Joseph’s life is an inspiration for me! As a teenager, the Lord gave him big dreams for the future. He saw a bright, wonderful promise ahead. For the next 20 years, he experienced one setback after another. His brothers’ hatred caused them to sell into slavery. The wife of the man in whose household he served lusted after him and, when he kept his integrity, lied about him. He ended up in prison. What if he had said, “This is my fate” and decided that his dreams were too big? What if he had just settled down in that situation? He would not!
He continued to pray, help onto faith. The Bible says, “The Lord was with Joseph there, too, and he granted Joseph favor with the chief jailer. Before long, the jailer put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison.” (Genesis 39:20-22, NLT) Things are looking up, right? No, not really. A man he helped promptly forgot him after being released from prison and he languished there for two more years. Was this the moment when he decided to ‘accept’ life as it was, to give up on people? He kept faith, not bitterly, not selfishly. Finally, the moment comes when Pharaoh learns about the young Hebrew whose connection to the Almighty God was authentic. He sent for him and Joseph ultimately realized the promise that he received decades prior to that moment.
So, how did Joseph hang onto the promise and still live faithfully and at peace throughout the years of disappointment? He experienced the Presence of God in each moment! He did not wait to know or to serve God for some future time when the circumstances of life were all he hoped they might be. When he was a brother, he was the best brother possible. When he was a slave, he chose to live with excellence. When he was a prisoner, he served the captain of the guard well.
Niebuhr’s prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference,” is one I pray often! I want to live in the peace and joy of the Lord today, but not at the expense of failing to fulfill His high calling. We cannot confuse acceptance of our circumstances with resignation to fate! There is a huge difference between choosing to live in peace as we take the grace He offers for this day and just giving up on our dream so we can exist.
In the Philippian letter, Paul reveals the tension between present grace and future hope. He exults in what God has done for him. He is in prison, yet knows that the Lord is using that situation to advance the kingdom. He is a man at peace. “I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” (Philippians 1:12-14, NKJV)
But, he is not resigned to living in prison for the rest of his life. God promises more and so he writes, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14, NKJV)
The open secret of living in peace while pressing on is knowing the Presence of God; right here, right where we are. How?
First of all, we reject the false comfort of sin and/or disobedience! When life is turbulent, temptation will come. Food, sex, new stuff, anger, pride – these things have a special appeal when we are walking through situations that are hard or beyond our understanding.
Second, we do the right things! Prayer may be hard, the words just don’t flow, pray anyway. Joining with others for worship may feel like an empty ritual, do it anyway. Serving, loving, giving may be the last thing you want to do; do them anyway.
Third, we look up. The Bible tells us to “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.” Why? “Because he never lost sight of where he was headed-that exhilarating finish in and with God-he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.” (Hebrews 12:2, The Message)
Accept the grace for this day, but don’t settle for the status quo. Here’s the word from the Word: “God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12, NLT)
Great is Thy Faithfulness,
Oh God, My Father.
There is no shadow of turning
Thou changest not,
Thy compassions they fail not,
As Thou hast been
Thou forever will be.
Thomas Obediah Chisholm | William Marion Runyan
© 1923. Renewed 1951 Hope Publishing Company