Charles Stanley - The Dark Moments in Our Life
If you want God's best in your life and you want to make your life count then you can expect to travel the road of adversity. It's always there. And it's amazing how somehow God uses adversities in our life to shape us, to make us fit, and to equip us to do the things that He desires to do in us and through us in life. And when you think about what adversity is, adversity is those dark moments in our life.
That is, the times when we feel tried and tempted. We feel hurt, misused and abused. We feel depressed, anxious, fearful, thoughtless, sinful, depressed, you name it. All those things a person goes through. Sorrow and loss. These are dark moments in our life and God does not promise that we'll have life without dark moments. We're going to have them. And what we have to ask is this: how are we going to respond to them? And the way we respond to them is determined by a number of things. One of which is how long that moment of darkness lasts.
Somebody says, "Well, for me it hasn't been a moment of darkness. It's been hours, days, weeks, moments, years of darkness". Well, let's ask the question, why do you think God has allowed that in your life for so long? So, I want to bring you to one of the life principles of the Life Principle Bible because it is a principle by which God operates, every one of these principles, that's true of it. So I want to put this on the screen so you can write it down and you'll not forget it because this is what we're going to be talking about. The dark moments of our life last only as long as is necessary for God to accomplish His purpose. So, there is a limitation on them. There is a purpose for them. There's a very specific purpose. They last only as long as is necessary for God to accomplish His purpose.
Now, since we don't always know His purpose in our life, we think, "Well, God, why are You allowing this to happen? This seems to be so useless, so senseless. I don't see any reason for this. I'm just hurting. I'm feeling the pain, and You just keep letting it go on". Well, we don't see it, but God sees it because He sees our life from beginning to end. And what I'd like for us to do in this message is to illustrate this very truth through the life of Joseph because, beginning as a teenager, his dark moments began as a teenager and lasted for thirteen very dark years.
So, I want you to turn, if you will, to the book of Genesis. And let's look, if you will, in the thirty-seventh chapter. And I want to give us a little background about what's going on in his life so that you'll see how this all relates together. The thirty-seventh chapter beginning in verse one. "Now Jacob lived in the land where his fathers had sojourned, in the land of Canaan. And these are the records of the generations of Jacob". And yet, he starts out with Joseph because there's an awesome story here. So, he begins, "Joseph, when seventeen years of age, was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was still a youth, along with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives. And Joseph brought back a bad report about them to their father. Now Israel," this is his other name, Jacob's other name. "Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic". And you know we call it the coat of many colors. "His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms".
That is, he lived in an atmosphere of pure hatred. And remember, this is eleven brothers. "Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said to them, 'Please listen to this dream which I've had; for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf rose up and also stood erect; and behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my head.'" Now, I don't think I would have told 'em that part of the dream. I don't believe I would have. "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 dream and for his word. Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, 'Lo, I've had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars were bowing down to me.' He related this to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, 'What is this dream that you've had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?' His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept these sayings in his mind. Then his brothers went to pasture their father's flock in Shechem. Israel said to Joseph, 'Are not your brothers pasturing the flock in Shechem? Come, and I will send you to them.' And he said to them, 'I will go.'"
Now, that was a very unfortunate trip that he went on. What I want you to see with that background is this, this young man beginning at the age of seventeen went through some very, very dark moments in his life. And I want us to think about the kind of moments he went through, and as we said, moments can be hours or whatever it might be. First of all, he grew up in a home where he was hated; totally hated. They were jealous of him because their father showed partiality, made him this coat of many colors. So, he was his father's pet. Wasn't his fault. They hated him. Three times it says, they hated him. They were jealous and they hated him, so he had that atmosphere in which he grew up; that is an atmosphere of pure rejection.
Well, he goes to see his brothers and they decide, "You know what? We're sick and tired of him. We're going to get rid of him". So, they decide to kill him. They said, "We'll kill him and then we will take an animal and shed its blood, put it on his coat of many colors, and we'll take it back to the father and tell him that he was killed by a wild beast". So, what did they do? They threw him in this pit. And he stayed in there for a little while, not too long. And this caravan came by and they thought, "Wait a minute, why don't we just sell him, might as well make a little money off him. Why don't we just sell him to this caravan"?
So, they sell him to this caravan. Now, he was hated by his brothers, then separated from his parents, and now he's on his way to somewhere, he doesn't know exactly where. And getting further and further and further away from home. And feeling more and more lonely, more and more rejected, more and more rejected. More and more fearful no doubt, not knowing what in the world's going to happen to him. So, when they get down to Egypt, they put him on a block and offer him up as a slave. So, it just so happens by the grace of God that Potiphar, who is the head of the bodyguard for Pharaoh bought him. Took him home.
