Many people, many Christians, live a normal, routine life, and most Christians are happy with that life. They don’t have to face adversity. They don’t have to live in guilt. They don’t have to deal with being rejected. It’s safe. It’s within the box. Play it cool and never cross the street to the other side. How’s your life? Somewhere inside, don’t you feel you were made for something more; something greater? What if you could shed the normal, mundane life? What if God wants us to live radical, invitational lives? What if just securing our eternity isn’t enough? What would it be like to get outside of the normal? What if God called us all to a life of risk? Would you take it? Can you imagine a seat on the front row of God’s amazing work? What if we are all called to reach out to others and live the invitational life? Would you take the risk? Would you jump?
Well, good morning to everybody, and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We’re in a series called “Risk,” and we’re concluding that series. We’ve been doing this for the last four weeks. This is the fifth week. The whole idea, the big idea, of this series was to talk and just have a dialogue about learning to better share our faith. Typically, if we’re honest, when we talk about sharing our faith, normally that makes people feel a little guilty or it makes them feel inadequate or things of that nature. And I’ve done everything that I can do to make sure none of those feelings happen, because that doesn’t do us any good to put guilt on people or make them feel inadequate.
I’ve been in services before where pastors have been like, “Okay. If you’ve led somebody to Jesus, stand up.”
And, you know, there’s a few people that stand up and the rest of the people are hanging their head down and whatever. We don’t want to do that at all. That’s just not the deal. As a pastor, I want to encourage you. I want to motivate you. I want you to believe, when you walk out of here, that you can be dangerous for Jesus wherever you’re at. So, I’ve been trying to do the best I can to give you some tools for your toolbox so that you can be equipped to share your faith, because I do believe that God has called all of us to take a risk, and that risk is learning to share our faith with others and telling people about Jesus and telling them about the good news.
So, we’ve been doing that for the last four weeks. This is the ending of the series, and I’m going to take a risk. What I’m going to do is something a little unique. I’m going to take a whole Old Testament story and work through it. For about 90% of the message, you’re going to probably be thinking, “Where is he going with this? Because, this has nothing to do with sharing our faith.”
So, I want to put you at ease. If you’re thinking that for 90% of the sermon, you’re doing exactly what you should be doing. I promise you, at the very end, it will make sense. We’re going to get there. Or at least I hope it will. If it doesn’t, just nod your head like it did. Make me feel good. Okay?
That being said, I really do believe that what I’m going to say today to you all is something that God wants you to hear, and I think we’re going to leave here really challenge in a lot of ways, and we’re going to have a big reveal. The story ends with a big reveal. I think the sermon is going to end with a big reveal, and I think that we’re going to leave really encouraged to want to go out and share our faith in a new and fresh way.
So, here’s the way I’m going to do it: I’m going to do a cliff notes journey through a sermon. I’m just going to recite the story to you and tell you about the story of a guy named Joseph. Then what we’re going to do is we’re going to go to Scripture and we’re going to look at a lot of passages of Scripture today. And then, at the very end, we’re going to do some take-homes, and I’m hoping in those moments of the take-homes that we’re going to have a really good moment together as a church and go, “Wow. I didn’t see all that in that story. That’s really cool.”
So, if you know the story of Joseph, I’m going to retell it and it’ll maybe help you to remember it a little bit better. If you’ve never heard the story of Joseph, this will be good for you. And if you know it very well, I think I’m going to be able to say some things today that you’ll go, “Okay. I really hadn’t seen that.”
I think it’s going to speak to everybody. So, let’s get to work. Joseph is an incredible story, because it really runs from Genesis 37 to Genesis 50, which means that, in Genesis, the most words that are dedicated to anybody – even more than creation or any of that stuff – is dedicated to the story of Joseph. So, it’s a pretty important story. To understand Joseph, you have to understand a little bit about the patriarchs. There was Abraham and then there was Isaac. Isaac had two boys; Esau and Jacob. Esau was the oldest son, and Jacob, if you remember, was holding onto Esau’s foot because they were twins as they came out of the womb. And Jacob, his name means “supplanter or deceiver.” He was a seedy dude. He was a guy that was not a good guy.
