Craig Smith - Transformation and Temptation
Woman: They lied to their father and said Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. But God was with Joseph. Pharaoh’s Dreams. The traders took Joseph to Egypt. He was thrown into jail. But he did nothing wrong. Joseph trusted God to help him. He made friends with some of the prisoners.
Child: But why did he go to jail?
Woman: That’s a good question, buddy.
Child: But why did he go to jail?
Woman: That’s a good question, buddy.
It is a good question. Last time we saw Joseph it was last week. The last time we saw Joseph, he’d been sold into slavery by his brothers in Egypt. But how he ended up in jail? Well, that kind of came out of nowhere, right? Or at least it does in the kids’ versions. And the reason is very simple. The reason is what landed Joseph in jail is not the kind of story that makes for an appropriate bedtime tale for small children. It’s an explicit story and one that we tend to kind of leave out. But the reality is that in the story of how Joseph landed in jail, we find a tremendous story of God’s grace and of hope for ourselves. And so let’s rejoin the story of Joseph, why don’t you go and grab a Bible, start making your way to the Book of Genesis. We’re gonna be in Genesis chapter 39 today.
Now, here’s the thing. If you’re with us last week, you may remember that as we began the story of the life of Joseph, I’ll be honest, I was pretty hard on Joseph, okay? And the reason for that is I believe that in Genesis 37, as we’re told about the early days of Joseph’s life, as a young man, I believe the Bible very intentionally points us to some evidence that he was an incredibly self-centered man, that he looked at life through the selfie-lens. And that well, what happened to him being sold into slavery and then packed off to Egypt and then having his father convinced that he’d been murdered by wild animals. Well, that certainly wasn’t right. And it wasn’t justified by his self-absorption and the way that he interacted with his family. He wasn’t entirely innocent in it. And we’re supposed to see in that story the dangers of self-obsession so that we can kind of steer ourselves free from that particular trap.
But what’s interesting is that when we get to Genesis 39, and by the way, you’ll notice we’re skipping over Genesis 38. And the reason for that is Genesis 38, it’s not about Joseph, it’s about one of his brothers, a man named Judah. And Genesis 38 is definitely a story that could fit into the explicit series. In fact, I was originally planning on teaching the story in Genesis 38. But when I realized that we’re in this pandemic and we have lots of people watching with small children in the room, I decided I am not gonna do that. Because there is no way that I can sort of like, you know, clean up the story of Genesis 38 enough to make it appropriate for small children to be in the room. Feel free to read it and you’ll see exactly what I’m saying about it.
But the interesting thing, of course, is that Genesis 37, is a picture of Joseph as kind of a self-centered man. But Genesis 39 gives us a very different Joseph. It gives us a man who has learned a lesson, he has begun to experience the transformation of God’s grace on his life. And so we move from a man that is probably an example to be avoided, to a man who is an example to be imitated, and I find that incredibly encouraging. And so hopefully you do as well that our past does not necessarily define our future, that who we have been in the past does not dictate who we have to be in the future. And so, I love stories of transformation.
And in Genesis 39, we found a transformed Joseph. Genesis 39 says this. “Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. Now the Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.” I love that the Lord was with Joseph. Again, what’s happened to him is not justified by what he’s done. But he is responsible for setting the stage for what was done to him. His self-absorption, his willingness to brag and to flaunt his signs of success and to talk bad about his brothers to his dad. He’s created some of that. His failures and we saw several of those last week, they did set the stage for some of what’s happened, and yet notice that God is with him. Okay? And I love that because what it says to me is that with God, our failures aren’t fatal. With God, our failures aren’t fatal, and I need to hear that almost every single day. I don’t know about you, but the reality is that throughout this pandemic, I have had to rely on that truth way more times than I like to admit, and maybe you’ve experienced that too.
Maybe, honestly, maybe this whole pandemic thing, this whole quarantine thing has felt like one long string of failures. And maybe, honestly, all you need to hear today, maybe the only reason you’re tuned in is to hear this truth, is that with God our failures aren’t fatal. Maybe you have snapped at your kids over, and over, and over, again. And every time you’re like, “I’m not gonna do that again.” But then it happens, right? Or maybe you’ve taken out your stress on your husband or your wife. I have definitely done that. And I’ve had to tell my wife, “I’m sorry, I’m grumpy. I’m stressed and I’m taking it out on you. Please forgive me.” I’ve had to say that way more times than I care to admit.