Now he's a slave. So, naturally he starts out with all the dirty work that has to go on. And thinking about, you know, this coat of many colors he had and how his parents took good care of him. And now he's scrubbing floors and doing all the nasty, dirty work. And so, but he did it so well that after a season of time, Potiphar looked at him and watched him and he thought, "Well, he's very disciplined at what he does. He's not complaining and what is it about this guy"? So, next thing you know, over a period of time I'm sure, he puts his household, whole household under Joseph's authority. He took care of everything. Every single thing, he put it into his hands.
Now you say, "Well, that should have made things better". Better, but remember this, he still feels the hatred and jealousy of his brothers, he's still away from his parents, he's a Hebrew, and he's down here in a culture that he knows nothing about. He can't even speak the language and he had to learn that. And so, everything about it is turmoil and frustration, anxiety and all the rest. And then, he's doing his best. And the Bible says that he's a success with Potiphar, but he's too good looking. So, Potiphar's wife begins to look at him and lust after him and does everything in her power to get him to go to bed with her. And he wouldn't do it. And he said, "How can I do that when your husband has put me in total charge of his household and he trusts me"? And the answer is no. And so, she frames him and tricks him.
And so, what happens when she tells her husband? Naturally he's going to believe her, I think he must have had some question because if she were that way toward him more than likely she'd been looking around maybe at somebody else. But that's neither here nor there. Anyway, he couldn't do anything but put him in prison. Now, think about this, you're going to prison by the bodyguard, head of the bodyguard of Pharaoh and you're going to prison as a criminal for attempting to seduce the bodyguard's wife. You're in prison and you're going to be forgotten. Throw him in prison. How long he was in Potiphar's house? We don't know. How long he's in prison, we don't know. But one thing for certain, it wasn't the kind of prison we're talking about because another passage of the Bible talks about him being in chains and stocks.
And so, imagine how they treated him when he first got in prison. "You scoundrel, you criminal". I mean, imagine the kind of turmoil he went through. But, in spite of all that, after a period of time, the next thing you know, the prison keeper is watching him and noticing his response and his attitude. And before long, he puts Joseph in charge of the prison. So, wherever he goes, he's a success at whatever he does. And you say, "Well, that wouldn't be too bad". Wait a minute he's in prison. We're we're talking about dungeons and prison. We're talking about bad stuff.
Well, the baker and the butler get thrown in the prison. That is, Pharaoh's baker and butler get thrown into prison. And so, they were talking and they had a dream. So, Joseph said, "Well, let me see if I can interpret that dream". So, he interprets the dream that one of them would be restored and one of them would be beheaded. And so, the butler would be restored, the baker would be beheaded. And so, sure enough, that's what happened. And so, Joseph said to the butler, "When you get back, would you just remind Pharaoh that I interpreted this dream and remember me". He said, "Well, I'm sure I will". Forgot him.
How long it went by? Probably a couple of years or so. Anyway, it was God's timing. And so, one day he's in prison and he is approached by someone who said, "You need to shave, and we've got some new clothes, some clean clothes for you and follow me". Well, what was all that about? Don't usually execute people in clean clothes. But so, he didn't have any idea what was happening. And they take him before Pharaoh. And you know the story. Pharaoh says, I've had these dreams and I hear you can interpret them. And it was the dreams about seven lean years and seven fruitful years. And he interpreted that dream in such a powerful way that Pharaoh, now this is a Hebrew, this is a young Hebrew kid to some degree.
Now he's thirty years of age and where's he spend his life? Spent his life as a slave, spent his life in prison as a criminal who was there for attempting to seduce Potiphar's wife. Not a ghost of a chance. Pharaoh said, I'm not found this kind of wisdom anywhere. Putting you in charge. You're second to me, whatever you say goes. And so, you're it. You're the Prime Minister. Whatever Joseph says in Egypt is what happens. So, for thirteen years, it was one experience of darkness after the other. Moments of darkness. Trials and adversity.
And most any of us would think, "Well now, it looks like God could have sort of fixed that in in a couple of years or so". No, this is what's so very important you don't want to miss. It took thirteen years. Now, more than likely, some of you are going through some of those dark moments in your life and you're feeling it. And you've got the same questions he has, "God, why are You letting this happen to me? Lord, I've been a Christian a long time. I've been trying to do what's right. I've tried to be obedient to You". Or it may be that you would say, "Lord, I know I haven't been what I've ought to be. I know I've strayed. I know I have been backslidden. I know I've wandered from You". And in other words, whatever it may be, but you're still asking the question, why is God allowing this to happen to you?
