Monday, December 19, 2016

Spiritual Fitness Lesson 10


God has an image in His mind of what your life should look like and He has a fitness plan specifically designed for each of you to get you there. You have a destiny and God has a plan to make you fit for that destiny.

The Bible says that many are called but few are chosen. Why? Spiritual fitness … or lack thereof … (Matthew 22:14)

During the past few weeks we have studied the life of Joseph and watched God bring him through several spiritual stretching and strengthening exercises. Each time Joseph’s life challenged him to lift more weight, run farther or endure longer, he pressed himself, encouraged himself and did things God’s way.

Let me recap the spiritual exercises we have added to our fitness program thus far:

Dream               Meditate    Declare      Relationship       Presentation Participation         Character   Humility     Endurance        Kindness Candidness Influence        Faithfulness Flexibility          Perspective Confidence               Meekness  Normal         Articulate           Plan         
Work                 Attentive    Restrained         Struggle            Fear
Strategic            Patient

Tonight we continue surveying the life of Joseph by turning to Genesis 44 where we will find our first exercise for week ten and learn the value of:

1. Persistence

Remember in week nine, Joseph first saw his brothers bow before him 25 years after they sold him into slavery, when they came to Egypt to buy grain as recorded in Genesis 42. He hid his true identity and gave them a very hard time by accusing them of being spies and putting them in prison.

At that point Joseph was unsure what to do and how to proceed but he soon realized that he did not want to forfeit his own destiny or jeopardize God’s plan by reacting out of anger, hurt or revenge. So, Joseph began to work God’s strategic plan that would demand much patience on his behalf.

Now, perhaps a year later, Joseph is still hiding his true identity from his brothers and still working his strategy with continued patience. This gives God the time and space He needs to fulfill the dream.

If we learn anything from this, we learn that Joseph is persistent. Make sure you read the story to get its full affect, however, suffice it to say that Joseph has been very persistent when dealing with his brothers, all the while carrying on other duties and demands of life.

The brothers have now returned to Egypt with their youngest brother Benjamin and proved that they were telling the truth. Simeon was released and the brothers brought into Joseph’s house. At lunch Joseph asked about their father, if he was still alive and well, and then he saw Benjamin, his mother’s son, and hid himself to weep.

Genesis 43: 31 Then he washed his face and came out; and he restrained himself, and said, "Serve the bread."

Joseph persisted with God’s plan to bring his brothers to a true heart of repentance. He commanded his stewards to fill each man’s sack with food and money and to hide his own personal silver cup in Benjamin’s sack. This Joseph did so that he might trap the brothers, accuse Benjamin of thievery and make them face their greatest fear.

Genesis 44
16 Then Judah said, "What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how shall we clear ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants; here we are, my lord’s slaves, both we and he also with whom the cup was found."
17 But he said, "Far be it from me that I should do so; the man in whose hand the cup was found, he shall be my slave. And as for you, go up in peace to your father."

* Joseph continues to play the game right to the very end.
* A little rudder can change the course of a mighty ship, if it is held steady, even against contrary winds and driving waves
* We shall reap in due season if we faint not (Galatians 6:9)
* Luke 18:5 The importunity of the widow worked
* Be persistent, don’t abandon the dream or God’s plan

Proverbs 24:10 ¶ If you fall to pieces in a crisis, there wasn’t much to you in the first place. (The Message)

Persistence is the ability to remain constant under pressure.

The story continues as Judah intercedes with Joseph on behalf of his father Jacob.
·        It was Judah that led his brothers to sell Joseph in Genesis 37:26
·        It was Judah that would have to lead the repentance and bring restoration
·        Benjamin wasn’t a little boy at this time as one might imagine. He was about 35 years old and already had 10 sons. (Genesis 46:21)

In Genesis 44:33 Judah offers himself as a sacrificial substitute for Benjamin. With this unselfish request from his brother, Joseph could no longer hide his true feelings. These were the men, his family, his brothers who had sold him into slavery and caused him more than two decades of hardship and separation from family. Now, the true test of Joseph’s character … would he, could he be:

2. Forgiving

Genesis 45
4 And Joseph said to his brothers, "Please come near to me." So they came near. Then he said: "I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt.
5 "But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.

