Wherever we find ourselves, as followers of Christ we are to engage the people around us with empathy, wisdom and the love of God.
It’s so good to share this moment with you. I’m really delighted and excited about what we’re going to share together. In case, you’re joining us for the first time, or you are rejoining us after a long time. I am pastor Terry. I’m the lead pastor here at cornerstone church in San Francisco. Right now I am sharing this message out of the third floor of our mission building our church site right in the heart of San Francisco. I’m delighted to have this real privilege and opportunity to talk, encourage, and strengthen you. My heart’s desire is that you would get some tools for overcoming. That you would have some principles that would allow you breakthrough. If you pursued these principles and apply them with God’s presence at work, in our lives, that combination of principles and presence can produce a breakthrough in our lives. A strengthening of our capacity for resilience and what is resilience, but bounce back capacity.
I know that’s what God wants for us. He wants us to be able to bounce back. We may trip up, we may find ourselves stuck. We may get, or wander into a darker place from time to time, but we don’t have to live there. No, we don’t. The Lord wants to teach us how to get better, how to have a bounce back. Lord, even now we welcome your presence among us. We ask that you would bless this word and that you would bless this time that we’re all about to share. We need you, we need your words. We need your spirit and we need your life. We all ask you together to bless and to be present in Jesus’ name. We pray. Amen. Let’s quickly reset because we’ve been focusing on a man named Joseph. This exceptional example, the older Testament whose life still speaks to us after thousands of years.
It’s amazing. It’s amazing how relevant his experiences are for you and me today. Again, Joseph has been in prison. This is where we’re going to pick up. He’s been falsely accused, but nonetheless, he has kept his eyes on God. He’s quickly risen to favor in this low-security prison. As far as he knows, he will be spending the rest of his life, his sad life there. That sort of sets us up for Genesis 40. We will pick up with this. So sometime after this, the cupbearer of the King of Egypt and his Baker committed an offense against the Lord, the King of Egypt Pharaoh, and Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer, and the chief Baker. The Pharaoh put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard
Joseph’s former master, the captain of the guard, actually in the prison where Joseph was confined, appointed Joseph to be with them. Joseph attended them and they continued for some time in custody. One night they both dream interesting. The cupbearer and the Baker of the King of Egypt who were confined in the prison, each had his own dream and each dream with his own interpretation. When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. He asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in custody, in his master’s house. Why are your faces downcast today? Once again, we are amazed by Joseph’s genuine concern and kindness. I mean, no one in the prison, if you think about this, had been more unjustly treated. If anyone deserved to be sympathized with it was Joseph. Yet we see, and it’s a point worth noting, that Joseph was not defined by his disappointment.
Joseph was not a man who was defined by his pain, nor was he captured by his wounds. H was not pretending or simply putting on a happy face. His demeanor of sympathy appears to have been a genuine reflection of a chosen attitude. An internal disposition that was determined to honor God as the priority of his life. Many of us, and I can speak for myself, should be able to relate to this. Many of us are easily disturbed, if I can use this phrase taken out of our game, when things go wrong or don’t get better soon enough. Maybe some of us find ourselves in that place right now. Maybe it happens when our prayers go unanswered and our situation worsens or someone is let down. When these things start to pile up on one another, we can easily fall into despair.
We can in that despairing place be overly sensitive, irritable, or angry. We all have drop down zones that we fall into when we’re not doing well. Some of us fall back and do very unhealthy almost addictive patterns of behavior. We get stuck drifting into places that honestly, don’t do anything but damage us. Some of us find ourselves on the edge. We are easily irritated, quick to anger, or offended. We are in other cases, just looking for reasons to be displeased with people we love. Sometimes, in that place, of sensitivity, discouragement, and despair, we can very easily get into those places. The Lord doesn’t want us to be in those places. Like Jonah, under the unpredictable plant, we rehearse our complaint to God. Why don’t you care about me God? Although some of us may never say it, verbalize it.
We may not be that kind of person, but our attitude and silence speak volumes. Our moodiness can betray us. Joseph though reminds us to make God our refuge. I think that’s worth noting again. Joseph really settled into a place of a trust base with the Lord. He couldn’t change his situation, but he could own his attitude. I think it’s very important that we lean into the Lord. When we lean into his words, when we are feeling troubled, overwhelmed, or defeated when we feel pressed or perplexed, we need to take our case to God. Let Him settle our hearts in a love that will never quit come what may. We need to hold on to His promises and align our attitude and our demeanor. This is important with what God’s word tells us is true. This is why anybody who sincerely wants to follow Jesus well, must have a continual pattern of feeding on his Word and welcoming His presence, His spirit into our lives.