Maybe you’re really struggling to stay engaged as a student or as an employee, right? Or maybe you’re trying to navigate this as an employer and you just feel like you’ve made wrong call after a wrong call. Maybe this whole thing feels like a long string of failures. You need to hear this truth. Joseph failed too and yet the Lord was with him. With God, our failures are not fatal. That is great news. And you need to grab a hold of it today. God was with him in spite of his failures.
Now, when his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything that he owned. I love that. I love the fact that it says, “His master saw that the Lord is with him.” Which is actually kind of an interesting thing, if you think about it, because Potiphar was an Egyptian, which meant he didn’t know anything about the Lord. He didn’t know anything about the God of Israel. I mean, the gods, little g gods, that he knew about, they were gods like Re and Osiris, or Seth and Anubis. He wouldn’t have known anything about the God of Israel. He wouldn’t have known anything about the Lord. And yet it says that, “He saw that the Lord was with Joseph.” It didn’t say that he saw that he was a hard worker. It didn’t say that he saw that he had a great work ethic. It didn’t say that he saw he was a smart guy. No, no, it says, “He saw that the Lord is with him.”
How did an Egyptian who knew nothing about the Lord see that the Lord is with Joseph? The only possible answer is that Joseph made it clear that his success was a blessing from God. Joseph made it clear that his success was a blessing from God. That his success was not because of his skill, it was not because of his talent, it was not because of his ability. It was not because of his hard work; he probably did all those things. He put his skill to work, he worked hard, he brought his best work effort to every single day, he probably did all that. But at the end of the day, he pointed out that his success was a sign of God’s blessing. It’s the only way that Potiphar would have known this.
And I love that because it begins to show us a transformation in Joseph. He’s moved from a man who looks at everything through the selfie-lens that he can’t quite get himself out of the frame. And now he’s like taking every bit of attention that comes to him and he’s pointing it back to God. He’s getting himself out of the frame, and he’s pointing people to the Lord. That’s so powerful. Okay? I love that. I don’t know how he did it. I don’t know if he was wearing a WWTLD bracelet. You know, “What Would The Lord Do?” Maybe he had a bumper sticker on his donkey’s backside that said, you know, “In him,” or “He’s greater than I,” or “God is my coupon.” I don’t know.
But somehow, he made it clear. And it says this, it says, “From the time that he,” that would be Potiphar. “From the time that Potiphar put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. The blessing of the Lord was on everything that Potiphar had. I love that. The blessing of the Lord wasn’t just on Joseph, the blessing of the Lord was on this Egyptian, it was on his entire household and everything that he had in the house and out in the field. And I love that because that’s the whole purpose of blessing. It’s a great picture of why God blesses us. Listen, God blesses us so we can be a blessing. That’s the whole point. God blesses us so we can be a blessing. The blessing is supposed to pour into us and then out of us onto others, even onto non-believers. Often that’s how they end up seeing the Lord is through the blessings that pour out of us onto them.
The blessings that we can point back to God is the ultimate source of. You know, I’ve said several times, because I think it’s important that what happens to Joseph, what his brothers did to him was not justified even though he had provoked on some level. But as I said last week, I think it’s also important that we recognize that I believe one of the reasons that God allowed him to go through that, one of the reasons that God allowed him to be in this mess was because God needed to break him so that he could bless him. God needed to break off of Joseph that part that was gonna hold on to the blessings and keep them for himself and for his glory and his benefit. That’s never been the purpose of blessings. Blessings are always supposed to go out, always supposed to go out. And so sometimes God has to break us of the part that would bottle up those blessings. And I believe that that’s what’s happened to Joseph, that arrogance, that insecurity that self-obsession, that me-centeredness. It’s been broken. And now the blessings are flowing into Joseph and they’re flowing out of him as they’re supposed to.
