May 9, 2021
The story of the life of Joseph, in Genesis, tells of his father's favoritism, his dreams, his brothers' betrayal, his years of enslavement and imprisonment – all leading up to his rise to power, the forgiveness of and reconciliation with his brothers, and their redemption.
What can we learn from Joseph's story? That God took all the bad things and wove them together to produce the ultimate good thing.
His story contains these 5 elements:
1.The principle 2. The story 3. The bad things 4. The good things
and Crowning principle: 5. The good that came from the bad...the advantage of the disadvantages. Never stop trusting the Lord.
Verses to study:
Can God make good things come from bad?
I want to welcome you again into God's presence and we're in his presence because we're opening his word. And so, we're deep into a series that that's called does Christianity work? And so, we've made this point over and over. We’re not really asking those sort of skeptics’ philosophical questions about Christianity, not those typical ones. Actually, we're asking the practical questions that you would ask if you were trying to figure Christianity out. What would be the questions you would ask? I think you would ask practical questions. And we're essentially asking, does it work, does it do in our lives what it says it will do in our lives? And so, we've asked those practical questions. For instance, does Christianity truly give hope? Does it give hope? And in each message, we've tried to offer a real-life story, and then a passage of scripture that would bring home the principle. And so, we asked, does prayer, in fact, work? And so, we brought some, like short stories and the principle that works behind it. We asked, Can Christianity really change my life with a story and with the word. And then last time, we asked, can it really sustain me when I suffer? And so, Richard and Catherine’s story clearly illustrated how His presence sustained them through the midst of just terrible suffering. And then we shared the principle that undergirds that. We're going to do exactly the same thing, today. We come we come to this question; Does God really cause good things to come out of bad? Does he really cause good things to come out of bad? And so, our story, our real-life story is going to come from somebody who's actually significantly older than you. Because if he were alive today, he would be 3,800 years old. But we have every reason to believe that he is real, and that his story is real. The real-life person's name is Joseph. His story is recorded in the last 13 chapters of Genesis, the beginnings book of the Old Testament. And before you blow him off, as a myth, be careful, because there are a lot of details in his life recorded in in the latter part of Genesis that make his story historically credible. For instance, his journey from Canaan to Egypt, his migration, the migration back and forth, it's happening in a timeframe that is testified to in ancient Egyptian writing. Like the moment in Genesis 41, when he ascends to Egyptian royalty, and the finer details that are in that that transition: the signet ring, the royal robes, and a royal necklace, are all consistent with ancient Egyptian writing about one who has ascended into royalty. And so, we have every reason to treat his story as authentically as you would treat the story of Julius Caesar or Abraham Lincoln.
And so, his story is that God can make good things come out of bad things. And so, I want you to listen to the culminating moment of his life at least what is recorded in Genesis 50, the last chapter of Genesis. I want you to see this apex/ culminating event of his life that will show us ultimately before this message is over that God does indeed work our lives so that good things come out of bad things. And so, in Genesis 50, it starts in verse 15. Here is Joseph as a ruler in Egypt. And so, when, when Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, Jacob was dead, they said, what if Joseph bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong which we had done to him. They lived in a revenge culture; they fully would expect this. So, they send a message to Joseph saying, your father charged us before he died, saying, thus you still say to Joseph, (this is almost for sure a lie), Please forgive, I beg you the transgressions of your brothers and their sin for they did you wrong and now please forgive the transgressions of the servants of the God of your father. And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Verse 18, then his brothers also came and fell down, they fell down before him and said, Behold, we are Your servants. But Joseph said to them, (And this is important), do not be afraid for am I in God's place? Am I in God's place? Verse 20, as for you, (here is our principle. Here it is.) As for you, you meant evil against me. But God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result to preserve many people alive. So therefore, don't be afraid, I'll provide for you and your little ones. And so, he comforted them, and he spoke kindly to them. And it is this passage from the Word of God that answers the question, Does God actually cause good things to come out of bad things? Let's explore that, let's dig into that.
