- Sermon Notes
The School of Adversity
Our study in Genesis now shifts to Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son. He was the firstborn of Rachel, the woman he had fallen in love with when he first came to Haran seeking a wife.
Joseph had two separate dreams that didn’t require much insight to understand. The first dream was that his sheaf stood upright while those of the brothers bowed down. The second dream was that the sun and the moon and eleven stars all bowed down to him. Both dreams meant that Joseph would rise above his brothers, but the second dream meant that he would rise even above his father Jacob as well.
It would be fair to say that the rest of the family didn’t interpret Joseph’s dreams with the same excitement that Joseph did. In fact, they were jealous and angry with him.
At one point, Jacob sent Joseph to check on his older brothers who were tending flocks a good distance away. At first, they thought they would kill him, but the oldest brother, Reuben, insisted they not harm the boy; they should throw him into a cistern and let him die on his own. Reuben was intending to come back secretly and rescue him. But while Reuben was away, the rest of them saw some Ishmaelite traders, Midianites, and decided to sell Joseph as a slave. They sold him for twenty pieces of silver. The traders brought him to Egypt where he was again sold as a slave.
In Egypt, he was purchased by Potiphar, an officer for Pharaoh. But the hand of the Lord was on Joseph. Soon he oversaw Potiphar’s estate and became overseer of all he owned. Again, tragedy struck, however, when he was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife. And that’s where we pick up our story.
Joseph is one of the great men of the bible because he faced terrible and unjust circumstances and yet demonstrated the character of a powerful man of integrity.
There are many lessons from Joseph’s life. All one of us have walked through difficult circumstances and there are more trials ahead. In these verses we understand how to walk through difficult times with integrity of faith.
I. Hold on to Your Integrity
- Joseph could have decided that because life had given him a bad turn he might as well give up. He could have said in his heart, “If this is the way
you’re going to treat me, Lord, then I give up trusting in You.” But he didn’t.
- Job is a supreme example of suffering, even undeservedly. At one point, Job’s wife challenged him, saying, “Do you still hold on to your integrity?
Curse God and die!”
- Job responded, “You speak as one of the foolish women.Shall we indeed accept good from God and not adversity?”Job held on to his integrity and Joseph did as well.
A. Don’t repay evil for evil
- Joseph could have spent the rest of his life plotting revenge. Some might even suggest that would be the right thing to do; after all, the betrayal
of his brothers deserved revenge!
- But the right thing to do was to walk in faith, trusting God that He is able to bring justice.
Romans 12:19-21, Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.
Illus – After the sentencing of our daughter’s murderer, Jordi and I had the opportunity to speak with him personally there in the courtroom. It was an opportunity to speak words of life…
Illus – Many years ago there was a dispute between some members of my wife’s side of the family and we were asked to choose sides. We declined to choose sides and became ostracized. But later when Jordi’s dad had cancer… love prevailed.
- Jacob kept walking in integrity and kept looking for the hand of God to move in his life.
Psalm 121:1-2, I will lift up mine eyes to the hills; where does my help come from?My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 25:15, 17, 20-22, My eyes are continually toward the Lord, for He will pluck my feet out of the net… The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses… Guard my soul and deliver me; do not let me be ashamed, for I take refuge in You.Let integrity and the uprightness preserve me, for I wait for You.Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.
A.Don’t allow your heart to become bitter
- If bitterness had entered Joseph’s heart it would have stood in the way of what God was doing and prevented him from seeing the blessing of God on
- Don’t be bitter and angry with God and don’t be bitter and angry with people.
- In Potiphar’s house he was faithful to the task at hand and God was with him.
Genesis 39:2, 5, The Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man.And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian… It came about that from the time he made Joseph overseer in his house and over all that he owned, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; thus the Lord’s blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field.
- Later, when he found himself falsely accused and thrown in prison, he didn’t allow himself to become bitter with God then either.
- When things happen that are completely unjust, it would easy to allow bitterness to enter your heart, but that will not bring anything good.
- The scripture describes the effect of bitterness as a bitter root entering a well and making all the water in that well bitter.
Hebrews 12:15, See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;
Ephesians 4:31-32, Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Illus –When I think about my mom and all that she suffered, I can truly say that she exampled suffering like no one else I know.Much of that suffering came from being treated so badly by my father.Later, he divorced her and moved back to Arkansas.Many years later when he had come back to Oregon, he moved into the same apartment complex where she lived, and she started caring for him again. Though they never remarried, they were friends; and when he died, there she was standing at the head of his casket.After everyone had gone, she leaned over the casket, gave him one last kiss and said, “I love you Cecil.”
- A bitter heart will affect everything else in life, Joseph kept his heart from bitterness and the Lord kept His hand on his life.
II. Don’t Doubt in the Darkness
- My Bible was a gift from a couple that helped start our church.On the inside of the back cover they wrote, “Never doubt in the darkness what God has
shown you in the light.”
- In Genesis 39 we find Joseph in his darkest hour, but here we also see that in spite of everything that goes against him, he never doubts God.
A. God is working in your behalf
- Joseph could have focused on what had gone wrong in his life. It would have been easy to wrongly interpret those events.
- Many people do a running commentary on their lives to try to figure out what God is doing and why. But some things are impossible to understand until the end.
- Many years later when his brothers came to Egypt in search of food because of the severe famine, Joseph was there to provide for them all, only then did it become clear that though “they meant it for evil; God meant it for good.”
