Thursday, April 05, 2012
JOSEPH, FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF FAITH, 4/5 /2012
The Prison Experiences Of The Bible, Lesson 47a
One of the striking things about the Law of the Lord is the fact that God authorized no prisons among His people. When a person committed a crime in Israel, their punishment was to be swift and sure, and it was to be a punishment that fit their crime. Yet, throughout history, kings and other rulers have built prisons to contain political enemies and lawbreakers. This is still true in our day.
Even though God did not order His people to build any prisons, He did allow some of His most choice servants to spend time in the dungeons of their day. In fact, a few of God’s men met their deaths in prison cells. When God allowed one of His servants to go into prison, it wasn’t because they were criminals. God sent each of those special prisoners to their prison because He wanted to teach them some lessons they could learn nowhere else.
I believe that it is worth our time to consider these prison experiences, because they have much to teach us about our God. With that in mind, let’s look at Joseph and his prison experience.
Genesis 39:20-22; 41:14
THE PRISON OF HIS PROMOTIONS
Our text tells us that one of the greatest characters in the Old Testament had his own prison experience. Joseph, who pictures the Lord Jesus in at least 100 ways, pulled a long, hard stretch in Pharaoh’s prison. Why was Joseph in prison. Why wasn’t he executed? Joseph was there because Potiphar wanted to punish him. But, in reality, Joseph was there because God wanted to promote him. God used a time of confinement as a time of refinement in the life of Joseph. God prepared Joseph for leadership by sending him to the lockup.
Now, I am interested in Joseph’s prison experience, because I find that God will often do the same thing in your life and mine. He will have a plan to promote us to a greater level of service, but that path will often lead through some prison experience or the other. God’s path for us will lead us through a time when we are shut off; shut down; shut away and shut up.
It is in these prison experiences of life that God prepares us for greater service and responsibility. Let’s take a few minutes to join Joseph in “The Prison Of His Promotions“. There are a few truths in this passage that we need to understand.
I. THE PROBLEMS OF THIS PRISON
I have never been in prison, but I understand that prison is not a pleasant place to spend your time. It is a place of problems. Joseph’s prison is no different. In Joseph’s prison we see mirrored the problems we can expect when God sends us into a prison experience in our own lives.
This Is A Painful Prison – In verse 20, we are told that Joseph was “put” into prison. There is no mention of torture of abusive treatment. However, Gen. 40:3 tells us that Joseph was “bound” in this prison. Psalm 105:18 adds even more detail. When all this is considered, it becomes clear that this was a painful time in Joseph’s life. It is never easy when the Lord sends you into a prison experience in your life. Of course, God never promised His children that serving Him would be a painless affair. Some of God’s most choice servants have been shaped on the harsh anvil of pain, for example: ( Job – Job 1-2; Paul – 2 Cor. 12:7-10;). David was hated and hounded by Saul without reason; (Elijah – 1 Kings 17-19).
It has been said that “those God would use greatly, He firsts hurts deeply.” So, we should not be surprised when we find ourselves locked away in one of the prisons of life. We are not the first ones to inhabit the cell of affliction and we will not be the last.
This Is A Perplexing Prison – Nowhere are we ever told that Joseph questioned anything that happened to him during his young life. But, surely there had to be questions in his mind. He must have wondered why his brothers hated him so. He must have wondered why he should end up as a slave in Egypt. He must have wondered why he was being punished for doing the right thing. Surely those questions and others must have perplexed his mind.
One of the problems of this prison is that is can be so perplexing in nature. I mean, you try to do your best and live your life for the Lord and still trouble comes your way. That is a troubling truth for many people. And, some are blown off course by the trials they are forced to endure. They throw up their hands and say, “What’s the use?” That is the wrong attitude to take with the trials of life! We may not understand all that is happening, but we can be sure that our Lord is in control of the situation.
There were some parents who lost their little boy in a tragic automobile accident. They both were very bitter at God. When the pastor came by to see them, the mother said, "Where was God when my son died?" The pastor said, "The same place he was when His Son died."
