Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Spiritual Fitness – Lesson Five



The first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, is generally understood to have been written by Moses as he led the children of Israel through the wilderness approximately 1500 years before the birth of Christ. If there were a most important book in the Bible, to many scholars and laymen alike, Genesis would claim that honor.

Genesis is the book of beginnings. The information God chose to include in this first book is vitally important to the growth and development of God’s Children. From the account of creation to the fall of mankind; from the great flood to the new world; from the covenant of Abraham to the twelve sons of Israel, history (His Story), reveals God working with man to bring him to his greatest day.

Genesis contains fifty chapters of crucial interaction between God and man as God guides, guards and rebuilds His dream. God is preparing a people, giving them instruction and examples to follow, so that they might rise up, take their stand, claim their inheritance and live His dream. Before concluding the Book of Genesis God included every principle necessary to life and life more abundantly. If you can’t find support for a doctrine within the principles contained in the book of Genesis then I would consider that doctrine to be in error. Genesis is a book of truths that transcend time.

Suffice it to say that I believe that the book of Genesis says it all. This is why we have been paying special attention to the life of one of the central figures in the book of Genesis. This person I am referring to is Joseph. Why Joseph?

Out of the 50 chapters in Genesis, 13 of those chapters are taken up with the story of Joseph’s life, from chapter 37 till the very last verse:

Genesis 50:26 So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.

Joseph is God’s chosen pattern for mankind’s journey through life. From that proverbial 98 pound weakling to the heavy weight champion of the known world, God walked with Joseph step by step through every challenge, transforming Joseph into the winner God had birthed him to be. We should all pay special attention to Joseph’s life story and add his character qualities to our life so that we too might be transformed step by step into the champion God sees in us.

Our first spiritual exercise for week 5 comes from Genesis 41.

Joseph is 30 years old and has been separated from his family for over a decade. He has been sold twice, spitefully accused of rape and put into prison. While in prison he became the head trustee and was also given charge to serve the King’s prisoners. Two of the prisoners we studied in Week 4 were the Chief Butler and Baker.

You may remember they both dreamed separate dreams in one night and the dreams troubled them. Joseph accurately interpreted the dreams and in only three days, just as Joseph told them, the Chief Baker was hanged but the Chief Butler was restored to his former position, waiting on the King of Egypt.

In repayment for the kindness showed to the Chief Butler and the dream interpreted, Joseph asks only that the butler remember him when he returned to his royal position. However, the Chief Butler forgot Joseph.

Let’s pick up the story with the last verse in:

Genesis 40:23 Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.

Genesis 41
1 ¶ Then it came to pass, at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh had a dream …
8 Now it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them for Pharaoh.
9 ¶ Then the chief butler spoke to Pharaoh, saying: "I remember my faults this day.

The butler told Pharaoh how that when he was in prison with the Chief Baker they both dreamed dreams which troubled them. Yet, there was a young Hebrew man in prison who accurately interpreted their dreams and so it happened, just as this man had told them.

It had been two years since Joseph showed kindness to the Chief Butler. All that while the Chief Butler had been living his dream life and enjoying the palace and had not even once considered Joseph, the man who had comforted and helped him in his trouble. The Chief Butler was doing well but what was going on in Joseph’s life during these two years? Prison!

What did Joseph do for those two years? Joseph worked on his:

1. Faithfulness

For two full years after Joseph interpreted the butler’s dream, after the butler was restored to his former position, Joseph continued to faithfully exercise himself to Godliness and allow God the time and space to be God.

* Joseph was faithful, trusting and depending on God and not on the arm of the flesh.
* Sometimes people forget … but God never forgets.
* God has a plan for my life and He has not forgotten me.
* God’s timing is perfect.
* Joseph trusted God with his present circumstances and with his future.
* The absolute best thing we can do is to be faithful where we are for as long as we are where we are.

2 Timothy 2:2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

* Ability is nothing without faithfulness …
* God will make the faithful able, but He cannot make the able faithful.
* What we do while we wait on God will often determine how long we wait.
* Do not be weary in well doing for in due season you will reap if you faint not.
* A part of being faithful is learning to wait on God. Wait patiently on the Lord and while you wait … BE FAITHFUL!

The second exercise for this week is:

2. Flexibility

Genesis 41:14 Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him quickly out of the dungeon; and he shaved, changed his clothing, and came to Pharaoh.

Joseph was the son of a very wealthy and well known man in Canaan. Joseph had every reason and every right to feel like he had been treated with disrespect and wrongfully imprisoned. Many men would have seen this as their chance to protest their treatment and claim their innocence.

Joseph could have easily refused to cooperate with the requests to clean himself up. He could have taken the attitude that if Pharaoh wanted to see him let Pharaoh see him in his daily dungeon clothes, unshaven and poorly cared for. But Joseph didn’t allow himself the luxury of making it all about him and the injustices he had been served. If God was going to promote Joseph, Joseph needed to give God His best chance and that would require Joseph being flexible instead of inflexible, hard and unyielding.

Joseph simply recognized authority and submitted himself to the ones who had been allowed by God to have power over him. People, especially people in leadership positions resist the proud … even God resists the proud! Joseph was flexible … if they want me to shave, I’ll shave …

* Don’t be prideful … God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.
* Humility is not being quiet on the outside while screaming on the inside.
* Humility is not appearing submissive to those over you while telling your three best friends how you are being mistreated.
* Humility comes from a heart that is truly dependent on God.