In the Old Testament, when you had a name, that name was your character. And we’re going to find out later that Jacob wrestles with God and God changes his name to “Israel,” which means “Prince of God.” Emblematic of salvation. So, just as a note, when the New Testament says, “Pray in Jesus’ name,” it doesn’t mean to add J-E-S-U-S on the end of the prayer. It means to pray within His character. That’s what it means to pray within Jesus’ name, because names meant something. Eve: Mother of All Living. All of these names had real significance.
So, Jacob ends up supplanting and deceiving Esau and getting his birthright. He ends up supplanting and deceiving his dad to get the blessing. So, he’s sort of a crazy dude. Well, in his life, he finds this girl that he really likes. He thinks that she’s hot. Now, that’s not in the Bible, and it’s not in the Hebrew either. “Hot.” It’s not in there. But, it’s sort of in there.
Anyway, he sees this girl, Rachel, and he really loves her, and he decides to work for Laban for seven years so he can marry her. Just a side note, I think it would be good if we had to work for our wives for seven years. We might have less divorce. That’s a whole other story for another time. Anyway, the reality is that on honeymoon night, Laban pulls a Jacob on Jacob. He slips in Leah, his daughter, and, when Jacob wakes up in the morning, he realizes he’s married the wrong woman.
So, he has to work another seven years to marry Rachel. You know, listen, I don’t have time to get into all the crazy stuff and how he married all these people in the Old Testament. That’s another day and another time. But, suffice it to say, they definitely married a lot back then. That doesn’t mean you need to go marry a lot. That’s not the way it works.
Anyway, in his old age, he’s had 10 children up to this point, but he’s never had any kids with Rachel. He loves Rachel. Finally, he has a kid. That kid is Joseph. And he has one more kid with Rachel as well, and his name is Benjamin. Those are the last two kids that he has. Those are the 12 tribes of Israel that Jacob has; all of his 12 boys. Well, he loves Joseph more than he loves all of his other kids, because this is the one son that he had in his old age that he’d never thought he was going to have with Rachel, and he gives him a coat of many colors. I mean, it’s like, “This is my son. This is the one I love.”
If he’s the heir apparent, well his brother’s can’t stand him. There comes a time when they’re many miles away from Jacob where the brothers decide they’re going to kill him because they can’t stand him. So, in the process of getting ready to kill him, Reuben, one of the brothers, says, “Let’s not kill him. Let’s just throw him in a cistern, a well, and we’ll go back. We don’t have to kill him. He’ll just die.”
Well, in the process of that, Judah, his brother, stands up after they’ve thrown him in the well, and says, “Let’s not keep him in the well. Let’s sell him and he’ll go to Egypt.”
So, they decide to do that. They go home. They lie to their father and say that Joseph’s been killed by an animal, and Joseph ends up in Egypt. You can read the escapades in Egypt. Suffice to say, Joseph ends up, at a latter part in his life, where he is the second in command in Egypt and he’s in control of all the grain. And a famine hits, which then means that Joseph’s family has to end up coming down to Egypt and there is some reconciliation there and there’s a big reveal at some point in that story, which we’ll talk about today. And that’s the way the story goes through.
And it’s really interesting because you would think, if you were reading the story, the Joseph would be the next in line after the Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It actually is Judah that is the one that is the next in line, and it’s a very complicated story with the way God has worked. We’re going to sort of talk through some of those things as we talk through the story. So, that’s sort of the cliff notes. Let’s go to Scripture now and let’s learn about this incredible story.
It says, “Now Israel...”
