Sunday Sermon: ‘Joseph – Dealing With Disappointment’

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(audio version)

One day a man was talking to God. “God,” he said, “how long is a million years?” God answered, “To Me, a million years is like a minute.” “Wow!” the man thought. “A million years is nothing more than a minute to God!” Then he asked, “God, how much is a million dollars?” God answered, “To Me, a million dollars is like a penny.” Again the man thought, “Wow! A million dollars is nothing more than a penny to God!” Then a thought hit him and so he asked God – “Can I have a penny?” God answered, “Sure, in about a minute.”

We all can relate to this man and his request of God. Whenever we want something we reason – “Since You’re God and You can do anything; do this for me right now.” Yet it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes God answers our prayers immediately. Other times it seems like it takes Him a million years.

Whenever God doesn’t answer our prayers immediately we begin to think:

  • Maybe He doesn’t love me the way He loves others
  • Maybe there’s some sin in my life that’s keeping Him from blessing me
  • Maybe I haven’t prayed hard enough
  • Maybe if I get someone else to pray for me, someone who is more spiritual, then God will answer their prayers

Yet such thinking is not biblical and therefore it does not please God nor does it cause Him to move more quickly. Someone has said that God answers our prayers in one of three ways:

1. Yes
2. No

Consider what we read from 1 John 5 about God answering our prayers –

1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: 15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

God does not answer prayers that are not according to His will and we should be glad He doesn’t. I’m sure that many of us can look back in life and thank God that He didn’t answer some of our prayers. His will is always so much better than our own.

There is a third way that God can answer our prayers:

3. Wait

Often God’s ‘yes’ begins as a ‘wait.’ Our prayer is within His perfect will and therefore He desires to answer it; yet He sometimes tells us to wait. The question we might ask is – “Why would God cause us to wait when His answer is yes?” There are several reasons why and today we’re going to look at three of them from the life of Joseph.

In our last study we found Joseph being falsely accused by his master’s wife. She charged him with trying to molest her. When she told her husband, he naturally became angry and put Joseph into prison.

Genesis 39:20 And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.

If we viewed Joseph’s dilemma only from an earthly perspective, it would seem so unfair and unjust. Why would the LORD allow someone who was trying to serve Him, spend time in prison? Yet strange as it may sound, prison was a part of God’s plan for Joseph’s life.

Genesis 39:21 But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. 23 The keeper of the prison looked not to anything that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper.

Genesis 40:1 And it came to pass after these things, that the butler of the king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt. 2 And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers. 3 And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound.

4 And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them: and they continued a season in ward. 5 And they dreamed a dream both of them, each man his dream in one night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, which were bound in the prison. 6 And Joseph came in unto them in the morning, and looked upon them, and, behold, they were sad. 7 And he asked Pharaoh’s officers that were with him in the ward of his lord’s house, saying, Wherefore look ye so sadly to day? 8 And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me them, I pray you. 9 And the chief butler told his dream to Joseph,…

Both the butler and the baker had a dream. The butler’s dream was a revelation that he would be released from prison. The baker’s dream was a revelation that he would die.

12 And Joseph said unto him, (butler) This is the interpretation of it: The three branches are three days: 13 Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thine head, and restore thee unto thy place: and thou shalt deliver Pharaoh’s cup into his hand, after the former manner when thou wast his butler.

14 But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house: 15 For indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews:  and here also have I done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon.

Why did Joseph say that to the butler? Why did he ask him to plead his case before Pharaoh? He did so because he was human. The Bible never denies the reality of our suffering. The Bible doesn’t tell us to pretend that it doesn’t exist. The Bible doesn’t say – “Big boys don’t cry.” Consider what the Bible says –

Hebrews 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Was Joseph wrong for asking the butler to remember him once he got out? The Bible doesn’t condemn Joseph and so we shouldn’t either. Yet we need to realize that it didn’t help.

Genesis 40:23 Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.

God always operates on a divine timetable and therefore instead of worrying and fretting over things we can’t control, we need to learn to rest in His love and care. God was going to deliver Joseph, once God had everything in place.

Genesis 41:1 And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed…

Why did the LORD have Joseph to wait another two full years before he was released? The focus of today’s message is Dealing with Disappointments and there are three key words that I would like to use to explain why God did what He did in the life of Joseph.

  1. Trust 
  2. Training
  3. Timing

 I. For the Purpose of TRUST

One of the hardest things to do in life is to wait upon God. If we are not careful we can grow impatient and try to help Him help us. Yet God doesn’t need our help. As a matter of fact, sometimes trying to help God can make matters worse.

