Enduring Trials

10:21 AMHeather

Did y'all ever get one of this little decoder sets in your cereal box when you were a kid?  You know, the ones with a hidden secret message that you can't understand until you place the little plastic yellow film piece over the message that makes the words become clear?  Well, today, we are going to place the story of Joseph over the words of James 1:2-4.  And, hold onto your seats, folks.  I hope you are as in awe as I am about what God has to reveal today!

 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, 
whenever you face trials of many kinds,  
3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work 
so that you may be mature and complete, 
not lacking anything. 
James 1:2-4
Hmm.  To me, this verse is akin to some SuperChristian goal that feels just out of reach.  But today, I hope you see it in a whole new light when we transpose it with Genesis 39.  Here's the deal (oh, please be amazed by this).  On January 9 of this year, I studied this Genesis passage about Joseph.  And, there was one phrase that kept playing in my head.  (You'll have to wait for it).  That VERY day, when Chris came home for lunch, he randomly repeated this phrase as he retold a story.  I made him repeat what he said while I picked my jaw up from the floor.  Yep, obviously, God was telling me something.

Fast forward to today.  I was diving into day one of week two of Beth Moore's study of James.  And, as I read, I realized that the above James passage is like the decoder for Genesis 39.  Today, we shall do a little old school compare and contrast.  

For starters, Beth Moore points out that the original language of the phrase, "face various trials" is the same language we see in Luke 10:30 where the Samaritan "fell into the hands" of the robbers.  In other words, sometimes in life, we fall into trials.  

Can I get an a-men?  Because in the last two weeks, I have watched a friend's marriage be blown apart and start coming back together and another friend face a possible cancer diagnosis.  Talk about falling into trials!  Beth Moore goes on to note that we are like the poor Samaritan.  We fall into the hands of trials that rob us of our peace, joy, hope, dreams, and so much more.  As Beth Moore says, "They [trials] board our ships and pirate the gold meant to be ours on the shore."  

Now, let's compare and contrast these truths with Joseph.  Can we all agree poor Joseph fell into some trials?  In fact, the poor guy might have just literally fallen into that pit that his jealous brothers threw him into.  Then, he fell into slavery when his brothers sold him.  Can it get worse?  Um, yeah!  Joseph fell into a false accusation by his master's wife and fell into prison.  Talk about a bad chain of events.  Do you see yourself here?  Those trials stole Joseph's freedom, his plans, his relationship with family and friends, his dignity, and you'd think they stole just about anything good.  Surely, he could not consider all THAT a joy?

As Beth Moore points out, what options do you have?  In your particular trial, what options can you consider?  Break under the weight of the burden?  Bury your head in the sand and act like it's not happening?  Cope in some unhealthy destructive manner?  What did Joseph do?  What options did he choose after considering his fate?

Genesis 39:2-3 says that, "The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered...the Lord gave him success in everything he did."  What?  He's a slave, sold by his very own brothers?!  But, the Lord was with Joseph, and God poured out favor.  In fact, such success that "Joseph found favor in his master's eyes and became his attendant...and Potipher entrusted all he owned to Joseph" (verse 4).  Joseph's intimate walk with his God was so apparent that the master noted it.  Potipher looked at that slave boy and said, "Hey!  something is different here.  I want him on my team.  He is trustworthy and capable."  God's blessing on Joseph--EVEN as a slave--overflowed from Joseph to those around him.  Here's my thought on this.  Do I ask God to pour favor on all I do--even enduring some hard things?  Or, do I try to go it alone, on my own strength.  I think Joseph must have considered this question, with a resounding answer that cried out to God to be with him.

Sounds pretty good, huh?  Let's remember what happened next.  Potipher's wife wants handsome Joseph all to herself.  When He refuses, she is so mad that she makes false accusations and Joseph is thrown into prison.  Maybe you can relate.  Maybe you've endured some hard things and continued to choose to follow God, with a result similar to Joseph.  Things went from bad to worse.  

Surely, this is where Joseph is done considering the trials he fell into as "joy."  Surely, he is done persevering.  I might be.  But, when I keep reading in Genesis, it's a picture of this insight we hear from Beth Moore.

"Trials don't get to steal from followers of Christ unless we hand over the goods.  In fact, they are commanded to give goods to us if we're willing to receive them.  Robbers or reapers, it's up to us."

Robbers or reapers?  Which option have you been considering as you stare down the face of the trial into which you've fallen?  As Beth Moore says, "So, what are you going to do with all you're going through?...While counting our joys because of the treasures they can bring may be the hard choice in the beginning, most of us would have to admit that the other options don't pan out as well."
May I remind you that Joseph--while a major Biblical character in the history of the Israelites--was merely a man?  He was not some superhero.  In fact, he had yet to see Messiah.  James 1:2-4 was not written on a scroll hanging on his bathroom mirror.  It had not even been written.  But, Joseph knew something about considering his options in the middle of his trials.  And, he chose to cling to God.  With all he was, he clung.  What about you?  Will you stick so close to the Lord that you are then able to see His favor in all you attempt to do--even in the trials?

Look at Joseph, thrown into prison from a false accusation.  What do we see of him there?

 But while Joseph was there in the prison,  
21 the LORD was with him; he showed him 
kindness and granted him favor in the 
eyes of the prison warden. 22 So the warden 
put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, 
and he was made responsible for 
all that was done there. 23 The warden paid no 
attention to anything under Joseph’s care, 
because the LORD was with Joseph and 
gave him success in whatever he did. 
Genesis 39:21-22

I'd say that Joseph did not allow those trials to steal from him, but he had eyes to see the treasures from those very trials.  It's a living example of Jeremiah 31:2--Joseph found God's favor in the desert.  Joseph found God's favor even as a slave.  Joseph found God's favor even when rejected by his family.  Joseph found God's favor when falsely accused.  Joseph found God's favor even in prison.  I'd say he fell into some hard times, but bumped into an unforeseen joy--even there.

Glimpse of grace:  We are so short sighted.  We tend to see our circumstances as a reflection of whether or not we have God's favor.  Oh, sometimes life is good and yes, those very circumstances shout out God's favor.  But when life is hard, it's not a LACK of God's favor.  No, I think Joseph knew something about James 1:2-4...He knew that no matter the circumstances, God's favor can be found.  He knew to ask for God's favor exactly where he was.  He stuck close to God and asked for eyes to see God's favor.  He chose an important truth--that phrase that I wrote in prayer journal about Joseph that my husband randomly repeated?  

Joseph chose to bloom where he was planted.  He blossomed, even as a slave and later as a prisoner.

Can I say--even here in my trial--grant me favor?  Can I look for his favor, in every trial and difficulty?  This is how joy is found in the trials we fall into.  This is how we are thankful in the midst of everything.  We see caring doctors or how things could be worse or we look for a tiny pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel.  But the biggest thing we see in the middle of our trials?  We can see God--in a whole new light, pouring himself out in little favors.  

And, so I ask you.  Whatever trial you've fallen into, will you consider your options?  Will you let it rob you or will you find ways to reap?  Will you be so busy asking to be removed from the desert that you might miss God's favor, even there? 

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