When we take that attitude, we are mistaken. You see, even though the prisons of life are disturbing and distracting, they are part of a plan that we know nothing about. God is using the hard, harsh events of our lives to shape us and move us to where He wants us. We must trust the Lord, even when we can’t figure out what He is doing. We need to remember that He has a plan. It is a good plan; it is the best plan, (Rom. 8:28). Our duty is to serve the Lord even when we don’t understand Him. Who would want a God they could figure out anyway? ( Isa. 55:8-9)
Regardless of what life brings our way, we must submit to His will and trust Him to do right. That is what Joseph did. That is what Paul did, (2 Cor. 4:7-11). And this is what we are to do too.
This Is A Prolonged Prison – We do not know how long Joseph spent in his prison. It was at least two years, (Gen. 41:1), but it may have been as long as 13 years, (Gen. 41:46)! We do know for sure that from the time Joseph was thrown into that pit by his brothers until the day he became the second ruler in Egypt, some 13 years passed by. For and extended period of this man’s life, his motto could have been “Nice guys finish last.”
Sometimes our trials are over in a short time; at other times they may last for years. God may spend many years shaping your life for a relatively short period of service. He may send you into a prison experience in your life to prepare you for greater service.
It took at least 15 years from the time David was anointed king over Israel until he ruled over the land, (1 Sam. 16; 2 Sam. 5:4). Those 15 years were hard years; but they were years of development. David was forced to walk through some hard places, but God used that time in his life to develop David to sit on the throne of the land. Regardless of how long or how short our prison experiences may be, our duty is to submit to God and to His will for our lives.
Peter Marshall once said, “It is a fact of Christian experience that life is a series of troughs and peaks. In his efforts to get permanent possession of the soul, God relies on the troughs more than the peaks, and some of his special favorites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else.”
TODAY’S HYMN and BLESSING!
“Jesus Is Coming Soon” By R. E. Winsett (1942)
Troublesome times are here Filling men’s heart with fear Freedom we all hold dear
Now is at stake. Humbling your heart to God Saves from the chastening rod Seek the way pilgrims trod Christians Awake!
Jesus is coming soon Morning night or noon Many will meet their doom Trumpets will sound All of the dead shall rise Righteous meet in the sky Going where no one dies
Love of so many cold Losing their home of gold This in God’s Word is told evils abound When these signs come to pass nearing the end at last It will come very fast Trumpsts will sound!
Troubles will soon be o’er Happy forever more When we meet on that shore Free from all care Rising up in the sky Telling this world goodbye Homeward we then will fly Glory to Share.
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Wednesday, April 04, 2012
JOSEPH, FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF FAITH, 4/4/2012
HOW TO THRIVE IN THE PRISONS OF LIFE, Lesson 46c
V. 22 THE PRISON IS A PLACE OF OBEDIENCE,
Notice that even in the prison, Joseph remained faithful. For him, it was just another place of service. This tells us a lot about this man named Joseph. He was a man of integrity, who was going to remain faithful to the Lord despite his circumstances. Even in this prison experience, we do not find Joseph sitting in his cell whining about how unfair everything is. We find him being a man of God, even when nothing is going his way! What a lesson!
I can tell you that it is God's will for you to bloom where you are planted! Regardless of the circumstances or problems that may be true in your life. God expects you to remain faithful to Him and serve Him diligently! Some people point to their family and say, "Well, they won't serve God and it's too hard to do it alone. I might as well quit." Or, "You just don't know what I am facing." Or, "I have this problem or that circumstance that is hindering me from serving the Lord." May I say that all of these are foolish statements?
My friends, each of us serves God to the degree we choose to! We can either choose to be faithful in spite of what we are going through, or we can allow the trials of life to derail our walk with the Lord. God help us all to learn the truth that God has us exactly where we are for our good and for His glory! We can either honor God by a life of obedience in spite of difficulty, or we can dishonor Him by allowing our trials to hinder our service.
