We are all at the core of our being ordinary and broken people in need of the Savior's healing touch.
Blessings to you all. I’m looking forward to spending this time together. I want to talk to you about breakthrough. How it relates to the timing of God. This, I think, has particular relevance for us as we wait for the changes that are even now in motion and we’re hopeful. We’re still hopeful. We retain our optimism. Even now, Lord, I just invite you into this time that you would cultivate a vital optimism inside of us. Not a hopelessness, but a hopefulness that you can do marvelous and wonderful things. So we welcome you into this time. We delight in your goodness, Lord, and we pray for your blessing in Jesus’ name.
I think in a larger sense, this is a challenging time. For so many reasons I think at a personal level, this can also be true. Many of us are waiting for a door to swing open at a societal level. At a personal level, we’re looking forward to turning a page to start a new chapter. We’ve been waiting and hoping for God to give us a breakthrough. The breakthrough that I often say can lead to the breakout.
We saw last week, how Joseph when he was in prison, you remember he had been there for two years after he interpreted the dream of a man who had promised to help him. Remember Pharaoh had that dream and it was such a vivid dream that he couldn’t shake it. Actually, he had two dreams, pharaoh did. Both of the dreams were very troubling too. He sensed that they meant something. Pharaoh desperately has sought for his magicians, his spiritual enchanters, his advisors asking them for answers. No one could help. He was frustrated. He was downcast. He was disturbed. That put the entire palace on pins and needles. We talked about that when Pharaoh isn’t happy, that is a dangerous thing. They understood that a troubled king creates an environment where tripwires are everywhere.
One of his key servants, the chief cupbearer was reminded of how, when he was in prison, a young Hebrew, a man named Joseph had interpreted his haunting dream. How the interpretation actually had proven to be true and accurate. The interpretation was spot on. We know that the cupbearer took a risk. He recounted his experience to Pharaoh. He said, “Pharaoh, there is something that has come back to my mind. If I may offer this, there was a man, when I was in prison, he was a Hebrew. His name was Joseph. Joseph. Yes. That was his name. I actually made him a promise, but I didn’t fulfill it. I believe he can help you. I do. He has a gift. He has a gift from his god. I saw it firsthand.”
This brings us to verse 14 of Genesis 41. It says, “Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph. They quickly brought him out of the pit, the prison. When he had shaved and changed his clothes.” At that point, he looked like an Egyptian. He walked like an Egyptian, but, “he came in before Pharaoh and Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I have had a dream and there is no one who could interpret it.'” I try to imagine that moment. Joseph brought out of the prison pit, cleaned up for a presentation before Pharaoh. Imagine the court is wide open. It’s beautiful. It’s intimidating. It’s filled with officials, some of whom he knew. Remember he had worked for Potiphar. He had entertained some of these men. He understood the ways of the court. Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I’ve had a dream and there is no one who can interpret it. I’ve heard it said of you that when you hear a dream, you can interpret it.” And Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me, but God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” Two things are immediately noticeable, aren’t they?
One, don’t miss it. Joseph’s humility. When he says, “It’s not me, it’s God.” He is quick to give God the glory. This was not a trite comment or a false humility or something that he was trying to do to fill an awkward space. He was honest. It was honesty in motion. Now we need to walk wisely here in a culture such as ours. It’s very easy to come across as hyper-spiritual and say, on the other end of a compliment that someone is genuinely giving us for work that we’ve done and I probably have done this. “Well, it’s not me, it’s God. I think it was especially true when I was a younger man, a younger minister, younger pastor, where someone offered me an encouraging, honest word, or maybe a point of praise and I didn’t want to be proud.
So I would say, “No, no, it’s just, you mean God.” It was almost like I was scolding them. I think I did it to safeguard myself because I didn’t want to be proud, but I lacked wisdom. In my desire to not be proud, I would diminish the compliment instead of being gracious. I was too quick to correct.
My intention was good, but I was leading out of my insecurity. I still think it’s important to tactfully find ways to let people who express some admiration for certain qualities or gifts that we possess know that much of what they admire, and this might happen to you at work or in some other venue, or appreciate is a direct result of what the Lord has done in our lives. Again, this is not an unfair thing to say, nor is it a false thing to say, that much of what they may appreciate is a direct result of what the Lord has done in our lives. If we can find a way to tactfully share that without coming across as hyper-spiritual, that is a win-win-win.
