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About this series
How to Ignite Your Faith (R12)
What's true spirituality? How do you get it? In today's culture we tend to customize our spirituality to fit our own needs. We create God in our own image rather than the other way around. In this r12 series, learn how you can give God what He wants the most. Based on timeless truths found in Romans 12, Chip journeys back to the Old Testament to learn true spirituality from the lives of Abraham, Daniel, Moses, David & Jonathan, and Joseph. They reveal to us a profile of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Momentum will Ignite Your Faith.More from this series
Two main characters in the New Testament are Peter and Paul. And Peter’s ministry is primarily to the Jews. And Paul’s is primarily to the Gentiles. And Peter would write, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you.”
In other words, when things are very painful, difficult, evil, unjust in a fallen world, like, don’t be surprised. The apostle Paul would take it one step farther in 2 Timothy 3:12 and 13. He says, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” and then notice this, “while evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
And the question I have for you as we get started this morning, is who has wounded or betrayed or abused or abandoned or forsaken you or forgotten you or hurt you more than anyone else in the world?
If you had to just, I’m not going to ask you to share this, I’m not going to ask you to write it down. But I am going to ask you to reach back into some stuff that most of you have pushed down very, very deeply and it could have been a parent, it could have been a sibling, it could have been a mate, it could have been one of your kids, it could have been a business partner, it could have been someone involved in a church.
But whose picture, whose face comes to your mind when you think of being lied to, betrayed, hurt, wounded? Or did something to someone you love. They did it to one of your kids or they did it to your mom or they did it to your dad. And in your most honest moments, you have a rock. And you have a rock of wound.
How do we, as R12 Christians, respond and then overcome the evil that is aimed at us? Because everyone has it. You’re not alone. But what we tend to do is push it down, go into denial, and then a lot of the issues we have in our lives is because we are walking around with rocks inside our heart and they weigh us down.
And they block our relationship with God, they produce all kinds of things inside of us emotionally. I want to look at a man’s life who, I think, endured more injustice, betrayal, evil than anyone that I can find in all of Scripture. And he had a secret and he responded in such a way that he overcame the evil aimed at him.
Joseph’s journey reveals how to overcome the evil that is aimed at you and aimed at me. And if you’ll open your Bibles to Genesis chapter 37, we begin a story of this amazing guy. He doesn’t start out very amazing, however.
And if you’re familiar with the Bible, you know that a big portion of all of the book of Genesis, chapters 37 all the way through 50, talk about him.
The overview, let me tell you the beginning and the ending of his entire story.
It’s going to start in a pit and he is going to end in a palace. He is going to start, we’re going to learn a little bit about his life, he has a dysfunctional family, his father shows great favoritism that sets him up for failure. And Joseph has a lot of good responses, but early on, it’s going to open up, he’s seventeen years old, he’s the center of attention. He has this special coat that marks him off. His dad shows favoritism.
He tattles on his brothers, he is a narcissist, he thinks he’s the center of the universe, God gives him a dream and instead of stewarding it like, “Wow, that’s sort of a holy dream,” he blurts it out and comes to his brothers and says, “You guys are going to bow down to me someday.”
And so he has some issues to deal with. But in chapter 37, it says, “So Jacob settled in the land of Canaan where his father had lived. And this is the history of Jacob’s family. When Joseph was seventeen years old, he often tended his father’s flocks with his half-brothers, the sons of his father’s wives, Bilhah and Zilphah. But Joseph reported to his father some of the bad things his brothers were doing,” which made him very popular, of course.
“Now Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children,” by the way, that’s a recipe for disaster, “because Joseph had been born to him at an old age; so one day he gave Joseph a special gift – a beautiful robe. But his brothers hated Joseph because of their father’s partiality. The couldn’t say a kind word about him.
“One night, Joseph had a dream, he promptly reported the details to his brothers, causing them to hate him even more. ‘Listen to this dream,’ he said. ‘We were all out in the field, tying bundles of grain and my bundles stood up and your bundles all gathered around and bowed down before me!’” You know? This is like, boy, don’t you love your little brother?
And so they say, “‘So you’re going to be our king, are you?’ his brothers taunted. And they hated him all the more for his dream when he had said it. Then Joseph had another dream,” and this other dream tells the same story.
