GOD IS UP TO SOMETHING GREAT

I have found myself saying "That's just not fair!" this week. I have experienced frustrating situations that I would allow to consume me. I have let my mind wander and have experience a cluster of destructive emotions. I had valid reasons to be angry; valid reasons to fight; valid reasons to quit. So, if that is the case, why would I say "it's not fair" and out of the same mouth "God is up to something great"?

Perspective. It comes down to perspective. In all of our situations, whether or not we can see it, God is up to something great! Through our situations, we may find ourselves saying:
• How could God let this happen?
• This isn't fair!
• If God cares about me, why is he allowing ____________ to happen?

Our life is a short little speck in light of eternity. God has seen all of the past thousands of years and he already sees the next thousand years. He knows everything we have ever done and will ever do. He knows what will happen to us...the good, the bad and the ugly!

We all have lived enough life that at this point you can probably say that you could write and even direct the movie "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly". We have each experienced those times in our life when everything seems to be going our way.
• every time you go to park your car, there is a front row spot just for you
• finances are good
• friendships are good
• you're healthy
• your family is healthy and getting along

It's a great time! But life isn't always what we would term "good". We live in a fallen world. From the beginning when Eve took the fruit and gave it to her husband, sin entered into the world. From that point on, God said we would have to work for our food. We would have troubles and life would be hard. Sometimes life is bad.
• facing relationship strains
• financial hardships
• maybe you were laid off from your job for a time
• maybe a car accident or other difficult times
• life just seems stressful
And then there are times that life gets down right ugly.
• health issues - cancer or some other debilitating disease
• bankruptcy
• divorce
• friendships are in turmoil
• at every turn it seems everything is going wrong

But in all our situations, God is up to something great! Stick with me for a few minutes. I know, you are thinking, What? Did she take a happy pill or something? How can she say God is up to something great? She has NO idea what I am facing right now. Life is ugly and unfair and I don't know how God can let this happen to me. Like I said...stick with me for a few minutes and let's take a look at someone in the Bible that had every reason to say "Life's not fair!"

We are going to take a look at the life of Joseph. Genesis 37 We won't be reading all the chapters, but I'm going to give you the cliff notes version of the story and we'll highlight some verses along the way.

Joseph was the son of Jacob. Joseph had 10 older brothers and they weren't such good boys:
• murderers
• affair with father's concubines
• sex with his daughter in law....thought it was a prostitute

Joseph was Jacob's favorite son. He loved him the best. He gave him a coat of many colors to show his love for him. It was no secret that he was the favorite. Joseph didn't do himself any favors either. He tattled to his father that his brothers were doing a poor job in the fields and he had a dream that his brothers would bow down to him and he went out to the fields to tell his brothers about this dream. True, but that probably didn't go over real well with the brothers who already hated him.

It got to the point that the brothers wanted to kill Joseph. They plotted and planned and then his brother Reuben had the idea of throwing him into a pit and he would die of thirst and exposure. It seemed more palatable to them instead of outright murder.

But then, the Midianite traders were going by and they decided that they could make some money off him, so they pulled him out of the pit and sold him for 20 shekels of silver.

Continuing with the story, we see the Midianites sold him as a slave to Potiphar, one of the Pharoh's highest ranking officials.

Joseph went from being the favored son to being a slave. He faced rejection, hate, neglect and probably felt completely alone.

Then we see my favorite verse in this whole story: Genesis 39:5 "the Lord was with Joseph" God was intimately aware of Joseph's circumstances, feelings, and future. Joseph's life was not catching God by surprise. I am sure God's heart broke watching Joseph go through the troubles he was facing, but God was up to something great! The Lord was with Joseph.

Let's keep on with the story. It gets worse. Joseph is a slave in Potiphar's house. He's a good looking dude and Potiphar's wife begins to lust after him and propositions him. In Genesis 39:8-9, we see Joseph refusing. She doesn't like his answer, so what does she do? She falsely accuses him of having an affair with her and Potiphar threw Joseph into prison for it. so, Joseph does the right thing and it seems to put him in a worse position.

So, let's review so far:
• hated by his brothers
• loved as the favorite by his father
• sold as a slave for $
• sold again as a slave
• makes wise, good choices and is thrown into prison for false accusations

THE BIG QUESTION:
• "Why am I going through all this?"
• "Lord, how do you want to use this ugliness to move me ahead for your purposes?"
We don't have time for the first "it's not fair" approach! Sometimes we can't see the reason for a situation, but all the while God has a plan that we can't yet see.