Now, there are some things you and I will never understand till we get to heaven. He doesn't guarantee me to understand. He only challenges us to obey. Remember that's one of the principles. May not understand it, but my responsibility is still to be obedient whether I understand it or not. So, more than likely, if you're going through one of those tough moments in your life, listen to me carefully because there is a biblical, godly, truthful, eternal answer to that.
So, we all find ourselves at times in our life going through dark moments. Sometimes I like to think of them as maybe as as dark, maybe as a shadow. And then there're some moments that are absolutely midnight black. You don't see any hope. You don't know how God could possibly work you out of that. Well, the question that comes is, what is God's purpose in these times? What is God's purpose in allowing us these dark moments in these roads and pathways of adversity that we all travel at some point in our life? Sometimes, let me make sure we understand this, sometimes it's because of something we've done. We've put ourselves in that position and God has to work us through it. Sometimes it's not anything that we've done and we say, "Well, God, I don't understand why". And every pastor's heard that question a million times, why has God allowed this in my life?
So, let's ask ourselves the question, are there sensible answers, in other words, are there reasons, does God have any reason for allowing this to happen to a young man like Joseph who really wanted to be obedient to God? So, the answer is yes. So, let's think about it. God had a purpose for Joseph. Now, I know that some of you have a hard time believing this. God has a purpose for you that is just as important to God as it was for His purpose for Joseph. You say, "Yeah, but look what Joseph did". That's not the issue. The issue is, how does God view us? He loves every single one of us and He has a purpose for your life. He had a purpose for Joseph's life. And that purpose is very clear to us thousands of years later but it wasn't to him in the beginning of that time. He has purpose for your life.
You say, "Well, what's the purpose for my life"? Well, let's think about it, for example. Ultimately, here's the bottom line, His ultimate purpose in your life and my life, the reason He uses these dark moments is to conform us to the likeness of Christ. You say, "Well, I don't quite get that". What I mean by that is this, God is up to working in your life and my life to do what? To sand and to sift and to sculpture, to take out of our life what doesn't belong, to add what belongs. What's He doing? He's weaving and molding our lives in such a fashion that our character becomes like the character of Jesus. We think the way He thinks. We love the way He loves. We forgive the way He forgives. That's what He's up to because we're going to spend eternity with Him. He says, listen, He says He predestined, predetermined that every single believer would be conformed to the likeness of His Son.
That's one thing that He's doing in your life and mine. But He's likewise sifting out of our life what should not be there. As we say, adding what ought to be there. Doing what? Building our faith, teaching us to be perseverant, teaching us and reminding us that we walk in His presence every single day. And so, when I think about the purpose God has in our life, then one of the issues here is the length of time that God allows these things to happen in our life. That is, for example, with Joseph, well, when we say seventeen, he lived among his brothers and they hated him before he was seventeen. That's just where the Scripture starts. And so, what about the length of time? Only as long as is necessary for God to accomplish His purpose in our life.
Now, do I have anything to do with that? Yes, I do and so do you. If I rebel against the dark moments, all I'm doing is lengthening the time of the dark moments or positioning myself ultimately that God just sets you aside and says, "You determine not to be used, I won't use you". So, the way we respond is very, very important. And I think about as far as Joseph was concerned, thirteen years was a long time. I meet people once in a while who've been in dark moments longer than that. And then say, "And look what happened when God finally delivered me or set me free". You don't give up because your God is not going to give up on you. He's not going to give up on you no matter what.
And so, when I look at Joseph's life and realize what he went through, how long it took and then think about maybe some times that you and I go through and we think, "Two weeks is just terrible". Or, "A month is just horrible". But here's the thing that makes it difficult, when you're going through one of those dark moments and you don't see any end in sight, and it looks like it's going to last the rest of your life, it looks like you're going to be penalized the rest of your life, it looks like you're never going to be able to reach those goals, somehow, it just seems to be so hopeless. It's never hopeless as long as you have God. Because God loves you and He's going to work out His will in your life one way or the other if you'll just trust Him.
Joseph must have felt everything that you and I would feel. Maybe worse. Because he didn't have the knowledge of Jesus that you and I have but he did have a knowledge that Jehovah God, the one true God was his God and he was aware of God's presence in his life. So, think about where you are. I don't know what you're facing. It may be a health issue, a relationship issue, whatever it might be. But don't blame God for that. Ask yourself the question, "Lord, what are You trying to do in my life"?
