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Jack Graham - Prison Break

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    Jack Graham - Prison Break
TOPICS: Joseph, Temptation, Trust, Purity, Sufferings, Obedience, Dream Interpretation

Take your Bibles and turn with me to the book of Genesis. We have been telling the story, the amazing story of Joseph. It concerns destiny; his destiny for sure, and yours as a follower of Christ as well. GOD'S FAVOR AND YOUR FUTURE. That's what the story of Joseph is about. Joseph rode on the backs of camels, sold as a slave into Egypt. He rose to prominence even in the household of his master, Potiphar, a well-known Egyptian. He was then falsely accused of rape when his master's wife sought to seduce him. He resisted the seduction, and as a result of his resistance (no fury but the woman, scorned) put him back in dark conditions in his life, desperate conditions in his life, for he ends up now in prison. Not for doing something wrong, but for doing something very right! You have to be concerned about the mental state of Joseph at this occasion.

Could things get any worse? Maybe he was asking the question that some people are asking today. Where is the bottom of this thing? Maybe he was asking the deeper question that many ask during desperate times, dark times, times of adversity. Maybe he was wondering: where is God? Where is God, for "goodness" sake? And in the thirty-ninth chapter of Genesis, we don't have to wonder where God is, for verse 21 says: "But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph's charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed".

We've heard this story before, haven't we? God's hand upon his life, providentially working, fulfilling His plans and purposes for Joseph, just as God's hands are upon the believer today. "The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord. (They please God.) and though we fall, we will not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds us with His strong right hand". I'm calling this message "Prison Break", and this series actually has 3 episodes. One, I'm simply going to call, "dungeons". Joseph didn't deserve the dungeon. We're told that it was a pit in chapter forty. But it was a prison, it was a dungeon.

There are sections of scripture, large sections of scripture written from prisons. Paul himself who was in prison wrote epistles, letters from jail. And a good portion of the New Testament is comprised of these epistles written from prison. John on the Isle of Patmos was incarcerated there for his faith, for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus. And it was there while in prison that the glories of the Revelation are given; and we just heard and sung of that great city that John described when he was in prison. I remind you, Joseph was in jail, not because he did something wrong, but because he did something very, very right. He is unjustly accused and there was no appeal. The master of the house, as a slave he had no rights, just had him incarcerated; put in jail. Adversity! It comes. And yet God is using this prison experience in Joseph's life, this adversity to advance him. God was not out of control. He was very much in control of this circumstance.

You know over the years I've watched as people have struggled with adversity in their lives. And the real battle is often in our desire to control our circumstances, to figure things out, to fix things up, to manipulate the process and do it ourselves. So as a result rather than submitting to the will of God and surrendering to God's will and purposes in our lives, we resist, and therefore the battle intensifies, because we won't let go and give control of our circumstances to God, trusting Him, resting in Him, waiting on His timing. Yes, God allows evil, but He will bring good out of bad! God will even use wicked people to accomplish His purposes in our lives! I've said it many times: Where God does not rule, He overrules!

So God uses adversity. How? God uses adversity to shake us up, wake us up, to get our attention and to draw us closer unto Himself. We're going through life at an easy pace, and then suddenly a crisis comes. The bottom falls out and we find ourselves drawn to depend upon God. Many of us are in this room. Many of you are watching right now, that crisis brought you to faith in Christ. And when you hit one of these adverse circumstances in your life, you should be asking yourself first and foremost, "Lord, what are you trying to teach me in this circumstance that I may draw closer to you". God uses adversity in our lives to develop maturity. This is what Peter is talking about when he says that we are tested by fire, speaking to people who were tested by fire because of their love for Christ and their faith in Him. But tested by fire that God may prove us in this test, the genuineness of our faith, the growth of our faith!

God uses adversity in life to prune us and purify us. Jesus talked about the vine. He is the vine; we are the branches, and the branch is to bear fruit, much fruit and more fruit. But in order for us to be fruitful as followers of Christ, there are times that he must prune away the excesses and the dead wood. And the cuts can be deep, and painful! And yet God is pruning us and purifying our hearts that we may do something great or greater for Him. God uses adversity to produce obedience in our life, and faith. The psalmist said in Psalm 119, verse 67, "Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep Your word". In the life of the psalmist God used some kind of adversity, affliction in his life to draw him to His Word. Verse 71: rse circumstances in our lives in order to teach us what we needed to know".It is good for me that I was afflicted that I might learn Your statutes".

