Robert Jeffress - Develop a Victor, Not a Victim, Mindset
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Problems rarely come one at a time. Have you found that to be true? They seem to pile on one after another until it feels like you're completely buried in a mountain of complicated issues. And when that happens, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and defeated, with no hope of ever digging yourself out. So how can we change ourselves from victims of difficult circumstances to victors over difficult circumstances? Well, today, as we continue our series "Courageous," we're going to look at "Survival Tip #4: Develop a Victor, Not a Victim, Mindset". On today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
The ship was doomed. Everybody knew it. But there was nothing they could do about it. For the past year, the endurance had been home to the captain and the 27 crew members on a voyage from England to Antarctica. The vessel had sailed 12.000 miles and then pushed through packed ice for more than a 1.000 more miles. But now it was entombed in Antarctic ice, less than 100 miles from its intended destination. The currents under the frozen sea pushed and pulled against the wooden hull, slowly crushing it. Everyone on board took what supplies they could and abandoned ship, casting their lot to the same ice that held the endurance in its frozen grip.
As they watched the sides of their ship cave in from the pressure and heard the large timber snap, the men had become resigned to what they believed was their inevitable fate: death. Either by exposure, starvation, or drowning. But their leader had a different mindset. "Optimism," he would often say, "is true moral courage". And if there was one thing that was true about Ernest Shackleton, it was that he was an optimist. Fully equipped and with a crew of 27 adventurers, the endurance sailed from Plymouth, England, in August 1945. By January of the following year, the ship was ice bound. The crew members built a galley and storehouse out of the ship's timbers and braved six months on the ice, surviving on salvaged rations until the ice thinned enough for them to reach Elephant Island in lifeboats that they had scavenged from the endurance. But when the frost-bitten men finally reached Elephant Island, it turned out to be a frozen wasteland without any sustainable food sources.
To rescue his men from exposure and starvation and certain death, Shackleton, with a small crew, boarded a lifeboat and sailed 870 miles to South Georgia Island where there was a whaling station with supplies. The journey took 17 days, and they landed under hurricane conditions. However, the whaling station was on the other side of the island, so Shackleton and his crew had to traverse 32 miles over glacier-covered peaks. It took another four months before Shackleton finally reached his stranded men on Elephant Island with the supplies they needed to carry them back to England. Years later, one of the men called him the greatest leader that has ever come on God's earth bar none. He wrote, "When you are in a hopeless situation, when there seems no way out, get on your knees and pray for a Shackleton".
Ernest Shackleton realized an important truth. Our attitude is key to our survival when faced with a threatening situation. And that's what we're going to talk about this morning. You know, Ernest Shackleton had a vocabulary that didn't have room for words like quit, give up, fail, or surrender. No, he had developed the attitude of a victor rather than a victim. Like the apostle Paul who said in Romans 8:31, "If God is for us, who can be against us"? That's the attitude of a victor.
And today, as we continue our series "Courageous," we're looking at the 10 survival tips that allow us not only to survive but to actually thrive in this hostile environment we're living in. And we're gonna look at that fourth survival tip today. Those who are courageous learn how to develop a victor, rather than a victim, mindset. You know, there's an old saying that musicians can't talk themselves into a good performance, but they can talk themselves out of one. Perhaps some of our orchestra members understand that principle. I know I do. Many of you know I grew up playing the accordion. My old accordion teacher, Alfred, gave me a good piece of advice I should have listened to all the time. He said, "Robert, if you ever hit a wrong note, just keep on smiling, and the audience won't know the difference". What he was saying was your attitude really counts on your success, it determines your success. If you think as a failure, you're going to act like a failure. Attitude is essential.
I want you to take your Bibles and turn to 1 John 5 for just a moment. We read this passage a few moments ago. The mark of an overcomer is obedience to our Heavenly Father. Look at 1 John 5. Remember, when John wrote these words, the beloved apostle of the Lord Jesus was now an old man. Look at what he says in verse three. "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world, and this is the victory that has overcome the world, our faith. And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God"?
The one who believes in Christ is the one who keeps God's commandments. God's commands were not meant to restrict us from happiness or to hurt us, but to keep us safe and allow us to become overcomers. God wants you and me to develop that overcomer, that victor mindset. And one of the best models of how to do that is found in the Old Testament story of a man named Joseph. I would say, outside of Jesus Christ, there is no man who has overcome more adverse circumstances in his life. We find his story beginning in Genesis chapter 37. And in the few minutes we have today I want you to notice three sources of adversity that came into Joseph's life that have probably or will probably come into your life as well.
