A life of breakthrough is not always looking forward, but it’s also about letting go of our past.
It’s so good to be with you. So good to be able to share this time together. I want you to be blessed and strengthened. We’re going to return again, to breakthrough. Specifically the Older Testament example of that exceptional man in the book of Genesis, Joseph. We’re going to learn from his life a bit and watch because I think it’s something that we’re all aware of and we’re all believing for. We want breakthrough. At a national level, we really want breakthrough. The pandemic has been relentless and we feel there’s been real progress. It just sometimes seems it’s been going so slow. For our church, we want breakthrough too, because we’ve made this journey together now for months, but we have to wrestle with these limitations. We’re looking forward to the changes that are going to allow us to come together in different expressions of the community, not just the ones online.
Something we’re believing for, that breakthrough is something we are believing for. I thought it’s even just as true though a lot of us, need breakthrough still at a personal level, don’t we? Whether it’s relating to our own walk with the Lord. I’ll call that our spiritual growth, or perhaps just our emotional wellbeing. We’re not thinking great. We just need to be a little bit better than we’ve been because it’s been hard. It’s been a hard time. It’s been a hard season. There have been so many things happening and it can just take the life out of you. We’re all different dispositionally. We all have different ways in which we get replenished and different things that break us down. So, breakthrough is going to be very important at this time.
It’s something that doesn’t just happen. It’s something we have to contend for, and that’s even true in relationships as well. Maybe a lot of us have relational challenges that we’re having to work through. That’s where the breakthrough that we’re believing for is going to need to really come. I’m reminded that one thing I know for sure is that God’s will for each of us, for you and me, is that he wants us blessed. He wants us to grow. He wants us to develop, and He wants us to progress.
One of the verses that came to mind, as I was thinking about all of us was the one in Jeremiah, 29:11, many of you know it, “For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Now that’s a great promise. Do you know what the stubborn truth connected to following the Lord? Do you know what it is? We’re never without hope. That’s right. In this life or the next. Love wins, God prevails and His goodness prevails.
That should encourage all of us. It should fill us with courage and strength. Not just to not quit when things are hard, though I know we will be at times tempted to do so. Quitting can show up in a lot of different ways. Sometimes it’s just giving up and not trying anymore, being defined by the adversity. But God, as many of us have been just being reminded of consistently, wants us to know how to grow through our adversity. He wants us to teach us how to stay nimble, resilient, and optimistic. Lord, even now I just ask that you would help us to do that. We just pray over this word. We ask that you would let this word be alive in us, for us, help us, Lord, in the place where we need it most, you know what that is. We welcome you even now in Jesus’ name.
Once again, Joseph is this beautiful example of how to be an overcomer. How to go up and over, to be resilient, all the things that we talked about. He’s a model for breakthrough, especially around relationships. We’re going to talk about that in a moment, but remember what we were told in Romans 15, because some might say, “Well, why are we going back to the Old Testament again, and the example of Joseph?” But look, what we were reminded of, “For whatever was written in the former days was written for our instruction.” Notice this, “That through endurance and through the encouragement of the scriptures we might have,” what? “Hope.”
How good is that? May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord, with Christ Jesus. Look at that fifth verse, one more time, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another.” I mean, I don’t think I ever quite read this in the connection. I know I’ve read verses 4 and 5 in Romans 15 together, but it was something about the way I read it this time that struck me. I don’t know if it hit you in the same way, but that phrase, the one at the end of that fifth verse, the idea of being in such harmony with one another, just stood out to me this time around.
Really, what that was saying was that the examples of the Older Testament, that’s the scripture that was being referred to here and I think it does apply to the New Testament, but its direct context in Romans 15. It has to do with the Older Testament, which is why I think looking at an example like Joseph is so apropos. One of the things that it is mentioning in that fifth verse, though, if you saw it there, is that a lot of this has to do with relationships. Notice what he says, “That you might,” these examples are given us, “For hope and for encouragement, but also that you may live in harmony with one another.”
This is the people part of life that he’s getting into. He’s saying the examples that we’ve been given in the scriptures are also designed to help us love one another so that we can engage people in more redemptive ways. That we can grow in our relational capacity. There are going to be people who we love. There are going to be people who love us and that’s going to apply here. We’re going to have people who we hurt. There are going to be people who hurt us. There are going to be times when we need to forgive. There are going to be times when we need to be forgiven.
So much of the scripture is connected to how we learn to treat and love one another better. Relationships are complicated. They’re not easy. I can tell you being married as long as my wife and I have, that it’s not always easy. You have to work through things together. You have to make a covenant together. You have to choose to love one another through the ups and downs, the thick and thin of life. All friendships, all good relationships are going to be tested from time to time. I love the fact that the scripture is reminding us that. It’s not only given for the purpose of helping and encouraging us to endure the hard parts of life, but it’s also given to us to help us in our relationships. So that we might respond in a way that is in alignment with Christ. That’s what that verse is really getting at. That our relational operating system would essentially be in accord with Christ Jesus.
