Each week I provide notes from my sermon and an audio link for a group that meets on Wednesday nights at our Church. We call the group Merge. The purpose for it is to provide a smaller setting for newer folks to begin to get connected with the Church. The subject matter each week for Merge is the sermon from the previous Sunday.
We do not like to rush the connecting process for those who visit our Church. They need to get to know us and we need to get to know them. Yet all of Christ’s followers need smaller circles of fellowship and mutual caring. This is our present vehicle to facilitate connecting.
You will get hurt….
I began Sunday Morning by recognizing that life in this world is vulnerable and each person can be certain that he or she will get hurt.
1. God uses the hurts of this life
But God uses the hurts of this life to bring us to Christ and to build us up in Christ. He uses them to refine our character (Hebrews 12:7-15), to make us stronger (II Corinthians 4:7; 12:7ff.), and to equip us to comfort others (II Corinthians 1:3-5).
2. God sustains us and defends us
Psalm 62:8 “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”
II Thessalonians 1:6-10 “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.” (see also: Hebrews 6:10; I Peter 2:23; 4:19)
3. This life is not our whole story….. II Cor. 4:7-16; Rom. 8:28ff.
Learning from one man’s story: Joseph
Joseph’s life seemed to be defined by the passions of others. It began with the misguided parental favoritism of his father which led to sibling jealousy and hatred and the selling Joseph as a slave.
Joseph later became the object of sexual lust and harassment, false accusation by the wife of the Captain of the Egyptian guard and wrongful imprisonment. He went from life in slavery to life as a prisoner in Egypt.
It’s not easy to understand God’s control when evil people seem to be in charge and our lives are profoundly affected by their desires and actions.
Jesus, our faithful and merciful High Priest, understands this experience (Ac. 2:22-23; 4:27-28).
After his first 17 years with his family, Joseph spent about 17 years in separation from them. But from his position in Egypt, Joseph enjoyed about 17 years providing for his family. Then Jacob (his father) died and his brothers thought for sure that Joseph would take revenge against them now that their father would not be affected.
“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?’ So they sent word to Joseph, saying, ‘Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘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. His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. ‘We are your slaves,’ they said. But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?’” You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.” (50:15-21)
3 truths that guided Joseph’s life and gave him freedom from bitterness: (Speak each one to God)
- You are God not me (Am I in the place of God?)
- You are in control not those who hurt me (You intended…but God intended)
- Life is not about me but serving others (the saving of many lives)
Let’s look more closely at each truth and explore a 4th truth from the NT:
1) God’s authority as Judge
“Do not be afraid, am I in the place of God?” Romans 12:19: “Do not take revenge my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: It is mine to avenge; I will repay says the Lord.” (See also: Gen. 45:1-8).
When hurt, we must relinquish any desire to play God – to play judge and executioner toward our offenders. We need not induce ourselves into a state of moral neutrality about the wrongs committed— but release the wrongs (and the ones who did them) to the Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25; cf. John 19:11; I Peter 2:23; 4:19).
2) God’s control of my life
Joseph said to his brothers, “You intended to harm me but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20). Joseph confessed that God (not his offenders) is Lord of his circumstances. His brothers were clearly responsible for their evil deeds (and he clearly acknowledged this truth).
But he recognized that God was sovereign over their evil actions (see Acts 2:22-24; 4:27-28).
Life between two intentions: You intended…. God intended….
Through dark nights of the soul, Joseph learned to trust the providential goodness of God in the painful twists of a life that seemed to be controlled by the evil intentions of others.
3) God’s plan for serving others
Genesis 50: 20-21 “’You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”
The self-centered, self-serving, self absorbed life is a prison and leads to self-destruction.
It also spreads the damage instead of the blessing.
When we yield to God’s sovereign control it liberates us (Daniel 3:16-18; 4:34-35; Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:5-7,11-12),
It frees us to follow Jesus in radical kingdom obedience: “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).
Like Joseph, we’re free (under God) from the poison of bitterness and the rage of revenge. We are free from participating in the multiplication of evil. We’re free to absorb the loss and return a blessing instead (I Peter 3:9) — as we trust God’s providential goodness (Romans 8:28).
4) God’s forgiveness of our sins
A motive for forgiveness emphasized explicitly in the New Testament is God’s forgiveness of our sins. “Forgive each other just as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32; Matthew 18:21-35).
When offended, we must surrender attitudes of revenge in recognition of God’s authority, control and forgiveness of our sins. As with Joseph, all of this must take place in the context of our relationship with God.
Here we learn that forgiveness can occur apart from the confession and repentance of an offender. It had to for Joseph because he did not have any contact with his brothers for many years.
Four truths as anchors for your soul:
- You are God not me
- You are in control not those who hurt me
- Life is not about me but serving others
- You have forgiven my sins (God expects forgiven people to forgive)
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”