When we are overlooked or underappreciated, how can we move forward in grace and forgiveness into the fullness and freedom God desires for us?
What a blessing to share this time with you. If you’re joining us for the first time, I’m pastor Terry. I’m the lead pastor here at Cornerstone Church in San Francisco. Right now I’m over here at the Mission campus building on the third floor. This week it’s going to be a different kind of week. It’s election week, it’s going to be intense. But what I want to do at this time is just set aside the political discourse. I want to talk about you. I want to talk about us, I want to talk about staying resilient and building resilience, especially when things are hard. Even now, Lord, I just welcome your presence among us. We welcome your presence among us. Speak your words to us and keep our hearts soft before you. That’s my prayer in Jesus’ name.
The fact is, in life, we’re going to have times where we’re disappointed. There are going to be things that are hard for us. In some situations, things are not going to go the way we were hoping. Sometimes we’re even going to have to drink a bitter cup. In that situation, the key, I think will be to make sure that we can drink a bitter cup without becoming bitter. That’s very important. Do you know what I mean? Those who get, become an angry, critical person. I don’t think God wants us to be like, I know the Lord doesn’t, he doesn’t want us to be like that, all up, locked up inside, just filled with negativity. God wants us to be alive. He wants us to be able to walk in his love. I was thinking about that, actually, it was a verse in 1 Corinthians 16, two verses, 13 and 14. He says this, “Be on guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong, and then do everything with love.”
You see the balance, what a balanced that is. It’s worth saying one more time. Maybe we can say it together. Be on guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong, and do everything with love. That is a wonderful balance. God wants us to be both hard and soft. I don’t mean hard, in terms of just blocked off and mean, and insensitive. But I mean in terms of our ability to walk through things and to persevere. That he wants there to be an essential toughness and grit in our lives, but at the same time, he wants us to be soft.
So we need both of those things at different times. The Lord wants us to both be strong and courageous at the same time, loving and compassionate. So it reminds me of Jesus really. I was reminded of another piece of sage advice that I just have been trying to follow a little bit these past few weeks, laugh when you can, apologize when you should, let go of what you can’t change. That’s where, the saying again, ‘laugh when you can, apologize when you should, and let go of what you can’t change,’ letting go for a follower of Jesus is not denial. It’s not necessarily saying that something isn’t what it is, but it’s letting go and choosing to trust the Lord with what we cannot control. Because if we’re just gripping things that we can’t control, then that’s going to control us and bring us back to a simple phrase that I’ve heard a number of times over my Christian life, let go and let God.
I know it sounds trite and easy, let go and let God, but actually, it’s more profound than it would seem. Letting go is not always easy. A lot of times we’re holding on to things and those things are starting to define us and they’re actually hurting us. There are times when God just says, “You need to let that go and you need to let me work in your life. Let go and let God, you need to trust me.” You need to operate out of a trust base. Not all the different things that are going on around you and let that be this pulling you here and pulling you there. One of the things I often notice when things that come out of us, whether they’re spoken words, or written words, or communication patterns or reactions, they reveal where we’re at, and when we’re not in a good place, things come out of us that don’t look a lot like Jesus. I know what the Lord wants, he wants us to really trust him and build our life in such a way that it reflects his reality at work in us.
So, loved one, is there something that we are being asked to let go of and give to God? Let go and let God. I want to reset. I want to pick back up where we were last week. I want to pick back up looking at the life of Joseph, who is our model for resilience. Joseph, this man of the older Testament, this man of the book of Genesis, this man whose story we’ve been sitting within our previous series up and over and right now, and we’re living out of his life and letting God speak to us through it.
When we left off, Joseph had just interpreted in Genesis 40, the dreams of two fellow prisoners. One of them was Pharaoh’s personal cupbearer, and the other one was Pharaoh’s baker. The Butler and the Baker some have called them. Each of them held a critical position. A cupbearer checked liquids to ensure Pharaoh’s safety, made sure he wasn’t poisoned. The Baker prepared much of his food. Both of them had a tremendous amount of power in a certain way. It’s quite likely that they were being investigated for some involvement in a plot to kill Pharaoh. We don’t, we aren’t told this directly, but they were both put in prison and their fates were being decided. Remember it was Potiphar who was the captain of Pharaoh’s guard and who had also been the one who had purchased Joseph when he was sold as a slave in the Egyptian slave markets.