Yes, God allows adversity. God may send adve God uses adversity to teach us perseverance, endurance, character. We live in a quick quit generation. We quit on most everything when our dreams are shattered, or our goals are not accomplished, our hopes are dashed, we want to throw in the towel and quit. We have to admire Joseph's perseverance, don't we? No matter what he faced, no matter the circumstances, because the Lord's hand was upon him, because God was with him and the steadfast love of God followed him there in the prison, he persevered through this pain. And then God used adversity and uses adversity in our lives to remind us to give thanks in every circumstance of life.

When you see Joseph in all of these circumstances he is positive, he is optimistic. He's not withdrawn or sullen or angry or bitter. Rather, the hand of the Lord has blessed him. And the favor of the Lord is upon him. He is living with a cheerful, joyful spirit; one of gratitude. And crisis in life reminds us that all the blessing of God, both good and bad experiences in life that we are to give thanks. First Thessalonians chapter 5, verse 18 says, "Give thanks in everything, for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ concerning you". It doesn't say, feel thankful in everything but give thanks in everything! And when you don't feel it, you faith it! And trust that God in your circumstances is causing all things to work together for good. What others meant for evil, God is working for good in our lives.

The second episode concerns dreams. If you will look in your Bible again down in verse 1 of chapter 40: "Some time after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and the baker committed an offense against the lord, the king of Egypt. And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison where Joseph was confined". No accident here; providence here. "And the captain of the guard appointed Joseph to be with them, and he attended them, "that is, he served them, "and they continued for some time in custody. And one night they both dreamed—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison—each his own dream, and each dream was its own interpretation".

Now you can read these dreams that these two men dreamed, both the cupbearer and the baker. They were royal servants of the king, very close, trusted allies and assistants of the king. If you're responsible for the drink and the food of the king Pharaoh, as these men were, these were responsible men and they were in the royal house of Pharaoh; and yet, they did something that enraged the king, and end up in jail. It didn't take much to get you in jail in those days. And they're in jail! And they're under the custody and the care of Joseph. God is making a connection here between Joseph and these two men that would ultimately bring about Joseph's elevation to leadership in Egypt. But for now he is serving them. They dream a couple of dreams, weird dreams, crazy dreams!

I don't know if they'd been eating, you know, burritos the night before or whatever, but these are wild and these are crazy dreams, and yet these dreams regarded their future. It'd be a good time to say something about dreams here. In the ancient world in Egypt dreams were considered revelations from god. There were magicians in the courts of pharaoh and wise men and soothsayers and all kinds of religious soothsayers that were there. And even in the Bible there are rare occasions where dreams were revelations from God. But we don't rely upon dreams for directions in life. We have a more sure word, it is the Word of God! We have the full revelation of God given to us in Scripture. And so we don't desire dreams to know what to do next; we simply desire God and His will in His word for us. But having said that, the real key to this passage is that Joseph had the ability to interpret dreams. He saw these two men and they were sad, they were downcast, according to the Scripture.

And notice here, again, Joseph is not withdrawn, sullen, angry, bitter, writing the world off because of his bad experiences in life; he's reaching out to these two Egyptians. He's serving them and notices that they are sad, that they are disturbed. So he said, "What's wrong"? They said, "We've dreamed these crazy dreams and we don't know what they mean". And Joseph said, "God can interpret your dream". And he was bold enough at that moment to speak for God! And may God give us the sensitivity to see people's needs, and the questions that they ask regarding life and their faith and their future. May we be bold enough to say, "We know a God who can tell you the future of your life! We know a God who can reveal His will in your life"!

There are a lot of people today who suggest that we are extremely arrogant for suggesting that in some way we speak for God or that we have an inside track to information from God. We don't. But God's Word is powerfully given to us so that we can help people find God's will and God's way in their life. And may God give us the boldness to share it, and the sensitivity to say to people, the confidence to say to people, "We know a God who can give you guidance for your life if you will look to Him". And so Joseph interpreted those dreams. To the cupbearer he said, "Your dream means that you are going to be released from this prison and repositioned back in Pharaoh's house". A good news report! The baker's excited by now, because the baker thinks that his dream is also a possibility of release. And yet Joseph told him straight up, "Buddy, it ain't good; your dream means you're going to be hanged, you're going to be executed".

