- Sermon Notes
Secrets of Finishing Well
We have reached the last chapter of the book of Genesis. At this point, Jacob is now dead, after blessing and prophesying over all his sons. As he was nearing death he charged his sons that he wanted to be buried with his fathers in the land of Canaan.
The rest of the chapter tells us about the last years of Joseph’s life. I have thoroughly enjoyed studying about Joseph because he is such a powerful example of a man of faith and steadfastness of character. There is so much for us to apply to our own lives as we study Joseph.
It’s interesting how Abraham’s death is described.
Genesis 25:8, Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life. Abraham finished well. Though Joseph had a difficult life, we can see in Genesis chapter 50 that Joseph also finished well.
Here are some secrets of finishing well that we can learn from studying Joseph’s life.
I. There is a More Excellent Way
- When the brothers came back to Egypt they said to themselves, “What if Joseph should bear a grudge against us and pay us back in full?”
- They expected Joseph to live like a lot of other people live, full of wrongs that they hold onto and never let go.
A. Decide now that God’s ways are better
- There is a very common way to live. I say the word common because a lot of people do it. But it’s not God’s way. God’s ways are higher than our ways and God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts God said through the prophet Isaiah.
- No one would have blamed Joseph for bearing a grudge and paying back in full for all the wrong which they did to him. But clearly Joseph has made a decision to live differently.
- Paul makes the difference clear to us…
I Corinthians 3:1-3, And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?
- You can see the efforts of the brothers to manipulate a bit even here, coming up with a story of how all their father gave this direction before he died.
- What a contrast there is in how they approach this problem. They try, by efforts of their own clever manipulation to seek forgiveness, rather than choosing God’s way.
Illus – Paul, when writing to the church in Corinth, said that he would show them a more excellent way.
I Corinthians 12:31, But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.
I Corinthians 13:2, If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
B. We need a sensitive heart
- Joseph’s response to his brothers gives us insight into Joseph’s character.
- Verse 17 – Joseph wept when they spoke to him. It seems that he was filled with compassion for the fear that was in their hearts.
- We saw several places in our study of Joseph where he wept. I know that it’s good for a man not to be afraid to cry, after all, Jesus also wept.
Illus – One of the ways some women determine if a women’s retreat is good, is by how quickly everyone starts crying. My wife and daughters think I need to cry more, but to me, it’s more important to feel very deeply.
Illus – When I was in my early 20’s I had one of my first opportunities to preach a sermon. I did so poorly I closed the service early, grabbed Jordi and wept.
- But Joseph’s crying is not the point. The point is that he felt compassion for those around them. He was not so taken up with himself that he could not see the burden of others.
- The opposite of this would be a hard heart. A hard heart feels nothing for those around him, and feels nothing for God.
Nehemiah 9:17, They refused to listen, and did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them; so they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness; and You did not forsake them.
Illus – When Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, he said, “How can I do this thing and sin against God?”
- Joseph’s heart was sensitive to God as well as to others, and couldn’t bear the thought I’m doing something that would harm his relationship to God.
II. Seek God’s Perspective
- When Joseph’s brothers came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants,” Joseph responded, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?”
- Joseph is a powerful example of humility of heart, because in spite of the great position he held in Egypt, he kept God in the right place.
A. Never give up on God
- Verse 20 – this is one of the most important verses in this whole book. Joseph clearly sees that God is greater than the intent of man.
- There is great comfort in this principle, because there is a lot of evil intent in this world, and to know that God’s sovereignty is over all is very encouraging.
App – But this requires looking beyond what we see with our eyes. The scripture tells us that we must walk by faith and not by sight.
II Corinthians 5:5-7, He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident; … for we walk by faith, not by sight. NIV
Illus – Jacob thought everything was against them, but what he couldn’t see was that God was orchestrating everything and that everything was actually for him.
- This is trusting God’s perspective. We may not be able to see everything that God sees, but it is enough to know that God does see it.
- The key is not giving up on God. Don’t judge God’s love by your outward circumstances.
Lamentations 3:21-26 The Lord is my portion, therefore I trust in Him.
B. See what God would do through you
- In verse 21 Joseph told them not to be afraid, and that he would provide for them and for their little ones.
- This is clearly a fulfillment of the prophecy of Jacob that Joseph would be a fruitful bough by a spring whose branches would run over a wall.
- This is such a powerful secret to finishing well, seeing what God would do through us.
- Does God exist for me, or do I exist for God? We all exist for God’s pleasure. When God is pleased, then surely I will find my life satisfied as well.
Psalm 147:11, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. NIV
Colossians 1:10, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
- The key to bearing fruit is being grafted in the tree of life. Its God sap moving through our lives which gives our lives significance and power.
Illus – You can actually graft many different fruit trees into the same tree and the sap will flow into every branch producing many types of fruit.
Psalm 92:13-14, Planted in the house of the Lord, They will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green,
- We need to believe in God; and also that God believes in us. He wants to do great things through us.
Illus – In the count of Monte Cristo, Abbe Faria tells young Edmond Dantes to not seek vengeance because God said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” Edmond responded, “I don’t believe in God.” Faria responded profoundly, “God believes in you.”
- When Peter saw Jesus walking on the water, He believed that Jesus could do this, but could he believe that Jesus could do this through him?
- “Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief”
C. God will take care of you
- Verse 24, as Joseph was about to die, he said to his brothers, “God will surely take care of you, and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised.”
- Joseph then made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “You shall carry my bones up from here.”
- He said this because he knew that God would fulfill his promise, take care of them, and bring them back home.
Illus – God took care of Israel by providing for them in Egypt, but it also kept them from intermarrying with the Canaanites so they could be kept separate and could grow into a great nation.
The story of Joseph and his brothers is a story of God caring for them even in spite of their failure.
- Jesus gave a great word of encouragement when he said…
Luke 12:6-7, “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”
- This is certainly a key to finishing well; keeping the faith, believing that in God there is a future and a hope.
II Timothy 4:7-8, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Genesis 50:14-26 NASB