In 1879, Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. With a flick of a switch, presto; there was light! In 1946, the first microwave was sold. Push a few buttons, and voila; dinner is served! We can also pull up at a drive through window and within a couple minutes, we drive away, bag in hand, hot and ready to eat. In the 80s and early 90s, commercial internet services emerged. No need to drive to the public library to research a variety of topics, just type in your query and boom; there’s your answer!
In today’s world of “It’s my money and I want it now!” it is easy to get caught up in the demand for a quick results mentality. We are literally surrounded by a culture of instant gratification. So, we place our order with God, “please hear my prayer and fix it now!” Of course, we probably use a subtler approach with more carefully chosen words, but isn’t it easy to get caught up in expecting God to respond to our perceived needs promptly and on our terms?
Last week, we looked at how God’s plan worked in the life of Christ. There was no quick fix. In fact, God had been working His plan through Christ, since before the creation of the world.
From Big Dreams to Big Trials
Another example of God’s perfect plan and timing is seen in the life of Joseph, the 11th son of Jacob. If you haven’t read the Biblical account, in Genesis chapters 37 and 39 through 50, it would be well worth your time. It paints a vivid history of the early years of the nation of Israel and reveals God’s active engagement in the lives of His people.
When Joseph was a young man, God revealed his future and purpose in two dreams. In these dreams, it was foretold that his family would bow down to him. His brothers didn’t care too much for his dreams or for him; in fact, while he was far from the protection of his father, they sold him to a group of traveling Ishmaelites.
Although Joseph was ripped from his home, God was with him and Joseph prospered. In fact, his slave owner, Potiphar, put Joseph in charge of everything, except the food he ate. All things considered, he was making the best of his situation, until Potiphar’s wife took an interest in him. Joseph’s life was once again turned upside down when he was falsely accused of trying to force himself on her. As a result, he was thrown into prison.
But again, the Lord was with him and “granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.” Joseph was put in charge of all the prisoners and the Lord “gave him success in whatever he did.” Despite God’s presence and favor in Joseph’s life, he remained imprisoned; his life far from ideal.
Freed to Serve
In God’s perfect timing, Joseph, at age thirty, was finely freed from prison, and elevated to Pharaoh’s second in command. He was put in charge of the entire land of Egypt. In the wisdom and discernment that God had developed in him during the preceding 10 plus years, Joseph led the nation of Egypt through seven years of plenty; planning and saving. Through his wisdom and leadership, they made it through the seven years of famine that followed.
During the famine, Joseph’s brothers traveled to Egypt to buy food. Since Joseph was in authority over the food disbursement, guess who they bumped into? Yes, it’s a small world! Not recognizing Joseph, they “bowed down before him to the ground.” Hmmm, this sounds like a dream Joseph had many years before! How unlikely this fulfillment must have seemed as he crouched at the bottom of a cistern when his brothers first betrayed him.
Eventually, after their father Jacob died, Joseph’s brothers begged for his forgiveness and mercy. He assured them,
“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
Like you and I, Joseph was human; born of a family that had its share of dysfunction. His father, Jacob, started his adult life as a trickster. His mother, Rachel, stole her father’s household idols and died giving birth to his little brother. His grandmother Rebekah, was a deceiver and conniver. Of course, we already know his brothers had some serious jealousy and anger issues. To top it off, the trauma and rejection associated with his brothers’ betrayal and his resulting slavery had to have created some significant wounds of the heart. Let’s just say, Joseph probably had some obstacles to overcome and he was not perfect.
Yet somewhere through his struggles, he learned to trust God, and God used him to save the young nation of Israel. Joseph could not “fast forward” from the time of his brother’s betrayal to the end victory. He had no idea how God’s will would play out in his life, but God did. God knew the end from the beginning.
A Big Dream to A Big Detour
When I was a little girl, I had a Sunday school teacher that exuded with the love of Jesus. I always left Bible class inspired to love others like she did; like Jesus did. Dreaming of one day becoming a missionary, I longed to travel the world, sharing Jesus with others. This was my desire for many years, but it did not happen.
I was not sold into slavery by my siblings. My slavery occurred much more subtly. Behaviors designed to protect myself from the rejection of others, slowly developed over time, into strongholds, eventually evolving into a fortress, with walls so high and thick, my hope for freedom was nil.
Yet, like Joseph, God had a plan for my life. While I tried to overcome fear and low self-worth using solutions offered by the world, God’s plan for my life was already mapped out for me. Though I did not see Him, He was always there.
One day, in desperation, I humbled myself, cried out to God and asked Him to help me. With unconditional love, He picked me up and carried me; a lost sheep, close to His heart. I made a commitment to follow Him, and thus, a process of healing and hope began.
But not far down the path, I took a detour. It was such a subtle change, I was oblivious I had taken a wrong turn. Seeking to fit into church culture, I ultimately found myself enslaved again. I simply traded one prison for another.
Instead of trusting God and learning to walk in relationship with Him, I became obsessed with proving myself to Him and the Church. The whole time I was striving to measure up, Satan was slamming me with accusations and lies. It was an ongoing battle that I could not win, so long as I struggled to perform in my own strength and will.
Although I took my focus back off God, He remained present, patiently drawing me back...again. Eventually, I came to understand and believe that it was not my own works-righteousness He wanted; it was my heart. As I learned to trust Christ’s righteousness in me, that I am righteous and pure because of Christ’s finished work on the cross, the strongholds began to fall.
There is nothing I can do to affect God’s love for me; good or bad. He loves me; period. In this process, I’m learning it’s not about what I do; it’s about what He can do through me, when my heart is aligned with His in trust. And when I trust Him, I don’t have to rush or force anything. “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work” in me “will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
Sometimes, I still wish I had gone to the mission fields. Who knows, maybe someday, I will. But I’ve learned to relax, and trust God has a plan and purpose for me. Right now, my mission field is sometimes in the coffee shop with a friend; on the job with a coworker, or sitting at my keyboard, sharing His goodness from my heart; my fingers clicking across the keys. Oh Yes! God is Good!
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