A perfect example of this is seen in the life of the nation Israel. There was a time when they had drifted far away from God. In order to bring them back, the LORD began to allow them to experience suffering. Yet rather than returning to God, they ran to others for help. Consider what we read from the book of Isaiah –

Isaiah 30:18 And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you:  for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.

Many years ago Tammy and I heard Warren Wiersbe preach on this passage in a message entitled – “The LORD Will Wait For You to Wait.” Isaiah told the nation Israel that their running to others for help would not bring their rescue, but instead cause the LORD to delay His deliverance. The LORD would wait for them to wait upon Him.

Later Isaiah wrote –

Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Those who look to God and wait for His deliverance will find strength to soar like an eagle, even in the midst of their troubles.

II. For the Purpose of TRAINING

God had some great plans for Joseph’s life. One day he would manage an empire.

Genesis 41:38 And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? 39 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: 40 Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.

Eventually Joseph would be second in command over all of Egypt. But before Joseph could manage an empire, he first had to learn how to manage his emotions.

Joseph was only seventeen he first went down into Egypt. Way too young and way too inexperienced to handle the responsibilities and duties that were before him. Before God could use Joseph to his maximum potential, the LORD first had to season Joseph and mature him.

By the way, age doesn’t always determine whether or not we’ve matured in the Lord. Moses was forty when he was driven to the backside of the desert and eighty when he led Israel out of bondage. Concerning the life of Moses, Dwight L. Moody once said –

“Moses spent his first forty years thinking he was somebody. He spent his second forty years learning he was nobody. He spent his third forty years discovering what God can do with a nobody.” – Dwight L. Moody

God knows exactly what pace to bring us along.He knows all the when’s, where’s and how’s of life. My advice to each of us is –

  • Don’t try to go through doors that God hasn’t opened
  • Don’t neglect going through the doors that He has

A favorite portion of scripture of mine is –

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

If God has you at a particular point in life, it is because there are things that He wants to teach you. God is more interested in who we are than in what we do.

III. For the Purpose of TIMING

Ecclesiastes 3:1 To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A. Timing in the Life of Joseph

B. Timing in the Life of Pharaoh

If the cupbearer had mentioned Joseph’s name before Pharaoh had the dreams, what might have been Pharaoh’s response? “What do I care about some Hebrew slave?” But once God had touched his life and caused him to have the troubling dreams, Pharaoh was ready to listen to anyone who could help him; even a Hebrew slave.

C. Timing in the Life of Egypt

Through Pharaoh’s dreams and Joseph’s interpretation, God was revealing to the Egyptians what would happen over the next fourteen years. That revelation was extremely important because it contained both feast and famine.

D. Timing in the Life of the Inhabitants of Canaan

God revealed many of these details to Abraham, hundreds of years before they happened. Consider what we read from the book of Genesis –

Genesis 15:13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;

16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.

So often people think that because they can get by for a season with their sin, God will never judge them; yet we read from the book of Isaiah that God will allow us to ‘add sin to sin.’  God could look into the future and know how evil the people of Canaan would become and at His appointed time, He would send judgment.

E. Timing in the Life of the Children of Israel

Eventually Joseph will be reunited with his father Jacob. Jacob and all of his sons will travel down into Egypt and there they will live for four hundred years. When Jacob first arrives, there are seventy people in his family. When Moses leads the children of Israel out, they will exceed over one million in number. During those four hundred years they would develop from a family into a mighty nation.

In addition, God would use this time period to cause them to increase in wealth. The LORD told Abraham –

Genesis 15:13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; 14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.

Indeed they did. Just before Moses lead them out, God moved upon the hearts of the Egyptians to give the Israelites gold, silver and elaborate pieces of cloth. God would eventually use much of this to build His Tabernacle.

F. Timing in the Life of the Joseph’s Brothers

Genesis 42:1 Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another?  2 And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt…

‘Egypt!’ What do you think went through their minds every time they heard the word Egypt? No doubt they thought about how they had sold Joseph to slave traders who were headed to Egypt.

21 And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. 22 And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? Therefore, behold, also his blood is required.

God wanted to bring reconciliation in the relationship between Joseph and his brothers, but before God could do so, He had to do a lot of work in their lives. He had to prepare Joseph and He had to prepare His brothers.

CONCLUSION

Life is full of disappointments. Not everything always goes our way. Yet we need to realize that God is able to use even our disappointments to accomplish something good. We read in Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

It doesn’t say that everything is good or that everything is enjoyable. A lot of life is downright difficult. Yet God is able to take both the pleasant and the painful and cause us to prosper. The question we might ask is – “What is the good can God accomplish from my circumstances?” The next verse in the book of Romans says –

Romans 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son…

The good that God is trying to accomplish is not a bigger bank account or a more care-free lifestyle. The good that God is trying to accomplish in the lives of His children is to make them more like His Son.

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