If I could put it this way, there is a time to graciously receive a compliment. Which is what I didn’t understand. To graciously receive a compliment as much for the other person as it is for ourselves. Again, I look back on that and see there’s also a time to say it’s the Lord at work in my life. I want to share that too. It’s a powerful witness to say in the right way, at the right time, “To God be the glory,” it really is. There will be opportunities when we will have a chance to say, “It’s the Lord at work in my life that has allowed me the privilege of being able to use these gifts or to use my talents or what I’ve learned to bless and to do what you are acknowledging. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge His work in my life, that has made me the person who I am. Do you understand what I’m saying?
In Joseph’s case, not only do I see humility in his response to Pharaoh, but you know what else I see? Maybe you see it too. I also see confidence. Joseph felt compelled to make it clear. The statement that caught me was, ‘It’s not me, but God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.’ What he meant by that is God will give you a clear answer. Of this he was sure. That was a confidence statement. I think he’d already prayed. I think he felt the assurance of the Lord that God was in this moment. He spoke in faith and I was reminded of a proverb. This is a great proverb. I love it. Proverbs 28:1 says this, “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.”
Do you know what you have right there? That’s the power of alignment. That’s what that is. Wickedness leads to fear and paranoia. The fear, if I can put it this way, of being exposed or caught creates a kind of judgment, all its own, doesn’t it? People with things to hide are always on the run so to speak. Think about what I just said. This is what the Bible means. “The wicked flee when no one pursues.” People who have things to hide or who have secrets that are not good. Even now, if there are elements or places in our lives where we fear being exposed, my friend, one whom I love. Make the change the situation, correct it. Repent in some cases, go back and find a way to clear the table, to clear the slate, to whatever restitution needs to be done.
There is a time to repent and return. There’s a time when God wants to free us from the secret things, the secret sins that would bind us. That’s not what the Lord wants for our lives. God wants to set us free. The fear of being exposed creates a kind of judgment all its own, doesn’t it? You live that way, it’s no way to live, no way to live. I say this one more time, people with things to hide are always on the run, so to speak. You see things in the news all the time. People who have so much power, prestige money, but they’re living with lies, secret lies, and bad things are going on. They live with the sort of Damocles hanging over them, ready to fall. That’s no way to live.
It’s better to have a lot less money and a lot more freedom. Better to be content. Godliness with contentment is great gain. The wicked flee when no one pursues. That’s no way to live. That’s not the way God wants us to live. God wants us to be like Joseph, the domain of the righteous. None of us are perfect. We never will be, but that’s not an excuse to be at peace with dishonesty. God wants us to pursue honesty. He wants us to seek to live that way, ‘Authentic.’ God’s submitted lives that are quick to repent and when necessary confess and pray. When we choose to live that way, we’re going to walk in great freedom.
What I’m talking about here is the value of a settled, hidden life that creates a confidence to move freely. Do you hear? If we get this principle, it’s so powerful. Because we have nothing to hide. We move free. I’m who I am. We talked about it, the real deal man, the real deal woman. This is who we are. We understand that why the righteous are as bold as a lion is because they’re not afraid. Do we see that’s how Joseph was?
That’s what God wants for us as well. So Joseph says, “Look, tell me your dreams, tell them.” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Behold in my dream, I was standing on the banks of the Nile and seven cows, plump and attractive, came up out of the Nile and fed in the reed grass. Then there were seven other cows that came up after them. They were poor, very ugly and thin, unhealthy such as I had never seen in all the land of Egypt, they actually scared me. Then what happened next was these thin, ugly cows, they devoured, in a voracious violent way, they devoured the healthy ones, the seven plump cows. They ate them and they shredded them. It was horrifying, but when they had eaten them, no one would have known that they had eaten them for, they were still as ugly as at the beginning. Then I awoke.”
It’s almost like he was saying that those sickly ones weren’t changed by what they ate. They ate the healthy ones. Then Pharoah says, “I also had this, saw in my dream seven ears growing on one stock, full and good, and seven ears withered thin and blighted by the east wind splattered after them. The thin ears swallowed up the seven good years, good ears. I told it to the magicians, but there was no one who could explain it to me. No one, no one, no one can.”
God gives Joseph what is described in scripture as a word of knowledge. How did it happen? We don’t know. We’re left to wonder, but it came to him almost instantaneously. In verse 25, “Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, ‘The dreams of Pharaoh are actually not two dreams, they’re one dream. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he’s about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years. The dreams are one, I tell you this. The seven lean and ugly cows, the unhealthy ones that came up after them are seven years as well. The seven empty ears blighted by the east wind are also seven years of famine. It is, as I told Pharaoh, God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt, but after them will arise seven years of famine and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt. The famine will consume the land and the plenty will be unknown in the land. By reason of the famine that will follow. Everybody will forget the good years because they’ll get swallowed up and devoured by the bad ones, for it will be very severe. The doubling of Pharaoh’s dream, the reason that it came in a set is because it means that the thing is fixed by God and God will shortly bring it about.'”