And, again, Israel is Jacob. If you read “Israel” sometimes for “Jacob,” again, it’s because his name has been changed. Sometimes they call him Jacob, sometimes they call him Israel. It’s really tough when you’re reading the Old Testament and it’s talking about Israel as a nation, and then talking about Israel as a person. And you’re trying to figure out what’s going on. So, you really have to pay attention.
“Now Israel [Jacob] loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors.”
Now, this robe was significant because what it said to everybody, “He’s the heir apparent. He’s the one that’s going to inherit my blessing. He’s the one that is special to me.”
And then the writer tells us, “When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.”
Now, this is important, and I want you to catch this here. Whenever you and I hate someone or we have a disdain for them or we look down upon them – and it may be for maybe a lifestyle choice, maybe an issue that they like that you don’t like, maybe a stance they take that you think is wrong, maybe whatever they’ve done. The point here is whenever we have any type of hatred or disdain in someone’s life, we can’t speak peacefully to them.
The word here, “peacefully,” is “shalom.” You and I can’t speak shalom into people’s lives when we have disdain for them. And we’re really good, as humans, in doing that. What we do is we create categories and names. We call people a certain name or a lifestyle or whatever else, and then we can look down upon them. Well, there’s no way in the world that we can speak peacefully to them when we have that type of disregard in our hearts. And that’ll be important here as we continue through the story.
So, they hated him. They didn’t like him at all. So, Joseph has a dream. The writer wants to make sure that you understand that his brothers don’t like him, because now they hate him even more.
“And when he told his brothers the dream they hated him even more.”
A little aside here: If God gives you a dream, you might not want to share it to everybody. Just a little note there. Just make sure you know what you’re doing here. So, they hated him even more. Well, the dream went over like a led balloon.
“He said, ‘Hear this dream that I have dreamed.’”
He said, “Hey, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.”
And they’re like, “You think you’re going to reign over us? You think you’re going to rule over us.”
“So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.”
You can see here this just continues to devolve. They hate Joseph. Joseph’s had this dream that they’re going to bow down to him. So on and so forth. Well, fast forward a little bit in the story, the brothers are about 50-60 or so miles away, at a place called “Dothan,” looking over some of the livestock of their father. And Jacob says to Joseph, “Go check on them.”
Well, he goes and checks on them. When they see that he’s there, they say, “Oh, this is awesome. We can kill him. We can get rid of him.”
Well, Reuben says, “Eh, let’s not kill him. Let’s just throw him in a pit, a cistern, a well.”
Reuben’s plan is to come get him later, but that goes on. So, we’re going to pick up the story here. Reuben has convinced them to throw him into the cistern.
It says, “When Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe,” – they stripped him of his garments – “the robe of many colors that he wore. And they took him and threw him into a pit.”
This would be a cistern.
“The pit was empty; there was no water in it.”
So, this was going to be a short-lived life for him. With no water, he wasn’t going to last for many days at all. If there had been water, it would’ve been a little bit longer. So, they’ve thrown him into the pit. Understand something: These are the 12 tribes of Israel. These are the elect of God. These are the people of God, and they’re throwing one of their brothers into a pit. I know that none of us would ever do anything like that to any of our brothers and sisters. It’s just in the Bible just to sort of talk about it a little bit. You know? We’d never do anything like that.
This is shocking though. As he’s in the pit yelling and screaming for his life – which we’ll find out later on in the text that he was, this should be shocking – they sat down to eat. They had a feast. They didn’t care that their brother was screaming and yelling in the cistern. They just sat down and had a feast. They could have a feast while he’s crying. I mean, these are the people of God. These are the people that God has called. These are the people that God will bless for all ages doing this to one of their brothers. It couldn’t have been more cruel.
“And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites...” – this is awesome, because if you know the story, remember Abraham was trying to figure out how he was going to have a son. Sarah couldn’t get pregnant, so he concocts this deal that he’ll go have a child with Hagar. Hagar has a child and it’s Ishmael. Abraham’s thinking that Ishmael is going to be the chosen son, but he’s not. And then he gets banished. Well, here’s the banished son, his group, now coming back to pick Joseph out to take him to Egypt to do God’s plan.