This next section of the life of Joseph that we’re about to look at in the coming weeks, and then a little bit further beyond that after Easter, is something that I think is designed to invite us into understanding. Anytime the Lord has worked in our lives, it’s going to also have a connection with other people. In this particular focus that we’re going to look at, you’re going to see a lot of breakthrough around relational healing.
Let’s do a quick reset here. Genesis 41:41. I’m going to read through this. Reset it. I think it’s important. “Pharaoh said to Joseph,” Genesis 41:41. “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt and then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and he put it on Joseph’s hand and he clothed him in garments of fine linen. He put a gold chain about his neck and he made him ride in his second chariot. They called out before him, ‘Bow the knee.’ Thus, he set him over all the land of Egypt. Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I am Pharaoh. Without your consent, no one shall lift up a hand or foot in all the land of Egypt,’ and Pharaoh called Joseph’s name,” he gave him a new name, “Zaphenath-paneah. He gave him in marriage Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On. So Joseph went over the land of Egypt.”
He went out over the entire land and we’re told in verse 46, “Joseph was 30 years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt.” This remarkable rise to power that has been described here, in Genesis 41, was actually something that was summed up in another part of the Older Testament, the book of Psalms. Psalm 105 captures the essence of Joseph’s life. It literally consolidates it down into a concentrated expression. Look what Psalm 105:16 says. I love how the Bible will do this. It interfaces with different parts. There’s such a reward when you can follow different parts of the scripture and see them all tie together. Psalm 105:16, “When he,” that is the Lord, “Summoned to famine on the land and broke all the supply of bread, he sent a man ahead of them, Joseph,” there it is, “Who was sold as a slave, his feet were hurt with fetters. His neck was put in a color of iron until what he has said, came to pass. The Word of the Lord or tested him. The king sent and released him. The ruler of the people set him free.” That was what we just read about earlier. “He made him the lord of his house, the ruler of all his possessions, to buy in his princes at his pleasure, and to teach his elders wisdom.”
What a fascinating thing to consider is that, up to this point in Joseph’s life, when at the age of 30, he is now lifted up into a place of exceptional power and authority. No one could have envisioned that happening. It was beyond anything that seemed conceivable. You think, “Oh, wow, he’s 30 years old. He’s the second most powerful man in one of the most powerful kingdoms in the entire world at the time.” We would think, “Oh my, wow, 30.” I think we forget how much relational trauma and pain he had endured in his life. I was thinking specifically about the relational trauma that he had to deal with. In that period of his life, the early stage of his adult life, coming out of his teen years through his twenties.
It’s amazing because people kept hurting him and letting him down. First, his brothers, so jealous, so angry. They attacked him, abused him, and beat him mercilessly. They callously sold him off as a slave to a caravan that was making his way to Egypt. That’s when Joseph was put in chains, the chains that are being referred to in Psalm 105, the iron collar on his neck. Joseph was hurt by his brothers. That was incredible pain, family pain from people who should have loved him. They despised him. The wound, the scar it left on him, we’re going to get into that later.
Potiphar, the man who had bought him, the one who Joseph had served so faithfully and capably, refusing to submit to the advances of Potiphar’s wife. Because of that, Joseph was rewarded with a lifetime prison sentence. A scapegoat of Potiphar’s shame, that’s what he was. Of course, even in the prison, the butler who he had helped, the man whose dream he had interpreted forgot Joseph. The only thing he had asked of him if you recall, was that he would just remember him. That was the only thing, he says, “What can I do for you?” “Just remember me when this comes to pass,” basically. But alas, he was forgotten, his good intentions unreturned. Joseph was let down again.
I summarized three big, difficult things in the life of Joseph. We might say, “Oh, it’s just real quick, just, yeah, this happened, this happened, this happened.” We forget that at the moment he had no idea where things were going, and the pain of what he had to walk through relationally. It really was one of these things that could have been enough to make someone negative and bitter. You start piling up disappointment, being hurt by people who you give your best to and for, that’s just, it would take an incredible toll. It would have been easy, so easy for him to become callous, negative, and just embittered with life.
I could have very easily heard Joseph saying something like, “People, people are the problem. They always let you down. That’s what happens. I trust no one.” Or he could have said something like, “As for God, there is,” many people throughout history have been cynical when things have gone incredibly wrong, in the face of the ugliness of humanity, the brokenness, and the devastation of it. It would have been so easy for Joseph to just say, “there is no reward for doing things God’s way. No. Why? Why even bother serving him?” But that is not what Joseph did, was it?
