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Robert Jeffress - But God...


Robert Jeffress - But God...
TOPICS: But God..., Joseph, Trials, Integrity, Life of Joseph

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Joseph is one of the most fascinating and relatable characters in all of scripture. His dramatic story addresses issues like granting and receiving forgiveness. It demonstrates the value of a clear conscience and the story teaches what it means to be patient and wait on God's timing. Joseph's life is full of ups, downs, and unexpected twists. And today I'm going to show you how like Joseph, God can use our dreams and our disappointments to shape our future. My message is titled, "But God...", in this new teaching series on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

In his book, "Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives," Chuck Swindoll asked two probing questions that each of us should consider. Question number one, would you rather be a person of significance or a person of prominence? Think carefully the answer to that question will shape your entire future, including the decisions you make, the manner in which you relate to others, and even how you're going to fulfill the roles that God has assigned to you. Question number two, which is more important to you, the quality of your impact on the world or the size of that impact. "Let's face it," Chuck says, "Most of us are conditioned by the world to think we can have both when in reality, you can only have one of them".

How true those words are. At some point in your life, in my life, we have to determine what we really want in life. Are we chasing after success or significance? Are we spending our life pursuing that which is temporal or that which is eternal? Do we really crave the approval of men or the approval of God? It's one or the other. It can't be both. Today we're going to begin a study of the life of one man who ultimately, not immediately, but ultimately chose significance over success. And because of that, he experienced God's unending blessings in his life. His name is Joseph. And it's interesting when you look at the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, there's more space allocated to the story of Joseph than to Adam, the first person, Noah or Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Joseph receives the bulk of attention. And I think we're going to discover why through this series.

Now, Joseph, wasn't a perfect person. He had some tremendous flaws, which is one reason I identify with him so well. As a reminder, you don't have to be perfect to be used by God in a significant way. But as you read through the life of Joseph and it's such an encouraging life to study, you find that the story of Joseph answers three questions. Question number one. Why is it that God allows his own children to go through difficulty, persecution and humiliation? Have you ever wondered that? Why does it seem like there's no difference between how God sometimes treats Christians and non-Christians? Question number two, why is it that honestly God seems so distant sometimes at the very time we need him the most? And question number three, if you fail one of God's major tests in your life does he puts you on the shelf forever, or can he use you again? The study of Joseph's life answers all of those questions.

So today I want you to turn to Genesis chapter 37 as we begin the series on Joseph, that I'm calling "But God..." about God's intervention in the life of this man in a miraculous way. Now, when we come to the story of Joseph, we discovered that Joseph was one of 12 sons of Jacob. He was the next to the youngest of Jacob's sons, the 12 sons who would become the 12 tribes of Israel. And he was his father's favorite son. But when we come to Genesis 37, we find the details of an event that happened to him when he was 17 years old, that shaped his future forever. So, let's look at the story in four acts. First of all, Jacob, Joseph's father, leans toward Joseph.

Look at beginning of verse 2 of Genesis 37. "These are the records of the generations of Jacob. Joseph, when he was 17 years of age was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was still a youth". Underline that if you will. His job was to work with his brothers in pasturing the flock. You'll see why that's important in just a moment. "Along with the sons of Bilhah, the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives". This was a mixed family. There were several mothers, one father, Jacob. So he's out there with his other brothers, his 11 brothers, pasturing the flock, and it says, "And Joseph brought back a bad report about his brothers to their father". Immediately you find out Joseph among his many flaws is a tattletale. Why did he do that? Why did he feel compelled to come back and squeal on his brothers? Well, you find it in the next verse.

Now, Israel, that was the other name for Jacob, Joseph's father. "Now Jacob loved Joseph more than all of his other sons, because he was the son of his old age". And the son of his favorite wife, that's just for extra. "And he made him a multi-colored tunic and his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all of his brothers. And so they hated Joseph and could not speak to him on friendly terms". You know, you see here right away, one of the pitfalls that every parent has to avoid, and that is showing favoritism to a child. And that means the bitterness that was simmering in that household, this just added more and more to it. The resentment that his brothers felt toward him.

Again, look at verse 4. "His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all of his brothers and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms". If that wasn't bad enough, Joseph just adds fuel to the fire in the next act when we see Joseph dreams of greatness. Now, by dreams, I don't mean to aspire to, he had literal dreams of greatness that God sent to him. Look at verse 6 of Genesis 37, "And Joseph said to his brothers, 'please listen to this dream which I 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 sheaf'. And then his brothers said to him, 'are you out of your gourd'? No, that's what he means. Are you really serious? Do you think you're going to reign over us or are you going to rule over us? So they hated him even more because of his dreams and for his words".

