In a fallen world, the rocks of evil and injustice and betrayal will happen to all of us sooner or later. 2 main characters in NT (apart from Jesus) are Peter and Paul - Peter’s ministry is primarily to the Jews, Paul’s is primarily to the Gentiles. Peter writes - “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you’re suffering as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Pet. 4: 12) Paul takes it one step further - 2 Tim. 3: 12, 13 - “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
The question I have for you - who has wounded or betrayed or abused or abandoned or forsaken or forgotten you or hurt you more than anyone else in the world? It could have been a parent, a sibling, a mate, one of your children, a business partner or someone involved in a church. Whose face comes to your mind when you think of being lied to, betrayed, hurt, wounded? Maybe they wounded somebody you love. In your most honest moments, you’ve got a rock and you’d like to seek revenge. You’ve got a rock of anger and hurt that you’ve been holding onto.
How do we as r12 Christians respond and overcome the evil that’s aimed at us? You’re not alone. What we tend to do is push it down, go into denial. Then a lot of the issues we have in our lives come about because we’re walking around with rocks inside our heart - they weigh us down, they block our relationship with God and they produce all kind of things inside of us emotionally. I want to look at a man’s life who endured more injustice, betrayal, evil, than most - he had a secret and he responded in such a way that he overcame the evil aimed at him.
1. Joseph’s journey reveals how to overcome the evil aimed at you.
Genesis 37 through 50 - 13 chapters - I want to give you a feel for the passage and the situation. Let me tell you the beginning and the end. It’s going to start in a pit, and he’s going to end in a palace. His father shows great favouritism that sets him up for failure. God gives him a dream and he blurts it out - comes to his brothers - “You guys are going to bow down to me someday.” 37: 1, 2 - made him very popular – v. 3a - recipe for disaster – v. 3b – 5a. You can understand why there wasn’t much love between Joseph and his brothers. I’m going to go through this quickly - like the trailer of a movie. If you want to get the movie, you need to go home and read Chapters 37 through 50 slowly and thoughtfully. God sovereignly allowed Joseph to be -
1. Born in a dysfunctional family. You can grow up in a dysfunctional family and God can still do something good. Part of the dysfunction is Jacob and his partiality. It produces some not so good things in Joseph and it fosters a bad family dynamic.
2. Rejected by his siblings. His dad says, “I want you to go and check on your brothers taking care of the sheep.” His brothers see him coming in the distance - “We hate this guy’s guts. Let’s kill him.” There’s an argument about the best way to get rid of him. One of his brothers says – “Why kill him? Let’s just put him in this pit.” While they’re waiting, this caravan of Ishmaelites came by - one of the brothers says “Why should we have his blood on our hands? Let’s get something for him.” So, for 20 pieces of silver they sell him to this caravan on its way to Egypt.
3. Abandoned to a foreign land. Imagine your 17 year old with people who speak a different language - taken to a world with all these different gods, and then being dropped off. He doesn’t know the culture and he doesn’t know the language. He goes from being the privileged Mr. “I’m the centre of the universe” to “now I’m a slave.” So life is getting pretty difficult in a hurry.
4. Sold into slavery. Potiphar, head of Secret Service for the King of Egypt, buys Joseph. Joseph has 2 great strengths. 1. God gives him the ability to interpret dreams, 2. He is administratively gifted. He’s a strategic thinker who knows how to implement a plan. Potiphar watches - God’s hand is on Joseph - everything he puts his hand on succeeds. Soon Potiphar hands everything to him - all the employees - basically says “Joseph, you run my world.” Text says - “He didn’t worry about anything.” Joseph, even though he’s a slave, has God’s hand on his life. Things are going pretty well. Then Potiphar’s wife notices Joseph. Joseph was the Brad Pitt of his day - good-looking young guy - Potiphar’s wife gets the hots for Joseph - all in the original text - she says “Hey, my husband does a lot of business travel and I want to sleep with you. Come on.” Joseph says “I will not betray your husband who’s been good to me, and I couldn’t ever do this against God.”
5. Falsely accused of rape. Imagine being a 19 year old male and some girl wants to have sex with you. Most young men would be saying, “That sounds like a good idea.” But there’s something different about Joseph - he has real convictions. He understands who has blessed his life - he resists. Finally, she ends up alone with him - grabs him, pulls him into the bedroom. He takes off his jacket and, runs for his life. When Potiphar comes home, she says, “This Hebrew that you brought into our house tried to rape me.”