So, remember what we said, one of the primary things is to shape us into the character of Christ. To teach us to trust Him, to be diligent, to be persevering, to be courageous, to be bold. That is, to keep our eyes on Him, to keep our awareness of Him, to be trustworthy, to be faithful, dependable, diligent, disciplined in our life. These are God's purposes. And as we yield to that and allow Him to work those things in our life, what happens? He uses us, listen, He uses us in proportion to our willingness to be shaped.
So, then who determines that? We determine to some degree. If I'm willing to say, "God I don't understand it, but I'm willing. If this is necessary in my life to get me ready for what You want me to do, I'm willing". Now, listen very carefully, you want to survive no matter what? There are some things that are very important. Number one is this, and that is that you trust God. If you don't trust Him in the dark times, you won't--it just won't work. You trust Him. Secondly, in order for that to happen you must read the Word of God. You must read the Word of God; meditating upon His Word. For this reason, when you read the Scriptures, what are you doing? The Spirit of God is programming your mind to think the way God thinks. You think the way God thinks the more of Scripture you put in your mind and heart. Prayer and the reading of the Word of God are absolutely essential if we are to walk through the dark moments and walk through them successfully.
Now, for example, you sit in front of a television set and you say, I'm just going to relax. That's what you think. So, you throw your mind in neutral. This ad comes on, buy this soap. This pharmaceutical thing comes on, you take this pill. You live in this kind of house, you drive this kind of car, you wear these kind of clothes, you eat this kind of food, you drink these kind of drinks. And you're thinking, "Oh well, you know, I'm just ignoring it all". No, you're not. Because your mind is taking it all in. And what happens is, you're allowing the world to program the way you think, the way you act, the way you live, the way you dress, the way you buy, and the way you drink. So then you listen to that two or three hours and then you get in the bed or you decide I better read a little bit of verses of Scripture. And you read through a verse of Scripture and go to bed. You know what's happened? The world has outdone you.
It is truth that you want imbedded in your thinking. How does God think? How does God work? How do I fit into God's plan? If you want to survive the dark moments, it's in the Word of God, talking to Him and listening to Him, which means it takes time. You see, God's not on our schedule. We're on His. Ten minutes, think about this, you're trying to make a big decision in your life and you're going to give Him ten minutes, read ten verses and ask Him, "Now, Lord, show me Your will". Up and you're gone. You know what? How would you feel as a parent if you called your son in and said, "This is a critical, critical question we have to make a decision," and he listens to you for five minutes and says, "You know, my buddies are waiting for me, see you Dad". You think, you don't care.
You want to walk through the dark moments, you're going to have to walk on your knees in the Word of God, listening to Him, taking time to let Him sink into your mind and heart what He's thinking about your individual situation. Will He lead you? Will He guard you? Will He guide you? Will He protect you? Yes, He will. So, what's the conclusion? You think, "Well, dark moments are bad times". Not always. Listen, if God allows you to walk into a dark time in your life that it's not something you did, watch this carefully, He has something in mind you will never be able to figure out till He works it out.
You don't want to take the chance of missing what God has in mind. But you've got to trust Him. What builds trust? What builds trust is His Word and prayer. And what builds trust is obedience to what He says and the trust level just keeps rising and rising and rising. God will do in your life things that you've never dreamed if you'll just trust Him through those dark moments. Well, somebody says, "But I'm not even a Christian, so how does this relate to me"? I'll tell you how. If you're not a Christian, now, what I mean by that, you've never trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, then you're lost.
You say, "But I don't feel lost". That's not the issue, you are lost. You're separated from God. You're out from under the canopy of God's grace and His love and kindness towards you. And you're on your own to face life, which is a disastrous place to be. Your sins can be forgiven. He will accept you as one of His children if you're willing to confess your sinfulness, your need of Him, your dependence upon Him. And that you believe that Jesus Christ went to the cross and died on the cross for your sins; paid your sin debt in full. You're accepting Him as your personal Savior, surrendering your life to Him and allowing the Holy Spirit to come inside of you and live in your life and through your life. What will it do? Absolutely transform your life.
Now, the other alternative is this, you can just keep on living your life the way you're living it, without Christ, without God working in your life, and one day look back and think about, "Oh God, it's like I've been walking in the sand all these years and I don't see anything back there". Or you can live your life and look back and see that your footprints are like bronze, after you're gone, they're going to be there a long time because of the impact of your life. If you'll just let Him, it's a choice that you make.
And Father, how grateful we are that You know how to turn a dark moment into radiant light when Your will begins to be fulfilled in our lives. And I pray the Holy Spirit will take this message of hope and assurance; that every single person who hears and sees will be willing to place their trust in You no matter what. And watch You work Your awesome work in their life. In Jesus' name, amen.