Robert Morris - Passing the Prison Test
So, we're in a series called "From Dream to Destiny". Every person has a dream from God. Every person has a destiny from God. We're using the life of Joseph, and yet Joseph went through these tests that we all go through. We've done so far the pride test, the pit test, the palace test, and the purity test. this week is Passing the Prison Test. So if you remember, two weeks ago we talked about how Potiphar's wife tried to get Joseph to sleep with her, and he refused and left. And so he passed the purity test. But here's what happened, then, when he left. All right? Genesis 39:13. "And so it was, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand..."
Now, I just underlined that because I want to come back to that in the message. "...left his garment in her hand and fled outside, that she called to the men of her house and spoke to them, saying, 'See, he has brought...'" She's speaking now of her husband Potiphar. "'...he has brought in to us a Hebrew to mock us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice.'" All this is a lie, of course. "'And it happened, when he heard that I lifted my voice and cried out, that he left his garment with me, and fled and went outside.' So she kept his garment with her until his master came home. Then she spoke to him with words like these, saying, 'The Hebrew servant whom you brought to us came in to me to mock me; so it happened, as I lifted my voice and cried out, that he left his garment...'"
It's about the fifth time that's been said. "'...with me and fled outside.' So it was, when his master heard the words which his wife spoke to him, saying, 'Your servant did to me after this manner,' that his anger was aroused. Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison. But the Lord was with Joseph..." We talked about that with the palace test. "...and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper".
The prison test is summed up as the test of perseverance. Another way to say it is, what are you going to do when you do the right thing and suffer the wrong results? What are you going to do when someone lies about you, and others believe it? Because this is what happened. Joseph was innocent, and yet he suffered for this. And what are you going to do when this suffering continues? Because he was in prison for years. Are you going to continue to serve the Lord? So many people think that when God delivers them out of their circumstances, they'll do something great for God. The prison test is about when you do something great for God in the circumstances you're in, even if they're unjust.
Now, I've been telling you about a verse in Romans 5, and I've been paraphrasing the verse for you that tribulations produce character. Again, I'm paraphrasing it because it actually gives us four steps. So I have four points again. This has happened three times in this series, and I'll do my best to try to get back to three points, but they're just laid out so well. All right? So, let me show you this verse in Romans 5:3, Just three verses here, "And not only that..." and he's talking about, we're justified by faith through grace, "...but we also glory in tribulations". I want you to remember that, "glory in tribulations". The reason we can glory in tribulations is, "...knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character".
Now, let me just help you grammatically The verb here is "produces", so you could put that after each one, but you don't need to. So in other words, "...tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance (produces) character; and character (produces) hope. Now hope does not disappoint". Now, the reason I wanted to point out this word, "glory," is it's not the normal Greek word for glory. That word is doxa. D-O-X-A. You've heard of the Doxology, okay? That means to shine, or the brightness, or the splendor, or the majesty. All right? That's not what this word is. This word means rejoice, and it's used very few times in the New Testament. So here's what he's actually saying. There's a reason that we can rejoice in tribulations because we know that tribulations produce perseverance, and we know that perseverance produces character, and we know character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint. The root of this Greek word means, to desire, or to wish for, or to pray for.
I don't know about you, but I don't pray for tribulations. I don't desire tribulations. I don't wish for tribulations. And I'm not sure I even rejoice in tribulations. But that's what it's saying. And the reason saying it is because of what tribulation produces. And what I've been telling you is that if you don't have character in your life, you can't accomplish the destiny God has for you. But in order to get character, you have to get perseverance. In order to get perseverance, you have to go through tribulation. Okay? So here's our four points. They're laid out for us in Romans 5. But number one is: Tribulation produces perseverance. Tribulation produces perseverance. You need to know that, if you're breathing, you're going to have tribulation. And Jesus said it.
John 16:33, this is Jesus speaking, "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world". And then James says it this way, James 1:2, "My brethren, counted all joy..." In other words, rejoice. "...when you fall into various trials, knowing the testing of your faith produces patience". Now remember, tribulation produces perseverance; trials produce patience. Let me tell you the difference, okay? Trials are short. Tribulations are long. That's the difference. Patience is waiting with contentment. Not just waiting, but waiting with contentment. Okay? It's like when you're in the drive thru line at the bank, and the tube comes to the person in front of you. You think, "Praise the Lord"! And then they send the tube back. Don't send the tube back. The drive through line is to send it in one time. If you've got to send it back, you go inside. That's the rule.