I love that picture. I love it. I love that picture. Joseph is kind of like God’s inside man in Potiphar’s operation. And I think that’s actually a great way for the followers of Jesus to think about themselves out in the world, whether that’s in a neighborhood, or in school, or on a team, or on a work situation, I think we should actually say to ourselves. We should say, “Hey, as long as I’m here, God’s got a man or a woman on the inside of this operation.” I love that, right. That’s how we should think. We should say, “Wherever I am, you know, as long as I’m here, God’s got a man or a woman on the inside of this operation, an agent of blessing.” I think that’s fantastic. But listen, it’s not enough that we think of ourselves as agents of God’s blessing. It’s not enough that we think of ourselves as being God’s man or woman on the inside of the operation. Other people need to know that that’s who we are too. We got to be outspoken. We got to be bold enough about whose we are that people don’t mistake what we do for a sign of our competence or our skill. We’ve gotta be able to point them back to who God is, to who Jesus is, right? I love that.
How do we do it? I don’t know exactly how Joseph did it, but I can make a pretty educated guess, I think. I don’t think he did it by slacking off. I don’t think he did it by screwing up. I don’t think that if Joseph had been a slacker if he’d been a big screw up, I don’t think people would have seen God blessing them through Joseph. And so, I think as followers of Jesus, we could probably pay attention to that concept. The concept that how we work reflects on the God that we serve, and how we serve those around us reflects on the God who wants to bless them through us. I’ve said it before, but I think this is so important.
The followers of Jesus need to be so good at our jobs, we need to be such great neighbors, we need such great teachers, we need to be so good on our team and in our school and about, we need to be so good and focused and have such a great work ethic that people look at us and go, “I don’t know what I think about Jesus, but his people are amazing. I don’t know what I think about this Jesus guy, but I know that she’s a huge blessing.” And it’s in that that they begin to see through us to the God who blesses. Listen to me, the quality of our work, the quality of our work can draw attention to the greatness of our God. You wanna be on mission with Jesus? That’s one simple way to do it. Just grab hold of that truth and understand that the quality of our work can draw attention to the greatness of our God. That when we work hard, when we work well, we bless those around us, and people begin to see through us to the one who is pouring out that blessing not only into us but through us onto them.
And so, Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care. And with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food that he ate. Now Joseph was well built and handsome. He’s a good looking dude. And after a while, his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me.” After a while, Potiphar’s wife saw that he is a good looking dude. She found herself attracted, she entertained attraction. That’s the dangerous next step. She thought about it. And then she took that next step, and she said, “Come to bed with me.” Here’s what you need to understand. Temptation always follows transformation. Temptation always follows transformation. We are seeing a transformed Joseph, we are seeing a man who’s pointing people to God, we’re seeing a man who’s willing to take himself out of the frame so that God gets the glory. We’re seeing a man who works hard to draw attention to the greatness of his God. Okay, that is a transformed man. But temptation always follows transformation because we have an enemy.
We have an enemy who hates that transformation. We have an enemy who wants to take us off track. And so as soon as he sees spiritual breakthroughs in our lives, as soon as he sees us beginning to move forward in becoming like Jesus and joining him on mission, and as soon as he begins to see us having success in that, he brings temptation our way to try to take us off track. I wish I didn’t have to tell you that, but I’ve seen it in my own life. You’ve probably seen in yours if you’ve been walking with Jesus for a while, it seems like every time there’s a spiritual breakthrough, temptation is right on its heels. Or maybe you haven’t seen that because you’re new to following Jesus, in which case, sorry to give you the bad news, but if you’ve just recently said yes to following Jesus, you need to know that you have an enemy out there who’s gonna do everything he can to take you off track.
And one of the ways he’s gonna do it, he’s gonna bring temptation into your life, to tangle you up, to trip you up, to knock you down and to take you off track. Temptation always follows transformation. Joseph has been transformed. And here this woman comes trying to take him off track, but he refused, but he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “My master does not concern himself with anything in the house. Everything he owns, he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld help nothing from me except you because you are his wife. How then, can I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” I love that. So he recognizes that he might be able to get away with it. Nobody else is necessarily around other or that necessarily anybody seeing what’s gonna happen. But even if nobody else on earth saw, he knows he has a God in heaven who sees that, and he can’t do that. He says, “How can I do such a wicked thing and sinned against God?”
