Monday, October 8, 2007

Joseph: Forward by Faith

Every believer will falter occasionally when it comes to matters of his or her faith. When that happens there are ways we can keep our doubts to a minimum. The important thing, the key to the entire issue, is to keep our eyes and hearts focused upon God so that we can move forward in His will and not fall victim to our own fears and insecurities. When we focus in on an object or a person, all other things in view blur. If we focus in on our problems, everything else (including God!) goes out of focus. But if we keep our eyes on God instead of our problems, then our problems blur, and God remains crystal clear to us.

After reading Genesis 39, let's continue with the Old Testament hero, Joseph, who trusted God through the harrowing events and experiences of his early years. Faith sustained him through events that I would venture to guess would completely side-line most of us: betrayal, slavery, imprisonment. But Joseph rested on his confidence in the Lord and didn't allow circumstances, environment, or the opinion of others to distract him from acting in God's will. Joseph believed every situation of his life was by God's design. He fully understood that his life's events ... even those difficult ones ... were orchestrated and used by God to fine-tune Joseph's faith. "You intended to harm me," Joseph later said to his brothers, "but God intended it for good ..." (Ge 50:20). We mustn't miss the point that God didn't just take the evil acts of his brothers and turn them into good. No, it says that God "intended them for good." Can we fully grasp this? God intended for Joseph to be sold into slavery. And when Joseph had to spend all that time in prison, God intended for it to happen that way. So we might be driven to ask how a loving God could do such things. He could because He wasn't looking at the transitory events and discomforts in Joseph's life at the time. Instead, He was looking at the overall good for Joseph. He knew that Joseph would never turn out to be the man He could use mightily without him first enduring the trials God intended for him.

We tend to react to trials in a critical way and complain that the situation and circumstances are unfair, unjust, and undeserved. We are so focused on our temporary circumstances and how unfortunate they are that we often miss opportunities to serve God.

Joseph chose another approach to the situation. This young Hebrew whose own brothers had sold him into slavery while still a youngster decided to do his work with excellence instead of doing it grudgingly. His duties in Potiphar's house were not of his making and were probably of the menial kind, but he performed his routine tasks as if he were performing them for the Lord. Everything a believer does can be done unto the Lord. Whether it's laundry or vacuuming, everything we do can be done as an act of worship toward our God. We can approach every chore, every task as an opportunity to do it well and please our Lord. Only through this type of commitment could Joseph have earned the attention and respect of his earthly master. And the young slave was rewarded with more responsibility and freedom. We too, by our responses to our different and varied circumstances, can gain the respect and admiration of others. And this not for ourselves, but for the fact that we can reflect the glory of the Lord in everything we do and say. God notices when we do this and it pleases Him.

As Joseph moved through one hardship after another, he stayed focused on God, who had promised to raise him to a position of leadership (Ge 37:10). He had a practical, God-honoring approach to the downward turn in his fortunes: he kept thinking about God and serving Him instead of dwelling on his trials. We too can turn disappointments and hardships into personal victories by taking note of the way Joseph responded to his circumstances. We tend to take our focus away from Jesus our Lord and therefore away from God Himself and this only complicates things and makes matters worse. If we keep our eyes focused on God, instead of on ourselves, we can turn hardships into victories and we can know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that even if we don't see the victory, it's still there. Everything we do unto the Lord earns Him a victory. And we need to remember that everything we endure in this life has a purpose; every action against or for us, has a reason. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can happen in our lives without first passing through the Father's hands. So if we're going through difficult times, let's determine to turn them into glory for the Lord. Let's seek out ways to honor Him in all of our circumstances.

It's Monday. Where do the days go? Today is a beautiful Fall day here again. It was another night below freezing last night. Not hard freezes, mind you, but freezes just the same. Halloween will be here before we know it and then come Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Seems like we did the holidays just a couple months ago to me. It sure doesn't feel like an entire year will have gone by.

Church services were incredible last night. We had communion and sang songs and talked about the changes God makes in us when we allow him to. These weren't superficial changes either. We talked about the deeply ingrained habits and inclinations of our hearts and how God can take those and turn them into victories. It's like with my smoking. For years I struggled to quit. I wanted to quit and tried countless times but I just couldn't make it happen. I always kept it a prayerful thing between the Lord and I and sometimes I'd think that maybe the Lord didn't want me to quit. Maybe he intended for it to be the thorn in my flesh. I couldn't think of any other reason for God to not make me quit. I still don't know what happened, why I was able to smoke that last cigarette and never go back. It sounds so ridiculously easy and simple, something that anyone should have known. But just one day it dawned on me, I mean really dawned on me, that smoking was a choice. I could choose to smoke that cigarette or I could choose not to smoke it. Seems so simple it's silly. But this time there was a deeper degree of understanding. It was like someone had just flipped on a switch and in the light I could finally see things clearly for once in my life. And suddenly I knew with a "supernatural knowing" that I had a choice. And that was the end of it for me. It was all over. My struggle ended in victory for the Lord. And for me. Not that I don't still have urges but that I can still make the right choice. Each and every time I choose not to smoke that next cigarette. That's really what it was. It was the tackling of each cigarette, individually. I just went one cigarette at a time and each time I made the choice to not smoke it. And it's been 9 months now. I will always be a smoker though. It's like it is for alcoholics. I don't think you're ever "cured." You just learn to say No each time. I've often said that if I'd known quitting would have been so easy, I would have quit years ago. LOL!!

Pastor Dan asked me to help make slides of all our praise songs last night after the service. I told him I would do that if I could. And it's a big if. If I can't do it, I won't hesitate to tell him so. Computers and I don't always get along. That's what happens when you come up against a computer program that's smarter than you are. You throw up your hands and say, "I quit!" Right? That's what I always do. I don't mind the work at all. It's trying to outsmart a computer that gets to me. It would be so much easier if I'd just learn to work with the computer instead of against it.

I woke up with a bit of a sore throat this morning and some congestion in my nose. Sure hope that doesn't mean what it usually means when that happens. I really, really don't want to have a cold. I'm hoping for allergies and that I will be just fine in a little while. I don't know what will happen to my blog if I were to get sick. I'd have to be pretty sick not to feel like blogging but I've certainly been that sick in the past. We'll just have to wait and see if that ever happens. Hopefully it won't.

I have things to do so I think this will be it for my blog for today as I'm out of things to write about and my floors need vacuuming and my laundry needs my attention. I can only put these things off for so long and then they become major issues with me. Until tomorrow...

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