Okay. You can see, I'm a very patient person. I have great victory in this area of my life. So if you're waiting without contentment, that's not patience. Okay? But trials are short. They produce patience. Tribulation, though, is long because it produces perseverance. So that's the difference between these. You have to understand that. All right? Perseverance doesn't come in a week. For Joseph, it was 13 years. For David, it was 13 years. Some of you might think, "Oh, great, I'm at twelve". Okay, just to let you know, for Abraham it was 25, and for Moses it was 40. Aren't you glad you came to church? You're so encouraged. You're going to go through tribulation. But Jesus said, "But don't worry about it, because I've overcome the world. It's okay, I've overcome everything in the world".
Joseph never got bitter at God or the Egyptians or his brothers. Tribulation (a long, difficult time) actually produced in him perseverance. And here's point number two: Perseverance produces character. We read this. Again, all you got to do is go back, read Romans 5:3-5. We read this. Perseverance produces character. I've looked, and so if you find it, email me, let me know. I can't find anything else that specifically says in the Bible that produces character. Now, I know experiences, being mentored by someone, I know teaching, I know spouses help us in this area, friends help us; but I can't find another verse that specifically tells us something else produces character. I wish I could just have someone with character pray for me, and I could get character. And I wish he had said something else. "Blue Bell produces character". But he didn't. He said, "Perseverance produces character".
Okay, I'm gonna learn to persevere. Yeah, let me tell you what produces perseverance, tribulation. It's not a great formula, but you're going to have tribulation anyway, and if you learn to persevere through it, then you're going to get character in your life. Because of the responsibility I have, I have the ability to promote people, and I have the ability to help people financially. But the worst thing that I could do for someone is to promote that person before he or she is ready, or to deliver that person out of a tribulation that God's using to produce character. So I have to be very careful. "God, do you want me to do this? You've given me these resources and this authority, but what are You doing in this person's life? Because I could circumvent what You're trying to do, and what you're trying to do is much more important".
Joseph was this man of great responsibility, and everything he did prospered. But I think in this case, I think he made a mistake. The baker and the butler had a dream, and Joseph interpreted their dream, and then he said this to the butler. Okay? "But remember me..." Genesis 40:14 "Remember me..." Watch how many times "me" is in the verse. "...remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house". I personally think when that happened, God said, "Oops, two more years," because it was two years later before the butler remembered. By the way, he didn't say to the baker because the interpretation of baker's dream was, you're going to lose your head. It's hard to remember when you don't have a head. But when the butler did get promoted back to his place, it says, verse 23 says, "Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him".
I actually believe that he could have been released from prison right then, but because he decided to drop a hint, God said, "You know, if I deliver him now, it will teach him that the way to get ahead in life is to drop hints". I can't tell you how many times that I've been about to promote someone, and then they did something to try to manipulate me or drop a hint. And it said to me, they're not ready for more responsibility. I think we all can do this. And it's not that God's punishing us. It's just God saying, If I give them the responsibility now, they're not ready for it. They'll think, "It's a good thing I dropped the hint to Pastor Robert because if I hadn't dropped the hint, he wouldn't have promoted me. So the way to get promoted in life is to drop hints or to manipulate".
By the way, it was two years later when Pharaoh had his dreams, and they called everybody in and said, "Tell me what this means". And nobody could. And the butler said, "Hey, I remember this guy". And that's when he called Joseph, and that's when Joseph got out of prison. But maybe you've never thought about this. Who gave Pharaoh the dreams? God did. And why did God wait two years? He could have given Pharaoh the dream the next week, and the butler would have said, "Hey, I can tell you someone who can interpret dreams". But God waited two years. I'm just telling you, perseverance is about doing the right thing even though your circumstances haven't changed. And that's what God was trying to teach Joseph. Here's number three: Character produces hope. Character produces hope. Remember I said, "he left his garment," "when she saw he left his garment," "she showed his garment". Okay.
All right. I just want to show you something about Satan. He's not creative. What got Joseph thrown in the pit? Remember, it says, "When they saw him a long way off..." it was his coat. What got him thrown in prison? His coat. I think it could have been 20 degrees outside. And I don't think Joseph would have ever worn another coat in his life. I think someone should have said, "Hey, you're shivering. Would you like coat"? "No, no, no. No coats, please. No coats. I don't want to ever wear coats".
Now, here's the reason I'm saying this. Once Satan finds out that something works, once he finds out that you have a weakness toward pornography, he comes back with that. He doesn't have to invent anything new. He already knows how he can get you. Once he knows that there's something in your life... Here's a good one. You can't even imagine how many people have told me, "I got offended at something that happened at church, and I was out of church for five years". And I think, "Well, have you ever gotten offended at the grocery store? You ever gotten offended at Whataburger? But you keep going back"? Satan knows, "If I can keep that person away from corporate worship, the teaching of the Word, and the fellowship of the brethren, I've got them. I've got them". So, that's what Satan does.
