Following Jesus means coming to peace with our losses and learning to anchor ourselves in the goodness of God. It is here, in the center of His will, that we find the safest place we can be.
All right. Blessings to you all. Hey, 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. You know, our theme surrender, I think is maybe more, more appropriate now than it has ever been. Especially as we enter into this time of transition and shifting back into a kind of post-pandemic culture and, you know, having been affected by patterns for now months, we’re having to begin to reassess
life and, and just how it’s going to be constructed and how are you going to work and relate? And, you know, it’s just, there’s so many moving parts here, and I know we’re all different, but I don’t think any of us have been unaffected emotionally and mentally by what we’ve all had to walk through. And if nothing else, we know people and care about people who have been very affected and are still troubled by where things are.
Some of the anxiousness and the, uh, fears that have been connected to, uh, these past months are just not going to go away right away. Even when we return, I don’t even know what new normal looks like, but it’s going to be different. So we really are being invited to surrender and to trust God in ways that, that would allow him to move us through in health and in life.
And so, uh, you know, that’s a big part of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. I have a message. A teaching that I want to share with you. I want to talk about, yeah, I do. I want to talk about the safest place in all the world. In this time of unsettleness, I want to talk about the safest place in all the world and how to find it.
Where is it? What are we talking about? I’m going to do it by having us go back and pick up the story of Joseph and his father. Jacob that’s recorded in the book of Genesis. We’re going to go back to the 43rd chapter of Genesis, but before we even do that, I want to pray. I just want to ask God’s blessing over this.
And even now, Lord, I ask that you would meet us where we need it most, you know, you know where we are, you know, the things that we’re struggling with, you know, the things that, that, um, you know, we’re, we’re going to have to face and deal with. And, and we’re walking through maybe even right now. And we just ask that your word would be alive.
As we create spaces, we surrender this time to You to speak to us. Perhaps as we look at Your word, there would be a word within this word. That would be very much for what, where we are and what we need. Yeah. Lord, come into this time into this place. As we make the space for you in Jesus name, we pray.
Amen. So for the past two weeks, we’ve been talking about Jacob’s struggle to let Benjamin go and how hard it has been for him. Those who are familiar with the Genesis account or who have been following with us these past few months. Um, I mean, you recall how the unusually harsh and, and, um, powerful senior Egyptian official had made it clear that if Jacob’s sons wanted to purchase any more grain, yet alone, see their brother Simeon who was being held, um, until they returned, uh, they were going to have to produce
their younger brother that they said they had as proof of the veracity of their claims of innocence. That’s what the man said that he needed to see before he was willing to release Simeon or sell them any more food, the food they desperately needed because they were in the middle of a famine.
They needed that food to feed their families. And so that they went back home from Egypt intending to bring Benjamin back, but they knew they were going to have to convince their father, Jacob. And, and that was going to be a very difficult thing because Jacob was a fearful man when it came to Benjamin.
And so he had delayed. He didn’t want to risk losing Benjamin. In fact, I think delayed is a soft word. It maybe is an understatement. He had adamantly refused. He made it clear that he was unwilling to let Benjamin go. Even if that meant them not being able to buy any more food and leaving Simeon that that was something,
if it had to be, it had to be. And one of the things we are, we were reminded of is that Jacob’s fear of losing had gripped him. Hadn’t it? And his losses in life had wounded him emotionally. I mean, he had lost Joseph’s mother, Rachel, as she gave birth to Benjamin. And of course he had lost Joseph. It’s what he is assumed
had happened all these years that his gifted and favorite son had been, as he had been led to believe devoured by a wild beast and even worse. He had been devoured and killed by a wild beast on an errand that he had sent him on. So he, he had on top of the pain of loss, carried the guilt of what, what should have happened or shouldn’t have happened.
The what if. And I think it must’ve haunted him and though the years had probably mellowed some of the impact of that loss and the losses. Nonetheless, that pain was still deep within him and it affected him. Right? And I think most of us understand this, that the fear of losing can hinder. It really can hinder our ability to move forward. That, uh, our trust injuries, uh, the losses of life, uh, the disappointments, the setbacks and the devastating hurts, those things have a way of affecting us and they hinder our ability to move forward
hopefully. Especially when we need to take a step of faith. And, and not only that, they can do great damage to our relational life because the residue of that sits with us and it affects, it affects us and how we, we work with people who we love and, and engage them. And what happens in times of crises and what we draw back into all these things they’re connected and, you know, following Jesus, our Good Shepherd, right?