I challenge each of us to remember that nothing in life "just happens". There is no such thing as coincidence! God is either in absolute control of the events of life, or He has nothing to do with them at all. Well, the Bible teaches that He is a sovereign God, (Psa. 50:10-12; Psa. 115:3). The truth of the matter is that God is in absolute control of all of life. Therefore, we can be in submission to His will for our lives, or we can be in rebellion to His will. Submission means that we serve Him faithfully regardless of the prison we may find ourselves in at the moment.
The whole idea here is summed up in one word "faithfulness". God's desire for each of our lives is that we be faithful to Him and His will every minute of every day, regardless of what we are going through. Friend, nothing can happen in your life unless God allows it. Therefore, you can either serve Him through it in obedience and faithfulness, or you can deny His work in your life through rebelling. Either way, it does not change the fact that God has us where we are, so that His light might be seen by a lost and dying world, (Matt. 5:13-16).
V. 23 THE PRISON IS A PLACE OF OVERCOMING
Joseph remained in this prison for at least two years, probably for a while longer. However, while he was there, God used him greatly. Chapters 40-41 tell us that Joseph glorified God while he was there and that the Lord used him to touch the lives of the other prisoners. Eventually, the day came when Joseph was delivered from the prison. In less than an hour, Joseph went from being a prisoner to being the Prime Minister of Egypt, (Gen. 41:38-45). His life changed in an instant of time!
What we need to understand is that the Lord used the trials that Joseph experienced to prepare him for the place of service God had planned out for Him. You see, God put him in the prison to have him in the proper place at the proper time.
Through his trials, Joseph learned compassion on others, administrative skills and he learned obedience and faithfulness. Notice the progression of the assignments he was given.
1. He was placed over an assignment - Gen. 37:13-14.
2. He was placed over a household - Gen. 39:4.
3. He was placed over a prison - Gen. 39:22-23.
4. He was placed over a nation - Gen. 41:40-41.
God used the prison as Joseph's proving ground. He learned all the lessons he needed to be able to flourish on the throne of Egypt!
As we pass through the prisons of life, God is merely training us. When we are found faithful in these valleys, we are allowed to experience greater levels of authority and blessing. God uses the difficulties of life to grow us, so that He might use our lives in a more wonderful way than would otherwise be possible, (Matt. 25:41; Luke 16:10). As we endure the prison experiences of life, we are trained for expanded usefulness b the Lord!
Therefore, we need to learn not to rebel against the prisons we find ourselves in. We must learn to yield to the Lord's work in our lives and trust Him to have His way in us and through us. He knows where He wants us and He knows what He would have us do. Let us learn to trust Him and experience the best He has to offer us!
Conc: Friend, if you aren't in a prison of life today, you will be someday. In either case, you need what Joseph has taught us. I challenge you to look deep into your heart and ask yourself whether or not you are in that place of alignment with the plan and purposes of God for your life. Are you blooming where He has planted you? Or do you find yourself struggling against the bonds that hold you? Whatever the need, there is hope and help in our glorious Lord today!
TODAY’S HYMN and BLESSING!
“Let the Beauty Of Jesus Be Seen” By Albert Orsbom (1934)
Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me, All His wonderful passion and purity;
May His Spirit divine All my being refine, Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me."
When somebody has been so unkind to you, Some word spoken that pierces you through and through, Think how He was beguiled, Spat upon and reviled; Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in you."
From the dawn of the morning to close of day, In example, in deeds, and in all you say, Lay your gifts at His feet, Ever strive to keep sweet, Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in you."
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Tuesday, April 03, 2012
JOSEPH, FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF FAITH, 4/3/2012
HOW TO THRIVE IN THE PRISONS OF LIFE, Lesson 46b
V. 20 THE PRISON IS A PLACE OF OBSCURITY
When Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and then when he was locked up in the prison house, it must have seemed to him that all those dreams he dreamed as a younger man had really meant nothing, (Gen. 37:7-10). He had dreamed that God was going to make something special out of his life, but here he is going nowhere fast. It must have seemed like God had forgotten all about Joseph. Surely, Joseph felt alone, deserted and defeated by the trials and problems he faced.