Joseph didn't know when to stop. Instead of trying to cool things down, he only heats them up because he relates to them still another dream. Look at verses 9 and 10. "Now he had still another dream and related it to his brothers. And he said, 'lo I have had still another dream and behold in this one, the sun and the moon, and the 11 stars were bowing down to me'". Well, they knew who the 11 stars were, but then who's the sun and the moon? Jacob, the father's listened to this and says, uh-oh, what are you talking about? He related this dream to his father and his brothers and his father said, 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? They couldn't believe this dream.

Now, what's interesting is, when you read the story of Joseph from this point on, you find out that that dream was indeed from God. And that's exactly what happened when they all got to Egypt and Joseph was second in command to Pharaoh, but they didn't know that at the time, all they knew was that their manipulative, arrogant brother was once again trying to manipulate them. And this is where we see another one of Joseph's character flaws. He probably believed what God revealed to him in the dream. And that was a good thing, but he felt like he needed to help God along to make sure this actually happened. So he thought he could get his brothers to submit to him by saying, look at what God has shown me. Let's just cut to the chase and you start bowing down before me.

It's interesting, the father, Jacob was irritated at Joseph it says, but the text also says, he kept those things in his heart and pondered them. Could this be true? Could this be what is going to happen to Joseph? Well, that sets the stage for the next act beginning in verse 12, the brothers scheme against Joseph. When we come to verse 12, we find that the brothers were out in the pasture and what was Joseph doing? He was spreading around the house in that coat, that tunic and his father even got irritated and said, Joseph, don't you need to be doing something productive? Why don't you go and check on your brothers? Maybe you can find out some more information about them. I need to go. No. And so he says in verse 14, "Go check on your brothers". And verse 18 says his brothers saw him coming while he was still on the horizon, a long distance out there.

How did they see him and know who it was from a distance? He was wearing that blasted jacket, that tunic that they hated so much and they said, when they saw him, this is our chance to get him. So, they plotted, the Bible, says to kill him. "Let's kill him and throw him into the pit and we'll tell dad that a bear destroyed him". But Reuben, the oldest of the brothers felt a responsibility and said, no, let's not kill him. Let's throw him into the pit alive. And the Bible says, Reuben thought to himself. And then I will go back and deliver him. Look at verse 23. "So it came about when Joseph reached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the very colored tunic that was on him. And they took him and they threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty without any water in it. And then they sat down to eat a meal".

Talk about hard-hearted. Throwing their brother into a pit with no water alive and then they sit down and say, gee, let's have a nice meal together. They probably rationalize their actions. Say, well, at least we didn't kill him. You know, he has a chance in that pit. They threw him in the pit. And then when they had finished their meal, they took his very colored tunic that they had stripped him of, they dipped it in the blood of a goat and they brought it back to their father, Jacob and told him that, bad news, dad, Joseph, the son you love so much was killed by a wild animal. Verse 34 says, "So Jacob tore his clothes and put sack cloth on his loins and mourned for his son for many days. Then all of his sons and all of his daughters arose to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. And he said, 'surely I will go down to sheol, the grave, in mourning for my son'. So his father wept for him".

But God wasn't through. In the fourth act, we see God intervenes for Joseph. Look at verse 36. Meanwhile, another way to say that is, but God, "Meanwhile, something was taking place, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, Pharaoh's officer, the captain of the body guard". They took Joseph as a slave, took him to Egypt. They didn't free him, but they sold him to Potiphar, the chief of the guard for Pharaoh. And this is what God used to put Joseph in a place of prominence, and prepared him for the next act in his life. Joseph certainly had his flaws. He was arrogant. He was self righteous. He was a schemer, just like his father, Jacob had been. But in many ways, Joseph was also a type, a foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus Christ.

You say, "How could you say such a thing"? I want you to think of four ways that Jesus and Joseph were alike. First of all, they were both favored sons, Genesis 37:3 says, "Jacob loved his son, Joseph more than any of his other sons". And Matthew 3:17, "Jesus being baptized, heard the voice from heaven saying, 'this is my beloved son in whom I am well-pleased'". Jesus and Joseph were both favored sons. They were also both despised brothers. Joseph's brothers hated him. They couldn't even speak to him on friendly terms. In Matthew 27, we're told that when Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate, even Pilate realized the reason these Jewish leaders wanted to kill him was out of jealousy. Matthew 27:18, "For he, that is Pilate, knew that because of envy, they had handed him over".

