Garry continued looking at the life of Joseph this morning, focussing on the changes to his life recorded in Genesis 37. In this chapter, we see Joseph reduced from favourite son of Jacob to being sold into slavery by his brothers. From being the favourite son, he went to being a slave of no importance, to having no freedom or control of his own life. Such change is disorientating and probably left him feeling rejected and betrayed, since this change of events came about because of his brothers’ enmity.
How we deal with unfavourable change is hugely important in our lives. The loss of a job or loss of income, sickness and the breakdown of relationships are just some areas where change may be forced upon us, and learning to handle these situations is difficult for us all. We must learn to rest in our identity in God and take our value and worth from Him, because everything else is transient. Knowing contentment in all circumstances is vital (Phil 4); we need to develop godliness with contentment if we are to navigate the stormy waters of change. (1 Tim 6:6-7)
Harder even than the loss of fortune for Joseph must have been the devastating effects of betrayal and rejection by his own family. These things take time to heal, but we see in Joseph how to deal successfully with change.
Forgiveness is needed. There was no doubt that Joseph was wronged by his own family, by those on whom he should have been able to rely. Ultimately, people inevitably let us down; they cannot ever fill the hole in our hearts which only God can satisfy. We will always need to learn to forgive others, as Matt 18:23-30 demonstrates. Forgiveness can take a long time and is a difficult process, but it costs more not to forgive than it does to forgive, for unforgiveness damages us. We learn to forgive as we dwell on how much we have been forgiven.
Perspective is needed. Eph 6:11-12 reminds us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood; we are involved in a spiritual battle and need to see life from God’s perspective, not our own. Gen 45:4-5 reminds us that Joseph learned this lesson; when he finally saw his brothers again many years later, he was able to speak out forgiveness and also to tell them that ‘it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.’ Joseph learnt that God is able to bring good from all circumstances, even those which have wounded us greatly.
Preparation is needed, for persecution will come. Matt 24:4-14 warns us that rejection and persecution will be the lot of all Christians; Luke 6:22 reminds us that we are blessed when people hate us on account of Christ. Christians in many countries (e.g. Eritrea) face ongoing persecution; many people will face rejection from their families if they convert to Christ from another faith. But even in our country, there are issues which demonstrate how orthodoxy is being attacked from within the church and free speech is under attack in many ways. We need to understand that rejection, persecution and prosecution may occur as we seek to honour Christ in all we do and say.
Like Joseph, we will only successfully deal with negative change in our lives if we keep close to God, learn to pray for those who persecute us and forgive those who have wronged us. Then, with the ’50/20 vision’ of God’s word (Gen 50:20 reminds us that what the enemy means to harm us can be turned to good by God), we will be able to stand firm to the end.