Sometimes we find ourselves in desert places, but God is able to find ways for us to achieve breakthrough even when we feel there is no hope.
It’s so good to be with you as we continue our series on breakthrough. In case you’re new here, I’m Pastor Terry, the lead pastor here at Cornerstone Church. I can say this, it is my sincere desire for all of you to have a breakthrough, a comprehensive breakthrough, in the place in your life where you need it most. Let’s just pray right into that at the beginning. Lord, we really cast our eyes towards you. We pray for breakthrough now. Some of us need it just in our minds. We haven’t been thinking good thoughts, at least not enough of them. Maybe some of us right now are wrestling with a lot of anxiety or we feel stressed. So we feel fear. Some of us may feel a little bit paralyzed or emotionally numb. There have been so many things, one after the other, that it’s hard for us to feel free and alive. Lord, we just welcome you right there into our thoughts and into our minds.
Perhaps others of us are feeling a tremendous amount of spiritual oppression. Maybe we haven’t been doing well. Maybe even just listening to this message and being part of this service was a reach for us because we’ve been feeling pretty defeated. Perhaps some of us find ourselves falling back into bad patterns, unhelpful patterns, or addictive patterns. Lord, we just need your touch for breakthrough. Again, it may even be showing up in our relationship, some critical places in our relationships where we just, I don’t know, we’ve hit a wall. People we love, we’re just at one another’s throats too much. We’re having a hard time. Families are having a hard time, marriage. Maybe even a friendship. We just welcome you into this place, peacemaker, peace giver. Breakthrough with your love.
Maybe even our bodies, some of us right now, just need a touch of wellness. I know there’s a relationship, Lord, between our mind and our thoughts. How we’re feeling in the physical is connected to the spiritual, the mental, and all of these things affect one another. We just pray for your healing touch, even over our bodies right now in the name of Jesus. If there is some type of sickness or an illness that we’re struggling with, we pray for the healing life flow of the Lord. Breakthrough in the name of Jesus. If there is something at work in our bodies that we’re not even aware of, we just pray for your touch over us, Lord, right now in Jesus’ name. Breakthrough in the name of Jesus for all of us. That’s my prayer because I say a lot on the backside of the service, you are greatly loved. God’s so loved. You are loved.
I want to pick back up with the story of Joseph. I’d love for you to join me. Genesis 41 says, “The seven years of plenty that occurred in the land of Egypt, they came to an end. Joseph is now 37 years old. The seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph has said. There was a famine in all the lands, but in all the land of Egypt, there was bread. When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, ‘Go to Joseph. What he says to you, do this. Do it.’ So when the famine has spread over all the land, Joseph opened up the storehouses.” Remember he had so wisely set aside 20% for this time that he was fully confident would come. He had been given a word, a prophetic word from God when he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream. It was now coming to pass.
Genesis says, “The famine was severe in the land of Egypt. Moreover,” verse 57, “all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain because the famine was severe over all the earth.” Now that’s most likely speaking in a bit of a hyperbolic term of the surrounding regions of the East. But they came because of the severity of the famine. They had heard that there was grain for sale in Egypt. There was grain for sale. One of those who heard about it was Jacob and his sons who were at the time in Canaan, the land of Israel. Look what it says in Genesis 42 because that’s what follows.
It says, “When Jacob,” in verse 1, “learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt, he said to his sons, ‘Why do you look at one another?'” The sons, with the likely exception of Benjamin, remember at this point, they’re probably all married. They have children of their own, they are themselves leaders of extensive families. Together they are part of a nomadic community, a tribe if you will, a clan. They were traveling along the way, just as their forefathers, Isaac and Abraham had done.
Jacob sits at the head, he’s the patriarch, but remember, at this point in time, Israel is not yet a nation. Joseph is going to be used by God to get them there. At this moment, they’re just a large family community. The famine, if you think about it, had no doubt started, as famines are wont to do quite innocently. The first year had been dry, after the seven previous years of amazing harvest. Remember there were just years of extensive abundance, no one was complaining. Maybe they thought to themselves, “Oh, this is just an aberration. It’ll kickback.”
