When we truly understand that the Lord is with us it changes our perspective and attitude.
Good morning everybody. Blessings to all of you, again, as we jump into this teaching and the sharing of God’s word. I want to say hello to all of my friends wherever you may be. Not only in our church family here in San Francisco but also in other parts of the world and parts of the country. I’m just so grateful and thankful that we can be connected at this moment, sharing this time, having church together online. Differently, than maybe we envisioned, and certainly we look forward to the time when we will be able to gather again in presence, but right now, I consider it such a gift of God’s grace to be able to have what we’re sharing right now.
Our Lord Jesus I pray for your blessing that these words, this study, and the scriptures would produce deep life within us. There are so many voices speaking out, crying out. Everybody’s trying to get our attention or living more and more of our life on the digital highways and we just need to have a settledness of our soul. God’s word can do that. So let it work in us. Lord, come among us even now, Lord Jesus, I pray.
Our series is up and over. It’s about overcoming a life of faith. We’re zeroing in right now on the life of one of the most remarkable people in all of scripture, a man named Joseph. A young man really, whose story in the early part of his life has so much for us. So much to teach us. But I left off the last week’s teaching with a quotation from a minister of a different era. A man named Phillip Brooks, who said this about character. I want to revisit it quickly. Brooks wrote, “Character may be manifested in great moments, but it is made in the small ones.”
That sounds like a simple statement, but it actually has so much depth in it. Character oftentimes shows up in these great moments. Where it’s really forged is in the places where no one sees. The small decisions that we make to honor God, are the places where our character is really developed. When the heat is on, when everything’s on the line, when we have to make big calls, it’s the impact of how we’ve chosen to live our lives in these small and modest places that actually add up and give us the strength to make the hard call. It’s true. That’s why we really need the Lord’s help. So that we can be the person he wants us to be when no one is looking, when it doesn’t really matter that much, but it matters between us and God. Those things build us.
Life is filled with choices and character, as I just mentioned here. They are revealed and forged. Actually, two things happen in these places where we have to make choices. Character gets revealed, it shows up for what it is, and it’s also forged. It’s also made in those places. In other words, our chosen choices show us who we are and they make us who we are. There is no greater example in all the scripture besides the Lord himself of this principle at work than Joseph. He was a beautiful man. He was a beautiful man. He really showed forth the character and the life of someone really who just had the touch of God on him.
Let’s begin with Genesis 39. Joseph had been brought down to Egypt. Potiphar an Egyptian, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, had bought Joseph. We’re told, from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. The Lord was with Joseph. He had become a successful man within the framework of that limitation and that injustice. Joseph was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master, that is Potiphar, saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. It’s clear that one of the things that amazed Potiphar, the Egyptian, who would have been a highly superstitious man, was that the blessing that seemed to mysteriously almost divinely accompany the Hebrew was somehow connected to Joseph’s God. One must remember that Potiphar was a polytheist, a believer in the Egyptian gods. There were a lot of gods.
Whether he recognized that the true source of Joseph’s gift was from Joseph’s God or whether he saw Joseph’s gift through the lens of his own religious system, the key that is being emphasized in the verse that we just read is the recognition of the part of Potiphar that Joseph was given something unique. It would seem from Joseph’s God that Potiphar noted. This is in verse four that Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him. Potiphar made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. Notice how over a span of years Joseph’s scope of responsibility expands. It grows. He goes from being a favored servant who tenuously makes his way into some places of responsibility to finally being with Potiphar’s blessing, the overseer of the entire estate, his entire household.
It’s a remarkable rise for a man of such young years, not just in terms of scope, but also in terms of the authority that he was given. Remember he was still a slave, but he seemed to have been a very prominent man within the household of Potiphar and probably treated much differently than the rest. He had authority. He had power. In verse five; from that time, he made him overseer in his house. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptians house for Joseph’s sake. The blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in house and field. Every part of Potiphar’s business prospered because of Joseph. This is a reminder. When you bless what God his blessing, you get the blessing. It’s the principle of scripture that when you give a prophet of the Lord a cup of water, you get the profits, blessing. That’s a kingdom principle. There’s a lot more depth to it than we realize.