The prisons of life can leave us all feeling that way. When the problems of life mount up against us, it is easy to feel like we have been deserted by the Lord. When we are thrown into one of life's prisons we tend to feel forgotten and overlooked by the Lord. The devil uses those times to whisper his lies to us and he says, "Well, if God really cares about you then why are you going through this valley?" Or, "You trusted God, and what did it get you but trouble." My friends, if that is the way you are feeling today, let me remind you that God does care! Others may forget about us, but God knows exactly where I am and what I am facing. In fact, I have His promise concerning this matter, (Luke 12:6-7; Heb. 4:15).
When we face the lonely times of life when it seems that God has forgotten all about us, just remember that you aren't the first, nor will you be the last, person who has felt this way. Remember that even great men of God like Elijah went through times of defeat and discouragement, (1 Kings 19:1-18). However, it the depths of his despondency, God knew exactly where Elijah was and God came to him, spoke to him and used him for His glory. He knows where you are serving too!
Never forget the truth that God knows where you are! He knows about your prison and He holds the key to your freedom. It may be a place of obscurity, but God will bring you out for His glory. The hardest part is learning to submit to Him, even when we don't like where we are!
V. 21 THE PRISON IS A PLACE OF OPPORTUNITY
In this prison, Joseph had the great privilege of learning some valuable lessons about God. He learns about God's Presence, God's Providence, God's Purposes and God's Power. He learned lessons that could not have been learned under more pleasant circumstances.
Certainly, one of the greatest blessings of going through the trials of life is the truths we learn about God. In fact, the trials of life teach us lessons about God that cannot be learned any other way. Think about it, Daniel could not have learned of God's power over the lions unless he was first cast into the lions den. The 3 Hebrew could not have learned that God was able to deliver them from the fire until they had been cast into the furnace. The Disciples would never have known that Jesus could still the storm until they found themselves in the midst of it. Mary, Martha and Lazarus would never have understood that Jesus is The Resurrection and the Life unless Lazarus had died. The multitudes would never have known that Jesus could multiply the loaves and fishes unless they had been hungry first. The women with the issue could not have experienced the healing touch of Christ, without the suffering and the cost of her illness. The list could go one, but the fact is, we learn more about Him in the prisons of life than in any other way.
When we go through the prisons of life, we learn that He is with us, that He is able to sustain us, that He is greater than our problems, that He does have a plan. We learn the truth that the prisons of life are not designed to stop us, but to strengthen us! Even in the midst of difficulty, Joseph was still being blessed and used by the Lord! God's hand was evident in the life of this young man!
If we really understood the fact that our prisons are opportunities, we would never allow ourselves to ask "Why?" when these times came about. Instead, we would realize that God was working out His divine purpose and plan for us and we would learn to ask "What?". We would know beyond a doubt that God was doing something good for us, (Rom. 8:28)!
TODAY’S HYMN and BLESSING!
“In Sorrow I Wandered” By James Rowe (19130
In sorrow I wandered, my spirit oppressed
But now I am happy, securely I rest
From morning till evening glad carols I sing
And this is the reason I walk with the King
I walk with the King, hallelujah!
I walk with the King, praise His Name!
No longer I roam, my soul faces home
I walk and I talk with the King
For years in the fetters of sin I was bound
The world could not help me no comfort I found
But now like the birds and the sunbeams of spring
I m free and rejoicing I walk with the King
O soul near despair in the lowlands of strife
Look up and let Jesus come into your life
The joy of salvation to you He would bring
Come into the sunlight and walk with the King
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Monday, April 02, 2012
JOSEPH, FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF FAITH, 4/2/2012
HOW TO THRIVE IN THE PRISONS OF LIFE, Lesson 46a
The life of Joseph is one of the most remarkable stories found in the Bible. His life is a mixture of sadness and glory, or pain and of success. As a result, Joseph's life contains many lessons from which modern believers can learn. One of those lessons is found in this passage.
