Genesis 37:3-4, 39:6, 40:22-23, 45:5
Yamaondason 2000 SP 8.2
Some of us feel like the gentlemen did from time to time. Life seems to slingshot us from despair to joy and back again. Did Joseph feel this way? If so, how did he handle it?
There are moments in life when we feel out of power, out of patience, out of gas. What did Joseph do when he had these moments?
The story I am about to share is true. It happened to my family and I over 2 years ago and as I share it I will also have us look at the life of Joseph in the last third of the book of Genesis.
They say a tornado gives off the sound of freight train. I heard it on the last Sunday morning of May as we awake to a tremendous windstorm that blew through the Grand Rapids area. Straight lines created havoc with electricity – we were with out power for a week – and roads – several areas had roads blocked because of downed trees – and homes – many families had major damage to their homes because of the wind damaged alone.
We did not have church that Sunday and so we spent part of the morning in bed listening to my scanner and hearing of the many police reports regarding the road conditions. Our church was undergoing renovation and had scaffolding on the outside. It was not touched. The school across the street however, had at least one of its majestic oak trees come down in front of the main entrance.
The week that followed was a week that taught me a lot about patience, thanksgiving, peace, and what really counted in life. I was scheduled to preach the following Sunday and was going to focus on the life of Joseph. But, the sermon was not coming together until the end of the week when the last of the three episodes I will mention took place.
OUTTA OF POWER
That Sunday morning was scary. I wondered if our apartment building would survive the onslaught of the strong winds. I thought about our neighbor upstairs and later found out that she had come downstairs and huddle in the hallway under the stairs.
In Genesis 37:23 we read these words, “So when Joseph arrived, they pulled off his beautiful robe and threw him into the pit. . .” and then in verse 28 “when the traders came by, his brother pulled Joseph out of the pit and sold him for twenty pieces of silver, and the Ishmaelite traders took him along to Egypt.”
The bottom dropped out of Joseph’s world at that moment. All that was familiar to him, people who were his family, disappeared in a cloud of dust and rage.
We live in a culture that tells us that we need to be in control . . . that we are the center of the universe that we must look out for ourselves. To be seen as powerless is to in a vulnerable position. We dare not show our weaknesses in our lives. To do so, is to court disaster.
We have been able to harness the power of electricity, of gasoline, of oil, and the atom, but we are still not able to harness being able to be in control of our lives or those of someone else. We might be able to for a time, but not forever.
Joseph had no power. He was stripped of his ability to appeal to his father for help. He was not among friends. But, God had not turned His back on Joseph. He had a plan.
What do you do when you face the reality that you are outta of power? Where do you turn? To whom do you turn? Joseph turned to God.
OUTTA OF PATIENCE
I will confess to you that patience is something that I have to keep asking God to help me develop in my life. He has helped me be more patient, but I still need more development in that area.
During that week in now early June, I had an experience that helped me learn to have patience and understand that one of the ways of becoming more patient had to do with gaining perspective.
On Thursday afternoon we went to a friends home to do the laundry because we still had no electricity. Pizza was ordered for dinner.
When I went to the pizza place, I could tell that it was in utter chaos. Orders were being misunderstood and there was confusion at the cash register.
One gentlemen, at the front of the line, was obviously very adjutated. Impatient is a much better word. Very impatient is a much better description..
I saw my name on the pizza box at was at the ready counter. I had not yet checked in with an employee. I decided to step back and see what would happen.
Well, the very impatient customer demanded that he have his pizza and the frazzled clerk gave him one. . . mine. Now, I could have demanded mine at that point, but the thought came to me, “people have either lost their homes or are dealing with more difficult circumstances. Is it worth getting upset over two pizzas?”
I have often wondered what was the look on his face when he got home and realized that he did not get his pizza.
That week was a very stressful one for many people. No power to wash clothes, no power to the answering machines, no TV. It really was a challenge to our instant society mentality.
God had not forgotten Joseph. He ends up, as we further read his story in Genesis 39, in Potiphar’s home. Potiphar was the captain of the palace guard.
Joseph did very well in his work there. In fact, so well that Potiphar placed his entire household in Joseph’s care. But, that was a mistake, because he also began to place his marriage in Joseph care as well.
Potiphar was becoming increasingly successful every place but at home. And his wife became lonely and impatient. So impatient – for love, for companionship, that she threw herself at Joseph. Her impatience, like that of Joseph’s brothers, caused Joseph much pain and discomfort for, as we read Genesis 39:19-20, Joseph was once again in a tough place.
“After hearing his wife’s story, Potiphar was furious! He took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held.” Another tough break.
But, read verse 21, “But, the Lord was with Joseph there, too, and he granted Joseph favor with the chief jailer.”
What do you do when your outta of patience? To what do you turn? To whom do you turn?
OUTTA OF GAS
The final episode of that week involved Susan on a busy Friday afternoon. The car that we had at the time had a fairly accurate gas gauge. When it read empty it was empty.
You guessed it, Susan ran out of gas as she traveled to the grocery store. She had not been gone more that 10 minutes when she arrived back at our apartment breathless and understandably frustrated.
She said, “I ran out of gas at Dean Lake and 3 Mile,” and then proceeded to throw a 10-dollar bill at me and said, ‘take care of it.’
So I did the spiritual thing, “I called my pastor.” And he happened to have a full can of gas in his trunk. We went to the intersection, a very busy one that time of day, and got the car running.
We read in Genesis 40:23 these discouraging words after Joseph had done an amazing thing of interpreting dreams of two of Pharaoh’s staff, “Pharaoh’s cup-bearer, however, promptly forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought.” Joseph sat in prison for two years as a result of a lying wife’s claims. Did experience being outta of gas as he sat there waiting to be remembered? Tbat would be a hard thing for me. Having come out of one bad situation and just starting to get ahead, you are all of the sudden, back in the dungeon so to speak. But, God did not forget about Joseph. He had a plan.
We live in a fast paced world. There are all sorts of demands on us, and all sorts of demands we place on ourselves. Why is that? We don’t want to be second? The company’s bottom line is at stake?
Burnout is a commonly used expression these days. One of things about burnout that I have learned is has more to do with the emotional position that one is in that the fact of working hard.
Burnout comes when there is a lot of stress and conflict. It is like an acid that slowly eats away at one’s soul. We may not realize it at first, but slowly it devours us and then, we collapse. First, internally – with attitudes of anger, fear, anxiety, then toward those closest to us – with indifference, apathy, and finally in the larger setting with hostility and withdrawal. Then we crash and burn. And others are shocked because they think that we are the strong ones who keep carrying the load.
Was Joseph susceptible to burnout? Yes. But, in spite of his story that we have before us, and his moments of trial, Joseph had this unshakable confidence in God’s authority to give direction and purpose to his life regardless of the circumstances he found himself in.
We constantly face moments in our lives when we are on the edge. None of us can stay there for long. We need to be renewed by the Holy Spirit as we step back and allow Him to do a work of renewal in our hearts, minds, and souls.
This morning, I offer you three suggestions:
1. If we are out of power – place yourself in God’s hands and ask this very risky question, “What needs to change?”
2. If we are out of patience – place yourself in God’s hands and ask this very risky question. “What do I need to let go of?”
3. Finally, if we are out of power – place yourself in God’s hands and ask this also very risky question. “Why do I keep running my soul tank dry?”
Then – WAIT FOR GOD’S ANSWER!