Uh, it will mean at least two things I’ve come to find, uh, at least in part, one of them is going to be coming to peace with our losses. And then the second one will be learning how to release the fears of losing again. So those, those two things there they’re different they’re distinct, and yet they’re connected, uh, you know, how to, how to come to peace with things that we lose and how, how, how.
How we can find a place of subtleness, even in that loss and that’s in life, we’re going to have loss. And, um, some of those losses will come in unexpected moments. Some of them we see coming and we can prepare better for. Some of them catches completely unawares and they affect us. And so learning how to come to peace with loss is a very important piece of the learning how to live well and follow Jesus in such a way that we can be the blessing He wants us to be.
Because if we’re disturbed within, it’s very hard to give a blessing. It, it, it’s learning how to find a subtleness in our own spirit. I call that the equanimity of our soul because the more dissonance we have inside. The harder it is for us to provide, um, a blessing to others because we’re just disturbed and it’s, it’s just something that God wants to teach us how to do, how to be at peace.
Yes. Even with our losses. And in fact, maybe mostly with them, because those are the things that are going to in many ways, define us. If we don’t come to peace with them. And then releasing our fear of, of losing again, like the field that Jacob had here. Right? That I can’t move forward, because if I do this will happen again to me and that, that, so what has happened informs, uh, our present choices and how we see the future and how reluctant we are maybe to move forward because of the fear of losing again, something that, you know, has happened to us before it can happen to us again.
And so we sort of get paralyzed. And, you know, coming to peace with loss, uh, will mean surrendering, always our loss, surrendering it to the Lord and letting go in such a way that we free ourselves, uh, from its grip. And that happens by trusting the Lord. And it’s a trust that is anchored in His goodness.
So I really want us to understand that. And I say that to you out of just total love in my heart and also having experienced loss in my own life, that a lot of it, a lot of the freeing has to do with trusting. And that trust is anchored in a conviction of His goodness and it’s reinforced in His words and, um, by His presence.
And then, and so I think that’s part of, by the way, the brilliance of what is known as the Serenity Prayer, isn’t it, some of us are aware of the Serenity Prayer is a prayer that is often connected in its short form to the AA movement. It has different, you know, um, I guess there are different there’s, at times, subtly different wording, but essentially it goes like this, God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, courage to change the things that I can, and wisdom to know the difference, what a prayer, God, grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change.
I can’t change the courage to change the things that I can sometimes I just got to step forward and wisdom to know the difference between what I can and can’t change. Right? And that prayer by the way, was written by Reinhold Niebuhr. A lot of people don’t realize this, but he was a theologian of the 1930s and 40s actually ends up,
he wrote that prayer as part of a sermon that he was sharing. So part of his message ended up living on, uh, in ways that I don’t think he could have ever imagined. Niebuhr himself was, uh, a major influence on the German pastor, Christian thinker writer, and Nazi resistor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer whose books like The Cost of Discipleship and, um, you know, Life Together have been such blessings.
But Niebuhr’s prayer actually was first used by AA, Alcoholics Anonymous in 1941. And it has been a huge blessing for now, you know, 80 years. Think about that. Uh, but I was thinking about that Serenity Prayer and, and the, the, you know, the way that Joseph and Jacob were invited to surrender and to trust God.
And, um, specifically now with Jacob’s struggle to let Benjamin go. And, and then I remember that there was actually a longer version of the Serenity Prayer that is often, um, not, uh, even, you know, not, not just not quoted, but a lot of times people aren’t even aware that it exists. And so here’s the longer form of the Serenity Prayer and look at it.
It’s, it’s really powerful actually. God give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage changed the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. But then look at this next part, living one day at a time enjoying, one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace taking
as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it trusting that you will make all things right. If I surrender to your will so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with you forever in the next. Amen. I mean, I just think that’s an awesome prayer and it’s so deeply connected to everything that we’ve been exploring and it ties, it ties it all together.
And then what I love about it is it has Jesus overtly at its center, which is an often underappreciated component of the larger form Serenity Prayer. And I love those last lines as well, so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with you forever in the next that’s just so good.
Right? I think it’s just, it’s, it’s just, it has so much health in it. You know what? I mentioned that, and I go back to Jacob here, but I mentioned that there were two things that Jacob was wrestling with. One was coming to peace with his loss and the other was surrendering the fear of losing again, and that fear of losing again, if I may just stay with that for a bit, it can actually be really crippling.