Everyone assumed the rains would come, but they didn’t. Gradually the concern worsened as an even worse, dry year followed the next. Now it was time to panic. It was time to pray for rain, but also to buy some grain. But where? That was the question where, where? It had started as a rumor from the south that somehow in the land of the Nile, there was wheat in abundance. There seemed to be no need to make the strenuous and somewhat dangerous journey to the land of the pyramids. At least not yet, the hope was, “We could just wait this out.”
Gradually their concerns increased and their prayers intensified but to no avail. The ground was now parched with their supply of grain dwindling with each passing moon. Soon, they would be in serious trouble for a crisis was already upon them. If things didn’t change, they knew, or at least they feared that not only would they potentially be in a place of peril, but their little ones could starve. That was just a chance they couldn’t take. They had to address the situation.
Let’s just go back to Genesis 42, that first verse one more time. It says, “When Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt, he said to his sons, ‘Why are you here looking at one another?’ He said, ‘Behold, I’ve heard that there is grain for sale in Egypt. Go down, buy grain for us there that we may live and not die.'” Let’s just not look at each other here and do nothing. Jacob’s concern finally reaches a point where he feels like action needs to be taken. What’s interesting is that while all the brothers considered the situation dire, nobody at the time was pushing to go down to Egypt and buy some grain while it was still available. It was like, Jacob says, “My sons before it’s too late. Don’t you think we should consider the possibility of going down? We need to go down to Egypt to buy some grain. We can’t risk this. What are you afraid of? Why are you just sitting here now?”
Now, it’s true. The journey was long. It had some potential perils. I can hear Jacob’s saying, “Yeah. Obviously, you’re going to be carrying a lot of money. You’re going to be traveling to a strange land where you will be viewed as outsiders and foreigners. But I think it’s worth the risk. If you just go together, there’ll be 10 of you, if you all go. Besides each of us has a history of dealing justly with his guests. So I think you need to go. I think you need to go down and buy the grain. Even if there is a risk, it’s outweighed by the danger, by the vulnerability of our situation. I think you all understand that, don’t you? We can’t just sit here and die. We need grain. We’re going to have to get some. If we’re going to survive, you have to make the journey.”
I just want to stop right there because I think it’s important for us to remember that there are going to be times when our survival is connected to a journey. When breakthrough is connected to a journey that is not going to be easy. Some breakthroughs come as they did with Joseph. I think we understand that they’re like lightning. So quickly we get the breakthrough that it catches us off guard and takes our breath away. We just lift up our hands in praise and say, “Thank you, God,” because it was an amazing, almost unanticipated level of blessing and breakthrough. Our prayers get answered with such an unimaginable force and speed that it leaves us, I don’t know any other way to say it, we just find ourselves devastated by grace, at the stunning provision of the Lord. When we experience that, we just need to let the joy flow.
Like the prodigal coming home, we are overwhelmed at that moment, by the goodness of God and the extravagance of what we sense we did not deserve. Those moments are precious. They are marking points, milestones, markers in our faith journey. Speaking of a journey, other breakthroughs actually require a journey and they don’t just come all at once. They require a journey of uncertainty, a journey of faith. Yes, that’s what we’re saying here. Sometimes even a journey through, if you’ve ever had to do this, or you’re doing it right now, a desert. Again, I think it’s very possible some of us might find ourselves in the desert place, even at this moment. A place right now, in the season of our lives, where so many of us have had to deal with things that are hard. When in our hearts, we know we have no choice, no choice, but to push on one step at a time.
That’s the only way I know how to really describe what it feels like when you’re under a tremendous weight of adversity that’s not going away anytime soon. That’s where faith is really required to make a journey, one step at a time. Sometimes the Lord says, “Keep your eyes on the distance, keep your eyes focused on what’s way ahead. Use that as a way of staying on track.” Other times the Lord would say, “You know what, just focus on one step at a time.” There are times when our survival and survival of others who are connected to us, depends on our willingness to take a journey through a desert. I just have to say, desert journeys are not easy. I know this. I’ve walked through a few and in the desert, the air is hot, water is scarce, and discomfort is real.