What characterized Joseph, and one of the things that stands out so beautifully about the man and why he is such an example for us is that he retained his is trust base didn’t he? He retained his trust base. He refused to be defined by his disappointment. He refused to become embittered. Instead, he did excellent work. The other part of this is, the way he treated people. You would think by the way he was treated, he would treat others with far less compassion. One of the things that we note about Joseph is there was consistency about the man. There was an essential kindness. There was empathy in the way in which Joseph engaged people. It became a part of who he was.
For someone who walked through so much difficulty and disappointment to have such an ability to bless, give, love, and hear, is something that is worth noting it really is. It’s a good example for us. It speaks to us, it really does. It still speaks. Half the centuries his example still speaks, but I want to go back and look at what he says. Let’s read again what happened during the seven years of abundance. It says, “Joseph was 30 years old,” this is verse 46. “When he entered the service of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt. During the seven plentiful years, the earth produced abundantly. He gathered up all the food of these seven years, which occurred in the land of Egypt, and put the food in the cities. Joseph put in every city, the food from the fields around it. Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it for it could not be measured.” That’s how much it was.
“Before the year a famine came,” notice, “Two sons were born at Joseph, Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore them to him. Joseph called the name of the firstborn, his name shall be Manasseh for,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” What he meant by that was the pain of my past. “The name of the second he called Ephraim, yes, his name will be Ephraim for God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” I love that, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
The Lord can do that. May it be so Lord, may it be so. Perhaps some of us feel hopeless in the land of affliction, but God says we can be fruitful in the land of affliction. The two names that Joseph gave his sons are clues to breakthrough. I mean, Manasseh means, God has made me forgetful, Ephraim means, God has made me fruitful. As for the first, it’s great to remind ourselves that some breakthrough, and hear me out loved ones, but some breakthrough is going to be connected to coming to peace, or at least be released from the grip of our painful past and surrendering it to the Lord, to greater love.
It got me thinking as, and I’m by no means even remotely comparing some of the hardship in my life to anything that Joseph had to endure. I realize that people are suffering all over the world, both indemnities and in pain, rejection, hurt, and injustice in ways that I’ll never ever be able to fully relate to. Amy, we are blessed to live in America. I am blessed. We are all more blessed than we probably realize. I was sitting with what Joseph said about the pain of his past. It was part of his journey with God that he felt released from it.
It got me thinking as I traveled back into my life, that’s good to do every now and then when you’re reading the scriptures, but I found myself drifting back to my early years with my father. I don’t talk about it a lot, but I talk about it every now and then, I’m not talking about my grandfather. My grandfather was the founding pastor, at least on my dad’s side was the founding pastor of the church that ultimately becomes Cornerstone where I’ve pastored for all these years. But I remember my father, I call him the man I never really fully understood, and we didn’t have a great relationship. In fact, he died years ago. He did make peace with the Lord. For that, I am very grateful. I was glad to be able to have us at least share that. I can also say that my memories, which, they’re not a lot, are mostly sad. The ones that I still have, they’re not great ones. I have a few, most of them that relate to my dad because it was really just about the first decade of my life and just a little bit more that I spent with him before our family, my mom and dad split apart.
My world changed dramatically at that point. But that’s a whole nother story. The thing is, whenever I look back, as the years went by, I came to understand what a wounded man my father was. That he was a wounded man in pain. He was hurt in ways I never fully understood. I found myself a couple of months ago, leafing through some old photographs that were in a box that my grandmother had stored. My grandmother, Eleanor, who’s since gone to be with Jesus, was his mother and my pastor grandfather’s wife. I was looking at some of the pictures and saw my dad. I saw it when he was a boy. I saw when he was in the Navy, and I saw early pictures of him with my family and me and my brother, Bobby. I was walking backward in time. I just didn’t have a lot of great memories with him. I had a few.
I think we understand though, that there are hurt people, at least I’ve come to understand this, hurt people, hurt people. He hurt me as a boy. My most dominant memories of my childhood with him are not good. In fact, what stands out is sometimes the damage. I will say I don’t think it was intentional, but the unintentional damage that he inflicted with his temper and his inability to express love. I know he had love. I assume he had it, but his wound was too hard to bear, whatever it really was. It created a hole inside of him that was hard to fill. I can’t say I have one memory of him ever looking into my eyes and saying, “I love you, son.” I have no memory of it. I’m not sure those words were ever uttered.
I do recall a time in my teen years when I was touched by the Lord. I don’t know why I’m sharing all of this with you right now, just maybe it’s meant for somebody. I remember in my teen years, when I was touched by the Lord, I felt God’s goodness in a very profound and powerful way. I felt his presence in such a way that it altered my life, it changed my life forever. It altered the entire trajectory of my life, set me on a course. It’s the reason actually that I’m sharing with you right now because of what happened in those early years. I was given a blessing and an assurance of God’s love. I came to know Jesus as my Savior, the good shepherd of my life.