It was Potiphar, the captain of the Pharaoh’s guard who took these two men into custody and entrusted them into the low-security prison. But he had entrusted them to Joseph. We picked back up in verse 6, Genesis 40. “When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. And so he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in custody in his master’s house. ‘Why are your faces so downcast today, what’s wrong with you?'” Joseph noticed that they were not well. Evidently, they probably have both been talking about this, having arisen from these very vivid, and in some cases, it seemed dark dreams that they had that night. They said, “Well, we’ve had these dreams and we don’t know what they mean. We don’t understand them. We thought it was just ourselves. My dream wasn’t the same as his, but we both had the dreams and we don’t know what they mean because they were very superstitious.”
Joseph said to them, “Well, I believe that interpretations belong to God. God knows all things. Please tell me your dreams. Tell me what you saw.” And so the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph. He said to him, “In my dream, there was a vine before me and on the vine, there were three branches. And as soon as it budded, its blossoms shot forth. And the clusters ripened into grapes and Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and I pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup. And I placed the cup into Pharaoh’s hand.” Joseph who was given a word of knowledge, it was a kind of gift that I think he possessed since the days of his youth.
Joseph said, “I know what your dream means. This is the interpretation. The three branches, there are actually three days. In three days, Pharaoh will lift up your head and he’s going to restore you to your office. This is good news. You shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, as you’ve done formally when you were his cupbearer. When this happens, only remember if you could, when it as well with you, and please do me this kindness if you can, to mention me to Pharaoh. And so get me out of this house, this prison house. For I was indeed stolen, out of the land of the Hebrews. My own brother sold me into slavery. Here also I’ve done nothing to justify being put into this pit, this place. If you can, when you are restored, as I’m reminding you, you will be, would you please remember me?”
Now while this is happening, this exchange is occurring, the baker is listening with awakened interest and hope. For as he’s hearing the favorable interpretation, “Oh, he’s going to be restored.” He says, “I also had a dream. I also had a dream.” And his dream was equally as bizarre and vivid. He goes, “I had a dream. If you could tell me what it means.” When the chief baker we’re told, verse 16, “Saw that the interpretation was favorable. He said to Joseph, I also had a dream. There were three cake baskets, baskets that held bread that were piled on my head. One on top of the other it seems. And on the one on the very top there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, all right. But then the birds just came and flocked onto it in this basket. And they just started eating out of it on my head.”
Joseph said essentially, “Well I have some good news and I have some bad news. The good news is that I understand what your dream means, my God has shown me. The bad news is that I understand what your dream means. It’s not good my friend, it’s not good.” Joseph answered and he said, this is his interpretation, “The three baskets are three days. And in three days, Pharaoh will lift up your head from you. He’s going to hang you on a tree. And the birds are going to eat your flesh from you.” And if I’m the baker I’m going, “Wow, are you sure? That’s not good.” “No, it’s not. It’s not good at all. I’m sorry. You best prepare.”
“On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast for all his service and he lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer just like Joesph had predicted and interpreted in the dream, and the head of the chief baker among his servants. He called him into his presence. He restored in front of everybody, the chief cupbearer to his position. He placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand,” evidently there was a special cup and he was allowed to give it to Pharaoh. It was symbolic and an indication that he was being restored. “And then turning to the baker. He said, ‘You will hang.” In verse 22, “But he hanged the chief baker as Joseph had interpreted to them.” A very sad verse as well for Joseph that is. This is how the 40th chapter ends, “Yet, the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.”
It’s on that sad note. It’s sad because Joseph had specifically asked the butler to remember him after he was restored, but the Bible makes it clear that when things got back to normal for the cupbearer, he forgot about Joseph.
Maybe initially he had it in his mind when the time is right I’ll say something to Pharaoh, but I got to make sure it’s right because I don’t want to get in trouble again, whatever his reasoning was. I see Joseph waiting, especially when the news of the cupbearers’ restoration into Pharaoh’s favor became known. I think Joseph at the minimum was expecting and anticipating a communication and acknowledgment, but nothing. He got nothing. Silence. Nothing. Days turned to weeks, weeks to months until it becomes apparent nothing is going to happen. He’s forgotten me sadly. Finally, he had not been remembered.