Now, I said character produces hope. But I need to tell you something about hope. There's a famous scripture that, in my opinion, is misapplied most of the time, most of the time. It's very famous. It's Proverbs 13:12. "Hope deferred makes the heart sick". Now, it's a truth. The only problem is that most people don't know the context of Proverbs 13. So when you don't know the context of a scripture ... I used to have a professor that said, "A text taken out of context is a pretext". What that means is, you can make it say whatever you want to say. So, here's the problem with that. Proverbs 13 is a chapter of contrast. Verse 11, right before it, talks about wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished. So, it doesn't say anything wrong with gaining wealth, but if you do it by contrast, by dishonesty, then you're going to lose it. So the whole chapter is full of contrast.
So here's what it would be better translated, in my opinion, or a way to understand this scripture better is, Misplaced hope makes the heart sick. Because we've got a verse in Romans 5 that says, "Hope does not disappoint". So not only does it have to be congruent with the chapter, it has to be congruent with the whole Bible. I just read your verse. Hope does not disappoint, does not make your heart sick. This says "hope deferred". So, another way to say it would be, "deferred hope," but it's in essence, misplaced hope. For instance, if your hope is in your circumstances changing, then when your circumstances don't change, your heart is going to get sick. But if your hope is in the God who never changes, then you will never have a sick heart. Never. Not once. So it's misplaced hope. If your hope is in the God who is good and works everything for good, then you don't have a sick heart.
So, tribulation produces perseverance; perseverance produces character; character produces hope. So, what does hope produce, or does it produce something? Well, it tells us it doesn't disappoint. So, I'm going to have to use some grammar here to help us on this last point. Point four is, Hope produces appointments. See, "dis-" at the first of a word means "not". So, there's a double-negative. "Hope does not not appoint". "Hope does not disappoint". So, hope appoints. Does everyone follow me on that? I'm sorry. I just ... It's funny, I was trying to ... Anyway ... I was talking with some young pastors, and I was trying to tell them about grammar and how to know when to use "I" and "me," and I just watched their eyes glaze over. Since hope does not disappoint, then hope does appoint.
The word "disappoint" means the missed appointment. You get disappointed when you think something was going to happen, and it didn't happen. It was a missed appointment. Everyone got that? Okay. All right. So hope produces divine appointments. That's what I'm trying to say. Tribulation produces perseverance in my life; perseverance produces character in my life; character produces hope in my life; and then hope produces divine appointments in my life. That's what I'm telling you. But you've got to keep your hope in God, not in your circumstances changing. In other words, Joseph's focus was actually outward instead of inward, on his own circumstances.
Now, let me prove it to you. In chapter 40, verse 6, it says, "Joseph came in to them..." That's the baker and the butler. "...in the morning and looked at them..." So he was looking outward, not inward, "...and saw that they were sad. So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in the custody of his lord’s house, saying, 'Why do you look so sad today?'" They told him about these dreams, he interprets the dreams, and even though we had to wait two more years, those dreams got him out of prison.
So, what got him out of prison was not sulking about being in prison for the wrong thing, but ministering to other people. Isn't that amazing? It produced a divine appointment in his life that caused him to be promoted to the second wealthiest and most powerful person in the world at that time. It's incredible. You, right now, could be inwardly focused on your circumstances, and they might not even be your fault. It could be what someone else did to you, but you just can't get over it. But if you will turn your focus outward and start trying to minister to other people, God will cause divine appointments to happen in your life.
When I was young, Debbie and I got married and early age, and I wasn't saved. Nine months after being married to Debbie, I saw a person that had a real relationship with Jesus, even though I'd grown up in church. I got saved, stated speaking, went back to school. We'd gone one year to college, then got married, then I went back to Bible school to learn and started speaking, doing youth revivals, youth retreats, I mean, anything I could. And I went to work for a person who was a great guy, except, and he would admit this. He's a wonderful person. I've spoken with him since. He actually led me to Christ. But at that time, he was kind of working through some difficulties himself. And so I eventually thought, "I can't work for this guy anymore".