And though she spoke to Joseph day after day…right, she kept after him, she kept after him. He refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. And in the original Hebrew that that’s written in, it literally says that, “He refused to lay with her or even to be near her.” In other words, he was going out of his way to make sure that he wasn’t in the same places that she was, that he was trying to put some distance between him and her. And I think that’s an incredibly important principle. We need to put as much distance between ourselves and sin as possible. It’s great to have the strength of resolve in that moment to go, “No,” to refuse to give in to temptation. But the thing is, temptation can wear us down over time, it can wear us down. And so, one the things we have to do is we have to put as much distance as possible between ourselves and sin so that we’re not constantly being worn down. And we don’t have to constantly put our resolve to the test, right?
Maybe you struggle with addiction in the past, and maybe you already know this. But if you’ve struggled with addiction in the past, some times you have to change your life, sometimes you have to start taking a different route to work, and a different route home so you don’t go past the same places that were once part of your struggle with that addiction. Or maybe you’ve got a different group of friends now, because that other group of friends, they were part of the problem and as long as you continue to spend time with them, you’re gonna find yourself dragged down by them and so you’ve had to make changes in your relationships.
Maybe you struggle because you’re looking at some stuff on the internet that you know you’ve got no business looking at. Maybe what you need to do, you need to put some filters in place. And then you need to have somebody that you trust put the passwords in for those filters so that you don’t have access to them. You need to put the distance between yourself and sin that’s necessary. Maybe if you’re finding your eye drawn to a guy or a girl, at the gym, or at work or somewhere, and maybe you find yourself tempted to go from the moment of attraction to entertaining that attraction in your mind. And so you realize, “I got to do something, I gotta change my schedule, am I gonna work out at a different time. Or maybe even get a transfer in the company or maybe even have to change my job because I’m not gonna go down that road.” And you’ve got to do what’s necessary to stay away from sin. And sometimes what’s necessary is to put as much distance as possible.
That’s what Joseph’s doing. He didn’t just refuse to lay with her. He refused even to be near her, which is probably kind of tricky. But he had to do it. He had to do it in order to honor God with his life. Kind of reminds me of something that I find in the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament. The writer of Hebrews is writing to the followers of Jesus. And he says this, he says, “In your struggle against sin, you’ve not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.” You’ve not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. Sometimes, we got a struggle, and we got to struggle hard.
That’s what Joseph is doing. He’s doing whatever is necessary. Unfortunately, here’s the reality. Sometimes we do that, and sin just keeps knocking. Check this out. This is verse 11. “One day, he went into the house to attend his duties, and none of the household’s servants were inside. And she caught him by his cloak, and she said, ‘Come to bed with me.’ But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.” He came in that one day, right? He came in and he’s been trying to stay away from her but this day he came in and looked around and he was like, “Well, where is everybody?” And maybe had one of those slow-motion, “Oh, no.” And right about then he turns around and she grabs a hold of his cloak. Now understand this is basically his clothes. It’s not like a coat that you could take off when you came into the house and still be perfectly well dressed. No, no, this is basically his clothes and she grabs ahold and she’s pulling him and he’s resisting. And he’s realizing, “I’m not gonna able to get out of this in any clean way.” And so what does he do? He shrugged himself out of his robes and he takes off, which basically means that he ran out of the house nearly naked. Okay, let’s not miss this. He ran out of the house, nearly… and he ran into the streets, and it was humiliating. But sometimes, that’s what you got to do if you really wanna honor God with your life and stay out of the clutches of the enemy. Stay out of the quicksand of sin.
Sometimes you got to pay a price. Listen, sometimes resisting sin is costly. Sometimes it is costly. Is there sin in your life that you find yourself trapped in again, and again, and again. And are you trapped there because honestly, when you consider what it would cost to get yourself away from the temptation or to say a final definitive “No, I won’t go down that road anymore.” Honestly, the cost is so great that you just haven’t been willing to pay it. God, may be speaking to you right now and saying, “It is time to pay the price.” Sometimes resisting sin is costly. And I’d love to tell you that as long as you’re willing to fight sin to the death, you’ll always win. As long as you’re willing to resist no matter what the cost is, it’ll always work out really well for you. But that’s not the world that we live in, right? That’s not the world that we live in.