And so, I want us to, I want us to do this through five elements, Joseph's story and what happens in his life can be seen in these five really clear elements. And so good things come from bad things. What are the elements in Joseph's life? Well, it begins with the principle, it begins in verse 20. As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid. There's our principle It is a foundation to Christianity, do you know that? It's written into the Old Testament as well as into the New Testament. It is one of the most foundational verses and the New Testament is Romans 8: 28. These two are the same version of each of each other. Romans 8: 28: We know that God causes all things to work together, there's his causing them to work together for the good of those who love Him, to those who are called according to his purpose. This is the experience. This is the experience of authentic, serious, trusting believers in God, they see Him cause good things to come out of bad things. But this principle is hard. And the principle is hard because it's hard to see. And the reason that it's hard to see is because it's a principle of time. The bending, the turning the transforming, almost never happens in the next moment. It often happens over a lifetime process. I've seen it in my life. I've seen it hundreds of people's lives around me, it takes time to suddenly realize this bad thing plus this bad thing. God turned to them, in order to do this inescapably good thing that could not have happened without those bad things preceding. And for Joseph, one action, one incident leads to a 20-year process of good transformation. And so, it starts with the principle element number one, but then let's follow the story.
The second element to finding good things that come out of the bad is to follow the story. And so, what's Joseph's story? Listen to it for just a moment. Joseph was the 11th of 12 sons born to Jacob of the Old Testament and in Genesis, and Jacob had many problematic issues in his life. One of those being that he was a polygamist married to many women; more than one woman. And so, it would cause him to have a favored wife and his favorite wife had been barren for many years, while the other wives had children. And then later, Rachel, his favorite wife, she gave birth to Joseph, and suddenly he became Jacob’s world. He was the favorite son from his favorite wife. And so, Jacob showed that favoritism, he had a very expensive robe or coat made to express his favorite status on this youngest son, that he would wear it around in real pride. And so, Genesis 37, the Bible says that Joseph's brothers saw that their father loved him more than them. Do you know the effect of that in your life? They hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. And so, by the time Joseph is a teenager, the family has been reduced to just a pile of toxic relationships. Joseph had two really vivid dreams in the midst of it, and in both of the dreams all of his brothers are bowing down to him. And you know, often dreams express a deep-seated desire, sometimes that have been hanging around your subconscious all the time. And so, Joseph loved announcing his dreams to his brothers. And he just began revealing a growing sense of superiority in him, he was quickly becoming a teenage narcissist, in love with himself, and not able to empathize with those that were closest to him. And so, look, you can mark the trajectory of his life from here. In fact, it's not even a trajectory, it's just a straight line, you can draw a straight line, he is headed for unhappy marriages, broken relationships, unrealistic expectations about what he ought to get out of life, and an overall misery filled life, no matter whether he's rich or poor. Plus, he's just blind to his own toxicity. His brothers are in as equally a bad shape, they hated him all the more for his superiority, his dreams and, and their hearts were growing more bitter toward him every single day. Because look, they craved their father's love and approval, and never got it. And so, they were becoming more callous, and more capable of becoming very cruel men. They were becoming jealous, fearful, and bitter. And their lives to a straight line could be drawn to ruin. And so, the future was predictively bad for all of them. And so, a terrible thing now happens in Joseph's life, the favored one’s life, which begins a cascade of terrible things that follow after for over a decade, because from this one thing, only bad thing seemed to follow for a long time.
