joseph, we talking about the same God, the God that's responsible for your all so impressive resume. Joseph let's just review your resume real quick. Joseph Jacob's son kidnapped once, sold twice. This is the God you're gonna remain faithful to, the God who hasn't done anything good for you lately, that God? And Potiphar's wife is relentless. She comes back to him time after time, finally, not only does he resist, he refuses to even be in the room with her. And eventually she's offended. And eventually she shamed and she accuses Joseph of doing the very thing he refused to do. She accuses him of trying to rape her. When Potiphar finds out he has no choice but to throw Joseph in prison.
Here's what the text says. Joseph's master Potiphar for took him after his wife's accusation, and put him in prison, the place where the king's prisoners were confined. Now think about this. I know your circumstances are tough or maybe you're facing some really tough circumstances, but let me just put Joseph's circumstances in context for a minute. Now Joseph will pay for the crime he avoided because he avoided it. Think about that. Now he's gonna pay for the very crime he avoided. And why is he paying for it? Because he did the right thing, because he avoided it. And now he has to update his resume and it looks like this, Joseph, Jacob's son kidnapped once, sold twice, framed, imprisoned. The point being that bad things have been happening to good people for a very long time, even people that God is with.
Now, we're gonna pick up the storyline right there next time, so please don't miss next time, but in the meantime, here's what I want you to do. In fact, here's what I want all of us to do. I want us to all wrestle with this question. On the surface, it's a bit of a terrifying question but ultimately, it's a liberating question. And our question is the question I've already asked, how, how would someone in my circumstances respond? I know how other people react to these circumstances, I know what's modeled for me, I know what's expected of me, but how would someone like Joseph, how would someone respond in my circumstances respond, if they were confident, if they were sure that God was with them that God is up to something, that there's something that God is up to that hinges on my response, that hinges on my decision not to react, but to respond as if God is with me.
Again, your answer to this question is an invitation. Your answer to this question is your invitation to exercise in that area of life, your superpower, your respond-ability. And I'm confident of this, even though I don't know your story, your willingness to respond rather than react is your best play, it is your best way forward. It is the way that lays the groundwork for God to do something unusual in your life, in your current circumstances. And if you'll act on this question, you will emerge better for it, and you will not emerge bitter for it.
Again, never underestimate, no matter what you're going through, never underestimate the power of a measured faith-filled response. You know this, we're no better than our responses, but Joseph's story illustrates the fact that we can be better because of our responses. So when it comes to the current circumstances that we're all facing, or when it comes to the circumstances that are individual for you, let's not simply get through this, let's be better for it.
Let's respond in a way that makes us better for it and answer the question, how, how would someone in your circumstances respond, if they were confident that God was with them? That there's more to your story than meets the eye, that your circumstances, your circumstances, your current circumstances, are a chapter in your story they are not the entire story. How would someone in your circumstances respond if like Joseph, they were confident that God was with them.
So bottom line is this, you have a superpower, use it, and if you do, you'll be better for it. The people around you will be better for it. And who knows, perhaps the world will be better for it, as well. Again, we'll pick up the storyline right there, don't miss part three of better for it.