And so let me give you, sort of, a running development of this pit to the palace story. You’ll notice in your notes, he was born in a dysfunctional family. So write down dysfunctional, because what I am going to do is I am going to go through this quickly but I’m going to give you 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.
But what I want you to get is the key words that I have you underline is the kind of stuff that you go through. Some of us grew up in dysfunctional families, right? Well, you’re going to see that, I guess, that can happen and God can still do something good.
So the dysfunctional family is his dad, his partiality, and it produces some not good things in Joseph, and a bad family dynamic. So then his brothers, they reject him. He is rejected by his siblings. And the story will unfold, his dad says, “Hey, I want you to go over there and check on your brothers because they are doing some sheep,” and so Joseph is checking on his brothers and he can’t find them and he asks this guy, “Hey, have you seen my brothers?” He says, “Yeah, the guys are over there.” This is a very loose translation of the exact Hebrew, of course.
And so on the way, he’s there, his brothers are thinking, “We hate this guy’s guts; let’s kill him.” And there is a little argument about the best way to get rid of him. And one of his brothers kind of cares. And so he talks the other brothers into, “Let’s put him in this pit. I mean, why kill him? Let’s just put him in this pit.”
And then while they are waiting, this caravan of Ishmaelites comes by and one of the other brothers goes, “Well, why should we have his blood on our hands? Let’s get something for him?” So twenty pieces of silver, they sell him to this caravan and this caravan is on its way to Egypt.
So he is seventeen years old. He has this dysfunctional family; his dad doesn’t do a really good job on this; he’s got some narcissistic, arrogant issues and so those are his issues. But he is rejected by his siblings and then he is abandoned to a foreign land.
So imagine, if you’re older and have a seventeen-year-old or so, imagine your seventeen-year-old getting on a caravan with people who speak a different language, being taken to a world with all these different gods, the gods of Egypt, and he gets dropped off, he doesn’t know the culture, doesn’t know the language. And he goes from being the privileged, Mr. “I’m the center of the universe,” to a slave. So life is getting pretty difficult in a hurry.
So when he gets there, there’s a little slave auction and Potiphar, who is the head of the Secret Service for the king of Egypt, he buys Joseph. And so he is sold as a slave and Potiphar brings him in, and Joseph has this unique ability, he has two great strengths. One, God has given him an ability to interpret dreams. And number two, he is administratively gifted. The guy just gets it.
He’s a strategic thinker who knows how to implement a strategic plan. And so Potiphar watches and God’s hand is on Joseph and everything he puts his hand on goes really well.
So Potiphar is a very smart guy, he eventually turns over everything to him, and basically says, “Joseph, you run my world,” and the text says that he didn’t worry about anything.
And so Joseph, even though he’s a slave, God’s hand is on his life, things are going pretty well, and then his wife… Potiphar’s wife gets the hots for Joseph. This was all in the original text.
And so she says, “Hey, my husband does a lot of business travel or whatever. I want to sleep with you. Come on. Come on.” And Joseph says, “I will not betray your husband who has been good to me. And I couldn’t ever do this against God.”
And so day after day, I mean, imagine being nineteen years old, a young male, in a very difficult situation and some gal wants to have sex with you. I’m just telling you, most young men in that situation are saying, “That sounds like a good idea.”
But there is something about Joseph and his convictions. There’s something about Joseph; he is learning. There is something about Joseph understanding who has blessed his life. He resists and he resists.
Finally, she ends up alone with him one time, as he is walking through the house. She grabs him, pulls him into the bedroom. He takes off his jacket, runs for his life, and then when Potiphar comes home, she says, “This Hebrew that you brought into our house tried to rape me.”
Well, Potiphar is very upset. And so [Joseph] is falsely accused of rape, by chapter 39, and then he is sent to prison unjustly. Now, does anybody have any situations in your life or people that you love where you have come from a dysfunctional family, you have suffered great rejection, you have been abandoned, you have been sold into slavery, falsely accused about something, or been in prison?
So, I’m trying to build the case that I don’t know what you have been through or I have been through but this guy probably has been through it in spades.
Finally, he is forgotten by a friend. And here’s where I’m going to have to ask you to read a little bit on your own to really enjoy the entire historical, truthful documentary movie that is placed in Genesis 37 through 40 because to get the feel of it, what you need to understand is that he is in this prison and while he is in prison, two of the king’s officials – a baker and a cupbearer – they both land in prison. They both have dreams.