Tony Evan's shares a great example of this from his family life: Their car was falling apart and needed to be replaced. Family gave the very last of their finances to the church on Sunday, not even knowing how they were going to put food on the table. Later that week, as they were traveling down the highway, their car caught on fire. Car repairs were the last thing he could afford to pay for right now. He had it towed to the shop to get an estimate, but when he got there, they had the car totally torn apart and were fixing it. He knew he had a $200 deductible on his insurance and he had no idea how he would pay for it. The shop said the insurance company said to go ahead and do the work. Upon checking his insurance papers, he found he had no deductible only if it was a fire. So all the work that needed to be repaired was now done for free.

At the time of the fire, it looked like an impossible situation. He was frustrated and discouraged and yet all the while God was coming to the rescue behind the scenes. They had no idea how GREAT the final outcome was going to be. God was diligently working.

You see, just because we can't SEE what God is doing, doesn't mean that He isn't working. God is up to something great!

So how did Joseph respond to all of his circumstances?
He may have prayed something like this: "Lord, if you have to allow what is going on in my life to bring about even greater things, then that's ok. I am willing to trust you completely and put my life in your hands, since I know you are up to something great!"

Joseph served diligently. His actions revealed his heart. While in prison, he interpreted two different dreams. One of them was that the guy was going to get out of prison. He asked that man, who would become a cupbearer to plea for him to Pharoah. Genesis 40:14-15 " But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharoah and get me out of this prison. For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in the dungeon." Get this....the man forgot.

Years pass! Joseph is still in prison for a crime that he didn't commit. Yet, remember the verse "the Lord was with Joseph." God was up to something great!

Two years later, Pharaoh had two dreams and he was scared and needed an interpretation. It was at this point that the cupbearer said "OH YA!!! Um, ya, there's this guy in prison named Joseph and he interpreted a dream for me and maybe you should bring him in."

Genesis 41:34-36 we see that Egypt is going to experience a famine and Joseph would save Egypt through the instructions in that dream of how to prepare for the famine.
Pharaoh was impressed and we see in Vs. 39-40 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you."

Joseph is promoted. Only the king would be greater than him. He went from a prison cell to the second in the kingdom. From prison to Vice President of the USA.

So, the famine is playing out as Joseph said. His brothers are still back in Canaan starving from the famine. Egypt had grain, so they left to go buy grain from Egypt. Little did they know that they would be buying from their very own brother, Joseph. At first, Joseph didn't reveal who he was. He wanted to test to see if they had changed. He wanted to see what kind of men they really were.

James 1: 2-4 says to "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish it's work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything."

He grows our character and makes us stronger people to do the work that God calls us to do. It's in those hard times that God is creating you into the person he wants you to be to do the work that he has planned for you to do. God has to test us to see if we have changed. Are we the strong people that we need to be to do the next task God has for us?

Joseph sees that the hearts of his brothers have changed. Genesis 45:4-7 Then Joseph said to his brothers, "Come close to me." When they had done so, he said, "I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 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 to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance."

Look at the words that come out of Joseph's mouth. He doesn't cast blame on them. He doesn't say "I can't believe you did that to me." He doesn't call them a jerk. Look at what he says: Joseph said "God sent me". Even though it happened by being sold into slavery. You thought you were getting rid of me, but God was orchestrating a plan, using the bad and ugly events of my life to fulfill HIS purpose for this time. He prepared me in advance for this time in history. You see, Genesis 50:20 says You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. There's some comfort in that, isn't there? There's comfort in knowing that God is accomplishing a bigger work and He intends to use US! He has chosen YOU for the task.

Perspective! Joseph chose to look at it through the lenses of God's glory being revealed vs. a "that's not fair" approach

Have you ever seen REAL pizza made? Not the kind of pizza where everything comes pretty much pre-made. I mean...REAL pizza. The kind of pizza place that serves homemade dough. They take that dough and kneed it and punch it and roll it around. The pound on that dough and then they twirl it and make it ready for baking. Why do they work it so hard? Because that dough has to be able to hold "the works" on top of it without falling apart and splitting out.

