Getting Through Hard Times | Genesis
Bible Passage: Genesis 37
Getting Through Hard Times | Life of Joseph
Our life is a journey of ups and downs, good times and bad times, victories, and failures. As we navigate through life, we all have our own share of successes and failures. It is a fact that people rejoice in their good times, but many find it difficult to navigate through the tough times.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought in a lot of struggles in people. Life has changed far from how we started this year. A majority of the people are facing hard times.
Are you facing a hard time today? How are you facing it? Do you think that your response is right in these hard times? Here is a biblical pattern to deal with it.
The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.
Someone said, “When the tides of life turn against you, & the current upsets your boat, don’t waste tears on what might have been, just lie on your back & float.”
We often are confronted with what we have been given by God. What we face in life is often far beyond your control. But how you face what you have been given in life is not beyond your control.
Today, I want to introduce you a man who repeatedly who saw the tides of life turn against him. Whose boat was upset more than once. A man whose difficulties would have crippled the faith of most people. BUT he didn’t sink…. (Pause…) and he didn’t even float. He overcame AND he rose above the waves of adversity.
Who was this man? His name was Joseph.
Far beyond his control were the circumstances that were dealt to him, but not beyond his ability to say, “God, walking with you with an understanding that while people may intend things for my wrong, you are a God that is bigger than their evil intentions. God can turn around every evil that we face for our own good.”
As we look at the life of Joseph, we see a theme that is running all throughout his life. It is one that stands out for us above all else. It is that God orchestrates the circumstances, the people, the events of Joseph’s life in order to accomplish his intended purposes.
Circumstantially, Joseph’s life was a mess, but providentially Joseph’s life was absolutely perfect.
God was weaving together the Godless choices of those around Joseph to accomplish the God-ordained purposes he had for Joseph. I would say that God is doing exactly the same thing for you.
There might be those listening to me today that would say, “Circumstantially my life is a mess.” It is not something you chose. You would not have. In fact, you may even be working to avoid them. Circumstantially it maybe a mess, but providentially God is working behind the scenes and he is doing so for your good and ultimately for his glory.
Let’s consider the life of Joseph today:
Joseph Was Born into Life of Brokenness
We’re introduced to Joseph when he is a mere 17 years old.
Father, Jacob: His father (Jacob) is now an old man who hasn’t always been godly. Jacob was born in a God believing family but much of his early life was spent in rebellion and disobedience. Also, Jacob lived a carnal life until he met God at Bethel.
Jacob had 2 wives Rachel and Leah. Joseph’s mother Rachel was Jacob’s favorite in a home that had many wives. Initially, Rachel could not bear children. So, she gave her own handmaid, Bilhah, to Jacob to have children. Later Leah gives her handmaid, Zilpah, to Jacob. So here we have Joseph’s father has 2 wives and 2 concubines from which he has fathered 12 sons and an unknown number of daughters. And they’re all living – pretty much – under the same roof.
Can you see the tension in the family of Joseph?
His mother Rachel stole the little image from her father when they left Haran as a family. Joseph had a not so godly mother and a very unholy and wicked grandfather in Laban.
To add to that Joseph’s mother (Rachel) died when he was a young teenager. Oh! what a phase that would have been to Joseph.
Most of Joseph’s brothers were ungodly. Can you imagine Joseph growing up with his brothers?
One by one Joseph’s older brothers had broken the heart of their father in wickedness, incest, and cruelty. And given the circumstances for Joseph, having no mother, rebellious and wicked brothers, Joseph had all probability to be wicked, bad, and spoil his life.
Things got more complicated for Joseph, as his brothers did not like him.
Joseph had 10 brothers that hated him.
Because Joseph was Rachel’s first child, Joseph was “Daddy’s favorite”. And this favoritism became painfully obvious in their eyes when Jacob gave Joseph a very fancy coat of many colors.
We sometimes talk about sibling rivalry & dysfunctional families. Well, it is clear here that his half-brothers were absolutely hostile to Joseph and he was born into a dysfunctional family.
Genesis 37:4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.
Joseph had another problem. Not only was he his father’s favorite son, but he appears to be a rather naive 17-year-old teenager. He was naive in not realizing how much his half-brothers hated him.