Joseph builds on the word of knowledge with what we would call in the biblical language of the New Testament, a word of wisdom. “My counsel to you, oh, great Pharaoh, would be to do this.” Verse 33. “Now, therefore, let Pharaoh select a discerning and a wise man and set him over the land of Egypt. That’s what I would do. I would actually appoint someone in your kingdom to oversee this project. Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseas over the land and take one-fifth,” that’d be 20%, “of the produce of the land of Egypt. During the seven plentiful years. I’d let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and then store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh, for food in the cities and let them keep it, save it during these years of prosperity. That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt so that the land may not perish through the famine.”
Then we’re told, as Pharaoh listened to this, it immediately resonated with him, everything. Everything did, even his counsel. Verse 37 tells us, “This proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. Everyone was amazed and unified and Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find a man like this in whom there is the spirit of the God?’ No. Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God,'” your God is implied here, “‘has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are, you shall be over my house.'” You. “‘And all my people shall order themselves as you command. That’s what will happen. Only as regards to the throne, will I be greater than you.’ And Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.’ Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and he put it on Joseph’s hand. He clothed him in garments of fine linen and he put on a golden chain around his neck.'”
“And he made him ride in his second chariot and they called out before him, ‘Bow the knee.’ And thus, he set him over all the land of Egypt.” Think about that. What a remarkable thing, just like that, the tables are turned, the door swings open. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly God can turn something around. I was reminded of another proverb. This one in Proverbs 21:1. “The King’s heart is in the hand of the Lord. Like the rivers of water, he turns it wherever He wishes,” just like that. From the prison to the palace is 60 seconds. Gone in 60 seconds. Just like that, the door swings open.
We don’t understand God’s concept of time nor do we understand his mind. The scripture also tells us that God’s ways are not our ways. God is eternal and our history, our life, well, history as we know it is but a dot in eternity. It’s good to remember that. Sometimes we lose perspective. The span of our lives on earth, in this life, this world is a dot, if history is a dot in eternity, then our life is a microdot in history. It’s just for God not having enough time is a non-factor because he stands outside of time. God enters into time by engaging humanity in Jesus. But otherwise, God stands outside of time.
Now we begin to think about things, when we talk about physics and advanced thought, the way we understand technology, that some of the things that we understand about time and space, actually elude us, and maybe far more profound than we could ever imagine. However, the capacity to imagine, I think is connected to things that God put in us about reality. That’s a whole nother story. When even for God, who is not bound by any limitation of time, but when the timing is right, breakthrough and deliverance can come like lightning. Lightning quick.
Hear me when I say that the real challenge and the key to deliverance from our end, I’ve been saying it and I’m going to keep saying it, is going to be our attitude in the waiting place. That’s right. Our attitude in the waiting place makes a huge difference. It’s the key. It’s one of the keys. How do we trust God in the waiting place? Hebrews 10:36 says, “For you have need of endurance so that after you have done the will of God,” that’s a key, “after you’ve done the will of God you may receive the promise.”
Remember, when everything is on hold in our lives, let’s remember to do a few things. One, let’s trust that God is working out his ultimate purpose. That idea of trust. Let us trust that God is working out his ultimate purpose. The reason we can have a good attitude in a place that’s difficult is that we are anchored in trust. When we trust that the Lord is for us and with us, then that makes a huge difference. If we’ve committed our way to Him and been diligent and prayerful, then we need to trust. We need to trust the plan, trust the process, trust the Lord, rely on Him, and be free. “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want, I shall lack for nothing. When I live like that, I do not need to be afraid. I will not fear. “Though I walked through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not be afraid for the Lord is with me.”
You see, that’s the thing I need to keep reminding myself about. That’s what I mean by fixing my trust. That’s what faith really is. It’s establishing our faith, fixing ourselves on his promise, and choosing to live out of that belief. Remember this, He possesses the plan, we must possess the patience. He possesses the plan, we must possess the patience. Do you see that? Think about again, Hebrews 10:36, “We have need of endurance so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” He possesses the plan, we must possess the patience. That’s the hardest part. Or at least, it’s one of the hardest things, right? Because we get antsy or we get angry and both those two things can happen and they can happen together. But you know, we want to get this thing moving.