He runs away and she’s they’re left holding his clothes and says this, “That when she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “This Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us. He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed, and when he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and he ran out of the house.” Doesn’t that just make your blood boil? Right? The injustice of that. He’s done everything right and he’s getting a raw deal. She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. And then she told him the story, “That Hebrew slave that you brought us came to me to make sport of me. But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house. And when his master heard the story his wife told him saying, ‘This is how your slave treated me,’ he burned with anger. And Joseph master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.”
That’s hard, right? Sometimes you do everything right, and you still get a raw deal. Sometimes you pay the price of doing what is righteous, and injustice is your reward. It’s the way it works in the world sometimes. But listen to me, this is so important to understand. As the followers of Jesus, we do what is right because it’s right not because it’s rewarded. It would have been great if somehow because Joseph did what was right, his master saw through his wife’s lie. It would have been great if somehow his master recognized that Joseph was innocent. But that’s not what happened. Joseph didn’t get the reward of his good behavior in that moment. And actually, he didn’t get the reward of that good behavior ever, honestly. Not at the hands of any human being.
But, listen to me, no right thing has ever gone unrewarded by God. I can’t promise you that every right thing that you do because it’s right and not just because it’s gonna be rewarded, every right thing that you do I can’t promise it’s gonna be rewarded in the here and now. I can’t promise it’s gonna be rewarded by human beings. But I promise that you have a Father in heaven who watches and no right thing you’ve ever done has ever been missed. It has been filed away and there is a reward waiting for you. There’s a day you’re gonna stand in front of him and every right thing you’ve ever done because it was right will be rewarded. Joseph didn’t get the reward of his good behavior in this moment, but it’s waiting for him in heaven, I promise you.
“But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him. And he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.” So interesting, once again, we’re told that Joseph is in a mess, but the Lord was with him. And I’m gonna be honest, I don’t like that. See, for me, the evidence that the Lord is with me should lead to not being in the mess, right? If God’s really with me, then I shouldn’t be treated unjustly. If God is really with me, then I shouldn’t be suffering because of false accusations. And I’ve experienced that, many of you have as well. You know what it’s like to be treated unjustly. You know what it’s like to have your motives twisted and everything you say twisted into something that it was never intended to be. You know exactly what that’s like, you know how hard it is, how frustrating it is. And when I’m in that moment, honestly, I don’t want the Lord to be with me in the mess. I want him to get me out of it, right? That’s the proof that the Lord is with me is that he’s fixing the mess that I’m in through no fault of my own. That’s, to me, the best evidence of God’s presence being with me, that he gets me out of the mess. And this is challenging for me because it doesn’t say that he was released from jail. It doesn’t say that his innocence was discovered. It says that he stayed in jail. But the Lord was with him. That’s a hard truth for me.
When the devil is coming against me with all the tricks in his arsenal, and honestly, it feels like it’s working, and I’m suffering and I’m hurting. I tend to feel like I’m off God’s radar. But I read this, and I know the truth. I know it. It’s just hard to hold on to sometimes. Here’s the truth. Just because you’re in the devil’s sights doesn’t mean you’re off God’s radar, okay? Just because the devil is coming at you with everything he’s got doesn’t mean that God is not with you. It does not mean that you’re off God’s radar. The Lord was with him in the midst of his mess. And so, the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison. And he was made responsible for all that was done there. And the warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. Here’s what I want to know. I wanna know how long it took Joseph to realize that the Lord was with him in giving him success in everything he did. Because I’ll be honest, if it was me, it probably would have taken me a while. I would have had my eyes fixed on the injustice. I would have had my heart set on the frustration of being treated so poorly and unfairly.