AND THEN, to add insult to injury, it seems that even God favored Joseph over his brothers.
God gave Joseph a couple of dreams.
In the first dream he sees his brother’s sheaves of grain bowing to him.
His brothers know what the dream means and they hate him for it. In the 2nd he envisions the Sun, Moon and 11 stars bowing down before him. Even his father rebukes him for that one.
Now, if you have studied the life of Joseph, you know those dreams were prophetic. The dreams came from God, & they showed what God planned to do in Joseph’s life. But the fact that Joseph thought his brothers would be excited about these dreams shows us just how sheltered & naïve Joseph really was.
Joseph is one kind of person in the Bible where we don’t find any wrong mentioned about him. But we do know that Joseph is not a perfect man. He is going to face the same struggle and the same challenges. He faces them with a lot of dignity, with a lot of respect and character. But he does face the same things. Is he perfect? No. It is just that God in his wisdom chose to not reveal all of his imperfections.
Apparently, it was these dreams that finally caused his brothers’ anger to boil over.
The rest of this story is a familiar one. The older brothers were tending their father’s flocks some distance away from home & Jacob had not heard anything from them. So Jacob sent Joseph to see them. And, of course, Joseph wore his fancy coat for the trip.
Genesis 37:13 Israel said to Joseph, “As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.”
Genesis 37:18-19 18But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him. 19“Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other.
I wonder how you would have felt if you were one of Joseph’s brothers & saw him wearing that coat?
Well, when they saw him coming, that coat of many colors was like a red flag waving in their faces. So they plotted against Joseph.
Most of them wanted to kill him. But Reuben, the oldest brother, suggested that instead of killing him that they throw him into a deep cistern & just leave him there to die. That way they wouldn’t be guilty of shedding his blood. Genesis 37:22 says that “Reuben said this to rescue him from them, and take him back to his father.”
So when Joseph got to their camp, they seized him, stripped off his coat, & threw him into a cistern. But then, as they were eating, they saw a slave caravan passing by on its way to Egypt.
Judah, another brother, had a bright idea. “Let’s sell him to these people. We’ll save ourselves from the guilt of murder, & we’ll even make a little money on the side.” So they “pulled Joseph up out of the cistern & sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.”
Wow! How quickly things can go wrong.
One moment, Joseph was the pampered son of a prosperous farmer & herdsman with bright hopes of a happy future. Then Joseph loses his mother. After some time, he was a in an empty cistern. When Joseph was coming to terms with it, the next moment his brothers picked him up and sold him as a slave.” They took Joseph into Egypt.”
One reason we remember Joseph is the fact that his story is so relevant today. We have all experienced things going wrong in the world with the Covid-19 pandemic. These are some tough times! Things have changed in 2020. Work conditions have changed, studies have changed. Life has changed in so many ways. Many have lost their jobs, some have cut their salaries. The businesses are not doing well. And to add to the agony, some have lost their loved ones to this pandemic.
Joseph faced a similar situation lost his mother, lost his fancy coat, his pampered position, & his freedom. So when things go wrong, Joseph is a good example to consider.
1. When Things Go Wrong You May or May Not Be Responsible
One thing we learn from Joseph is that when things go wrong, we may or may not be responsible for it. Sometimes we are responsible for the situations we are in, sometimes we aren’t. In one way Joseph was responsible, & in another way he wasn’t.
The cause of his trouble was the hatred of his brothers. That hatred was fanned by two flames: One was his lack of sensitivity to the feelings of his older brothers. The other was the unmistakable & unconcealed favoritism of his father.
And you can make out a good case for the fact that the first trouble was caused by the second. If Jacob had shown more sense in dealing equally with all his children, as every father should, Joseph would never have supposed that he was anything more than the little brother of the big boys.
APPL. But, be that as it may, the story suggests that when things go wrong, we may or may not be responsible.
Sometimes We Are Responsible for Our Circumstances.
Whenever our difficulty arises from a condition which is the consequence of our own choices, we are responsible.
A girl falls in love. She idealizes her sweetheart, ignores or downplays his faults and she ignores the parent’s warning. We say that “love is blind,” but it is often a self-induced blindness in which she convinces herself that he will change after they are married.
He proposes & she supposes that life with him will be blissful. So they are married.