They come to Joseph, they are totally distraught, and the cupbearer has a dream and [Joseph] interprets the dream and says, “In three days, you’re going to be restored to your position.” And the baker goes, “This guy is great with dreams. What do you think about my dream?” [Joseph] interprets his dream and he says, “In three days, you’re going to get your head cut off.” Both things come true.
And so Joseph says to the cupbearer, “Man, you have seen me. I’m innocent, I didn’t do any of this. When you get back to Pharaoh, put in a good word for me. Come on, man, this is so unfair. I’m losing my youth… My dad, my brothers… I have been rejected at every level.” He’s probably now in his early to mid-twenties. This is so unjust and so unfair and he has been betrayed and rejected.
And the cupbearer gets so excited and is so faithful that he totally forgets him. In fact, Joseph is twenty-eight by this time. He has been in prison the better part of probably eight, nine years. And he is forgotten. Anybody ever have these kind of things happen to you? These are rocks.
If anyone endured evil in their lifetime, it was Joseph. Rejected, abandoned, falsely accused, a slave, imprisoned, forgotten. And yet, here’s the thing. Instead of it breaking him, it makes him. Very difficult, painful, especially unjust times. Especially 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.
They get bitter; they have unresolved emotional issues and social issues. Often they turn against people, or they turn against God. If you talk to people in recovery programs and alcoholic programs and drug rehab programs, what you find is they start telling their story, and they usually have one of these seven, or a handful of others. And yet, you find some people, they come through those things and it’s like it makes them. There is character and there is compassion and there is strength.
And what eventually happens is Pharaoh is going to have a dream. And his magicians can’t figure out what the dream is all about and the cupbearer has a moment where his amnesia goes away and he goes, “Oh! Hey, Pharaoh!” Because Pharaoh is getting a little angry about no one being able to answer this. And the cupbearer, having been in prison once, I think he’s thinking, “You know, I think we have a man who can solve this,” and he brings Joseph in front of him.
They give him a quick shave, literally, the text says. And he comes before Pharaoh, Pharaoh tells him his two dreams, Joseph accurately interprets both of the dreams. In fact, but when he does it, something has happened. See, Joseph was arrogant, narcissistic, “I’m the center of the world,” and now he has got his one window of time to get out of prison and Pharaoh says, “Joseph, I understand that you can interpret dreams.”
And he says, “Actually, Pharaoh, no one can do that.” And if you were watching a movie right now, you would say, “Joseph! You idiot! This was your chance! Don’t say that! Tell him you can do it!” And then his next line is, “Only God can.”
Now, think of that. There are all these gods of Egypt. He says, “Only the God, Yahweh, my God, only He can reveal these things.” So he has this amazing integrity.
And the Pharaoh is saying, “Well, my god and my magicians can’t pull it off. So tell me.” And he interprets both accurately and then the Pharaoh goes, “In light – you have the greatest discernment and wisdom…” and [Joseph] gives a recommendation because the dream is that there is going to be seven years of bounty followed by seven years of absolute famine that is going to destroy all the land and unless the king builds all these storehouses and saves the grain during the bounty years, Egypt and all the nations around it, is going to go down the tubes.
Well, he appoints Joseph to be second in command, he rules all of Egypt, and that’s how the story progresses.
A little bit later, what you’re going to find is, his brothers, because of the famine, won’t have any food and they are ready to die and, “Oh, hey, there’s food in Egypt,” and they will go up to Egypt and I wish we had time to get through this whole story.
And so they come up to Egypt and as they come up to Egypt, they don’t recognize Joseph. Because now he is in all Egyptian garb. The Pharaoh actually gave him a wife. And then he has had two children. And he is the second most powerful person in all the world. And Pharaoh basically saw the same thing as Potiphar. He said, “You know what? When this guy runs it, it goes great.”
Over and over, as you would read it a little bit later this week, this phrase, “The Lord was with Joseph,” is the theme of his life. In bad times and good times, the Lord was with Joseph. The thing is, when you look at his circumstances, you would say, “I don’t think the Lord is with him.”
If the Lord is with him, how did he end up in prison? If the Lord is with him, how did he get rejected? If the Lord is with him, how come he gets a raw deal? If the Lord is with him, then how come that cupbearer forgets?