Genesis 45:7-8, “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God;”
Genesis 50:20, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good…”
App – Many people fall into the false notion that when things are going well, that means that God is with them. But when they suffer, encounter difficulties, or things are simply not going well, they believe that that is a sure sign that God is not with them but is against them.
- Strong faith believes that God is true to His Word, that He causes all things to work together for good.
- God was working for Joseph even in prison as God was arranging even who he would care for.
- 39:21, 23b - Joseph kept his heart before God and God blessed his life even while he was suffering unjustly.
B. Strengthen yourself in the Lord
- What if Joseph decided to wallow in self-pity? Would the chief jailer have promoted him?
- You can see that Joseph kept his heart on the Lord because when the chief cupbearer and the chief baker were placed is his care, he turned them toward
God, saying, “Do not interpretations belong to God?” (Verse 8)
- When they mentioned their dreams, Joseph could have said instead, “Dreams? Don’t talk to me about dreams! I’ve had quite enough dreams!” Instead, he
points them to the Lord.
- One of the most important things we can do in difficult times is to stay refreshed and strengthened in the Lord.
Proverbs 18:10, The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and are saved.Illus – I remember going through one of the most difficult times of my life and I was praying for God to help. I decided to fast and pray, but it was a fast for strength and to stay focused on what God was going to do to answer my prayer.
Illus – When David and his men came back to their camp after being gone all day, they discovered that the Amalekites had come and raided their camp and taken everything including their wives and children. There was such a general outrage that the men began to speak of stoning David.
But here is where we learn an important key in our own spiritual lives…
1 Samuel 30:6, Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.
Isaiah 40:28-31, Do you not know?Have you not heard?The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired.His understanding is inscrutable.He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young man stumbled badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain the strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not faint.
A. God will change you through the fire
- If we are strengthened in the Lord through difficulties, then God can use those things in our lives to change us.
- James wrote that we should “consider it all joy when we endure trials;” not being happy that we are suffering but anticipating that God can do something in all things and that He will transform us.
James 1:2-4, Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Psalm 40:1-3, I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.
Illus – the Hymn, It is Well, says it all.
This hymn was written by a Chicago lawyer, Horatio G. Spafford. You might think that a rich, successful Chicago lawyer might indeed write a worship song titled, 'It is well with my soul.’
But the words, "When sorrows like sea billows roll ... It is well with my soul”, were not written during a joyful period in Spafford's life. On the contrary, they came from a man who had suffered almost unimaginable personal tragedy.
Horatio Spafford and his wife, Anna, were well-known in 1860’s Chicago. And this was not only because of Horatio's legal career and business endeavors. The Spaffords were also prominent supporters and close friends of D.L. Moody, the famous Chicago preacher.
In 1870, however, things began to turn tragically. The Spaffords' only son was killed by scarlet fever at the age of four. A year later, it was fire rather than fever that struck. Horatio had invested heavily in real estate on the shores of Lake Michigan. In 1871, every one of his buildings was wiped out by the great Chicago Fire.
Aware of the toll that these disasters had taken on the family, Horatio decided to take his wife and four daughters on a holiday to England. And, not only did they need the rest -- DL Moody needed the help; he was traveling around Britain on one of his great evangelistic campaigns.
Horatio and Anna planned to join Moody in England in late 1873. The Spaffords traveled to New York in late October, from there they were to catch a French ship, a steamer, the 'Ville de Havre' to cross the Atlantic. Just before they were to set sail, however, a last-minute business development forced Horatio to delay. Not wanting to ruin the family holiday, Spafford persuaded his family to go on ahead as planned; he would follow on later.
With this decided, Anna and her four daughters sailed east toward Europe while Spafford returned west to Chicago. Nine days later, Spafford received
word that the ship that carried his wife and four daughters had perished at sea.
On November 2nd, 1873, the 'Ville de Havre' had collided with 'The Lochearn', an English vessel. It sank in only
12 minutes, claiming the lives of 226 people. Anna Spafford had stood bravely on the deck with her daughters Annie, Maggie, Bessie and Tanetta, clinging desperately to her.
Her last memory had been of her baby being torn violently from her arms by the force of the waters. Anna herself was only saved by a plank which floated
beneath her unconscious body and propped her up. When the survivors of the wreck had been rescued, Mrs. Spafford's first reaction was one of complete
despair. Then she heard a voice speak to her, "You were spared for a purpose." And she immediately recalled the words of a friend, "It's easy to
be grateful when you have much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God."
Spafford received a telegram from his wife in Wales. It read simply: "Saved - alone." Upon hearing the terrible news, Horatio Spafford boarded the next ship out of New York to join his bereaved wife. During the voyage, the captain of the ship called him to the bridge. "A careful reckoning has been made", he said, "and I believe we are now passing the place where the de Havre was wrecked. The water is three miles deep." Horatio stood alone on the deck, watching the waves with a broken heart. He then returned to his cabin and penned the lyrics of this great hymn.
The words which Spafford wrote that day come from 2 Kings 4:26. They echo the response of the Shunammite
woman to the sudden death of her only child. Though we are told "her soul was vexed within her", still she
maintains that “It is well." And Spafford's song reveals a man whose trust in the Lord was as unwavering as hers.
It would be very difficult for any of us to predict how we would react under circumstances similar to those
experienced by the Spaffords. But we do know that the God who sustained them would also be with us.
No matter what circumstances overtake us may we be able to say with Horatio Spafford...
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul!
It is well ... with my soul!
It is well, it is well, with my soul.