Sometimes there are breakthroughs that are going to require a desert. There is no other way than to walk through the desert, to grow through it, to learn from it. Along the way, if we stay with the Lord, we learn, we grow, and we become. With God’s help, that’s what can happen. We can become, with God’s help, the man or woman that we could never be without it. I heard someone say recently how hard their struggle was. They were sharing about the enormity of circumstances that were very adverse that they were having to walk through. They were sharing about how hard their struggle was, even their struggle with God during this time. Certainly, they were having a hard time getting peace. They just felt beleaguered, worn down, beaten, defeated, discouraged, and depressed. They said that as they were praying, the Lord impressed upon them, that they needed to yield control of their circumstances. Instead, and I love this, find God in the circumstances. Instead of trying to control the circumstance, find God in the circumstance. There’s a great truth there.
Let’s go back to Jacob and the question he asked his sons because I found myself resonating actually with his question, which was, “What are you waiting for? What are you waiting for? Why are you sitting here doing nothing, my sons? To stay here is to die.” There are times when, just hear this in the best way, we must move. We must move. Times when just saying, “Oh, well, the Lord will provide.” I know He will provide. There are times to articulate our belief in the promise of provision. However, there are times when just saying, “Oh, the Lord will provide” then folding our hands in quiet, trusting faith will not suffice if God is saying, “Get up and go down to Egypt.”
See that there are some provisions, it’s true, that will only come if we are still. I’ve found this to be the case. I think you are aware that it’s certainly a principle deeply embedded in Christian thought. Thinking in history, some provisions will only come if we are still. I know that’s counterintuitive. I’ve been there. It seems the more we do, the more we mess it up. There are times when we need to back off and not try to make something happen. Just to trust God. Be still and know that I am Lord. For me in my life at different times, I think of things like tithing, which is giving a 10th to the Lord, and just the principle that God can do more with less on the basis of covenant. It’s a principle I live by. That, again, can be counterintuitive. Like, how am I going to get more blessed with less? That doesn’t make sense. Yet that is oftentimes the way the Lord works when it comes to, I’m going to actually have more of God moving by me being still and actually not doing anything but trusting.
There are clearly are times, loved ones, when Lord will say, “This is not about you. This is not about how smart we are. It’s not about doing more. It’s not about having the best plan of action. It’s not about working harder. It’s about slowing down, trusting me.” It’s a principle of the Sabbath if you think about it. I God is saying, “Go” and we say “No,” then the provision that He has made available for us, we will not be able to enjoy. I think you understand what I just said. If God is saying, “Go,” and we say, “No,” then the provision that He has made available to us, we’re not going to be able to have the benefit of it. Do we see that following Jesus, you say, “Well Pastor Terry, you’re saying two things. Which one? Take a side.” I’m going to say both. It’s neither. It just depends on what the Lord is saying.
To discern what the Lord is saying, it’s not always an easy thing. Sometimes it has to do with how we’re feeling before God. It’s connected to our feelings and the engagement of His word. A lot of times, I try to juxtaposition how I’m hearing the Lord with the voice of others that I trust. Sometimes God just makes it increasingly clear that this is the way that I want you to go. I hope we can see that following Jesus is more art than it is math. It’s not anti math, it’s just more art. I think you know what I’m saying because Jesus taught us that the way of the spirit is like the wind. In other words, it is principle-based. No question. But it’s not always a one-size-fits-all in every situation, you plug in the number, and out comes the solution. It doesn’t work that way.
A lot of times we’ve got to walk by faith and not by sight. We can’t see it. We got to really seek to discern, learn, and perceive the Lord through the situation we find ourselves in. That is where I think discerning His voice as the years go by can be very helpful because we learn to recognize when we are sitting when we should be moving. When we’re sometimes moving when we should be sitting. I don’t want to diminish that. All the things that I just said are very important and there’s wisdom in them, but back to the brothers.