Joseph, by faith, is going to trust that even though he can’t see it in his circumstances, “God really is with me,” and then notice how he responds. Let me give you an overview of his response.
His response to evil, first, he survived. And, by the way, when you go through a time like this, sometimes you get an A+ just for surviving. You have been abused, you come home and there is a note on the refrigerator and your mate has walked out, “I don’t love you anymore.”
You have been in a business relationship and you realize this good “Christian” business person that you have been in it with is also a good embezzler and he has left town and you have all the debt and then you’re just fuming.
Joseph learned a new language, he learned a new culture, and he went from being hyper-privileged to being a peasant. He survived.
The second thing he did is he thrived. He used his gifts where he was at. He ended up being the head of the prison. Everywhere he goes, he didn’t say, “Well, God has rejected me and the world has rejected me and life isn’t fair and I’m a victim and it’s so terrible and I’m just going to stay home and watch soap operas and eat chocolates.”
He took his gifts and he said, “I can’t control that out there,” but his gifts of administration, his gifts of interpreting dreams, he jumps in and he thrives where he’s at. He does what he can, with what he has, and he doesn’t look at circumstances.
Third, he resisted. He refuses to bail out on God’s agenda for his life. When you’re down, when you’re tired, when life is unfair, when you have been betrayed, what do you feel like doing? You feel like, “You know what? Maybe an extra glass of wine or two would make me feel a little bit better. Those prescriptions for those migraine headaches or for my back, but I get a little buzz and I feel depressed so I think I’ll take them when my back isn’t hurting!” That’s how it starts.
“I’ve been walked out on and I don’t have anybody to be with and it can’t hurt to watch just a few little pictures.” But Joseph said, “Nuh-uh.” He resisted. No short cuts. “I’m going to honor God in the midst of the difficulty and the pain.”
And then notice he waited on God’s time and God’s place. And I hope, I really do hope that you will look at the whole movie later this week, because what you’ll see is, watch this, God had a really big, wonderful plan and since God is in absolute control, I’m going to get a little ahead of myself, but you have to hear this now, and God is all wise and God is caring and God is loving, when people try and wreck your life with their tiny, little, bad, evil plans, God takes them, refashions them, puts them back into the big, good plan, and He orchestrates even their bad stuff to bring about His highest, good stuff.
So if his brothers had never rejected him, he would have never been on the caravan. If the caravan had never sold him, he would have never been a slave in Potiphar’s house.
If [Potiphar’s] wife would not have unjustly accused him, he would have never gone to prison. If he wasn’t in prison, he would never have met the cupbearer. If he wouldn’t have met the cupbearer, then he wouldn’t have been interpreting the dreams of the most powerful man in the world. And by doing that, thirteen years of all that adversity was a part of God’s sovereign plan to get the right man at the right place at the right time for His good and God’s glory.
And I want you to know that that person that walked out on you, I want you to know that 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.
But most people bail out on those things. Most people feel like, “Well, I’m a victim and life is terrible and I deserve to indulge. I deserve to sedate or medicate my pain.”
Finally, the last thing he did is he grew. He faced his issues and he forgave others theirs. And you say, “Well, where do you get that, man? You’re just making these notes up.”
Well, when you see the movie later on this week or this day, he gets married and then he has two boys. And he names them. Manasseh and Ephraim. The word Manasseh means God has caused me to forget. You know what it means? I put it behind me. I’m not living in the past.
Manasseh means, guess what, I dropped my rock. I’m not living with memories of my dad and the favoritism. I’m not living with my brothers and what they did to me. I’m not living with being falsely accused. I’m not remembering that I was forgotten by the cupbearer. You know what? God has allowed me to forget. I have dealt with those issues.
And then notice that he is moving forward because Ephraim, you know what his name means? Fruitful.
And so, at some point in time, in the journey, and you know what? There is a lesson here. See, he didn’t turn on the big screen TV and he didn’t get his life filled with hobbies. And he didn’t get busy to dull the pain. Of course, those things weren’t available either.
But when you’re in prison, it is in silence and solitude he had the ability to face the deepest issues in his life. He had time in prison to look up through the bars and see the stars and the hand of God and remembered the dreams. He hung on.
There were no written passages in this time. God’s promises to Joseph were given to him in a couple of dreams. And he was holding on to the character of God and the dreams.