In these verses, we find Joseph at one of the lowest moments of his young life. We find him as a young man, having been sold into slavery into Egypt. There, he is purchased by a man named Potipher, and in Potipher's house, Joseph quickly rises to a place of authority and prominence. However, Potipher's wife has eyes for Joseph and attempts to get him to commit adultery with her. He refuses and actually has to run away from her, leaving his garment in her hand, (Gen. 39:7-13). His coat had gotten him into trouble again, (Gen. 39:14-18; Gen. 37:3-4). After she has been spurned by Joseph, Potipher's wife accuses Joseph of attempting to rape her. Her husband, who is a high ranking Egyptian official, has Joseph thrown into the King's prison.
It is in this Egyptian prison that Joseph learned some very valuable lessons. He learned some facts about the Lord that would serve him well in the years ahead. It is those facts that we need to learn today! Now, Joseph wasn't alone in having to go through a prison experience. In fact, many of the great men of the Bible found themselves in one prison or another. For instance, there is Samson, Daniel, Jeremiah, Hosea, John the Baptist, John, Peter, Paul, and Silas. Many of the Lord's greatest servants had to go through the prison from time to time. In each of these prisons, the Lord revealed His power and providence on behalf of His servants.
What does all this mean for us? Well, we all find ourselves in the prison from time to time. Often, the trials, valleys and troubles of life can be compared to a prison experience. These times can cause us great problems, but they can also be the means to great success for the Lord. I just want you to know that the prisons of life do not have to defeat you! In fact, it is my conviction that God leads us into the prison experiences of life so that we might thrive in His work and to His glory.
I would like for us to take a few minutes now to notice some facts that appear in the account of Joseph and his prison experience. As we do, there are some truths taught here that teach us “How To Thrive In The Prisons Of Life“. Here is what you need to know to thrive in life's prisons.
V. 20 THE PRISON IS A PLACE OF OPPRESSION
The Bible tells us that Joseph was "bound" in the prison. He had lost his liberty and was held against his will. Certainly it was not the place that he has dreamed of years before, (Gen. 37).
It was a place of harshness and suffering that brought pain into the life of Joseph. This is often our experience as well. There are times when everything around us seems to fall apart at the seems. This was the experience of Job, (Job 1-2), and it will be the experience of every other person who ever lives in this world, (Job 14:1, Eccl. 2:23). It is these experiences of life that we all fear, but through which we all must go! These aren't fun times, but they are part of every life! No one is exempt from the day of trouble!
However, in this prison, Joseph was going to learn the powerful lesson that a person who's life is lined up with the will of God is abundantly free despite the walls that enclose him! Here is the difference between the children of God and the rest of the world! While they struggle through their difficulties, the child of God can rest in the sure knowledge that God has us where we are for His Own purposes and that when we are walking in His ways, we are free despite the prison we find ourselves in at that moment, (Job 23:10)! That is a precious lesson to learn!
G.A. Young, in his song, "God Leads Us Along" put it this way:
“Sometimes on the mount
Where the sun shines so bright,
God leads His dear children along;
Sometimes in the valley,
In darkest of night,
God leads His dear children along.
Some through the waters,
Some thought the flood,
Some through the fire,
But all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow,
But God gives a song,
In the night season
And all the day long.”
That is a lesson we all need to learn. Regardless of the oppression we are under at the moment, God is still leading His children. This was the idea David had in mind when he penned Psalm 23! I may be oppressed by the circumstances of life, but I am blessed by the author of life when I am lead along by Him!
TODAY’S PRAYER and BLESSING!
Oh Mighty God, Creator and Giver of life! May the God of Hope fill us with all the joy and peace as we trust in YOU, so that You may overflow us with hope by the power of Your Word and Holy Spirit, always to Your glory. This we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen!
Sunday, April 01, 2012
JOSEPH, FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF FAITH, 4/1 /2012
THE POWER OF A FAITHFUL LIFE, Lesson 45d
v. 20-23 FAITHFUL IN SPITE OF TRAGEDIES,
There Joseph is back in the pit once again. This time he is not in a pit of earth, he is in a prison. Surely he felt like his star was on the rise, now, it looks like those dreams will never be fulfilled. Many people would have given us and quit had they found themselves in the same situation. Not Joseph!