It’s something that God will work with us to surrender our fear. Um, you know, some of us, because we’ve been hurt, we, we fear risking being hurt again, and that can send us into retreat. It can keep us cowering and clutching those things. We feel we cannot lose. You know, that’s what Jacob was doing with Benjamin.
He was just clutching on to him. Right? And the what if starts to grip us. What if this happens? What if this happens again? You know, I don’t think I can take it and sometimes just thinking about it takes our breath away and beats us down. Um, and so I, you know, I, I’m not, I, I do understand Jacob at least a little bit.
I, I could see why he’s, even though everything says you need to let Benjamin go. The part of him feels like he can’t do it. And, you know, I think that can actually apply to a lot of us as we’re working our way through this pandemic and its aftermath. I think there are some things maybe that some of us are going to have to trust God with and, and lean into Him.
Um, and, and, you know, let go, even though a big part of us doesn’t feel like we can, but we can’t go forward if we keep holding onto what is, you know. And perhaps the words of Corrie Ten Boom another women that I just, you know, I mean, her words, it’s just, they’re powerful. And one of the things Ten Boom, uh, wrote
I just think is amazing. She said there are no ifs in God’s world, no places that are safer than other places. And then look at this, the center of His will is our only safety. There it is. Let us pray that we may always know it. The center of His will is our only safety. This is the place we need to be.
It’s the safest place in all the world. Listen to me. The closer we get to His centered will, the safer we will be and always will be this with the Lord. The more close I get to where He wants me to be, the more close I get to finding my identity in Him. The more close I am to finding my security in Him.
The more close I am to trusting Him with my future, a future in this life and certainly in the one to come. The more secure I am there in the center of His will, the safer I will be in. So it is with you, the safest place in all the world is the center of His will. Back to Jacob, verse 11 of that 43rd chapter, then their father, and just picking back up right with the narrative.
I would like you to just jump back in with me, we’re going to go through it fairly quickly, but there’s stuff here for us then their father Israel. That’s Jacob said to them, if it must be so, remember we talked about this, then do this, take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, because they were reasoning with him.
Father, we got to let you got to let us take Benjamin. And he says, you know, “Take the choice fruits of the land in your bags and carry a present down to the man, a little balm and a little honey and gum and myrhh and pistachios and almonds. And then take double the money with you. Carry back with you the money that was returned to the mouth of your sacks.
Perhaps it was an oversight. Remember the money that they had been used purchase had been actually put back into their sacks and they didn’t know how it got there and they were afraid and they were, they were concerned that they might be accused of stealing. Um, and then, but Jacob says we’re going to have to risk it.
And then finally the great surrender and take, take also your brother Benjamin arise and go to the man. And may God almighty grant you mercy before the man who may send back your other brother, and Benjamin is for me. If I, to read to my children that I am bereaved is, you know, I look at the, the, what I call three elements of Jacob’s surrender.
The first thing that I note is he listens to counsel. That’s always a good thing for us to do. In Jacob’s case, he receives his son’s input. Judah was reasoning with his father in a way that connected with him and it, it helped break through the barrier of his fear and, um, help helped him move forward.
And don’t underestimate the power of good counsel of, of an encouraging word or an exhortive word to just be that final 10% that gets us to move. Right? We may know we should, we may want to, but then it just takes a little bit of additional counsel to, to get us to finally yield and surrender. And the second thing that I noticed that Jacob does here is he faces his fear.
So he listens to counsel and, and, and allows for it to penetrate him. And then he faces his fear. And what I mean by that is he acknowledges the worst. He squares himself with it, though, you know what Jacob says, can’t actually be described. I, I wouldn’t even attempt to describe it as optimistic.
Uh, it, it was realistic and maybe slightly pessimistic, but it, but it was in its own way, a form of surrender, which reminds me that, you know, facing things doesn’t always mean that we have to put the, you know, the, the best, you know, face on it. I mean, there are times where we’re gonna have to, we call it what it is.
No, there’s a real risk here. Uh, but if I’m going to be bereaved, I’m going to be bereaved. So be it. And then the third thing he does, and this is important because he had not been doing this. He acknowledges God. And I think that’s another critical piece because a lot of what Joseph had, uh, Jacob had been doing earlier was kind of just sitting with his own fears, but he wasn’t really welcoming the Lord into it.
Now he acknowledges God, he declares, God has the almighty. God, you can do anything. And he declares that He is the almighty who can actually soften the heart of this Egyptian, he who he fears can hurt him. He fears can hurt him. Uh, it’s a, it’s a faith declaration that Jacob is making and, loved ones, there are times where God wants us to make a faith declaration, even in the face of things that can hurt us.