It’s hard to be forgotten. It’s hard to be unremembered, particularly when we have an expectation or anticipation. We’re waiting, we’re waiting, we’re waiting for something to break. We’re so excited about its possibility. We’re very hopeful and then it doesn’t happen. We keep waiting or praying, we’re waiting and we’re looking forward to it. We just started getting beaten down by the reality that what we were hoping for may not happen. In Proverbs 13:12, it says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”
I was reading one online commentary that put it this way and I thought it was so well-written that I wanted to share it with you. I don’t even know the commentator’s name, but I love what was written. He said this, “The term deferred in this passage,” you remember, hope deferred, “Means to put off or to drag out as in, a long drawn out process, hope deferred can look like many things, a prayer of salvation for a loved one that continues unanswered year after year. We’re hoping, believing for it. An agonizing job search filled with endless interviews and rejections, very hard. A long-term battle with cancer or a heartbreaking string of miscarriages. As we eagerly hope for something important, it keeps being postponed. The longing we feel can actually make our heartsick. The word heart in this passage embodies not only the mental or emotional core but the whole inward person is something that makes the heart sick. It causes despair and affliction.”
The Good News Translation renders the verse like this, “When hope is crushed, the heart is crushed.” Hope deferred can lead to depression, anxiety, and if it goes on long enough could actually lead to physical sickness, a darkness settles over us. The mind affects the body, and the body affects the mind. These two are more interrelated than we realize, which is why the Bible reminds us to really regulate our thought life and to seek alignment internally because those things will show up in us.
They do affect us. How we think matters. “As a man thinketh, so he is,” the scripture says. Our thoughts determine things. There’s power in them. When we wait for a good thing for so long that the desire and expectation turned to hopelessness like what happened with Joseph, we can become spiritually dried up and vulnerable. This is what the writer says, one more thing to the enemy’s attacks. I’m talking spiritually here. Not only do we become vulnerable to real intense emotional trauma and physical setback, but we also become spiritually vulnerable. That’s a whole nother area because our hope is being deferred and we’re vulnerable to deception and lies. The second part of that verse that the 12th verse first says it gives the answer antithesis to hope to for doesn’t it, “But a longing fulfilled is,” what? “Like a tree of life.”
Oh man, the tree of life represents the renewal of life. When our hopes and desires are fulfilled, we’re refreshed, we’re invigorated. I mean, when our prayers are answered, we’re encouraged. Solomon reiterates the sentiment in Proverbs 13:19, when he says, “A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul.” When it comes, Oh God, that’s just so good. I’m so grateful. In Joseph’s case, verse 23 reminds us that he was for God. “Yet the chief cupbearer again did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.” So to all the other wounds of his life was added the bitter sting of ingratitude on top of it. It could have been, hear me out, the straw that broke the camel’s back, the tipping point that pushed him over the edge and made him give up, become cynical. People kept letting him down.
In the Bible, it’s amazing it doesn’t pull punches when it comes to the flaws of its heroes and heroines. But I do think it’s pretty remarkable that when we look at Joseph, there is the absence of any real reference to him exhibiting a negative attitude or, having to walk through some crisis of faith because God let him down. I mean, he didn’t see people’s failings as something that God was responsible for. That’s really important. He retained a trust base in the Lord. He just keeps going. He just keeps growing and I love him for it. I do. I think he’s one of the most amazing examples in all of the scripture because you remember in the book of Genesis it was just this opening book of the Bible. So much is covered in it. Almost one quarter is devoted to the life of Joseph.
He’s not only a deliverer and the key to bridging Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to ultimately Moses and the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. He is a model for all of us who would follow Jesus. There’s a real example for, he chose, instead of fixating on the offense, he chose to come to grips with his forgottenness. He chose to adapt. He regrouped, he kept climbing his wall. Whether things we’re done to him that were wrong, or whether it was a good undone, he was remarkably resilient.