Gradually, or sometimes suddenly, the romance fades, & she finds that life is not like what she thought it would be. He is not about to change, & things go wrong. In a real sense she is responsible for this situation. It was she, & no one else, who said “Yes.”
That is why God gives guidelines about friendship & marriage.
He wants to help us make the right choices. And we ignore them to our own selfishness. So there are other choices that we make, the consequences of which we are responsible.
We are responsible for our choices: In Joseph’s family, it was Ruben who was the firstborn. He was supposed to be getting a double portion from his father, be the family priest, and continue the line of the Messiah, the line from Abraham to Jesus. Ruben went and defiled his father’s bed. Did God forgive, absolutely but he had to face the consequences of his action.
Later in his old age, Jacob calls his 12 sons to bless them. See what Jacob said to Ruben: Genesis 49:3-4 3“Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honor, excelling in power. 4Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it.
He lost his opportunity to lead the family. Did God forgive him, absolutely but he had to live with the consequences of his action. So, sometimes we are responsible for our circumstances.
Sometimes we are not Responsible for Our Circumstances.
We work hard & save for our old age. Someone guided us to invest in mutual funds and the stock markets fail & inflation cuts our savings in half.
We study hard & earn a degree & get a good job. Promotions come & the future looks bright. But then the economy changes, & our job is gone, & we find ourselves having to start all over again.
Our human tendency is to evade responsibility, but it is true that sometimes, when things go wrong, we are not responsible for it.
Application: Maybe the COvid-19 pandemic has caused loss and harm for you. Some of you listening to me may have lost your job or lost your loved one. Sometimes we go through situations for which we are not responsible.
So when things go wrong you may or may not be responsible for it.
2. When Things Go Wrong You Are Responsible for What You Can Do About It.
So, when things go wrong, we may or may not be responsible for the cause, but we are responsible for the result. The result of your situation often depends upon how we respond to the situation.
I wish we knew what went on in Joseph’s mind as he was being taken as a slave down into Egypt.
Most people would have reacted bitterly toward God.
He could have said, “So this is the way you run things? What have I done to deserve this? I was trying to do what my father told me to do. There I was out looking for my brothers & report back home. All I was doing my duty, & is this the result?
“God, I’m through with you. I’ve always tried to follow your rules & do what is right, but look at what it has gotten me. From now on I’m going to stop my prayer, my devotion and just live like others.”
When things go wrong, many people take that as an attitude.
They blame God & quit. They go their own way, & God no longer has any place in their lives.
But there are others who say, “I may not be responsible when things go wrong, but I am responsible for what I do about it.” So they meet the situation, not with bitterness, but with courage & determination.
That is what Joseph did. Joseph was taken to the slave market in Egypt and soon he was bought by Potiphar to work as a slave in his home. And even as a slave, he soon received honors & responsibilities. Then Potiphar’s wife tried to entice Joseph to sin, to come to bed with her. But what did Joseph do? He steadfastly refused to defile himself & sin against God.
Again, things went wrong. Because he did the right thing, he was lied about by his temptress, arrested, & imprisoned.
While doing what was right the first time he had been sold into slavery, & now he has been put into prison!
Why should he remain faithful to God?
Can you hear him talking to himself in prison? “I may or may not be responsible for what has happened, but I am responsible for what I do about it.” He soon received honors & responsibilities in prison.
He refused to become bitter & blame God. Instead, he met his trials with courage & a determination to keep doing what was right.
God brought the King’s cupbearer into the prison cell for some wrong charges. Joseph interpreted his dream and told him that he will be released. Joseph asked for favor. Soon the cupbearer was released but he conveniently forgot Joseph.
Sometime later when the King Pharaoh had a dream, the cupbearer remembered about Joseph. Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and was released from prison. After a long time, Joseph is a free man now. So finally, when the time came, he was ready to fulfill the role in history that God had prepared for him.
3. With God’s Help Our Result Can Be Better Than We Ever Dreamed Possible
There is a third thing that we can learn from Joseph. First, when things go wrong we may or may not be responsible. But second, we are responsible for what we do about it. Third, with God’s help the result can be better than we ever dreamed possible.
Joseph’s predicament turned into a tremendous personal blessing. He ultimately became Prime Minister of Egypt & his rise to power was directly related to his so-called “bad experiences in life.”