And so, we enter the third element, the third element of that good things coming from bad. The third element are the bad things. And so, it's not just the principle and his story, but the third element are the bad things. And so, what was this bad thing? In Genesis 37, his brothers are tending their flock, his father's flocks in in a remote location. many, many a scores of miles, maybe it's hundreds of miles away from, from Jacob’s encampment. And Jacob, the father sends Joseph, the favored son, to check on his brothers to make sure they're not misbehaving, and to check on the flocks, and then to bring back word of that. And so, he travels a long distance to a very remote location, think of a remote location in the Sinai desert. in every direction, you look, you see nothing, nothing except for sand. There's no people, there's no anything. And so, they have their chance, in this moment, far away from their father, to do away with Joseph. And that is exactly what they do. When he arrives, they seize him, they throw him into a pit, and then they enter into a debate: Do we kill him now? Or do we sell him off as a slave? A few brothers wanted to kill him, a few wanted to sell him to slave traders. And then, by coincidence, a caravan of slave traders are passing through the desert near them. They see it and they decide, this is our chance, we sell him, he goes into slavery, they take him to Egypt, we never hear of him again. And so, they concocted a story for their father that meant Joseph had been attacked by a wild animal and eaten. They took that precious multicolored coat, and tore it to shreds, dipped it in blood, and they tossed it at their father's feet for the fake evidence to support their lie that he had been killed. And suddenly, Joseph is enslaved. gets carried away to Egypt. He is sold as a house slave in a foreign land, foreign language, and in a foreign culture. And so, what is Joseph to do in this bad thing? I'm sure he looks up to God and he calls on God to save him. Joseph, at the same time, seems to want to please his master, he works hard. He's hoping that he can make life at least just a little better for himself. But then a second bad thing happens. He's falsely accused by the slave owner’s wife, that he had attempted an assault on her, when she in fact, was trying to seduce him. And so, a third bad thing happens to him, he's thrown into an Egyptian prison with no hope of ever seeing the light of day again. It's bad, and then it's even worse, and then it’s even worse than that. And so, he must have prayed, think about his life, think if you were in his place, think about his life, he's prayed 1000 times for God to get him out of the terrible things that have happened. And he's languishing in prison for years, in the pit, while in captivity, by the desert slave traders, as a slave in the Egyptians house while in prison, and it doesn't look like God does anything to help him. Maybe 10 years have passed, and no answers from God. But then, after a long, long time in prison, there is this advisor of Pharaoh who had been temporarily thrown in prison, at the same time that Joseph was there. He overheard, he saw that Joseph could interpret dreams by the power of this divine strength, this divine presence that he had. But then this advisor is taken out of jail. This advisor's restored to his position, and he forgets all about Joseph until two years later, when Pharaoh has a series of troubling dreams. And he can't get any of his advisors to correctly identify or interpret these dreams. And suddenly, this advisor remembers this young, nameless guy in prison, who had the ability to interpret dreams. And so, it triggers this memory, and he sends for this prisoner. And so suddenly, Joseph is taken from the prison. And he's standing before ultimate royalty, Pharaoh himself. And then finally, after 13 years, finally, a good thing happens.
The fourth element, the good thing. There's a principle, there's a story, the bad thing that cascaded into many bad things, and then suddenly, after more than a decade, a good thing. So, the advisor, brings Joseph to the palace. And Joseph shows Pharaoh the meaning of his dreams, he has these two dreams that that Joseph interprets as the same dream. They are a warning from God, that there's going to be seven years of plenty; agricultural plenty in your nation, followed by an incredibly severe seven-year drought. And Joseph not only tells him that the two dreams are the same, but then he additionally begins telling him the plan of what you (Pharaoh) must do. Essentially, it is about building up store houses, storing up grain from the first seven years of plenty and then being able to distribute it not only to your people, but to the region around you. Therefore. not only do you build up protection for yourself, but you build up influence and wealth in all the surrounding region around you. And Pharaoh instantly recognizes Joseph's brilliance, his intellect, his ability to think strategically. And on the spot, he gives Joseph a position in this government; a high government position in order to administer this plan. And Joseph, even during the seven years of famine, increases the wealth of Egypt by selling surplus grain and growing in their influence, power, and their wealth in the greater region. And suddenly, we see this good thing. The good thing happened; this is what God does. And we see that if God had given Joseph the things that he had prayed for, maybe the good thing would have never