6. Sent to prison unjustly. He’s been through it - dysfunctional family, great rejection, abandoned, sold into slavery, falsely accused about something and been in prison?
7. Forgotten by a “friend.” In prison, 2 of the king officials - baker and cupbearer - both land in prison - both have dreams. They come to Joseph - interprets the dreams. Cupbearer - “In 3 days, you’re going to be restored to your position.” Baker - “This guy is great with dreams. What do you think about my dream?” Joseph - “In 3 days, you’re going to get your head cut off.” Both things come true. Joseph says to the cupbearer “I’m innocent. When you get back to Pharaoh put in a good word for me. This is so unfair.” The cupbearer totally forgets him. Joseph is 28 - been in prison 8 or 9 years - he’s forgotten.
These are the rocks of anger that some of us are carrying. We’ve endured evil - rejected, abandoned, falsely accused, a slave, imprisoned, forgotten. Instead of it breaking him, it makes him.
It is very difficult to endure these painful times, unjust times, when someone walks out on you, when someone lies to you, when someone betrays you, when someone abuses you. In most cases, it breaks a person. We get bitter - have unresolved emotional and social issues. Often, we turn against people and turn against God.
Eventually Pharaoh has a dream - his magicians can’t work it out. Cupbearer says “I’ve got a man who can solve this” - Joseph. Pharaoh orders Joseph to be brought from prison. “Joseph, I understand that you can interpret dreams.” “Actually, Pharaoh, no one can do that.” Joseph, you idiot. This was your chance. Don’t say that. Tell him you can do it. His next line - “Only God can.”
Joseph interprets the dream accurately - 7 years of bounty, followed by 7 years of absolute famine that’s going to destroy the land. Unless the king builds storehouses and saves the grain during the bounty years, Egypt and all the nations around them are going to go down the tubes. Pharaoh appoints Joseph to be second in command of Egypt. Later, Joseph’s brothers will come to Egypt to buy grain. Over and over, as you read the story of Joseph, you will notice the phrase, “The Lord was with Joseph.” It is the theme of his life. In bad times and good times, the Lord was with Joseph. Joseph, by faith, is going to trust that even though he can’t see it in his circumstances, “God really is with me.”
Joseph’s response to evil circumstances -
1. He survived – he learned and adapted. In a time like this, sometimes you get an A just for surviving. You’ve been abused. Your mate’s walked out. “I don’t love you anymore.” You’ve been in a business relationship and you’ve got all the debt. Joseph went from being hyper-privileged to being a peasant. He survived.
2. He thrived – he used his gifts where he was. Ended up being the head of the prison. He didn’t say “Well, God’s rejected me, the world’s rejected me, and life isn’t fair, and I’m a victim, and it’s so terrible.” He took his gifts and said, “You know, I can’t control that out there,” but he could use his gifts of administration and his gifts of interpreting dreams. So, he jumps in, and he thrives where he’s at. He does what he can with what he has.
3. He resisted – he refused to “bail out” on God’s agenda for his life. When you’re down, you’re tired, life’s unfair, you’ve been betrayed, what do you feel like doing? “Maybe an extra glass of wine or two would make me feel a little bit better. Those prescriptions for those migraines give me a little buzz. I feel depressed. I think I’ll take them.” Joseph resisted - “I’m going to honour God in the midst of the difficulty and the pain.”
4. He waited – on God’s time and place. Please watch the whole movie. You’ll see that God had a wonderful plan. God is in control – He is all-wise, caring and loving. When people try and wreck your life with their tiny, bad, evil plans, God takes them and puts them back into the big good plan and He orchestrates even their bad stuff to bring about His highest good stuff. I want you to know that the person that walked out on you, the business deal that fell through, the father or mother or person that abused you, the person that lied to you - they don’t have the power to ruin your life. God takes all the small bad things to make a good big thing. Most people say, “Well, I’m a victim, life is terrible and I deserve to indulge. I deserve to sedate or medicate my pain.”
5. He grew – he faced his issues and forgave others for theirs. “Where do you get that?” Joseph gets married - has 2 boys -Manasseh and Ephraim. “Manasseh” -“God has caused me to forget.” “I’ve put it behind me. I’m not living in the past.” Then notice that he’s moving forward. Ephraim - “Fruitful.”
