Joseph the reverser

Joseph the reverser would make for a cool super hero name, but that’s not the point of today’s blog. In this final look at Joseph, I want to focus on one final character trait. Joseph had God’s favor, Joseph was a supernatural forgiver, but I think my favorite thing about him is the way he reversed situations. I touched upon this a little bit in the last blog, but I really wanted to focus heavily on it here today. Joseph found himself thrust into awful situations and through his Godly attitude and his spiritual maturity, he reversed them all.  He recognized God’s will and presence in all of these situations and acted within that will to allow God to work good in bad situations.

Here’s something that really struck me about this subject. In one of my first ever posts on this blog, way back in July, I almost wrote about this very subject. I remember starting a paragraph about it and then pausing, editing, erasing, re-writing. Eventually I wrote a whole paragraph, but when I did my final edit I deleted the whole thing. Because at the time I wasn’t confident or mature enough to say to you what I’m about to say.

God can use bad situations for good. Good things can come out of bad situations. The most awful moment in your life can be used to further the kingdom of God.

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

It’s not always a popular statement with people but it is one that gets used a lot. I’ll be honest, it used to drive me crazy when people would say this. People say it when a loved one dies in a tragedy. People say it when you get fired from your job. People say it when they hear you’ve got a terrible disease. It’s a go to statement, a Hallmark card moment from the Bible. I think it can be a crutch for believers, something to say when they’re unsure of what else to say. I sheepishly admit that I’ve done it before, a long time ago, when someone I knew was going through a tough time. I didn’t really know what it meant, and they certainly didn’t seem to appreciate it, but I said it!

I’ve come to believe that tossing around Bible verses just because they sound pretty is a dangerous recipe. I think it can also be damaging. If we toss Romans 8:28 at someone who just received horrible news with no real understanding of what the verse means or if they’re in a place to really receive it, we risk doing damage instead of good. Instead of pulling someone closer to God in their time of need you could push them away.

But regardless of all of that, I just feel really seriously the need to say this again. God can and does do good in bad situations. God can take my firing, my beating, my tragedy, and even my death and do beautiful work within it. I can get unfairly terminated from one job only to find myself finally free to pursue a ministry he put on my heart years ago. Or maybe He’ll lead me to a new job where I’ll meet my future wife. Or maybe I’ll get short on money and end up having to take tough physical labor that teaches me the true meaning of hard work and an honest buck.

Let’s get even more serious here. God used death for good in the Bible. The death of Jesus is the most important thing to ever happen and kicks off the greatest gift ever given in the history of time. Is forgiveness for sins and eternal life a good thing? Of course it is. Guess what, it was paid for by the death of an innocent man who took our place on the cross.

Time and again in God’s word, faithful men are killed for their belief and adherence to their faith in God. Their deaths are not in vain, and go on to inspire future believers to continue to preach and live the gospel of Christ. Beautiful things emerging from death.

Look at Peter, one of my favorite Bible personalities. His thrice denial of Jesus is one of the most heartbreaking moments in the Bible. But it leads to one of the most beautiful moments in the Bible, when Peter is out on a boat and sees his resurrected Lord standing on the shore and he’s so overjoyed that he throws off his cloak and he dives into the water and swims to the shore. Peter’s denial of Christ is the lowest possible point, but it’s also crucial to his maturity that drives him to be one of the leaders of the early church. Peter would soon after lead three thousand people to accept Jesus in a single sermon. That’s divine beauty coming about through Peter’s lowest moment when he denied Jesus.

I don’t think unbelievers are ever going to fully grasp this concept, and that’s okay because if you read Romans 8:28 you see that it’s addressed to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. We need to stop tossing this concept around like it’s verbal penicillin for every bad thing that happens to every person we’ve ever known. But we also need to stand up and stop being afraid to live in the victory that this concept delivers to those who follow Jesus.

I’m going to share something deeply personal, even though I kind of don’t want to. But I realize I’m writing pretty tough here, so the least I can do is back it up with a personal experience. I have a blood vessel disease that makes it difficult for my body to pump blood and fluids through my veins. This disease manifests itself in my body through extreme swelling in my legs and feet. I hate it. Aside from sin, I think it’s the one thing that I actually truly hate in this whole world. For a few years I let it wreck me and I let it control me. I’ve never been wild about my personal appearance, but add on being a physical oddity and I was done. I hid away in my house, saw my family sparingly, and only went out on a journalism assignment when I absolutely couldn’t avoid it. This disease is one of the main reasons I was so hesitant when my family started urging me to come with them to church. I didn’t want to face the judgment and exposure of being around other people all the time.