Potiphar was being blessed because of Joseph. He himself was a man of great and growing prominence. He was the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. That would have been an absolutely critical and demanding position. A position of tremendous pressure and prestige. It was a high-stakes position. You can make a name for yourself and you could get burned. That position was something that had two sides to it. But someone who was ambitious, someone who desired power, would go for it. It seems that Potiphar was himself a man of exceptional capacity, skill, and focus. He had a singular assignment and that was to protect Pharaoh. To protect his wellbeing. He was the protector of Pharaoh’s life.
Potiphar had to watch out for the danger that was always near. He had to be consistently continually on his game. There was no margin for error. He had to know his men. He had to be watching out for political intrigue. He had to be constantly aware. I just don’t see this as a position that even would have allowed him to have much time taking care of his own affairs. The knowledge that he could entrust the running of his affairs to Joseph, who was such a gifted and trustworthy young man even though he was a foreigner, there seems to have been a bond that was forged. It just meant that Potiphar could do his job without distraction.
The business of the house, of his household, of his estate, Potiphar fully commits to Joseph to such a degree that we are told, in the verse it says, he left all that he had, all that he had to Joseph’s charge. Because of Joseph, Potiphar had no concern about anything but the food that he ate. It really is a remarkable verse. Joseph knew more about his estate than he did because his mind was on other things. This is where things could have ended. This is where the story could have closed. Joseph could have receded with the mass of humanity, great and small into the pages of history, but it was not to be.
One of the things that are pretty clear here is that God is always moving, isn’t he? God is always moving. We might say that God always has a plan. That’s actually helpful for us right now because we are in a time of global calamity. We are in a time of national polarization and confusion. There’s so much anger and fear. The world seems to be turning and churning and there’s a lot of uncertainty. As all this is happening, we must remember that God is not unaware. He is watching it all. He is working on His plans. I think that was very clear if you go back in time even to the birth of Christ, when on the surface, that at that time it appeared like everything that meant anything was happening in Rome. It was the center of the world’s power, the known world’s power, and on a whim, the emperor could make the world move.
Yet the real story had nothing to do with, for example, Caesar Augustus. The real story at the time of the birth of Christ was going on in an obscure village, a place that no one would have even thought of, a stop along the highway system, in a town called Nazareth. The real story was what was growing inside of Mary’s womb for that child would change the world. No one knew it. No one knew. I mean, not just like a normal person, it would change everything for it was God’s doing. It was Jesus who was coming to redeem this world and to create a pathway back to God that was not before possible. He who reigns over history entered into history so that in a way we could share His story at work in humanity. What I’m trying to get at is what often appears to be the big thing is actually not the big thing. What sometimes is never noticed is God at work. Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall, God’s at work. Once in a while, he lets us in the audit.
I want to shift for a moment. I want us to actually talk about the power of attitude. I actually think this is quite relevant for where we all are right now. One of the convictions I have in the Lord is that one of the keys for us for going up and over in this unique time that we’re facing, and I know that for many of us, is very hard. We feel deprived. We feel at loss. We feel depressed and discouraged. Yes, we do. I’m going to make the case that one of the key ways that we are to overcome in this period is through a chosen stance in our attitude. The Lord will help us there if we ask him. If we ask the Lord to help us to have a right attitude, he will help us.
It is impossible not to notice the attitude and ethic that Joseph exhibited. It’s a part of what makes him such an astonishing example for you and me. What is clear, what is evident when you look at the story, when you look at the account, is that Joseph chose not to dwell on the unfairness. He did not fixate on the injustice and the pain of his situation. He could have. We wouldn’t have blamed him for doing it. We know it was there. We know that those wounds that were inflicted upon Joseph by his family, by his own people, his own blood, right? His half-brothers who sold him into slavery, we know that wound was in him, the trauma of that moment so powerfully embedded into him.