Thirdly, both Joseph and Jesus were humiliated leaders. Genesis 37:23, "So it came about when Joseph reached his brothers, that they stripped him of the very colored tunic that was on him". Remember what happened to our Lord in Matthew 27:28 and 29. "They stripped Jesus and put a scarlet robe on him. And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and a reed in his right hand. And they knelt down before him mocking him saying, 'hail king of the Jews'". And finally, both Joseph and Jesus were resurrected leaders. Genesis 37:28, "Then some Midianite traders passed by and they pulled him up. They lifted Joseph out of the pit".

Acts 2:32 Peter said at the day of Pentecost that's what God did. He reached down and he lifted his son, Jesus out of the grave. The similarities between Joseph and Jesus were striking. But also Joseph is more than a type of Jesus Christ. He is an example of how God works in the life of anyone he is going to use in a significant way. If God is going to use you in a significant way, don't be surprised when God brings heartache, difficulty, trials into your life. I want you to notice four truths about suffering that God is going to bring into your life if he's ever going to use you in a significant way.

First of all, suffering involves surprise. It involves surprise. Wouldn't it have been nice if God had told Joseph what was getting ready to happen to him with his brothers? I mean, at least he could have tied up some loose ends. He could have said goodbye to his father. He could have put his multicolored coat in storage so it didn't get damaged. I mean, would have been a lot neater if he would have told him, but God rarely warns us ahead of time that difficulties come. Instead, James says it well in James 1:2 when he says "Consider it all joy my brethren, when you encounter various trials".

That Greek word encounter literally means ambush. That's how trails come into our life. Things are going along just fine and out of nowhere, it seems like we get ambushed, attacked and not by just one trial. Have you ever noticed how difficulties come in groups to assault you? It's never one at a time. This is happening, then this happens, then this happens. It was the same way with Joseph as well. We shouldn't be surprised when difficulties come.

Secondly, suffering involves loss. When God decides to test you, when God sends something into your life to strengthen you God's test never involved that which is trivial to us, but that which is treasure to us. Have you ever noticed that? When tests come, they don't involve things that are meaningless to us, but the things we value most. That was the way it was with Joseph's great-grandfather, Abraham. The Bible says, God tested Abraham, not to make him fall, but to strengthen him. And when God tested Abraham, it was in the area of the thing that meant most to him, his son, Isaac. And that's why God said, Abraham, I want you to take your son, the son that you love and offer him as a sacrifice. What is it that you treasure the most? Your possessions? Your position? Another person? Don't be surprised if that's where God tests you.

Thirdly, God's test and suffering involve an element of disillusionment. Many times, going through a difficulty causes us to be disillusioned with other people just like Joseph was with his father. Psalm 118:8 says, "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in men".

And finally suffering involves deliverance. Many times, God will bring you and me to a place of despair where all we can do is cry out to the Lord for relief. And then have you ever noticed this? When you hit the bottom, most of the time God doesn't deliver you immediately out of that problem, but he'll send a little sign of encouragement to you to remind you that he is still at work in your life. That's what he did with Joseph. Here's Joseph in the pit, crying out to God, and what happens? Some slave traders come. They buy him. They don't free him, but they take him to Egypt. And perhaps Joseph is thinking, maybe my story isn't over yet. That's what God does for his children.

If there is one truth folks, I want you to walk away with today, it's this, the hardships that come into your life that seem random, that are unexpected, that are undeserved, that seem unbearable. Those difficulties in fact are not random acts. They are a part of God's sovereign plan for your life. A plan for your ultimate good and for God's ultimate glory. Psalm 138:8 says, "The Lord will accomplish what concerns me. Your loving kindness o Lord is everlasting. Do not forsake the work of your hands".

A sculptor was going to fashion a beautiful angel out of a slab of marble. A passer-by said, how are you going to make an angel out of that slab of marble? The sculptor said, oh, that's easy. All I'm going to do is chisel away everything that doesn't look like an angel. You know, the fact is it's the same with you and me. The moment we trust in Christ as our Savior, God begins a sculpting process. He molds you. He conforms you. He shapes you into the image of his son, his beloved son, Jesus Christ. God loved Jesus so much, he said, you know what? I really don't need to have one child. I would like to have a lot of children who are just like my favorite son, Jesus Christ.

He is working right now to make you just like Jesus. How does he do that? By chipping away everything in your life that doesn't look like Jesus. Every habit, every affection, every attitude and trials, difficulties are the hammer and chisel he uses to do that chipping away of anything displeasing to him. Paul said in Romans 8:29, "For whom God knew and foreknew, he predestined to become conformed to the image of his son". That's what God was doing in Joseph's life. And it's what he is doing in your life as well.
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