Genesis 41
15 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that you can understand a dream, to interpret it."
16 So Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, "It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace."

* The truly humble will be flexible.

Flexibility is the ability to embrace change or transition in a graceful manner.
* God’s new wine cannot be poured into inflexible containers
* Ability without faithfulness is nothing … so also … ability without flexibility is not all it could be.
* When told to bathe and put on new clothes, Joseph simply went with the flow of God.
* Whether we are called upon to lead, follow or get out of the way … what is that to us, unless we are inflexible and filled with pride.

Joseph was neither … not that Joseph’s troubles did not matter to Joseph … certainly he had wants, desires, skills, abilities and dreams … however … he exercised himself to Godliness and remained flexible, embracing change and transition in a graceful manner. He knew it was best in his situation to simply do what he was told by those who had the current right to tell him. All that would change in time providing Joseph remained behaving in such a way that it made it easy for God to promote him.

Proverbs 3:4  And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man.

Luke 2:52  And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Some wrongly imagine they need only the favor of God and not man …

Joseph continued to rub the anointing oil of a right relationship with God and man on his life. This kept Joseph flexible, pliable, moldable, easy to work with and out of the stubborn ruts of life.

If we are not careful we can make some assessments, some judgments and draw some conclusions that take us down the wrong path in life. How do we keep from doing this … our 3rd exercise:

3. Perspective

All we know is the little we know until we know more. At times when we know more the little we know is just blown away. Yet, so many people guide their life by the little they know … their own limited perspective. “Do you know who I think I am?”

Genesis 41:33 Now therefore, let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt.

Now I imagine many of us would have used this moment to be a little more self promoting. After all, this was most likely the first time in several years that Joseph had been treated to such fine things. He had a fresh shave, a bath, and new clothes and was standing in a place that probably smelled a whole lot better than his current prison cell. I imagine the change felt nice and desirable.

Think Joseph wanted to stay in the palace or go back to the prison?

How many of us might would have changed the interpretation just a little to say: “Now therefore, let Pharaoh appoint me over the land of Egypt …”

Come on now … we all know who we think we are … many men are legends in their own mind, serving delusions of grandeur, sadly mistaken and so often frustrated when not recognized or chosen …

Perspective can be broken down phonetically and understood as:

Per = according to
Spective = small view

There is a story about a man getting on a public transport bus in downtown NYC with his three young children. He sits down and allows the children to run the isles, move from seat to seat and be loud and bothersome while he just sits there and looks out the window. Finally one lady had enough and voiced what everyone else on the bus was thinking. “What’s wrong with you mister – are these your children – they are out of control and you need pay attention to them. They are bothering everyone on the bus and you don’t even care. That’s not what a good daddy does. People like you shouldn’t have children.”

With that the man snapped back into the moment and readily gathered his children around him, quieted them and hugged them. He then turned and apologized to the lady and everyone on the bus and told him he was sorry and that his wife, their mother, had just suddenly passed away at the hospital where the bus had last stopped and he was unsure how to tell them and what he needed to do.

Now there is a paradigm shift … that will change one’s perspective …

Your perspective is basically how you see things from your viewpoint … it may not be real … it may not be how others see it and it may not be how God sees things. We don’t know until we know and then we still may not know it all. We may simply need a new paradigm.

Life must be viewed from the big picture … sometimes we have it and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we must put ourselves in other people’s shoes so we can gain a greater perspective.

With the wrong perspective you could have the sails on your ship set to catch a wind that never blows.

Joseph knew there were things beyond his perspective and beyond what he was currently aware. Joseph attempted to view the situation he was in through Pharaoh’s eyes and not just his own. Some people in Joseph’s situation might have even been happy about the coming famine and hope it taught his captors a good lesson or two. However Joseph had a different perspective. 

Put a knife to your throat when you dine with a King … it’s probably not all about your hunger … get a greater perspective! (Pro 23)

James 4:13-16 tells us not to boast in our own arrogance about tomorrow saying that we are going to a certain city and make a profit … rather we should always say, “If the Lord wills” … this will allow for God to have a different view than we may have.

* Don’t get your heart set on your own ideas. God may want to do it another way or He may not want to do it at all.
* Don’t assume or be presumptuous
* Be not wise in your own eyes but acknowledge the Lord …
* Don’t always be focused on how things affect you – put yourself in other people’s shoes first before you try to tell them about yours.
* Don’t get stuck in that early selfish stage of human development where you think everyone sees things from your vantage point
* Don’t get depressed when life does not unfold according to your expectations, assumptions or perspective.
* When the decision is not yours to make don’t assume you know all the factors that form the answer.
* Endeavor to see things from God’s big picture perspective – He wants to be good and merciful and helpful and caring to everyone – and He may want to use you in a bigger way than your pride or perspective will allow.

Isaiah 55
8 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD.
9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.

If time permits, create a paradigm shift with the late night sleepy travel story between Dallas and Texarkana. (By myself making the trip in the rain; sleepy and dozing off; opened vents; slapped myself; sang; still couldn’t stay awake. The rain was mesmerizing … I needed to get to Texarkana to meet Brenda and go home from there. Why didn’t I just pull off on the side of the road and sleep … “I was flying my airplane!”)