Why were they so seemingly hesitant? I sat with that. I was thinking, “Why were these normally impetuous men so passive and cautious? What’s going on here?” They’re sitting there, everybody’s worried about the food supply. Finally, it’s Jacob who is the catalyst for saying, “Well, come on, you guys. What are you doing? I’m shocked that none of you have thought of the idea of going down to Egypt and buying the grain. I think we need to do this.” I don’t know. As I look at it, I think, “Could it be?” Why do you think it is? Could it be that going to Egypt meant, for them, even if it was subconscious, having to confront a disturbing memory? I think it’s possible. Yes, I do. That they instinctively wanted nothing to do with Egypt. That the place where the victim of their callous and wicked deed had been sent and sold.
We’re going to see this in the weeks ahead. It was on their mind, haunting them like only a dark secret or a truth unrevealed under the cloak of deception can. After all these years, remember what we’re talking about now is over two decades, 22 years have passed. Jacob, the father, still doesn’t know. He doesn’t know. For over two decades Jacob has assumed that Joseph was killed by a wild beast. Remember they had shown him the coat with the blood and it was ripped apart. So, Jacob is living as one deceived and his sons are carrying the guilt. Talk about family dysfunction. You have the head of the family living deceived, in deception around this. You have his sons all living with the guilt and the shame of what they had done. That was a heavy weight to bear. For some of them, that’s going to be part of their story of deliverance and breakthrough.
At the time Jacob is still hurting. Not all the time. They do say time heals, all wounds. Does it? I think the majority of the time it does. Yes. But sometimes wounds fester and overwhelm with time. Wounds can break people down. In Jacob’s case, I think he’s hurting. I think from time to time, it came to his mind, I can say this with the best meaning, I think he had moved on for the most part. But not unaffected by what had transpired. You can tell that Jacob has been deeply affected. We’re going to see this later on by the way he treats young Benjamin.
Let’s return back to the third verse though. It says, “So 10 of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt.” They said, “Yes, we’ll do it.” They went down. They went down to Egypt to buy the grain. That’s the Bible’s way of just telling us in a very short phrase here, a short verse that they packed up, got moving, and headed to Egypt to buy the grain that they hoped was still available. But look at verse 4. “But Jacob did not send,” look at that “Benjamin, Joseph’s brother.” Remember, that was Joseph’s only full brother. The only one younger than him, the son of Rachel, who is now dead, right? Jacob would not send Benjamin. He’d lost Joseph. He’s not sending Benjamin with his brothers for he feared that harm might happen to him. Jacob would never risk, never risk letting Benjamin go, would he? He’s over-protective, he’s scarred by his loss. Some losses do that. Yes.
They set out, the 10. I wonder if, on their way in the quiet of the desert, they thought of Joseph. There have been a few times where I’ve had a chance to go into the desert and it has a quiet that is unique. I’m a backpacker. I love to go into the Sierras and into the high country. It’s one of the places where God has met me over the years. I find the quiet and the stillness that opens my heart to the Lord, as John Muir called it the cathedral of God. I found it to be the case. There’s a unique silence there, but it’s different than the silence of the desert. I wondered, I just tried to imagine in my mind, as there they’re riding, making their way through the desert to Egypt, in the beauty of the morning and the close when most of the travel would take place.
I wonder if at the opening, but maybe even more so at the close of the day with the beautiful hues of the desert, with the unique beauty of the barrenness, the colors, and the utter silence, I wonder if their minds did not wander back to an earlier time when Joseph cried for mercy. The family lie unspoken beneath the Egyptian sun as it set. “Brothers.” Oh man, “Brothers,” still ringing in their ear after all these years. They could still hear him cry, crying for mercy. Now maybe I’m maybe exaggerating. That’s what I think happened, at least a few times.
But hear me on this, it took a famine to move them towards reunion and restoration. Sometimes, I have found this to be the case in my life with the Lord, we can be slow to confront issues that God is wanting us to deal with. Some things are not to be suppressed, but rather addressed so that we can be free. I think it’s worth saying that again. There are some things that we’re not supposed to suppress, but rather we are to address that. We’re actually not going to experience the freedom that the Lord has for us, let alone the blessing without addressing something that God is wanting us to give attention to. Maybe some of us, that’s what we’re at right now.