In some cases, we actually have the power to start manipulating the process. The Lord might want us to say, to hold that and go, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Don’t do that. Don’t do that. Patient. Patient with the process, be patient with the process.” We’re not talking about getting anxious or apathetic. I don’t want to do either of those two things. I don’t want to say I don’t care. I don’t want to when I really do. I don’t want to say, “I’m just so anxious about something. When’s it going to happen?” I’m so anxious about what the future is that I can’t be who he wants me to be in the present. That’s a danger.
That’s why the Lord really is trying to remind us to trust Him. He is already working on our behalf. Now that means good is coming in some way. I don’t know how it’s coming. I don’t know in what way it’s coming. Joseph had no idea. He had no idea. The other thing that we’re reminded of, and again, Hebrews 10 connects to it, is that it is God’s timing. When it happens, it is perfect. How quickly the Lord can turn things around when God is on the march, amazing things happen. Oh, come, oh come Lord Jesus. Come, and do amazing things. The rapid shifting of terrain, the stunning reversals in Joseph’s case from prisoner to premier.
Just like that, God can do it. Maybe not in a spectacular way. In Joseph’s case, it was just a stunning turn, from prisoner to the palace, right? From prison to the palace, from prisoner to premier. That is amazing. It may be that God turns things around for us too. It may be in these coming months breakthrough is going to come for us. It may be in this coming year. Boy, do we want that to happen. Oh, man, do we want that to happen. Oh Lord, help us. Please let that happen. But let’s stay open.
I have one final thing I want to submit to you. It’s about Joseph. He was not afraid to testify on God’s behalf. Let us never be afraid to testify on God’s behalf no matter how influential or intimidating a person may be. We may feel intimidated at times, but Joseph stood before Pharaoh. One of, if not the most powerful man on earth at this time and his knees didn’t buckle because he walked into that room in the strength and the wisdom of God. I’m inspired by it. He didn’t have self-confidence as much as he had God-confidence. I really want that. If we have the Lord, then of whom shall we be afraid?
Now I know we’re not Joseph. I’m not. He’s in another league. That Old Testament, older Testament man is in another league. He’s one of the heroes of faith. We, as New Testament people affected by the reality of Jesus and the presence of his spirit, I find myself going, “Wow. Joseph is still the model.” He is still an amazing model. We would do well to remember that even the most wealthy and famous people without Christ are in the end, lost human beings in need of a savior. I remind myself of that. I actually admire people’s gifts. Artists, people who excel in what they do, but I don’t envy them if they don’t have the Lord. Because I realize that they’re missing the greatest thing. That Jesus called the one thing that truly matters at the foot of the cross, don’t ever forget this.
We say it, but it’s worth remembering, at the foot of the cross the ground is level. Pedigree doesn’t matter. Power doesn’t matter, temporal power. Wealth left behind. Nothing. Every achievement, every statute, nothing. Nothing matters. Now it’s fine. I want to achieve things, but in the end, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief. Every knee will bow. If God allows some of us access to avenues of temporal power, then let us prayerfully come as Joseph did to serve. To serve those that we report to or who we are able to minister to with honest, trustworthy counsel and support. Let us be faithful men and women to give the best, most honest support we can if the Lord has allowed us to do that. To not pull back and remember who we ultimately work for is the Lord in every way, big and small, whether it’s in the place of the palace, the penthouse, whatever, or whether it’s in our own house. Some of you are heroically raising your kids with very little approval. Sometimes you have nothing to show for all your work, and under fatigue. In the end, it’s an investment God called you to make, and you’re giving it your best.
So let’s just seek to do our best for the Lord wherever we may be. He loves us so much. I have a final thought to share. First, I remind all of you, that this amazing church that you are and all of our friends from afar, to be faithful in your giving. Treasure in heaven. Honor the Lord in your tithe and your offering. You can do that the traditional way by sending it into the offices. Or online, like I do through my app. Whatever is best, but we give unto the Lord, we give our heart first.
God’s nature is to let the wasteland bloom again. I love the line, “restore the years that shame has stolen.” I think of all that was stolen from Joseph. All that was taken, all that had to be endured, the pain that he had to walk through. Yet God was with him and the Word of the Lord tested him. In the end, God allowed that desert to bloom, didn’t he? That’s what he does.
Sometimes I think the hardest part though, can be letting go and letting God, just trusting that the Lord is in control. That He is able to sustain us in every season and every situation that we may find ourselves in. The Lord is with us. He’s so good. He’s so God. He wants us to sow His goodness and to sow His God-reality. So that we can be his witnesses, his life-givers. What I love about Joseph is that he was as committed to God in the prison as he was in the palace. I hope that we can follow that similar path. So don’t forget, you are so loved. May the Lord keep your spirit, soul, and body in every way at this time in Jesus’ name, amen.