It’s not unlike you and me. There are things that we’ve experienced in life. It’s amazing how it is with just being a human is emotions that we think we’ve dealt with, feelings that we think we’ve resolved. All it takes sometimes is a picture, a song, a wandering in our mind to a memory and we are right back there. I think it’s part of the uniqueness that God made us this way. All of a sudden, all the feelings are back just like that. We’re going to see that in the story of Joseph. Even though he had pushed things down and he had regained this sort of equilibrium, the word that I’ve been using a lot, the equanimity that was exhibited by Joseph in light of the trauma he had experienced is a lesson in and of itself.
Years later, when Joseph comes back into confrontation with his brothers, there will be a moment, it’s relayed later on in the book of Genesis, where that rush of feeling, those emotions will overwhelm him and he will weep because it will connect back to pain. We know it’s there. We know it’s there. It’s just that Joseph had to make a decision. He had to choose his attitude. He doesn’t seem to be walking around. In fact, we know he wasn’t. He was not walking around like a brooding man, angry, resentful, bitter, although he had every excuse in the world to do it. Because of the way he was treated, the experience he had, he had every reason in the world to cut corners, to be a manipulator, to give only what he had to give and nothing more. You’ll get nothing more from me.
It’s clear that it wasn’t the way that Joseph chose to live his life even in a foreign land, even in a house that was not of his choosing, even with the confinement that he had for he was not a free man. He had freedom within the framework of his confinement. He had authority and power, but he was not free. Yet he chose not to allow that confinement of his freedoms to keep him from giving his best unto the Lord.
Again, not to minimize or sanctify the injustice or the unfairness of what Joseph experienced, but there is something that Joseph can teach us. There is. Oh, there’s one more thing that he did not do. Do you notice it? You’ll see it. It keeps coming up. The absence of this is that he did not blame God for his situation in his life. The unfairness that he had experienced, he didn’t blame God. That’s obvious. In fact, he stubbornly retained his faith in God. He possessed what we might call a tenacity of trust. Maybe there were voices, maybe there were thoughts sometimes like, you don’t want to just give up. How could a good God allow this? Maybe some of us have felt that at some times. Maybe we’re feeling now a little bit. I don’t know.
Joseph rebelled against his reality and retained his allegiance to God’s reality. That inspires me. It’s just like he was not going to be shaken. Nothing was going to shake him from his conviction of God’s goodness and God’s faithfulness. Not even the reality of his situation. Joseph could have so easily wandered into the land of why. Perhaps a few of us may feel we are there now. We are in the land of why. Why did this happen? Why is this happening? Why did this happen to me? Why is the world so full of pain? Why is everybody angry? Where is God? Why didn’t he stop it? Why, why, why? We want to cry as we wander into the land of why.
Yet, I need to say this, we’re not alone. God is now here. God is now here. If you could, just say that with me. Say it with me. Say it to someone you’re with. God is now here. God is now here. He is with us. I was thinking about this and I want you to notice something. Notice that the letters are exactly the same between nowhere and now here. They’re exactly the same. There’s only a difference. The difference is where we place the space between the letters that changes it. The space makes all the difference between nowhere and now here. I call that the space of faith. It’s the difference between nothing and knowing. Knowing that we are not alone. That God is now here. When we are tempted to believe that God is nowhere, faith responds, “No, God is now here.”
I think about Jesus. He’s the most remarkable example of this principle. Think about it. What comes to your mind? See Jesus hanging on the cross. He is alone. Everyone has turned on him or run away. Then the Lord, as He’s hanging, hanging for all humanity, hanging for you and hanging for me, right? Crucified between two thieves, two petty criminals, the Lord of the universe stripped down and humiliated. Oh, behold the magnanimity of God. If we’ve ever felt humbled, if we’ve ever felt victimized, if we’ve ever felt shamed, let us lift our eyes to the Lord for He knows it all.
He said these words. He said, “My God, my God.” He said them as a representative. Christ said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Yet He was not forsaken. He was not. He continued to hold his faith in the Father’s faithfulness. His faith held as he hung between, listen, nowhere, and now here. In hanging, he made it possible for God to be now here with us. There’s a divine connection if we can see it. The ultimate security of God being now here with you and me is Jesus who experienced nowhere so that God could be now here. I’m just so grateful for that. I hope we understand that when we know He is here, that it affects how we live our life. Like when I know that God is with me no matter what, when I know the Lord is with me for the Lord is my shepherd and I shall not want. What does that mean? I shall lack for nothing. All that I need is now here with me no matter what I’m walking through.