It’s true. Sometimes there are pages that just need to be turned and rarely if ever, revisited. I remember my grandfather who many of you know, was my mentor and the most influential man of my life. Even though he went to be with Jesus when I was 25 years old, that was the year I became pastor of the church as well, 1988. I remember asking him about his past and he had a colored past. I would hear people who knew him talk a little bit about it, but it was never really a clear narrative for me. I couldn’t understand. “What did you do? Did you do that? Were you involved? He didn’t, even though in his early years, as a preacher, he was an evangelist. They would have him go to different churches. It was part of the thing that was more kind of connected to the time that he lived in. They would have different people give their testimony.
So my grandfather, because he had a very colored past, was often asked to give a testimony and a message. That’s how they would kind of advertise him. That was way before my time, before the war, World War II and yet, he would say to me, “I don’t really want to talk about it.” And I would say, “But Gramps. ” He would say, “I think for me, I just want to leave it under the blood.” Now, what he meant by that is he just felt like the power of the cross was such that he wasn’t really supposed to glory in who he had been. He was more interested in who he was and who, he may not have said it this way, he was becoming.
I think there are some things, it’s true, there are some pages that need to be turned, and rarely, if ever, revisited. Some sins of our youth or recent days are best left under the watery tomb of baptism. Hear what I said there. Sometimes that’s what baptism is for, water baptism. As we identify with Jesus, go into the grave and come up into the newness of life, sometimes we just need to leave our past at the foot of the cross. For what can wash away my sin, nothing but the blood of Jesus. But, loved ones, there are times when we will sense the nudge of heaven, calling us to clean up a situation that a part of us would not rather deal with. We’re not going to be at peace till we do it.
Sometimes growing past things is connected to dealing humbly with our past. I’ll say it one more time. Sometimes growing past things is connected to dealing humbly with our past, and it’s not always easy or convenient. A few times the Lord decides he’s going to send a famine or at least He allows it to help move us along to catalyze our intention, to get us moving. So the Lord is saying, “Stop sitting and get walking.” Sometimes He’s saying, “Don’t repress this thing, address this thing.” There are times when we’re paralyzed, maybe in a sense of defeat, that we’ve kind of given up. Maybe some of us that’s where we are right now. There’s a part of us that’s kind of given up because we feel like we just don’t have what it takes. The Lord is trying to get us to lift up our head and move, ‘lift up your head and move.’ Get moving, for what we will find is that on the other side, He has healing and provision awaiting us. But we have to get up and we have to move.
That’s something to keep in mind. I just want to remind everyone it’s my to remind you of a couple of things. One has to do directly with giving. That has been one of the great surprises of this season, to watch the church step up in such amazing ways. Remember, you can give in a couple of different, we have options for you. You can do it directly online or through the app. That’s what I do. Or you can send it in the traditional way. But as I said, in addition to giving, give your heart to Jesus. Always connect to what you’re doing. Remember what you’re investing in, remember what we are doing together as a people. It has eternal significance. You have been amazing and I love you for it.
I’m going to come back around for a final thought. I want to pray, Lord Jesus just use this last time of ours, these few remaining minutes in song and in the word, I just ask that you would drive home some things into our heart deeply. Flow river of life. That’s my prayer. Even now keep us moving Lord, in Jesus’ name.
That’s right. Lift up your head. It ain’t over yet. Keep moving, keep moving. Remember, there are going to be times when breakthrough is connected to a journey that isn’t easy. A desert journey, a journey we would prefer not to take. Sometimes it’s going to take a famine. Sometimes, maybe I can put it this way. Sometimes it’s going to take, hear it in the best way, a pandemic, to help us focus on the right things. Yes, to get past things that have been holding us back and open us up to new things that God wants to do. Remember this, the Lord is for us always.
Jesus, help me not to resist you when you’re trying to get my attention for my own wellbeing. Remember, He’s so good. He’s so God, and He wants us to do what? To sow good and to sow God. Even now we ask it, Lord, because we know we are loved by you. So my prayer for you this day, this week, this year is that he would keep you in your spirit, in your body, and in your soul, in Jesus’ name. Amen.