“God says this is going to happen to me and so I am holding on to that as I go through thirteen years of, it looks like, the very opposite of that could ever happen.” And that’s what God wants for you and me. When I have been through the difficult times like this,
Hebrews 10:36, you might jot that in your notes. It says, “For you have need of endurance so that once you have done the will of God, you might receive what was promised.” You have need of endurance. Hupomenō is the word. It’s used in James 1. “It will produce endurance.”
Hupo means to be under; menō (under great stress and pressure). You have need to hang in there, the pressure and the stress. “I can’t make it as a single parent one more day. I can’t make it in this job one more day.” And, yet, you get up and you do it. And as you do it, and as you do it, as you do it, as you do it, you get stronger and stronger and stronger and, see, what happens is God changes you.
We are always asking God to change the stuff out there that we can’t control and God’s primary commitment is He will change you in the midst of it and He will change me. And so he grew. And he forgave them. And he moved on.
Well, it raises the question, “Joseph, I would like to learn how to do that. What was the dynamic?” It’s one thing to read that and say, “Great. Joseph did it.” What was his secret?
I’d like to suggest that Joseph’s secret to overcome evil involves something he knew, something he did, and something he refused to do. See, in all of that thirteen years, in all the betrayal, injustice, and abandonment there is something he knew and, actually, this is going to come right out in the text because he is going to meet his brothers.
And they are going to have a number of situations and he is going to test them and he is going to put gold in their bags and he is going to give them the grain and he is going to hide his identity. He doesn’t do it to punish them but he wants to test them, he wants to bring them to a point where they realize what they have done and how they have sinned against God. And they come clean with the whole deal.
And we pick up the story here in chapter 45 and this is what he knew. Nothing comes into our lives by accident. Circle the word by accident in your notes. I’ll tell you what, you start believing that, your attitude will change and it will lead to a great change in behavior.
Nothing comes into our lives by accident. It is either decreed or allowed by whom? An all-wise, sovereign God for our good. There is evil in the world, God has given us this tremendous gift of free will, people can choose to do good, they can choose to do evil. But their evil can’t ruin your life. But there is evil in the world. And God either decreed, knowing His plan for you, or He allowed it and He is going to orchestrate it in a way for your good.
To say that God is all-wise means He brings about the best possible ends, by the best possible means, for the most possible people, for the longest possible time. It’s a classic definition of the wisdom of God. And He is good. He wants to bring your best and the word sovereign just means He is in overall, absolute control of all the events and all the circumstances. God knows all things actual and He knows all things possible.
And so what you see is that God has a good, big plan for each of our lives and the little plans of some who intend to harm us are then refashioned by God to fulfill His big, good plan.
Joseph actively believed that God’s sovereign control of all circumstances was meant for good. At some point in time you just need to write down the phrase, when you’re dealing with your rock, “They meant it for evil; God meant it for good.” God meant it for good. God meant it for good.
Some of the evil that has come at you made you go to a different state, go to a different job. If you can begin to trace it, you’ll realize that if that evil hadn’t happened, “I would have done this instead of that. But, wow, I landed here and that’s where I met my wife. Or that’s when I realized I was a lot better at this and I took this job instead of that job.”
Notice what it says here in Genesis 45. Joseph is talking to his brothers. He says, “And now, do not be distressed, and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here. Because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you,” – why? “to preserve you for a remnant on the earth and to save your lives by great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here.”
Are we starting to get a pattern here? “It was not you, it was not you, God sent me here.” And then notice, He exalted him. “He made me father to Pharaoh – lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.”
Here’s the application, “Therefore, I am never a,” – can you fill it in? “victim.” Never. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t mean it’s not hard, it doesn’t mean it’s not really difficult. You are never a victim. I am never a victim. I can’t play the “poor me” card.
Now, it doesn’t excuse the person’s evil. 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.
And I will tell you, when you meet people instead of the adversity and the betrayal and the abuse and the lies, that it makes them instead of breaks them, I will tell you what, they do not have a victim mentality. They do not have, “The world owes me.” They do not have, “If this wouldn’t have happened, then I wouldn’t be here. And if only that would have happened…”
Some people live with this mindset their entire lives, “I got a raw deal and somebody owes to make my life work out,” and it can be very subtle. And by the way, that type of mindset, that type of personality produces an emotional response that produces the kind of person that other people don’t like to be around.