Not what the good baker wanted to hear. I wish Christians today, starting with preachers in pulpits, were courageous enough to give not only the cupbearer's message, but the baker's message as well! People don't like to hear bad news. People don't like to hear words thundering with judgment, so we soften the blow; we just talk about good news. The Bible says "The wages of sin is death". That our days are numbered, that we are accountable to God, that if we reject the love and the grace of God in our lives there is condemnation and judgment to follow. And many are not saying that side of the message. We just give the cupcake message, the cupbearer's message, and all the baker's message goes unstated. But people need to know that the Gospel is a "savour of life unto life to all who believe, and of death unto death to those who believe not"!

We must deliver straight up the whole counsel of God! And that's what Joseph did. And the dreams were fulfilled even as Joseph interpreted them. The baker was hanged; the cupbearer is released. And on his way out the door, in chapter 40, verses 14 and 15, look at these words. Joseph said: "Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me in this pit". He says to the cupbearer, "Help me make a connection with the king. Tell him my story and help me get out of this place".

Some have criticized Joseph, saying that he's taking matters into his own hand here. But he did what any of us would have done. He did what the Apostle Paul did when Paul was under arrest and appealed to Caesar. He was simply appealing his case as a slave, and this was an opportunity through the Cupbearer to get a message to the Pharaoh of the kindness of Joseph and the goodness of this man. So he said, "Remember me when you get out of here". But look at the last verse of chapter 40: "Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him". Good grief! How could he forget? How could he break a promise that he made to a man that did so much for him? He forgot! And if you'll look at verse 1 of chapter 41: "After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed".

Let's stop right there. After two whole years. Now with your Bible open, look at the space between verse 23 of chapter 40 and verse 1, chapter 41. In my Bible they're separated by chapters and there's a white space in there that we just look over, right? I mean, look at your Bible. See that white space between the end of chapter 40 and the beginning of chapter 41? Look at that for just a moment. To us it's nothing! But to Joseph it was two long years; left, forgotten, in prison! It happens to people. People are forgotten by people who ought to remember. We make promises to God! We make promises to our church! We make promises to one another! Parents who promise to be faithful to their kids. And I can't tell you have many times kids that I know about are abused or mistreated by their parents who promised better! Husbands and wives who forget their pledges at altars in marriage! Promises before God and to one another! They just forget!

Somebody owed you money, and they forgot about it. You lent them the money in good faith. They said, "I'll pay you back". Or someone said, "You're on the fast track here in this job. You're on your way to the top! We're gonna promote you". And you didn't get promoted, though you got promised. You were down-sized! Even happens at church where people promise to love you and serve you and help you, and yet somebody lies about you or spreads a rumor or spreads gossip. It happens everywhere; tt happens all the time. This is a powerful reminder to us that, this whole story is an incredible message to us that while man cannot be trusted, God can be trusted! The Scripture says, "While we are faithless, He is faithful still". He remains faithful. Listen to these scriptures: "Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation". Verses 5 and 6, chapter 146 of Psalm: "Blessed is he whose help is in the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever"! Man won't do that, but God will!

Jeremiah 17:5, "Thus says the Lord: 'Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.'" Psalm 118:8, "It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man". No, people can't always be trusted! And I guarantee you; a sure fire way for bitterness in your life is to completely trust men when they fail you, because they will fail you. The cure, of course, is to place your hope in Christ alone. That God's providence is working for you, not against you! And while there will be times when there will be disappointments in life and discouragement in life, and delays in life, God is faithful. God has not forgotten you. He knows who you are, where you are, and what you're going through. He will remember when nobody else does.

The testimony that we just heard, the most shocking thing was these friends, family, they didn't care! But God cares when nobody else seems to care! When Jesus was dying on the cross, there was a thief on either side of Him, justly dying for their crimes. One of the thieves is cursing Christ and rejecting Him; the other is repenting and believing, and says to the Lord in the language of the New Testament over and over again. "Remember me, remember me, remember me". And Jesus remembered him and received him, and said "This day you will be with Me in paradise". I promise you according to God's Word that in your dying breath Jesus will remember you. No matter what you're going through in your life, no matter the dungeons and the darkness and the disappointments, God remembers when everybody else seems to forget! Joseph would one day be elevated to prominence and power in Egypt because God remembered His promise to His servant.
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