You heard me, right. And we just need to face it and welcome the Lord into it. And, uh, we don’t have to pretend and, and speak overly optimistic words. We can be honest with our feelings and our fears and our concerns, but we are placing the accent on what God can do. And that is a big part of surrender. I hope we understand that.
And what, there’s another interesting thing here that I think happens and it’s worth us noting, noticing here, as soon as Jacob resolves, uh, to surrender Benjamin, his other gifts get activated, right? I mean, he starts thinking creatively and shrewdly and wisely. Those are all, and those have always been his gifts.
He’s he’s and he, and he has a plan and he sets it in motion. You just see this happening. So you see how the, I I’m hope I’m communicating it well, but here he is struggling and struggling and struggling to let go and let go and let go and let Benjamin go into, finally, he decides I’m going to trust God here.
I got to do it. And once he surrenders all these other gifts of his just kick in, boom, boom, boom. They just kick in. Do this, do that, bring this, you know, soft, softly, come before the man say this about the money, bring the best that we have. You know, God’s in control. I mean, it’s just, I love it. You know, you know, one of the things that fear does is it fear keeps our best gifts in hibernation.
Fear keeps our best gifts in hibernation, but faith releases them to higher places. Another way of saying it, fear keeps our best gifts in hibernation and faith releases them to activation. I want to walk in faith. Look what it says here, speaking of the brothers and what they did. So the men took this present and they took double the money with him.
And I’m just going to read this through good passage here. And they took Benjamin and they arose and they went down to Egypt and they stood before Joseph and when Joseph saw Benjamin with them he said to the steward of his house. So he said to this entrusted man, the man who, who manage his household, bring the men into the house and slaughter an animal and make ready for the men or to dine with me at noon.
They’re going to have, we’re going to have a great feast. And the men did as Joseph told them and brought them in to Joseph’s house. And the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house. Why does he want to see us now? And they said, is it because of the money which was replaced in our sacks the first time and that we, we are being brought in so that we may that he may assault us and fall upon us and make us servants and sieze our donkeys.
I mean, you can see they’re, they’re, they’re envisioning all the things that are going to go wrong here. They’re just, they’re, they’re traumatized by the invitation. They think, oh my goodness. You know, it’s an escalation. They start envisioning all the things that are going to go wrong. What he’s going to do, you know, what’s why he wants to see us.
He’s going to say, we’re theives. He’s going to enslave us. He’s going to take everything from it. I mean, there’s, there’s just envisioning, um, bad stuff. And so they went up the steward of Joseph’s house and they spoke with him at the door of the house. They said, okay, we just want to, oh my Lord. We came down the first time to buy food.
I think you’re aware of this. And when they, and when we came to the lodging place, we, we opened our sacks. And, and, and, and just, we, we just want to tell you a little bit about the money thing, because there was each man as money in the mouth of his sack and our money in, in full weight. And so wewant you to be aware that we, we, we have brought that we have brought it again with us.
We didn’t, we brought it back to you. And we brought and we brought other money with us to buy food, and we, we, we don’t know who put our money in our sacks. We don’t know how that money got in there. Perhaps it was, it wasn’t an oversight, but, but we brought it all back. And, and the, the manager of the steward replied, be peace, be to you, peace to you.
Do not, do not be afraid. Cause they were afraid. They were deathly afraid. And then they said words that this man said words to them, your God and, and the God of your father, has put treasure in your socks for you. I received your money. That money went back to you for a reason. And then he brought Simeon out to the man, to them.
He brought them out to them. And when the man had brought the men into Joseph’s house and given them water and there was they’re all together now, and then they’re in the house and here there they were terrified. And now all of a sudden they’re being spoken to in ways that are very warm and hospitable.
And they’re told to come into the house and they’re going to have you get a chance to have Simeon join them. And next thing they know that they’re being given beverages and, and their feet are being washed. Uh, it it’s, and their donkeys are being fed. That donkey is given their fodder and they were, I think they were in stunned amazement.
I really do as to what exactly was going on. I mean, I think they were, I actually think that if we could see them in the, in the, in the great room in the hall that they were filled with, uh, trepidation, as they accepted with reluctant gratitude, the hospitality of this now gracious Egyptian ruler, uh, it just didn’t make sense.
And the, the turn of events, uh, they, they just, they, they just couldn’t trust what was going on. They didn’t anticipate this at all. And they were very concerned, still, if anything, the way they were being treated, made them even more uncomfortable. Verse 25 and they prepared the present. They had enough, they were thinking they prepared the present just like Jacob had told them to do for Joseph’s coming at noon for, they had heard that he should eat bread there, that he was coming to join in the great feast.
