Monday, August 29, 2011

Bethany Bullet - August 30, 2011

The last 13 chapters of the Book of Genesis form the narrative for one of the longer stories we find in the pages of the Bible. The main character? Joseph. And the story begins with the favored son of Jacob tending the flock in the fields with his brothers. Joseph’s brothers hated him and secretly plotted to kill him. Eventually, Joseph is thrown into a pit, sold as a slave, and taken to Egypt. The boys claim Joseph has been killed and his father is distraught and inconsolable. His favorite son was gone.

Things don’t get much better for Joseph in Egypt. Sure, he does well at first, ascending to prominence in the house of one of Pharaoh’s officials. But soon he is accused of misbehavior with the woman of the house and thrown into prison where he is almost forgotten. Eventually, he is released after interpreting a dream for Pharaoh himself and becomes second in command in the country of Egypt.

After famine strikes the land, his brothers make the trek to Egypt to find food. In a moment of divine providence the brothers stand before the one they had sold to slavery. Eventually Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. You would think there would be hard feelings or a desire for revenge but hear the words of Joseph from Genesis 50, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)

Job, a man of sorrows, his loved ones killed, his body ravaged by disease, a man whose own wife told him to “Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9)

A man who was taken to the edge of sanity, who was tempted beyond most, a man who in the face of horrible circumstances, filled with grief, experiencing excruciating pain, cries out, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.” (Job 19:25)

Just two of the many stories found in the pages of Scripture of God’s calling, and seeing that in all things God works for the good.

Have you ever experienced anything like the things Joseph went through? Have you ever been betrayed by those close to you? Have you been accused of something you didn’t do? Have you been forgotten and left on your own?

Can you relate to Job? Have you ever felt like you just can’t catch a break? Does the world seem to be crumbling around you? Have you suffered the effects of disease, the pain of separation, or the sting of death?

Perhaps these situations do not describe your experience. And if so, praise be to God. But have you ever known pain, or disappointment? Have you ever felt that God could never use you?

In the midst of unbelievable circumstances, Joseph confesses that God was working in the middle of his painful story. Job cries out “I know that my Redeemer lives!” in the middle of pain and loss.

In all of these situations God is working and God is calling.

From Romans chapter 8 starting a verse 28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

In all things, God works for the good!

It doesn’t take long for one to understand that not everything that happens to us is good. But Paul tells us that all things contribute to our good. You see, God uses our experiences to make us more like Him.

In all things, God works for the good!

How many of us have not heard "God is good all the time/all the time God is good"? It is something that rolls off our tongues pretty easily, but are we just saying words or do we really believe that God is good all the time? It's easy to believe God is good when your life is free from trials, but do you believe God is good when your life is in turmoil? No matter what life throws your way Scripture tells us that in all things, God works for the good.

When I was about 12 years old my mother began suffering from an undiagnosed neurological disorder. She began to forget things and her motor skills were quickly deteriorating. Her speech became slurred and she could no longer work as a Lutheran educator. Soon she could not take care of the house or herself. We made the hard decision to move my mom into a nursing facility. I was 17 years old and had to help my father choose a place for my mom to live. Talk about growing up fast.

Watching your mom deteriorate from a jubilant, fun loving, vibrant mother to the shell of a person she became was devastating. Mom missed so many milestones, my high school and college graduations, my first days as a teacher (boy I wish I could have picked her brain about that), and she missed my wedding day.

I often prayed that God would just take her home. But there she was, alive, but not living. Finally the Lord called her to his side but she never got to meet my kids, or celebrate my ordination, or just be there for me to cry on her shoulder.

In all things God works for the good? That was a hard sell to me.

Perhaps you have said the same things:

  • “If God is so good, why do I hurt so bad?”
  • “If God is really there, why am I here?”
  • “What have I done to deserve this?”
  • “Why are believers in God persecuted?”
  • “It’s just not right!!”

In all things God works for the good?

God knows about persecutions. He cares about inequities and hunger and prejudice. And He knows what it is like to be punished for something he didn’t do. He knows the meaning of the phrase, “It’s just not right.”

  • For it wasn't right that people spit into the eyes that had wept for them.
  • It wasn't right that soldiers ripped chunks flesh out of the back of their God.
  • It wasn't right that spikes pierced the hands that formed the earth.
  • And it wasn't right that the Son of God was forced to hear the silence of God.

…For while Jesus was on the cross, the Father turned His back. He sat in silence as the sins of the world were placed upon His Son. And he did nothing while a cry echoed in the black sky, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

The silence was broken on that first Easter. God once again works for the good. In a world of injustice, God once and for all tipped the scales in the favor of hope as Jesus defeated death.

I am not sure I have fully understood all the reasons my mom got sick, or why the Lord had her live for more than 20 years in a nursing home. But I know many of them, and that experience has shaped me to be the person I am today.

In all things God works for the good.

It was in the middle of that experience that God called me. He called me according to His purpose to work for Him: To trust in Him, to put my faith in Him, even when I didn’t understand what He was doing.

You too have been called. Think God can’t use a person like you? Think you don’t have it all together? Are your shortcomings too great, or your situation to messed up? Think about this:

Jacob was a liar, Peter had a temper, David had an affair, Noah got drunk, Jonah ran from God, Paul was a murderer, Gideon was insecure, Miriam was a gossiper, Martha was a worrier, Thomas was a doubter, Naomi was a widow, Sarah was impatient, Elijah was moody, Jeremiah was depressed, Moses stuttered, Zaccheus was short, Timothy was too young, Abraham was too old, and Lazarus was dead....

But in all things God works for the good! You see, God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the CALLED! And in Christ you have been qualified, chosen and redeemed. And as Paul reminds us, “those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8:30)

Let me close with what Paul wrote earlier in the Book of Romans. From Chapter 5, 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us.”

In all things, God works for the good!

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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