happened. God was essentially saying no over and over and over to Joseph's prayers for more than 10 years, long enough for Joseph to give up. But Joseph didn't give up, despite that decade plus of unanswered prayers; Joseph was still trusting. And maybe we need to pause here for a second and you need to embrace this into your life. What is the secret of Joseph's life? What is the secret of the bad thing turning into a good thing? Well, it's God's activity. And it's what God does with those, and it's God turning and bending those, but you participate in it, you have a participation in it. And what is the participation that Joseph had, in the good thing, he never stopped trusting God. And in the midst of it, God formed him into an incredible leader. Do you know this principle? This principle is so strong, it's even recognized in the world. It's a spiritual principle. But even leadership experts recognize it in the world. It's called the principle of advantage of disadvantages. It's the principle of the advantage of disadvantages; it's a leadership principle. So, in some of his writings, one leadership, expert documents the lives of the many successful leaders who succeed, not in spite of their challenges and their suffering, but they succeed because of those challenges. And those sufferings, and he calls this this phenomenon, the advantage of disadvantages. And so, he cites a study that notes that at least 1/3 of highly successful leaders are dyslexic; Charles Schwab, Richard Branson, and many others. Another researcher was speaking at a prominent university’s donor gathering. So, you, you get who gets invited to prominent universities’ donor gatherings, right? Only the really wealthy people, right? Only very successful people. And so, this researcher knowing something about this principle, in the midst of her remarks, she asked these leaders, how many of you at some point in your life were diagnosed with a learning disability? And to her shock, half of the hands went up. And so, this insight is, is profound. Look, there are only two possible ways, only two possible reasons for this principle. One is that, you know, they're just some people so remarkable, so triumphant in spirit, that in spite of their disability, they're so smart, they're just so creative, that nothing, not even a lifetime of struggling, could stop them from succeeding. That could be one. One explanation. I think the more probable is the second, and that is that they succeeded in part because of because of their suffering, their disorder, their distress, that they learned something in their struggle that made them advantageous. Here's someone who just seeks to be a spiritual leader. There is a statement made by a 13th century theologian named Bonaventure. Bonaventure said, a leader (he's talking about spiritual leaders here) own salvation, and spiritual progress are protected by humbling adversity. And so, the point is this. God was hearing in all of the no’s and all of the seeming silence, God was hearing, and he was responding to Joseph's prayer, for deliverance, for rescue for salvation, but just not in the ways that Joseph thought it should go. And so, this is the most important thing to hang on to: Joseph just kept trusting God no matter what. There is your activity in God turning bad things to good. There's your participation in it, just keep trusting. And then just like Joseph, in that crucial moment, that God had prepared for Joseph, he was in prison. For you, it’s something else. Joseph immediately turned to God and called him God to help interpret that dream. And so, it shows us his relationship with God was intact, his trusting was there, he had not turned away from him. And then suddenly, suddenly, bad thing after bad thing they were the path to the good thing that God did in his life to make him near prime minister of Egypt.
That sounds like the last principle, doesn't it? The principle the story, the bad thing, the good thing, but actually, there's a crowning principle. It's not just the good thing. I haven't even gotten to the ultimate good thing. There is next, the good that came from the bad, but it's not just the good thing. The crowning principle is the good thing that came from the bad; it came from it. So, there is this day, here's what launches the good, that came from the bad. There comes this day deep into the famine, that 10 hungry Hebrew men appeared before Joseph for grain. They're starving, and they are his brothers. They don't recognize him, but he knows them. And he discovers there's another son from his mother, Rachel, another favored son from a favored wife. And you can imagine in his, in his own imagination, that history is just repeating itself, there is so much favoritism, hatred, and jealousy, and there’s going to be ruin. And so, he offers them food and grain enough to save them and all of their families. But Joseph, just under I think, divine inspiration, Joseph then begins to put them through a series of tests. It's really unknown to them, but it’s to do two things. First, it is to cause them to relive their past, they all have to be faced with their past.; all of the deceit and abandonment, all of their self-serving decisions, not caring who that destroyed. He puts him through these paces so that they just are reminded of it over and over, and he's wondering, does this have an effect? But then his final move is the crowning move. His final move is to force them to bring this new favored child from the favorite wife; to bring