And so it becomes self-fulfilling. “Oh, poor me.” You try and help the “Oh, poor mes” for a while and then after a while, they just wear you out. And what all of us do is we start avoiding them. And so part of it is you have to face those things. At some point in time, you have to be angry at the person.
Basically, Joseph said, “God was in control. Did I like it? No. Was prison fun? Absolutely not. Falsely accused. My reputation.” But at the end of the day he says, “He 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. So that’s what he knew.
The second thing is something he did. He blessed those who cursed him. Chapter 45 as you look down, it says, “Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all of Egypt.’” Wow, that’s like that dream came true. God was faithful to His promise. “Come down to me; don’t delay. You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me. You, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and your herds, all that you have.”
Now listen to this blessing, “I will provide for you there because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise, you and your household and all you belong will become destitute.” You can see for yourselves and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you. Tell my father about all the honor accorded to me in Egypt and about everything you have seen, and bring my father down here quickly.”
Now think about this. This is not a fairyland story. Joseph chose to willfully bless the very brothers who rejected him. Now that part where I said you need to pray and ask God to have your heart be open? Right about now you need to ask Him to keep it open because if you want to get rid of your rock, you have to first believe that God really is in control and He is good.
And, second, you’re going to have to bless the person who wounded you. He committed to provide for them, their children, their grandchildren. Romans chapter 12 verse 14, “Bless those who curse you. Bless and curse not.” It’s a command. It’s not a suggestion.
“Do not be,” verse 21, in fact, Romans 12:14, here’s the bookend opening and verse 21 is the ending, he’ll go on to say, “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 and put out the fire with a gas hose and it just... It’s like drinking poison and thinking the other person is going to die. You have to bless them.
The application is, “I will do good to those who hurt me in a safe and appropriate way.” And I add that, the “do good,” I don’t know what it will look like.
I’ll give you a couple of suggestions. And by a safe and appropriate way, if your father abused you, if you have been sexually abused, if you have 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, no, no, no. There are very, very clear boundaries.
But in a safe and appropriate way, how could you bless? How, in some way, could you do good for the person who brought this on you?
I was with a guy, I had heard his story, so we are riding in the car, we played some golf, and then we were going to go to this restaurant. And he drove me and so we were alone. And I said, “Bruce, man, I have heard this amazing story.”
And so, a pretty messed up life. Pretty messy, bad, bad divorce. Lots of anger, lots of back and forth to one another, alienated kids, lying about one another, on and on and on. Bruce, at forty-one, kind of gets his life really right with the Lord.
Animosity at levels that some of you don’t have to imagine but messy, difficult, painful, ugly, ugly divorce. Kids separated over it. Well, Bruce comes to Christ, begins to grow spiritually, really puts some roots down, remarries after a period of time. And his ex-wife, out of all this, instead of it making her, it breaks her. She goes through all the money, he pays alimony, pays an extra two years of that, squanders all the money, and is almost destitute.
And now his kids have grown and they get married and the daughter-in-law is talking to his new wife, he has been married now another twenty years. Basically, are saying, “We think we are going to end up having her live with us.” And, now, he did before the law, he gave her lots of money, paid all the stuff, paid two extra years he didn’t have to. And, no matter what, she’s out of money again.
And he was, like, “Hey, I did my part. I went over and above.” And his wife that he remarried, a very, very strong Christian and they have been through lots of counseling and repair with the kids and he said his wife came and said, “I think we need to do something for your ex-wife. I think we need to buy a home for her and then get it where she will always have a place to live, provide for her the rest of her life.” He said, “I looked at my wife like she was on drugs.” And then he said, “I gave her all the reasons why that was such a stupid idea and what I have already done.” And it kind of came back to this, “Bless those...”
And then I said, “Well, what was the turning point?” Because he eventually did it and he did it in a way where she picked out the house. He did it in a way where it could be protected where it couldn’t be resold and she couldn’t mess up. She would have a place to live the rest of her life. Had the kids help her pick it out, the whole nine yards. But totally no control, took the hands off.
And I said, “Well, what moved you to do that?” “Well, my wife said to me, ‘How can you say you love your kids if you’re not willing to help their mother?’” And he said, “I did the legal thing and I did the thing that I never did before God.” He said, “I never dealt with the depth of my sin in the marriage, the depth of how I really blew it. I mean, I asked for God’s forgiveness and I asked for hers but it was still, after all these years.”