And I don’t know if Joseph struggled with that or not, but at some point, he managed to look around and realized that even though he was still in the mess, God was with him and God was blessing him. And that’s challenging to me. It’s challenging to me because what it says to me is, that until I start to look around for God in the midst of the mess, I’m gonna be blind to a lot of blessings. That until I start looking to see the signs that God is with me in the mess, I am gonna be blind to a lot of things that God is doing for me. I’m gonna be blind to a lot of the signs that he is present with me and I’m gonna be completely oblivious to the opportunity to be a blessing and to be on mission with them.
Here’s the truth. Every mess has an opportunity for a mission. Every mess that we find ourselves in no matter how unjustly provides an opportunity for a mission. And Joseph began to see the signs of God’s presence, he began to see the opportunities and he began to be a blessing to those around him. And ultimately, if you know the story as it goes on, he not only eventually does get released from prison, it doesn’t happen soon, but it does eventually happen. And he rises to the point that he’s actually the number two man in all of Egypt, he becomes a blessing to all of Egypt, he ends up becoming a blessing to the family that sold him into slavery. And he’s reunited with his father ultimately, and he says this incredible thing. He says to his brothers who sold him into slavery he says, “What you intended for evil, God intended for good, for the saving of many people.”
At some point, maybe quickly, maybe he’s better than me. Maybe it took just as long as a day, but he looked around and he realized, “Huh, God is with me in the midst of the mess.” The mess is not a sign that God has abandoned me. And in every mess, there’s an opportunity for mission. How do you grab ahold of those? Maybe you’re listening to this and your life feels like a mess right now. Maybe there’s a really difficult situation you’re facing. And all you wanna do is get God to get you out of there. I get that. I totally understand that.
But here’s what I’m trying to do that I’m challenged to do by the story of Joseph, three things really. The first one is this. It’s to accept that God might have more to do where I am than where I want to be. That’s the first step. I have to accept that if I’m God’s man, and I wanna be on mission with him, that that mission might be in the mess. And I have to accept that, that’s the first part. That’s tough. My youngest daughter challenged me on this. Some of you heard me tell the story, but it’s just it’s so good. I can’t help but tell it again. She was in the midst of chronic pain that she experienced for a couple years, serious, serious, debilitating pain. And I remember somewhere in the midst of that, she said, “Yeah, I’m still praying for God to heal me. I’m still praying for God to release me. But I also understand that he may have some stuff that he wants to do in me and maybe even through me in the midst of this, and I don’t wanna miss that.” She accepted that. Now it is hard when your child surpasses you spiritually in some area. It’s humbling. But it’s powerful. She accepted it. And I’m trying to do the same thing to accept that God may have more to do in my circumstances than he would in the circumstances I’m hoping for, okay, that’s the first step.
Second thing is, we’re gonna change the way we pray. So we’re gonna pray for God to use me in the mess not just to get me out of it. Okay, that’s the second thing. Pray for God to use me in the mess not just to get me out of it. It’s okay to pray for God to get you out of it, that’s okay. That’s what’s on your heart. God loves to hear what’s on your heart. Pray that too. But don’t forget to also pray. “In the meantime, Lord, use me.” Because the reality is sometimes there is a mission that we can be on in the mess that won’t be there, the opportunity will not be there when we’re out of the mess. So, change the way we pray.
Third thing I’m trying to do, and I’m gonna challenge you to do, is to start looking for opportunities rather than an exit strategy, right? I have to accept that God may have more to do in the situation than the one I wanna be in, then I’m gonna pray that God would use me and not just set me free. And then third, I’m gonna start actively looking around because we often see what we look for, and we don’t see what we’re not looking for. So I’m gonna start looking for opportunities to be on mission rather than an exit strategy. I love the story of Joseph. I love the story of a self-obsessed young man who’s transformed. But the transformation doesn’t change all of his circumstances. But he is a different man in those circumstances, he is God’s man on the inside. And I want that to be true of me. And I think you want that to be true of you. I know, I want that to be true of you. Whatever difficult circumstance you find yourself in, I want you to be God’s man or woman on the inside. Being a blessing, being on mission with him.