Had Joseph never obeyed his father. He would never have been thrown into the empty well. Had he never been sold into slavery; he would never have met Potiphar.
Then, had he never met Potiphar, he would never have been put in prison. Furthermore, had he never been put in prison, he would never have met Pharaoh’s cupbearer. Had he never met Pharaoh’s cupbearer, he would never have been asked to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Had he never interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams, he would never have been made Prime Minister of Egypt.
Initially, nothing make sense to Joseph but God put all the broken pieces together and fulfilled his purpose in Joseph’s life.
You see, sometimes success is nothing but failure turned inside out.
Success comes our way when we are faithful to God in our failures.
Failure is painful. Trials and difficulties are tough to endure, but God is maturing us and perfecting us at such ties.
An oyster takes a grain of sand which irritates it, & tries to get rid of it. When it cannot, it takes that grain of sand & makes a pearl.
Thomas Edison, when he was a boy, received a blow on his ear which made him deaf. But he said later that his deafness kept out distractions & helped him concentrate, & that ability to concentrate was largely responsible for his success in his experiments.
In one of George MacDonald’s books, he tells of a woman who experienced sudden sorrow. “I wish was never made,” she complains bitterly. To which her friend quietly replies, “My dear, you’re not made yet! You’re only being made & this is part of the Maker’s process.”
What happens to us is never the most important thing.
The most important thing is how we react.
Joseph teaches us that even the worst difficulties can produce great results.
But the story doesn’t end with Joseph’s becoming Prime Minister. Because he was elevated to that high position, he was able to save not only the people of Egypt, but also his brothers, their families, & his elderly father, too. That became a pathway for the Messiah, Jesus Christ to be born.
The famine in Palestine drove his family to Egypt in search of food. And Joseph, through his influence, provided homes & land for them in Egypt.
When Things Go Wrong, We Often Have A Chance To Help Not Only Ourselves but To Render A Service To Others, Too.
A man was in an automobile accident & his eyes were injured. The surgeon told him that he could save one eye, but the other eye would have to be removed & a glass eye inserted for cosmetic reasons. It was a terrible moment for him. But finally, he smiled & said, “All right, but if you have to put in a glass eye in, please put a twinkle in it.” Let it shine.
Do you know people like that? See what life did to them in those times, & what they have done with life by God’s help.
4. When Things Go Wrong God Is Always Standing by To Help
When something goes wrong, we may or may not be responsible for the cause, but we are responsible for the result. Meeting the situation with determination & courage, the result can be good.
But, most importantly, our courage & determination can feed on the assurance that God is our friend & is always standing by to help through troubles times.
Do you remember that dramatic scene in the final chapters of Genesis?
Joseph had brought his family to live in Egypt. The brothers who sold him into slavery were now completely in his power.
Finally, their father Jacob dies, & after his death, the brothers are very afraid. Fearing the worst, they throw themselves down before Joseph & beg his forgiveness.
Joseph answers: Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Joseph said, “Every harm that his brothers intended has turned for good.” This is what can happen in your lives too.
What an example Joseph sets for us today!
Joseph Was Born into Life of Brokenness. A dysfunctional family.
Remember the circumstances of Joseph’s life was in a mess, he was born into brokenness, but by the providence of God his circumstances where just what God was going to use.
Circumstances are God’s means of conforming us, and Satan’s means of destroying us.
It all depends on how you are willing to have them used. Easily, Joseph could have blamed his parents, his siblings, his situation. Instead, he chose to see the hand of God actively at work on his behalf.
How you respond in your trials or tough times is important:
First, Joseph Did Not Get Bitter with People.
Secondly, Joseph Worked Hard Sincerely.
Thirdly, Joseph Relied on God.
Fourth, Joseph Did Not Let His Circumstances Control Him.
A diamond is a chunk of coal that did well under pressure.
Who is using the circumstances of your life today? Is it God or Satan? Trusting God means God is in control and we believe it. No questions whatsoever.
Ecclesiastes 7:14 When times are good be happy, but when times are bad consider, God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future.
When things happened in Joseph’s life, he knew God is in control, not he.
God Is Always Standing by To Help You.
No matter what situations you are going through, can you put your trust in God today. You can get through hard times by the grace of God.