* Joseph let go his resentment and claim for revenge
* Forgiveness is a grace which comes from God to a willing heart … When we see it like God sees it, we can forgive
* We should view bad decisions, wrong decisions and even the costly mistakes of others as a part of the process and not the problem
* Forgiveness may be immediate, however, restoration often takes time
* Perhaps time was what Joseph needed to be truly restored and realize that it wasn’t all about him
* Forgiveness is for the one who forgives, not for the one who needs forgiving … forgiveness makes a person stronger & more fit

Forgiveness is the measure of God in the person who has been wronged.

Exercise number three for week ten comes to us from the last pages of Joseph’s earthly life. Ninety-three years after Joseph dreamed that first dream when he was the 17 year old favored son of his father … long after Joseph had been sold into slavery, carried to Egypt and wrongfully imprisoned … decades after Joseph witnessed his brothers bowing before him and the ultimate fulfillment of his first and second dreams … Joseph still thinks in futuristic terms.

Joseph was now 110 years old, his father is long dead and buried, the children of Israel are living and multiplying in the land of Egypt and it is time for Joseph to be gathered to God. Even though Joseph is old and about to die, he is not too old or too spent to dream …

Genesis 50
24 And Joseph said to his brethren, "I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob."
25 Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, "God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here."
26 So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.

Thus ends the book of Genesis but not the story of Joseph!
* 4 centuries later God sent Moses to deliver the children of Israel from Egypt and take them to the land He promised …
* Joseph’s dream was remembered and his bones were carried by the Children of Israel in the Exodus from Egypt.
* When Joseph was about to die, he had his greatest dream and since he was spiritually fit, he was ready to handle anything … even life beyond the grave …
* Joseph saw a future beyond his death … Joseph was:

3. Futuristic

Joseph made every step with the Children of Israel: across the Red Sea on dry ground; through the wilderness to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments; making every step during the forty years of wandering before crossing the Jordan under Joshua’s leadership and marching around the city walls of Jericho. Joseph’s bones went with the children of Israel to every battle they fought in the land of Canaan and won each victory along with those who fought on the front lines.

In fact, it is not until all of the battles had been fought and Joshua is making his final farewell speech to the children of Israel that Joseph’s bones are finally laid to rest. Actually it is believed that it was at Joseph’s funeral service that Joshua made his farewell speech as recorded in the last chapter of Joshua.

Joshua 24
31 And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that out lived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel.
32 And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.

Lest you think that this was the end of Joseph, that 98 pound weakling that exercised himself to become the heavy weight champion of the world, let me tell you why I believe Joseph wanted his bones to be carried to the promise land.

I believe that Joseph foresaw the coming Messiah, His death burial and resurrection, and wanted to participate in another great adventure. You see, when Jesus cried with a loud voice and died …

Matthew 27
52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

Oh, hold on … I bet that is not the last we will see of Joseph … Why did he want to be a part of that resurrection and witnessing crowd?

Because it puts him in heaven in time to ride with Jesus on His return to the earth for the great battle of Armageddon to set up His thousand year reign. Joseph was old, but in shape. He was such a dreamer and very futuristic … however, he could never have done it if he had not been spiritually fit!!! And that comes with a whole lot of exercise.

* Never underestimate the power of a dream or a dreamer …

So what can we do with our week … or with our life?

1. Don’t abandon your dream and don’t quit your exercise program.
2. Give your hurts, pains, and disappointments of life over into the hands of God. He will visit your willing heart with the forgiveness you need to make you strong.
3. Never forget … Your greatest day is yet ahead. Dream Again!