From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
"...we shall bear the likeness..."
"Come back to your senses as you ought." (1 Corinthians 15:34)
Gracious God, We want to praise you this day for a "new teaching" that we may well miss if we're not paying attention. You want us to believe and understand that all things work for the good of those who love you, just as Saint Paul has written. We have the notion that good situations are good situations, and that bad situations are bad.
Before this made sense us, but now, our thoughts and perception have been transformed by a new way of perceiving reality. Indeed, as we commend ourselves into your hands, and even sometimes before we do so, we eventually recognize that you are in control of all things, including the details of our lives. You don't cause bad things to happen, but you allow them.
In pleasant circumstances you bless us. In unpleasant and challenging times you teach us and direct us. Even as we submit ourselves to you, you do not exempt us from difficulties, painful experiences, and even tragedies.
Thus, we praise you no matter our circumstances. It is the only way to look at ourselves and life. It may take some doing at times, but we trust you, Lord, and believe your Word.
Thank you, Father God. As you didn't allow your only begotten Son to be exempt from suffering, and even dying on the cross, only to be raised up, thus, you will call us to follow the path that the Lord Jesus trod...and yet, know, that victory lies ahead.
In Jesus' name, Amen.
Along the way we may find ourselves feeling the way Jesus felt when, knowing what was about to happen on Calvary, (on the Mount of Olives), He asked the Father:
"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me, yet, not my will, but yours, be done." (Luke 6:42)
How is it that we can be human---with all our self-imposed preferences, desires, dreams and goals---and yet, sense that the Lord God has a plan for us that will satisfy us completely and make our life truly something remarkable?
Yet, even being a Christian, and reluctant, we have a better plan for our lives, let's put that Bible thing on hold...
...some day, Lord---some time...now...
Contemplating the idea of obedience to God in the midst of truly dark circumstances, and trusting God anyway, i.e., "...but deliver me from evil..." (Matthew 6:13b), I'm reminded of one of my very special portions of the Scriptures, that being, Genesis 37-50, the story of Joseph.
In my view, initially, Joseph wasn't the very nicest of brothers. Rather than supporting his eleven brothers, he turned out to be their "tattletale". Genesis 37:2 says, "...he brought their father a bad report bad report about them..." They hated him.
Joseph was sold to Potiphar. Potiphar trusted Joseph and put him in charge of everything in the household. Joseph was a handsome young man. Potiphar's wife went after him and Joseph refused her. His owner put him in prison, trusting his wife, rather than Joseph.
In prison, eventually, Joseph was made responsible for all that was done there. In the prison the Pharoah's cupbearer and baker offended their master and they were put in prison where Joseph was. At one point each had a dream which Joseph interpreted.
The chief cupbearer was restored to the Pharoah's household. Joseph said to him, "...when all goes well with you, remember me and show kindness to me...mention me to Pharoah and get me out of this prison..." The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.
Two full years went by. It happened that Pharoah had two dreams. His mind was troubled. He passed along the details of the dreams but his advisors couldn't interpret the dreams. At this point the chief cupbearer remembered Joseph. Pharoah sent for him and he appeared before Pharoah. He told Joseph about the dreams and Joseph told him the dreams were about an upcoming seven years of famine.
Genesis 41:39-41: "...then Pharoah said to Joseph, 'Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.' So then, Pharoah said to Joseph, '...I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt...' Then Pharoah took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph's finger."
There is no indication from the Scriptures that Joseph ever complained about his predicament or misfortune. What Joseph went through, time after time, situation after situation...he bore waiting for the Lord's deliverance and blessing.
The Lord was with him despite the fact that Joseph was not exempted for terrible suffering and misfortune. As a seminary professor once said to us, "...Joseph got sour lemons...and he always made lemonade..."
His brothers wanted to kill him. They sold him into slavery. His owner rejected him upon his wife's lies though he was totally worthy of trust. He was sent to prison. In time he was put in charge of the prison. His time in prison was the springboard for him to have audience before the most powerful human being in the world. Once despised, sold, enslaved, betrayed, and forgotten, Joseph became the most powerful human being in the world in terms of his function.
In a powerful way, he became a "savior" for Egypt and the world, having gone through the very worst a person could experience. A simple, profound faith provided the crowning touch...
The dream he had about his brothers came true. They eventually had to come to him and bow before him, as Joseph had dreamed, because of the world famine to ask for food. They found out that "this all-powerful man" was the same person (their own brother) they had wanted to kill and did sell into slavery. You can just imagine what they thought they had coming...
So, you'd think Joseph would've wanted revenge on his brothers. No. He delighted in seeing his brothers and and wanted to see his youngest brother, Benjamin, and his father---Joseph could no longer control himself... he was overcome by his feelings...to see his family once again...
The words Joseph spoke to his brothers when they realized that this was Joseph touch our hearts and cause us to reconsider all positive and negative experiences in our lives...
"...I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you..." (Genesis 45:4,5)
The story of Joseph is, without doubt, one of the great pieces of world literature as well as divinely-revealed truth. How essential it is that every human being be exposed to Genesis 37-50. There is no other story that can so powerfully motivate us to receive and accept an informed vision that includes the affirmation that---there is no failure in a life with God!
The crowning touch is the fact that Joseph didn't hold a grudge against those who had done him wrong. We have to admit. Joseph either finally got his program together, or had it together all along. We can do the same. The standard is not that set by the world, but by God, through the ministry of Christ Jesus.
I love the story of Joseph. The bottom line for us is that we can learn so much about coming to terms with the things that have happened in our lives. We can grab on to the notion that God is not trying to pick on us. He will allow the things that happen---for a purpose---and our completion and success in life will be, so to speak, to "go with the punches", and trust that God is allowing it to happen for a special purpose. I am convinced that in our humility and trust in the Lord, we will become:
"...more than conquerors through Him who has loved us..." (Romans 8:37)
During difficult and troubled times, you have someone who prays for you and hopes the very best for you always. May the Lord bless you richly!