This is a key piece of resilience at a spiritual level. We just have to choose to not allow our circumstances to circumvent our conviction. How about that? Not allow our circumstances to circumvent our conviction concerning God’s faithfulness. No, we just hold ourselves right there. We say you know what? I can’t say this is what I wanted. I’m not happy with what’s happening in Joseph’s case, there was no light at the end of his tunnel, but he chose to live a God-honoring life in the context of what seemed like a hopeless situation. He really models for us how we are to walk when we find ourselves in places that, honestly, probably are not going to be as bad as the place that he found himself. As a result of Joseph’s chosen position, how he chose to be in his place of confinement, how much can that relate to what we’re all walking through right now?
But because he aligned himself with the Lord, brought his attitude and demeanor into submission to what he believed, he was able to empathize with the needs of others. It’s just a remarkable testimony. You know, I was reminded of what the apostle Paul shared. I think we can put this up in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. This is from the NLT. He says all praise to God, the father of our Lord, Jesus Christ. God is our merciful father. The source of all comfort, that alone is an amazing statement. He comforts us in all of our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort that God has given us. Think about that. It seems Joseph’s unfair treatment, he was like a lion, is a definition really of what he was doing.
Joseph’s unfair treatment actually had made him even more sensitive, more compassionate, and more empathetic. Because he brought the Lord into it. Instead of destroying him, defining him, and defeating him, his pain was transformed at some level into a place of a deeper, more empathetic person. The beauty of the man became even more evident because that’s what pressure does, pressure changes us. That’s what pain does. The only question is going to be, not if we’re going to change, but how we’re going to change. Pain and pressure are catalytic. They’re not going to leave us the same person, the same man, the same woman that we were going into our situation or our experience. We’re either going to come out better or bitter to use the phrase.
We’re either going to grow through it, change, and become more like the Lord, as the suffering and the pain shapes us to a more yielded place. Or we’re going to find ourselves shrinking back, falling back, and getting stuck to find negativity and bitterness of soul. I look at Joseph and he really does model what it means to grow. I mean, think about this for a moment. If you look back you will see, some of you may go back and re-listen to some of the earlier messages from months ago when we started talking about Joseph in the up and over series, but one of the things that characterize Joseph as a younger man, in his pre-Egyptian days as a teenager, really though he was older, that he had an underdeveloped side to him that was insensitive to other people, particularly his brothers and even his father.
There was a low emotional quotient in Joseph that is revealed in the scriptures. Now we see him on the other side of great pain, a decade beyond that time in his life. Joseph seems to have really grown in his capacity to be touched by the sadness of another person. He cared and inquired. I just want to take a moment to get us to think about this for a second because I want to ask this question. I’ve asked it of myself, how do we do in this area? You know, how are we seeing people around us? I would take this to the closest circle, the way that Jesus modeled life, relationally, Jesus had a closed circle. He had a secondary circle. Then he had the broad circle, the world. Jesus’ closest circle, where the people that he was investing himself, his life into his disciples, his family, I suppose it’s certainly his mother whom he cared for.
He devoted himself to those, that inner circle. There were people who came across his path, they were followers or in those who engaged him. Then of course there was the world, but the Lord’s love was extended in different ways to each one of those groups. I thought the Lord wants us to have the same love for the circles of relationships in our life. I want you to think about what those circles are, starting with our family and our closest friends. Then the next circle I think are the people that we are with relationally. We cross paths with regularly, such as at work or in some of our social circles or perhaps neighbors or casual friends, people that we know at church, certainly, which is part of our spiritual community and our spiritual family.
There are people whose paths we just cross the good Samaritan. Each one of those relationships requires a different attentiveness. Yet they have something in common. It is that the Lord is always wanting us to be aware of being a blesser in those places. I look at Joseph and think the reason he loved people is because he loved God. Or maybe another way of saying it is, Joseph loved God. He loved People. When we love the Lord, we will love people. You can’t say I love God, but I don’t like people. I’m not saying we are all the same. I don’t mean that. I know some of us have a natural inclination towards lucky people.