Here’s a few questions to help kind of wrestle with these truths. The first one is just this. What criteria am I using to determine whether or not God’s with me? What signs am I looking for to see that I believe God is actually with me? And when I begin to realize that my criteria aren’t necessarily the right ones, that my circumstances aren’t the best indicator of whether or not God is with me, then I need to start looking for some other signs. And so what signs do I see that he is with me? I had to do that this past week. And as I began to lift with my eyes off of the circumstances, I began to be able to go, “Well, God’s done that and, oh, God’s gonna move there and oh, this is happening, and this was happening.” And it was actually a really humbling experience. I was sharing with the staff this past week, that when I actually got my eyes up, I was a little ashamed of how deeply discouraged I was by the circumstances and realized that there are so many signs that God’s with me. And you’ll find the same thing too. So set aside those unhelpful criteria and start looking for the real signs that God is with you maybe even in the midst of your circumstances.
Second question is, where do I need to put more distance between myself and temptation? What’s that one sin that you keep struggling, with the one sin that you keep falling back into? Is it possible that the reason you keep falling back into it because you keep skirting the edge of that pit? You keep walking on the edge of that cliff and so yeah, keep slipping off. And so you need to put more distance and what cost do you have to pay to put that kind of distance between you and that sin that the enemy is bringing your way to take you off mission with Jesus? And then lastly, what’s the biggest mess in my life? What’s the biggest mess in your life? And what opportunity for mission does it offer? I promise you. Every mess has an opportunity for mission. There’s no question about that. The only question is whether or not we will seize those opportunities. Would pray with me?
God, as the followers of Jesus, we come before you and we confess that our eyes are easily taken off you by our difficult circumstances, by the injustices we face, by the bad ways that were treated, or simply, Lord, by circumstances that are not what we would have preferred. We fix our eyes on those rather than you and we ask for your forgiveness. We thank you for the example of Joseph, who was able somehow to recognize that you were with him in spite of the fact that his circumstances didn’t just get better overnight. But he was on mission with you. He was your man on the inside of that operation being a blessing. As you blessed him, he poured that out on to others. And Lord we wanna do the same thing. We ask for the strength through the power of your Holy Spirit to do exactly that.
Speaking about being on mission, easy way to do that, if you’re a follower of Jesus, would you begin praying right now for those people watching around the world who don’t have a relationship with our God? And if that’s you, if you’d be honest, and you say, “I don’t trust Jesus, I’ve never put my faith in Jesus Christ. I don’t have a relationship with this God that you’re talking about.” But somehow God brought you to this moment listening to this message and that’s not an accident. God is at work in your life, drawing you to himself. And maybe more than anything else this is all you need to understand. It’s that thing that we said right back at the very beginning, that your failures aren’t fatal.
Maybe honestly, you’re listening to this and you have a hard time believing that God would want anything to do with you because of all the ways that you’ve fallen short, all the ways that you have failed. And you need to hear the truth, your failure is not fatal, not to his love for you, and not to his desire to bless you or to be in a relationship with you. You know how I know that? It’s because the Bible says, “That while we were yet sinners, while we were yet failing to live up to the standards that God’s set for us, while we were yet sinners, Christ, Jesus Christ died for us.” He died for us in the midst of the failures. He didn’t expect us to get it all right before he was willing to come to us. He came to us to rescue us in the midst of the failures, in the midst of our sin.
God loves you. No matter how badly you’ve messed up, it is not fatal for his love for you or for his desire to be in a relationship. Jesus came, he lived a perfect life, and then he died on the cross to pay for your sin, to pay for my sin. He paid it all off. He purchased forgiveness in his blood. Three days later, he rose from the dead. It’s a fact of history. And he offers us salvation by faith, that if we will simply trust in what he did on the cross, our sins will be forgiven. The debt wiped clean, and we will begin a relationship with God that begins now and goes on forever. And if you’ve never said yes to what he did for you, if you’ve never received his gift, you can have it right now. Here’s how you do it. Wherever you are, just have this conversation with God. You’re just gonna say to him:
Hey, God, I have failed. I’ve sinned. I’ve done wrong. And I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross to pay for my failures, my sins. I believe you rose from the dead and I’m putting my faith in you. I’m putting my trust in you. Jesus, I’ll follow you. Thank you for forgiveness, for freedom from sin and darkness and a relationship with God Almighty himself. Jesus, I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.