2. Joseph’s secret to overcome evil involved something he knew, something he did, and something he refused to do.
A.What he knew - Nothing comes into our lives by accident. It is either decreed or allowed by an all-wise, sovereign God for our good. When you start believing that truth your attitude will change - it’ll lead to a great change in behaviour. There’s evil in the world. God has given us this tremendous gift of free will. People can choose to do good and they can choose to do evil. But their evil can’t ruin your life. Joseph believed that God’s sovereign control of all circumstances was meant for good. At some point, when you’re dealing with your rock of anger, you need to remember - they meant it for evil but God meant it for good. (Genesis 45: 5 - 8)
Application - I am never a victim! Doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, it’s not hard, it’s not really difficult. Doesn’t excuse the person’s evil and it never makes it right. But if I can survive and thrive and resist and wait and grow, God will do what? Work all things together for the good to those that love him, to those that are called according to His purpose. Joseph said, “God was in control. Did I like it? No. Was prison fun? Absolutely not. My reputation was falsely accused.” But at the end of the day: “God sent me here.” Their little evil plans don’t have the power to ruin God’s big, good plan for your life, unless you let it. (Romans 8: 28, 29)
B. What he did -He blessed those who cursed him. Genesis 45: 9 - 13 Joseph chose to bless the very brothers who rejected him. If you want to get rid of your rock, you’ve got to first believe that God really is in control, and He’s good and you’re going to have to bless the person who wounded you. Romans 12: 14 “Bless those who curse you. Bless, and curse not” Command - not a suggestion. Romans 12: 21 “Never be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” When we want to pay back, when we give back evil, it’s like fire comes to us, and we try to put out the fire with a petrol pump. It’s like drinking poison and thinking the other person’s going to die. You’ve got to bless them.
Application - I will do good to those who hurt me (in a safe and appropriate way). “Safe and appropriate” - If your father abused you, if you’ve been sexually abused, if you’ve been in a marriage where the person was violent, the application is not, “I think I’ll go visit Dad” or “Have my ex-boyfriend who beat me up over for dinner.” No - there are very clear boundaries. Matthew 5: 43 – 45. The idea is that you will have family likeness when you do good for those who have done evil.
C. What he refused to do - Take revenge.Genesis 50: 15 – 21 He forgave them from the heart. He could pay back. He could take revenge, but he refuses to do so. (Romans 12: 17 - 21)
Application - I will choose to forgive (release) those who hurt me from the retribution they deserve - because Christ has done that for me. Jesus teaching on prayer - “If you forgive them, so I will forgive you.” When an unbeliever wounds you, it hurts really badly. When you’re betrayed or falsely accused by a fellow Christian that you trust, it is far more painful.
Question: How do you overcome the evil aimed at you?
1. Choose to forgive the person(s) who have hurt you. It’s a choice. You forgive. It’s an act – the process is forgiving. One day, you’ll hear something good about them - before you can think of how to respond, you’ll have a positive response - realise that the grace of God has completely changed your heart.
Forgive Forgiving Forgiven
Choice Process Resolution
2. Begin to pray daily for God to bless the person(s) who hurt you (30 days). You don’t feel like it. Usually start: “Dear God, help them see how wrong they were.” Then: “Dear God, bring circumstances in their life so they’ll really repent and see how wrong they really are.” Then as you get with God: “God, would you be merciful? Please don’t give them what they deserve, because, God, I don’t want to get what I deserve.”
3. Do one act of kindness this week for the person(s) who hurt you (if possible and if appropriate). If they’re dead, you can’t do that, but you can write them a letter and forgive them. If they’ve abused you or it’s not safe, you can keep clear boundaries, but you could anonymously do something that would bring something positive into their life that they would never know came from you.
You ready to get rid of your rock? Some of you – praise God – sitting here, “I don’t have a rock. Is something wrong with me?” No. It’s wonderful. Take your rock home, make it a paperweight. God bless you.
“Father, I pray, as we bow our hearts and our heads right now, that you would allow the searchlight of the Holy Spirit to bring to surface some very painful events where we’ve been abandoned or forgotten or lied to, abused, betrayed, rejected or come out of a really dysfunctional background. Lord, today, we tell you that we’re going to refuse to be victims. We’re going to choose to bless those who have cursed us. Today we’re going to do good to those that have done evil to us. We can’t do this on our own, but we’ll take the first step today.”
So think of that person, visualise the wound that is represented by the rock in your hand. Go and drop your rock. Let’s finish this issue and move forward so you can say to God, in your heart of hearts, you have forgotten the past, and your focus can be on fruitfulness in the future.