I get that, but you know what am saying, it’s empty religion to say, we love God. Then we’re not being sensitive to the people that are in our lives. It’s a huge disconnect. It has done many injuries to the way of Jesus when we are one way in terms of our devotion to the Lord. But then it doesn’t show up in our relationships. It does need to show up there and we need to be more humble, thoughtful, and caring. We all do, every one of us. Yes, we do. That doesn’t mean we have to be a doormat. I’m not saying that. Pastor Terry did not say that. No, he didn’t, but I think we all can be more like Jesus. In every one of those relational circles. I think one of the most important things to do, especially at a time like this, is to keep our hearts soft. We are living in a very cynical, cold age where everyone has an exaggerated statement. It’s a bit of hyperbole there, but everyone seems angry.
I think social media has created some of that. The way people communicate now is very harsh. Think in the middle of all of this, the Lord wants us to keep our hearts soft especially in these weeks. I really mean this, to keep our hearts soft in an angry divided time. Let’s keep our hearts soft as much as we can, submit that to the Lord. That’s what I’m trying to do. Back to Joseph, first, remember these two officials shared that they had these dreams. Look at verse eight, they said to Joseph because he had asked what’s wrong. Are you okay? They said, “well, we’ve had dreams, and we don’t know what they mean”. There is no one to interpret them. There was a superstition to the culture, no question. But there was also a sense that dreams meant something. I still think that can be the case today. I don’t think we always should dismiss them. I do think some dreams have spiritual implications. The Bible makes it clear. There’s more going on than just what we see in the natural. There is a spiritual realm, but I hear Joseph say, “Oh, what did you say dreams”.
I imagine this moment, Joseph says “dreams. Well, anything but dreams. I once had dreams and I thought those dreams were from God. That was years ago. When I was a younger man in another life, those dreams, were illusions of grandeur quarter they got me. Oh, my goodness. I know. I don’t care about your dreams. My advice to you is to forget those dreams ever happened,” but that’s not what Joseph said. No, it wasn’t. Even after 11 years of disappointment. No, God is still on the throne. Joseph still believed in dreams. Joseph said to them, “do not interpretations belong to God. Please tell them to me, please let me hear them perhaps I can help.” It’s amazing when you think about it.
The chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph and said to him, “in my dream, there was a vine before me and on the vine, there were three branches. And as soon as it butted, its blossomed shot forth in the clusters, ripened into grapes. Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, I took the grapes. I pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup. I placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hands”. Then Joseph said to him, “I know the interpretation, this is the interpretation. The three branches are three days. I can tell you, my friend. I know exactly what it means. In three days, Pharaoh will lift up your head. Yes, he will. He will specifically call you and he will restore you to your office. You shall once again, place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer, that my friend has a good dream.”
It’s about to come to pass. I mean, there was no hesitation. Joseph was given what is called in the New Testament, scriptures, a word of knowledge. The answer just came so clear to him. As soon as the word, the dream went out, that the gift kicked in that God had given him since the days of his boyhood, the chief cupbearer was very encouraged by that. “Oh, I hope you’re right, I hope you’re right. I believe you are.” Joseph says, “you shall see, God has spoken.” In verse 14, Joseph added this one thing, he says “only, please, if I could just say one more thing please just remember me when it is well with you, please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh.” If you could put in a good word for me and get me out of this house. He meant is this place, this prison is the place of the confinement of Joseph.
Then it starts to tell a little bit of his story. His robe was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews. Here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit. Basically. He’s saying these turns of the events have been awful I just need to tell you, I don’t want to be here and I don’t deserve to be here. If you could help me in any way, I would deeply appreciate it. So basically what he is saying is, “please remember me when you are restored to your position, don’t forget me. I’m an innocent man. If you could help put in a good word for me, it would be such a blessing.” This reminds me of something. It’s worth hearing. It’s okay to do our part.
Isn’t it? Trusting God does not preclude us from exercising prudence and common sense. Think about it. Joseph sees the opportunity it opened to him perhaps. Who could say it would be God’s method of deliverance. That would actually ultimately ironically, while Joseph is having this dialogue with the cupbearer, the Baker’s listening and the favorable report that was given to the cupbearer, why he gave him the courage to share his dream as well. Joseph’s thinking, wow, that was fantastic. What a blessing? what a great interpretation for him, let me see. Maybe Joseph’s thinking mine is going to be good news as well.
Look at verse 16, when the chief Baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, “I also had a dream, there were three cake baskets on my head and in the uppermost basket, there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating out of it, out of the basket on my head. It was scary that dream.” Joseph answered and said, “this is the interpretation. I know it. The three baskets are three days. I’m sorry, my friend, but in three days, Pharaoh will lift up your head from you. He is going to hang you on a tree. The birds are going to eat the flesh from you.” That was brutal. That was a bombshell. It was devastating. I see the bakers saying, “wow, are you sure? I hope you’re wrong”.