It’s like the orchestration of God is incredible. I can’t preach on that today, but just notice some of these things as we’re going through the next.
They’re coming down from Gilead, “with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt.”
These are all embalming things because, in Egypt, death was what they were all about. It was about putting people in the pyramids. So, all of this stuff had great value, which is why Jesus, when He was born, if you remember, they brought Him gold, frankincense and myrrh. Frankincense and myrrh were used for embalming, death and whatever. God financed the whole process to go to Egypt and back before they had even gone. That’s just how cool God is. He’s a provisional God.
So here, we’ve got all this stuff. They’re going on their way down to Egypt. Judah says to his brothers – Reuben has said, “Let’s throw him in the pit.” Judah goes, “Hey, I’ve got a better idea. What does it profit us if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Why don’t we sell him?”
Now, if you’re reading the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which is the Septuagint, Judah’s name is “Judas.” Let’s continue on here, because I’m sure we might recollect that somebody else’s robe was stripped off of them and someone else was sold and betrayed.
“‘Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.’ And his brothers listened to him. Then Midianite traders passed by.”
“Midianites” and “Ishmaelites” are the same thing.
“And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt.”
There would be someone else who’s also going to be sold for some silver, if you remember those stories. So, Joseph now goes to Egypt. And I can’t get into all of that story. You can read it for yourself. There’s the Potiphar’s wife incident. There’s the going to jail. There’s the dream sequence. But, eventually, Pharaoh says, “Dude, you’re the man. You’re the second in command. You’re over all the grain.”
And right at that time is when famine hits in the land of Canaan. So, we pick up the story again where Jacob realizes, “Hey, we’re starving. We need to do something about it.”
So, let’s pick up the story here. It says, “When Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt, he said to his sons, ‘Why do you look at one another?’”
In other words, he’s saying, “Guys, you’re doing nothing. Go do something. Let’s figure out what we’re doing here. Stop looking at one another.”
He said, “‘Behold, I have heard that there is grain for sale in Egypt. Go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.’ So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt.”
When you read that, you should go, “Hold on. There’s 11. How come he’s not sending the other one?”
“But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with his brothers, for he feared that harm might happen to him.”
Now, this is interesting, because the 10 brothers are now being sent down to Egypt, but the other brother, which is the only other brother through Rachel, is being held. And it looks like these brothers have at least worked through the process now that their dad is going to favor someone. They don’t throw a fit. They don’t say anything. They don’t have disdain for him. They go down, but the father holds Benjamin, because now he is the prized son since he has lost Joseph.
“Thus the sons of Israel came to buy along the others who came, for the famine was in the land of Canaan.”
In other words, it was so bad there was other people that were going down to Egypt as well, not just the sons of Israel.
“Now Joseph was governor over the land. He was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground.”
You should probably remember you just heard a story about this, and here they are bowing to Joseph.
“Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them,”
The writer wants you to know he recognized his brothers. That’s a literary device. He’s going to say it again to make sure that you and I, when we read this, we know that Joseph knew his brothers were in front of him. Because, as the reader, we’ve got to start going, “What’s he going to do? Is he going to get them? How’s he going to handle this?”
“Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke roughly to them.”
He treated them like he would treat anybody else, and he would’ve not been known to them because he would’ve been clean-shaven as an Egyptian, he wouldn’t have had the beard and all of the things like that. He would’ve been dressed in different things and he would’ve been speaking Egyptian, and then the interpreter would’ve been speaking Hebrew to those people, so they would’ve never known that that was Joseph. But, he recognized them.
“‘Where do you come from?’ he said. They said, ‘From the land of Canaan, to buy food.’”
And, once again, just in case we missed it: “And Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him.”
Just in case we missed it.
“Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them.”