He just did in the prison what he had done at Potipher’s house and what he had done at Jacob’s house. He remained faithful in spite of everything life threw at him. He did his job there in that prison and he did it so well that soon he was running the place. The jailer trusted Joseph to do the right thing and he turned the day to day operation of the place over to him.
How was this possible? Verse 21 says, “The Lord was with Joseph.” That verse also says that God “shewed him mercy”. Verse 23 tells us again that “the Lord was with him”. It also says, “and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper”. You see, Joseph was faithful to the Lord regardless of where he was; and regardless of where he was, the Lord was faithful to Joseph.
There are going to be times when the bottom will fall out of your life. That is the clear teaching of the Word of God, (Job 14:1; 5:7; John 16:33). When that happens there will be the temptation to give up and quit on God. The flesh will say, “What’s the use? I’ve been faithful still trouble came. I might as well give up.” Satan will tell you that you should just quit on God. Even some of the people around you will tell you that serving the Lord has gotten you nowhere, but into trouble.
I want to tell that the world around you, your own flesh and the devil are all liars! They will do their best to get you to drop out of this thing. God wants us to remain faithful in spite of whatever we may face in this life. God knows what He is doing and He is working out a perfect, eternal plan, (Rom. 8:28; Psa. 37:23). You can trust Him to do right by you, (2 Cor. 4:17. Rom. 8:18; Jer. 29:11).
God blessed Joseph and he used him in his prison because Joseph remained faithful. If you and I will stand by the Lord and be the people he saved us to be, we can count on Him using us as well. I have seen people in the valley in depression be used of the Lord. I have seen people held in the grip of terminal illness be used of the Lord. I have seen people who didn’t have a dime to their name and still God used them. If you will be faithful where He puts you, He will use you there for His glory!
The greatest thing that can ever be said about you and me, as far as our walk with the Lord is concerned, is that we were faithful. I want to be found faithful. How about you? I want to be faithful to my family. I want to be faithful to my wife. I want to be faithful to my call. I want to be faithful to my Lord. I want to be faithful to the church. I want to be faithful to the pulpit. I want to be faithful to the One Who has never been unfaithful to me!
Dear friends, just keep living for Jesus, even when it doesn’t seem to be paying off. Just keep praying when the answers aren’t coming. Keep going to church when it seems as dry as dust. Keep praising Him even if you have to do it through your tears. If you will stay faithful in the prisons of life, God will get glory from your life and He will bless you in ways you could never have imagined.
Conc: 2,000 years ago a woman named Mary bowed at the feet of Jesus. She broke a box of ointment that was worth a year’s pay and she poured it out on the head of the Lord Jesus. Some of the people there complained about what she was doing, but Jesus said, “Let her alone…she hath done what she could”. In other words, Mary was faithful to the Lord and He recognized her faithfulness. He honored her because she honored Him by being in her place and doing all she could do. If the Lord were to look at your life today, would He be able to say “They have done what they could”? Could He declare us to be faithful servants unto Him? Are you as faithful to the Lord as you could be? Or is there room for improvement?
Joseph was faithful. Jesus is faithful. I want to be found faithful too. How about you? If He has spoken to you on any level, you need to be faithful to Him and come and answer His calling.
TODAY’S HYMN and BLESSING!
“Living For Jesus” By T. O. Chisholm (1917)
Living for Jesus, a life that is true, Striving to please Him in all that I do; Yielding allegiance, glad-hearted and free, This is the pathway of blessing for me.
O Jesus, Lord and Savior, I give myself to Thee,For Thou, in Thy atonement, didst give Thyself for me; I own no other Master, my heart shall be Thy throne; My life I give, henceforth to live, O Christ, for Thee alone.
Living for Jesus Who died in my place, Bearing on Calv’ry my sin and disgrace; Such love constrains me to answer His call, Follow His leading and give Him my all.
Living for Jesus, wherever I am, Doing each duty in His holy Name; Willing to suffer affliction and loss, Deeming each trial a part of my cross.
Living for Jesus through earth’s little while, My dearest treasure, the light of His smile;
Seeking the lost ones He died to redeem, Bringing the weary to find rest in Him.
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