Well, when I quit, he said to me ... What I'd been doing was when I would go out and speak, they would give me an honorarium or an offering, and I would turn that in. That would go to the ministry, and then that would offset my salary. See? Okay. So, the last one I did, he said, "Okay, hey, you feel led to go, but what I want you to do," he said, "how much was the love offering from this last church where you spoke"? And I said, "$400". And he said, "Well, why don't you keep it then, and that will kind of, maybe help you get started". So that was kind of my severance. All right, this is back in '82. 1982. So in '82, you could live on $400 for 6 months. But anyway... I'm joking.
Now you can get a half a tank of gas. But anyway... So, he gave me this. And then one of my friends that was jealous because he always felt like I was in the right place at the right time, and he wasn't, and I got the breaks, and he didn't get the breaks. Well, this church that gave me this love offering called me like, a week or two later, and said, "We had so many young people saved when you got here that we were meeting, and we just had some extra funds, and we just want to send you an extra $400. And we heard you that you're out on your own now, and we just want to send you an extra $400. We want to kind of double the offering for you". So I said, "Great". So they sent it to me.
Well, this friend of mine told my former employer, who felt like I'd been dishonest because I didn't tell him about that. I didn't even think I should. They just called me after I wasn't working for him anymore. And he called and felt like that I had kind of stolen, cheated, $800, the whole thing, even though he already said, "You got four". So I sent it back to him. I did not do the wrong thing. I was accused of doing the wrong thing. I didn't do the wrong thing. But I sent it back to him, the $800. Debbie then goes to an ad agency, a temp agency or work — whatever it's called, where you go try to get a job — and she took a test.
Now, I never, ever... When I tell you Debbie is not strong in math, that's not to be, to put her down at all because lots of people aren't. She is smarter than I am, actually. She's smarter than I am. But math I just happened to, because my dad is a mathematical genius, I just happen, math works for me. I get it. But she's not strong in math, okay? And so she took this test, and obviously she scored great in everything except math. And the lady said, "I really don't have anything for you". And then she said, "You know what? I saw a word this morning that I've never seen before. I think you used a word like it". She said, "What did you tell me your husband is"? And she said, "He's an evangelist". And so she pulled out a thing, and it said, "James Robinson Evangelistic Association". And she said, "Is an evangelistic like an evangelist"?
And of course, James Robinson was like — we know him; he's one of our apostolic elders — but he was like Billy Graham at the time, doing these big stadium crusades and on television all, and my hero. And Debbie said, "Yes". And so she said, "Well, they have an opening, and so I'd like to at least send you on a job interview". So she goes. James, at that time, had 600 employees, and the opening was to do payroll. And the lady that interviewed her said, "I've interviewed three other people that are more qualified for this job than you, but God's telling me to give you the job. And then we got insurance, and she got pregnant with our first child, so insurance paid it all. Then I go to take her to lunch one day. I'm standing in the parking lot. This car pulls up, the window rolls down, and it's James Robinson". And he says, "Hey, I've been hearing about all these kids getting saved. Would you go with me next week and see if you can get in the schools..."
I would do these public school assemblies and do them humorously, but about drugs and alcohol and things. "...and just see"? I went and did school assemblies. 600 kids came and got saved. Then James had me share at his crusade, which was being televised on television. The owner of the television network said, "Have that guy right there come speak, share his testimony". I came and spoke. They had more people saved that night than they'd ever had before. That was 40 years ago. Those are called divine appointments. When you get accused for doing the wrong thing, even though you didn't, and you respond by doing the right thing, it will produce perseverance and character and hope and divine appointments.
I want you to bow your heads and close your eyes. And every week, we just ask the Holy Spirit, "Lord, what are you saying to me"? And there's no way I can answer that question. And you might even think, "I don't even know. You tell us that I don't even know how to hear God". It's just an impression you get in your heart. You just sometimes get an impression in your heart. And it could be that someone's done you wrong, and the Lord is saying, "You need to let that go because Satan is using that same trick that he's used on you many, many times". It may be that you don't hear anything right now, but sometime this week you think, "Wow, Lord, that's what you were trying to tell me through that message". So just let the Lord speak to you. Just be open. Maybe you even want to listen to the message again this week when you're exercising or on your commute or something, but let me pray for you.
Lord, I want to tell You, thank You as we're going through the life of Joseph, and we see, God, that he suffered many, many times, being thrown in the pit by his brothers, and he didn't do anything wrong. And we know he made some mistakes with bragging and things. We see that he may have made a mistake by saying to the butler, "Remember me". But, Lord, he was a human. And yet, by keeping his heart right, You guided him step by step to be able to one day feed multitudes. So, Lord, I pray for every one of my brothers and sisters here. Will You take us from the dream that You put into our heart to fulfilling the destiny that You have for us? In Jesus' name, amen.