They’re there, bowing down, and he’s like, “Yeah. I had this dream. That’s right.”
“And he said, ‘You are spies;’”
See, Joseph is going to go on a little testing here. He’s going to push at them a little bit. He’s trying to figure out what’s gone on in his brothers’ lives over the last 10+ years that he’s not seen them. What’s gone on?
He says, “‘You have come to see the nakedness of the land.’”
“I know why you’re down here. You’ve come down here because you want to spy out the land because you’re going to come down here and try to do something wrong.”
And they said, “No, no, no, no, no. We’ve just come to buy food, dude. We’re all sons of one man. We’re honest men. Your servants have never been spies.”
And he says, “No. You’ve come to see the nakedness of the land.”
He’s definitely pushing at them. He’s really pushing at them to see what’s going on. Who are they at this point? What’s their mentality? What’s their spirituality? What’s gone on in their lives?
And they said, “‘We, your servants, are twelve brothers,’”
That’s huge, because they’d got rid of Joseph. They couldn’t stand him. Obviously, they remembered that they had twelve brothers and they didn’t do the “we have only eleven.” They said, “We have twelve.”
“‘The sons of one man in the land of Canaan, and behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is no more.’”
They’ve remembered Joseph. Why have they remembered Joseph? We’ll figure out why in a minute, because they’re carrying around a lot of guilt with them.
But Joseph said to them, “Nah, man. You all are spies. Here’s what I’m going to do.”
“‘By the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here.’”
They’re going to be like, “Man, how are we going to get Benjamin down here? There is no way that is going to happen.”
And he says, “So, here’s what we’re going to do: We’re going to send one of you and let him bring your brother, while you remain confined.”
In other words, he’s going to put them in a pit too. He’s going to reenact a lot of the things that they’ve done to him.
“We’re going to put all you into confinement. We’re going to confine you. We’re going to send one of you to go get your brothers, that your word may be tested to see whether or not truth is in you. Or else, by the life of Pharaoh, you’re spies. Test you out.”
“And he put them all together in custody for three days.”
Well, if you remember, Reuben had decided they were going to throw him in a cistern, then Judah changed his mind and they decided they were going to sell him. Well, Joseph does the same thing to them. He says, “All of you all are going to go,” and he puts them in prison. And then he changes the plan after three days.
“On the third day Joseph said to them, ‘Do this and you will live, for I fear God.’”
So, here’s a day of setting people free on the third day. That day will become very significant in the New Testament.
“‘If you are honest men, let one of your brothers remain confined where you are in custody,”
In other words, “I’m going to let all of you go back, but one.”
“‘Go carry grain for the famine of your households.’”
“So, here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to test you and see if you’ll come back for your one brother, because you didn’t do that for me.”
“‘And bring your youngest brother to me. So your words will be verified, and you shall not die.’ And they did so.”
He’s like, “This isn’t about getting Benjamin, this is about whether or not they’re going to come back.”
Because, once he sets them free, they don’t really have to come back. They’re free. Are they going to come back and get the brother? They’re going to have to bring Benjamin to get that brother. And now we get a little insight into their lives.
They said, “Man, we are so guilty concerning our brother, Joseph. We saw the distress of his soul when he begged us and we didn’t listen. We were sitting there, eating, and he was begging us. We didn’t even listen. That is why this distress has come upon us. We’re paying for our sins. We’re paying for our guilt.”
Well, they head back to Egypt and what Joseph has done is he’s put the silver coins that they paid for the grain back in their bags. So, when they figure out they’ve now got the money and the grain, they see it as a curse rather than a blessing. Their guilt shapes the way they see the world. They can’t even see the blessings of God because of the guilt that they carry, even though that was blessings.
They get back to Jacob, and the famine continues to go. Now they need food again. They have to drop it on their dad, “Hey, dude. Our brother’s back there and we’re going to have to go get him. To get him, we’re going to have to take Benjamin. That’s the way it’s going to have to go down, because that’s what the guy said.”