We are like that pizza dough and God is the person working the dough. He has some good stuff that he wants to lay on you, but he can't give it to you until you are strong enough to hold all that stuff. God has good things in store for you. The process seems brutal at times, but when we finally see God's plan revealed, it's worth it! Oh, it's so worth it!!! We have to trust that.

Jeremiah 29:11 I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.
If we were to look at the verses before Jer. 29:11, we see that Israel is in captivity in Babylon because they had rebelled against God. They were being disciplined. They were hopeless and discouraged and living in a pagan, evil, idolatrous place. And smack dab in the middle of all that is Jer. 29:11 offering hope and a future.

You see, God has a plan for you. Even if you have missed it or ignored it for years. How do we hold on to that hope? The first step to hope is:

1. STEP UP IN FAITH
Have you ever booked a flight? What do you do when you book a flight?
1. Identify the destination of the flight.
2. Pick a time to fly that works for me.
3. Affordable price.
After that you just show up and fly, right?
Have any of you ever:
1. Asked the pilot to explain how the plane works?
2. Ask the pilot what the equipment does and how they plan to use it?
3. Checked the route to make sure you are flying only directly to the destination?
4. Argued with the price after you already made your reservation and paid for it?

No, we don't do that. We book the flight and trust the pilot to get us to our destination. How much more do we need to trust God? He is our pilot and we have placed our life in His hands. We need to stop questioning the route he is taking. Have faith. What is faith? Believing in what we can't see. Have faith that God is at work and has a plan for you. Have faith that God has a hope and a future for your life.

How's your faith?

2. RUN AWAY FROM SIN
Hebrews 12:1 says Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. That first word you see there "therefore" means something came before it. It means, in light of what you just read, this is what you should do. What came before Hebrews 12:1? It's the great faith hall of fame. It tells of all those who had faith and in God's plan and their actions showed their faith but didn't see what had been promised to them. Hebrews 11:39-40 says 39These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

So, in light of this, we get to Hebrews 12:1 and SINCE we have such a great heritage of those going before us that had faith, we must throw off all that hinders. Let me stop right there. What hinders your hope? Is there anything in your life that hinders your faith in God's plan? Throw it off! And the sin, that easily entangles. Throw it off too!

It's so easy to get tangled up in sin when life isn't going the way we had pictured our life to be. It's easy to get angry, to give up, to throw our fist up at God in anger. It's easy to run to those things that look like they will satisfy us, but in the end, they just dig our hole even deeper.

Satan sure works hard at making sin look attractive, doesn't he? Oh, I can do ________ and it won't hurt me. No, maybe it won't, but next step down the road, WILL. Don't even play with sin! Run from sin! It starts in our minds. Do you ever let your mind wander and think that it's not hurting anyone? Those initial thoughts, left unattended to, turn into bigger thoughts and eventually down a path of sin. Those things that hinder: start in our mind, distracting us from the good that God has for us.

Don't believe the lies! Go back to step one. Step up your faith that God has a plan and don't take your eyes off that. Don't believe the lies that the enemy tries to distract you with. Don't just walk away. RUN!!!

3. WALK IN GOD'S PRESENCE
If we look at Jeremiah 29 again, where God promised hope. He didn't just promise the hope and let them sit back and do nothing. He told them exactly what to do.

Jeremiah 29:5-7 5 "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."

God told them exactly what to do. Don't just sit back and wait for God. Maximize your potential! How do we do that? How do we maximize our potential?
• learn from your mistakes
• remember God is working behind the scenes....trust Him! Step up in faith!
• run away from sin
• be confident that God will accomplish the work he has begun in you. Philippians 1:6 6being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Walking in God's presence means we seek him! Active looking for God in our lives and situations.Jeremiah 29:12-14 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile."

I think many times we misuse this verse. We seek solutions from God and we use this verse to say "Call on God and He promises to answer your prayer and fix all your problems if you pray with all your heart." That's not what these verses say. It says "When you seek ME, you will find ME, when you seek ME with all your heart. I will be found you." It doesn't say seek solutions. It says...seek HIM and you will find HIM and let me tell you, HE is far better than anything you are asking for, I guarantee it!

Do you notice all the key words are action words? God is up to something good, but we have a part to play in receiving it! We need to:
1. Step up in faith
2. Run away from sin
3. Walk in God's presence

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