The baker must’ve been crushed. One of the things Joseph does though, is he does not hesitate to tell him the truth, no matter how unfavorable it was. Joseph, I noticed, told him the truth. Because Joseph was an honest man. He was a truth teller. It takes courage and honest love to share a word. We suspect someone may not want to hear, but we know they need to know. I was reminded of Proverbs 27:5-6. It says, “an open rebuke in verse 5, is better than hidden love.” Think about that. Tough love spoken is better than love. That will not speak when it should. Did you hear that? Is better than silent love, love concealed. Then, verse 6 -1 from a sincere friend or better than many kisses from an enemy, a friend who tells us a difficult truth is better than a person who just flatters us, but doesn’t care.
In fact may even just be playing us. Now, obviously we need to be careful with this. We need to be a people who are humble. A courageous people who are willing to speak honest words, but kindly. It says in Peter 3:15 “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as Holy always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason, for the hope that is in you yet do it, look at that last part yet, do it with gentleness and respect.” Joseph’s example also reminds us of something else. Doesn’t it? Something that struck me and really stood out to me. I hope that it will still stand out to you as well. It was a reminder that followers of Jesus are to be what Joseph was. If we’re working and really seeking a life that’s honoring the Lord, then we’re staying close to the Lord.
We too will become interpreters of life. Engaging our world with God reality and wisdom. We we will be able to be there for people. Help them understand the unique challenges they are facing. Help them to hear God in the midst of a very confusing place in their life. I think that’s God’s will for us. I really do. To let our light so shine before men as Jesus taught us that they may see our good works and glorify our father, who is in heaven. I really believe the Lord wants us to be able to interpret life for others, even when it’s a hard thing, but a true thing in love. It’s better than silence when we have it in our heart to share life-giving truth. May the Lord lead us in this way. Again, thinking of Joseph and how he chose to be a life giver in the midst of his place of confinement, and combining that with what Jesus said about letting our light shine.
I remember reading a quote from a man named Patrick Kane. He says,”you can curse the darkness or light a candle. The choice is yours.” Joseph could have cursed the darkness of his life. He could have wallowed in his wound, but he chose to light a candle. Didn’t he? We may find ourselves in a place we don’t want to be. That was the case again with Joseph, but he chose to be who God wanted him to be in the place that he didn’t want to be. You heard me say, he chose to be who God wanted him to be in the place that he didn’t want to be. It helped people. It paved and prepare the way for the door of blessing in his own life to swing open in a remarkable way.
It’s going to be huge. Joseph was empathetic. He was interested and ready. He chose to be again, what God wanted him to be in the place he didn’t want to be. I think the Lord may want to remind us of that as well. I was reminded of another statement that was made by a truly remarkable man. A man who had become a martyr for his witness of Jesus. Some of you are aware of the story of Jim Elliot, the missionary. One of the last known statements Elliot made sounds so simple. He said, “wherever you are, be all there” What Jim Elliot meant by that was, let’s not give God our half hearted service. Let’s give our best for the Lord today, where we are, wherever you are, be all there. Let’s live for his glory, wherever we may be, free or confined, prospering or limited, let’s do our best to honor him. To help others in his name. I just love that. Lord, even now, we just asked for that. We want to be completely yielded to you in whatever situation we find ourselves in. There is a pathway to honor you in it. There is an assignment for us that you have. Sometimes we know that, but it’s still hard for us. So we ask you to help us.
I have another thought to share, and then I’m going to close this out with a blessing. It’s my time to remind all of you that about giving. So many of you have just been amazing in your love for the Lord and your faithfulness. We’re all making this journey together, but remember, you can give the traditional way. You can send it to the office. You can give online through the app. The key is first always give your heart to Jesus.
Wherever you are, be all there. Let’s give God our best in whatever situation we find ourselves in. Remember, it’s not the place, it’s the person. It’s not the circumstance, but it’s the certitude that the Lord is with us. When we live in a way that believes that, and we act out of that, when that becomes our way of being not perfect, but sincere, we open up all possibilities of what God can do. So Lord, it is because you’re so good and you’re so God. We want so good and we want so God, yes, we do all the days of our lives. When it’s easy, when it’s a challenge we really want to be able to honor you. We thank you for the adversity, because sometimes that becomes the mechanism of our growth and our expansion. You are all greatly loved. My prayer for all of us, even now, the word is that you would keep us all in the spirit, soul, and body in Jesus’ name, Amen.