And Jacob doesn’t want to do it, but he sends them down. Well, when they get back to Egypt, Joseph throws a feast for them. A huge feast. They think that he’s getting ready to throw them into prison. Again, they can’t even see the blessings that are going on. It’s really cool though, because while they’re feasting again, Joseph is crying. Just like while they feasted earlier and he cried from the pit. A lot of parallels. A lot of cool things going on. But, he sends them back. They brought Benjamin. They kept their part of the deal. He sends them back. But, before they leave, he puts his cup in Benjamin’s bag. So, in the morning, when they’re getting ready to leave, he says, “Hey, somebody stole my cup.”
They’re like, “Dude, we didn’t steal your cup, man. We wouldn’t do that. That’s not what we would do at all, man.”
He’s like, “Well, here’s the deal: If it’s in one of your bags, whoever’s bag it’s in, they have to stay with me in Egypt.”
So, they start going through their bags and they realize that Benjamin is the one who’s got the cup in his bag, which means Benjamin’s going to have to stay in Egypt, which means they’re going to have to go back and tell their dad they lost the brother again. Well, at this point, we see why Judah is selected by God to be that righteous line that Christ will come from. Judah, when he realizes, “Oh my goodness. We’re going to lose our brother again,” here’s what he says:
“‘Please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord.’”
“I’ll substitute my life for his. You can take my life for his. Let the boy go back. I’m willing to lay my life down for my brother.”
He says, “‘How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the evil that would find my father.’”
Well, when Joseph hears this, he realizes there’s been a massive change of heart in this young man’s life. The guy that was ready to sell him is now ready to give his life for his brother.
“Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, ‘Make everyone go out from me.’”
So, he sent everybody away except his brothers.
“So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers.”
When he revealed himself was when he had had that moment of seeing the change of heart and that forgiveness and reconciliation could take place. A beautiful story. A cool story. What does that have to do with anything about sharing our faith?
Well, this is what I call the take-home section, and this is where I would ask you, if you take notes, please write these down. Because, I think these notes are something you can carry with you during the week and think about this over the next weeks and months. I believe God will speak to all of us as we talk about how to share our faith and how to risk sharing our faith.
The first thing that I want to say, and I think it’s so important in this story, is the guilt, shame and disappointment people carry with them distort the way they see things. See, they couldn’t see the blessings of God in their life because of the guilt and the weight of that shame that they carried. And listen to me. This is so important for us to get. We look at people out in the world and go, “Oh, how could you do that? How could you think that?”
Okay. You’re never going to be able to speak peacefully to anybody with that type of disdain in your heart. The people in the world are carrying guilt and shame, and some of the things that they do, they do it and they don’t even realize why they’re doing it because they’re carrying around such a weight that it distorts everything about the way they see the world.
See, they said, “Listen, we’re guilty, man. That’s why this stuff has come upon us.”
There’s so many people that feel like the way the world is treating them, the things that are going on, the way that they’re doing things is because they’re sort of being paid back for the things that they’ve done. These people couldn’t even see the silver as a blessing. They saw it as judgment. They couldn’t see a feast thrown for them as a blessing. They saw an opportunity for Joseph to imprison them.
Listen: When the people in the world who are carrying the guilt and the shame and the weight of disappointment have the church come out and preach judgment to them and tell them how bad they are, what we’re doing is we’re speaking more death to them. We’ve got to figure out a way in sharing our faith in the world today to make sure that we lift up people, we speak hope into their life, we speak peace into their life, we speak destiny into their life. We need to learn that the power of the tongue has both death and life. And, as a church, we’ve got to learn to speak life into people’s lives if we’re going to reach this generation.