I still struggle with this. It’s not just a struggle, it’s THE struggle for me. God’s worked miracles in me in this area, however. It helps that the church he led me to is full of the kindest, most loving, caring people I’ve ever met. I’ve never once felt the sting of judgment or been made to feel like a freak. I’ve never felt anything in that church but love and acceptance.

So I got used to the concept of going there regularly and being there. I’d go, I’d sing, I’d listen, and I’d leave. God had more in mind, though. Through a desperate need for a bass guitar player one week, He drafted me onto the stage to play with the worship team. Not only had it been 17 years since I last played bass guitar, but here I was, the guy who four months prior still wanted to hide from the world in his room, about to get on the stage in front of the entire church.

Being a part of the worship team at church has meant the world to me. My love of playing music has been reawakened, and God’s used it to pull me into even deeper relation with my church family and with Himself. But there’s no doubt about it, I’m exposed up there for everyone to see, messed up legs and all.

And yes, people notice. And you know what? For several who have approached me, it’s been a huge blessing. On three occasions, I’ve been lovingly told that the simple act of me getting on that stage despite my disease and praising my God with all my skill and soul and strength has been an incredible blessing. Just me dragging my messed up leg up there blessed people.

That, my friends, is God working something beautiful from something truly ugly. I hope that one day He’ll heal my leg, because I do, I hate it so much. But you know what? If this affliction is something that God can use to bless people, then so be it. If my struggle with this disease can continue to be used for good by God, then fine. His ways are perfect and are so far beyond and above me, the best I can do is stare up in wonder and amazement. I love God, in the good times and the bad. And I can tell you from a place of bold confidence that He can, does, and will work good within, around, and through the bad. It’s not a concept to be feared, it’s one to be embraced.

We are a flawed people living in a flawed place, but that’s all temporary. And during this temporary time we need to learn to be like Joseph. We need to learn that when life gives us lemons, God just might have the best darn lemonade recipe you ever tasted. Tragedy strikes us all, bad times will befall each of us time and time again, but we serve an awesome God. His word doesn’t threaten us that He’ll work all things for good, it gives us that as a loving promise. So that we may, like Joseph, become great reversers. That we may take the bad times and mine the good out of them, that we may find the beauty of our God working in the ugly of our circumstance.

CLOSING AND PRAYER

For prayers today, I really just feel the effects of the Paris terror attacks on my heart.  Like many fellow Christians, I find myself in an awkward place as we deal with issues like Syrian refugees coming into the United States, as I struggle between my desire for safety and security versus the call in the Bible to tend to those who are in need.  I don’t know the perfect answer to that question, but I do know the one who has the answer.  So Father God, first I just want to pray for those who were directly impacted by the attacks in Paris.  A lot of people’s lives were shattered and they need Your love now more than ever.  Father, just pour out your comfort and love in that country.  Also, Lord just please grant me wisdom  when it comes to how I’m supposed to deal with the idea of Syrian refugees coming to my country.  I feel confused and conflicted on this Father, and I know I’m not alone in that confusion.  Please give your people guidance, grant us divine wisdom so we can not make up our own minds on this, but so that we can arrive at Your conclusion for how to handle this.  I thank you for loving us, I thank you that I can come to you in my confusion, and I thank you for the comfort and love that I know you’re already pouring out on those victims and others in France.  I pray all these things in the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

 

The blog is going to be off next week as I’m going to spend some time relaxing, studying the Bible, doing some writing, and fellowshipping with friends and family for Thanksgiving.  I love you guys and I’ll be back here on the blog on 11/30.  I know we’re going to do some more Psalms, I also feel the story of Samson on my heart so I’m going to dive into that and see how it speaks to me.  There may also be some Moses talk coming soon as I’m currently working my way through the book of Exodus.

I love all of you.  I hope you have a safe and fulfilling Thanksgiving week next week.  I’m thankful for a lot this year, but above and beyond it all I’m thankful for Jesus Christ and the unending love He has for us.

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