God had a plan to save His beloved Creation. And that plan was to Build A Nation. So He used an unlikely older couple, Abram and Sarai, to build this nation that in turn would bless all the nations of earth. He calls this couple, Abraham and Sarah, new names – meaning “Father and Mother of Nations”, to leave their hometown and go to the land of promise where they will conceive a son, Isaac, in their old age. And what we learned from their lives is that faith is hearing God’s voice and acting on it.
Well over time more children were born – Isaac, their son, & his wife had twins – Jacob and Esau, which is another story in itself. And long story short, Jacob and his wives had 12 sons; one named Joseph who was abandoned by his 10 older brothers and sold into slavery out of their jealousy.
Yet to add insult to injury, Joseph’s biggest hardship came at the hands of his slave owner, Potiphar, who had trusted him with the affairs of his household.
Genesis 39: 11 – 23 provides this page of the story.
Here’s a man doing his best job; who is falsely accused of trying to rape Potiphar’s wife and is instantly thrown into prison. There was no due-justice here – judgment was made without any thought of finding out the real facts. Yet God favors Joseph again even while in prison – the prison warden put him in charge of the prisoners. While in prison, he is given the opportunity to interpret the dreams of the chief cupbearer and chief baker of Pharaoh. And to the cupbearer, who would be restored to his position, Joseph asked for him to tell Pharaoh what Joseph had done for him. But the cupbearer forgot Joseph upon his release – for two additional years Joseph remained in prison.
Finally when the Pharaoh begins having dreams and is looking for someone to interpret them, the cupbearer remembers what Joseph had done for him. And Joseph is called on to interpret the dreams, and once again finds God’s favor; this time in Pharaoh’s household and becomes the 2nd in command of Egypt.
So how were Joseph’s hardships part of God’s plan for saving His nation?
Before answering this question, take a match, light it, and invite one of your neighbors to touch the flame.
Now you’re probably thinking, “Why would anyone be stupid enough to touch the flame?” And you’re right in your thinking. Anyone in his right mind wouldn’t touch that flame because he knew it would hurt and he would rather avoid the pain.
But Joseph’s story reminds us that going through the pain is better than avoiding it because avoiding it can lead to a far greater pain.
You see, without Joseph’s hardships, the nation God was building to bless all the nations of the earth would have perished from starvation – 7 years of severe famine as predicted by Joseph in Pharaoh’s dream. In fact Joseph tells us exactly why he didn’t avoid the junk (the pain) he went through.
In Genesis 50: 19-20, Joseph said to them (to his brothers after their father Jacob had died and his family – his nation – had been allowed to prosper in the land of Egypt), “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
And this leads us to God’s Big Idea for us today: Hardships Save!
So how are the hardships you experience a part of God’s saving plan for you?
Charles Colson, incarcerated for obstructing justice in the Watergate Scandal in the 1970’s, could have said, “Without never getting caught and spending time in prison, I would have never met Christ, and I would have never started the ministry Prison Fellowship that has impacted countless lives for the cause of Christ.”
Joseph could have said, “If my brothers had not turned on me, if Potiphar’s wife had not falsely accused me, I would have never ended up meeting Pharaoh’s servants in prison. I might never have become the king’s right hand man.”
Pastor Randy Frazee has written, “If we love God and align our lives to His Heavenly purposes, everything in our lives – the ups and downs, the mountaintops and the valleys, the highs and the hurts, the raises and the rejections, the good and bad – is all working together to accomplish his will.”
And all these thoughts reiterate what God has shared with us in Romans 8: 28, “In all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” And this (Romans 8: 28) is an attitude.
Joseph’s response to his brothers was an attitude of accepting good as well as bad as part of God’s plan for saving God’s Promised Nation. And our attitude, as those who say we love God, must be to look at the good and the bad in our lives to see God’s delivering hand in all circumstances – that He is working all things out for our good; sometimes in the immediate, sometimes for eternity.
Now, I do not belief that God predestines the choices you and I make – that we have no control – that a person was destined by God to get drunk, get into a car, have a wreck, and kill someone – that a person was to molest or be molested by someone. God does not sit around and purposely make the bad things happen in a person’s life to achieve His outcome.
Rather He takes the bad things that happen in our lives due to the curse of our rebellion and uses them for His purpose of good in our lives. And sometimes the good out of the bad is specifically toward a physical purpose – like saving a nation from starvation. And sometimes the good out of the bad is specifically toward a characteristic – an attitude of faith like being able to not place blame and to forgive.
So how are or how have the hardships in your life been part of God’s saving plan for you? How have the hardships placed you in positions to save others? How have the hardships molded you into the man/woman God intends you to be?
Hardships Save! What’s your attitude toward them?