Benjamin to him, or they get no more lifesaving food. And so, he's giving them every opportunity to do to Benjamin what they did to him. And they bring Benjamin to him. Do you see, he's forcing them to travel with Benjamin for hundreds of miles across the sand and desolate places to see what they will do to Benjamin. And when he meets Benjamin, it's tearful. He hasn't yet revealed himself. But before they leave to go back with all of the food, he has a silver goblet planted in Benjamin's saddlebags so that when they leave the temple grounds, he has them stopped, and this goblet is found. And so, he brings them back to him, and he accuses them of being thieves. And then, this astounding thing begins to happen. He says, I will take this son, I will take this son, as ransom. Here's your punishment is I take and keep this son and you go back to your father. And then something astounding happens. These cruel, heartless, jealous, self-centered brothers are broken. And the ultimate good thing in Genesis 44 happens. They're showing incredible repentance for their lives. And they say they can't they tell Joseph; they don't know who he is. They tell Joseph, we can't abandon our brother, like we abandoned our other brother. They love their father too much, and they had promised to take care of Benjamin. And so, the brother Judah offers himself as a sacrifice, offers himself to be the payment for the price in order to save Benjamin. And suddenly it's too much, it's too much for Joseph, because he sees this ultimate good that came out of the bad and he bursts into tears. And he says to them, I am Joseph. And suddenly we see the bad things have been turned into incredibly good things. These brothers have been redeemed and transformed into people capable of empathy and love and self-sacrifice. And they've been saved from destroying their own lives. A bad thing, a bad thing, a bad thing, a bad thing, and then the good thing. Joseph is ruling over them, just like he dreamed, but not like he imagined at all. He has been transformed, as well, with infinitely more humility, love, and forgiveness than he ever dreamed possible. He loved them. And all of the bad things had formed him into a person who saved multitudes from starvation.
Here's the question maybe you haven't thought about it yet. But here's the question: What if none of the bad things had happened? What if none of the bad things had happened? Then it's clear, no one would have interpreted the fateful Pharaoh's dream, enormous numbers of people would have died of starvation. Joseph's family would have been a total disaster, Joseph would have been destroyed by his own pride and self-exaltation. The brothers would have been burned out by their own jealousy and bitterness and anger. And Jacob, their father would have died in despair because of his disastrous, addictive love for his youngest son. But God took all of the bad things and wove them together in order to produce an ultimate good thing. That is his promise into your life. That is the experience of hundreds upon hundreds, thousands upon thousands, multitude of serious Christ followers, they've seen God do that.
Last thing…Listen to a little parable, and then we’ll pray. A ship was wrecked. The only survivor washed up on a small uninhabited island. He was exhausted. He was in despair, he looked across the horizon, all he could see was a horizon of blue, but no ships. He looked for days, saw no ships, nothing coming. Giving up to what he thought would be his fate, he built a rough little hut just to protect him from the rain and the cold. When he began gathering food for himself, meager, as it was. One day he had to go to the other side of the island in order just to find scraps to eat, just something to eat. And he was on his way back to his little hut. And as he turned sort of a corner where he could see it through, you know, kind of the, the jungle tangle, he saw that it was on fire, and a huge plume of smoke was ascending. And it was the moment that he gave up, he dropped all of his food, he, he dropped all of his hope. He gave up late that afternoon. He woke up in despair the next morning and looked out at the harbor. And there was a ship sitting there waiting to rescue him. He could not believe his eyes, the moment that the sailors came to him, he asked him how, how on earth, how did you know that I was here? And they said, oh, we saw your smoke signal. And maybe the thing that's burning in your life right now, is the thing that sends the rescue into your life. Just don't stop trusting.
Let's bow together. With the heads bowed and with your mind, your heart, your consciousness on the bad thing. The bad thing that happened long ago, and it just casts a shadow, it influences everything in your life up to this point. Or the bad thing that you're going through right now. Your hut is burning. There are two things that I want you to pray for. Number one, ask God to give you the ability to believe this is who he is; that this is what he does in relationship to you. That when you turn to him, He turns ultimately, the bad thing into a good thing. That's number one. Number two: don't stop trusting. And maybe, trust has gone away for you or maybe it's grown weak, renew it, renew it right now. Dear God, I've given up or I've grown weak, or I've blown you off. I turn from that. And I renew and restore my trust in you in the midst of the now and I look for the day that you convert the bad into the good and we pray that now in Jesus’ name, Amen.