What that does is it changes my perspective and it allows me to live in a very different way. It has to do with how we have our life being lived out, the attitude that defines us. It affects the way we work. It affects the way we love. It affects the way we relate. It affects the way we retaliate. It affects everything. When we know that God is here, it changes how we view things and it allows us to prevail even in the painful place. Do you know what I’m saying? When the Lord’s with me, I can prevail. You can prevail because the Lord is with you.
I recall the great apostle’s words that he gave to believers who were locked into the Roman world as slaves. The Greco-Roman system of slavery was slightly different than other forms of slavery is all evil. We’ve had it in our own country, reaping the repercussions of it even now. It was in the Egyptian world. That’s what Joseph was experiencing. One of the things that Paul wrote to believers because some of the believers in the early church were slaves in the Roman world. He made this reminder and the Lord spoke to them and said this, “Whatever you do, because it was by the power of the spirit, whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for your human masters.” Look at that. There is so much power in that statement, in this word. One, Paul says was a choice that you have no power over, not now anyway, but the other is a choice that you can choose from the place of your own volition. That’s a decision that you make.
This we can say is what Joseph did. He chose to live this way and it affected every decision he made. He could not control his situation. His own brothers had sold him into Egyptian traders. Joseph had been bought by an Egyptian named Potiphar. He had no control over that, but he could control his heart, his attitude, and his actions. He could live as one submitted to God as he saw God now here with him. Joseph honored God in a foreign land and refused to wander into the land of why. He could have lived there and finished his days in the land of why, but he wouldn’t do it.
He was soon to be hit with another roadblock that would require him to make a choice. The choice that would alter the course of his life and in a way human history, it would be a moment of decision. We’re going to sit with that, Lord willing next week. I want to go back to Phillip Brooks, to that opening quote if you recall it. Brooks, again, said, “Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones.” Brooks went on to say, and let this sit with us, “I do not pray for a lighter load. No, I pray for a stronger back.” Then he said this, “Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, but pray for powers equal to your tasks.”
I find these words humbling. Why? Because at times I have asked God for a lighter load when I should have asked him for a stronger back. I have asked the Lord to not give me more than I could handle when I should have asked for strength to handle what he was asking me to face. That’s a very different thing. I’m not saying it’s wrong. It’s not wrong to ask the Lord for a lighter load. It’s not wrong to ask the Lord not to give us more than we could handle. I don’t see that at all. I just see this as an even higher aspiration. It looks a whole lot like Joseph. Lord, don’t lighten my load. I’m okay. I accept these responsibilities.
Actually, what I’m asking you is for a stronger back to carry that load. I want to bear the weight that you’re asking me to bear. Don’t let me shy away from it. Some of you, God’s asking you to really step up big time. Let him give you strength. He can do it. Don’t pray for tasks that are just equal to what our powers are. Instead, ask God to give us the power we need to take care of the tasks that we have to face. Yes, that is a very different thing.
This is a time for me to remind you how all of you have just been amazing in your tithes and your offerings. You can do that online through the app, or as some of you have been sending it in through the mail to our office. You’ve been amazing. So many wonderful, beautiful, faithful people that are connected to this community. You live the life. You model it.
Lord, your love is strong. So why should I worry? Why do I need to be afraid? No, you’re with me. Father, we do not ask for tasks equal to our powers. We ask for powers equal to our tasks. That’s what we want. I know that these are complicated times. Some of us are really battling right now. Some of us are battling with anxiety, some of us feel a bit dismayed, some of us are pretty discouraged or intimidated by things or just we feel stuck or apathetic. Wherever we may be let us remember that the Lord is inviting us to lift up our eyes towards Him. Lift up your eyes to lean into the Lord because he’s so good and he’s so God. He wants us to so good and He wants us to so God. May your joy be full no matter what’s going on. In fact, may this time make the reality of Jesus even more meaningful to you. Don’t forget, you are loved, greatly loved. So may the Lord keep your spirits, soul, and body. In Jesus’ name. Amen.