First of all, Joseph was faced with overcoming the unloving actions from family members. The unloving actions from family members. We find the story beginning in Genesis 37. Look at verses three and four. "Now Israel," that is, Joseph's father Jacob, "Loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age, and so he made him a varicolored tunic. And his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms".
Now this garment was more than a fashion statement. The reason it was so important was it denoted a place of honor, a place of authority that Joseph, one of the youngest, would have over his older brothers. One day, and you remember the story, Jacob told Joseph he wanted him to go out and check on his brothers. And so when his brothers saw him coming in that garment they hated so much, they plotted to kill him. But Rueben intervened on his behalf, his brother. And Rueben said, "Let's not kill him. Let's just throw him in this pit over here". So they threw him in a pit wile they had lunch. And behold, a group of Ishmaelite traders came, a caravan. And one of the other brothers, Judah, said, "We can make some shekels out of this". And so they sold their brother for 20 pieces of silver. That's the way it was for Joseph. And yet, in Genesis 39:2, it says, "And the Lord was with Joseph".
You find that continually throughout Joseph's life. No matter what comes his way, the Lord was with him. There's something about unloving actions from family members that cut us and cut us deeply. But it doesn't undo Joseph. Next, we see him overcoming underserved accusations from others. Overcoming undeserved accusations from others. Joseph was sold as a slave, he ended up in Egypt, where he was sold to a man whose name was Potiphar. You remember Potiphar was the captain of the bodyguard for Pharaoh. He had a very high position. And Joseph distinguished himself by his diligent work in Potiphar's house. Potiphar noticed it and he promoted him to be in charge of all of Potiphar's household. Everything was under Joseph's control. The only thing off-limits to Joseph was Mrs. Potiphar.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Potiphar never got the memo, because she didn't realize Joseph was off-limits to her. And so she immediately started to seduce Joseph. The Bible says that Mrs. Potiphar came to Joseph day after day after day. That's how temptation comes. And finally, on one day, when all the other servants were out of the house, she was alone with Joseph, and she grabbed him by the shoulder and she said, "Lie with me". How did Joseph respond? He said, "Mrs. Potiphar, I sense you have some great unmet need in your life and I'd like to pray for you right now. Can we just pray together here"? No. No, he knew that situation was too hot for his Hebrew hormones to handle, and so he did the most spiritual thing he could do. He ran as fast as he could in the opposite direction. In fact, he left so quickly, she was left with just a piece of his garment in her hand. And then, the time of reckoning came. Mr. Potiphar came home.
Notice what happened in verse 17 of Genesis 39. "Then she spoke to Potiphar with these words, 'the Hebrew slave, whom you brought to us, came in to me to make sport of me. And it happened as I raised my voice and screamed that he left his garment beside me and fled outside'. Now it came about when Potiphar heard the words of his wife, which she spoke to him, saying, this is what your slave did to me'". "And Potiphar's anger burned". In fact, it burned so hot that he ended up throwing Joseph into prison.
Doing the right thing many times has a cost associated with it. The Bible talks about that in 1 Peter 2. Peter said, "There is no reward for suffering when you do the wrong thing". We think if we're suffering, it must be for righteousness. A lot of times, our suffering isn't for righteousness. It's for unrighteousness. But listen to the words of the apostle Peter. 1 Peter 2:20-21. "For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it, you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example to follow in his steps".
Joseph experienced negative consequences for doing what was right, not what was wrong. And he had to overcome that unfair accusation that changed his life completely coming from Potiphar. And that led to a third source of difficulty in his life. Overcoming unfair neglect by his own friends. Joseph goes to prison. He didn't know at the time he would spend two full years there. But he thought, probably, at least at first, "God's gonna get me out of here. This is an unjust sentence, God is a God of justice, surely he's not gonna allow me to languish in this prison".