On top of that, being in church, I was given the gift of a supportive community. It allowed me to not only grow as a follower of Jesus, but also to let go of the pain of my childhood. The truth is I forgave my dad in my heart and my hostility died, that I can say. I can’t say we were ever close. That would be a misrepresentation. There was no fairytale ending. A lot of times, stories that have to do with the Lord have a great ending, mine had a good ending. It was a good ending because he’s going to be with Jesus. I can say that because of Jesus in my heart, I held no malice.
As he left this world I remember doing his funeral, though no tear filled my eye. It was easy to pray a blessing over him. I believe by God’s grace because he affirmed his faith in Jesus. I will see him again. I believe that we will both be better versions of ourselves when I see him again, that’s a promise I hold. If I can reconnect this to Joseph. Thank you for listening to me, indulge you with some of my story.
Because God had given me Manasseh that is, he made me forget, not forget in the sense of no memory. I’m talking about the pain and the anger that I had. In the sense that I was no longer defined or bound by my anger. More, that I was swallowed up by the grace and goodness of God, that’s what I mean. I look at that and I think, “Wow.” That’s what the Lord can do for all of us. That’s what Joseph was saying. It’s what God did for him. That’s why he called his firstborn son Manasseh because God has made me forget the pain of my past. Basically, it doesn’t have a grip on me anymore.
I’m going to ask some of you, is this a season of Manasseh for you? Is it a season when the Lord wants to birth a freedom from some of the pain, or some of the bondage, or some of the things that have held us back? The hurts, the wounds, the anger? Season of Manasseh. Then I thought, “Oh, Joseph’s second son, Ephraim.” Ha wow. I love that name even better, I guess, because he says, “God has made me fruitful.” That is, he has caused me to prosper. He has lifted up my head and he has blessed me. For some of us, this is going to be a season of letting go, of letting go of the pain.
I always loved the season, the weeks leading into Easter. I think it’s a time where we get to embrace the cross. Embrace the hope of Christ and all the promise that is connected to his presence. But for some of us, it’s about letting go of our pain. So it’s a season of Manasseh. For others of us, it is a season of Ephraim, it’s a season of God creating fruitfulness in our life at a new dimension. It’s about new things and new possibilities. It’s about blessing, growth, and increase. Those are usually the two directions of breakthrough. I think Joseph captured it perfectly, especially as it relates to relational breakthrough or just things that have to do with wounds, the hurts of life.
That some of the breakthrough that God brings is Manasseh. It’s about getting free of the past that would bind us. A lot of times the breakthrough that God is bringing is about the breakthrough that he wants to move us into. New dimensions of a blessing and expansion, and an increased capacity to bless and pass down generational blessing. That’s what God does in our lives. Getting freed from something, a limitation, a confinement, an impact of a wound, and then pushing forward into a new good thing. A place of expansion and opportunity, green fields and pastures, anew. I love that season of Ephraim, new things ahead.
Both are blessings from above. Do you see what I’m saying? I don’t know what the Lord is speaking to us specifically. I just think He wants to have us come to Him with an honest heart. When we do that, I really believe breakthrough is inevitable. Some of us, it’s not about letting go of things, it’s about reaching forward to new things. For others of us it is about that. It’s about letting His healing grace flow over us, grace like rain, flow over us. So, strength to let go and to let God have His way.
In a few minutes, I’m going to come back around on that and share a closing thought on what we’ve been sharing. I want to remind all of you, you’ve been amazing by the way, what a church. Let’s be faithful of the Lord in our giving, as you have been. You can give online or through the app. It’s what I do. Or you can just send it in the traditional way. As I love to say before we ever give, give Him your heart, pray over that every now and then send it out of a loving heart.
The strength to let go. Oh Lord, that’s what we need. When we surrender to Him, then He gives us the ability to grow. That’s what I want. I want to let go of the things that the Lord is calling me to let go of. Let go of the things that are holding me back. Submit them to Him, submerged them into His healing, may the Lord do that in your life.
Patterns of the past, things that would bind us, or remind us that we don’t measure up. Leave those things with Him. Ah, Lord, we open our lives to you. We would ask that you would create fruitfulness and abundance. You know what? We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works. We were born in the Lord to bless, born to bless. That’s what we are, it’s hard to bless if we’re not actually better. That’s why God wants us to get better. People who are getting better are blessers. When we bless, we get better so the two things go together.
The Lord’s goodness, may it prevail over your life. He’s so good, he’s so God, and He wants us to what? So good, and so God, and I think we do that when we understand how deeply loved we really are. That even when we fail Him, He doesn’t fail us. What a Lord, Oh what a Lord, you know how loved we are? May He keep you in your spirit, your soul, and in your body in every way in Jesus’ name. Amen.