And when Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him, the present that they had with them and bow down to him, to the ground. And it’s just like the dream that Joseph had, again, just coming back, you know, here they are, all these brothers, they don’t know. They don’t know as Joseph they’re bowing down to him, they’ve got the gifts.
They’re honoring him. They’re doing everything that their father had told them. And it says the then Joseph, he inquired about their welfare and he said, Is your father well. I’m assuming he did it through the interpreter and the old man of whom you spoke. Is he still alive? And, and, and the, they said, yeah, yes, yes, here you’re servant,
our father is well, he’s still alive. And they, they bowed their heads again and they prostrated themselves and he, he, he lifted up his eyes. Joseph did, as he scanned them. And he saw for the first time, uh, in so many years Benjamin his mother’s son. And he said, is, is this your youngest brother of whom you spoke to me?
Oh God, God be gracious to you, my son. And then Joseph started getting emotional, and he felt that justice as hurried out for his compassion grew warm for his brother and he sought a place to weep. And then he entered his chamber and he wept there. So he leaves. The picture is, is Joseph leaving them. Um, they’re not sure what’s going on.
Joseph leaves the room immediately. He can’t almost contain himself. He can feel, uh, all the emotion of years of the re. Just the love that he had and the pain that he had walked through the, all the time, the time that it passed and his brother and all that, that meant, and all that, it represented the only real connection he had to his mother.
And it was just, uh, it had been so long and, and, um, he’s alone and he’s weeping. He’s weeping. Uh, and then it says he, he got himself together, verse 31. Then he washed his face and he came out and controlling himself. He said, serve the food. And they served him by himself and then by themselves. So they were separated.
He wasn’t eating with them and the Egyptians who ate with them by themselves. So you had everybody, Joseph has the, the, you know, the great one in the room. He’s eating in his own space. The Egyptians are eating in their space and the Hebrews, Joseph’s brothers, are eating in their space. And because we’re told here that Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews, where it was an abomination to the Egyptians, there were social mores that they were conforming to.
And then, and something else happened though, again, must have rocked them or at least made them go, oh my goodness, what is happening here? Because it’s it that as they sat before him, they each were given a place to sit. And he had them look, it says, it says this the first born, according to his birthright and the youngest, according to his youth.
So when Joseph has each of them seated for the meal, he makes sure that each one of them is sit, sitting from the oldest to the young biggest in order, which would have been –. How does he, how did he know that? Now I don’t know when they’ve sat down initially that they actually were processing it out.
If someone said, do you, do you see what’s happened here? He has a seated from oldest to the young, how does he know that? Who is this man? What’s going on here? Right? But, but they quickly became aware of it and were told that they looked at one another and they were, they were caught off guard. They were amazed at what was happening.
And then on top of that, portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table. And then Benjamin’s portion were told was five times as much as any of theirs. Like he, he got a lot more, like it was clear and obvious what was happening there and they didn’t say anything, but they all ended up just drinking and, and enjoying the moment they ended up being merry with him.
They ended up rejoicing with him. And, and, uh, you know, I think that the five times the amount was clearly a sign of favor and, and, um, part of us wonders why? Why did he do that? I think at least in part, it was a test. I do, um, for the Egyptian, whom they assumed only knew Egyptian, he understood their every word.
Right? And he probably was watching, how are they going to react to they going to be jealous? So they’re going to be envious. They’re going to treat him like they treated me. When I was the favored one and it happened, right? It didn’t happen. And Joseph took note, Joseph took note, he, he noticed, uh, they had changed and soon they all forgot their fear and they lost themselves in the joy of fellowship and celebration.
And once again, I think as we, as we started, when we opened up this teaching so much of, of Jacob’s and Joseph’s story is about surrender, isn’t it, it’s about surrender and embracing the faithfulness of God. It’s about trusting God to guide our story. It really is. It’s about letting go of the pain and embracing his promise.
Right? Um, what it really is about is, uh, finding our home in Him. It is. Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden. Right? Um, that invitation come to my table. Uh, you know, when we’re with him, we really are at the place where we belong. It’s the safest place in all the world, and, you know, surrendered to the father’s embrace.
I want us to keep this in mind as we share this next moment, this song, and then I’m going to come back around a couple of minor, few things to say, I want to pray for us, but here we go. Um, the safest place in all the world is home with Jesus, right? It’s our home. It’s our, yeah. Well, here we go.