And sure enough, not long after he was thrown into prison, two new people came to prison as well, and they both came from Pharaoh's household. One was the cupbearer and one was the baker. And they came to Joseph and they said, "Joseph, we've heard that you're able to interpret dreams. Can you help us"? Joseph said, "Sure, what's the dream"? The cupbearer says, "Well, my dream was that I was squeezing grapes into the king's chalice, Pharaoh's chalice. What does that mean"? And Joseph said, "Oh, that's easy. It means in three days you're gonna be released from prison and restored to your position".
The cupbearer was released from prison and sent back to Pharaoh's palace. But before he left, Joseph said to the cupbearer, "I only ask that you do one thing. When you get out and you're in front of Pharaoh, don't forget me. Remind Pharaoh about me and how I've been unfairly accused". The cupbearer says, "You don't have to worry about that. After all you've done for me, how could I ever forget you"? He was forgotten, he was neglected unfairly by a friend. But interestingly, two full years passed, when on a day that began like any other day the soldiers came, they put their key in the lock, unlocked the prison door and said, "Pharaoh wants to see you today".
How did that happen? Joseph thought he had been forgotten by God, forgotten by the cupbearer. But what Joseph didn't realize was God was doing something over here that Joseph couldn't even see. He was doing something in Pharaoh's heart. And he sent Pharaoh a disturbing dream, and nobody could interpret the dream. And the cupbearer remembered, "There's a guy I knew in prison one time who knows how to interpret dreams". You remember the rest of the story. Joseph is brought into Pharaoh's presence, Pharaoh tells him the dream, and Joseph says, "Your dream means that seven years of plentiful harvest are about to come to Egypt. But those seven years of plenty will be followed by a famine of seven years. And Pharaoh, the best advice I can give you is take 20% of the excess grain, store it up and save it, so when the famine comes, there'll be plenty of food for everyone".
Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph that he promoted him to prime minister of all of Egypt. That's how God works. Joseph was an overcomer. He was able to overcome adverse circumstances instead of becoming a victim. How do you develop that kind of attitude of persistence? I want you to notice again from 1 John 5 three ways that we become victors instead of victims. Number one, victors keep God's commandments. They keep God's commandments. Remember John said, "Who is it that is an overcomer? It is he who believes, and who is it that believes? The one who keeps God's commandments". It didn't matter what situation Joseph was in, he was dedicated to keeping God's commandments.
When you don't know what to do, obey what you know to be true. That's how you become a victor rather than a victim. Secondly, victors glorify God in their lives. They glorify God in their lives. That word glorify means to shine the spotlight on God. Victors are people who realize that we are here for one purpose. Not to bring glory to ourself, not to direct people's attention toward us, but to direct people's attention toward God. And it didn't matter where Joseph was. Whether he was in the pit, whether he was working as a slave for Potiphar, whether he was in prison for two years, or whether he was prime minister of Egypt.
In every situation, Joseph tried to bring glory to God. And God recognized that in Joseph. And that's why he honored Joseph's life. Finally, victors trust in God's purposes. Victors believe that God is always working on their behalf, even though in the darkness they can't always see what God is up to. And that's true about your life right now. You may feel like you've been forgotten by others, by God himself. Forsaken, that God doesn't know where you are. He knows exactly where you are. He knows exactly what's going on in your life.
Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and those who are called according to his purpose". But don't miss the next verse, Romans 8:29. "For whom God foreknew, he predestined to be conformed to the image of his son". You know, everything that's going in your life right now with your family, with your health, with your job, with your finances, God is using all of it for his purpose in your life. And that is to make you like Jesus Christ. Perhaps the greatest illustration of that was in the climactic verse of Joseph's story. Remember in Genesis chapter 50 Joseph is reunited with his brothers? His brothers who years earlier had sold him into slavery and left him for dead. And when they realized Joseph was alive, they trembled in fear, knowing that the prime minister of Egypt, their brother, had the authority to put them to death. But remember his words of kindness to them?
Genesis 50:20, he said to his brothers, "And as for you, you meant it for evil, but God used it for good, to bring about this present circumstance to preserve many people alive". Joseph was honest, he said to his brothers, "What you did to me was wrong, but guess what? I serve a God who's bigger than you are. God was able to take your worst intentions and use them for good". Praise be to God. That's the attitude of a victor. A victor doesn't feel like he's the victim of adverse circumstances and adverse people. He believes in a God who's working out his purpose in our life. Victors obey God's commandments. Victors glorify God in their lives. Victors trust in the purpose of God.