It’s huge that we get that, because we’ve walked around wagging our fingers, saying, “I can’t believe...” – we have no idea some of the things people carry with them. And what they need is they need someone to speak life to them; not death. And if we’re going to be a church that reaches this generation, if we’re going to be the people of God for this generation, it’s high time that we start treating people as human beings, not as labels, not as groups, not as lifestyles, but as people that have dignity and value before a God who created them. And the more we can speak life, and the more that we can speak hope, and the more that we can speak destiny into people’s lives, the more we’re going to awake some of those things and let God deal with some of that shame and guilt that is going on in people’s lives.
Amen? And we carry it in the church as well. And let me just tell you something. If you’re carrying some guilt and shame with you today, let me tell you there’s a man named Jesus who went and stretched His arms out on a cross to deliver you from your guilt and your shame. He didn’t get up on the third day for you to walk around in bondage for the rest of your life. He got up on the third day so you could be set free and set free indeed in Jesus’ name.
Second thing, and this is huge: The people of God can and will be cruel at times, but God is still at work. Lean in here and listen to me. This is huge. I can’t tell you how many people are at Grace Community Church that tell me, “We got out of church for a long time. We sort of came back.”
They were hurt and bruised by the people of God. This story is huge for you and me, because what it says is even as dysfunctional as the people of God are, even as dysfunctional as the family of God is, if you read the rest of the story, God is at work through all of the difficulties and pains and sufferings that have been created by His own people to get them to a place where they reconcile and come together, and they’re dispensing bread to a famined land.
See, Joseph was able to look at it differently. He said, “Man, you guys meant evil. We’re not going to candy coat it. It was evil. But, God meant it for good.”
See, what happens in our lives, because I hear it all the time, “Aww, if God was a good God, He wouldn’t let this happen. If He was all-powerful...”
Let me just say something in love: If you can figure God out, He’s not God. He’s an idol. God’s a bigger God than you and I could ever imagine. Faith says that, yep, there’s evil. Yep, there’s garbage. Yep, there’s pain. Yep, there’s suffering. And I have no idea why that’s the way it is. But what I do know is that my God takes the evils and the sufferings and, somehow, when I look back over a long period of time, I see that He orchestrated all of those things to make something great.
As Paul said, the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed. That’s faith. That’s faith. Faith says, “I don’t care. I don’t care if you throw me in a pit. I don’t care if you talk about me. I don’t care if you gossip about me. I don’t care what you say about me, because what I know is God will take all those things that are difficulties. And, when I look back over my lifetime, I’m going to see the hand of God in my life doing what only He can do, making something great.”
And when you and I see the world through that lens, it changes the way we live and it changes the way people see us, and it will change a community when the people of God trust Him with their lives in that way. Now, this is a phrase that could offend somebody. I’m not trying to offend anybody. Might walk out of here going, “Oh, I can’t believe Chip would bring this up in church.”
Whatever. I mean, it’s fine. It’s all good. The sermon is called “Risk,” so we’re taking a risk here. This is a phrase that people attribute to Augustin. He didn’t say it. People attribute it to a chick named Dorothy Day. She sort of didn’t say it either. Nobody knows where it came from. But, it’s a phrase that I can’t tell you how many people I know, and myself included. It has been a life-changer for so many things in our lives. It’s simply this:
“The church is a whore, but she’s my mother.”
You want scandal? You want ridicule? You want gossip? Oh, yeah. It’s in the church all the time. But, she’s my mother. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have the Scriptures that I read. If it weren’t for her, I couldn’t gather with you and have the table and the Eucharist and come to the Lord’s table. If it weren’t for the church, I couldn’t pray “our Father which art in heaven.” If it weren’t for the church, I couldn’t have the spiritual gifts that flow that I need and you need in our lives.
She may be this, but she’s my mother. And see, when you and I can get past the pettiness of our existence and realize that our God is a big God and, even though the people of God may be cruel at times, bless God. He is at work in the people of God. And He will eventually get us to where He wants us to be, and He will eventually have us dispensing bread, the Word of God, into a famined world because He’s God and we’re not. And what we’ll realize is this: It wasn’t my faith that got me from here to there; it was the faithfulness of God that got me from here to there.