I do want to differentiate those two things. Some things are that were done to Joseph were just wrong. I think what his brothers did to him and honestly, how Potiphar treated him after the accusation was made by Mrs. Potiphar, those are wrongs. Then having been put into prison. Those are wrongs done to him. But in this case, the butlers or the cup bearer’s insensitivity and his choice to forget Joseph, after he got his life back together was good, that was undone. Joseph had to deal with that and he had to overcome it. He had to endure it. He had to walk through these disappointments.
I think this is where some of us struggle. This is an area I do believe where some of us struggle. Why does it seem so easy to hold a grudge and to be, I guess, torn up or really bothered when we feel like we are under-acknowledged or underappreciated or overlooked? Now I know that feeling as well. I mean, I know we’re different and some of us get more affirmation than others, but none of us love being overlooked. Having people assume ill will of us when we’ve been giving our best. I know that feeling.
Why are we so disturbed and troubled by the ingratitude of others? What is it about us as human beings? Why are we so ready to take offense and then to hold it and nurture it? Just because people let us down and don’t respond in a way that we think is right. I did good for you, and this is what I get back. Loved ones, that’s what I’ll call all of us, let’s refuse to nurture offense, let’s not do it. Let’s determine instead to let it drop in the pool of grace. Yeah. Just let it, let it go.
Madeleine, L’Engle probed this question in her book Sold Into Egypt, she says, “Why does it seem so often inhuman quality to forget those who have done good things for us, and to remember those who have hurt us? And why do we have such a short memory when it comes to good and such a long memory when it comes to bad?” I do think this is connected to our fall in this, our nature. It’s not an excuse, but may God give us the grace to be more concerned with blessing the people who are gifts to us, than fixating on the people who disappoint us or do wrong to us.
Now back to Joseph. Joseph is forced to wait again, the word of the Lord testing him. He has to wait for his deliverance, a deliverance that he doesn’t know if it will ever come. Remember a hope deferred can make a heartsick. I mean, Joseph has, really. He’s got to dig deep here. I was thinking about deliverance. When I was a younger Christian, I remember hearing about the three ways that God delivers. The first two I liked when again, I was a young, just a younger believer in my teens, early twenties, I can’t remember exactly when. I liked the first two. I didn’t like the third one as much I’ll share with you what they are.
Under the category of how God delivers. Sometimes the Lord delivers, we’ll call this, out of. So one of the ways God delivers is, out of. That is, there’s a pretty quick deliverance relatively speaking. Something happens, it’s not good, we find ourselves in a crisis, in a bad situation, something is incredibly wrong. We get diagnosed with something, we have a financial situation that is not good and, or it could be anything. It could be relational, the point is we pray. We ask God to help us. All of a sudden in the middle of this crisis, in the middle of this very bad situation, the Lord creates a pathway for us. We get delivered from it. Bang, it just turns around and we’re astonished. God answers our prayer and makes a way for us. We’re stunned in a good way. Like, “Wow, God, you came through for me in such an incredible way. We had a few people pray with us. We prayed. We just were asking the Lord for help. And it came.” So that’s one of the ways God delivers, out of.
Sometimes God delivers in a different way. He delivers us through something. Through, in contrast to out of. This is where building resilience really comes in when God delays the deliverance and we are compelled like Joseph. Now, maybe his journey was a little longer than ours will be. We are compelled to make a long journey before we get the breakthrough. Can you imagine a dark tunnel and all you see at the very back is maybe a speck of light? Maybe. Now in Joseph’s case, he saw nothing. He saw nothing. There was nothing to indicate his situation was going to change, that he would ever be delivered from the confinement he found himself in.
But there are times where, during this long journey and wrestling match, where we have to learn like Joseph, how to endure, how to trust God, how to keep growing until the time of completion. In Joseph’s case until the time of the completion, the word of the Lord tested him. One of the things I know about, though, in contrast to out of is, that the man or woman who comes out of through is a very different one than the one who went in. The length of it, the uncertainty of it, the challenge of it, it just reworks the interior of who we are if we can stay close to the Lord.
