Sermon Series: Lord, I want to be better
15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept. 18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
Picking up the pieces after we have been abused, betrayed, devastated, wounded, or wronged in any way is never easy, but it is possible. Genesis 50 provides us with a picture of a rebounded Joseph. The portrait of Joseph in Genesis 50 is of someone who has overcome and made a full recovery. The question is how did he do it?
The Law of Inertia – a body at rest will stay at rest and a body in motion will stay in motion for as long as force is being applied. Joseph’s brothers were worried that he would attempt to get even with them for all of the things they had done to him. Joseph, on the other hand, saw himself as a body in motion being propelled by the force of God’s hand. Objects in motion will pass things by as long as they are moving. In order to interact with other objects we need to come to a complete stop and then go over to the other object and engage the other object. Joseph realized that God had propelled him beyond what was in his past. Since God had propelled him beyond his past, in order for Joseph to get even he would have had to:
a) Go back in time
b) Bring past wrongs into the present
c) Re-feel and relive the past pain, hurt and suffering
d) Devise a plan to make them feel what he felt
e) Carry it out
Essentially, Joseph would have to play God. This explains Joseph’s response to his brothers, “Am I in the place of God.” The Bible says, “Vengeance is mine says the Lord, I will repay.”
Joseph made a conscious decision to live in the now and continue moving in the direction that God was propelling him. It would mean that Joseph had to leave retribution to God and let the opportunity to get even pass him by. One of the challenges to rebounding from a past hurt is the tendency to bring the past into the present. We need to keep in mind that after something has been done to us, it’s done. It is history. There is no point in keeping it going. Yet, we keep talking about it, thinking about it, and continue to re-feel and relive the pain associated with the action. Joseph, made a conscious decision to live in the now and not try to rewrite what had already become history.
Newton’s third law of motion says, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Joseph pointed out, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Joseph’s response to his brothers here is an evolved mature response. It is the result of years of seasoning, growing, and developing. Evolution and personal growth take time and preparation. Let us remember that the picture of Joseph we see in Genesis chapter 50 is a different picture then what we see in his early years. Early on Joseph was a different person. Joseph was the youngest of his father’s sons and the Bible says that because he was a child of his father’s old age he was his favorite. Joseph’s favorite status tended to make him arrogant and cocky. His father did not help the situation any, Jacob gave Joseph lavish gifts such as a coat of many colors. All of these things made Joseph an easy target. Joseph had two dreams. In one dream there were twelve sheaves, one representing Joseph and each of his brothers and the eleven sheaves representing his brothers all bowed down to Joseph’s lone sheave. In another dream, the sun, which represented Joseph’s father and the moon, which represented his mother and eleven stars again representing each of his brothers all bowed down to his lone star. We all have dreams, but some things we need to keep to ourselves. Joseph apparently missed that memo and so as he retold the dreams it clear that he was the star in his own dreams. Joseph like most young men was very naïve. The Bible describes him as a good-looking man and while there is no indication that he was a womanizer, it is reasonable to believe that women were attracted to him. Therefore the situation he found himself in while living in Potiphar’s house was more of naivety then anything else. He was also too put too much trust in other people. Consider that everyone Joseph put his trust in let him down, his brothers, Potiphar, and the chief cupbearer all failed him when he counted on them most.
Years ago before meat tenderizer came in a bottle, people used to use a hammer like object to tenderize meat. I remember seeing my mother and grandmother taking a piece of steak and beating it with a meat tenderizer. The purpose of this was to loosen up the meat so that it would absorb the seasoning and bring out the flavor. I myself noticed that if you skipped this step the steak was not as tasty because the seasoning was not properly absorbed. It is amazing how involved the process of preparation was years ago. Another example was the baking of bread. After the ingredients were mixed together the final step was the kneading of the bread. My mother and grandmother would ball up their two fists place them in the dough and continue to work the ingredients into the mixture. Joseph needed to be tenderized and kneaded so that he could become the person we see in chapter 50. God’s tenderizing and kneading process for Joseph involved:
a) Humbling and arrogant and cocky young man – he was left for dead by his brothers
b) Grounding someone who thought they were the star of their own dreams – he was sold into slavery by his brothers
c) Helping a naïve little boy grow-up into a man – he was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife
d) Learning how to trust people less and how to trust God more – he was forgotten by the chief cupbearer
According to Newton’s third law, for every bad thing that happens to us God uses it to produce something good in us. The ingredients to do good need to be added to us, mixed in, and worked together with in you and I. The mixture then needs time to settle and come together. Spiritual maturity always looks to see the good that God is attempting to bring about out of what is seemingly a bad situation. Joseph’s response teaches us to look beyond the pain and see the bigger picture of how God is working through our pain to produce something good in and through you and I.
Gandhi said, “If the whole world lived by the law of an eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth then everyone in the world would be eyeless and toothless.” How do we see the bigger picture? One of the ways we can see the bigger picture is by moving on. Joseph’s brothers were still stuck in the past living with what they had done to him, but Joseph had moved on. One day when I was a child, my mother asked me to do something for her and after I did it I said, OK ma that will be five dollars. My mother told me to wait a minute and went into her record collection and pulled out a record titled “No Charge.” It was the story of a son who gave his mother an itemized bill for all the things she had asked him to do for her. The mother’s response to the list was, for carrying you for nine months, no charge; for going through the pain of childbirth with you, no charge; for caring for you when you are sick, no charge; for sacrificing my wants to make sure you have what you need, no charge.– We see the bigger picture by applying the principles of Scripture – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you and Love your neighbor as you love yourself – Treat people right regardless of how they treat us and do the right thing by others because it is the right thing to do. Joseph told his brothers, I have moved on, so “Don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.”
You will notice that in the title of this message there is a blank line. The reason for that is I do not know what you personally have experienced of what you are still harboring or holding on to that has be done to you. The blank is for you to fill it in with whatever wrong has been committed against you. To recap what we have learned from this text, how do we rebound from ___________________________
1. We need to forgive – a) the perpetrators; b) ourselves; and c) God-forgiveness is a two-way street, at some point you and I are going to need to be forgiven and therefore, we also need to be able to extend forgiveness. In some cases, God will be the one we need to forgive because we have blamed Him for what we have experienced. How do we forgive? We forgive by letting go, releasing, and giving the offender a pass or a pardon. If it helps, let us remember that God through Jesus Christ has given us a pass for the wrongs we have committed against Him.
2. Accept the fact that we are not God – there is only one God and we are not it; therefore, we cannot control or determine outcomes or punishment for offenses committed against us, but God can and will handle all actions perpetrated against His people
3. Look at life through a telescope and not a microscope – rather than focus on isolated events let us make every effort to see the big picture. Let us ask, what is God’s purpose for me in allowing this thing to happen? Instead of asking why me, let us ask, how is God using this to make me better? Remember, whatever you and I go through today it is in preparation for something we will face tomorrow, “For such a time as this.”
4. Be an over comer and not a martyr – over comers use their pain to help make others better not bitter. Martyrs by contrast sit around reveling in self-pity feeling sorry for themselves. Every experience that God allows you and I to have in the larger scheme of things is not only for our personal growth and development, but meant to be shared with other saints in God’s kingdom here on earth - how are we using our pain to make others better?
The real question is, do we want to live in yesterday’s pain or tomorrow’s promise and possibilities? Even Jesus rebounded. Jesus was crucified on one day and then a few days later after going down He came back, he rebounded. Jesus proved that you and I could also rebound if we want.