And the third point – and it only comes when we understand how big God is – is when we understand how big God is, we can truly forgive one another and reconcile, that’s when God starts to show up. You know the passages in Matthew 18 where he says, “two or three agree together?” It ain’t talking about prayer, like, “Yeah, I’m going to agree together with you to get something.”
It’s talking about if two or three can agree that there’s been sin and you can reconcile and ask for forgiveness, Jesus says, “I’ll be there in your midst,” because it’s all about what happens when your brother sins against you. That’s what He’s talking about. He’s saying, “I show up.”
See, Joseph shows up and reveals Himself when there’s all of a sudden this movement toward laying down lives and doing the right thing. When we can forgive one another and reconcile, that’s when God shows up. See, community, family and church healing starts with you and I modeling the love of Jesus. You want to see Jesus show up in a massive way? Let’s start really reaching out and loving and honoring people and treating people with dignity.
You go, “Well, what happens if I get hurt? What happens if I...”
Don’t worry about it. I just told you God’s at work in the family of God. Just trust Him. Just stand above that stuff. Go, “You know what? You can throw whatever you want to throw at me. The enemy can throw whatever he wants to throw at me. There is no weapon formed against me that can prosper, because my God is a God with a capital ‘G’.”
Now, I want to end this with this. Here’s the big reveal. Listen to me. This is so huge. This is huge.
In the book of Revelation, it says, “The 12 gates of heaven are named after the 12 young men that we just talked about; the tribes of Israel.”
All those 12 boys, hugging together and loving on one another and coming together, those gates of the heavenly city have their names on them. But here’s the beauty: They’re made of pearl. The only way pearl can be formed is when an agitated gets into an oyster and agitates, and agitates, and agitates until it finally forms a pearl.
See, all of that stuff that was going on in their lives, all of that agitation, God was working to form a pearl. And when you and I walk through those gates, we will truly understand that all the afflictions of this life were ultimately God working in us in a way that we couldn’t understand, in a way that we couldn’t get, that are forming in us something that is an eternal weight of glory.
Let me tell you something: When the church can walk in that type of faith and we can reach out and risk our faith out there in the world and we can speak life into the people that are out there in the world and we can speak hope into their lives and we can let the afflictions come and let them pour off like water off a duck’s back rather than walking around, “I can’t believe this. I can’t do all this stuff.”
When we got our eyes on Jesus and we trust Him that at the end of the day we’re going to look back and see, “Ah-ha. Everybody meant all this stuff. But, man. My God was working in me to form something in me.”
And He’s doing it in all of you, He’s doing it in me, He’s doing it in all of us, and every church in America, and every church in the world. One day we’re going to walk through those gates and we’re going to understand what it means to truly be a pearl. How awesome is that? Let’s be those people. Let’s risk. Let’s not get bogged down. Read these stories and let them speak faith to you.
So, here’s the deal: Coming up this weekend is a new series and new beginnings. This is your time to reach out to your people and say, “Hey, you need to come with me because you’re going to hear some things that are going to encourage you and speak hope and destiny into your life. Come with me.”
Bring them. God’s doing great things. Last weekend, over summer, we were right at 1,100 people, a record attendance here, at our church for the weekend. God’s doing something here. Let’s make sure that we steward it. Let’s make sure that we do it. Let’s make sure that we seize the moment for the glory of God. Amen?
Amen. Good. Let’s pray.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for Your glory, for Your honor, and for the privilege of being a part of Your kingdom. I pray, God, that You would burden our church to be a church that risks for Your glory and for Your honor. So, Lord, as we leave here today, I pray that You’d watch over us and protect us, that You would lead and guide us, and that You would bring us back safely to when we meet again for Your glory and for Your honor.
We just thank You for all the things that You’re doing and the things that You’re going to do. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap and tell Him you love him. Have a great weekend.