Out ofs, if I can put it this way, produce marvel and astonishment when God comes through. I can still remember a situation where God’s sent someone with a word of encouragement when I was just a young pastor. The church was having a real challenge and they brought a gift. It was a gift of resource for our church. It blessed me so much. It became a real delivering point of encouragement for me. I still remember it to this day. In fact, that was the phrase, “Today the Lord is encouraging you.” I was encouraged. I was encouraged. It became a forever marking point for me of what God can do, like a milestone marker. How does, produce short-lived excitement, but they can also be things that we look back on that help us because they’re part of our faith story. We draw strength from them from time to time. They’re reminders of what God can do, and they inspire us, but they inspire us.
Out ofs tend to inspire us more than they change us. Throughs, change us. They rearrange us. They make us different people. It could be years, it could be decades I mean, of having to walk through something before we get the breakthrough. That makes us very different people. If we’re able to hold onto the Lord, or at least not run away from his embrace we will become, over time more like him. That’s one of the things that happen. We become deeper, better people if we keep our heart’s soft and we stay humble, even in the midst of our hardship. We become more, like I said, more empathetic, our faith matures and grows. There’s a depth to us, a richness, and a wealth that can, that is only the product of adversity mixed with faith that produces a growth in our life that wouldn’t come any other way.
That’s when resilience really gets developed because we have to practice it. We have ups and downs and we don’t get it right all the time, sometimes we have moves, and sometimes we have seasons where we just want to give up, sometimes where we doubt God. Sometimes we let that get reflected out in our attitudes and our ways of being. The Lord, but through it all, we just end up staying with the Lord, and then the Lord brings the breakthrough and it’s amazing. So out ofs and throughs. But the third one, the one that I told you that I didn’t like when it was just a young believer, it was called, I called it the unto.
So the out of, the through, and the unto. The unto was death onto life. Some trials like Paul’s thorn in the flesh are brought to their conclusion at the end of our day. My grace will be sufficient for you through all the days of your life. It will not be until we meet Jesus that we will lay this aside. It will always be something we carry.
It’s similar to number two in the sense that we have to learn how to grow and become grace dependent. There’s no other way to survive. You cannot thrive. How about that? Without learning how to become grace dependent. How to find the Lord in the midst of that pain and that difficulty. It’s different because we come, we come to realize it’s different than the throughs because we come to realize that the miracle deliverance may not come to me in this life. That my hope in Christ is my great reward. That hope is secured, not just by his death, but by his resurrection power. He rose, so I will rise to newness of life. The promise of life yet to come has even more meaning when it’s not about getting through something and a breakthrough occurring on this side, it’s about what happens on the other side. That’s when the healing is going to take place.
The key here in that place will be, not so much resignation as it is resolution. Not giving up, but growing up. Resolve to live with the limitation in a way that makes us again not bitter, but better. So that even as we wait for our ultimate deliverance, we’re already free on the inside. Do you see what I’m saying? We’re not captive by what we may have to carry with grace all the days of our lives. Just something to be aware of. I rejoice for deliverance, I pray for it. We’re encouraged to on this side, but we also want to anchor ourselves on our promise sure and true, built on the solid rock of Jesus.
So I’m going to shift. I’ve got another thought to share before we go. I do want to remind everybody before we share this final song of ours, to be faithful in your giving and to continue to do so, as best as you can under the Lord, you can do it the traditional way and send it in. You can do it online or through the app, that’s what I do. But I’ve told you many times how proud I am of our church, how faithful you have been in your tithes and your offerings during this very unusual time of ours. We are staying together in community and the Lord is well pleased. We will get through this together. We will rejoice together again in the house of the Lord. But for now, let’s share this moment, and then I’ll come back around.
What a blessing. Hey, one more thought about Joseph. In his case, we are specifically told that he was forgotten that he was not remembered by the cupbearer, but you know who did remember Joseph? The Lord. God was with him. You know what? The Lord is with you too. Jesus told us, “I will never leave you. I’ll never forsake you. I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.”
When things turn around and change, whatever outcomes, kingdoms rise, kingdoms fall, the Lord still prevails above them all. He’s so good. He’s so God, and He wants us to so good, and He wants us to so God. I’ve been reminding you that you are greatly loved, live as children of His love. Remember His banner over me is love. You are loved in Christ. That’s the greatest gift. Let’s not be angry. Don’t let things make us critical. Let’s keep our eyes on the right things. Stay encouraged. May the Lord keep you in your spirit and your soul and in your body in Jesus’ name.