And he said, “After we did that,” he said it was like God opened the hardness of her heart and there was a restitution and a forgiveness after twenty-some years. He said, “Last Thanksgiving we had all of my family, all of my children, and my ex-wife. My ex-wife now, in the last five years, has become friends.”
Now, I’m not saying this is, I’m talking about the power of blessing and doing good to those that don’t deserve it. And there has been restoration. And when it got all done it was like all the control issues that happened, she said, when they signed all the papers and she had it, she came to them and she said, “You might want this because if I’m out of town,” she gave him the key to the new house, “So that anytime you guys need to use the house, you can.”
Jesus said, “You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemies.’ But I say to you, forgive your enemies and pray for those who desperately use you. For what good is it if you love those who love you? Don’t even the pagans and the unbelievers do that? But you are never more like your heavenly Father, who causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on both the evil and the good,” and so He says, “love your enemies; pray for them, do good to them that you might be like,” literally it’s, “that you might be sons of your Father in heaven.” It’s a Hebrew term, the idea of, you’ll have family likeness when you do good for those who have done evil.
Finally, he refused to do something. And what he refused to do is take revenge. The story picks up in Genesis chapter 50. It says, “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead they said, ‘What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs that we did? So they sent word to Joseph saying,” you know, it’s like, “Hey, let’s make up something that dad told us.”
“Your father left these instructions before he died. This is what he is to say to Joseph: ‘I ask you to forgive your brothers and the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly. Now, please forgive the sins of your servants of God and of your father.’ When their message came to Joseph, he wept. His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. ‘We are your slaves,’ they said. But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am in the place of God. You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what you now see being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”
He forgave them from the heart. He could pay back, he could finally, he refused to take revenge. And here’s the application. And this is a big one for you and for me. I will choose to forgive or release those who hurt me from the retribution they deserve because Christ has done that for me. When Jesus was teaching on prayer, He said, what did He say? “Forgive. If you forgive them, so I will forgive you.”
I had two major biggest betrayals of my adult life. And I will tell you, you talk about a rock. I was livid. I was so angry. And I will tell you, what happens for some of you, at least with me, is when this happens when an unbeliever does it, it hurts really badly. When you’re betrayed or falsely accused or something from a fellow Christian that you trust, you just go, “Are you kidding? We ate together. We were brothers. We were…”
And I will tell you, what God will call you to do is, most of you have turned to the back page so I’ll get there, I might as well catch up. There are three specific things you need to do to get rid of this rock. Number one, choose to forgive the person who hurt you. It’s just a choice. You forgive. It’s an act. The process is forgiving. And I’ll tell you how to do that in just a minute.
And when you go through this process over a period of time, some it’s taken me a couple of years, but you choose to forgive. And then you begin to pray for that person. You start to bless that person and you don’t feel like it. And then you will find, one day, you will hear something good about them and before you can think of how you should respond, you’ll have an immediate, positive response and you’ll realize the grace of God has completely changed your heart.
The second thing you need to do is begin praying daily for the person to bless the person who hurt you. And, by the way, you don’t feel like it. And my prayers usually start like this, “Dear God, help them see how wrong they were! Agh!” And then, “Dear God! Bring circumstances into their life so they will really repent and see how they are really are arrrggg.” And then, as I get with God, it moves to, “God, would You give them a great marriage? God, would You help him be a great dad? God, would You bless the work of their hands? God, would You be merciful? Please don’t give them what they deserve because, God, I don’t want to get what I deserve.” That was the breakthrough for me.
When I looked into my heart and I looked at my side of any issues I just thought, “Oh, God, please don’t give me…” When I was super honest. I had a brother who got next to me during my hardest times and he said, “Chip, I want you to list everything that you need to own in every attitude or action or speech that was a part of that betrayal.” And he said, “You take that before God.” And I did. And as I looked at it I thought, “Ew. I so focused on what they did, I kind of minimized what I did.” And when I saw that I said, “Oh, God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
The third thing is, then, as you pray for them every day for the next three days, do one act of kindness, this week, to that person who hurt you. If possible, if they are dead, you can’t do that. But you can write them a letter and forgive them. If they have 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, where you can bless them.